The First Three Things You Should Do When Your Roof Starts Leaking


No one ever brags about their roof. We all have know people who actually send you photos of their perfectly manicured garden, or someone who speakings lovingly of their new kitchen backsplash. But the roof? No one thinks about their roof—until it starts leaking.

Roof leaks always happen at the least opportune moment—like, when it’s actively pouring out. If you experience the horror of water dripping from places water’s not supposed to drip from, hopefully you have a roofer in your contacts and can get them over for an inspection pronto. But before you make that call, don’t waste any time—you’ve got some roof triage to do if you want to limit the damage from a roof leak.

Clear and contain

Your first priority is preventing damage. This is the moment to spring into action:

  • Move stuff out of the way. Any furniture, electronics, or rugs should be immediately removed from the area where the water is dripping.

  • Cover the stuff you can’t move, like a big, heavy couch or any built-in furniture. Any kind of plastic sheeting will do in a pinch. If the water leak is significant, you might also place the furniture legs in plastic containers or raise it up on risers if you’re unable to move it.

  • Contain the water—place a bucket underneath the stream and mop up the floor to prevent the water from soaking into the flooring. If the water leak is causing your ceiling or wall to bulge like a balloon, pop the bulge to let the water drain; otherwise, the water will just slowly soak into areas far away from the leak.

Consider keeping a roof leak diverter (or two) in storage. These tarp-like contraptions attach to the ceiling and divert the water into a hose that can be run to a drain. This way you don’t have to worry about emptying a bucket while keeping your floors dry.

Roof triage

Once you’ve restored order to the interior of your house, it’s time to see if you can put a temporary fix into place.

Start in the attic, if you have one. You might see the source of your leak immediately, or you might have to go hunting for it. Bring a flashlight and look for damp spots, slow seeping water, or literal holes in your roof. If you see obvious damage, you can try patching it from the inside with some roof cement or roofing tape, but keep in mind that while a successful interior patch might spare the inside of your house from further damage, the leak in your roof will still be there and will require repair.

If you don’t have an attic or you can’t see any obvious leaks from inside, your next step might be to get up on your roof. This is where you should be very careful—it’s a bad idea to head up onto your roof during a rainstorm. Wait for the storm to pass, and follow best safety practices at all times when you do go up there. When you do get up on your roof, it’s time for some detective work:

  • Remember that water flows, so the source of your leak might not be directly above or even near the spot where the water came out inside your house.

  • First, look for obvious damage: Missing or visually damaged shingles, flashing that has pulled away, stains or sunken areas, tears or cracks in the roof membrane.

  • If you don’t see anything immediately obvious, look at the most common problem areas: places where vent pipes emerge from the roof, where two planes meet, flashing around chimneys or skylights, and roof valleys.

Once you’ve identified one or more potential sources of the leak, you can apply some roof cement (make sure it’s explicitly for use in wet conditions if the roof is still damp or if it’s lightly raining) or even some Flex Paste. If you’re dealing with discrete damage to your roof, this might stop the leak until you can have a proper repair done.

If you can’t identify a specific area to patch (or as an added layer of protection if you do patch), you can throw a tarp over the area where you suspect the leak is. The tarp should be at least six millimeters thick, and you’ll need enough of it to extend several feet around the leaking area. In a pinch, you can just weigh the tarp down with some lumber, but ideally you would secure the tarp to your roof using roofing nails.


Finally, document the damage, especially if you have an insurance policy that includes roof coverage. If you wait until after the repairs are done, you might find your insurer reluctant to pay out on the claim. A few quick photos of the inside and outside as well as any damaged furniture or electronics will go a long way toward making that claim go smoothly. Plus, when you contact a licensed roofer about getting your roof repaired or replaced, you can send them the photos so they can determine the scale of the problem.


Source link

Leave a Comment