How To Find A Roof Leak (And Fix It) | DIY Guide For 2023 (2023)

Roof leaks are the worst, especially when you suspect you have one but can’t find the source.

Unfortunately, learning how to find a roof leak takes time, and the only way to improve is to find more roof leaks (which probably isn’t what you want in the first place).

The good news is, we’re going to walk you through the steps of finding a roof leak and what to do next. Follow this step-by-step guide to quickly and safely find and repair your roof leaks.

Why Are Roof Leaks Bad?

If you lived somewhere where it never, ever rained or snowed or required you to have good heating and cooling control, then a roof leak probably isn’t that big of a deal. But, we don’t know where that place is. Roof leaks leave your roof, attic, and home susceptible to water damage, mold growth, spreading of damage—basically a whole lot of issues.

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If you don’t fix a roof leak right away, you will find yourself with a much larger problem than you started with and have to spend a lot more time and money to get it repaired. Water damage from a leaky roof can lead to rotted framing in your attic, ruin your insulation, and damage your ceilings with water stains and mold infiltration. So yeah, roof leaks are bad and can quickly turn worse.

How To Find A Roof Leak (And Fix It) | DIY Guide For 2023 (1)

How to Spot Early Signs of a Roof Leak (or Potential Roof Leak)

These early signs of a leak should help you find both the source and the severity of a roof leak or potential roof leak. Here are some of the tell-tale early signs of a leaking roof.

  1. Water stains on your ceilings. As water leaks into your attic, it can saturate through your insulation and attic floor to the point of reaching your upper floor ceilings. These stains can occur very quickly, depending on the severity of the leak or slowly over time. Either way, if you spot any wet spots or stains in the corners or along the edges of your ceilings, chances are you have a roof leak. It can also be poor ventilation that causes moisture build-up in the attic, but it shouldn’t be ignored either way. Note: Water stains around chimneys can mean the roof’s flashing has lost its integrity and needs to be replaced.
  2. Rotted beams and moldy insulation in the attic. These are obvious signs of a leaking roof and can be detrimental to your home’s integrity and health. Rotted wood becomes a structural issue then and requires a much more expensive and extensive repair. So checking your attic before you see those interior signs of a leak can save you the pain of such damage.
  3. Curling, cracked, loose, or damaged shingles. These are some of the external signs of a roof leak or a potential roof leak that has yet to cause damage. The second your shingles are damaged from severe weather or large debris is when it becomes susceptible to leaks. These are the repairs that can be difficult to manage or find because they haven’t displayed any physical evidence of leaks yet.

How to Pinpoint the Roof Leak

So you suspect you have a roof leak or have seen the evidence of a leak—now what? Some of those leaks can be so small they are hard to spot without getting up close and personal with your shingles. However, there are a few ways to pinpoint the source on your own.

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Look Near Chimneys, Dormers, and Vents

Areas of penetration on your roof are one of the number one spots where leaks occur. Chimneys, dormers, vents, and any other opening on your roof require extra sealants to ensure it is leakproof. This includes flashing, caulk, sealants, a special installation of shingles, etc. If any of these areas cracks or gets damaged, the water can leak directly down the vent or chimney and into your attic or the walls of your home.

Find Water Stains on the Attic Floor

If you notice water stains on your ceiling or suspect a leak and check up in the attic, look for that water spot on the attic floor. The leak should be above or near that spot. Water can travel down beams or other attic structures, so it may not be exactly underneath, but it won’t be far. You can also look at your insulation, and if you notice any discoloration, mold, or a change in its appearance, there’s a good chance there has been some water saturation in that area. Note: use a bright flashlight to scan the area first before walking through the attic and risk injury or damage.

Get Up on the Roof and Look for Damaged Shingles

Ok, you may not have to actually get up on a ladder and look if you have a good view of your roof from a downhill spot. Take a look at your roof at as flat an angle as you can, and you will quickly be able to see any flaws in your shingles. They may be out of line, the corners lifted, missing, or just misaligned. These are all signs of shingle damage that can lead to roof leaks or have already started leaking. Before noticing a source of the leak, you can catch these repairs early on and get ahead of it.

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How to Fix a Leak (By Leak Type)

There are many different types of leaks, each of which require a slightly different method for repair. Let’s break down the most common types of leaks and how to fix them.

