What To Do if the Roof is Leaking
Roof Leak Emergencies
Temporary Roof Repair
Whether the roof is leaking right now or a storm is on the way, making a roof repair in these circumstances can be difficult and dangerous. Right now, the best bet may be to try and stop the flow of water, but save fixing the problem until later.
Caution: Please read our safety information before attempting any maintenance or repairs. Working on a rooftop is dangerous, especially when it is wet. Do not climb on the roof without proper safety measures. Do not attempt work on a roof during an electrical storm. Don't do anything stupid.
Just putting something over the spot where you think the leak is, probably won't stop the leak. The key is to get to a point up-slope from the leak, where water can't get under your barrier. If up-slope is a peak, placing the barrier over the peak of the roof will ensure that water does not get under it. If up-slope is a vertical surface, butting it against the surface will probably be satisfactory. The trick will be to secure it so that it does not blow away.
Temporary Roof Coverings
Covering the roof is the short term goal. There are a variety of materials you can use; the trick is securing it in place. For temporary coverage, our favorite is the ubiquitous blue tarp. These tarps are very tough and the grommet holes along the edge allow for tie-downs to secure the tarp in place.
Many people have used thin plastic film successfully, but the problem is holding it in place. Do not try using weights, such as bricks, to hold a roof covering in place. The risk of the brick or weight slipping off the roof make it too dangerous.
Threading rope through the grommets on a tarp and then fastening them to something secure like a tree, heavy trash cans, anything heavy and solid should keep the tarp in place. Keep in mind, wind can lift the tarp like a sail and fling a small weight tied to the ropes. A 20lb weight might seem like plenty to hold down a tarp, but a gust of wind can turn that weight into a deadly club. Only tie off the tarp to something too heavy to be lifted by strong winds.
Getting the tarp over the roof without climbing on the roof can be accomplished in a variety of ways. One way is to tie lightweight string to a tennis ball and throw the ball over the roof. Tie the string to the lash ropes on the tarp and pull the ropes over the house. Now you can pull the ropes and the tarp into place. Anytime you throw something over the house, there is a risk of hitting a person, pet, window etc. Take appropriate steps to avoid hitting anyone or anything.
Using Wet Patch to Fix a Leak
If you must attempt a repair, wet patch roof patching material can be applied to a wet surface and it can get wet immediately. It is a gooey, messy tar like substance that can seal leaks quickly. If you can make the repair safely and you know where the water is getting in, you can use a wet patch material to seal around skylights, roof vents, chimneys, and to fasten down loose asphalt shingles. To get the best results, it should be used with a reinforced fiberglass tape. Use a disposable putty knife to scoop and spread the material. Because of the mess, use of disposable rubber gloves is also a good idea. Working on a wet roof is very dangerous and we do not recommend it.