How can I find a leak in my own roof? When should I hire a contractor and when can I do it myself?

How do I find a leak in a shingle roof? This post is dedicated to shingles and roofs with a pitch. You can read more about finding leaks in a flat roof on my other post on roof leaks. I never recommend that a homeowner get on their roof, you can cause more damage than you resolve, but you should know what the process is so if your roofer asks to get into your attic you understand why.

Roof leaks can be difficult to trace. If the source of the problem isn’t immediately apparent then when possible I would start in the attic. Find where the water is coming into the building. This won’t always tell you the source of the problem but it is a start. Rain can get under shingles at a chimney or other flashing and run until it can find a way into the attic and then it might follow a roof truss for a while before it drips down and shows up as a water mark on your ceiling. Rarely are roof leaks directly over the visible damage. If you hire a roofer to fix a leak and he is working at the peak of your roof, when you know the damage inside is many feet away from that spot, don’t worry he should know what he is doing.

Chimney and pipe flashings as well as swamp coolers and skylights are very typically the source of roof leaks. Anytime you cut a hole in your roof you open yourself up for potential problems. These are the places to look for issues, a small probe that looks like a bent ice pick can be used to see if there are areas around flashings where water can get in, but care must be taken to not create more leaks. Proper flashings and sealants that are used correctly are important to ensure no water damage. Slathering on tons of roofing tar over a leak rarely fixes the problem and can cause blistering to the shingles as well as places for water to pool and create more issues.

Water can also enter at the eave edge when gutters are clogged or due to ice damming in the winter. Improper ventilation can create moisture in the attic which, when it meets the cold roof deck might freeze and then rain down when it warms and look like a leak.

If you can find where moisture originally enters the roof deck, you have a starting point to  work from. My best suggestion is to think like water, it will take the path of least resistance and typically though not always will flow downward. Wind can push rain into places it would never find on its own, and in certain circumstances water can actually flow uphill. However, it needs a point of entrance, such as where two pieces of wood come together or possibly around a loose nail or other penetration. Water loves to follow plumbing pipes, duct work and rafters, these work as highways for water to travel great distances from its point of origin to where the evidence presents itself.

You may have to be a great detective to find the leak and it may end up being less expensive and frustrating to hire a competent contractor who knows what to look for and how to fix it. It is also much smarter to hire a licensed and insured contractor than it is to risk injury to yourself or damage to your roof.

Cornerstone Roofing ~ Where integrity is the cornerstone of our business ~ Rory Huskin~ Owner ~ Serving all of Southern Colorado from Colorado Springs South to Trinidad and from the Kansas border to the Continental Divide 877-564-5470

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We are Colorado’s most respected Roofing and Gutter company. Serving south-eastern Colorado for nearly 40 years! 719.564.5470

Pueblo Contact Information
1-877-564-5470
719-564-5470
85 N Precision Drive
Pueblo West, CO. 81007

Colorado Springs Contact Information
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719-577-4611
121 South Tejon Street #900
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

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