Hunting the Sources of Leaks in your Home

Water droplets leaking in bucket from ceiling,

It is very common for leaks to enter a structure and then travel to point where they become visible, often far away from the point of entry. If you’re trying to hunt down the source of a leak, the movement of water can make the search frustrating, especially if the assumption is that the hole in the roof is directly above where the water is being seen. To hunt the source of a leak that is bringing water into your home, start your process in the same way that professional inspectors do by starting on the roof and then working your way inside.

  • Check the ventilation and plumbing penetrations – These are pipes, ducts, and vents that have been cut through the roof deck and then sealed with liquid rubber and metal flashing. These penetrations are a natural source for leaks as any cracks in the seal or separation from the pipe, duct, vent, etc. will allow for water to enter the structure.
  • Flashing – Flashing is the thin metal strip that protects the sealant around the pipe or duct as well as the hole cut through the roof deck. Damaged or missing flashing is the source of a high percentage of leaks due to being moderately fragile as well as its proximity to penetrations. This combination makes these areas a logical place to hunt for the sources of leaks.
  • Skylights – Skylights are another form of penetration that tends to leak, either due to the breakdown of sealants or improper installation. Check the lowest edge for moisture as water leaking from any edge of the skylight with likely channel there before going anywhere else.
  • The chimney – The uneven surfaces of a chimney can be challenging to seal and the surfaces of these structures can catch driving and falling rain. A chimney that that sits below the top of the roof may also block runoff. The combination of tentative seals and water running down toward them makes this structure a common source of leaks.
  • Additional structures on the rooftop – Air conditioners and satellite dishes are both common sights on a rooftop as well as common sources of leaks. These leaks normally occur due to the structures being improperly fastened to the roof with screws, bolts or nails that have been driven through the roof deck.
  • Damaged or aging shingles – If properly maintained, shingles may be the last roofing material to break down, but age will eventually take its toll. This inspection can start before going up on the roof, with look at the mouths of the downspouts for granules that are washing off of asphalt shingles. The inspection can be carried on to the roof to check for missing or deformed shingles.

Hunting down roof leaks is a lot easier when you know what to look for. By starting with the usual suspects for leaks, you’ll probably shorten the duration of your searches and repair problems a lot faster.