You wake up and stumble to the kitchen to make your coffee. As it begins to brew, a drop of water hits you dead in the face. You slowly pan up hoping for the best and expecting the worst—a leak.
Did the pipes burst in the bathroom? Is it the HVAC system leaking? Is there a hole in my roof? Leaks can be elusive. Once you’ve eliminated pipes, HVAC, and condensation and decide it’s your roof, the real search begins.
The sloped design of most roofs and the manner in which water travels can make it tricky to find the source of a leak. We’ve compiled some tips to help you spot a roof leak.
Eliminate other possibilities.
As a homeowner, you should always be on the lookout for signs of mold and stains from water damage. Don’t assume that just because there is not an active drip that you don’t have a problem. Perhaps you are in a dry season and water has been caught inside since it rained last. Don’t wait until the next rain or snow to fix the problem.
Begin with the evidence of the leak and travel upwards. A pipe may have a small, slow leak, a window may need to be resealed or your HVAC system may have a dirty coil. Eliminate all of these possibilities before heading to the attic.
Make a few reference points in your living space.
It will be difficult to match the point of the leak in your living space to a corresponding source in your attic without a few reference points. Grab a tape measure and find at least two points perpendicular to the leak in your living space measured from an exterior wall or structural beam that extends into the attic space.
Grab a flashlight and head to the attic.
Attics are spooky and usually filled with insulation (not fun). But going into the attic with a flashlight is the only way to identify the culprit before the issue gets out of hand. Make sure to wear long pants and sleeves to protect you from skin-irritating insulation.
The reference points you made may not lead you directly to the source of the leak. The water may have traveled down the sloped part of your roof and onto your roof deck. In some cases, it will be a clean drip directly onto the insulation or bare roof deck (hello, bills?) below.
If you don’t see an active drip, wet piece of insulation or a puddle of water, use the measurements you took from your living space to give you a general idea of where to search.
Follow the trail.
When you identify where water has collected on your roof deck, look for water trails or stains between the location of the stain in your living space and the peak of your roof. These indicators may have dried up and may not be apparent. If you can’t find it, conduct a water test.
Spray the roof with water.
If you’re not expecting precipitation for a while, have someone spray your roof with a garden hose to create an active leak while you’re still in the attic. Have them start at the lowest part of the roof and work their way up.
Take measurements and make repairs right away.
Allowing a leak to perpetuate is dangerous. Ceiling drywall or tile can crumble or fall and cost you loads of dough. Mold spores are unhealthy for your family to inhale. Making repairs right away ensures that you keep these problems under control.
Measure the source of the leak in the attic from an exterior wall to the peak of the roof so you can make reference while you’re tending to the problem from the exterior. Allow for any roof overhang when measuring outside.
Before making a repair, be sure to determine the exact cause of the leak before wasting time and money on the wrong materials.
Were you able to find the leak?