How to Track Down the Source of Ceiling Water Damage

ceiling water damageOne thing about ceiling water damage: it’s hard to miss. Once it appears, it’s the very first thing you’ll notice every time you walk into the room from then on.

Most ceilings are composed of gypsum wallboard that discolors as water soaks in. In addition to causing conspicuous stains, water absorption also compromises the structural integrity of gypsum and poses a real risk that some part of the ceiling may eventually fall in. Whether large or small, ceiling water damage is an issue that needs to be tracked back to its source and resolved. Here are some possible causes:

Roof Leaks

When the affected ceiling is in a room below the attic, rain water penetrating the roof may be dripping down on the attic side of the ceiling. In addition to threatening the solidity of the ceiling, ongoing roof leaks also ruin attic insulation and trigger mold growth. Because water may drip onto the ceiling some distance away from the point where it actually penetrates the shingles and sub-roof, a professional roof inspection is required to pinpoint the location of the leak.

Bathroom Problems

If the ceiling issue is on a lower floor beneath an upstairs bathroom, the possibilities are obvious. A water supply pipe inside a bathroom wall may be covertly dripping. Leaks can also result from a defective wax seal around the toilet. A particularly troublesome source is the drain pan sealed underneath the shower stall. Leaks in the not-easily-accessible pan manifest as a conspicuous ceiling stain in the room below. Leaks from plumbing inside walls or a defective drain pan under the shower stall should be diagnosed and repaired by a qualified plumber.

Attic Issues

Hot, humid air accumulating in the attic during summer may trigger chronic condensation on cold air conditioning ducts routed there. It can saturate attic insulation and damage the ceiling below. Wrapping air duct insulation around the ductwork prevents contact with humid air and resultant condensation. Also, bathroom or kitchen exhaust fan ducts in the attic that are leaky or disconnected may continuously discharge warm, moist air onto the ceiling that triggers deterioration.


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