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Attic Water Damage? Here’s What to Do Right Now

It provides access to plumbing pipes, electrical wiring and extra storage, but you probably don’t spend much time up in the attic. Most homeowners take the space for granted until something goes very wrong.

It could be a roof leak, a frozen burst pipe or a backed-up ice dam. You figure it out and fix the problem.

Now, you have to deal with the next phase of this overhead headache:

Attic water damage repair.

The job can seem overwhelming. As Chicago’s top-rated water restoration company, we have years of experience helping home and business owners deal with water damage in the attic.

In this guide, we outline how to identify, fix and prevent attic water damage.

Let’s start now

7 Causes of Water Damage in Attics

ice dam water damage in attic

It’s usually obvious when damage is the result of a roof leak in the attic, but there are other problems that soak beams, rafters and joists.

These are seven common causes of attic water damage.

1. Damaged roof components, including shingles, ridge caps and underlayment
2. Warped or cracked flashing around vents and chimneys
3. Ice dams that push melting snow under shingles and down into walls
4. Roof valley leaks caused by temperature extremes or improper sealing
5. Gutter and downspout failure due to clogs, sags and broken hangers
6. Attic ventilation problems that allow excessive moisture to accumulate
7. Frost buildup inside attic space due to old, inadequate or poor quality insulation

What Does Attic Water Damage Look Like?

what attic water damage looks like

Dormers and skylights don’t do much to brighten up a dark attic. Most homeowners turn on an overhead light, but that doesn’t always make it easy to spot water damage.

As you check the area, use a powerful flashlight or headlamp to illuminate these clues.

  • Damp, flat or moldy insulation
  • Cracks in attic ceiling under roof joins
  • Discolored streaks on attic walls
  • Wet rafters, joists and beams
  • Mold growing on attic interiors
  • Water stains on ceilings downstairs

These signs of water damage in the attic point to problems that can compromise a home’s structural integrity. Follow up your inspection with a closer look at affected materials.

Water trickles down, so trace the trail back to the source. Fix the attic leak as quickly as possible, and move on to repairing the damage.

How Do I Fix Water Damage in My Attic?

repairing attic water damage

Water damage repair in the attic can be a straightforward DIY job. However, it might require bringing in licensed technicians. You’ve addressed the source of the attic leak and assessed the damage.

Now, you need to determine if this is a project you want to handle yourself.

Repairs to Attic Structure

Follow the basic steps for water damage repair and keep an eye out for signs of damage to the attic’s framework. As you remove wet insulation from attic flooring and walls, check areas under and behind it.

Be ready to tear out and replace damaged materials, scrub down all affected surfaces and clean up mold growing on damp materials.

If you’re sure about safely operating electrical equipment in the space, set up heavy fans and a large dehumidifier. Drying a water-damaged attic can take as long as two weeks. You may want to contact restoration professionals who speed up the process with structural drying services.

Electrical Repairs in the Attic

In most homes, parts of the electrical system run through the attic space. Wiring is usually well-insulated, but any contact with water can turn it into a fire hazard. Damaged electrical components are also a concern, including lights in ceilings and outlets in walls below the attic.

Don’t take any chances with wet attic wiring or compromised fixtures. Shut down your home’s electric supply at the breaker box, and contact a licensed electrician immediately.

Attic Plumbing Replacements

If the attic leak was caused by a bad plumbing connection, take the damaged part to your home improvement center. Use it as a guide to buying the correct replacement for repairs. Check the product’s online site for how-to tips.

Some attic plumbing leaks need more than a DIY fix. For example, when a frozen pipe bursts, it needs to be cut out and a replacement length soldered into place.

Our technicians here at ServiceMaster of Lake Shore in Chicago handle small pipe repairs, and we can connect you with a licensed plumber for big jobs.

How Can I Prevent Attic Water Damage?

Any situation that creates excessive moisture in the attic sets the stage for water damage. Reduce the chances of repairs and replacements by adding a few routines to your regular home maintenance schedule. We recommend these simple ideas that help keep water out of the attic.

  • Inspect the Roof – Climb the ladder every few months, and look for loose or damaged shingles and flashing. Basic roof leak repairs need attention right away.
  • Check Gutters – Clear leaves and debris from gutters. Make sure they’re securely attached so that rain water doesn’t spill under shingles.
  • Ventilate the Attic – Keep attic vents clean and in good condition. This reduces condensation forming on attic surfaces when temperatures fluctuate.
  • Upgrade Insulation – Think about installing energy-efficient insulation in the attic. Combined with a good vapor barrier, the upgrade controls attic temperatures and moisture.
  • Minimize Ice Dams – Stay in front of wintertime water damage in the attic by defending the roof against ice dams. Our guide to ice dam prevention outlines smart DIY strategies.

Dealing with Attic Water Damage in Chicago, IL, or Suburbs? We Can Help!

detecting water damage in the attic

Water damage in the attic needs attention right away before it seeps into ceilings and walls, spreading mold and wood rot. Cleanup and repairs aren’t easy, but we’re here to help.

Our certified water damage services cover attics in Chicago homes, condos, businesses, municipal facilities and industrial sites.

From structural drying and tear-outs to repairs and replacements, you can count on ServiceMaster of Lake Shore. We’re ready for your call: 312-707-8597

    Get Help Now

    (312) 707-8597


    Our office is located in downtown Chicago, IL just west of Millennium Park, nearby Willis Tower and Magnificent Mile. We provide 24 hour emergency fire and water damage cleanup to all of Chicagoland including Lincoln Park, Logan Square, Gold Coast, Lake View, Magnificent Mile and Little Village. We also provide a variety of specialty cleaning services.