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A Guide to Emergency Roof Leak Repair

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Default Author Icon Written by Angela Bunt Updated 03/22/2024

A leaky roof can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare, and the cost of replacing a roof can test even the most carefully considered budget. Here’s how to quickly address a leaky roof and prevent future damage. 

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Asphalt Shingle Roofing

The cost of asphalt shingle roof installation can range from $5,994–$9,791.

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Roof Repair

Typically, the average cost of roof repair ranges between $379 and $1,755

House With a Metal Roof
Metal Roofing

A new metal roof costs an average of $9,150–$16,743.


How To Identify and Assess a Roof Leak

The first step in addressing a leaking roof is locating the water’s origin and assessing the severity of the leak.

Signs and Symptoms of a Roof Leak
Water damage can be clear to the naked eye or slightly less obvious. It might manifest in the following ways:
Bulging or bubbling drywall
Damaged flashing or vent covers
Damaged or missing shingles
Dripping sounds in walls or attic
Mildew or mold growth
Water stains on ceilings or walls
Wet interior roof decking

Before you panic, keep in mind that these symptoms might point to other issues. Plumbing leaks, condensation from pipes, and poor ventilation can cause similar problems. Keep notes for later assessment. 

Identifying the Source of a Roof Leak

It isn’t always easy to identify the source of the leak because water damage may not appear directly beneath the roof leak. Water frequently travels down through the roof, decking, attic, and ceiling before you spot it in your house. That’s why your search has to be diligent, and it’s best to start inside. 

First, if you have access to your attic, look for signs of water such as discoloration, dark spots, condensation, or damaged insulation. Pay attention to corners, roof joints, skylights, chimneys, and roof valleys. If your attic is inaccessible, your best option is to consult a professional, who will likely look for roof damage, bad flashing, exposed nails, or other potential weak points. 

Assessing the Severity of the Roof Leak

Once you’ve identified the likely source, it’s time to determine how urgent the issue is and what you’re prepared to pay to fix it. The price difference between emergency roof repair services and the regular cost of roof repair is often substantial, so here are some signs that you’re facing an emergency situation:

  • Multiple ceiling leak spots
  • Running or puddled water indoors
  • Visible external roof damage (e.g., fallen tree, hail damage)
  • Water leaks around fuse boxes or other electrical equipment

We urge you to accelerate your repair timeline to avoid additional damage if storms are imminent.

What Are Temporary Roof Leak Fixes and Safety Measures?

Consider these immediate measures to protect your home after identifying the leak’s source.

Use buckets to catch dripping water to limit the damage to your home’s interior. Fire up a dehumidifier or wet/dry vacuum if you have one. Call an emergency roofing contractor immediately if it looks like water is pooling.

Next, if the leak’s origin isn’t totally clear, consider broadly patching up a damaged roof. Homeowners can climb on their roofs and spread waterproof tarps over areas that appear to be compromised. Take appropriate safety measures, and only do this when the weather is dry. Make sure the tarp’s upper edge is draped over the roof peak or secured in such a way that water can’t run underneath the tarp. Weigh down the edges with heavy boards.

If you know the leak’s origin more conclusively, you can apply roofing cement, caulk, or rubber sealant to protect your home until specialists can make more permanent repairs. Wait until the roof is dry, and tread very carefully. Brush debris away from holes or punctures and apply the sealant as directed by the manufacturer.

In the case of extreme storm damage such as downed trees or power lines, you and your family may need to evacuate your home until specialists can inspect the damage. If the leak directs water toward your electrical system, first shut down the power, and use towels around wet flooring to prevent slipping.

How To Hire a Roofing Professional for Emergency Roof Leaks

You will need to call a roofing company to fix your roof leak at some point.

When To Seek Professional Help

Consulting professional roofers is necessary for permanent repairs, even if your leak seems manageable and your temporary fix appears to address the issue. Roofs are complex systems, and the problem is rarely just a matter of a few damaged shingles. 

Choosing a Reliable Roofing Contractor or Company

Here’s how to conduct your search for the right local roofing specialist:

  • Make sure the company’s license is current. In nearly every state, contractors must have special training and licensure to call themselves roofers.
  • Contact your insurance company to ask about qualified inspectors and contractors if you intend to file an insurance claim.
  • Check the company’s Better Business Bureau page, which will provide a rating and accreditation status as well as customer reviews and complaints.
  • Ask about available warranties on both materials and workmanship.
  • Get quotes from at least three contractors before making your choice.

What Are Preventive Measures and Roof Maintenance?
Once your roof has been repaired, here are some ways to prevent future leaks:
Roof maintenance like annual professional inspections prevents future leaks after roof repairs are completed.
Regularly check your attic for leaks.
Regularly inspect your roof’s flashing and drip edges from the ground for potential damage.
Keep gutters and downspouts clear.
Trim back tree branches that hang over the roof.
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Should You DIY vs. Professional Emergency Roof Leak Repair?

We recommend hiring a licensed contractor to address your leak and roofing needs.

DIY Emergency Roof Leak Repair

Handy homeowners may want to pull out the ladder and get up on the roof as soon as possible, but consider that any roof work entails a fall risk. Walking on the damaged roof may compound damage or hurt your insurance claim. The most you should do is apply a tarp or patch the leak before calling in the pros.

Professional Emergency Roof Leak Repair

Qualified roofers have the proper training and tools for roof replacement and prevention of future issues. Roofers can recommend the best shingle materials to match your needs and budget.

Our Conclusion

Emergency roof leaks require immediate attention, and the job isn’t done until you’ve secured professional inspection and repair. Act quickly, make temporary repairs if you can do so safely, and hire a trusted professional to complete the process.

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FAQ About Emergency Roof Leak Repair

What should I do if I discover a roof leak?

If you discover a roof leak, aim to find the source immediately. If you feel comfortable on a ladder, you can lay a tarp over the damaged area to help mitigate damage.

How much does emergency roof leak repair cost?

Emergency roof leak repair costs up to twice as much as regular roof repair and may include an additional fee of $100 to $300. The average cost of roof repair is between $380 and $1,770.

Will my homeowners insurance cover emergency roof leak repair?

Homeowners insurance will typically cover roof leak repair if it’s the result of an unexpected event such as a storm. However, insurance may not cover roof repair if age or lack of maintenance is to blame.

What are the potential consequences of not addressing a roof leak promptly?

The potential consequences of not addressing a roof leak promptly include continued water damage in your home that could lead to rot, mold, and pest infestations. The result could ultimately be severe structural damage.

How long does emergency roof leak repair typically take?

A roof leak repair can take as little as 20 to 30 minutes if it only requires patching. However, more substantial repairs will take hours to days.

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