In Repair & Maintenance

Repair a Roof Leak: Complete and Expert Guide on Emergency Roof Leak Repair

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Your roof is one of the most vital parts of your home. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to repair a roof leak or have an emergency roof leak at some point in your life. Like most of your home, your roof won’t last forever. Most of us, as homeowners, wait a little too long to replace our roof.

But how do you know when your roof needs to be replaced? How do you help your old roof by doing some emergency roof leak repair as needed?

Is it normal for my roof to leak in heavy rain?

The short answer is: no. However, heavy rain or a storm can push even the best roof beyond its limits and cause a roof leak. Anytime your roof sees more than a moderate amount of rain over a short time, it could be overwhelmed. But there are some steps you should take to prevent further damage.

roof leaks in heavy rain

What to do if your roof leaks in heavy rain or during a storm

  1. Protect your home–Put out buckets or pots to collect water that may be seeping through your ceiling. Make sure that you keep the water off your floor. 
  1. Put things up high–Make sure that any furniture is raised off the floor. Pallets are excellent for this if you have them but even boxes or blocks of wood will work.
  1. Take pictures–Make sure to take pictures of your personal belongings and any structure that is damaged. Your insurance company will ask for them to cover the damage.
  1. Let your insurance know–Notify your insurance company of any damages. A roof leak, even if it seems to be handled by an emergency roof leak repair, is worth turning into your insurance carrier.

What does a normal roof look like?

damaged roof leak repair

It is important to know what a normal roof looks like to be able to tell if one is damaged. A normal roof will be all color or pattern. Stains are a sign of pooling water or organism growth that will damage a roof.

The roof will also have a uniform shape and structure. Any unusual bumps or dips could indicate a structural issue with the roof. The fasteners on a normal roof should be invisible. On a metal roof, the heads should be flush or only slightly raised.

You should examine your roof regularly to determine how healthy your roofing is.

How do I determine where roof damage has occurred?

The first thing to look for when a roof leaks during heavy rain is a piece of roof that looks different than the rest. If you don’t see any obvious sections of damage, look in the most common spots for a roof leak.

Where do most roof leaks occur?

Anywhere that something puts a hole in a roof stands a high chance of developing a roof leak. That means that anywhere there is a fastener or a protrusion should be examined closely.

  • Chimney–Chimneys can be difficult to repair because you have to account for how the roofing material and the chimney material flex over a year. Make sure to look along the top corners of the chimney and where the chimney meets the roof deck.
  • Vents–Every home has roof vents because they are crucial to home ventilation. However, roof vents can easily crack along the corners, whether they are metal or plastic. Look closely to see if yours have developed cracks
  • Skylights–Skylights have a reputation as leaky for a reason. Specifically, look along the top corners and where the skylight meets the roof deck.
  • Clogged Gutters–If your gutters are clogged, they cannot wick away water and the backed up water has to go somewhere. Clogged gutters result in water getting under the roof along the perimeter of a room as water is forced up under the leading edge of shingles.
  • Flat Roofs–Flat roofs are becoming more and more common, especially on outbuildings or commercial buildings. Flat roofs result in ponding water and should definitely be considered a suspect if you have a roof leak in heavy rain.

Is my leaking roof an emergency?

Believe it or not, a roof leak isn’t always an emergency. If your leaking roof doesn’t affect your living situation or safety for the day or night, it isn’t an emergency. 

That doesn’t mean that you should wait long before fixing it though.

emergency roof repair fund

What are some signs of an emergency roof leak?

If you have water leaking into your home to the point where your family is not safe, you have to constantly empty buckets, or you can see streams of water coming in, you have an emergency roof leak.

Trust me, as difficult as it may be to believe, if it’s less than that, you don’t need to pay for an emergency roof leak repair. 

How do I minimize damage from a roof leak?

If your roof leaks during heavy rains, minimize the damage by protecting your floors and walls as much as possible. Hanging plastic trash bags and putting out buckets or pots is a great first step.

Take belongings that are on the floor and lift them off the floor to prevent damage. If your roof leak is anywhere near computer or television equipment, unplug the equipment and move it.

What does an emergency roof repair cost?

The cost to repair an emergency roof leak can vary greatly based on how extensive the repair is. If there is just a small patch that needs repaired with a couple of shingles or a roof coating, the cost could be a few hundred dollars. For the most extensive repairs, you could be looking at over $10,000 for structural damage.

How do you temporarily repair a roof leak?

temporarily repair a roof leak

Even if you have a waterfall coming through your roof during a heavy rain, you won’t be able to get a contractor out in the middle of the night. Roofing contractors don’t work like plumbers where they’re on call 24/7.

If you do, in fact, have a waterfall coming through your ceiling, please go to a hotel for the night. For smaller roof leaks, you are going to need a roof repair to last anywhere from a day to a few weeks. You just need to make it until a contractor can get there to fix it.

Can you seal a roof leak from the inside?

In the middle of a storm, it isn’t really a great time to get up on your roof and inspect it for stains or missing sections. Sometimes, you have to just seal a roof leak from the inside to at least protect the inside of your home.

At best, anything you do from the inside will only help briefly. You can apply any of the roof coatings to the inside that you can apply outside. Don’t put them on the ceiling of your home, but on the underside of your roof.

And you should still consider putting out buckets or basins to catch any water leaking through. As much as you can, trap the water to distribute it back outside.

What do I need to repair a roof leak?

  • Asphalt Shingles
  • Metal Shingles
  • Fasteners to Repair a Roof Leak

Asphalt Shingles

To replace a few shingles in the middle of the roof, look for single shingles from the home improvement store and a special piece of equipment known as a roof snake. A roof snake lets you slide a shingle up underneath the rest and nail it on without damaging the top shingle.

