How To Deal With Ceiling Leaks

Suggestions for discovering a leaky ceiling or roof's origin and repair options, including tips for avoiding future problems.

A ceiling leak can be a frustrating and costly repair if not dealt with in a conscientious and timely manner. Oftentimes, a leak does not seem to make sense. Water may be pouring into your house, yet a check of the roof area above does not provide any clues. Tiles or shingles are not cracked or missing, nothing is raised in a suspicious manner, all appears normal. Putting buckets and bowls out to catch the water is not a solution. Any leak, no matter how small, must be dealt with. If not, it can cause secondary problems, including damage to interior walls, ceilings, and personal possessions. Structure failure and mold can also be major concerns. When dealing with a roof or ceiling leak there are two important rules to remember; Water travels in mysterious ways, and water is one of nature's most damaging elements.

Trying to pinpoint the origination of a leak can be frustrating. If a leak is occurring from within the house, you will need to identify where the water is coming from. Pipes, water heaters, pressure tanks, and drains can all be sources of leaks. Frozen pipes can burst; water heaters and pressure tanks can rust. Seals on all of the previous and drains, can dry, crack, and allow leakage to occur. Once you have ruled out any of these in-house possibilities, check your roof for problems.

Start by examining the roof from a distance. Do any of the shingles or tiles look different from those around them? Even a roof that was recently inspected can develop problems from a heavy wind or hailstorm. If you have a roof made of tin, are there any rust spots? Upon closer inspection, are there any problems near a chimney or air vent? If these areas are covered in tar, has it cracked or peeled up? Are any nails popped up or obviously missing? Are vent covers or sleeves damaged or missing? If any of these problems exist, purchase roof caulking or roof tar to reseal any loose or damaged areas around the chimney, flashing, or vent pipes. Caulking that adheres even when the conditions do not provide a dry area to work with do exist, and should be used if needed. Caulking and tar can also be applied as temporary fixes to broken or loose shingles or nails until a more appropriate repair can be made. For the best results, follow directions on chosen product to get the best adherence possible.



A build up of foreign material, such as leaves caught in a roof's valley, will retain rainwater. With nowhere for the water to go, it will seep through into the house. Make sure to keep roof surfaces free of debris.

Consider the time of year and the weather conditions when ferreting out a leak. In the bitter north, ice can build up on a roof. When a warm day occurs, the ice will start to melt. The problem occurs when the ice at the roofline does not melt as fast as at the top. Water builds up beneath the ice and with no escape route is forced beneath shingles. Prevention is the best way to keep this from happening. Keep ice and snow at a minimum by clearing it before it has a chance to build up. If the roof is low enough, you can purchase a shovel with an extension that will allow you to stand on the ground and pull the snow off. Make sure to repeat every time it snows so ice does not have a chance to form. If the roof edge cannot be reached, hire a professional, as a snow or ice covered roof is no place for the average person to be walking around with a shovel. Many times, replacing a traditionally shingled roof with an alternative, such as a metal roof system, is the only way to keep this scenario from recurring.

Once the leak has been dealt with, make sure to repair any damage that has occurred, no matter how trivial it may seem. Mop up any standing water immediately. A dehumidifier will also help extract any excess water or moisture left behind. If not rectified, damaging mold can quickly set in. Water can also cause deterioration in the strength of ceiling and floors. If major amounts of water have seeped behind walls, or have been left standing for long periods, it may be necessary to hire a professional to assess and repair the damage.

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