A leaky roof can be much more than an inconvenience for a homeowner---it can cause thousands of dollars in damage. Although the best option for repairing a leaky roof is to have a professional fix it, sometimes a temporary repair is necessary. There are some relatively easy repair options for homeowners that don't require a contractor's expertise to complete.
Patch the Leak With Roofing Cement
The key to temporarily repairing any leak in a roof is to find the location of the leak. Just because water is dripping in a certain area inside your home does not mean that is where the room damage is located. After you determine where the leak is by going up in the attic of your home, you can temporarily patch the area with roofing cement.
Roofing cement or putty can be purchased at any home improvement retailer. The first step is to get a hand trowel or spatula and the roofing cement and spread it with the trowel or spatula over the wood on the inside of your roof. Be sure to work the roofing cement back and forth over the damaged area (where the water is dripping) so that it covers the crack or hole. After patching the damaged area inside your attic, you need to use a thin piece of galvanized sheet metal (so it won't rust) and wedge it between the roof shingles over the damaged area.
Roofing tape is an option for a temporary fix to a leaky roof. One brand of roofing tape is EternaBond, and the tape can be applied to the inside of the roof decking inside your attic, as well as to the outside of the roof. Roofing tape can be applied directly to the damaged area on the outside of your roof and to an area where loose shingles may be allowing water to drip through the roof. EternaBond features a double-sided repair tape that contains putty for sealing shingles.
Covering a Leak With a Tarp
A quick and very temporary fix for a leaky roof is to cover the damaged area with a plastic tarp. When using a tarp to cover your roof, the key is to cut the tarp so that it adequately covers the damaged area. Leave at least an extra four feet of tarp on each end to cover the roof damage. You will need to secure the tarp so that it does not blow off the roof. Using treated 2-by-4 boards is one way to secure the tarp to the roof. You can staple or nail the tarp to the boards, but be sure to use nails that are not so long that they will go through your roof.