You happen to look up one day and there it is, an ominous water stain on your ceiling. Where did it come from and how long has it been there? Learn what could be behind your ceiling stains right here and how to solve it.
Q: I recently noticed some water stains on the ceiling of my living room. I’m not sure where they came from, but the ceiling feels dry to the touch now. What’s the best way to cover them up? And since the stains are dry, can I assume that whatever caused them is no longer a threat to my home?
A: A water stain on the ceiling is usually a by-product of a roof, heating appliance, or plumbing leak that seeped through the ceiling and evaporated—leaving you with an unsightly patch of dried, discolored mineral deposits. A word of caution: If you cover up a water stain without addressing the leak that caused it, you run the risk of additional staining on the ceiling, not to mention more serious structural or electrical damage. That’s why it’s so important to find and repair the cause of the water stain as soon as possible, even if it is no longer wet. Follow the tips below to pinpoint and repair the cause of the stains, then clean, prime, and paint over the water stains to restore the blemish-free finish of your ceiling.
Identify and repair the root cause. Your first priority when dealing with a water stain should be to find the source of the leak (or in rarer cases, the flood) that caused it—the roof, the upstairs radiator, and the upstairs bathroom are good places to check.
• If the roof is to blame, find and repair and repair crumbling shingles, compromised flashing (the weatherproofing material installed on the roof), or weakened seals around roof vents, all of which can give way to leaks. If you cannot patch the leak in the roof, you may need to replace it.
• If it looks to be a leaky radiator, search out and fix the radiator body, valve, pipe, or bleed point (where cold air escapes from the radiator).
• If coming from the upstairs bathroom, replace old caulking that may be letting moisture seep in and encouraging leaks. Also, repair overflowing toilets and unclog clogged sinks or shower drains that could flood the bathroom floor with water.