How to Locate a Leak in Your Roof

When seeing visual evidence of water on the ceiling, you know that a leaky roof has found you. Finding the source of that leak in the actual roof, however, is usually not so simple.

Due to the typical pitch of a roof, water frustratingly tends to enter the structure in one spot and then runs down to another place, before eventual absorption into the ceiling. This fairly common scenario is why prudent homeowners often turn to a professional roofer to be sure a correct diagnosis of the intimidating problem is made.

Yet, even a novice can follow certain basic steps to locate a leak. Extreme caution should always be exercised, especially if unfamiliar with the specific characteristics of the roof. Here is a look at five ways in which the location of a roof leak can be determined.

  1. Using a ladder to get on (or near) the roof, visually inspect for damaged roofing materials, exposed nails, running cracks in tar, or missing shingles.
  2. Make sure gutters are not clogged with leaves or debris. If water continually backs up in gutters and drains, it will eventually find its way under the roof.
  3. Check air and plumbing vent pipes, as well as the metal flashings that typically cover roof joints. Look closely for potential damage to the rubber seals, watertight gaskets, and tar that commonly attaches this type of equipment to the roof.
  4. If accessible, check the attic of the house during rain. Keep room dark while shining a flashlight on the underside of roof. Water should reflect the light and even a small hole may become visible.
  5. If timing prevents visiting attic during rain, have a second person spray a garden hose on the roof during normal conditions. If leak is not directly observed in attic, once again shine a flashlight on underside of roof in hopes of spotting the hole.