9 Major Early Signs of Roof Leaks Every Homeowner Must Know

Signs of roof leaks; why should you be aware of them? As we have seen, your roof is an essential part of your home. You wouldn’t be enjoying the comfort of your household as much as you are today if it wasn’t for your roof.

Do you know that roofs also increase your chances of experiencing water damage?

A leaking roof creates the ultimate breeding ground for aggressive black mold growth, which is among the most harmful species of mold.

Leaking roofs also expose your insulation, interior walls, and ceilings to severe water damage. At the same time, the wooden framing of your entire roofing system rots away slowly.

What are the top major early warning signs of roof leaks you should know?

Commonly, there are 9 signs of roof leaks to always be on the lookout for. As a way of preventing potential water damage to your entire roofing system. These signs include:

  1. Granule loss
  2. Blistering, Buckling, Curling, Cracking & Missing shingles
  3. Damaged Flushing
  4. Algae & Mold
  5. Roof rot
  6. Spongy/very softwood decking
  7. Ceiling or roof water spots
  8. Any signs of water damage to your attic
  9. Spots of water on the outside of your walls

I have given you a list of the top early warning signs of roof leaks to always be on the lookout for. You already know what to do with that list if you are familiar with roof water problems, especially roof leaks.

If you are not familiar with a leaking roof, you probably wonder what to do with the list. I mean, how can you identify these nine signs to minimize your chances of experiencing roof leaks? If this is the case for you, read on because you’ll get all the answers you need in this post.

First, direct your attention towards trying to understand two major points about each of the signs mentioned above:

  1. What they are
  2. How they come about

Let me explain why this is important,

Understanding these two major points will increase your effectiveness and efficiency when identifying potential roof water damage.

It will also guide you to channel your efforts of preventing roof leaks towards the right places. Meaning your efforts will always bear good fruits, and you will manage to protect your home from roof leaks successfully. And keep it healthy at all times.

Signs of roof leaks in your home appear from 2 different angles – many from outside and others from inside. Most people focus on the signs showing from the outside of their homes. Forgetting there are more signs to check for inside the house.

Or, maybe it’s just easier to focus on what you can see and ignore what you cannot. But, this is very costly. Costly not only when it comes to roofing water problems but also how you choose to approach and live life in general.

Before discussing the signs of roof leaks, let me introduce you to roof shingles. We cannot talk about roofs without knowing what roof shingles are. This is what the entire outer part of your roof is made of. Several roof shingles are arranged in a professional manner.

What are roof shingles?

roof shingles

Generally, roof shingles can be defined as the roof covering, consisting of flat, rectangular-shaped individual units that overlap. When you look at your roof, you’ll see how these shingles are placed. In layers, one on top of another overlapping from the edge of your roof going upwards.

Also, note that roof shingles are made of small colored chips called granules. It is these granules that give your roof a pleasing look.

In a nutshell, granules are the major components of roof shingles, which form the outer visible section of your roof.

Now that we already know what roof shingles are. And we are also familiar with what a granule/granules is. Let’s jump right into our main topic of this discussion: the signs of roof leaks to always be on the lookout for.

Signs of Roof Leaks

In this article, I have separated the 9 signs of roof leaks mentioned above into 2 points: Exterior signs of roof leaks and Interior signs of roof leaks.

We will also look at a few ways to be watchful for these signs. To completely avoid or just minimize your chances of suffering the consequences of a leaking roof.

Exterior signs of roof leaks:

Granule Loss

We have already defined what granules are. And, since these are the major components of your roof shingles, when they are lost, your roof deteriorates.

Granule loss takes place over time due to the natural processes of wear and tear. The colored chips (granules) come off, and your roof shingles start to disintegrate. When this starts to happen, the efficiency of your entire roofing system is reduced. And you are left at risk of experiencing roof leaks.

You’ll also notice the pleasing look your roof once had fading away.

How can you be on the lookout for granule loss to prevent roof leaks?

Inspect your gutters regularly to see if they are filled with shingle granules

As your roof ages, the granules get weaker and easier to separate. Then, when it rains or a storm happens, the shingles come off and might end up collecting in your gutters.

