What Are The Common Reasons for Water Damage To Your Ceiling?

Extreme weather

Storms, hurricanes, heavy rains, snow, and ice can damage your roof and ceiling. 

Clogged gutters

Twigs, leaves, and granules can clog your gutters and direct water to your home. The water may seep through your walls or roof and damage the ceiling. 

AC unit

Condensation from your AC unit could damage your ceiling. A clogged drainpipe or a full drain pan may leak into your ceiling. 

Leaky pipes 

Faulty pipes above your ceiling can wreak havoc in your home. The pipes could be drainage pipes, supply pipes to sinks and washing machines. 

Sprinkler systems 

Water from the slightest signs of a fire can cause extensive damage. Faulty sprinklers can also damage your ceiling. 

Identifying the Source of Mystery Leaks

Your roof is responsible for keeping water out of your home, but rain is not the only source of moisture. Have you failed to find a hole in your roof? Consider alternative problems. Condensation builds up around pipes and ductwork. Plumbing leaks. How can you tell whether water is coming from one of these sources instead of your roof?

Ruling out a leaking water pipe is simple. Your water meter keeps track of the gallons you’re using in real time. Turn off all the water features in your home, and if your usage continues to climb, you know you need to shut off the supply to the house and call a plumber. Detecting a condensation problem is trickier.

Chances are your attic is a den of hot, humid air. This also occurs in the spaces between the exterior and interior walls of your home. Normally, indoor humidity doesn’t get high enough to damage the building materials in the structure. The problem occurs when ductwork and plumbing transports cold air and cold water through these hot areas.

Warm air is capable of holding more moisture than cold air, so when the air around cold ductwork and cold water pipes drops, the moisture it’s holding needs somewhere to go. It pools on metal surfaces, and when enough droplets form, it drips off onto wood, insulation, wiring and other materials in hidden areas of your home. Condensation problems usually come to light when mold in the attic from a roof leak spreads from these areas through drywall or ceiling panels into living areas.

Periodic energy audits and insulation updates help prevent condensation problems and resulting damage.


How to Tell If Your Drywall Needs to Be Replaced

If you’re not sure whether a ceiling has suffered from water damage, there are a few signs you can look for that can cause you to need professional service.

Here’s what to keep an eye out for:

Here’s what to keep an eye out for:

  • Sagging Drywall – Drywall that appears to sag can mean it has absorbed an excessive level of water. This presence of moisture causes it to bludge and sag over time, changing the shape of the ceiling. Another sign of sagging, if not apparent right away, is loosened bolts and screws around the wall. If you notice significant sagging, you need to replace it as soon as possible.
  • Soft Drywall Feel – Drywall should feel hard and dry. If it’s soft and feels wet or mushy, that’s a sign you need to replace your ceiling drywall.
  • Discoloration – Staining and discoloration of the ceiling drywall is an easy-to-spot indicator of water damage. Painting these stains is not the solution, but replacing the drywall is.
  • Mold – If mold has started to grow on your ceiling, it’s a matter of health as well as a matter of structural integrity that you replace the ceiling as soon as you can. Certain molds are toxic to humans, and some people with respiratory problems or allergies may be more prone to health problems.

How to Repair External Ceiling Leaks

  1. Fix Leaking Gutters

    1. Clean the gutters and downspouts. Run water to check for flow.
    2. Measure the gutters’ slope. Minor sags can be corrected by re-screwing the affected section of the gutter. For major sags, remove and replace the gutters.
    3. Add screens over the gutters to prevent leaves and debris from settling in.
  2. Replace Missing or Damaged Shingles

    Remove the damaged shingles, then replace with new, matching shingles. If the wood roof deck below the shingles is damaged or rotted out, it will need to be replaced.

  3. Add Ice Dam Protection

    A long strip of ice dam membrane can be added along the edge of the roof to prevent thawed ice from leaking under shingles and into the attic. This is best installed prior to installing new shingles, not retroactively.

    However, you can add electric heating cables that run in a zig-zag pattern to melt ice dams before they form. Electric heating cables are attached to the top of the shingles.

