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Help, I Have a Leaking Roof! Here’s What to Do

When you have a leaking roof, it's a real emergency. Our quick guide explains what to do about a leaking roof and how to make sure it doesn't happen again.

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Unfortunately, the most likely time to discover your roof has a leak is during a heavy rainstorm. You are cozy inside, sheltering from the rain, dry and protected from the storm outside – or so you thought! Then suddenly you have water coming into your living room, or, as Murphy’s Law would have it, dripping onto an expensive piece of furniture.

thunderstorm house

A leaking roof is a scary situation, and you need to act fast to minimize the damage. We’ll give you a quick guide on what to do through the whole journey – the moment you notice the leak, when you’re working with professionals, and taking care of things after the repair.

Roof Leaks 101: What to do Right Away

1. Damage Control

When water is pouring into your house, there’s no time to waste.

  • As quickly as possible, move furniture, rugs, electronics and any other valuable possessions away from the area with the leak.
  • Ideally, move them out of the room entirely as the space will be needed for repairs.
  • If you can’t remove something from the area, cover it with plastic sheets.
  • If the leak is near electronics or electrical wiring, that’s particularly dangerous. To prevent electrical fires, make sure you unplug all electronics near the leak. Turn off electricity to the affected areas at your breaker box, or, if that’s not possible, you may need to call your electricity company to turn off power to your home.

Do you need a contractor? Maybe. Depending on the severity of the leak, you may want an electrician to inspect your wiring before you turn the power back on.

2. Contain the Water

When things start leaking, there may be more water pooling above your head than you can currently see! Here’s how to contain it.

  • Grab a bucket to collect the incoming water. Two buckets are even better, as you can switch them when one needs emptying.
  • If water is splashing as its falls into the bucket, place an old t-shirt or cloth in the bottom of the bucket to reduce the splash back. Alternatively, you can pin a piece of string to the ceiling next to the leak, so the water has a path to follow.
  • Check the ceiling for paint bubbles. Those paint bubbles are most likely holding water, so puncture the bubble to release the water.
  • Release pooled water up above. If there is water coming out from multiple areas or is spreading across your ceiling, find the wettest spot or where the ceiling is bulging and poke a small hole in the middle (making sure a bucket is placed underneath!). This will release the buildup of pooled water before it gets too heavy and causes your ceiling to collapse. This also prevents the pooled water from leaking into your walls, lighting fixtures or other wiring.

Do you need a contractor? Definitely. Water damage can completely ruin your home. If you’re dealing with more than a gallon or so of water, get a plumber as soon as you can.

3. Remove the Water

Time to dig out all your old towels and dry out the area as much as possible to prevent water damage.

  • Mop up standing water with towels and mops.
  • Use a fan to help circulate the air.
  • If the carpet is soaked, pull it away from the padding so both sides of the carpet and the pad can dry out.

Do I need a contractor? Yes. If there’s extensive water damage, you’ll want to call a water extraction company sooner rather than later.

Roof Leaks 102: Repairing the Damage

1. Check the attic (if it’s safe)

Step one is to determine the extent of the damage:

  • Bring a flashlight and a camera. (These days, of course, your phone will do both.)
  • Be extra careful to only step on secure framing wood, and not on any wood that appears wet or water-damaged.
  • Look for pools of water, watermarks, stains, and discoloration. This information will help your insurance company and roofing company assess the damage.
  • Take pictures of the damage (both in the attic and in your home) for your records.
  • Please don’t go on the outside of the roof! We don’t recommend going up on your roof at the best of times, and especially not when the water might have caused structural damage.

Document everything, and then it’s time to . . . 

2. Call your insurance company

It’s important to tell your insurance company about the damage as soon as possible, and certainly before you commit to any repair work. Check your deductible and the terms of your coverage so you know what to look for when you get estimates.

3. Call a trustworthy roofing company (or three)

Get an estimate from your roofing company, if you already have one you like. If not, get estimates from two or three companies to find a team that’s reputable and responsible. 

If you see a leak, no matter how small, please get in touch with a roof repair company as soon as possible! Water can quickly do a lot of damage to the structural integrity of your home, and by the time you notice it, it may have been damaging your attic for quite some time. Mold could be growing, or a whole section of ceiling might be ready to collapse.

