water dropping into three different buckets
Posted on: July 18, 2022

Hearing the drip… drip… drip… of a leak in your house can be incredibly annoying (and nerve-racking). But if roof leaks are left unattended, this pesky problem will quickly turn into expensive, stressful damage. Finding evidence of a roof leak is usually pretty simple, but finding the source of the leak itself can prove challenging.

Follow this step-by-step guide to learn how to find a roof leak and what to do next.

Common Causes of Roof Leaks

Your roof leak could be caused by a number of factors ranging from intense storms to regular wear and tear. Some of the most common causes of roof leaks include:

  • Missing or damaged shingles: A missing or damaged shingle will fail to keep water from penetrating through your roof and into your home. Missing shingles could result after a storm, old age of your roof, or an improper installation.
  • Vents and skylights: If vents, skylights, or exhaust fans were installed incorrectly or damaged in a storm, they can allow for a leak.
  • Objects attached to the roof: If you nailed something to your roof like security cameras or string lights, that could be the source of your leak. Additionally, improperly installed solar panels could be the culprit.
  • Exposed nails: The wrong type of roofing nail or any exposed nail may allow water through your roof.
  • Flashing issues: Flashing protects your skylights, plumbing vents, chimney, and more from leaks. Damaged or missing flashing can definitely cause a leaky roof.
  • Foot traffic: If you or someone else recently walked on your roof without proper footwear, that could impact a leaking roof.
  • DIY repairs: Did you recently complete some DIY repairs on your roof? Not following professional best practices could lead to issues like leaks.
  • Tree damage & debris: Branches and other debris that scrape or land on your roof can cause damage to your shingles, making your home vulnerable to leaks.

missing shingles on a roof, which can lead to a roof leak

Step 1: Catch Any Leaking Water 🪣

Now that you know what could cause your roof leak, let’s move on to how to find a roof leak. Before anything else, be sure to place a bucket under any active dripping water. Even if the dripping water is slow, you don’t want to risk further water damage by letting it seep into your floors or walls.

Be sure to move anything that could be damaged by water (rugs, furniture, personal items, etc.) out of the room in case the leak suddenly picks up.

Step 2: Look for Internal and Exterior Signs 🕵️

The next step is to get your detective costume on. (Not literally. Unless you want to. We don’t judge.) Start looking for obvious signs of a roof leak inside and outside your house. Even if you don’t have dripping water, a leak may manifest in other ways, such as:

  • Water stains on your ceiling
  • Spots on your exterior walls
  • Bulging areas on interior walls
  • Water stains on interior walls
  • Musty odors
  • Mold growth
  • Missing shingles (you may notice these from the ground without even having to get up on your roof)

Unfortunately, roof leaks rarely travel directly below the source. They often spread out before dripping or causing the above damage. This can make finding the source of the leak quite tricky, so it’s important to continue your search.

how to find a roof leak: look for water stains on your wall and ceiling

Step 3: Inspect Your Attic 👀

If you’ve noticed other signs of a roof leak, the next step is to head up into your attic where roof leaks will usually be the most apparent. Grab a bright flashlight and carefully go into your attic. It can be helpful to have a friend or family member join you.

Look for the same signs that we listed in the previous section, but also keep your eye out for black streaks along the rafters and roof sheathing. (Black streaks can signify mold growth.) If you notice any signs of a leak in your attic, the source may be located nearby on the roof above.

Step 4: Make Rain With a Garden Hose 🌧

Finding signs of a leak in your home and attic may point you closer to the source of the leak on the roof. However, you may still need rain to narrow down the exact location.

If it’s not actively raining, you can create rain with a garden hose. You will need a buddy for this step. Your helper will stay inside the attic near the signs of the leak.

If you feel comfortable, you can go up on your roof with a garden hose. Be sure to wear thick rubber-soled shoes and only go on your roof if it’s completely dry. Use the garden hose to spray water on your roof one section at a time.

Be sure to stay in one section for several minutes as it can take some time for water to seep through your roof. Have your helper shout out if they see a drip, then focus your attention on that section.

You may notice things like exposed nails, missing or damaged shingles, granule loss, or even rotting wood underneath the shingles in the area.

Step 5: Make Simple Repairs, If You’re Comfortable ⚒️

If, and only if, you feel very comfortable making minor repairs like replacing a missing shingle, then you can go ahead and do so. You can find our DIY roof repair guide here.

However, be incredibly careful before beginning so that you have safety measures in place. Plus, any faulty repairs you make can void your roof warranty, so only attempt repairs if you feel very confident.

Step 6: Schedule a Professional Inspection ☎️

man talking on the phone

Regardless, you should always call a professional roofing contractor when dealing with a roof leak. Whether or not you perform DIY repairs, you should have a professional take a look at your roof.

Most reputable roofing companies offer free inspections, so take advantage of that offer to get extra peace of mind. Your contractor will be able to confirm the source of the leak and schedule professional repairs to have it solved in no time.

Dealing With a Roof Leak? WISA Can Help!

Annoying roof leaks can quickly result in intense water damage in your home. That’s why it’s vital to act fast at the first sign of a roof leak. If you’re comfortable following all the steps outlined here, your roof contractor will appreciate your helping hand to guide them to your suspected source of the leak.

But no matter what, you can always call a professional roofer to come and check out the leak and do all the work for you. WISA Solutions is the most trusted local roofing team in Northern Virginia, and we can handle small leaks, total replacements, and everything in between.

Contact us today for a free inspection!