Simple Way To Find A Roof Leak & Prevent A ‘Catastrophe’

roof with chimneyIf you have recently discovered water stains that extend across ceilings or run down walls, the culprit is probably a roof leak. While tracking down the leak can sometimes be the hard part; the fixes are generally pretty easy though not always cheap. Below is a relatively simple way to locate the cause of a roof leak that most any person can do with minimal roofing or construction knowledge. 

Major Damage Caused by Minor Leaks 

If you have a roof leak, you need to fix it immediately — even if it doesn’t bother you or you’re getting a new roof soon. Even over a short time, small leaks can lead to big problems, such as mold or rotted framing and can destroy insulation and damage ceilings.

Roof Flashing Mold

If running water doesn’t reveal the exact location of the leak, don’t be nervous. Start removing shingles in the suspect area. Once they are removed there will be evidence of the leak and you’ll be able to track  down the source. You’ll likely see discolored felt paper or water-stained or even rotted wood directly below and around it.

The flashing leak that caused this expensive repair bill was obvious from the ceiling stains for over two years. If the homeowner had dealt with it right away, the damage and subsequent repairs would have been minimal.

If you have attic access, the easiest way to track down a leak is to go up there with a flashlight and look for the evidence. There will be water stains, black marks or mold. But if access is a problem or you have a vaulted ceiling, you’ll have to go up onto the roof and examine the suspect(s).

When you’re trying to track down a leak, start by looking at the roof uphill from the stains. The first thing to look for is any roof penetrations because those are the most common sources of leaks. Did you have a recent storm? Is there any debris on the roof – tree limbs, maybe? Is anything obvious? No? Well, penetrations could also include intentional things like plumbing and roof vents, chimneys, dormers or anything else that projects through the roof. They can be several feet above the leak or to the right or left of it.

hose on roofIf the problem still isn’t obvious, get someone to assist you and go up on the roof with a garden hose. Start low, soaking the area just above where the leak appears in the house. Isolate areas when you run the hose. Have your helper stay inside the house waiting for the drip to appear. Let the hose run for several minutes in one area before moving it up the roof a little farther. Tell your helper to yell when a drip becomes visible. You’ll be in the neighborhood of the leak. This process can take some time and patience so don’t move too fast or you will have wasted time.

Calling in the Professionals

Once you have located the source, you can then make the determination if this is a repair you can fix yourself, something only a handyman is needed for, or if a roofing contractor needs to be called in.

When calling in a contractor, be sure to gather a list of qualified service providers and don’t only rely on the phone book listings. Additionally, if your project totals more than $1,000, you will want to interview candidates and get written bids before signing a contract. A quality contractor will be happy to submit a bid in writing. If the contractor does not want to provide a written bid, quickly mark them off your list!!

  1. Ask people you trust for names of contractors
  2. Local building department or building code enforcement (this is a good time to ask about needed permits)
  3. Trustworthy Real Estate professionals
  4. Ask you local Homebuilders Association for recommendations
  5. Be sure to check the contractors out with a Better Business Bureau

It Could Happen to You

During the Fall and Spring seasons the temperature can change drastically from day to day, morning to night. Water can continually get into walls and sidewalks, under shingles, and behind siding. The freezing and thawing causes this water to expand and contract. Over and over and over again every year. With time, properties that are exposed to this type of weather begin to show serious signs of wear and tear. If addressed immediately these signs of wear are usually fixable and cause minimal damage. However, if not addressed these small concerns can turn into nightmare losses.

If you live in the “Snow Belt” (or any other area that sees snowfall) and in the winter you have leaks only on warm or sunny days, you are probably experiencing ice damming issues. That is a different kind of “monster” in itself — and is cause for even greater concern. snow collapse on roof

But, let’s say there is a huge snow storm this winter and with the weight of the ice and snow (a covered peril under a Special Form policy) the garage were to fall down.

There is a overwhelmingly good chance (disclaimer: every claim is unique and coverage is determined by the carrier) that my claim would be DENIED!

The wear and tear that has accumulated on a building is what caused it to collapse.


Your insurance policy is an amazing tool for protecting what is likely the most valuable asset you own. However, losses resulting from wear and tear are NOT covered. Always remember: Generally speaking — Insurance covers loss that is Sudden and Accidental. Not a loss that has been building over time.

Halloween Safety Tips for HomeownersJulie Rock-Chatellier

As Claim Manager for Provencher & Company; Julie oversees all claims support staff, examiners and trainers. With over 19 years experience in office management and customer account management, she also serves as the digital media coordinator and claim system administrator.

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