How To Fix a Leak in Your Roof

Drip, drip, drip. Your heart sinks at the thought of what it might cost you to hire a roofing contractor to fix the leaks in your roof. And yes, it’s probably going to cost a good chunk of change. But the fact is, this is something you can repair yourself and save thousands in the process.

All leaks in roofs can be attributed to the faulty flow of water. When you look at a roof, it becomes obvious that they were designed with the flow of water in mind. It starts at the highest point and naturally progresses down to the lowest point, where it’s carried away in the eve’s trough.

Find the Leak

Here’s the tricky part. Even though it’s obvious where the leak is coming from as you look up at the ceiling from inside your house, that doesn’t mean that’s exactly where it’s coming from in the actual roof. Water can take alternate routes along the construction materials between the roof and the ceiling, and end up at a completely different point inside. The only way to truly figure it out is to get your ladder out and climb up onto the roof to inspect it yourself. Letting a leak go for too long can result in a mold issue down the road.

Once you’ve identified where the leak is, the process to patch it up is pretty straightforward and simple. This all assumes that there is no actual damage to the structure that could end up in systemic failure. Most small leaks can be fixed with some tar, a little flashing, and a handful of nails. Like we said, you can save thousands.

Roof Surface Leaks

This would include things like damage to one or a few shingles from wind or fallen debris or excessive wind. If you have some extra shingles lying around, simply replace the damaged ones. In most cases, property owners don’t have extra shingles. If this applies to you, we suggest for you to gently remove the remaining nails that are holding down the damaged shingle, making sure you don’t tear it any more than it already is. Lift the corners up with your fingers and apply a good amount of tar to the underside. Next up, you’re going to want to grab your hammer and nails and nail the corners back down. Take your tar and put some onto the cracked areas, as well as over the freshly hammered nail heads.

Vent Leaks

Now, if you’ve detected your leak is coming from a vent area, or even the chimney, then it’s probable that the area where the flashing runs up to it has been damaged. This usually results from dried out caulk or debris from a storm has damaged it. Usually, you can just apply some tar to the seam and it will be fixed. If, however, the flashing has been penetrated by debris, then it will need to be completely replaced. Home Depot or Lowes usually carry flashing made out of aluminum. You can cut it to size, always being careful to wear protective gloves because it gets really sharp.

You’ll want to get back up on the roof and carefully remove the shingles over the area of the damaged flashing. Lay down the new flashing and nail it down. Make sure you apply a good amount of tar to the nail heads and edges of the flashing. Re-apply the shingles that you were careful not to damage, and apply one last coating of tar to the seams.

Robert Gibbon

I'm just a normal guy living in Los Angeles who likes to write about subjects as he's learning them. My current obsession is remodeling my home. We bought a place built in the 1970's, and it needs some love. Walk with me through my journey as I blog about all the fun things a homeowner can do themselves.