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How to Fix a Water Leak in the Ceiling (And the Cost to Have it Done by a Pro)

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  • Are you one of those homeowners who take great pride in their home? Everyone wants all nooks and crannies of their homes to look nice and picture-perfect. Some issues in any home can still be camouflaged or hid with strategically-placed furniture or decorations, a fresh coat of paint, plants, and so many others. Unfortunately, there is a common problem that is not as easy to hide.

    Leaks can appear anywhere in your house. One of the most common spots where they make their presence known is the ceiling. And if you’ve ever experienced getting leaks there, you probably have an idea of how unsightly they can be.

    woman with two buckets

    The Importance of Stopping a Water Leak

    Never underestimate a leak in your home. Some people can’t be bothered with getting the leaks in their home fixed, only to regret it later when they find a flooded basement, water-damaged floors and appliances, or toxic black mold growing, among others. What they thought of as just a few annoying drops of water that can be ignored has the potential to cause so much damage.

    Leaks happen due to various reasons, such as:

    • Issues with your plumbing system
    • Damage on your roof, such as cracks or holes
    • Humidity
    • Malfunctioning appliances that use water
    • Too much water pressure

    But whatever the cause of the leak in your home may be, you need to get it fixed as soon as you can. It doesn’t matter if the leak only consists of just a few drops or already flowing like a faucet.

    Wet floors, although the most common, is not the only issue you can have with leaks. Since water is generally clear, it’s not easy to spot them when they form into puddles. This is why so many people get into accidents. In fact, slips are among the most common accidents that occur at home.

    Earlier, we talked about how leaks can also result to the growth of mold. This is because they thrive in a damp environment, and any place in your home that has leaks is a perfect candidate for it. Molds, especially the black mold, is not just an eyesore but they will also affect the health of anyone who lives in the house. Their spores are what you should really watch out for and unfortunately, they are the easiest to spread around because they travel through the air.

    Everyone knows that getting appliances wet will destroy them. Even a few drops of water coming from leaks in ywour home is enough to break your appliances when they get into the wirings while in operation. This can even cause short-circuits, which may also start a fire.

    Appliances that use up a lot of water, such as dishwashers, washing machines, and water heaters, also have the potential to leak. And because they use up a lot of water, they can even cause not just puddles but floods in your basement or wherever they are installed.

    Water is wasted whenever leaks are present. Even if no one is using any of the faucets and showers, water is still being consumed. Not only that, your water meter will continuously run because of it and this results in higher water bills. Some homeowners get the shock of their lives when they receive their water bills amounting to thousands of dollars because of water leaks they failed to get repaired.

    One thing you should also keep in mind is that leaks have the capacity to damage any house. Even if you use the most expensive materials out there, they can still be damaged if they get exposed to water for a long time. Getting water-damaged components of your home repaired is costly because it almost always involves replacing them with a new one, as well as doing the necessary repairs to stop the leaks.

    This is generally the case when ceiling leaks are involved. Left alone, leaks on your ceiling will eventually cause stains, as well as rot if you use wooden components. The paint will even form bubbles or start peeling and in some cases, water will be found inside of those paint bubbles. And yes, bursting them may give you an instant and unexpected shower.

    water damaged ceiling

    You might see leaks as only an annoyance in the beginning but if you do not take any measures to remedy them as soon as they are discovered, don’t be surprised to experience all these possibilities we mentioned, and more.

    What to Do When There’s a Water Leak in the Ceiling

    You might think that only ceilings that use wood are susceptible to water damage brought about by leaks. If so, you are mistaken. It is common to use drywall not just on the ceilings but also on the walls of any home but unfortunately, drywall is not resistant to water damage, even leaks. The same is also true for ceilings that use plaster and other materials.

    In general, the sooner you resolve leaks, the better. But unlike any other leak, ceiling leaks are a bit more difficult to spot. This is especially true if the leak is fresh or still at the early stages.

    So, how can you tell if there is indeed a leak in your ceiling if you don’t see water dripping down? Don’t worry, there are visible signs you should watch out for:

    • You need to take a closer look at your ceiling and see if you can find any areas that show discoloration or sagging, drywall that has a bulge, paint bubbles or peeling, or the presence of mold or mildew. Water stains on ceilings are usually brown in color.
    • You can also confirm it by touching the suspected areas. If they are moist or damp to touch, you do have a leak on your hands. However, this is still not confirmatory, because there are also ceiling leaks that only happen when it rains. This is why it is important to get a professional to confirm it for you.

    If the ceiling leak in your home is visible and you can already see water dripping down, this is a bad sign. It means there is a huge chance that the leak has taken a turn for the worse and is already large. Water leaks won’t easily penetrate ceilings, unless they are already badly damaged or are severely waterlogged.

    You might think of having ceiling leaks repaired a bit later, believing that stains on your ceiling are the only effect of it. But like in any other type of leaks, ceiling leaks will not go away on their own and will only get worse the longer you leave them alone.

