Ceiling Leaks: Why They Happen & How to Fix Them?
A ceiling leak is one of the most unfortunate occurrences that can happen to your home. It poses a hazard to the stability of your house by causing structural damage to the ceiling and walls, and it almost always demands costly roof or plumbing repairs.
The moment you notice water dripping from the ceiling you‘ll have to act quickly in order to protect your home. It might look like a small thing at first, just some bubbling or a stain, but a ceiling leak doesn’t go away by itself.
If you fail to notice a ceiling leak, you risk ending up with a collapsed ceiling and more repair work. Below, we offer a guide on how to stop a ceiling leak and everything to know about the issue.
Why is My Ceiling Leaking?
A ceiling leak can happen basically because of two things: various types of roof damage or problems with the plumbing system.
When you notice that a stain has formed in the ceiling or there is water coming down from it, you should first look for the water source. If there is another floor above you, locate the room above the dripping spot and check for plumbing issues there. There might be a leak from an upstairs bathroom, so check the silicone caulk around the toilet and follow the pipes to locate any cracks or bursts. In any case, find the main water valve and turn it off. If there is an attic above the leaking ceiling, go up there and look where the water is coming in from.
If there is damage to the roof that lets water in, you will notice:
- Broken or missing shingles
- Clogged gutters or downspouts
- Poor insulation around the skylight
- Chimneys and vents in poor condition
Climb up to your roof to see what exactly the problem is and decide whether you are capable of repairing it yourself or if you should seek professional help.
Can a Leaking Ceiling Collapse?
A leaking ceiling can collapse if a lot of water accumulates on it. If that water can’t find a way to drain the water, it will sit on the ceiling and soften the plaster until it collapses.
Another possibility for a ceiling to collapse is a minor leak that went unnoticed for a long time. It can be even more dangerous because it allows for mold to form in different areas of the key structures of the house, such as supporting beams.
After long exposure to moisture and mold, beams will start to rot and that will affect the stability of the whole house, not just the ceiling. So, do regular inspections of the attic and the roof to locate minor leaks and prevent further damage to the building structure.
If you notice a water stain that’s dripping, open a hole to drain the water faster and relieve the pressure on the ceiling. That will save the ceiling from collapsing.
How to Fix a Ceiling Leak: A Step-by-Step Guide
There are certain things you can do when you first notice a drip from a ceiling that can prevent a worst-case scenario from happening. You must act quickly to avoid damage to the floor or furniture and save the ceiling plasterboards from absorbing water and yielding under pressure.
Follow these easy steps to target and mend a ceiling leak.
Identify the Leak
First, you have to be absolutely sure where the leak is coming from. You can see water on the floor and furniture but you can’t see where it’s coming from. Inspect the ceiling carefully. Look for stains, sagging, or flaking plaster. These are the telltale signs of leakage.
Lay Tarpaulin and Place a Bucket
Move all the furniture from the leakage area and clear up the floor. Lay a tarp over it to prevent damage from the water that is to be released. If you don’t have a tarp, use cloths, old blankets, or anything that can absorb the incoming water.
Once you locate the leak, place a bucket or any large container underneath to stop water from reaching the floor.
If you are able to locate and reach the leaking spot in the attic or on the roof, try to place a tarp over it. However, moving around the roof is dangerous, especially in rainy weather, so it is best to call a professional roofing company. Whilst they won’t be able to do any repair work until the rain stops, they can cover the damaged portion of the roof with a tarp and stop the leakage for the time being.
If the leakage comes from a burst pipe, turn off the water at the main valve and contact a plumber.
Drain the Leak from the Ceiling
Go back to the room and drain the leak. Use a sharp tool or a screwdriver to make a hole in the plasterboard. The accumulated water will drain to the bucket and the floor that you already protected.
If you don’t drain the leak, the weight of the water will collapse that portion of the ceiling. Or, it will soak into the plaster and crumble it. So, let the water drain to stop further damage. It will require extra effort to collect and dispose of the water, but it will be worth it.
Repair the Source of the Leak Yourself
If you feel confident enough to work on the roof, you can use spare shingles to replace the damaged ones. Or, you can use any hard material to patch up the visible cracks in the roof.
Wooden planks might do as a temporary solution but they don’t work well in bad weather conditions. You can use a tarp to seal the cracks, but it is also just a temporary solution until you contact a roofing professional to assess and repair the damaged roof area.
However, if you plan to make an insurance claim you shouldn’t do any repair work yourself.
Bad plumbing and damaged roofs pose a hazard and you might not be allowed to do it DIY style.
Remove and Repair the Damaged Ceiling
After the water has drained, the ceiling boards will dry but they will be stained and probably smell bad. You can tear them down and replace them with new plasterboards. Attaching drywall is not as difficult as repairing a roof, and you could do it by yourself.
Hide the Stain on the Ceiling
If you don’t intend to spend more money on changing the drywall panels, you can just paint over the stains left after the leakage. This won’t be as simple as regular decorating because you need to treat the area before you start.
You will need to use oil-based paint or a stain blocker to treat the area first and then apply paint. Water-based paint doesn’t work against water stains as they reappear after a while.
What to Do If Your Ceiling Is Leaking?
Unless you are completely confident that you can do safe roof repairs, you should not attempt to do the job alone.
But, when trying to fix a damaged roof or a collapsed ceiling by yourself, you can never be sure about the quality of the work you have done. A roughly patched roof will certainly yield under strong winds and rain, and you’ll end up with additional damage, and a greater repair bill.
The wisest thing you can do in case of a more severe leak, or a leak that is outside your repair skills, is to contact a professional roofing company. They will assess the damage and give you expert advice on how to repair it to ensure the safety of your home.
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Why is my ceiling dripping water?
Likely, there is water leakage that comes either from a damaged roof or plumbing. Water accumulates on the ceiling and starts to drip through the drywall.
Will the ceiling dry out after the leak?
In general, the plasterboards will dry in about 48 hours. If the leakage was severe and the weather is rainy, it can take between 2- 4 weeks to dry.
How much does it cost to fix a leak in the ceiling?
For ceiling repairs, the cost ranges from $50 to $100 per square foot, whereas for ceiling replacement you’ll pay between $500 and $2,500, which includes fixing the leak and replacing the drywall.