Suppose you see shingle granules collecting in your gutters. In that case, inspect your entire roof as well to check if there are any repairs needed. Granule loss is a clear signal that your roof might need repairs.

Particularly, look for any bald or smooth spots on your roof. Such spots indicate that most of the granules have already come off. Meaning you now have shingle damage which weakens your whole roof system exposing it to roof leaks.

Replacing the shingles as soon as you can is the best way of handling shingle damage. However, before you do this, there are two things you should do:

  1. Check your manufacturer’s warranty.
  2. Call a trusted residential roof repair expert for their professional opinion on the extent of your shingle damage. This will help you decide a good way forward- just repair or completely replace them.

Blistering, buckling, curling, cracking & missing shingles

I will explain each of the signs mentioned in this point separately. They mean different things even though all these damages happen in one place, i.e., on your roof shingles.


Blistering happened when bubble-like swellings called blisters form on your roof shingles. With time, these blisters lose their bubble cup, leaving pitted marks on your roof.

What causes blisters on roof shingles?

Mostly, roof blisters appear when excessive heat comes from roof systems that are overheated. Or, just ventilated poorly. Blistering shortens the overall service life of your shingles.


Cracking happens when radiation from the Sun’s U.V rays damages your roof shingles from inside. Also known as thermal splitting, cracking can be described as tearing roof shingles. Your roof shingles literally split into two or more pieces.

Tearing or splitting may occur horizontally, vertically, diagonally, or at the corners of roof shingles. This is the principal problem affecting fiber-glass-based asphalt shingles currently.

At first, cracking was often observed on 15-year life (the lightest-weight) shingles. But, over time, it has been seen across shingles of all styles and life- ratings (weights). We will discuss what shingles’ life ratings mean. And how this affects the overall life-cycle of your roof in another article.

For now, keep paying attention to our main topic of discussion- knowing the signs of roof leaks to be watchful for.

Cracking may also happen easily, depending on the manufacturer of your roof shingles. They produce defective asphalt shingles. This was especially common in the United States across several manufacturers during the early 1990s.

Tearing happens easily on asphalt shingles that are defective because of rapid thermal expansion and contraction during hot weather and when cold weather approaches, respectively.


You can easily know when your roof starts to buckle because it will appear like something beneath the shingles pushing them upward and outward.

What are the causes of buckling roof shingles?

There are two major causes that are very common.

  • Improperly applied felt 
  • Frequent movement on your roof-deck

Generally, buckling shingles are a major indicator of roof water problems. They can easily lead to roof leaks. Also, they expose your roof’s wooden portions- those lying beneath the roof shingles- opening them up to deterioration and rotting.

When this happens, ensure to contact a well-certified roof expert right away. Their professional opinion will generally guide your course of action.


When your roof shingles curl, they lift upwards in a somewhat spiral or winding manner. Mostly, you’ll notice your roof shingles start to curl from their edges.

As you will learn in the article, there are several reasons why your roof shingles curl.

Missing shingles

In this case, your roof shingles come off completely.

When your roof shingles go missing, you’ll notice bald patches spread haphazardly all over your roof. The major cause of missing shingles is high wind speeds and storms. Whenever roof shingles are not fastened properly, they come off and are easily blown away during storms and high winds.

Algae and Mold Growth

The growth of algae and mold on your roof shingles is a clear warning sign of potential roof leaks. Roof algae and mold is common in climates that are warm and humid.

The Southeast United States is a good example of an area with a warm, humid climate where roof algae and mold grow rampantly. Moisture in the air combines with airborne fungi/mold deposited on your roof, causing it to grow aggressively.

Damaged Flashing

Generally, flashing is thin pieces of impermeable material set up to prevent water from passing into a structure through a joint. Flashing is part of a barrier system that is weather resistant.

Damage to your roof flashing happens when the material becomes loose or deteriorates completely.

Depending on the material you use, your roof flashing can deteriorate easily due to weathering or oxidation. Oxidation is just a fancy name given to the chemical process for rusting to occur. When your roof flashing gets damaged, your home is left exposed to potential roof leaks.

