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Professional Roofing Tips

What to do if your roof is leaking in the winter

No one ever wants their roof to leak! But in the wintertime, it can be especially problematic as it can be too cold and dangerous to go up and check the roof yourself. Leaks can be difficult to stop and frustrating as they cause more and more damage the longer they go unresolved. Routine roof inspections with a trusted roofing company can help prevent little surprises like leaks from popping up, but no matter the season, it’s always an unfortunate possibility. So, here are a few tips on things you can do if your roof is leaking in the winter.

There are a few things to note and understand before you get too worried, and one of them is that it is rare for a roof to actually be leaking during the winter. Let’s make sure we are actually dealing with a leak and not one of the various other scenarios that can create a drip or stain in the ceiling.

Consider Condensation

The temperature inside your house and the harsh outside elements are constantly battling each other. When the freezing temperatures outside and comfortable temperatures inside meet, they create condensation build-up in strange places.  This condensation build-up can run and drip and create an illusion of a roof leak.

So where can you expect to see condensation that might look like a roof leak? You likely won’t mistake window condensation for a leak, but when it starts dripping from a skylight you might be worried. Make sure you have good air circulation throughout your home to help prevent condensation on skylights and windows.

roof leaking in the winter

Bathroom vent fans are one of the most common places someone might experience a leak from condensation. If you flip on the fan when taking a hot shower, condensation can build up in the fan’s exhaust pipe. When this moisture freezes and melts, it makes it look like there is a leak near or around the fan. If you can access the vent pipe in an attic, adding extra insulation can help keep the steam warm enough to escape your home rather than dripping back down. 

Stains on the ceiling, splattered about or spread around can also seem like there is undoubtedly a leak, but it is also usually condensation build-up from poor ventilation in your attic. Body heat, cooking, the warming of lightbulbs, all of this heat travels up and can get trapped. When it does, it can create a layer of moisture that settles when it hits the cold of the attic. Once this happens, it may take until the spring when the attic gets back up to temperature, but it will melt and drip back down, causing the worrisome stains.

Check Where The Leak Is Coming From

If none of the above options seem right for your problem, the next thing to do if your roof is leaking in the winter is to check the leak’s location. If the leak is positioned on the edge of an outside wall there is a distinct possibility that it’s being caused by ice damming. As the snow melts from higher on your roof it runs down and freezes due to the cooler temperature from the overhang of your roof, and this is where the ice dam is created. Clogged gutters and poor drainage can also be a common recipe for ice dams and the leaks they bring. You can usually stand outside and see the blockage of ice around the edge of your roofing, so you should be able to tell if you have an ice damn or not. If you do, check out this article on ice dam removal.

Another normal cause of leaks in the winter is cracking in tar and loosening of flashings. The changing temperatures can cause cracks and the pulling apart of flashings, which creates the perfect tunnel for a leak to form. Unfortunately, this can be difficult to diagnose.

roof is leaking in the winter

The best thing to do if your roof is leaking in the winter is to call a trusted roofing company and have it thoroughly inspected. They’ll be able to pinpoint the cause and give a clear plan of action to have your home dry once again. There is a possibility that if the leak is bad enough, they will have to patch it for the time being until it is safe enough to have a crew on your roof in the spring.

If you experience a leak this winter, whether it’s coming from your roof or condensation, you can trust Clayton Hoover & Sons to get your home back to normal. We have been serving the South Bend / Mishawaka, Indiana area for over 75 years. As a 4th generation family-owned and operated business, we take pride in providing the best quality roofing and remodeling services. If you’re ready for a free roof inspection or an estimate on a new roof, contact us at