You’re stuck inside because the weather has been downright nasty. Lying on the couch binge-watching a marathon of the newest Netflix exclusives, your gaze drifts to your ceiling…and your heart sinks. Is that a water stain? Jumping up, you investigate further and realize that the top of your walls are damp and the paint is starting to bubble. You likely have leak somewhere in your roof. What do you do next? How do you know whether you can fix it yourself or whether you should hire a roofing professional?
One way or another, you must deal with a roof leak immediately. Putting it off can result in major damage to your home, including harmful mold, rot to your roof decking or home framing, ruined insulation, electrical damage, and more. Letting a small leak go can result in having to replace your entire roofing system, so don’t delay.
Find the Leak
In order to decide whether you can fix a leak yourself, you have to find the source of the leak. First, if your home has an attic, go up into it and try to pinpoint the leak. Look in the areas that are directly above the walls where you saw damage as well as “uphill” along the roof slope.
If you don’t have an attic or are unable to access your attic, you will need to go up onto the roof to search for the leak. Depending on your home, your abilities, and your comfort level, you may want to call a professional to do this for you. If you decide to do it yourself, make sure you wait until the weather is dry (moisture can make asphalt shingle roofs deceptively slippery), take appropriate safety precautions, and engage a friend or family member to be your “spotter” and call for help if you get into any trouble. Don’t walk on roofs made of slate, clay tile, or concrete tile, which may crack under pressure; hire a professional.
Once you’re on the roof, look first at areas where leaks typically occur, including around structural elements such as chimneys, vents, dormers, skylights, or anything else that may be projecting from the roof. Check shingles, flashing, and valleys (where two planes of the roof intersect). If you’ve gone over your whole roof and can’t find a leak, you can test for leakage using a water hose (a method recommended by home repair expert Bob Vila).
Have a helper go inside and watch the area where you saw interior damage or leaking. Slowly run water from the hose over different areas of the roof, starting right above the damage area. Run the hose in that spot, soaking one small area for several minutes before moving to another zone. Inside, your assistant should watch for any signs of water penetration, like darkening on the ceiling or walls, and inform you when they see something. This could be a long process, but be patient. Work your way from the suspected problem area upwards along the pitch of the roof. If your inside helper sees signs of water, you will have a good idea of where the leak is and be able to evaluate whether you can fix the problem.
If you can’t find the location of the leak or don't feel comfortable with this process, call in a professional.
Evaluate the Leak
Common causes of roof leaks are leftover holes (like those from old satellite dishes), joints that have opened up due to deteriorated flashing or caulk, cracked vents, and ice dams. Once you’ve identified the cause of the leak, take a look at how much damage there is to the surrounding area. This can help you determine whether you can “DIY” a roof repair or whether you need to call a professional.
If you were able to quickly and easily identify the source of the leak, and the leak seems to be a pretty direct route from roof to interior, it’s most likely to be a good candidate for a DIY fix. For example, you run water in the area where your chimney meets your roof and realize it’s coming straight in between the flashing and the bricks. A closer look reveals that the flashing wasn’t properly affixed and has slid down there is an actual gap that is allowing water infiltration. Your interior ceiling doesn’t show signs of long-term damage, and the surrounding shingles are in good condition. You can probably replace the flashing yourself and rest easy. If you can readily identify what appears to be a new, obvious leak, like in this example, it’s probably appropriate for a DIY fix.
On the other hand, call a professional if you realize that you have a slow leak that has caused damage under many surrounding shingles and may have infiltrated the roof decking or if you can’t find the source of a leak. At the very least, it’s a good idea to have a professional evaluate the scope of the damage and provide a repair estimate.
If you have a leak in your roof, don’t delay! Every day you let it go will add up, both in cost to repair and additional damage to your roof and home. Contact Hedrick Construction for a free estimate for professional roofing repairs or emergency services. We are located in Huxley, Iowa, and proudly serve Ankeny, Ames, and the surrounding areas.
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