How to Find a Roof Leak Quickly

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The best way to find a roof leak is to examine the attic and underside of the roof yourself. Finding a roof leak can be tricky, but keep an eye out for clear signs like musty smells, water stains, and bulging or warping. These can lead you to the source of the leak.
Dealing with a leaky roof is a homeowner’s worst nightmare. There’s a risk of costly damage to the building, your treasured possessions, the light fixture, and the ceiling fan. You even may need to replace insulation or get rid of mold. Don’t let this problem go unresolved!
We’ve got you covered. Here is everything you need to know about how to find a roof leak fast, compiled for you by the insurance broker and comparison app Jerry.
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Visit the attic to look around

Let’s start by heading straight to the source. Grab a flashlight and explore the attic, where any leaks might be visible on the underside of the roof. Remember to step only on the joists if there is not a proper floor in your attic. 
Employ all your senses as you move around the room. Look to see if any areas are darker than the others, which could be a sign of dampness or mold. Inhale to see if one area smells particularly musty. Touch any suspicious areas gently to test for moisture. These all can be signs of a leak. 
Bring your smartphone and take pictures of water stains or other discoveries.

Find damaged insulation and follow it to the source

Closely examine your insulation, which can soak up a water leak. When it deteriorates, insulation becomes ragged and discolored—even if the leak is not recent. 
If you find something, follow the water trail. Think about gravity and the pitch of your roofline to figure out which way the water might be flowing. A leak can be several feet away from damaged insulation.
You can carefully remove insulation near a location that you suspect is concealing a leak. To do this, you will need protective gear like gloves, eyeglasses, long sleeves, and a facemask. You also may need a sharp tool. 
Only remove damaged insulation if you are fairly certain it is the location of a leak—and only if you are confident in handling insulation.
Key Takeaway Insulation can mask or soak up a water leak. You may need to remove the insulation, which you should only do if you have the right tools—otherwise, call a professional.

Examine the underside of the roof for piercing objects

If the insulation does not reveal any leaks, try checking for any piercing objects. An object that has pierced your roof should be fairly obvious to spot. Look for branches and other larger objects.
Sometimes, a very small object like an errant nail can pierce the roof and let water in. Go very slowly and carefully as you examine the underside of the roof. 
Conclude your investigation by checking the area around the roof vents. If your home has them, roof vents are typically located near gable ends or ridges. A weak seal could allow rainwater to creep in over time. 

A trick for finding difficult leaks 

Still can’t find anything? Here is a good trick to find a difficult leak, especially if you have recently had dry weather. You will need a helper for this one. 
Send one person up into the attic. The other person will stay on the ground below with a hose. Simulate rainfall by spraying the roof one section at a time. Wait a few minutes for the water to percolate, and see whether a leak appears in the attic. Slowly move across the roof until you can locate the source.
This technique requires excellent attention to detail and at least an hour of your time. The hose trick is a good last resort if your initial visual inspection did not turn up any results.

Do the necessary repairs

Left alone, a roof leak will only get worse as time goes by. If a minor repair is required, you can take care of it yourself. Before you do, ask yourself the following questions: 
  • Is the repair fairly minor? (i.e., replacing a shingle)
  • Do I feel comfortable on the roof?
  • Can I handle the technical aspects of the repair?
If you can answer “yes” to these three questions, you should feel free to tackle the repair yourself.
To fix a tiny hole left by a nail or a previous satellite dish, you must use flashing. Do not inject caulk into the hole.
To fix a cracked plumbing vent boot or roof vent, you may need a completely new part. If the problem is simply a missing or loose nail, then you can replace them with rubber-washered screws. You will have to shimmy the nearby shingles loose before installing the new parts. Be careful so you can reuse the shingles.
To fix leaky dormer walls, use a putty knife to dig into the area between the corner boards and siding. Extract any caulk that isn’t working and replace it with new caulk. You also may need new siding, corner boards, and flashing. 
It’s tempting to use caulk as a quick fix, but do not count on it as a long-term solution.
Key Takeaway If you have the right materials and it is a small hole, you can fix a minor roof leak with normal home-repair tools. 

Call a professional roofer

In case of hard-to-fix leaks—or if you just want the problem resolved quickly—you can call a professional roofer.
It’s worth hiring an expert to fix your leaky roof, not only for the saved labor. 
Here is a perk of hiring a professional: They know about building codes and warranty coverage. Plus, contractors often have access to more affordable materials thanks to their relationships with supply shops. 
Most roofs should be assessed around the 15- to 20-year mark, anyway. Wouldn’t you prefer to catch a dangerous leak early on rather than attempt a faulty DIY repair yourself and pay the price later on?

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