  4. Replacing Leaking Flashing and Vents

    For minor step flashing problems, you can replace the bent or missing areas with pre-formed sections of step flashing. For replacing all of the flashing, consult with a roofing company or mason.

Repairing a Drywall Ceiling Yourself

As with many other home repair projects, you can often fix a damaged ceiling yourself. This is especially true of a drywall ceiling. Thankfully, you will rarely have to replace the entire ceiling.

Repair Options for Drywall Ceilings

There are a few choices available for fixing drywall although not all are advisable for use in ceilings. The three most common methods are:

  • Self-adhesive drywall mesh – This metal mesh is useful for patching holes in drywall and provides a means to support your spackle. Unfortunately, mesh repairs tend to sag when used on ceilings and are thus not a good choice.
  • Drywall access panels – One option that has seen some popularity growth is the installation of a drywall access hatch when repairing a section of damaged ceiling. Not only does the hatch installation replace the damaged portion of drywall ceiling, it also provides a means to inspect periodically for further damage. Hatches are especially useful when installed under plumbing that is known develop leaks.
  • Replacing an individual section – Perhaps the most popular method is to simply cut out the damaged section of drywall and put a new panel in its place. This works best in smaller areas, although high ceilings may be more difficult to work on.

Gathering Supplies

Before attempting repairs, it is best to gather the necessary supplies. You will also want to keep pets and small children out of the room until all repairs are finished. To effectively repair the ceiling, you will need:

  • pencil and combination square
  • drywall joint compound
  • four or six inch putty knife or drywall blade
  • 12 inch drywall blade
  • cordless drill
  • drywall repair panel (measuring two by two by one-half inches)
  • one and one-fourth inch drywall screws (course threaded)
  • drywall screw setters
  • tape measure
  • utility knife
  • self-stick fiberglass drywall tape
  • six inch and twelve inch drywall taping blades
  • drywall jab saw
  • drywall sanding sponge
  • nine by four by one-half inch plywood board to use as a brace (note that SHEETROCK drywall repair clips may be used instead)
  • drop cloth

The cost of one panel, a gallon of compound, a four-pack of screw setters, and a roll of tape will generally run about $23 at places such as Home Depot, making this a relatively inexpensive project if you have access to the tools.

Step 1: Removing the Damaged Section

There may be wires or other delicate items located above the damaged portion of your ceiling. If you cannot access the space to check the area, carefully cut a small hole using your utility knife. Use a flashlight and small mirror to check the area for potential problems before attempting to cut out the section.

Once you have determined where to cut, use your jab saw to cut a rough square around the hole. Do not worry about straight edges yet. If the leak is near a metal drywall ceiling support, your cuts will be restricted to this area for now. Be sure to cut some distance from the damaged portion. You may also wish to use some homemade mold spray around the area before proceeding to kill any mold spores which have taken root.

Step 2: Completing the Cuts

Using your square, pencil out the edges around your repair area. Be sure to make your lines partially overlap any metal drywall runners for better anchoring. Gently score the covering paper along the lines with your utility knife, then insert and rock the blade back and forth along the scored lines, making several passes. Finally, finish with a longer deep pass. Do this process for all four edges.

Step 3: Bracing the Drywall

Take the plywood board and place it inside your opening along an edge opposite a drywall runner. Use your drywall screws and screw setters to attach the plywood brace to the inside of the existing drywall, leaving a two inch clearance. One screw per side is sufficient, and you do not need to screw a side which connects to a runner. The braces and runners will provide a sturdy flange on which to mount the replacement drywall piece.

Step 4: Cutting the Replacement Panel

Measure and mark the dimensions for the replacement panel using your square and paper. Be sure to make your new panel between one-eighths and three-sixteenths of an inch smaller than the opening you are filling. This will keep the panel from binding.

Step 5: Installing the New Panel

Carefully cut the board, then trim to fit with your utility knife. Use four drywall screws to fasten the panel to the backer board and metal runners. Apply the self-adhesive fiberglass drywall tape along the joints to create a seal.

