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What You Need to Know: Finding a Roof Leak

Have you noticed a leak in your roof? Whatever the weather, these strategies will help you pinpoint the problem.

How to Find a Roof Leak

What is the most difficult part of fixing a roof leak? Most of the time, it’s just a matter of finding the problem. It’s easy enough to spot water stains on the ceiling or mold growth—sure signs of a leak. Water can easily be diverted from the roof once it has penetrated it. Although you may see evidence of a leak in the corner bedroom, the vulnerable point in your roof may be quite far away.

In order to fix a roof properly, it is necessary to undertake some detective work. This guide will help you identify roof leaks quickly and stop them before they cause more damage.

How to Find a Roof Leak in the Attic

Photo: istockphoto.com

Take a look at the underside of the roof from the attic.

You should arm yourself with a flashlight and head up the attic. It’s important to be careful up there: If there isn’t any proper flooring, step carefully from joist to joist.
(Be careful not to step between the joists or you may put your foot through the ceiling below!)

After you’ve gained your bearings, check the roof’s underside with a flashlight. Keep an eye out for darker areas compared to the surrounding roof sheathing. If it hasn’t rained recently, you may not be able to find moist spots. The mold, however, tends to linger for a long time. Mold thrives on moisture, so if you find a patch of mold on your roof, chances are you’ve found the weak point.

Identify the damaged insulation and follow it to find the leak.

It’s possible that insulation obscures the underside of your roof, which is helpful for finding leaks. The deterioration of insulation is more noticeable and faster than the deterioration of wood. Although you may be seeing damage on one section of insulation, you must keep in mind that the leak itself may be several feet away because it diverted rainwater.

Whenever you notice signs of a leak, you should carefully remove all insulation nearby. Using this method, you can trace the water’s path from the damaged area all the way to the roof’s entry point. If you’re working with insulation, always wear protective equipment.

Inspect the underside of the roof for objects that have pierced or been attached to it.

The most noticeable leaks are caused by objects (such as an errant nail) that penetrate the roof. Check the roof vents if there are no obvious signs. It is common for these vents to be located near ridges or gable ends. Water can seep into vents over time as the seals weaken.

How to Find a Roof Leak Using Water from a Hose

Photo: istockphoto.com

The best way to find a roof leak in dry weather is to spray the roof with water from a garden hose.


When the recent dry weather has made finding a leak on your roof more challenging, what do you do? It’s always possible to simulate a storm. The method requires two people: One goes up on the roof with the garden hose in tow, and the other remains in the attic with a flashlight. One person wets down the roof section by section, while the other carefully examines the underside for leaks.

You can observe firsthand how your roof performs under conditions that mimic natural storms by simulating a downpour.

The final step is to begin repairing your roof.


Leaks only get worse over time. After you have located the location of yours, act quickly. In many cases, a modest roof repair is all that is necessary to fix the leak — such as replacing a shingle. Do not hesitate to contact a professional if you do not feel comfortable on the roof or if the leak seems extensive.

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