What to do if Your Roof is Leaking

a leaking roof

a leaking roof

You spot a stain or bulge on the ceiling. Maybe there’s a dripping sound, or you see water. You have a roof leak. What do you do now?

The best thing to do when you suspect your roof is leaking, is to take action right away to prevent further damage. This may save your roof, attic, ceiling and personal property, and acting quickly will save you money in the end. No matter your handyman skills, there are simple ways to reduce the risk of major damage, even before your roofer can get out to do repairs for you.

Locate the Source of the Leak

Open the closest ceiling panel and look into the attic space with a flashlight at the spot where the water is coming through. Trace the path of water. It likely is coming from a higher point in the rafters. You will see a dark line where water has been draining and spreading, or you may even see mold or rot if the problem has been developing for a while. Count the rafters from the top to where the leak is happening as this will help you and your roofer pinpoint the damage point on the roof.

If water is pooling in the attic and causing the ceiling to bulge or buckle, grab a screwdriver and poke a hole in your ceiling at the low point of the bulge. This will let water drip down and out to reduce pooling and the resulting damage to your ceiling and walls. Place a bucket on the floor to catch the dripping water. Take this time to move any personal possessions out of the way to avoid them being damaged.

Take pictures of the damage and as close to the source of the leak as you can see, both inside and outside the home. These will help your roofer, and can be used for insurance purposes, if that applies.

Stop the Water

roof home covered with a tarp waiting for the roofing company to fix after thunderstorm

Once you have gotten an idea where the leak is happening from inside and once any stormy weather has subsided, inspect your roof from the ground or from a ladder, if you are comfortable with using one. It’s best not to attempt to walk on your roof. Leave that to the trained professionals who also have safety equipment. You may see some damage, even from a distance, such as broken shingles or loose or broken metal flashing around vents and skylights that have created an opening for water to get under and into the roof layers.

As a temporary shield against more water damage, if possible, lay a tarp over the damaged area. Depending on the area of damage, the tarp should be at least 4-5 feet in length and 6mm thick so you can get good coverage and have a tarp that will not tear or blow away easily. The tarp should go up to the peak of the roof to prevent water from rolling down and under it. If the roof peak is not safely reachable, the tarp can be tucked under shingles to hold it in place and keep water away.

If you can’t place a tarp on your own, you can still use it to help stop damage on the interior. Lay it out in the attic under the leak if possible to protect your ceiling. Other things you will need are buckets, towels or whatever can help you capture, soak up or redirect water into a container and not let it flow onto your ceiling, carpet or floor.

If your roofer is not coming out right away, you may be able to get a local service to help you lay a tarp on the roof. Flood damage restoration companies usually offer this service.

Long Term Leaks

Swelling leaking of whitewash and plaster on ceiling of dwelling due to penetration of water from the top floor or roof, selective focus.

If your leak has been happening for a while, you will likely have damage to the insulation in your attic. You could also experience loss of heating and cooling through the area that has been weakened, increasing exposure to the outdoors. Mold and mildew may grow in the wet conditions. Mold is a serious health hazard. Over time, it can get into your HVAC system and spread throughout the house. Roof leaks can also be a fire hazard if electrical wires are in the vicinity. And of course, the damage will lead to weakened and rotting roof components, rafters, ceilings and drywall.

For these reasons, once you discover a roof leak, it’s important to get it cleaned up as soon as possible. The sooner you deal with the leak, the less it will cost for cleanup, repair and restoration of the damaged area.

Call your Roofer

Now that you’ve identified the roof problem and made adjustments to minimize further damage, call your roofer and schedule them to come out to inspect the damage and take care of anything that may be critical, such as a ceiling failure or electrical issue. Even if you think you can repair the damage yourself, at least get a roofer to inspect it. As an experienced pro, he will recognize problems that you may miss.

A professional roofer will give you a written plan and estimate of the repairs. He will also be sure to check over the entire roof for other problems so you can avoid further damage and expense due to leaks.

Check your Insurance

If your roof damage was due to a major storm, such as from high winds, your repairs may be covered by your homeowners’ insurance. Your agent may have suggestions on who to call to get help with temporary repairs. Of course, if there was no major storm and your roof damage is just because it is old or not maintained, that is probably not something that insurance will cover. Call your agent to find out if your policy will cover any of the leak repairs. Keep in mind, old roof shingles lose the grit that helps them repel water, making an aging roof something to address with a roofer before leaks happen. 

Hire a Professional Roofer

Framing contractor installing roof sheeting over rafters on a new commercial residential construction project

When making repairs to your roof, whether they are emergency repairs or scheduled ones, it’s important to hire a licensed professional roofer to help you. Be aware that, particularly following a major storm, a lot of “roofers” appear, ready to help. These may not be trained, licensed and established roofers and some may be scammers. Before hiring anyone to fix your roof, check their license status with your state, look at the BBB reports and check online reviews. Make sure anyone you hire is insured.

It’s always good to establish a relationship with a roofer before problems occur. Regular roof inspections are easy and either free or inexpensive. They may help you avoid that leak in the first place. If damage does occur, your roofer will be ready to help. Your roofer can estimate the condition of your roof and when to plan and budget for a roof replacement before your roof develops problems that can damage your home.

Prestige Roofing in Las Vegas has been serving Clark County for over 25 years. We offer free estimates, roof repairs, roof replacements and new roof construction to customers throughout the Las Vegas Valley.