How-To Videos

Tips for Locating Hard to Find Roof Leaks

By: Danny Lipford

Roof leaks can be cause by missing shingles, gaps in the metal flashing around chimneys and vent pipes, or small holes in the roofing. The source of a leak often isn’t obvious on the roof itself, and it can be hard to pinpoint, since the water may run down the roof decking and rafters before dripping onto the ceiling below.

To locate a hard to find roof leak:

  1. Go in the attic with a flashlight, during or shortly after a heavy rain, being careful not to step through the ceiling. In the absence of rain, use a garden hose to thoroughly wet down the roof to create a manmade leak.
  2. Examine the roof decking and rafters in the attic above the spot where the ceiling is wet.
  3. Follow any water stains or wet spots up the rafters or roof decking to their highest point.
  4. Measure down from the roof peak to the highest point of the leak and over from a gable end to the leak.
  5. When the roof is dry, go on the roof, and transfer the measurements to the roof, allowing for any overhang on the end of the roof.*
  6. Examine the roofing closely for signs of the leak at the location you measured.
  7. If you can’t see the source of the leak, continue to look higher up on the roof, since water can run down behind the shingles before emerging in the attic decking or rafters.

*NOTE: Take all safety precautions when positioning ladders and climbing on a roof, and do not attempt to go up on a steep roof.

Watch this video to find out more.

Further Information

Print   Video Transcript

Danny Lipford: On a day like this when the spring showers are moving in, you can feel pretty good about having a roof over your head. Unless, of course, you’ve got a pesky roof leak that you just can’t find.

There could be a problem with flashing, or maybe a shingle was torn off during a storm. Either way, you still have to find and repair the problem. If you can’t find it from the outside, let me show you some of the things you can look for on the inside.

In most cases, you find out about a roof leak by seeing a water stain on your ceiling. To locate the source of the problem, go up into your attic and try to get above the stain in the ceiling.

If you’re really lucky, you can locate the problem right away, but that’s rarely the case. More often than not, the source of the leak is some distance away, but this is still the best way to get started in finding that leak.

Now, carefully examine the decking and rafters above the stain location. And what you’re looking for is a water trail or stain on the wood somewhere between this spot, that’s directly over the stain, and the peak of the roof.

Now in this case, you can see the stain very clearly. But if you have a little trouble finding a water trail, have someone spray water on the roof with a garden hose while you’re still in the attic.

Have them start at the lowest point of the roof and work their way up. Make sure they use a spray attachment on the hose to imitate rainfall.

Then, just be patient. Eventually, you’ll find the leak, make your repairs, and then you can enjoy the sounds of the falling rain.


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2 Comments on “Tips for Locating Hard to Find Roof Leaks”

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  • Richard James Says:
    December 12th, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Can water run up under roll roofing where this low pitch roofing laps shingled roof at the ridge pole?

  • Jeff Cardenas Says:
    September 8th, 2016 at 2:41 am

    What a great videos you have shared for finding roof leaks. It can be tricky task. Most roof leaks are hard to find because it originates away from where the leak shows up. Water typically comes in through worn, broken, or missing shingles; where nails have worked loose; or through corroded or poorly sealed roof flashing around vents, skylights, or chimneys or along the intersections of roof planes. If you can’t find the cause of a leak from the attic or by visual inspection on the roof surface, wait for dry weather and ask a friend to help you do a water test. Check for leaks in the spring and fall, and keep an eye out for strong storms. It’s important to catch leaks before they become major problems. Go into the attic and look for water lines or streaks. Most commonly they will appear around seams or in areas of the roof that have sustained some type of damage. Roofs can last for long and for decades only if proper maintenance and care is taken. Timely and effective measures can keep many roofing problems at bay. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful article. It was a good read.

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Tips for Locating Hard to Find Roof Leaks