Small Leaks

Tiny leaks can be tough to find, but knowing where to look can help. For one, oddly enough, condensation can build up in your attic and actually drip down extended nails. A simple solution for this is to snip the end of the nail off to prevent it from dripping. Also, nails and screws and wear away at their hole over time and cause small leaks. You can seal these with caulk or other waterproof sealants, and then make sure to have proper insulation laid in your attic to both prevent and spot any roof leaks.

Plumbing Boot

Your plumbing boot vent is very susceptible to leaks over time, and if they do, your best bet is to replace the whole thing. If there was no extensive water damage to the area, you should very easily be able to unscrew and remove your old boot and install a new one in its place. Make sure to use rubber washers with your screws for extra protection on the new install.

Roof Vent

Similar to the plumbing boot, you can pretty easily remove and replace any cracked or damaged roof vents. Metal vent leaks will often be in the form of a broken seam, while a plastic vent will likely have a cracked housing. As nice as it sounds to re-seal the crack with caulk or some other sealant, that is a temporary fix, and you are better off replacing the entire unit. Roofing vents can easily slide under existing shingles, where they already are installed, and be screwed back into place.

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Flashing may be one of the things most replaced on your roof. Metal flashing can rust over time, and any bit of water that gets behind your flashing will continue to force it outward and loosen its seal. So a full replacement is necessary in this case as well.

Damaged Shingles

Damaged shingles may be able to be fixed as one-off replacements. If your roof is relatively new and in good shape, you should be able to get away with removing and replacing only the damaged section of shingles. However, older roofs that have more damage collectively or experienced a severe leak will potentially require a full replacement. Often times, severe storms can cause damage to your roof regardless of how old it is. In these cases, it can be a good opportunity to file an insurance claim to get some of the repairs reimbursed.

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Complex Damages

And lastly, if your roof leak is far more extensive than a simple DIY fix, we absolutely suggest calling your local contractor. We know how to locate, diagnose, and fix your leak in no time at all.

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The Best Way to Repair Roof Leaks

If you’re worried your roof is leaking, but don’t want to break out the ladder to search for leaks, it’s time to call in the professionals and fast. While a small leak might not look bad, there could be serious damage under the surface that will only grow worse over time. The good news is, if you catch a leak quickly, your roof will be patched up and looking good as new before any damage can be done. That’s why it’s best to call your local roofer whenever you suspect a leak!

If you happen to be located near La Crosse, WI, make sure to contact our team at First American Roofing! We are well-versed in roof repairs and replacements and are happy to get you and your home back in tip-top shape. When you find yourself with a leaky roof, don’t hesitate and give us a call!


How do you find the source of a leak in a roof? ›

Gently run the hose at a point above where you suspect the leak is coming from, ideally with a second person inside your loft ready to spot water coming through. Be sure to only use a low pressure, and just enough water to make finding the leak possible.

How do I find a pinhole leak in my roof? ›

Look for Signs of Moisture.
  1. Dark spots on wood or insulation.
  2. Mold growth or mildew smell.
  3. Discoloration, which may be a water stain, on wood or other materials.
  4. Condensation on nails or other surfaces.
  5. Damage to insulation, such as holes, dampness and/or stains.

Can You Use Flex Seal to fix a roof leak? ›

You can apply it on a surface by pouring, brushing, spraying, or with a roller. Unlike other sealing materials, flex seal does not drip or sag during hot weather. It can be used to seal roof leaks and can last on the surface for many years when applied correctly.

How do you find a hidden leak? ›

7 Ways To Find Hidden Water Leaks In Your Home
  1. Water Meter Test. One way to find hidden water leaks is to conduct a water meter test. ...
  2. Water Pressure Test. ...
  3. Listen for Running Water. ...
  4. Check your Appliances for Leaks. ...
  5. Check Your Toilet for Leaks. ...
  6. Check Your Utility Bills. ...
  7. Water Drips and Wet Walls.
23 Feb 2022

How do I find a roof leak without attic access? ›

Take a pry bar and gently lift up shingles to look at the roof deck. The leak will be evident if you see broken tar paper and rotting wood. If you can't find obvious damage, pull a garden hose up on the roof. Soak the shingles in small locations and ask someone in the house to watch for leaks.

Can you seal a roof leak from the inside? ›

Can a Roof Leak Be Fixed From the Inside? You might have heard the myth that leaking roofs can't be fixed from inside the house. But, actually, as long as the leak is small, it is very much possible to patch it up yourself from the attic.