It is VITAL that you don’t damage good shingles trying to replace bad ones.  Any new roof fasteners should be covered to keep them from rusting and causing more roof leaks.

Metal Shingles

You can also use metal shingles in order to temporarily repair a roof leak. These are flat, thin, and inexpensive pieces of metal that are smaller than letter paper.  These shingles are attached with roofing nails but beware of their VERY SHARP edges. When in doubt, pull out some thick work gloves to protect your hands.

Fasteners To Repair A Roof Leak

The most commonly used fastener to repair a roof leak is a basic roofing nail with a large, flat head. Electro Galvanized roofing nails are perfect for asphalt shingles and rolled asphalt roofing. To repair a leak in metal roofing, use a roofing screw with a rubber washer behind the head. Just don’t use these fasteners on asphalt roofing since they will damage the shingles. 

What roof coatings can I use for a quick fix for a roof leak?

  1. Tar Based Roof Coatings (Henrys Wet Patch, Blackjack All Weather, and Roofers Choice Wet and Dry)
  2. Elastomeric Roof Coatings (Koolseal, Snowroof, Rustoleum)
  3. Silicone Roof Coatings (Rustoleum, Gacoroof, Through the Roof)

Tar Based Roof Coatings

Tar based roof coatings range from thick coatings that require a putty knife or trowel to thinner, more pourable varieties. These roof coatings are the cheapest option to repair a roof leak but they don’t last as long and they are messy to apply.

Popular and commonly found brands include Henrys, Roofers Choice, and Blackjack. 


Tar roof coatings are used on asphalt roofing, like a rolled roof or a shingle roof. These coatings don’t flex well enough for a metal roof which can result in cracks. 

  • Henry’s Wet Patch, Blackjack All Weather, and Roofers Choice Wet and Dry–Wet Patch formulas are made to work in any temperature or weather. You can find these formulas in every price range and in sizes from caulking tubes and quarts to 5 gallon buckets.
  • Henrys Roll Roofing and Blackjack Roll Roofing Adhesive–Roll roof adhesive formulas are always next to the roof repair coatings but they are very different. DO NOT use either of these formulas to repair a roof leak!
  • Henrys Fibered Black and Blackjack Roof & Foundation Coating–These coatings have fibers incorporated in them which gives them more longevity when they flex with weather or material changes. Since these formulas are thin, they are easily brushed or rolled on.

Elastomeric Roof Coatings

Elastomeric coatings are more flexible than tar coatings. Not only are they more effective on an asphalt roof, but they are also more appropriate for flat roofs, membrane roofs, and metal roofs.

These coatings are usually two part systems: a primer coat and a top coat. 

Try not to cover the edges of shingles when you apply elastomeric roof coatings. Once the shingle edges are covered, the roof can’t flex as much and the shingle edges can curl up.


Elastomeric coatings cannot adhere well if it is under 50 degrees or if it may rain in the next 24-48 hours. There are even some companies that won’t ship these coatings to areas that are too cold.


Elastomeric roof coatings can easily pour onto the roof and then you can brush them or roll them on like you would paint a wall. These coatings do need to be stirred before you apply them. You can purchase a large paddle or you can ask for a couple of large stir sticks.

Clean your roof with a bucket of water, a good roof cleaner, and a scrub brush before you apply these coatings to repair a roof leak. You don’t have to be perfect, just good enough.

roll on roof coatings

Silicone Roof Coatings

Silicone roof coatings, like Gacoroof and Through the Roof, in my humble opinion, are the duct tape of roof coatings. They are incredibly flexible and have the best warranties on the market. They come in a variety of colors that allow you to customize in order to match your roof.

Silicone coatings are worth every penny. If you want to repair a leak and not worry about it for multiple decades, you want a silicone roof coating.


As I’ve said, silicone coatings are not picky about the conditions when you put them on. If your roof is clean, they will stick and they will last. Most silicone coatings will actually work just fine even if you apply them under pools of water.


These coatings are thicker than most so you should apply them with a cheap foam brush since they’re too thick for a roller to work well with. Don’t plan on washing your brush and keeping it. 

You can typically find these formulas in anything from a caulking tube to a 5 gallon bucket. If you apply it right, you may only need a single coat to repair a roof leak.

What are some conditions that cause a roof leak?

storm damage to roof

Roof leaks don’t just happen. There are a few things that are notorious for causing a leaks in even the sturdiest roof.


Weather is the main cause of roof damage. Sun is harsh and changing temperatures make roofs crack as the seasons change. 

If you live in the Midwest, you’ve undoubtedly lost pieces of your roof to wind and hail. And in the Northwest, you’ve probably got moss growing in large clumps on your roof.


As your roof materials age, they develop cracks. Of course, this is because of the environment over the years. But the older roofing materials are, the less capable they are of handling it.

How can you prevent an emergency roof leak repair?

Prevention of emergency roof leak repairs is quite simple. Get on a ladder along the bottom edge of your roof twice a year and look at it. This just happens to coincide with when you should clean out your gutters, hint hint.

Look for different colors or textures. If everything looks uniform and clean, your roof is healthy. If not, you’ve got some work to do.

Final Thoughts

Your roof is vital to the overall health of your home. Keep an eye on your roof for any irregularities and fix problems as soon as possible. Sometimes, an emergency roof leak repair is necessary.

You can frequently repair a roof leak with just a little know how and elbow grease. 

Choose a roof coating that can go on at the time, work on the type of roof you have, and lasts as long as you want. Don’t cheap out on the roof coating and expect it to last a lifetime.  

If a roof coating isn’t enough, look for replacement shingles and tack them on with the right fasteners. Just be gentle to prevent damaging other shingles.