Help! My Roof is Leaking – What Do I Do?

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: March 18, 2024

Water leaking from the roof might be the result of one heavy rain and a few missing shingles, or it could be caused by ongoing leaks around flashing on a vent or chimney.

Here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, we have more than 15 years of experience helping people repair water damage in their homes in the Chicago area.

In this blog, we outline what to do if your roof is leaking and how to clean up your home as quickly as possible. 

Safety Considerations

When it comes to a leaking roof, you can’t afford to wait! If you want to prevent expensive damage and even more time-consuming repairs, you must act quickly. 

Here’s how:

  • If your roof is leaking heavily, turn off the electrical breakers that power the area. 
  • As soon as you’ve secured the area, contact a roofing professional for further help repairing or tarping the damaged portion of your roof. 
  • Remember: leaky roofs never fix themselves or get better on their own, even if the leak isn’t severe yet. 

How to Deal with a Leaking Roof

1. Contain the Leak (if possible)

If there’s water dripping from your ceiling, grab a bucket, trash can, or other watertight container and place it under the drip. 

If you know where the leak is coming from and you can access the source safely, use a large tarp to cover the exterior surface. 

2. Relieve Heavy Pressure

A swollen spot in the ceiling indicates pooling water, and the weight can eventually cause a dangerous collapse.

It’s easier to repair a small hole than an entire ceiling, so use a screwdriver or pocket knife to poke an opening in the center of the bulges to release built-up water.

Make sure you’re over a large container, and be very careful as you work.

Throw down towels and old newspapers under large areas that trickle with multiple drips.

Use deep plastic trash cans for heavier leaks. Preserve your sanity with a length of string. Pin it to the ceiling under the leak so that water quietly slides down into your catch basin instead of constantly splashing.

3. Protect Your Belongings

Next, move your furniture, decor, and other belongings to a well-ventilated area to prevent damage and help jump-start the drying process. 

If it’s impossible to move heavy furniture into another room, push it out of the way and cover it with plastic sheeting.

Once you address the leak, be sure to remove all protective coverings. Cushions and fabrics need to breathe so that they can dry properly.

4. Document the Damage

Be sure to take photos and videos of the damage so you can share them with your insurance provider. 

Not only do these photos demonstrate the extent of the damage, but they also help you verify which other items in your home were damaged, which will help you receive accurate insurance reimbursement. 

5. Call Your Insurance Company

Next, contact your insurance company to file a water damage claim. 

If you have questions about the insurance claims process, check out this FAQ we’ve put together. 

In addition to helping you understand how to file a claim and report damage, your insurance agent can recommend a restoration contractor who handles roof leak repair and water damage recovery.

6. Call a Roofing Professional

roof leak in ceiling
Professionals know how to find the source of a leakage. In this case it wasn’t the roof that was causing the leakage… bad plumbing was the culprit.

Some of our customers know their way around all types of big DIY jobs. If you’re comfortable with this kind of work, wait until the weather clears so that you can determine the location and nature of the leak.

Even if you believe you could repair the leak on your own, though, we strongly recommend contacting a roofing professional for assistance. Roof work is dangerous and high-consequence: if you don’t fix the leak properly the first time, you’ll face more water and mold issues down the road. 

When you contact a professional for roof leak repair, however, you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing the job was done right the first time.

7. Call a Water Damage Restoration Professional

servicemaster restoration truck

After you’ve called a roofing professional, call a water damage restoration professional. While roofing experts can fix the damage that’s causing the leak, water damage restoration pros fix the water damage caused by the leak. 

This is important because roof leaks aren’t like spills in the kitchen: they often result from long-term problems that continually keep materials damp.

Wet spaces above your ceiling form unhealthy environments for all kinds of damage, including:

  • Heavy mold growth in porous materials – click on the link for some tips on how to detect mold early
  • Water pooling that breeds dangerous bacteria
  • Rotted wood in beams and trusses
  • Soaked insulation and eventual ceiling collapse
  • Damage to your home’s electrical wiring system
  • Stained ceilings and walls, blistered and peeling paint

While you can mop a floor by yourself, it takes heavy equipment and special techniques to dry, and dehumidify and sanitize ceiling tiles, sheetrock, and insulation.

