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troubleshooting ceiling water damage

Updated: Jul 22, 2022

So, you have a leak. You can probably tell because your ceiling is either dripping or becoming soft, flaky and/or discoloured.

Depending on the extent of the damage, you might want to attempt repairing the ceiling yourself – more on that later – but before repairing the ceiling it is critical to first identify the cause of the leak and fix it.

In the case of both repairing your ceiling and fixing the initial leak, it may be better to seek the help of a local roofing/leak specialist. That being said, some DIY repairs can be relatively straightforward and you may want to consider that option first.

What can cause a leak? The following are common causes:

- Leaking Ceiling Plumbing

Plumbing which runs through the walls or roof cavity in your home has begun to leak.

- Cracked and Shifted Tiles

Gaps between tiles on your roof are allowing water through.

- Roof Element 'Flashing' Improperly Sealed

If roof elements – such as chimneys, skylights, vents, etc. – are not installed properly, or were installed a long time ago, there may be leakage around the sealant.

- Blocked Downpipes/Gutters

If gutters and downpipes are filled with leaves and debris, the water may overflow back up and into the roof cavity.

- Poor Valley Drainage

If the valleys on your roof are blocked with leaves, or if there is particularly heavy downpour, some water may leak across underneath the tiles/tin and into the roof cavity.

Troubleshooting the leak

For any leak, keep in mind that the point of leakage into the roof cavity may not be directly above the point of leakage through the ceiling, as water can travel a distance downward through the inside of the roof.

Consider the following:

- When does the leaking occur?

If the leaking occurs when there is no rain, it is likely to be a problem with plumbing in the roof. To test this, you can turn off the water mains supply to your home and observe whether the leak stops.

If the leak is intermittent and occurs when there is no rain, it is also possible, although unlikely, that your air conditioning may not be draining properly. Test this by turning your air conditioning on and off and observe the effect.

- Has anyone been on the roof lately?

If your roof is tiled, people walking on it can crack or loosen tiles without realising. From the ground, try to inspect the roof for anything which seems out of place.

If someone was on the roof to install an element recently, then it is possible that the sealant was not correctly applied.

To test for these problems, you may be able to use your garden hose from the ground to spray water around the element or broken tile and wait to see if the leak resumes on the ceiling inside.

- When were your gutters, valleys and downpipes last cleaned?

A ceiling leak near the external wall of the home is likely to be caused by overflowing gutters. If you are confident, comfortable and competent on a ladder, try inspecting the corresponding gutters and downpipes for excess leaves and debris.

Likewise, the valleys on your roof may not be able to drain water properly if they are blocked up. You should also be able to test these problems from the ground using your garden hose.

Fixing the leak

If you decide to climb onto your roof, first read this article on roof safety from Better Homes & Gardens. Remember that, although it may feel safe, the risk of falling from a roof is high and the consequences are severe.

- Leaking Ceiling Plumbing

Call a plumber.

- Cracked and Shifted Tiles

Use a caulking gun with silicone sealant to patch the crack in the tile. Or simply shift the tile back into position. You may even have some spare tiles around the back to replace it with completely.

Or call a roofing leak repair specialist.

- Roof Element 'Flashing' Improperly Sealed

If it is a simple crack in the sealant around the element, it may be as simple as patching with a caulking gun and silicone sealant. Some leaks may require something more elaborate, such as in this video.

Or call a roofing leak repair specialist.

- Blocked Downpipes/Gutters & Poor Valley Drainage

The only way to clear a blocked gutter, valley or downpipe is to put on some gloves and remove the leaves and debris manually.

Or contact Chockers Gutter Cleaning for an online quote for our vacuum gutter cleaning service.

Repairing the water-damaged ceiling

This video provides a fantastic walkthrough for anyone wishing to attempt a DIY repair. A guide for repairing smaller sections begins at 8:26.

Getting your gutters cleaned

We use an industrial vacuum to remove the dust, dirt and debris from your gutters, valleys and downpipes - with no mess left behind.

If you’re interested in having your gutters cleaned you can give us a call, send us an email, or fill in our online Quote Form. Or for more information about what we do, check out the rest of our website.


With Sam, Daniel and Michael in Safety Bay and Lance in Donnybrook, we provide gutter cleaning services from Perth Metro to Bunbury; that's Rockingham, Mandurah, Kwinana, Baldivis, Busselton, Dunsborough, Bunbury, as far north as Joondalup and as far south as Pemberton.

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