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Leaking roof – What to do and how to fix it

Think you may have a leaking roof? You're probably worried about the damage it could be doing. Thankfully, you've come across this guide. We'll cover what to do when you discover a roof leak, what could have caused it, and how to fix a leaking roof.

What causes a leaking roof?

A leaking roof can be caused by age and general wear and tear, as tiles come loose, or roofing felt gets damaged. Sometimes the worst happens, and your roof can leak due to damage from bad weather such as storm damage or a falling tree.

First steps: What to do when you find a leaking roof

If you find yourself facing a leaking roof, what are the important things to action first?

  • Move anything you can out of the way of the leak. A leaking roof is bad enough, so move any possessions or furniture out of the way of the leak
  • Contain the water. If you can, try to collect the water in buckets to reduce the damage to the surrounding area of your home
  • Take photos in case you need them for an insurance claim

If your roof has been damaged severely and it makes your home uninhabitable, or the structure is exposed to the elements, this is classed as an emergency situation. You should contact a roofing expert immediately.

Who to call about a roof leak

If you spot a leak in your roof, the best course of action is always to call a professional roofer.

They’ll be able to identify the cause of the leak, carry out the necessary repairs, and ensure that the leak doesn’t reappear in the future (which could lead to bigger and more expensive damage further down the line).

To find a reliable roofer near you, simply enter your postcode into the search box below.

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How to detect a roof leak

The first step in resolving a leaking roof is knowing how to find the source of the roof leak. The main things to look out for are whether you can see signs of a leak internally.

Check ceilings and walls

Roof leak detection is like being a detective – check your ceilings and walls for signs of water or watermarks and stains, as well as checking for damp patches on the floor.

Look at the loft space

Whether or not you find any clues in the rooms of your home, if you’re trying to detect a roof leak it’s also important to get up in your loft or roof space. Signs of a leaking roof include damp timbers and a strong, musty smell.

Mark and measure any damage

Don’t forget to take a torch with you and a pencil or piece of chalk. If you do detect the signs of a leaking roof, circle the area and take measurements from key marker points such as chimney stacks or vents so you can pinpoint the leak from the outside.

A good time for detecting a roof leak is after some consistent rainfall, as it will be easier to see the signs of whether your roof leaks in heavy rain. On a rainy day or after heavy rainfall you may see water coming in or dripping, which will help you to pinpoint the leak.

The hosepipe test

Other ways to detect a roof leak are to conduct a water test with a hosepipe. This is best done after a dry weather spell. By directing water onto your roof with a hosepipe and then checking inside your roof space, you should be able to locate any roof leaks.

Identify missing roof tiles

Also, head outside to see if tiles are missing from the outside (top of your roof tiles), if the roof surface is torn or damaged, or covered in moss. Do not attempt to climb onto your roof to inspect it. This should only be done by a professional with the right safety equipment.

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4 telltale signs of a leaking roof

1. Water stains

If you have a big damp patch on your ceiling, it’s highly likely that your roof is leaking (although it could be that you have a leak from the water tank in your loft instead…).

2. Dripping

It doesn’t have to be your ceiling – water will find a way. If there are drips or moisture, then get it checked out, even if it seems to go away. Some leaks are intermittent, and may be caused by specific weather, but they still need fixing.

3. Damp marks on your outside walls

There can be issues where the roof meets the wall. These won’t necessarily show internally but may still cause damage if left unchecked.

4. Mouldy walls!

Inside or out, stuff growing on your walls is never a good thing and definitely needs looking into. Damp could have any number of causes, but water coming through the roof is a definite suspect. You’ll need to get it checked to establish a source. Moss or mildew on the outside of your house could just mean it’s a shady spot that never sees the sun – but it could also mean an issue with your guttering, drainpipes, or roof edging.

How to find a roof leak on a flat roof

Finding a leak on a flat roof can be harder as the water can travel in all directions, making it tricky to know where the leak is coming from. Inside your home, look for dark brown damp patches.

Externally, look for signs of sagging, dipping, or water pooling, as well as rings of debris and dirt. All of these signs are good indicators that there may be a leak.

The best time to find a leak in a flat roof is when the weather and therefore the roof is dry for a couple of days. You will need to be able to inspect your flat roof and as above, conduct a water test using a hosepipe. You might need to wait a while to see if and where water appears as it makes its way through all the layers of your flat roof.

Again, do not attempt to climb onto your flat roof as this can be dangerous. If it is difficult to access or inspect your flat roof, contact a professional.

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How to spot a leaking conservatory roof

leaking conservatory roofConservatories are battered by the elements and over time can be prone to leaks due to age and wear and tear. If you think you have a leaking conservatory roof, look in the corners and where the roof panels join as these are common areas for a conservatory roof leak.

