Repairing Ceiling Water Damage: Six Things to Know

Ceiling water damage is common yet frequently more complex than damage occurring at floor level. In single-story houses, causes of ceiling damage include leakage from plumbing pipes routed through the attic or chronic roof leakage. In multi-level homes, damage affecting a downstairs ceiling usually originates from an issue in an upper floor—typically a bathroom—involving an overflowing bathtub or a leaking water supply pipe to a bathroom fixture. The trend toward locating laundry rooms on an upper level has also resulted in more ceiling damage downstairs due to washing machine overflows and ruptured washer supply lines.  

Ceiling water damage may manifest as simply a conspicuous stain on the ceiling, sagging ceiling drywall, or water dripping into the room below. Once the water source is identified and stopped, repairing ceiling water damage involves these steps:

  • Most residential ceiling panels are drywall that readily absorbs water. Saturated drywall permanently loses structural integrity even when dried and typically must be replaced. Usually, only the affected section will need to be cut out, rather than removing the entire ceiling.  
  • Once the ceiling is opened up, the interior structure must be thoroughly dried utilizing high-volume air movers. These units may be raised on scaffolds or other supports in the affected room in order to properly direct airflow.
  • In addition to drying, wooden structural components inside the ceiling must be inspected to determine if rotting or other deterioration has occurred. This includes the underside of the floor above in a two-story house as well as wooden ceiling joists. Any affected parts must be replaced.
  • In a single-story house, attic insulation above the ceiling leak may also be saturated and require removal and replacement.
  • After drying is confirmed with moisture meters, the affected area inside the ceiling should be treated with biocides to prevent mold growth.
  • New drywall ceiling material is cut to size, then installed with screws into the ceiling joists. The joint between the new material and the existing ceiling is taped, then covered with joint compound and primed. Usually, the entire ceiling is then repainted.

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