Roof Repair 101: How to Fix a Leaking Roof
Fixing a minor roof leak is something homeowners with DIY experience and safety equipment can do themselves. But more extensive roof repairs are best left to the experts.
If you’ve noticed stains on your ceiling or water spots running down your walls, there’s a high chance your roof has developed a leak. Take immediate action, and fix your roof before it causes significant damage.
How to Find a Leak in Your Roof (with and without an Attic)
If it’s clear you have a roof leak, narrowing down the source shouldn’t be difficult. The problem area will be near the water spots or mold growing on the ceiling and walls of your home.
Looking in the attic is the easiest way to find a roof leak. First, check to see if any vents, chimneys, or other protrusions are nearby. If so, they are the likely culprit. If you don’t have an attic or it’s not apparent where the leak is coming from, you’ll need to look from the top of the roof. Check for loose or missing shingles or flashing issues around vents and chimneys.
If it’s still unclear where the leak is coming from, you can perform a leak test. Gather your roof harness and a partner to help you.
- Get on top of the roof with a garden hose and pinpoint where you think the leak is coming from
- Choose a small area to test and run the garden hose at a downward angle in that spot for several minutes.
- Have your helper stand inside and alert you when they see water dripping inside the house.
- Move from location to location until you can discover the problem area.
How to Repair Your Leaky Roof
There are several reasons your roof might be leaking. We’re going to cover the most common.
Repair a Leaky Roof Vent
Roof vents are among the most common causes of leaks. With time, they can dislodge or become cracked, allowing water to penetrate the house.
Start by looking around the boot of the vent. Check for cracks and missing nails. If the roof vent is cracked or broken, you’ll need to replace it. Here’s what to do:
- Use a pry bar to remove the nails holding the vent in place
- Apply roofing cement to the vent’s flashing
- Put the new vent in place
- Use rubber washer screws to screw the vent in place
Fix a Leak Near a Dormer Window
When caulk becomes decayed around dormers, they are a prime leaking spot during heavy rainfalls. If your leak appears to be coming in around a dormer window, inspect the areas around it, looking for any disintegrated caulk that doesn’t seem to have a good seal, and replace it with new caulking.
Also, look at the siding on the dormer windows, ensuring there are no holes or cracks where water can enter.
Check Your Plumbing Vents
The boot, or bottom square part of the plumbing vent, is prone to dislodge with time and, in doing so, can let small amounts of water enter the home. Check the vent boots to see if any nails are missing.
If a nail is missing, but the boot is in otherwise good condition, replace the nail or add a rubber washer roofing screw for extra security. If the boot is rotten or cracked, replace it with a new one.
Roof flashing is thin pieces of sheet metal that go around vulnerable areas of the roof, like vents, chimneys, and sidewalls, to divert water away from the home. Flashing is essential in roofing, so if it’s rusted or peeling away, water can sneak into the exposed cracks.
Look for flashing around areas of your leak, including chimneys, vents, skylights, and where the roof meets any dormer walls. If the flashing is missing, rusted, or warped, you need to replace it.
To replace the roof flashing, you must first remove the surrounding shingles, install new flashing, and then replace the shingles. While the process sounds easy, it can lead to future roof leaks if you miss a step.
Check Your Gutters
If your roof leak appears to be coming through your home’s side walls, check your gutters. If they are full of debris, they can’t direct water away from the house. When this happens, the water may flow behind the soffit and enter the side walls.
More Complicated Roof Repairs
There are many parts of a roof, and water will seep in wherever there are vulnerabilities. So while the problems above are the most common for roof leaks, they’re not the only potential issues.
- Lots of Missing Shingles – Replacing one or two missing shingles is easy, but if your roof is experiencing a large section of shingles or is damaged all over, consider a full replacement.
- A Rotting Roof Deck – Most roof decking is plywood. If water gets under the shingles and underlayment, it will rot the plywood, and you’ll need to replace the decking, underlayment, and shingles.
- Low Spots in the Roof – There’s significant structural damage if your roof is sagging. A saggy roof is not a DIY job. You should contact a professional.
When to Call a Professional Roofer
It’s possible to fix small roof leaks yourself, but if you don’t have the necessary safety equipment or don’t feel comfortable with your skill level, call a professional. There are many steps to roof installation and many layers to your roof. A professional can give the piece of mind of a solid repair.
Also, call a professional in the event of storm damage to your roof. If you have homeowner’s insurance, they will likely cover the roof repair costs.