Next, apply a thin coat of joint compound over the tape with the smaller putty knife. Immediately after coating the tape, spread a thin coating of compound with your 12-inch blade, feathering the edges as you go. It is important to work quickly, as the compound does not take long to dry. Only a thin layer is needed, as you will need to sand off the excess. Allow the patch to dry overnight.

Step 6: Finishing

Take a wet sanding sponge and gently smooth out any high spots and feather the edges to help the patch blend in. Be sure to wring out any excess water and rinse the sponge when necessary to prevent any clogging from compound debris. Allow to dry. You may wish to add a second layer of compound and repeat the drying and sanding process.

As a final step, paint the area over. You may wish to take a piece of the removed drywall for color matching if your ceiling is a particular shade or the patch is otherwise visible.

Get Professional Help for Ceiling Water Damage

Managing ceiling water damage is essential as soon as it happens. Hiring a professional is vital for quality repairs and immediate action. AdvantaClean services are your go-to when you need professional water damage restoration. We also provide mold remediation and moisture control services. Reach out today for a free consultation and a quote on ceiling water damage repair cost.

For 24/7 response to your ceiling water damage, fast water damage restoration and a quote on your ceiling water damage repair costs, contact AdvantaClean today.

Examine Home for Internal Ceiling Leaks

Mark Pooled Water

Start at the water’s end-point. If the water is pooling on the ground, mark the area with a bucket, painter's tape, or chalk.

Check for Condensation

Eliminate condensation as the cause of the ceiling leak. If condensation is the source, add an exhaust fan or run a dehumidifier.

Look Upward From Pooled Water

Follow the pool of water upward. The drip area on the ceiling is usually obvious and remains even after the drip has dried up. Water travels downward, seeking the path of least resistance, though sometimes with a circuitous route.

Mark Water Leak Area

If the drip area on the ceiling is widespread, mark its outline with a pencil. Test areas that are not visibly obvious with the moisture detector.


The shape of the outline can help you determine where the leak is coming from above the ceiling. If the outline is circular, there's a good possibility that the leak is starting at the center point of that circle. If the leak is cone- or fan-shaped, the origin of the leak may be at the small part of the outline, with the water fanning outward from there.

Look for Collection Points

Light fixtures sometimes act as containers for ceiling leaks. The leak may not necessarily be directly above the fixture. Instead, the fixture is the lowest point on the ceiling, so it collects water. The tops of kitchen wall cabinets, too, act as collectors for water leaks.

Investigate Attic

If the area above the leak is an attic, access the attic by placing a ladder under the access door, usually located in a closet or a hallway. Bring a flashlight. Wear breathing protection and gloves. Locate the area of the leak. Roll up fiberglass insulation batts. For loose-fill cellulose insulation, scoop it up with a dustpan and set it aside.

Check Bottom of Roof

Visually follow a vertical sightline upward from the leak on top of the ceiling drywall. See if the underside of the roof is wet. Underside leaks of this type often start high and move downward. So, if the roof is leaking, the leak may be located at the beginning point of the leak's path.

Investigate Upper Floor

If the area above the ceiling leak is a habitable floor instead of an attic, try to locate the exact area above the ceiling leak by measuring inward to the leak from the walls. If a bathroom is directly above the leak—specifically the bathroom's toilet, shower, or bathtub—there is a good chance that the leak is coming from any of those. In some cases, water supply lines or drain lines behind walls or under floors may be leaking.

Step 4: Repairing the Damage

Restore your ceiling and the surrounding area. Once the water damage restoration is complete, it’s time to put your home back together! If you are replacing the drywall yourself, make sure to note how thick your existing drywall is. The process involves cutting a patch to fit your hole, screwing the patch into place on the wall, taping around the joint, and mudding. You may want to do an internet search for step-by-step instructions, or skip the hassle. Your property restoration company will have capable professionals equipped to make everything look brand new. When water damage strikes, get restoration done right. Make Hays + Sons your first call.


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