When the roof needs to be repaired, there are a number of reasons you need a reputable roofing company to help you:

  • Making repairs on your own can invalidate your roofing warranty and your homeowners insurance claim.
  • It can be difficult to find the actual leak. It’s typically not right above where the water shows up in your home, because the water will flow along the roof sheathing, rafters, and ceilings before it finds a place to drip down.
  • Professional roofers have years of experience repairing roofs to a high standard of quality.
  • They know how to do it safely.
  • A roofing contractor can find and repair problems you might miss, which would cause even more damage later on. 

Roof Leaks 103: ADVANCED TIPS

Being in our line of work, we get a lot of questions about leaking roofs. Here are our answers to the most common questions we hear.

1. Will my Homeowners Insurance Cover the Cost of Repairing my Leaking Roof?

That depends on what caused the leak. Typically, insurance covers repairs for leaks that are beyond your control (like storms and falling branches), but not for things you could have controlled (like regular maintenance). Specific examples are shown in the image below. That’s why it’s so important to stay on top of your roof maintenance and repairs! 

homeowners insurance cover cost infographic

Causes that are usually covered:

  • Falling trees or limbs
  • Other falling objects
  • Windstorms and hailstorms
  • Weight of ice, snow, or sleet
  • Vandalism or malicious mischief

Causes that are not usually covered:

  • Neglect or negligence in maintenance
  • Wear and tear and deterioration
  • Mold, fungus, or wet rot
  • Settling, shrinking, bulging or expanding roof tiles
  • Damage caused by birds, vermin, rodents, or insects

How Much Does it Cost to Fix a Leak in the Roof?

We wish we could give you a simple answer! Unfortunately, the price range for roof repairs is incredibly wide: anything from $150 for a simple repair to upwards of $10,000 for a complete new roof. The average cost 150 consumers reported paying was $675, but that doesn’t include other services you might need, like an electrician or a cleaning company.

Designer Roofing offers free estimates, and we’re always glad to give you our honest opinion so you have complete transparency on what needs to be fixed and what the costs will be.

What Can a Roof Leak Damage?

The reason it’s so important to act quickly when you notice a leak is because water can damage so many parts of your home.

Structural damage can include damaged rafters, ceiling joists, wall framing and fascia boards. A chronic leak can lead to wood rot and deterioration, which is expensive to repair.

water damage

Ceilings and walls can be damaged. Check your drywall surfaces for dark areas or bubbles. Light fixtures on walls and ceilings need to be checked as well.

Water damage can create a breeding ground for mold. Mold is a serious health risk, and with even just a small amount of water, mold can take root and grow in as little as 48 hours. Removing mold can be expensive, so you’ll want to treat it before it spreads through the house. This may be covered by your homeowners insurance, depending on what caused the leaking roof. 

How do I Know if my Roof is Leaking?

Remember, your roof can be leaking long before water starts dripping into your home. If you think there may be a leak, check for these common signs:

water damage
  • Discoloration on the ceiling or walls, even small patches
  • Moisture on the walls, especially above or below your windows, even if it seems to go away
  • Visible moss or mold on your roof or chimney
  • Water spots on the exterior walls
  • Water leaking behind the gutters
  • Wet spots or damp wood inside the attic
  • Bubbling paint
  • Mold on the attic insulation
  • A musty smell in the attic
  • Dampness around light fixtures
  • Granules in your downspouts and gutters
  • Faint dripping noises from the bathroom vent or chimney

How to Prevent Future Roof Leaks

It’s not all doom and gloom! This has been a pretty dispiriting blog post, but with the right installation and maintenance, the odds are that your roof will protect your home and family for a long time. Regular maintenance will help with early detection and ultimately keep the costs down by proactively fixing any potential problems before they end up as expensive damages. Once a year, check your attic, inspect the roof from the ground, and keep an eye on any trees that may need to be trimmed back. Make sure your gutters and downspouts aren’t clogged, and look out for signs of wear and tear on your shingles. And if you need a maintenance check, we’re always happy to come out and give you our honest opinion!