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Ceiling Water Damage: Ten Fast Facts

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021
ceiling water damage

Ceiling water damage is more than just really, really ugly. No doubt, those dark discolorations on a ceiling quickly become the very first thing you notice every time you walk into an affected room. However, stains are just the visual manifestation of water damage and the potentially more urgent issues that go along with it. Here are 10 fast facts about ceiling water damage, how it happens, and what comes next.

  • Evidence of water damage to a ceiling generally means one of two things: a roof leak or, in a two-story home, leakage originating in the room above the damaged ceiling. Usually, it’s a bathroom.
  • Ceiling panels are made of drywall that readily absorbs water. Once the drywall has been saturated, it becomes heavy and swells or sags.
  • A large area of a ceiling that is wet—or was wet in the past—may be considered structurally unsound and likely to collapse.
  • Wet ceiling panels almost always spawn the growth of mold on and inside the drywall material.
  • If ceiling water damage coincides with heavy rain, roof leakage is the principal suspect.
  • Since roof leakage tends to run laterally along interior attic structural members, the actual location of the roof leak may not be directly above the ceiling damage.
  • Before roof leakage contacts the ceiling, it typically soaks the bed of attic insulation installed just above the ceiling. Wet insulation usually becomes moldy and requires replacement.
  • Common sources of second-floor bathroom leaks that may be the cause of ceiling water damage below include leaky drain plumbing under the bathtub or shower stall, a leak at shower valve connections inside the bathroom wall, cracks in the shower stall or bathtub, leaky water supply lines routed through the bathroom floor, or an isolated event such as a toilet overflow.
  • Where a ceiling light or other electrical device like a ceiling fan is installed, ceiling water damage may cause an electrocution or fire hazard.
  • Unless the damaged portion of ceiling is smaller than a 12-inch square, the best repair option is to replace the entire drywall panel. 

Repairing Ceiling Water Damage: Six Things to Know

Tuesday, May 12th, 2020

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.

Four FAQs About Ceiling Water Damage

Thursday, November 21st, 2019
ceiling water damage

Ceiling water damage is unsightly. We’ve all seen rooms marred by a glaring brown water stain looming conspicuously overhead. However, it can also be a potential safety issue because ceilings affected by water damage may be structurally unsound, too. Ceiling water damage should therefore never be ignored. Here are some questions and answers to common issues:

Is ceiling water damage always due to a roof leak? In single-story homes, a roof leak is probably the most likely cause, especially if signs such as an enlarging stain or dripping coincide with rainy weather.  However, household water supply lines are frequently routed through the attic, too. Leakage from those pipes can also damage ceilings below. This will usually be a rapidly worsening issue as pipes typically leak 24/7, rain or shine.  

What’s the most common cause of ceiling water damage in a room on the first level of a two-story home?  If the room directly above is a bathroom, the answer is clear. However, leakage may not be apparent in the bathroom itself. A common example is a leaky shower control valve. Because the valve connections are recessed inside the bathroom wall, there is no external sign of a leak. However, leakage from the valve runs downward through the wall cavity and damages the ceiling below.

How does water damage affect ceiling structural integrity?  Ceiling panels are composed of drywall, a material that absorbs water readily and dries slowly. Saturated drywall may not support its own weight and the affected portion of the ceiling may sag or even totally collapse and cause injury to occupants in the room. Wet drywall is also very friendly to mold growth, particularly on the attic side of the ceiling.  Even if the leak that caused the damage is repaired and the ceiling eventually dries, drywall may remain crumbly and prone to deteriorate easily.

What’s required to repair ceiling water damage? Fortunately, the affected segment of drywall can usually be cut out without removing the entire ceiling. After replacing the segment, the joint can be taped and the ceiling repainted with no remaining signs of damage.