    And if you decide against repairing them because the leaks only appear when it rains and you feel you can live with it, what you might not realize is that you are setting up the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew by doing so. If you recall, we mentioned how harmful they can be to the health of anyone living in the same home where they are found.

    Before anything else, it is important to determine the source of the leak. With ceiling leaks, there are a number of possibilities for that, namely:

    • Appliances – like we mentioned, appliances that use up water are at risk of leaking. And when this happens, the leaks can go under the flooring where they are installed and reach the ceiling of the floor directly below it. It can also .
    • Issues in your bathroom – one of the most common spots to see ceiling leaks is on the area just below a bathroom. If the waterproofing on your bathroom is inadequate, some of the water you use up during a bath or when using the toilet ends up passing through those areas with not enough waterproofing, which can penetrate the ceiling below it.
    • and damages – the most common culprit for leaks on any ceiling, especially on the highest floor of a house, is a damaged roof. It is not just the holes or cracks on your roof that can cause leaking – will also allow water to penetrate the roof and will cause leaks on your ceiling.
    • Pipes and plumbing issues – another common source of leaks is the plumbing system in your home. Because overhead pipes are hidden behind ceilings, they are the first to be affected whenever these overhead pipes leak. These pipes leak for a number of reasons, such as botched DIY work or them being too old to function well. Pipe leaks also have the potential to get worse the fastest due to the volume of water they hold at all times.
    • Rain gutters that are clogged – whenever your rain gutters are clogged, the water collected will either spill over to the front or back because it does not have anywhere else to go to. The water that flows out through the back of the gutters will eventually enter your home, resulting in leaks.

    Another good indicator to help you discover the origin of the leak is by identifying the color of the water coming from the leak. If it is clear, the likely culprit is somewhere along your plumbing system or coming from inside your home. But if the water is brown and may have flakes present, the source is your roof.

    Your roofing contractor will have to remove portions of the affected ceiling where the leaks are coming from to get a better idea of the situation. You can find out the entire process later in this article.

    If the leaks are continuous, it would be much easier to trace the source of the leak on your ceiling. But if you notice that the leaks happen only in certain conditions, such as when it rains or when using the bathroom, it should give you an idea of where the leaks are coming from. Even if they are only situational leaks, you still need to get it fixed asap.

    You should not attempt to do the repairs yourself, especially if you do not have the knowledge and training for it and only plan to use internet video tutorials as your guide. You risk not only your safety but you may also end up worsening the situation, which is often the case for DIY attempts for this issue.

    How to Fix a Water Leak in the Ceiling

    Now that you and your contractor have traced the origin of the leaks in your ceiling, the kind of repair that needs to be done will also depend on the source. Stopping the leak is crucial and must be done first. If not, the succeeding repairs will be useless.

    This is a common mistake that homeowners who choose to do the work themselves make. They believe that patching up the leaks or just plastering the damaged portions of the ceiling where water comes out from without stopping the leak is the answer. Unfortunately, this is just a band-aid solution that does not really solve the problem. Just because you can’t see the leaks does not mean it is not there.

    To give you an idea, here is a list of what needs to be done to address the source of ceiling leaks we previously mentioned:

    • Appliances – get in touch with a technician to assess its condition. A leak may be a warning sign that your appliance is starting to fail, such as in the case of water heaters, and continuously using leaking appliances may not only worsen the leaks but pose other potential risks as well, such as fires and electric shocks.
    • Bathroom – adding more waterproofing to your bathroom usually solves the problem, unless the fixtures are the issue. If this is the case, a contractor may need to check on your toilets, bathtubs, faucets, sinks, or showers and make the necessary repairs or even replacements.
    • Roof – repair work on a roof must always be done by a professional, not just for safety reasons but also to make sure that the job is done correctly. Botched repairs on your roof can cost a lot to undo and will also worsen the leak. There are a lot of reasons for roof leaks and only a contractor can decide which solution is the most appropriate for it.
    • Plumbing and pipes – leaks coming from your plumbing system will often require replacement of certain parts, particularly the pipes. Plumbing parts in general are quite cheap, so this is normally the best option to resolve leaks.
    • Rain gutters – just like the roof, work on rain gutters must be done by a professional. More often than not, leaks attributed to gutters are solved by removing the blockage and replacing worn-out or loose parts, especially the hangers, spikes, and brackets. Letting professionals do the work will make sure that the slope of the gutter, which is very important, will not be accidentally changed while doing the repairs.

    Again, resolving these leaks is always the first step before doing the necessary repairs on your ceiling. If you get a new ceiling installed but failed to get the leaks stopped, you will just waste money. You can expect your brand-new ceiling to get damaged by leaks in just a few days, requiring you to get it repaired again. This cycle will repeat unless you take measures to finally stop the leaks.

    Drying Out a Wet Ceiling – How Long Does It Take for a Ceiling to Dry After a Leak?

    One thing that homeowners who take matters into their own hands mistakenly do is remove the damaged ceiling and replace it with a new one, even if the sections of the ceiling that remained are still wet. They may have made sure that the leaks are repaired first, but they failed to allow the parts of their ceiling to completely dry out first.

