Who to Call When Water Is Leaking From Your Ceiling

Candace Nelson
Written by Candace Nelson
Updated January 20, 2022
roof/ top of house
Photo: Rattanachat / Adobe Stock

Nobody likes a rainy day—especially inside of your home

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You’re enjoying a relaxing evening on the couch when all of the sudden, it happens: You feel the dreaded drip, drip, drip of water on your head. If you see water leaking from the ceiling or you see signs of water such as a brownish stain or sagging ceiling, you’ll want to take care of it ASAP. Leaving moisture issues untreated can lead to further problems like rot, structural damage, and mold or mildew growth.

But who do you call in the event of a leak in your ceiling? Well, narrowing down the cause can help you make an informed decision and be on the path to a cozy and dry home.

Track the Leak to Know Who to Call

A leaking roof can have a few primary causes. Figuring out where the leak is coming from can help you narrow down its cause and get the right pro on the phone.

Ceiling Damage on Top Floor

If you see signs of water in the ceiling on the top floor of your house, the leak might be from the roof. To assess the situation, grab a ladder, open the attic hatch, and stick your head up there. Are there signs of water like a mildew smell, brownish stains, or wet insulation? If so, you’ve likely got a roof leak on your hands.

If the leak is from the roof, hire a local roofer to assess the cause and prevent additional problems from a leaky roof. It could be that the seal around the chimney is worn, or your shingles have normal wear and tear. A recent storm could have also damaged the roof.

Ceiling Damage on Lower Levels

If you see water coming from the floor above, all signs point to a potential plumbing problem. A local plumber can track down the cause and recommend a fix.

Don’t rule out a plumbing issue even if the signs of water aren’t in the ceiling directly below a bathroom, laundry room, or kitchen. The water damage might be just under the water source, but it’s also possible for water to travel and pool up in a low spot of the ceiling. Light fixtures are a low spot, so check those carefully for drips. It can also be tough to pinpoint exactly which bathroom fixture is leaking, so you should check for signs of a hidden water leak.

Benefits of Hiring a Pro for a Ceiling Water Leak

Whether it’s a roof or plumbing issue, a professional is likely the quickest way to patch up the problem.

Pros of Calling a Roofing Pro

To fix your roof, you’ll want to call a roofing repair person rather than any other pro. They will have the equipment and expertise necessary to pinpoint the problem and recommend a fix. A roofing pro will also address the cause of the problem and not just repair the visual damage.

Pros of Calling a Plumbing Pro

When a plumbing problem causes ceiling damage, a plumber can assess a leaking fixture and get everything watertight again. Hiring a pro ensures that the problem won’t resurface after a couple of baths. After all, a luxurious bubble bath should not cause stress.

Who Else Should You Call for a Leak in Your Ceiling?

After addressing the cause of the ceiling water leak, you might also need a contractor or handyperson to repair the ceiling and any damaged drywall. When drywall gets saturated with water, you’ll need to replace it. The average water damage repair job costs $75 per hour or $2,900.

Ceiling leak fix: roofer versus plumber; top floor damage call roofer, lower levels

Can I DIY a Roof Repair?

Diagnosing a leaky roof is best left to a roofing contractor. A DIY fix can lead to more issues. The most common causes of leaky roofs are:

  • Missing or damaged shingles: Whether it’s a few shingles or you need a total roof replacement, you’ll want to hire a roofing pro.

  • Damaged flashing: Flashing is the waterproof seal around roof elements like pipes, chimneys, skylights. The repair is best left to a pro because precise cuts are required.

  • Ice dams: Snow melting, then refreezing is a culprit. It can cause standing water. Have a pro check your roof out to make sure everything is draining properly. 

  • Inadequate roof slope: Low slopes can cause water pooling and inadequate runoff. A professional can assess the roof and determine if the shape needs to be changed.

Roofing work is dangerous, which is why you should never attempt to go up on the roof yourself. Plus, if damage results from a storm or accident, you might not get reimbursed for work done yourself.

Instead of getting up on the roof, there are some steps you can and should do yourself if your ceiling is dripping:

  • Move any valuables to a safe, dry place.

  • Position a bucket (or buckets) to catch excess water.

  • Lay a tarp to slow additional water from coming in.

bucket to catch water from ceiling leak
Photo: motortion / Adobe Stock

Can I DIY a Plumbing Repair?

Whether you choose to DIY or hire a pro, taking on the cost to repair a plumbing leak will depend on the source of the leak, so the first step is finding the cause. You might find a loose faucet or toilet that needs to be caulked or sealed. For a more elusive leak, you might need to cut a hole in the ceiling to track down the source of the leak. Unless you know what you’re doing, this is best left to a plumber.

Clearing a clogged sink, repairing a leaking shower pan, or caulking a toilet might stop the leak without professional help. Some seasonal maintenance can help you avoid plumbing leaks in the winter.

Questions to Ask Your Ceiling Leak Repair Pro

Whether you’re calling a roofer or a plumber, it’s wise to get recommendations from friends or a neighborhood group. You can also read online reviews. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, call three professionals and get a bid on the price. 

Make sure to ask a few questions, too.

  • Do you have any references I can call?

  • Are you licensed and insured?

  • How long have you been doing this work?

  • Who will actually be doing the work?

  • How long will it take?

  • When will I be charged?

Once you get off the phone, call those references, check online reviews, and look for any complaints with the Better Business Bureau or local licensing bureau.

If you’re happy with your pro’s work, be sure to leave an online review to help others dealing with a stressful leak.

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