Water Damage to Ceiling

Water damage to your ceiling can happen slowly, as when a small gap in the roof shingles allows water to drip through your attic and onto your ceiling. Or it can happen suddenly, like when an upstairs pipe bursts or a toilet overflows. Suddenly a part of your house that you can’t reach without a stepstool or ladder has water damage, and you can’t easily dry it up. What do you do?

The Risks of Water Damage to Your Ceiling

water damage to ceilingWater damaged ceiling with mold

The ceilings in your home are probably made of drywall, unless your home is older in which case the ceilings may be made of plaster. Some homes may have wood paneled ceilings. No matter what material was used to build your home, all are susceptible to water damage.

Water is easily absorbed by the porous materials used to make ceilings, and the structure can become weakened by the water damage. A weakened ceiling can collapse, especially if weight is put on it from above, such as walking in the attic. If the joists where the drywall is attached become weakened by water damage, the structural integrity of your home could be threatened.

Water damage to your ceiling, just as in any part of your house, can also put you at risk for the growth of mold. Mold is a type of fungus that grows readily in damp areas caused by water damage, particularly when the water is allowed to sit for days or longer. That is why it is so critical to address water damage as soon as you are aware of it. Mold spreads easily by contact or by air, can cause extensive damage to your home, and is a major health risk. It can cause everything from allergic reactions and asthma symptoms, to major respiratory or skin infections.

Common Causes of Ceiling Leaks

Some of the most common causes of water damage to ceilings include: 

  • Roof leaks: Roofs degrade over time, and shifting shingles are prone to allowing water to seep underneath and get through to the attic or ceiling below. High winds during a storm or ice buildup during the winter frequently cause leaky roofs.
  • Clogged gutters: Water will go wherever it has access, and clogged gutters will force rainwater or melting snow to find new paths, often through your roof or soffits and into the ceiling below.
  • Bathroom leaks: Insufficient or degrading caulk, grout or waterproofing can easily allow water from the sink, toilet or shower to reach the ceiling of the level below. Never ignore leaks in the bathroom.
  • Burst or leaking pipes: Extreme cold and aging plumbing fixtures are frequent causes of leaking or burst pipes. Even a tiny leak can cause significant water damage.
  • Appliances: Washing machines, refrigerators, dishwashers and water heaters can leak or have water lines become dislodged sending gallons of water onto your floors and the ceilings below.

What to Do If You See Water Damage to Your Ceiling

In the event of a major leak, the first sign of water damage may be bubbling or water dripping through your ceiling. If that happens, work quickly to find the source of the water and stop the flow. If rain or snow is leaking through your roof, you may need to put a bucket under that area to catch the water. If a pipe is leaking or has burst, shut off the valve that supplies that pipe.

Absent a major leak such as those, you may have a harder time identifying the source of the water before much damage has been done. You may notice some staining on your ceiling. Mildew or mold may appear. Or you may even notice an area of your ceiling start to sag or bulge. This is a sign that the structure of your ceiling has been damaged and it could collapse.

Try to identify the source of the water and stop the flow as quickly as possible. Then you must immediately begin to remove the water, dry the area, and repair the damage. If you don’t dry the area thoroughly and remove the wet ceiling materials, you could develop a mold problem. Mold can be an expensive issue to deal with, not to mention a threat to your health and the safety of your home.

Drying the area is essential, but also difficult because it can be so hard to get airflow to the area where the water is coming from. If you can, use dehumidifiers and industrial drying fans to promote airflow and remove moisture. Any wet insulation should be removed and replaced.

After a day or two, check the ceiling and surrounding areas for signs of moisture. If dampness remains, you’ll need to cut out and remove the damaged ceiling material. Any materials with signs of moisture should be removed because mold can start to grow in as little as 24-48 hours.

How to Get Help with Repairs

Repairing ceilings is a difficult task, especially because of the precautions needed to avoid mold growth or remove existing mold. It is also challenging to repair drywall above your head without the repair work showing. In addition, you’ll likely need professional help to prevent future water damage, such as from a roofer, plumber or other professional.

If your ceiling has sustained water damage, call a contractor to help assess the damage and needed repairs. You can get prompt, 24-hour assistance by calling 877-960-0491. You’ll be connected to a local water restoration specialist who can answer questions and come to your home to start addressing the water damage right away. The initial assessment and home inspection is free, so even if you are planning on fixing the issue yourself, we recommend you have an expert take a look.

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