shutterstock_81068689A roof leak can be a traumatic and costly event if not found and fixed promptly. This article looks at what to do when you experience a roof leak and how to go about repairing it.

Control the water

When a leak occurs, the first thing to do is to prevent it from causing further damage. That means controlling the water. Roof leaks generally make themselves known during rain and storms, so while you may not be able to affect a repair immediately outside you can at least prevent further damage to the interior of your home.

Move away any furniture under the leak, or if that is not possible cover it with plastic sheeting. Mop up any water on the floor, and if carpets are wet roll them back and air dry them to prevent mould from developing.

Open windows to aid in drying and place a bucket or other container under the leak to collect any dripping water, changing it regularly to prevent overflows.

Find the leak

Once the storm has passed it will be more difficult to locate the leak, so you may need to spray a hose on the roof until it begins to leak again.

First, though, look for signs of where the leak is coming from inside your home. There may be a stain on the ceiling, but this will not necessarily correspond with where the actual leak is, as water can travel once it enters the roof space.

Take a measurement of the location of the stain in relation to two different reference points that extend up beyond the ceiling, such as a chimney or exterior walls. Then enter the crawl space between your ceiling and roof.

Use the same measurements to locate the stain inside the ceiling. Determine first that the stain was not caused by other factors such as internal plumbing leaks or condensation.

Checking the roof above or near the stain, look for any signs of daylight that may be caused by broken tiles or shingles, or damaged flashing around vents and skylights.

If you can’t find anything on the inside, you will need to go onto the roof and investigate the area from the outside. Check things like rubber boots around vent pipes, ridge caps, flashing, individual shingles or tiles and nearby gutters or downpipes that could be blocked.

Fix the leak

Once you find the source of the leak, you need to decide the best way to repair it. Broken tiles and damaged boots and gaskets will need to be replaced. If the cause of the leak is worn or broken flashing, an application of roof cement or tar may be all that is required, although if it is in poor condition it may need to be replaced.

You may be confident enough to repair the leak yourself, but if not, you should hire a licensed roof contractor to do the job. Either way, you should have it done as soon as possible to avoid further damage from occurring.