How to Stop a Roof Leak During a Storm

Roof leaks are a problem in any weather, but a roof that starts to leak during a heavy rainstorm can quickly turn into a major emergency. Unfortunately, rainy weather is when a roof leak is most likely to happen–and when roofers become inundated with calls from panicked homeowners.rain causing roof leak

Your roof is leaking and you’ve contacted a roofer for help, but if they can’t get there immediately there are some things you can do to to minimize the damage to your home’s interior as well as the roof. And since roofing companies often charge extra for emergency calls, you doing work ahead of time may save you money on your repair bill.

The Inside of Your House

The first thing you want to do, is deal with the leak inside your house so you can minimize interior damage.

Most of the time, a roof leak will form a small puddle in the attic and/or ceiling until it finds an escape route–usually something like a light fixture or heating register. Ceiling joints or corners are other spots where leaks will often occur. Sometimes these leaks happen in multiple places from one source, making it look much worse than it usually is.

If the ceiling is holding water or you see a bulge in the drywall, poke a hole in the center with a screwdriver or other similar object in the middle of it. This will drain water to that one spot, which will help lessen the damage to the ceiling and help collect the water into one stream.

To collect the water, you can always use buckets or large cooking pots, but the best idea is to use the garbage pail you put outside for waste disposal. These containers are large and most have wheels, making them easier to move even if they are filled with water.

man holding bucket under roof leakIf you have time beforehand, move any articles in the room that could be damaged by moisture off of the ground or into a different room. You may also want to put down drop cloths, garbage bags or tarp on the floor to make sure that carpeting and flooring stay dry as well.

Try to do this as soon as possible after “draining” water from the ceiling. This will also make any cleanup easier and protect surfaces from not just water, but from dust and debris created by removing any damaged drywall or ceiling tiles.

Now that you have done damage control and done the most to keep the interior of your home from the least amount of damage possible, it is time to try to find the source of the roof leak.

Find the Source of the Roof Leak

Finding the source of the leak can be extremely frustrating, but if you don’t find the source of the leak, any repairs or temporary fixes you do are going to be useless. Water can travel far from the original source and cause damage elsewhere.

Start by locating the roof leak on the inside of your house. You want to make sure that the source of the leak is the roof and not due to a problem in other parts of your house. Some of the culprits for household leaks include plumbing, heating and cooling units, condensations, pest infestation or even clogged gutters.

Do some exploration and investigation. The leak in your ceiling or wall will often not align. Removing damaged drywall or ceiling tiles to see where the leak is coming from will often help you easier find the source of the leak as well as dry out the water-damaged space.

Go to the Attic

The best place to start is the attic. Your roofing materials are most likely over a layer of plywood, which means that water will often travel from the leak in the roofing material to the nearest joint in the plywood.

Grab a flashlight. You may also want to take another bucket or large container with you to capture the water closer to the source. If your attic insulation is fiberglass, wear gloves and eye protection as well.

If you are catching any water in the attic, don’t put your container right on top of the ceiling tile or drywall because it could fall through when it fills up. Instead, put a piece of scrap wood across the joists and put the bucket on that to catch any leaks.

Clear off any wet insulation that you find. If there is any standing watCalling about roof leaker, soak it up with a sponge or rag.

The location of the entry point into the attic may be in a different area than where the leak is coming through your ceiling, so be sure to make a wide search of the attic to locate the source. You can usually trace the path along a rafter, but water sometimes also follows the underside of the roof deck.

If it is still raining look at the active leak and note what surface the leak is dripping from. Examine the underside of the rafters and sheathing. Look for water spots, drips or stains on the woods, or signs of mold growth. Check the insulation in between the floor joists to see if there any signs of water damage, mold or stains. This is most likely the source of your roof leak.

On the Roof

Wait for the rain to let up before you attempt to go on the roof. Exercise extreme caution when going on the roof. Don’t attempt to access the roof without taking adequate safety precautions.

Wear rubber-soled shoes and secure the ladder to the siding or the fascia with ropes to prevent it from being blown by wind.

Tarp is a quick and easy temporary solution until your roofer arrives.

When using a tarp to cover your roof, a good rule of thumb is to cut the plastic so that it adequately covers the damaged area. Measure enough to cover a section of the roof from the eave to the ridge, add an extra 4 feet, and cut it from the roll with a utility knife. Make sure the tarp is extended over the ridge line, otherwise water will simply run under the tarp.

Secure the tarp with 2 x 4 boards. You can staple or nail the tarp to the boards, but be sure to use nails that are not so long that they will go through your roof.


Often, leaks rain gutter with leavesare caused by not doing preventative maintenance on your roof.

Many roofs are filled with places that will leak only when water is not allowed to properly flow. This is very common on pitched roofs at inside corners.

Any blockage can cause a leak, especially those in gutters or a downspout.

Clearing leaves and debris and allowing water to flow normally can immediately make a leak go away.

If you are experiencing a roof leak, follow the steps above to minimize your damage, then call us at 614-626-0387 for leak repair services.