If your conservatory roof is leaking where it joins the house, this indicates that there could be an issue with the flashing. Flashing acts as a bridge between your home and your conservatory and offers a watertight seal. Inspect it for any visible signs of damage.

Before attempting any DIY fixes, find out if your conservatory is still under warranty. If it is, contact the installer. If your leaking conservatory roof has been caused by sudden damage then you may be covered by your home insurance, so check your policy.

It’s important to fix a roof leak ASAP, as long-term small leaks can cause damp and more serious issues that are expensive to repair, as well as affecting your health.

I have a leaking roof – what should I do?

Okay, here’s the thing. Even if your leak isn’t pouring water into your bedroom yet, a roof leak will never get better on its own. It just won’t fix itself – and the longer you ignore it, the more chance there is that you will have water pouring into your bedroom.

So, here’s what you do for a leaking roof repair. If you just have the first signs of damp then you can skip to step 3 – if the weather is bad, or there is a storm approaching and your roofer can’t get to you straight away, then doing some ‘first aid’ yourself will minimise the damage, the disruption, and ultimately, the cost of repair.

1. Stop the damage!

Your very first job is to minimise any damage caused by water being where water shouldn’t be. So if it’s dripping, or there’s a bulge in your ceiling, then you need to catch the water. Grab a bucket, placing it directly underneath to catch the water.

Top tips: place an old tea towel in the bottom to stop the annoying dripping sound, and use a long plank leaning into the bucket to direct the water to the right place.

2. Puncture it!

Once your bucket is in place, then you need to release the built-up water before it does any further damage. Use a screwdriver and carefully pierce a hole. It may not feel okay to put a hole in your ceiling but creating a channel for water to escape from will actually minimise the longer-term damage.

3. Protect what you can!

Move furniture away and lay plastic sheeting over fitted carpets if you can’t roll them up.

prevent water damage catch leaks

How to fix a leaking roof

If there is an active leak, try to divert the water and seal any gaps. Draw a circle around the area to mark the original leak location and size. If the leak is large, then call a professional roofer as soon as possible.

To fix a leaking roof from the inside:

  • Use a bucket to collect any water
  • Apply a liberal amount of roof patch to the leaking area and use a scraper to cover the area in an even coat
  • Allow to dry, and apply caulking around the edges and any holes
  • Consider applying roof patch tar to a shingle or piece of timber to provide a barrier to water coming in

This is only a temporary fix to stop the leak from getting worse or causing any further damage from water coming in. We would always recommend seeking advice from a professional, so they can assess the situation and make long lasting repairs.

For further advice, take a look at our guide – What to do when you have a leaking roof.

Roof leak repair costs by a professional

Now for arguably the most important part – how much does a roof leak repair cost? The total cost will vary depending on how severe the leak is.

In some cases, it may be necessary to replace a section of your roof or the whole roof if the damage is extensive and it needs to be made structurally safe.

For a typical pitched roof, roof leak repair can cost anywhere from £200 to fix some roof tiles to £12,000 for a complete renovation. The cost will also increase if there’s any structural damage that needs to be assessed and repaired. The emergency call out fee for a roofing expert is approximately £350.

For a conservatory roof repair, you can expect to pay anything between £300 to £6,000+ depending on the issue and the size and style of your conservatory roof. The average day rate for a roofer is between £200 and £300. For more information on roof repair costs take a look at our roof repair cost guide.

Flat roof leak repair cost

The flat roof leak repair cost will again depend on the extent of the damage. Felt roofing costs approximately £40 to £60 per square metre, plus any labour charges of approximately £250 per day. The acrylic waterproof roof paint can cost upwards of £20 depending on the quantity you need.

As mentioned, depending on the nature of the leak it may be more cost-effective to replace the roof. It’s always best to consult a professional for their advice.

Is a leaking roof covered by insurance?

Well, this depends. Home insurance will cover you for a single damaging event. If a major storm hits your area and pulls off your roof then yes, you should be covered for the damage.

Your home insurance will not cover you for normal wear and tear. You have a duty to maintain your property. An old roof in need of maintenance isn’t classed as a one-off event, for obvious reasons.

Is a leaking roof an emergency?

If you have water pouring into one of your rooms, then yes, it’s an emergency fix that’s needed. If it’s simply a small damp spot or water stain, then it’s not an emergency.

A leaking roof will not fix itself if you just ignore it. The problem is only ever going to get worse, and probably end up costing you more. So even if it’s not an emergency – pick up the phone and start getting it put right.

Find emergency roof leak repair near you

You can find emergency roofing services near you with Checkatrade. Simply enter your postcode below to find emergency roofers near you without delay.

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