Can you patch pinhole leaks? ›

Some common materials used to repair pinhole leaks in copper include pipe repair clamps, hose clamps, c-clamps, and epoxy. Most of these repair options offer a temporary solution to the pipe leak, especially if the pinhole leaks are numerous and widespread.

What is the most common cause of roof leaks? ›

Some of the most common roof leak causes include an aging roof, broken or missing shingles, clogged gutters, and chimney damage. If these problems are neglected, it can be disastrous for the structure of your home.

Why does my roof leak in heavy rain? ›

Roof leaks that happen during heavy rains may indicate the end of the shingles' life. Metal corrosion. Cracks in metal and corrosion around fasteners can create enough space for water to leak. Over time, expansion and contraction can loosen the seams in a metal roof.

Can I fix a roof leak myself? ›

Before you panic or get too concerned, know that repairing a minor roof leak can be quite simple and you may even be able to do it yourself – tracking down the leak is the hard part, but the repair itself can be pretty easy.

How long does Flex Seal last once applied? ›

Q: How long does it last? A: Flex Shot will last up to 30 years and will not fade, dry, crack, yellow or deteriorate.

What are three leak detecting devices? ›

Typical devices used include acoustic emission detectors, fiber optic sensors, negative pressure detectors, ultrasonic technologies, and infrared thermograph. Software-based methods use computer software packages to constantly monitor data of pressure, temperature, and flow rate for detecting leaks in a pipeline.

What are the two most common leak detection tests? ›

The two most common methods include pressure decay testing and rate of rise testing. In pressure decay testing a known pressure is applied to a component, and pressure is monitored over time to determine pressure decay. The pressure as a function of time can be used to determine the leak rate.

Is there a tool to find a water leak? ›

Listening discs and ground microphones are some of the most basic tools that can be used by a plumber to detect and pinpoint water leaks. Listening discs are pieces of equipment that help plumbers to locate leaks through drywall, cabinets and other furnishings.

Can you fix a roof leak from inside the attic? ›

Spread the adhesive material over the leak from the attic and hold your patch in place until it's secure. Then, apply some more tar where the patch meets the roof to lock it in. Take good note of where the leak is from the inside so that you can find it more easily once you can safely get up onto the roof outside.

Will roof leak with one shingle missing? ›

Will your roof leak with just one missing shingle? Maybe. Just because you lose a shingle or two doesn't mean water will immediately drip from your ceiling. However, such a missing shingle could cause issues over time if the surrounding shingles deteriorate from exposure to water, wind and sunlight.

What does roof leak look like in attic? ›

Signs you may have a leak in your roof system include: Drips or puddles that get worse after it rains. Though it may take time for water to travel through the roof, if you see more moisture in the attic after a rainstorm, it's likely a roof issue. Water is discolored or contains debris.

What areas of the roof are most likely to leak? ›

The Four Most Common Places a Roof Will Leak
  • Around the Chimney. The chimney is one of the main culprits of a roof leak. ...
  • Around Windows and Skylights. ...
  • Vent Pipes. ...
  • Missing Shingles.

Does homeowners insurance cover roof leaks from rain? ›

Homeowners insurance generally covers damage from a roof leak caused by snow and rain, up to your policy's limits and minus your deductible.

How long can you leave a leaking roof? ›

There's no definite answer to how long you can leave a leaking roof before it causes damage. Many variables come in to play here, so it's always best to play it safe and get your roof leak fixed as soon as possible.

How much does it cost to reseal the roof? ›

The average cost to seal a roof is $1,270 and typically ranges between $461 and $2,092. However, you may pay as little as $100 or as much as $3,200 or more. That's a total average of $0.65 to $5 per square foot. The type of roof, sealant used, your current roof's condition, and your location all affect price.

What happens if you ignore a roof leak? ›

Ignoring roof leaks can result in mold and mildew growth, which can spread around your home. From walls and ceilings to your furniture and clothing, mold and mildew can grow. If you do not deal with a leaking roof immediately, black mold might develop.

Are pinhole leaks covered by insurance? ›

It is essential to know that slow water leaks are not covered by your homeowners insurance policy, only those of a sudden an accidental leak. A slow pinhole leak, a dripping ice-maker or even a leaky toilet would typically not be covered under a homeowners insurance policy.

