Perhaps nothing strikes more fear into homeowners than these four words: “The roof is leaking!”
Water dripping into your house is obviously not good, and it’s a problem you cannot ignore; otherwise, it usually gets worse. Ideally, you want a professional to look at any serious roof concern, including leaks, because a bigger decision might be in play, such as how extensive of a repair is necessary or if it’s time for a new roof.
However, unless a torrent of water is flooding into your home, you can take certain steps on your own to fix the leak before the drip intensifies.
1. Find the Leak
The challenge with many smaller roof leaks is determining exactly where water is seeping in. The drip, or the indicators of a drip (e.g., water stains, mold, rotting wood), may be evident in one location but is actually dribbling from another part of the roof. Without obvious external signs, such as missing or damaged shingles, this can be a challenge. Likely, you need to inspect your attic for the source of the leak and any path water might be taking before it finally drips. If necessary, pull back insulation to get a better look. Another strategy is to enlist a friend to use a garden hose to spray water on the affected areas of the roof, including any vents and flashing. With some patience, you should be able to pinpoint the leak.
2. Be Careful Up There
We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: Use extreme caution any time you are atop your home. Many DIY homeowners have been injured or died falling off their roofs. Also, even with safety in mind, you might further damage your roof by walking on it or pulling off too many shingles that were otherwise fine. So please, be careful.
3. A Simple Solution for “Shiners”
A “shiner” is a roofing term for a nail that, when pounded in, missed the rafter and instead is exposed within your attic. These shiners frost up on chilly nights, then thaw and drip water during warmer conditions. Use a pair of side-splitting pliers to clip the nail and stop this drip. With that in mind, if you have shiners all over your attic and they all seem to drip, you may be facing a bigger insulation/moisture problem you cannot solve on your own.
4. Repair as Simply as Possible
If you need to replace a shingle or two to stop a leak, take care to remove only the affected shingles. The same goes with flashing or other roofing components. The more you start ripping off, the more you must replace and the greater potential of making the situation worse. And if the repair appears to be more than you can handle, contact a professional so that the job is done right.
5. Caulk Doesn’t Solve Everything
If vents, pipes, or other features protruding from your roof are causing the leak, caulking may help in the short term but isn’t a long-term solution. More than likely, a leaking vent must be replaced; this might be a bigger job than the average DIY homeowner can handle, which leads us to our final tip.
6. Call for Help
A roof represents a significant investment in your home, not just in terms of its actual cost, but also in what it protects. Water damage quickly becomes expensive, so a leaking roof must be addressed with efficiency and expertise. If a leak seems too much for you to repair—from a skills, difficulty, or safety standpoint—call a professional immediately to assess the situation and make the fix. Moreover, if you are able to successfully DIY a minor repair, having an expert inspect your work (as well as to check the rest of your roof for other problems) is always a good idea.
Have you ever attempted a DIY roof repair to stop a leak, and how did it go?