Identifying Roof Leaks Blog Post Featured Image

Identifying and Locating a Roof Leak

Sometimes, it’s easy to tell when you have a roof leak. Maybe your ceiling looks like someone spilled coffee on it. Maybe you noticed a strange water bubble forming underneath the paint of your wall. You might have even noticed a puddle forming in the middle of the living room floor. (As chic as indoor water features are, there are better ways to go about getting one.) Roofing projects are often expensive, so the sooner you can identify and eliminate the problem, the better.


Tracking down the source of the leak can be tricky, even when the signs are obvious. Once it gets below your roof substrate, water has a way of traveling. The damage you see might be many feet away from the source of the leak. This makes it very difficult for someone with an untrained eye to identify the root of the problem.


Signs You Have A Roof Leak

Easy-To-Spot Signs:

Typically, homeowners will recognize the signs of a severe leak very quickly. They include:

  • Water appearing where it shouldn’t

    • Puddles on the floor or drips from the ceiling are some of the most obvious signs of a roof leak.

      Water Leak causing damage

      Water Leak causing damage

  • Stains on walls

    • Water stains on drywall typically look like large brown marks on your ceiling or walls, darker around the edges. If your ceiling is wood, the signs of discoloration can be more subtle. Look for a dark patch that is wet to the touch.
  • Mold

    • When mold is visible, it’s easy to recognize. However, trapped moisture may cause the growth of mold in places you don’t see. In this case, use your nose. If your house has begun to take on a musty odor, it could be a sign mold is growing.

      Mold Damage From Trapped Moisture After Roof Leak

      Mold Damage From Trapped Moisture After Roof Leak

  • Swollen insulation

    • If your walls are growing, something’s wrong. As water leaks into your insulation, it can swell and become heavy, causing a bulge in your wall or ceiling. If you’ve noticed signs like this, get your roof checked for a leak.

Hard-To-Spot Signs:

Unfortunately, some signs of a leak are more subtle than others. Be sure to keep an eye out for:

  • Changes to your external walls

    • Bulges or mold on external walls are much easier to overlook, but may be a sign of damage.

      Charm City Roofing Installs New Siding to Replace Damage from a Roof Leak

      Charm City Roofing Installs New Siding to Replace Damage from a Roof Leak

  • Asphalt in your downspout

    • As roofs age or become damaged, they shed pieces that are washed into gutters. Something as simple as debris in your downspouts can be a sign that part of your roof is deteriorating. You’ll often notice this when the roof’s shingle have streaks and dark patches where water has worn down the shingles over time.

      Shingle roof with stains and streaks from water damage

      Shingle roof with stains and streaks from water damage

  • Leaky gutters

    • If your gutters are dripping, they’re not doing a good job of directing water away from your house. This doesn’t mean you have a leak, but it could be a sign of further damage to come.

      Gutters run along the edge of the roof

      Gutters run along the edge of the roof

(Keep in mind that moisture in the home is not always the result of a leak. Poor ventilation can also cause moisture to accumulate.)

How To Find The Source Of A Roof Leak

Finding the source of a leak can be like finding a needle in a haystack. There are countless ways for moisture to enter a roofing system, from storm damage to overdriven nails to cracked asphalt. Sometimes, even severe leaks can stem from small damages. Many of these flaws aren’t visible to the naked eye, and require a bit of digging to find. As such, we don’t recommend doing anything too technical on your own.

  • Looking from the attic

    • If there’s an attic space in your home, doing an inspection can shine a light on what might be going wrong. This is often the most simple and direct way of determining the source of a leak. Using a flashlight, search the roof decking for moisture. Sometimes it’s easier to feel water than to see it. Don’t forget to use your sense of touch as well as your eyes! 
  • Seeking out rust

    • Rusted nails are a great way to see where water has been accumulating recently. When we’re inspecting the your roof, we’ll look for signs of rust to help us determine likely leak sites. This often involves pulling shingles up to have a look underneath.
  • Using water

      • Sometimes the easiest way to find a leak is to make it… well… leak. This technique works best when you enlist the help of a partner. While one person keeps an eye on the leaky area, the other applies water to the rooftop. This can be done with a hose or bucket. Because water flows downhill, it’s best to start at the lowest point of the roof. From there, slowly work your way uphill, giving the water plenty of time to settle. At some point, you’ll begin to see water making its way into the home. This technique can be time-consuming, but it’s a great way to narrow down the search for the leak’s source.

What To Do Next If You Have A Roof Leak

When dealing with something as important as your roof, it’s always best to call a professional for repairs. Even seemingly simple leaks can become complex projects very quickly. On top of that, the quality of work ensured by a professional roofer is unmatched. If you’ve identified a leak in your roof, give your local roofer a call as soon as possible!

The Bottom Line

Knowing the telltale signs of a leak can help homeowners identify a problem more quickly. The sooner an issue is detected, the less damage is done to the home. For the same reason, it’s good to have a few strategies for tracking down the source of a leak. However, in-depth roofing repairs should always be left to professionals. Getting a trained roofer on the job is the best way to eliminate leaks without causing more damage. For quality craftsmanship in the Baltimore area, give Charm City Roofing a call today! 

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