Leak in the Attic? Here’s What to Do Right Now

Last Updated on December 27, 2021 by Diana Rodriguez-Zaba

By the time you realize there’s a slow leak in the attic, it’s already affected stored belongings, insulation, ductwork and joists. A broken pipe up in the attic can quickly result in dangerous ceiling damage as leaking water soaks walls, floors and furnishings in the rooms below.

Regardless of the cause, it’s never easy to deal with attic water damage and the soggy aftermath. Still, there are several important steps you need to take as quickly as possible.

Over the years, we’ve helped thousands of Chicago homeowners with water in the attic. We’re happy to share our expertise and insider tips so that you know what to do when your attic leaks.

Let’s get started.

Why is there a Water Leak in the Attic?

Most attic leaks happen because of problems on the roof.

Damaged shingles, loose flashing and bad sheathing are just a few examples. The weather takes a toll too. Freezing temperatures create ice dams along roof edges that back up melting snow under shingles and into the attic.

Broken water pipes, heavy condensation and AC leaks in the attic can also result in serious water damage to your home. Knowing what to look for makes it easier to identify the type of leak.

damaged roof shingles

4 Signs of a Roof Leak in the Attic

  • Discolored attic ceiling materials
  • Mold growth in areas below roof valleys
  • Damp walls adjacent to gutters and downspouts
  • Moisture accumulated around and under attic vents

3 Signs of Pipe Leaks in the Attic

  • Corrosion and rust on attic pipes
  • Water stains on attic floor surfaces
  • Stains around downstairs ceiling light fixtures

Am I Dealing with Attic Condensation or a Roof Leak?

You may start to notice signs of attic condensation without even going into the attic. These signs include:

  • Damp attic walls and flooring
  • Buckled ceiling materials
  • Excessive attic humidity
  • Pervasive musty odors
  • Humidity in the air is what causes condensation and moisture in your home. For example, you may notice foggy windows if there is a lot of water vapor in the air.

    Air from beneath the ceiling will go into the attic, especially homes without adequate attic insulation.

    Typically in colder weather, warm moist air will get into your attic, causing condensation on the bottom of your roof deck, and are that should match the temperature of the cold air outside. 

    In cold weather, when warm air from the living areas of your home finds its way into your attic, it can cause condensation on the bottom of your roof deck, which should typically be as cold as the outside air. Proper insulation should reduce heat transfer into your attic. A sound ventilation system will also ideally remove leaked heat and moisture from your attic. 

    Condensation may freeze depending on how cold the attic gets. If this happens, once it thaws, it can become the source of water damage in your home and/or attic. 

    Suppose you’re not able to spot clear signs of a roof leak. In that case, there is moisture all-around your attic, and/or the insulation is damp; this could be a sign of an attic condensation issue.

    How to Fix a Roof Leak from the Attic

    water damage in the attic of chicago home

    Figuring out how to clean up attic water damage can be a challenge. Using a headlamp flashlight makes the work safer by illuminating spaces and freeing up your hands. It’s important to understand that this may not be a DIY project. Follow these steps, but be ready to bring in water damage professionals to finish the job.

    1. Find the Roof Leak in the Attic

    Water coming in from the roof usually leaves trails on overhead joists. Track drips or moisture upward as you look for the leak. Burst pipes in the attic should be easy to locate, but different types of insulation can make the work harder. If attic surfaces feel damp, the problem could be accumulated condensation.

    If you can access your attic, the easiest way to find a roof leak in the attic is to grab a flashlight and look for signs. You may see black marks, stains, and even mold. If access is challenging or your ceiling is vaulted, you will need to go onto the roof and look for signs there.

    Items that puncture the roof are most commonly the source of leakage. They can be several feet above or next to the leak. These punctures can include roof vents, plumbing, chimneys, or anything else extending past the roof. It is unusual to find roof leakage in areas of undisturbed shingles, even if your roof is older.

    By tracing the water path back from the brown spot on your ceiling or wall, you can find the water leaking through your roof and into your attic. Starting in the attic from near where the leak can be spotted on the ceiling, check the bottom of the roof deck for a wet patch.

    Once the water begins leaking into your roof, it can quickly travel far. Because of this, the wet patch may not be right where the spot on your ceiling is.

    2. Take Care of Initial Cleanup

    Once you’re sure that you’ve found the leak, be careful with initial cleanup. Water in the attic can weaken support joists and the surfaces you walk on. Remove any stored belongings, clean up standing water, and check the extent of damages. Look for mold growth, rotted wood and soggy insulation.

