Find the leaks

The Family Handyman - - DIY ESSENTIALS -

When you’re try­ing to track down a leak, start by look­ing at the roof up­hill from the stains. Roof pen­e­tra­tions are the first thing to look for. Items that pen­e­trate the roof are by far the most com­mon source of leaks. In fact, it’s rare for leaks to de­velop in open ar­eas of un­in­ter­rupted shin­gles, even on older roofs. Pen­e­tra­tions can in­clude plumb­ing and roof vents, chim­neys, dorm­ers or any­thing else that projects through the roof. They can be sev­eral feet above the leak or to ei­ther side of it.

If you have at­tic ac­cess, the eas­i­est way to track down a leak is to go up there with a flash­light and look for ev­i­dence. There will be wa­ter stains, black marks or mold. But if ac­cess is a prob­lem or you have a vaulted ceil­ing, you’ll have to go up onto the roof to ex­am­ine the sus­pect(s). The pho­tos on the fol­low­ing pages will show you what to look for.

If the prob­lem still isn’t ob­vi­ous, en­list a helper and go up onto the roof with a gar­den hose. Start low, soak­ing the area just above where the leak ap­pears in the house. Iso­late ar­eas when you run the hose. For ex­am­ple, soak the down­hill side of a chim­ney first, then each side, then the top on both sides. Have your helper stay in­side the house wait­ing for the drip to ap­pear.

Let the hose run for sev­eral min­utes in one area be­fore mov­ing it up the roof a lit­tle far­ther. Tell your helper to yell when a drip be­comes vis­i­ble. You’ll be in the neigh­bor­hood of the leak. This process can take well over an hour, so be pa­tient and don’t move the hose too soon. Buy your helper din­ner.

Wa­ter stains can also in­di­cate con­den­sa­tion or ice dam is­sues. Con­den­sa­tion prob­lems can of­ten be caused from bath, cook­ing or even dryer vents ex­haust­ing into at­tics rather than through the roof.

Ice dams usu­ally hap­pen in cold cli­mates in the spring or on mild win­ter days. Have a big chunk of ice along the eaves dur­ing win­ter? That’s an ice dam.

Mi­nor leaks can cause ma­jor dam­age

Dis­cover a roof leak? Well, you’d bet­ter fix it, even if it doesn’t bother you much or you’re get­ting a new roof next year. Over time, even small leaks can lead to big prob­lems, such as mold, rot­ted fram­ing and sheath­ing, de­stroyed in­su­la­tion and dam­aged ceil­ings. The flash­ing leak that caused this $950 re­pair bill was ob­vi­ous from the ceil­ing stains for over two years. If the home­owner had dealt with it right away, the dam­age and sub­se­quent re­pairs would have been min­i­mal.

Mold Rot­ted fram­ing Rot­ted sheath­ing

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