What is the purpose of roof flashing? And, how does it work? Follow this article to get more roof flashing details.

Rotten Roof

Anything rotten is bad for your health. Imagine having a rotten meal. Not once or twice but several times. What do you think will happen to your body in the long run?

In the same way, a rotten roof affects the health and wellness of your home while threatening your family’s safety and wellness as well. The wooden parts of your roofing system start to rot when the mat is left exposed to moisture for long.

When this happens, your roof mat starts absorbing the moisture, allowing the fungus to grow rapidly. With time, the wood underneath deteriorates and begins to disintegrate.

A sunken roof deck is one of the most common rotten or rotting roof indicators. Therefore, if you notice a section of your roof appearing uneven or bowed, contact a roofing expert without hesitation.

Roof rots are better handled sooner rather than later. This will minimize the potential damage to your entire roofing system. And save on the overall cost needed when it comes to roof repairs. You can easily notice your roof deck sinking when you check inside your attic.

Spots of water on the outside of your walls

When you see these spots, take note that there might be water damage to your step flashing. e. the place where your roof meets the rest of the wall.

Depending on the material that has been used, your step flashing becomes loose or completely rusts with time. This allows rainwater to cause damage into walls.

Replacing your step flashing is the best way of mitigation. You can do this yourself or seek the help of a professional roofing company.

Interior signs of Roof Leaks include:

Water Spots on your roof ceiling

This is a clear indicator that your roof might be leaking in one way or another. Usually, it is much harder to locate the source of a small leak compared to a big one on your roof.

The main reason is small leaks shift positions from their point of origin. And, it can literally happen at any part of your roof. This is different from big leaks, which are pretty easy to locate since most occur from visible damages on your roof.

If you notice any watermarks on your ceiling, contact a certified residential roof repair service company for help.

Spongy or very softwood decking

Such damage on your wood decking signal long-standing water damage. The softness/spongy-ness happens due to rotting, which leaves your roof open to potential leakage in the near or far future.

It is important to note that walking on softwood decking is very unsafe. Such areas should be avoided completely until proper repair work takes place.

Water damage problems in your attic

Water damage problems in your attic are a sure sign of roof leaks.

Therefore, to prevent roof leaks or deal with them on their onset, pay attention to your attic. Closely and regularly, watch out for the signs of a roof leak in the attic as described below.

Signs of a roof leak in your attic: The most common signs of water damage in your attic include swollen or wet installations.

Does your attic insulation appear soggy? Set aside enough time to conduct a thorough roof inspection if it does. Because your roof is definitely leaking.

Mold growth and water stains are other visible signs of water damage to your attic.

Can you see any form of fungal growth or mold spots in your insulation? Or, on your attic’s wood studs? Does your entire attic smell moldy? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, chances are quite high that your roof is leaking.

The only other reason you may experience mold growth inside your attic is inadequate ventilation. And, if you can rule this reason out accurately, you can be 99.99% sure that there is a roof leak that you must deal with as soon as possible.

Final Thoughts

Is a roof leak an emergency? The likelihood of anything being an emergency is relative. Depending on your situation. However, on matters of your roof, it is important to always have one fact in mind:

A leaking roof threatens your safety. And, that of your entire family. Based on this indisputable fact, is your safety, or that of your family- an emergency? From this point, you can easily decide whether to treat roof leaks as an emergency or not.

Also, note that a leaking roof is problematic in any weather. However, if your roof suddenly starts leaking during a hwavy rain, it is an emergency that you should handle right away.

Due to the delicate nature of roofs, it is quite dangerous to handle roof water damage issues by yourself. If you notice any water damage to your roofing system, do not hesitate to contact roof water damage restoration experts immediately.

The faster you take care of your roof repair needs, the less likely you will experience water damage in your roofing system. And other parts of your home, including your attic and ceiling. Your roof is the main source of water damage to your attic. And, water problems can easily extend into other parts of your home.

Mas Broto

Written by: Mas Broto

Mas Broto is a small business owner with 30 years experience in the real estate industry. He is the founder and editor of theDailyThrive.net, the most comprehensive free home improvement website on the planet!