It can be a homeowner's worst nightmare – the spreading water and drip, drip, drip of a roof leak after normal service hours. The problem usually surfaces in the middle of a rain storm or as snow begins to melt on the roof. This can make it difficult, if not impossible, to access the trouble spot on your own. The following tips can help you minimize damage while awaiting a roofer for repairs.
Tip #1: Find the internal source of the leak
If you can't reach the leak from outside due to ongoing storms or snow load on the roof, then you must find the source inside. Pinpointing the wet spot on your ceiling isn't enough, since water can travel through the attic and then drip through at a place far distance from the original leak point. Finding the source from the inside of the house requires a trip to the attic. Locate the spot where the water is dripping inside and plug the hole from the inside using a rubber patch and sealant. Then, place a bucket beneath it to catch the water so it doesn't do extensive damage to your attic insulation or ceiling.
Tip #2: Break up any ice dams
Snow on the roof sometimes leads to ice dams, which are humps of ice that form along the eaves. Then, moisture beneath the snow backflows under the shingles behind the dam, resulting in a leak. You can break up the ice dam by tapping it lightly with a mallet and sweeping the ice off the roof. This will get rid of the current leak. Once the dam is gone, use a snow rake to knock the remaining snow off the roof, then clean out your gutters to cut down on future dam formation.
Tip #3: Place an external patch
Sometimes you can't get a repair right away. If you can locate the leak on the outside of the roof, you can patch it temporarily while awaiting a roofer for repair. To do this, use a tarp that is larger than the leak. The top of the tarp should go over the peak of the roof so there is no seam on a downslope, since this allows water to run beneath the tarp. Wrap each edge of the tarp around a 2 x 2-inch board, and then nail the boards down to secure the tarp in place. This ensures it is held tight so it doesn't flap or pull free from the roof.
Contact a roofer right away for your leak. Even if they can't get out to repair it immediately, they may be able to help you install the right emergency patch or break up the ice dams causing the leak.