How much does a pinhole leak cost? ›

For example, fixing a pinhole leak in a half-inch copper pipe will run you around $150, but the same repair job on an inch-wide copper pipe will cost roughly $250 – a hundred dollars more. You can generally expect to pay an average of $500 for copper pipe repairs, with an average range of $250 to $1,000 per repair job.

How do you stop a leak without turning off water? ›

Yes, you can use a pipe freeze system. I know it sounds crazy to intentionally freeze a pipe. After all, isn't that the way they break in the first place? But, under controlled conditions, creating an ice plug is a fast and easy way to make a repair to the line without shutting off the water to the building.

Why does my roof leak only sometimes? ›

One of the main causes for intermittent roof leaks is differences in the rainstorms that hit your home. A light rain shower might not have enough precipitation to actually breach your roof. Even if the water gets beneath the shingles, it might not be enough to soak through the underlying roofing materials.

How do I find a rain leak in my house? ›

Signs of Water Leaks in Walls
  1. Damp or discolored drywall.
  2. Peeling paint or wallpaper on your wall.
  3. A warped or stained wall.
  4. A buckle, crack, or water stain on drywall ceiling or your floor.
  5. Pools of water on the floor near walls or drips from the ceiling.
  6. A musty smell.
12 Jan 2022

Should roofers work in the rain? ›

Roofing contractors always monitor the weather. They do not install roofs when it rains because the rain can adversely affect the quality of the roof installation. In addition, rain creates slippery conditions that make roof work hazardous.

How do you stop a roof leak in a storm? ›

Temporary Tape and Caulk

Luckily, you can use roofing tape or caulk inside your attic to help close any holes or prevent water from flowing further. These items can be purchased at most local hardware stores and are great to have around the house in times of need.

What is the longest lasting roof coating? ›

Sprayed Polyurethane Foam, also known as SPF, is regarded among the longest lasting types of roofing systems. Many SPF roofing systems have endured for over 50 years with few signs of failing. For this reason, SPF roof coating systems in Fort Lauderdale and beyond remain one of the top choices in commercial roofing.

How often do you need to reseal a roof? ›

Regardless of any ponding though, resealing your roof once every five years is a good measure to prevent any water damage to your home or business. The frequency may change due to harsher climates. Constant rain and snow can wear your flat roof down.

What should you not use Flex Seal on? ›

We do not recommend using Flex Seal on foam. Some foams may react poorly with Flex Seal, and may warp or dissolve. We also do not recommend using it in situations where it is subjected to high heat or pressure (such as engine radiators) or gas tanks. We do not recommend the use of Flex Seal spray on vinyl.

How much will a gallon of Flex Seal cover? ›


Size: 1 Gal. Coverage: 150 Sq. Ft.

What will Flex Seal not stick to? ›

Flex Seal Tape will not stick to water-repellent or hydrophobic surfaces. These types of surfaces repel water molecules, which include greasy surfaces, as we mentioned above.

How do plumbers find the source of a leak? ›

For the most precise leak detection, plumbers use video pipe inspection equipment. These are small cameras mounted on long flexible fiber optic cables. Plumbers can insert these in faucets and other plumbing outlets to detect leaks.

Why is my roof leaking and it's not raining? ›

If so, the problem is likely caused by leaking plumbing lines. Sometimes, the leak may be caused by your air conditioning condensation drain lines if they're routed through your ceiling. But in many cases, a plumbing leak is the culprit. Many plumbing leaks happen slowly because of tiny leaks in the connections.

Is there a way to repair the leak without calling a plumber? ›

Use epoxy putty or pipe putty as a temporary fix to a leaky pipe. Pipe putty is designed to harden at room temperature and seal the hole or crack.

Is there a device that can detect a water leak underground? ›

PQWT-CL200 water leak detector sewer line camera are a professional instrument that water supply companies,heating companies, municipal construction companies and property companies inspect whether underground pipes leak water.

How do I find a slow water leak in my house? ›

6 Ways To Find Hidden Water Leaks
  1. Check your water meter. One of the best ways to tell if you have a leak in some part of your plumbing is to check the water meter. ...
  2. Look at your usage. ...
  3. Monitor your bill. ...
  4. Grab some food coloring. ...
  5. Check exterior usage. ...
  6. Use common sense.

What area of the roof is most likely to leak? ›

The Four Most Common Places a Roof Will Leak
  • Around the Chimney. The chimney is one of the main culprits of a roof leak. ...
  • Around Windows and Skylights. ...
  • Vent Pipes. ...
  • Missing Shingles.


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