How To Fix A Leaking Roof

How To Fix A Leaking Roof

A leaking roof is a serious issue that requires your immediate attention. As a homeowner, you need to take swift action to locate and repair any roof leaks to avoid further and potentially catastrophic damage to your property. Finding the source of a leak and you should know how to fix a leaking roof and fixing it properly can seem like an overwhelming task, especially for those without experience in home repair and renovation.

However, with some time, patience, and the right tools and techniques, you have the ability to inspect your own roof, pinpoint problem areas, and perform effective repairs to stop leaks in their tracks. By following some key steps for leak detection and repair, you’ll gain the confidence and skills to tackle this important task and ensure your roof is watertight for years to come.

Detecting a Roof Leak: Signs to Look For

If you notice water damage inside your home, there’s a good chance you have a roof leak. The sooner you identify and repair the leak, the less damage will be done. Inspect your attic and roof regularly for common signs of leaks like:

  • Water stains on the underside of the roof. Look for stains or trails on the wood, insulation, or rafters in the attic. The leak is likely coming from above the stain.
  • Sagging or warped areas of the roof. A sag or dip in the roofline often means water has saturated the area, damaging the wood and shingles. This requires immediate repair to avoid roof collapse.
  • Missing, cracked, or curling shingles. Shingles that are damaged, loose, or missing provide an easy path for water to seep into the roof. Replace or repair damaged shingles right away.
  • Daylight visible from inside the attic. If you see light coming through the roof, you likely have an opening or hole that needs to be patched and sealed.
  • Mold or mildew growth. Excessive moisture from a roof leak often leads to mold and mildew growth in the attic. Remove mold and fix the leak to prevent it from coming back.
  • Overflowing gutters or downspouts. Clogged or damaged gutters and downspouts can’t properly divert water from the roof, allowing it to seep underneath shingles. Clean and repair gutters to ensure proper water flow.

By regularly checking for these common signs of a roof leak and performing necessary repairs immediately, you can help prevent costly water damage to your home. An inspection by a professional roofer is also recommended to assess the roof’s overall condition and catch any leaks before they start.

Identifying the Source of the Leak

To determine the source of your leaking roof, you’ll need to thoroughly inspect both the interior and exterior of your home.

Interior Inspection

Look for visible water damage on ceilings and walls, especially in the attic. Water stains, warped wood, and peeling paint can indicate a leak and its general location. Probe the area with a moisture meter to pinpoint the source. Check for less obvious signs like musty smells in the attic or water pooling around vents and fans.

Exterior Inspection

Thoroughly examine the condition of your shingles, flashing, gutters, and vents from the ground and, if possible, the roof itself. Look for visible cracks, holes, rust spots or separated seams in the roofing material, especially in areas where different roofing elements meet, such as at the base of chimneys or plumbing vents. Water may leak in through damaged or poorly installed shingles, deteriorating sealant around vents, or separated flashing. Ensure downspouts are clear and directing water away from the foundation.

Once you’ve identified possible sources, you may need to do some minor repairs yourself or call a professional to fix or replace damaged materials. For complex leaks, it’s best to hire a roofer to inspect, troubleshoot, and repair or replace damaged areas of your roof to prevent further water damage or mold growth, ensuring the safety, security and comfort of your home. With regular roof inspections and necessary repairs, you can extend the lifespan of your roof and avoid costly emergency fixes down the line.

How To Fix A Leaking Roof

Temporary Fixes for a Leaking Roof

Once you’ve located the source of your roof leak, it’s time to implement temporary fixes to minimize damage until full repairs can be made. There are a few options for temporarily patching and diverting water from a leaking roof.

Emergency Roof Patching

For small holes or cracks in the roof, apply roof cement, roof sealant, or roof flashing cement and roof flashing tape. Clean and dry the area, then apply the sealant or cement and cover with flashing tape for the best results. Larger holes may require roof flashing sheets or roof cement patches.

Diverting Water from the Leak

If water is actively leaking into the attic or living space, divert it away from valuables as soon as possible. Place water collection buckets, pans, or tarps below the leak to catch the water. Install plastic sheeting over holes in the ceiling to prevent further water damage. You can also reroute water using aluminum gutters, downspouts, and splash blocks outside the home.

Protecting Interior Spaces

Once you’ve patched the leak and diverted water, take steps to reduce moisture in the attic and any living spaces below the roof. Run exhaust fans, dehumidifiers, and air purifiers continuously until repairs can be made. Remove water-damaged materials like insulation, drywall, carpet, pad, and subflooring to prevent the growth of mold and mildew. Treat any remaining water stains with a mold inhibitor or primer before making permanent repairs.

These temporary fixes for a leaking roof should help minimize damage to your home until a professional roofing contractor can perform any necessary repairs or roof replacement. Be very careful when working on a wet and damaged roof, as the surface may be slippery. If at any time you do not feel safe accessing or repairing your roof, contact a roofing professional for assistance.

