How to Find a Leak in an Asphalt Shingle Roof


The first step in fixing a leak is locating the source of the problem. This can prove tricky with asphalt roofs, as the break in a shingle through which water is entering may be obscured by other shingles. However, most leaks occur in the valleys or along edges where shingles are cut on the roof, so that's where you should focus your search. Locating the leak requires exploring the roof from both the inside and out.

Things You'll Need

  • Ladder or scaffolding
  • Roofing tar
  • Examine the bottom of the roof from the attic space of the house. Water can run along rafters and other structures, so the location of the leak seen in the living quarters may not be directly below the actual leak in the roof. Look for discoloration of the rafters or the underside of the roof sheathing to locate the leak. Measure from the peak to this point as a reference. In worst-case scenarios, light may be visible through a hole in the roof. Push a straw or other narrow item through the hole to mark the location on the exterior.

  • Measure from the peak of the roof to the point indicated by the measurement in Step 1. Explore the general area for defects. Look for cracks around nails or breaks in shingles. This step helps locate the hidden leaks that sometimes occur even though the exterior of the shingles look fine. It's not necessary if the hole was obvious and marked with a straw or other item.

  • Explore areas where the shingles are sealed to metal flashing with roofing tar. These are high-risk areas for roof leaks and should be checked if obvious leaks such as those described in steps 1 or 2 aren't visible. Check areas such as where chimneys, vent pipes or other fixtures extend through the roof. Check the roofing tar for cracks or breaks.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use asphalt tar or roofing cement to seal any holes or leaks you locate.
  • Work carefully when checking the shingles on the roof. If the shingles are older they could be brittle and break easily, compounding any leak problem that already existed.
  • Use appropriate caution when climbing ladders and working at heights. Hire someone to do the work if you are not comfortable working high above the ground or if the roof is especially steep.

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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/ Images
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