Fixing a Leaky Roof

Practical people can learn how to find and fix a roof leak.  But it is not easy!

Finding the source of a roof leak.

Yes! Time to get up into that roof space


Clambering up through the manhole from the top of a shaky old step ladder is how most DIY “handymen” get into their roof space.  After a quick look they normally come back down to grab a torch and some old clothes to cope with the darkness, dust and spider webs.

Properly equipped and back in the roof space, the search for tell-tale water stains begins.  The idea is that water stains will lead to the source of the leak – simple in concept, but not always so easy in practice, as discussed below.


Hazards of balancing on narrow ceiling joists.

But even if following a trail of water stains were easy, doing it in a roof space while balancing on narrow timber joists to avoid putting a foot through the ceiling “raises the bar” somewhat.

Quite apart from such difficulties, finding the source of a leak can be very time consuming – even for experts.  Stains may reveal that water has been dripping from a certain point on a rafter, for example, but because the rafter slopes downward, the source of the leak may be much higher up and not even close to the rafter, depending on the shape of the roof.

Dripping water would make the source of a leak more obvious, but that requires either rain, or a friend on a ladder hosing the roof while your search.  So normally, the search is for stains left previously by water from the leak.  On surfaces such as wood or plaster board, those stains may be easy to find, but on tiles or metal surfaces the water may have left no stains.

ladder to roof
High up, moving from ladder to roof

For the DIY householder, finding the source of a roof leak can be extremely time consuming and frustratingly difficult.  But that difficulty pales by comparison with the danger involved in getting onto the roof to fix a leak.  Unless you are experienced and fit, climbing to a genuinely dangerous height on a ladder and carefully – ever so carefully – moving from the top of the ladder onto the sloping surface of a roof is a scary experience.


Expert roof repair – free quote: 0410-655-033

Why roof leaks must be found and fixed quickly

Despite the challenges, roof leaks must be found and fixed early.  The consequences of procrastination include serious damage to a property and its value and significant danger to the lives of its occupants.

electrocutionWhen water leaks into roof spaces or down in between walls, it can come into contact with electrical wiring.  The consequences can be catastrophic short circuits, fires, costly damage to electrical devices and even electrocution of people attempting to use the electricity.  And even if none of those occurs, roof leaks can stain and deform the plaster board in ceilings and walls, driving down the value of the property.

For these reasons, roof leaks need to be detected and fixed at an early stage before they can cause major safety hazards or significant property damage.

Common causes of roof leaks

ridge cap cracked mortar
Cracked mortar on the ridge capping


Loss of ridge cap mortar and cracked roof tiles.  Direct sunlight, extremes of temperature, strong winds and driving rain cause roofing materials to deteriorate.  The upside-down V-shaped ridge cap at the top of a tiled roof, for example, sits in a “bed” of mortar (sand and cement), which cracks easily.



ridge cap mortar loose
Ridge cap mortar that fell out


After a few years of withstanding Australian weather conditions, the mortar used to bed the ridge capping begins to work loose and pieces start falling out.  Those same conditions make roof tiles more brittle, so they crack when someone walks on them to fix ridge capping, or fix loose tiles, or roof flashing.


flashing around chimney
Flashing around a chimney



Flashing deterioration. Flashing is what roofers use to place a waterproof seal around things that penetrate the roof, such as chimneys, roof vents, skylights etc..  As weather causes flashing nails to work loose or caulking to dry out and crack, flashing will need to be repaired.



Gutter cleaning unsafe
Very unsafe gutter cleaning

Clogged gutters and downpipes.  Leaves and other debris can clog gutters and downpipes and cause water to overflow into eaves and flood roof spaces. It is vital to regularly clear debris from the roof, clean out gutters and use a hose to test that water flows quickly and easily off the roof, along the gutters and down through all downpipes.  The amount of work involved can be reduced considerably by installing gutter guard that keeps the guttering relatively free of debris.


Holes in the roof. Obviously, all holes in a roof must be properly sealed. Holes can be caused when items such as TV antennae are removed. Finding small holes in a roof can be difficult and time consuming for the average DIY “handyman” as noted at the beginning of this article. The painless solution is to call in the experts at Reliance Roofing ACT.

Free roof inspection: 0410-655-033