Permanent Roof Leak Repair: DIY vs Hiring a Roofer

Once you’ve located the source of your roof leak, it’s time to make repairs. For minor issues like damaged shingles or flashing, a DIY approach may be sufficient. However, for more serious problems or if you lack experience, it’s best to hire a professional roofer.

Damaged or Missing Shingles

If only a few shingles are damaged or missing, you may be able to replace them yourself. Purchase replacement shingles that closely match your current roofing material. Remove the damaged shingles with a pry bar and putty knife, then install the new shingles by nailing them in place according to the package directions. Be sure to apply roof cement or sealant over the nail heads for a watertight seal.

Faulty or Deteriorated Flashing

Flashing seals spaces where the roof surface meets vertical surfaces like chimneys, vent pipes or walls. If the flashing has come loose, corroded, or shows signs of wear, it should be repaired or replaced immediately by a skilled roofer to prevent further leakage and water damage.

Replacing Vent Boots

If water is leaking around plumbing vents, vent boots may need replacement. Remove the old vent boot from around the plumbing vent pipe using a utility knife. Apply roof cement around the base of the vent pipe, then slide a new vent boot over the pipe and seal it to the roof surface according to the product directions.

Holes, Cracks, or other Major Damage

For holes, large cracks, or other substantial roof damage, it’s best to hire a licensed and insured roofer. They have the proper training, equipment, and materials to perform permanent repairs like patching holes, sealing cracks, or replacing damaged sections of roofing. Do-it-yourself fixes for major damage may seem cost-effective in the short term but often fail quickly, requiring costly professional repairs to correct water damage.

In summary, minor leaks can often be repaired by a DIY homeowner, but for the longevity and integrity of your roof, professional repairs are recommended whenever there is extensive or complex damage. It’s a good rule of thumb to hire a roofer if you have any doubts about your ability to properly fix a leaky roof yourself.

Preventing Future Roof Leaks

To prevent future roof leaks, regular maintenance and inspections are key. Performing routine checks of your roof and clearing drains and gutters will help identify any small problems before they become big issues.

Conduct Regular Roof Inspections

Inspect your roof at least twice a year, in the spring and fall. Look for any visible signs of damage or wear, such as cracked, warped, or missing shingles or tiles. Check vents, skylights, and chimneys for leaks or loose seals. If you spot any issues, repair or replace damaged materials as soon as possible to avoid water penetration.

Clean Gutters and Downspouts

Clogged gutters and downspouts prevent water from draining properly and can lead to leaks. Clean out leaves, sticks, and other debris at least once a year, or more often if you have overhanging trees. Make sure downspouts are securely fastened to drain extensions or splash blocks to direct water away from the foundation of your home.

Trim Overhanging Branches

Trim back any tree branches that overhang or touch your roof. Falling branches can damage shingles and allow water to seep in. They can also clog gutters and drains. Prune branches so they do not come within several feet of touching your roof.

Consider Roof Coatings and Sealants

For older roofs, roof coatings, and sealants can extend the life by several years. They seal up small cracks and holes to prevent leaks and water damage. Elastomeric roof coatings can also help reflect sunlight to reduce cooling costs in the summer. However, if your roof is severely damaged or past its lifespan, full replacement may still be needed.

By performing routine inspections and maintenance, you can catch small problems before they turn into costly repairs. Keeping your roof clear of debris and sealing up any minor damage will help ensure your roof continues to protect your home from the elements for years to come.


In summary, identifying and repairing roof leaks is an important task for any homeowner to ensure the structural integrity and energy efficiency of their home. By inspecting your attic and exterior roof surface regularly, especially after heavy rains or snowstorms, you can spot leaks early before they cause extensive damage. With some basic tools and the proper safety precautions, many minor leaks can be repaired yourself.

However, for more serious leaks or if you are not comfortable working on a roof, it is best to hire a licensed and insured roofing contractor to make necessary repairs or complete roof replacement if needed. Staying on top of roof maintenance and leaks will help ensure many more years of service from your roof.

People Also Ask Questions About How To Fix A Leaking Roof

How can I identify a leaking roof?

Look for water stains on the ceiling, discoloration, or sagging areas. Water dripping or puddles on the floor are also signs.

What tools do I need to fix a leaking roof?

Basic tools include a ladder, roofing nails, roofing cement, a putty knife, roofing shingles, and a caulking gun. Safety gear is crucial too.

Can I fix a leaking roof by myself?

It depends on the extent of the damage. Minor leaks may be DIY, but significant damage might require professional help.

How do I locate the source of the leak?

Start by examining the roof for missing or damaged shingles. Check flashing around chimneys and vents. Interior inspection also helps trace the origin.