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How To Find and Fix a Roof Leak (2023 Guide)

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A leaky roof requires immediate attention if you want to avoid hefty roof replacement expenses. Before you start the repair process, you must find the source of the leak. This can be difficult if you have a flat roof or a roof with a low pitch. Below, we’ll guide you through how to find a roof leak and when to hire a contractor to make roof repairs. 

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Roof shingles with garret house on top of the house among a lot of trees. dark asphalt tiles on the roof background
Asphalt Shingle Roofing

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

Man working on a flat roof
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.


Identifying Leak Locations

The first interior sign of a roof leak is typically a water stain on the ceiling. You might also notice a dripping sound, musty odors in the house, mold on exterior walls, or water spots on the ceiling. 

Once you’ve spotted a telltale sign of a leak, grab a flashlight and check the attic to get a better look at the underside of the roof. Water can damage your belongings, cause mold and mildew growth, and weaken the structural integrity of your home over time, so you’ll want to move quickly.

Entry Points

Finding the point at which water enters your home from the roof can help you narrow down the exact location of the leak. Inspect these areas for signs of obvious damage:

  • Chimneys
  • Flashing
  • Skylights 
  • Roof valleys
  • Vents
  • Walls and dormers

Signs of a Leak in the Attic and Interior

Roof leaks will show the soonest in your attic, so check for moisture at every rafter, especially at any point at which two planes meet. Inspect the flooring and the bottom of the rafters for water stains, peeling paint, patches of mold, damp insulation, or damp drywall.

Remember that not all water damage in the attic is a product of roof leaks. Condensation also causes damp walls, foggy windows, buckled ceiling materials, high humidity, and musty odors. Broken pipes or HVAC leaks are other possible causes.

Exterior Inspection

Once you locate evidence of a roof leak in the attic or interior of your home, it’s time to inspect the exterior of the roof thoroughly. Use a ladder to reach eye-level with the roof. Look for signs of damage, such as missing or damaged shingles or damage to common entry points. 

Moss is another sign of moisture buildup. If you have a flat roof and notice pooling water, look inside your home near the location of the puddle. 

Removing Shingles

Remove shingles around the suspected problem area to inspect the roof deck and locate the source of the leak. Look for discolored paper, water stains, or rotted wood around the roof decking. Once you find the location of the leak, make repairs as soon as possible. We recommend calling a local roofing company for complex jobs.

Water Spray Test

If you still can’t find the source of the roof leak, try the water spray test. Grab your garden hose and start soaking the suspected problem areas. Start on the lower part of the roof and work your way up. Have someone inside the house listen for dripping or watch for puddles.

Spend several minutes at each location before moving on to the next. This process can take some time, so be patient at each spot.

When To Make Minor Repairs

You can take a DIY approach to address minor repairs, such as sealing flashing or replacing a few shingles. More complex work should be left to the professionals. Below, we cover which repairs you can likely handle yourself. 

How To Fix Damaged Shingles

Begin the process of fixing damaged shingles by making sure you have enough new shingles and that they match your existing set. You can purchase new shingles and other necessary tools, such as a hammer, a flat pry bar, a utility knife, roofing cement, and roofing nails, from the hardware store.

Remove old roofing nails with the pry bar under the damaged shingles. Work row by row. After you remove the nails, pull out the damaged shingles and scrape off any old sealant. Take each replacement shingle and move it into position. Apply roofing cement under the new shingle’s tabs and nail each new shingle into place.

How To Fix Gaps Around Chimneys, Vents, or Windows

Water can enter the home through gaps around chimneys, vents, or window edges, especially if these gaps have widened over time. Replace the caulk around the flashing to fill in these gaps.

How To Fix Plumbing Vent Boots

Damaged plumbing vent boots can lead to water damage in your home. If the existing one is in mostly good condition, replace the screws with washer-head roofing screws to secure the base to the roof. If your vent boot is beyond repair, you can pick a new one up at your local hardware store.

How To Fix Nail or Screw Holes

Water can enter your home through small nail holes for years before you notice. Fix these holes by placing a piece of roof flashing underneath any compromised shingles and adding a bead of caulk or roofing cement to the top and bottom edge of the flashing.

How To Fix Damaged Flashing

Step flashing redirects water away from the walls and toward the gutters, but if it loosens or rusts, then water can seep underneath and into the house. Replace damaged flashing by loosening the shingles and siding near it and securing the new flashing with roofing cement. Don’t underestimate the importance of roof flashing.

When To Call a Roofer

Not all homeowners can handle DIY roof repair. Don’t hesitate to call a roofing professional for complex problems such as leaks in tricky spots, severe damage, and chronic roof leaks. Pros have the skills and equipment necessary to find leaks in difficult locations and make major repairs

The cost of repairing a roof ranges from $150 to $2,000, depending on the severity of the leak and the resulting damage. You may need to explore the cost of a new roof.

*Cost data in this article was sourced from Home Advisor.

Our Conclusion

All roofs can experience leaking, from shingle roofs to metal roofs. The longer you avoid repairing a roof leak, the worse the leak will get, so inspect your home inside and outside as soon as you notice a potential issue. Make repairs once you find the roof leak. If you don’t feel comfortable doing the work yourself or if there’s significant damage, call a professional roofing contractor to schedule roof leak repair. 

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FAQ About How To Find a Roof Leak

What are the signs of a roof leak inside the house?

A brown water stain on the ceiling is a sign that there’s a leak coming from your roof. Other signs of a possible roof leak include mold growth, a musty smell, missing or damaged shingles, or visible signs of damage to other rooftop penetrations.

What is the most likely place for a roof to leak?

The most likely places for a roof leak are around the chimney, windows, and skylights because of damaged or missing flashing. Other common areas are around roof vents or in spots with missing shingles.

What causes a roof to start leaking?

Most roof problems are the product of poor workmanship, an aging roof, clogged gutters, ice dams, gaps around seams, neglect, damaged roof equipment, and the weather. Homeowners should perform preventative maintenance to avoid potential issues and extend the roof’s lifespan.

How much does it cost to fix a roof leak?

It costs between $150 and $2,000 to fix a leaking roof. Some roofs may require a full replacement, which costs between $5,800 and $12,800.

How long can you go without fixing a roof leak?

There’s no way to tell how long you can go without fixing a leaky roof before you see damage. We recommend finding and fixing the roof leak as soon as possible.

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