Whether you came home to find water puddling on your floor, were in the room when water started pouring down the wall, or noticed a water spot or discoloration on your ceiling after a storm, discovering that you have a roof leak is a bad feeling.
Many homeowners feel helpless in these situations—you know there’s a problem, but you may not know how to fix it. The tips below will tell you what to do to stop the leak right away to keep it from getting worse.
- Make sure you’re safe.
- Put a bucket or plastic under the leak to stop the damage.
- Call a local roofing contractor.
- Make a drain hole in ceiling leaks.
- Contain the leak in the attic.
- Find the source of the leak.
- Plug the hole or protect the leaking area.
- Take photos for insurance.
- Have a professional roofing contractor survey the situation.
- Watch for more leaks.
Make sure you’re safe.
If a major emergency or property damage threatens your safety or the integrity of your home, you may need to leave your home or call roofing contractor who can get to you faster. If a tree has fallen on your house, a limb has punctured a hole in the roof, a section of the roof has been pulled back or torn off by wind, or you otherwise feel unsafe, get out and get to a safe place before calling for help.
Put a bucket or plastic under the leak to stop the damage.
First things first. If your home is safe and water is actively dripping or flowing into your home, the number one thing you need to do is catch the water and prevent further damage on the ground level. Grab a bucket, trash can, towels, trash bags, or plastic sheeting, depending on how much water is leaking. Put a bucket or trash can under active leaks, soak up any water that’s pooling on the ground, and do whatever you need to do to protect your flooring or other surfaces. You may need to move furniture or rugs out of the way or cover them with plastic. Once the water is contained, you can survey the damage.
Call a local roofing contractor.
Storms can create lots of roofing problems, so you’ll want to get your roofing emergency on the schedule of a good roofing company. Many companies offer emergency services, and some may be able to get to you right away. In any case, it’s smart to call a contractor immediately so they can come and inspect the damage and offer repairs if necessary. You may need to wait hours or even days for the roofer to get to you, depending on the problem, the severity of it, and how long their waiting list is. If you can wait for the contractor of your choice, do so. If you need to call another company to get faster service, make sure that company is licensed and insured for your safety. Once you’ve made the call, you can get back to addressing the leak and minimizing the damage.
Make a drain hole in ceiling leaks.
If a roof leak is causing your ceiling to bubble, bow, or droop, you need to poke a small hole in the water-logged area to release the pooling water and let it flow through. While it might seem counterintuitive to make a hole in the ceiling when you’re trying to prevent damage, this actually is the smartest way to avoid a major catastrophe. As water leaking through the roof begins to pool in the attic floor, it starts to soak insulation, drywall, and ceiling joists. The weight of the water combined with the soggy materials can eventually cause a large section of the ceiling to collapse, and that can be dangerous and create a larger repair. By piercing the ceiling drywall, you allow water to flow through rather than pool, and that prevents more damage. It’s far easier to repair a small hole than the entire ceiling or drywall sheet that’s come crashing down.
To do this, identify the area where the leak is pooling (usually identifiable by an active leak, bubbles in the paint, drooping drywall or a bulging area). Move furniture and valuables around the area. Position a trash can or large bucket under the leak, and use a screwdriver or a similar tool to pierce the center of the leak. Water should drip or flow from the hole to the bucket.
Contain the leak in the attic.
Once you’ve gotten buckets placed below, you’ll want to access the attic if possible to stop the leak at that level. Attics can be dangerous places, so be sure to watch for nails overhead and only step on ceiling joists. Never step on insulation or drywall, as you could fall through the ceiling. Once you’ve found where the water is dripping, place a bucket under the leaking area to catch the drops before they hit the attic roof or top of the ceiling. Do not place buckets or heavy objects on drywall or other areas that could collapse. You may need to run a board across the roof joists in order to create a solid surface for the bucket. If you can see pooled water, carefully use a towel or sponge to soak it up so it doesn’t create more damage. If insulation or other materials have become wet, remove them and place them in buckets to dry.
Find the source of the leak.
You may be able to see where the leak is coming from. It could be a hole in the ceiling, a nail poking through, or visible damage. You may also need to follow the trail of water to find the entry point. Water can travel many feet from the original leak, following roof boards, joists, and beams until it finally falls to the attic floor or rolls down a wall. By finding the source of the leak, you’ll be able to stop the invading water at its entry point.
Plug the hole or protect the leaking area.
Once you’ve found the hole, try to plug it. You won’t be able to do any repairs while the area is wet, so sometimes the best you can do is put a bucket or towel under the area, cover the exterior of the roof with a tarp over the area above the leak, or redirect the leak directly to a bucket by poking a nail into small holes. If it’s possible to stop water from coming in and you can do it safely, do it. Any additional water coming into your home increases the possibility of mold, mildew, water damage, and a bigger clean-up bill.
Also Read: Wet Riser Vs. Dry Riser For Your Building
Take photos for insurance.
If the leak and resulting damage are eligible for an insurance payout, you’ll want to have adequate documentation of the problem when you file your claim. It’s vital that you photograph and document everything related to the leak. Take photos of the interior and exterior leak, the cause of the damage, and anything else in your home that was damaged or destroyed because of the leak or aftermath (flooring, furniture, ceiling, walls, appliances, etc.). If you can safely get on the roof to take photos, do so. Otherwise, ask your roofing contractor to do so for you. If the damage is visible from the ground, take photos from there. Document and keep all estimates and invoices and other paperwork related to the roof leak.
Have a professional roofing contractor survey the situation.
Even after the water has stopped flowing or the leak has been contained, it’s important to have a roofer look at the problem. They can advise you on the cause and repair, whether insurance will cover it, and your next steps. They should also be able to help you decide whether you need to hire a water damage restoration company to make sure the area is dry to prevent mold, if you need a contractor to fix ceiling or wall problems, if you need a new roof, or if the problem has been going on longer than you’d suspected and has caused damage you can’t see.
Watch for more leaks.
Whether you’ve done the repairs yourself or had a contractor make them, you should watch for future leaks. After storms, be aware of and immediately address any new water spots, paint bubbles, low spots, dripping sounds, or other signs that the leak hasn’t been fixed or a secondary leak has developed.