A roof that leaks is a problem in any weather, but a roof that suddenly begins to leak during a heavy rainstorm can quickly turn into an emergency. With heavy runoff, water may start seeping through a hole that has been there for a while and drip onto the ceiling. By the time you notice water dripping in the house, the drywall has likely been saturated. If you don’t do something right away, it could crumble. Finding a leak can take time. You need to staunch the dripping and make an emergency repair as quickly as possible.
Emergency Roof Patching
Go into the attic, if you have access, and clear insulation off the wet ceiling drywall. Sponge off any standing water. Lay a piece of plywood across the joists and put a bucket on the plywood to catch the water. Don’t put the bucket directly on the drywall — it may fall through when it fills with water.
Follow the leak back to the point at which it enters the roof. This could be far from the point where it’s dripping onto the ceiling. You can typically trace the the path along a rafter, but water sometimes follows the underside of the roof deck.
Make a temporary patch with roofing tar and a piece of shingle or plywood. Trowel the roofing tar into the leak on the underside of the roof deck, using a putty knife. Push the shingle or plywood into the tar and trowel more roofing tar around the edges of the patch.
Measure the distance of the leak from the gable and from the ridge, while you’re in the attic, using a tape measure. Wait for the rain to let up before you attempt to go on the roof. Put on rubber-soled shoes, go on the roof and measure the same dimensions on the roof. Fortify the undersides of the shingles in the vicinity of the leak with more roofing tar. Don’t attempt to access the roof without taking adequate safety precautions.
Emergency Roof Covering
Prepare a plastic roof cover if you can’t get in the attic and have no way of determining the exact location of the leak. Use a 4-foot roll of 6-mil polyethylene plastic.
Unroll the plastic but don’t unfold it. Measure enough to cover a section of the roof from the eave to the ridge, add an extra 4 feet, and cut it from the roll with a utility knife. Unfold the plastic just one fold to make a strip 8 feet wide.
Roll one end of the plastic around an 8-foot two-by-four and staple the plastic to the wood. Cut another 8-foot two-by-four and nail it to the first, with the plastic sandwiched between the two pieces of wood.
Go on the roof and place the wood along the eaves. Stretch the plastic over the ridge, covering the approximate location of the leak. Staple the other end to another two-by-four and nail a fourth two-by-four to that one. Allow that pair of two-by-fours to hang down on the opposite side of the ridge.
Things You Will Need
- Roofing tar
- Putty knife
- Tape measure
- Rain gear
- Rubber-soled shoes
- 6-mil polyethylene sheeting
- 4 two-by-fours, 4 feet long
- Staple gun and staples
- Wear old clothes and gloves when using roofing tar. It is difficult to get it off skin and nearly impossible to remove it from fabric.
- Exercise extreme caution when going on the roof. Wear rubber-soled shoes and secure the ladder to the siding or the fascia with ropes to prevent it from being blown by wind.