    3. Address Necessary Repairs

    Attic leak repairs on the roof might range from replacing damaged shingles to cleaning out gutters. You can often fix a pipe leak with plumber’s putty, pipe tape or a C-clamp. Controlling condensation in the attic usually requires installing vapor barriers and improving ventilation. You may want to call in a licensed roofer or plumber to take care of repairs.

    4. Finish With Replacements and Remediation

    Replace soggy insulation and damaged walking surfaces. If your AC was the source of leaks in the attic, call in an HVAC technician to handle necessary repairs or replacements. It’s very difficult to eliminate mold in the attic. Leave this job to a restoration company that specializes in mold removal and remediation.

    How to Deal with Mold in the Attic From Roof Leaks

    mold in the attic in chicago house

    A wet attic creates an ideal environment for mold growth. Many types of fungal species thrive in the damp space, especially during warm weather. As it spreads, mold invades stored items, insulation, wood joists and ductwork.

    Getting rid of mold in a leaky attic isn’t a DIY project. We strongly advise calling industry professionals who specialize in this type of hazardous cleanup.

    Let certified mold removal technicians like ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba in Chicago take care of the work with equipment and products that eliminate attic mold and protect the health of everyone in your home.

    How to Prevent Leaks in the Attic

    After finding and repairing an attic leak, you want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. These simple tips can minimize the risk of leaks and water damage in your attic.

    • Keep gutters and downspouts clean and in good condition.
    • Regularly check the roof for loose shingles and damaged flashing.
    • Inspect attic vents, and keep them clear of any blockage.
    • Replace insulation that’s become flat, stiff or damp.
    • Install vapor barriers to reduce attic condensation.
    • Vent appliance exhausts directly outside instead of through the attic.
    • Head off AC leaks in the attic with professional HVAC maintenance.
    • Increase attic air circulation by leaving all room air vents open.

    If you bring in restoration professionals to dry out the attic, ask the technicians for pointers. They can help you solve all types of problems. For example, they know how to remove water damage on attic sheathing. Restoration pros can often salvage soaked belongings, and they can help you navigate your water damage claims process.

    How much does It Cost to Fix a Roof Leak?

    Whether your roof leak is big or small, it can cause extensive damage to your house, so it is essential to detect and fix the problem as soon as you can once you find it. Although most roof leaks can be solved with a simple fix, the price to get it repaired can vary.

    On average, the cost of repairing a roof leak ranges between $400 and $1,000. For a minor to moderate issue, expect to pay around $750 on a shingle roof that requires shingle replacement and patching. On the low end, a small roof leak may be able to be fixed for about $150.

    The exact cost of your roof leak will depend on your location, type of home, the extent of damage, and the materials required for repair.

    Does Insurance Cover Leaking Roofs?

    In most cases, homeowners’ insurance policies will usually cover roof leaks and other roof damage unless roof repair is not explicitly excluded in your policy. 

    Though most homeowners’ insurance policies will cover a majority of roof leaks, there are circumstances where it won’t. Whether you will be reimbursed or have repair coverage will depend on the cause of the leak.

    Roof damage due to lack of maintenance or usual wear may not be covered. To be sure, you will need to look through your own policy to see if there are any exclusions or if there are specific requirements to file a claim.

    As a general rule, most companies will include coverage for roofs containing damage due to a sudden incident. On the other hand, your homeowners’ insurance company may deny claims filed for gradual wear and tear.

    Who Should You Call for a Roof Leak in the Attic?

    The potential for moisture damage or water damage can be high depending on where you live and how bad it is. There must be adequate insulation in attics to prevent damage in the first place. The best way to determine whether or not you have a condensation issue or a roof leak is to hire a professional technician.

    Call a professional roofing contractor if you suspect roof damage or notice any roof leaks. You should also call a water damage restoration company, like ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba in Chicago, to repair the residual water damage.

    Dealing with Attic Water Damage in Chicago, IL? We Can Help!

    servicemaster chicago il van

    Most attic water damage cleanup jobs are too big for Chicagoland homeowners. Water removal, cleanup and restoration need to be handled by industry-certified specialists. We offer a full line of water damage cleanup services, including mold removal and complete property restoration.

    Don’t let a leak in your attic turn into a homeowner’s nightmare. Our teams here at ServiceMaster by Zaba are just around the corner with expert attic cleanup services. We’re ready for your call: 773-647-1985