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Four FAQs About 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 the 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, the 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.