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Identifying a Roof Leak

November 21, 2022

Learn the Signs and Causes of a Leaky Roof

We’ve probably all been victims of holding a bucket under a roof leak through the ceiling. When it gets to that point, the roof leak is extremely obvious, and repairs are usually a bit more involved.

Homeowners can look for less obvious signs of a leak and nip the problem in the bud before looking for their most enormous salad bowl to collect the water from the ceiling. 

What Causes Roof Leaks?

In general, older or neglected roofs are more prone to leaks. Weather compromises the integrity of all house structures over time—especially the roof.

Broken and Missing Shingles

The roof’s outer layer is your home’s central defense against the elements. Shingles and tiles are typically the most weather-proof part of the roof. Leaks are far more likely when they are cracked, broken, or missing.

Regular roof cleaning and maintenance are essential in limiting the likelihood of water leaks. Replacing and repairing shingles as needed can save you thousands of dollars caused by water damage in the long run.

When tiles and shingles are cracked, broken, or missing, leaks are far more likely.

Clogged Gutters

Cleaning the gutters isn’t just a punishment for teenagers sneaking out after curfew. 

Gutters keep water away from the house to prevent water damage. If backed up or clogged, water gets pushed onto the roof, causing seepage in the home. 

Loose and Cracked Flashing

Flashing is a material found at the base of most vents, chimneys, and roof valleys. The purpose of this material is to direct water away from joints and seams. 

Flashing protects areas of the roof that are vulnerable to leaks. When compromised, the joints and seams around it weaken. 

Structural Seals

Flashing may be the protective covering around some home structures, but underneath it is a flexible seal. The seal can harden and crack in the sun, allowing a leak to form. Check the integrity of the seal around vents, chimneys, and skylights.

Telltale Signs of a Leaking Roof

Leaking roofs can be discovered by more than just the presence of water. They often develop over a long period, so identifying and repairing them at the first sign can save your finances and grief in the long run.

Damage to Roof

Especially after a nasty storm, checking your roof for damage is always a good idea. Broken and missing shingles and tiles are one of the most common causes of leaks. If you see one, or several, investigate further. 

Discolored Walls and Ceiling

Rainwater contains minerals and pollutants that stain building materials and paint. When it makes its way into your home, rainwater can leave brown stains where it has the most exposure. 

Arizona residents should watch for stains on their ceilings and down their walls in post-monsoon months. They usually appear in corners and ceiling lines.

Rain water is full of minerals and pollutants that stain building materials and paint.


Excessive moisture leads to mold. If you spot it in your walls, it may mean that a roof leak has pooled in that area. 

Look for discoloration and mold around windows and corners. Remove dark green or black-colored mold quickly, as it may be toxic. 

Musty Smell

Sometimes, you can smell the mold and the mildew before seeing it. If your house smells a bit soggy, check for those discolored spots and mold. 

How to Find a Roof Leak

You’ve identified a leak in your home, and now it’s time to find its origin so that you can make repairs. If you don’t see any noticeable missing shingles or damage to the roof, there are other options to investigate.

Check the Attic

Most of the time, you can find the leak where it first enters the house. However, you may need to enter the attic to pinpoint the entrance. 

Most leaks don’t drip straight down from the entry point, but the surface tension of water means it’ll stick to slopes and slide down them before descending. Follow the water trail to where it comes through. 

Insulation usually degrades quickly in water, so you can trace its path based on where the insulation is compromised.

But be careful—attics usually don’t have finished floors, and you’ll need to step on the ceiling beams. Make sure to take care where you step.

The surface tension of water means it'll stick to slopes and slide down them before it descends. Follow the water trail to where it comes through.

Water Test

The next option arrives after the rain has cleared and the leak has stopped. It involves some teamwork. One person must go into the attic while the other goes onto the roof. 

Using the garden hose, soak different areas of the roof, bottom to top, to try and create a water leak. Whoever is in the attic will watch for water and mark where it comes in.

Fixing a Leaking Roof

The steps to fix a leaking roof depend on its cause. Fix shingles and tiles as they break or fall off. Re-seal skylights and other structures, or replace the flashing. 

The leak won’t necessarily come from a faulty roof for some homes. Condensation from cold temperatures can build on rogue nails in the attic and drip onto your ceilings. In this case, trimming the pin back to the wood will fix the leak.

Legacy Repair Can Help

If you still can’t solve the leaking roof mystery, or you need some professional help when it comes to repairs, call us at Legacy Repair. 

Our years of experience in the roofing industry give us the knowledge to repair any leak or roof structure. 

Don’t wait until a small leak becomes a bigger problem. We’ll get your home ready to weather any storm.


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