Asphalt shingles leaking but ohw do I find the leak?


I went up on the roof and saw pieces of shingles torn off but there were shingles below them (two layers).
How do I find where the roof leak is so I can patch it.
Are there telltale clues on the roof or do I have to guess?
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Agent O wrote:

Probably the missing ones are the entry point under the top layer and then the water is making it's way downwards until it finds a way thru elsewhere. That could be anywhere.
Fix the observable places first; if there isn't too much of it it's likely that'll solve your problem.
W/ that many layers, a new roof is probably in your future sooner rather than later...
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re: "Are there telltale clues on the roof or do I have to guess?"
There should be telltale signs in the *attic*, although even that can be troublesome.
Look in the attic and try to find where the water is dripping down from. Then trace backwards along the water-stain line to where the water actually came through the sheathing.
If you're lucky, it's leaking directly above where it's dripping, but odds are that surface tension made the water travel to a lowspot where it could drip from, like along a rafter or other structural member.
Once you determine where it's coming in, measure from the peak and one side of the attic and then take those measurements out onto the roof and try to locate that same spot. It won't be exact, since you have overhangs and shingles etc. up on the roof, but you might be able to get close enough to search around in that general area for an exposed nailhead or something obvious. BTDT
Worst case, use a drywall screw from inside up through the "leak" and then go outside and locate the screw. It's leaking in that spot and needs to be patched/repaired anyway.
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DerbyDad03 wrote: ...

More like gravity than surface tension in this case and the chances of the actual exterior leak being directly above the entry point are quite low in all likelihood

For a single layer, that has at least a modicum of a chance. For 3-4 layers as OP described, not at all likely, particularly given the fact he's got a place w/ top layer visible damage/missing shingles. Start w/ the obvious entry point.

It will then, for sure. I'd put this at the very,very,very,very.... bottom of the list of way to proceed in OP's case given the above.
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Maybe I'm mistaken, but I believe that it is surface tension that causes a liquid to be attracted to surrounding objects such as the underside of a rafter. The water can travel along the underside of the angled rafter until it hits an obstacle and collects. Once the forces of gravity (and/or momentum) are stronger than the surface tension attraction, the water will drip down. Maybe it's not the "surface tension" that causes this adhesive effect, but I don't think it's gravity either.

That sounds really familiar...
"If you're lucky, it's leaking directly above where it's dripping, but odds are that surface tension made the water travel to a lowspot"
Same thought...different words.

I've followed this exact procedure on more than one occasion with 2 layers and found very small holes in the top shingles where nail heads had pushed through. In one instance, I found a wet spot on a box in the attic, looked straight up from there and found a stain trail that led back to a larger stain spot on the underside of the sheathing 5 feet away. I took my measurements, transfered them to the top of the roof and looked around until I found the damaged shingle.
As I said, it can get you to the general area, as it has for me on more than one occasion.

In my mind the words I chose, "worst case" = "the very,very,very,very bottom of the list".
I don't believe you can rank anything lower than "worst".
BTW....isn't very,very,very,very is kind of redundant? Is the "very, very bottom" of a list really lower the the "very bottom" of a list...or even the bottom of a list, for that matter?
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Go up in the attic or whatever you have for space between the ceiling and the roof and work backwards while things are wet. Use a good bright flashlight so that you can see reflections from the wet areas. Gravity will rule the flow of the water in most cases.
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DerbyDad03 wrote:

Emphasis, emphasis, emphasis...
The OP's problem is he's got a break in the top layer and water is getting under that layer and then running down to wherever there's a path thru. There's no point in even worrying about where it's coming into the house until fixes the obvious and then discovers (at least a moderately low probability) there's another problem still.
The running on the underside is capillary action yes, but that's not likely the problem here and not what I was talking about -- it's running on the surface of the lower layers underneath the top layer somewhere until it finds a hole there. It may _THEN_ be transported yet somewhere else removed from that, true, but that's now a tertiary point, not primary or even secondary.
Hence the admonition to fix the obvious first and certainly don't go poking new holes where in all likelihood none presently exists as a step until exhausted other more fruitful repair paths.
A simple nail pop, yeah; you're ok but that isn't the kind of thing OP has described.
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re: "Hence the admonition to fix the obvious first "
I couldn't agree more, and I think we'll both agree that if the roof has multiple layers and pieces of shingles that are breaking off, then the "obvious" thing is to replace the roof.
However, I still feel that the point of entry is an important factor in this situation, whether the OP is trying to apply a temporary fix until the roof can be replaced or looking to do something more permanent.
If the OP can find the point of entry on the inside and locate it on the outside, he can then look uphill (most likely) from there and find the root cause of the "leak".
My point is that if he can determine where the water is coming into the house he can probably do a better job of finding a way to fix it. There's no sense in "guessing" which torn shingle is causing the leak when there is a fairly straightforward procedure available to find the root cause.
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If he is in a northern area, getting a roof put on now is very risky as the shingles get very brittle when the temperatures are well below freezing.
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wrote:

If he is in a northern area, getting a roof put on now is very risky as the shingles get very brittle when the temperatures are well below freezing.
Horse Hockey...I see roofers do roofs all the time in the winter here in N E including mine...All they do is build a little warming station with OSB and used a Reddy Heater to warm them up a bit....
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Oh yeah, forgot to mention the obvious:
If the shingles have dried up enough that they're tearing off, it's probably time to consider a tear-off and re-roof instead of chasing leaks.
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wrote:

Oh yeah, forgot to mention the obvious:
If the shingles have dried up enough that they're tearing off, it's probably time to consider a tear-off and re-roof instead of chasing leaks.
I agree....
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I have had luck using a moisture meter inside the attic, water takes its own route and can be real hard to find without a meter to pinpoint the wettest area.
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You have to go into the attic. That's where you will see the leak. Then you have to find a way to mark the spot (if a nail is coming down there you might bang it back up, so on) so you know where to work on it from above.
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