By the time you realize your roof is leaking, there’s a solid chance your home is already in need of serious repair. No matter the cause, you need to know how to stop it, fix it if possible, and make the necessary steps towards insurance coverage and repairs.
1) Find out if your insurance covers the leaking roof
In a majority of cases, roof repairs are covered by insurance.
Before any repair or replacement can be approved, the insurance agency will send someone to assess the damage to get the claim process started.
If the damage is caused by an unavoidable natural event, like a high windstorm, heavy snow, or strong rain, insurance will likely cover the cost of repairs.
If you’ve neglected proper roof maintenance, or if the storm damage could have somehow been avoided, it may be much harder for your claim to be approved.
Keep reading about filing a roofing insurance claim:
- Roofing Warranties 101: What You Should Know
- How to File a Roofing Insurance Claim: A Step-by-Step Guide
2) Check for mold in the attic
Mold damage in your attic is a detrimental and costly repair often caused by a roof leak.
Be on the lookout for the following symptoms, as they could point to mold growth in your home:
- Itchy skin
- Sore throat
- Sore eyes
Most of the time, homeowners don’t think these symptoms are caused by mold growth; they think they’re just suffering from a cold or allergies. But if multiple people are suffering from these symptoms, or if these signs fade when you leave your home, you may have mold growth.
3) Minimize interior damage
If the leak is serious enough to drip through the ceiling, start by doing what you can to contain the water damage to minimize property loss and reduce restoration costs.
Get furniture out of the way
Move soaked rugs, drenched sofas, or whatever furnishings have gotten wet out of the way as soon as physically possible. Move wet belongings to a well-ventilated area.
Cover what can’t be moved
If heavy furniture can’t be put in another room or pushed out of the way, cover it with plastic sheeting to reduce water penetration. Once the leak has been stopped, let cushions and fabrics air out so they can dry properly.
Catch dripping water
Use large, deep plastic bowls and trash cans to catch heavy leaks. Use towels and rags under large areas with multiple drips.
Plan out a containment strategy, and you will reduce the overall damage from a persistent ceiling leak.
A length of string can save your sanity—pin it to the ceiling under the leak so the water slides down the string and falls quietly into a bucket rather than constantly splashing.
Keep reading about roof leaks and how to properly take care of your roof:
- Top 10 Causes for Roof Leaks & How to Fix Them
- 10 Simple Ways to Maintain Your Roof
- Roof Hail Damage: How to Recognize and Handle It Properly
- Shingle Roof Repair at a Glance
4) Relieve heavy water pressure
A swollen or bulging spot in the ceiling indicates large amounts of pooling water.
If the ceiling is freshly stained and isn’t sagging yet, you’re only dealing with a minor repair job at this point. But if the ceiling is actually bulging, you need to drain it and support it until it can be fully repaired.
To properly drain and support the ceiling:
1) Move furniture and other valuable items away from the bulging ceiling. Lay a plastic tarp on the floor, and cut off the power to the room by turning its circuit breaker off.
2) Find a safe area to drill or poke a hole. Ideally, this will be away from light fixtures and not directly between a fixture and wall switch. Pick an area away from the center of the bulge for a gentler release of water, and set a bucket below the planned drill spot.
3) Create an opening with a drill, nail, needle, or another sharp object, and catch as much water in the bucket as you can.
4) Create a simple T-brace a quarter of an inch longer than the height of the ceiling, so the brace holds the damaged section in place until it can be properly repaired. Place the top of the brace against the damaged section of the ceiling and support the bottom with masking tape.
5) Call a professional roofing contractor
While some roof leaks are minor and can be adequately repaired by homeowners, we recommend calling a professional for most roofing leaks. A trained contractor will perform the job safely and efficiently.