One of the most frustrating things is to discover and find a roof leak.

The only thing worse than that is having trouble finding the source. Water damage from a leak doesn’t always appear near the leak. In fact, sometimes it can trace a path that creates problems far from the source of the actual leak.

One universal truth remains: Water leaks never go away on their own. They only get worse. You probably don’t want to tear your roof apart trying to find a leak, though, even if you’re a professional roofer. Here’s how to find a roof leak without destroying your roof.

Check Your Attic

Most houses have attic space, but many have vaulted ceilings and some have flat roofs. For those, you have to try and trace a leak from the outside.

However, if you have an attic, the first thing to do is go up there and inspect the sub-roof above the rafters. Using a flashlight, look for dark spots, water stains, and mold. They should trace a path back to the source of the leak.

man checking his attic to find a roof leak

If you’ve had dry weather, you may not be able to spot water damage easily. A good flashlight will help with that, but you’re better off looking for mold in that case. Mold thrives in wet environments, and can point you to the source of your leak.

You should gently pull insulation away from where you believe the leak’s source is. If it’s not there, see if you can spot more damage and continue following it.

Take a Close Look at Dormers

The roofing and walls around dormers often have caulking or some other type of sealant around them. Sometimes, the leak isn’t from the roof itself, but rather, from your dormers or other vertical surfaces.

Those joints provide an excellent entrance point for water. Check between your roof and your walls and see if water is entering your house there.

Damaged Insulation? Follow It Back to Its Source

Like tracing water damage to your sub-roof back to its source, you can follow wet, damaged, and moldy insulation, too.

checking for wet insulation to find a roof leak

Since insulation quickly degrades when it gets wet, it can make it easier for you to trace the damage back to its source. Of course, this assumes that the insulation hasn’t come loose and fallen down entirely.

Remove wet insulation from your attic and house because it can stay wet for long enough to develop a mold problem.

Check for Nails and Other Objects Piercing Your Roof

Generally, nails don’t go all the way through your roof to keep your attic and house protected from the elements.

However, sometimes a nail sneaks through and punctures your sub-roof. Nothing is sealing it, so water seeps around the nail and starts causing problems.

Seals and Gaskets

If you can’t find an errant nail or anything else along those lines, check your vents. They have seals around the edges, but those seals degrade because of the elements. The same is true of anything with rubber seals around it.

Go up on your roof and check those over and see if you can see any damage around them. Dry, brittle seals eventually stop doing their jobs and allow water to seep in.

Spray With a Garden Hose

If the weather is dry or you have no attic space, you can work with someone to find the leak using a garden hose.

Start with spraying the area where you think the leak is, and have your partner let you know where water starts to appear. You’ll have to soak the area for several minutes to simulate enough of a downpour for the leak to become apparent.

Soak your roof in separate, isolated areas where leaks are most likely to appear. That includes the flashing around any chimneys, boots around exhaust pipes, and other things. Eventually, the leak will make itself known, even if it appears far away from its source.

Remember to have patience. This process can take an hour or more depending on how big your roof is and how many angles it has. However, it’s better than letting the leak continue unabated.

Final Thoughts

Working to find a roof leak can be hard, but it doesn’t need to be. When you know how to find a roof leak, you can either repair it yourself or call a contractor in to do it for you. The bottom line is that leaks only get worse over time, so you need to address them as quickly as possible once you find them.