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Check for Roof Leaks in the Attic

Water intrusion is often indicated by stained or discolored wood.
Water intrusion is often indicated by stained or discolored wood.
Take precautions. Sharp roofing nails often protrude into the attic.

Take precautions. Sharp roofing nails often protrude into the attic.

How to check for roof leaks in your attic

If the roof surface is damaged and needs repair there will often be evidence of leaks inside the attic. This page explains how to locate potential leaks. You should have a powerful flashlight, tape measure, notepad, and some colored masking tape or a marker in order to flag/mark target leak areas. Follow the safety tips below.


Safety tips before entering the attic

To avoid injury it's recommended that you use a hard hat to access narrow attic spaces. This is because the sharp tips of roofing nails often protrude through the roof surface. Also fiberglass insulation may irritate skin. Wearing gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants are a good idea. Walk only on roof joists or flooring that is firmly secured by the joists. DO NOT walk on drywall or sections between joists. Doing so could mean falling through the ceiling below.

Locate the attic's access point

In many newer homes the attic can be accessed easily through a garage or laundry room with built-in/pull-down stairs. Most often attic access is found in a garage, closet or hallway. Look for a square or rectangular removable panel in the ceiling. If you do not have built-in, pull-down stairs, then use a sturdy ladder to access the attic area. See Basic Ladder Safety if you intend to use a ladder.

Finding the Leaks

Examine the entire attic roof underside surface for evidence of water intrusion. You may see stained or discolored wood areas that will lead you to the source of the leak. Water runs downhill so carefully observe all areas below suspected leak(s). Also check all rafters and other structural wood areas for evidence of water intrusion or dripping water. Mark water stained or damaged areas with masking tape or a marker. Measure the distance of suspected leak areas from a firewall or other identifiable structural features. Later this will help you find the damaged areas on top of the roof.

The leak was measured from this wall so that it could be located on the surface of the roof.
Attic leak source
What it looks like on the surface of the roof (outside). This area needed to be sealed.
surface of the roof (outside) shows parapit wall flashing that needs to be sealed


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