That’s where a professional water damage restoration company comes in. An expert team will be able to get your property on the road to complete recovery as quickly and painlessly as possible.

How to Prevent Roof Leaks

It’s easier to prevent roof leaks than it is to deal with the fallout they create. To keep your roof leak-proof and in good shape, follow these tips:

  • Have your roof inspected twice a year. By the time you notice a roof leak, it’s usually already too late to fix it. With this in mind, The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends hiring a professional to inspect your roof twice a year, in the fall and spring.
  • Know the warning signs. Know the warning signs that your roof could be on the verge of a leak. On the inside of the home, danger signs include dark spots, sagging, and areas where you can see sunlight from outdoors. On the outside of the home, keep an eye out for clogged or slow-draining downspouts and gutters, areas of loose material or flashing around your chimneys or vents, and missing, warped, or broken shingles.
  • Ventilate your attic. Residential shingle roofs will leak unless the attic is properly ventilated. With this in mind, add vents and fans to allow hot, humid air to escape and prevent leaks, mold, and mildew. 
  • Inspect your skylights. Prevent roof leaks by inspecting your skylights to ensure there’s no water coming in along the edges of the window. Use waterproof caulk to seal gaps and cracks annually. 
  • Inspect and repair shingles. At least once a year, inspect your roof for missing, curled, or split shingles and replace them as needed. During this inspection, you should also check for damage on or around the chimney or vent boots or your roof’s flashing and repair those areas as needed. 
  • Clean your gutters regularly. To prevent water damage from clogged gutters, clean your gutters and downspouts at least twice a year – once in the fall and once in the spring. 
  • Trim trees away from your roof. To keep your roof from being damaged during a storm, trim trees and shrubs away from your roof, and remove any tree limbs or other debris that land on your roof during a storm. If there’s been a large storm, inspect your roof for damage that could lead to water leaks. 

With a little attention, you can usually spot common problems before they turn into expensive roof leak repairs.

Dealing with a Leaking Roof in Chicago, IL, or the Suburbs? We Can Help. 

If you have a leaking roof, your quick response makes a big difference in controlling the cost of final water damage cleanup work.

It’s our goal to give you smart, actionable strategies for dealing with all kinds of disasters at home and your business, so let us know how we’re doing.

Fixing a leaking roof is rarely a DIY job, and addressing the aftermath of a water emergency requires professional attention too.

You can count on ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba for 24/7 water damage restoration services across all of Chicago and throughout the surrounding suburbs.

Call now: 773-647-1985.

What are the signs of a leaking roof?

Look for the following signs: musty odors, mold, bulging or bubbling of the drywall, damaged shingles, spots and stains on your interior or exterior walls, puddles of water on the roof, water marks or signs of mold on the rafters and roof sheathing in the attic 

Why does my roof leak in heavy rain?

Roof leaks during heavy rain may be due to a variety of issues, including but not limited to chimney damage, damage or improperly installed roof flashing, pipe boot failure, popped-up roofing nails, skylight gaps or leaks, and debris in your roof valley. To prevent roof leaks, hire a professional to inspect and maintain your roof at least twice a year. 

Will my roof collapse from a leak?

It’s possible. In most cases, however, it takes more than a minor leak to cause roof collapse. If the water damage is extensive or has been going on for a long time, though, there could be enough structural deterioration and mold to render your roof unstable. Contact a roofing professional for immediate repairs. 

Does homeowner’s insurance cover roof leaks from rain?

Homeowner’s insurance usually covers roof leaks as long as they’re caused by sudden, accidental events like a falling tree or severe storm. Most policies, however, won’t pay for leaks that arise due to a lack of roof maintenance or negligence.