Winter and Spring Rains are often a time where leaks show up from our roofs and a friend is asking if they can repair the roof or if they will have to replace it. So far they haven’t found the leak so lets go through what you should do if you have a leak in your roof and it is showing up as water coming through your drywall ceiling.
It can be a pretty scary experience to have a leak during a rain storm. Most of the time the leaks are smaller than we think but even a small leak can do damage to our drywall. If you are experiencing a leak the best thing to do is grab a large plastic tub like a storage container and head up into the attic. Go to the general area of the leak and then look for water stains on the underside of the roof. Often leaks will run down the underside of your roof and along rafters a long distance before they reach the attic floor which is also the ceiling of the room below. If you can find the dripping water place the container under it to catch the water. Even in a bad storm you are unlikely to have more than a couple gallons come through any leak overnight or until the rain stops.
Now that you are catching the water you need to really inspect where the leak is coming from. Normally leaks will happen at areas where there are protrusions through the roof. This would be around things like plumbing vent pipes, roof mount attic fans, ridge vents along the peak of your roof, chimneys for fireplaces and furnaces. Also your rain gutters overflowing or if they are filled with ice is another concern especially in the winter. These places are the primary problem spots however you can have a situation where shingles are ripped off your roof in a storm and the leak happens in the center of your roof where there are no protrusions.
If the leak is at a protrusion such as a plumbing pipe then you will need to replace the flashing plate or repair it to cure the leak. Replacing shingles is not normally necessary but you will have to lift the shingle to replace the flashing which could crack it. If this happens you might need to replace the shingle but you can also just glue it in place with asphalt shingle adhesive.
If the flashing around your chimney is leaking normally you can place another piece of aluminum flashing over the step flashing and use a large amount of asphalt adhesive to seal it against the chimney and over the existing shingles and flashing.
If you see leaking at the peak of your roof from your ridge vent then this is something that can happen in very strong storms and there really isn’t anything that you can do about it if it is in good repair. To make sure that it is in good condition you will probably have to go up on your roof to inspect it closely but you can also use a pair of binoculars from the ground and look for any areas or shingles that have pulled up.
If you have water leaking in the center of your roof that is not around any protrusions then you could have shingle failure. In this case you will normally need to replace an area that is larger than the specific damage unless that damage ocurred due to storm damage. If you see a number of shingles have been torn off and your roof is generally young 10 to 15 years old you can most likely just get matching shingles at your supply house and replace them.
Replacing shingles is not extremely difficult but you are working on a roof so you must be careful. Professionals will have safety harnesses which you can rent at a supply store but if you have concerns don’t like heights you might want to hire a professional.
Roof Leaks are no fun and they do send you into a bit of panic. Remember the first thing to do is find the leak and catch the water in your attic. Place a board across your attic floor and put a plastic container up there to catch the water. Check on it every couple hours if you have extended rain and empty it as needed.
Look for the source of the leak while it is still raining. It may be apparent or you might have to trace the leak back by following the water up a roof rafter and along the underside of the roof.
Never try to repair leaks during a storm by going on your roof. Its just too dangerous.