    Not completely drying up your ceiling before getting it replaced will promote the growth of mold and mildew. Even if the ceiling needs to be replaced with a new one, you should still allow the remaining sections that got wet to dry out to prevent their growth and rapid reproduction. This is one of the main reasons why drying out your ceiling before continuing the work is vital. Removing mold in any home is never easy.

    You and your contractor will also need to wait it out to dry before starting on the repairs to assess if other parts of your ceiling have been affected by the leak as well and would also require replacement.

    The actual time it takes to get your ceiling completely dried out will depend on the extent of the water damage and how soon the leaks have been discovered. For small sections with leaks discovered early, the drying process can be as quick as in one to two days only. But if the ceiling is badly affected and the leak has been going on for some time, it can take as much as two to four weeks for your ceiling to be thoroughly dried out.

    Even if you use fans that point toward the wet sections of the ceiling, together with dehumidifiers and towels, getting a wet ceiling to dry out can really take some time if the repair work started long after the leak first appeared. This is why it is important for you to get ceiling leaks fixed as soon as you discover them.

    Repairing a Water-Damaged Ceiling

    There are no shortcuts when ceiling leaks are involved. A contractor will follow these general steps to minimize any potential damage that can occur while doing the work:

    1. Confirm and find the source of the leak.
    1. Shut off the water supply before doing the repair on the leak. A contractor may also opt to temporarily cut off power to your home while doing the necessary repairs.
    1. Repair the leak.
    1. Place plastic coverings or tarps all over your floors, furniture, and other stuff to avoid getting them wet. You can also opt to move them away from the room temporarily if possible.
    1. A bucket may be placed directly below where the leaks are present to catch all the water that remained on your ceiling during the draining process, as well as the debris when the contractor starts cutting away the damaged sections.
    1. All the water that is stuck on your ceiling will have to be drained out. To do that, a contractor will puncture the sections of your ceiling where water is present, such as the bulges on drywall, but these punctures should be done at some distance from your ceiling’s framing boards. Draining is crucial because your ceiling may collapse on its own if it can no longer handle the weight of the water.
    1. Depending on the condition, the contractor may choose to cut away only the sections that have been badly damaged by the leak. But if the water damage is too great, entire portions of your ceiling may have to be removed. This must be done carefully, especially if electrical wiring are installed behind the ceiling. Removal may not be done if the damage on your ceiling is limited to water stains and no mold is present.
    1. Allow the ceiling and the area directly below the leak to dry out. Various tools can be used to speed up the drying process.
    1. If the damage caused by the leak has affected components found behind your ceiling, such as the and wooden components, they need to be addressed first before replacing the damaged drywall or plaster of your ceiling.
    1. Once the sections that got wet but were not removed are completely dry and all the damaged components behind the ceiling are fixed, the contractor can now replace the sections of your ceiling that were removed. To do that, he or she first needs to smooth away the edges of the cut portions.
    1. Measure the cut-out section made on your ceiling and install the same size of drywall or , adding joint compound to make it stick.

    But if no section of your ceiling has been removed and only small holes were made, these holes will only need to be filled up with joint compound.

    1. Spread out the joint compound to make it even and cover the edges where the replacement and old sections of your ceiling meet. The contractor may also choose to cover up the entire replacement drywall or plaster with the joint compound.
    1. Allow the joint compound to dry for at least 24 hours before smoothening it out with sandpaper and painting over it.

    Again, addressing the leaks first is crucial before proceeding to get work done on your ceiling. You might think that these steps are simple enough to do but they really are not, especially when it comes to installing the new drywall or plaster on your ceiling. This is truly a job for the professionals.

    Getting Quotes from Competing Contractors

    Unless there is only one suitable contractor around to do the job for you, choosing which contractor to hire is another important step that homeowners like you may experience difficulty in. You might think they are all the same so, why not go for the one that offers the lowest price?

    When it comes to work on your home, including fixing your leaking ceiling, always go for the contractor who gives you the best offer. Do note that it may not necessarily be the cheapest.

    If one contractor offers to do the work for $200, yet another one offers the same work, plus checking up on your roof’s condition for $210 (with the additional work having a $70 value) which one would you rather go for?

    We’ll let you in on a secret: contractors will go the extra mile to offer you their best deals once they find out you are also considering their competition. They want to attract potential customers like you, that’s why they will not just lower their rates but they will also offer other services together with it to entice you to sign a contract with them.

    To make it easier, some offer the service of getting you in touch with the different contractors nearby who are aware that potential clients like you are not just talking to one contractor. You only need to complete a form and the potential contractors will reply with their rates and services. And as a result of the competition they are fully aware of, you will get the best deals they can possibly offer.

    You also need to master the art of negotiation when it comes to these matters. This is important if you want to get the best price you possibly can. If you are a good negotiator, you can even get the contractors to lower their prices even further.

    Inspector looking at damaged ceiling

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