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Don’t panic! What you need to know about leaky roofs

It may sometimes feel as though it always rains in the UK, but autumn and winter bring additional challenges, such as cooler temperatures, which mean that nothing can quite get dry after a downpour. This combination of chill and damp means that roofs which are in less than tip-top condition may bear the brunt of the elements.

It is extraordinary how you can have a leak that seems fine until a specific type of wind blows a specific type of rain in a specific direction, then an old leak that you thought had been resolved reappears like an unwelcome relative at Christmas, or – even worse – a new one puts in an appearance.

Unless you live in a mid or bottom floor flat, everyone is going to experience a leak at some point; in fact, for people accustomed to living in older houses, the drip of a roof leak into a bucket or pot may well be a familiar sound. If you detect a leak - new or reappearing - here’s what you need to do.

  1. Don’t panic! The first thing is to not panic and assess the situation. As long as everybody is safe and the leak isn’t causing a hazard by, for example, dripping straight onto a non-movable electrical appliance, things should be resolved.
  2. Damage limitation – once you have calmed yourself, it is time to start on the damage limitation. Place a bucket or any large receptacle under the leak. If it is night time and you are trying to sleep, a towel or cloth at the bottom of the bucket can reduce the noise of the dripping as well as preventing splashing onto the floor.
  3. Identify the source. If you have a water tank or piping in your attic and it is easily accessible, it may be worth popping your head up there to check the source of the leak; is it your roof, or maybe a burst pipe? If it is the latter, you may be able to stop the water flow by cutting your water supply.
  4. Look for the bulge! Quite a lot has happened before your leak appears to you. Water has collected in a spot and pooled to such a degree that the ceiling can’t contain it anymore. So there is likely to be a bulge, from which your water is dripping. You need to alleviate the pressure on that bulge or it could lead to serious damage – even your ceiling collapsing. Grab a knife, screwdriver or scalpel and cut the centre of that bulge, to allow water to flow freely from the ceiling without applying too much pressure.
  5. Call your local emergency roofer (or plumber if it is a plumbing issue). Check out our directory of trusted and rated traders to find one near you. They may be able to offer you immediate advice and will let you know when they can come out.

Want to know more? Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for next week’s instalment when we talk about how to spot signs of a leak before the water comes pouring through!

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