Tips for Dealing With a Leaky Ceiling

As a homeowner, you’re probably familiar with the sinking feeling in your stomach when you look up and see a yellow, leaky patch in the ceiling. Your thoughts turn to the cost of repairs. You’re probably also wondering how you’ll find the source of the leak and stop it once you’ve found it.

If you’ve ever been in this situation, you understand how annoying it can be. Ceiling leaks can indicate the presence of a more significant issue in the roof, attic, or upper floors. Before repairing the ceiling, it is necessary to identify the leak, trace it to its source, and stop it.

Signs of a Leaking Ceiling

A ceiling leak can be as apparent as water dripping from your ceiling onto your floor or can manifest itself in less obvious ways, such as ceiling fixtures filled with water, musty odors, or insect infestations. The majority of ceiling leaks are ongoing issues rather than isolated incidents. 

The leak goes through your ceiling. Still, it can also drip down the walls.

Bubbled Paint

A ceiling leak is frequently indicated by bubbled ceiling paint. Interior latex paint is strong enough to hold water, similar to a balloon. As a result, the paint layer stops the water from moving through the ceiling plaster or drywall (check out the different types of ceiling textures and drywall options!).

Rancid or Dark Water

Leaking water is frequently dark in color and will stain light or white walls or ceilings. It may have a mildewy or even rancid odor. Alternatively, the water could be clear and odorless.

Stopping the Leak

 a man collecting water leakage in a bucket while calling the plumber

If you notice water dripping from discoloration or bulge in your ceiling, water is probably pooling on the other corner of that dark spot or bulge. Place a trash can, bucket, or other containers beneath the suspected leak or drip. You might even consider placing a board within the container so that the drops hit the board rather than the accumulated water, which will reduce the repetitive dripping sound.

Next, using an old screwdriver, track down the middle of the bulge where water is piling up and puncture it directly in the center. Though it may appear strange to poke a hole in your ceiling to contain a leak, the new spot will let the water smoothly drain while relieving pressure on the rest of your ceiling. If water builds up and pools, the entire ceiling may collapse.

Cover the outer layer with a large tarp if you are sure you know where the leak is flowing from and can safely get to the source. If you can’t reach it or feel unsafe doing so, you should immediately call a roofing professional. Many reputable roofing companies provide emergency tarping.

As you may be aware, if the roof is actively leaking because of the weather, a roofing professional will be unable to repair the leak until the weather has stopped. The tarping service will serve as a temporary fix to minimize damage inside your household until your roofer can resolve the issue.

A trusted roofing professional will examine your roof from the outside and the inside of your home. Inspecting the roof sheeting’s underside can reveal signs of water damage, but it is not a foolproof method; therefore, inspecting the roof for damage is also necessary.

The Risks of Waiting

a man fixing his roof

When there is a roof leak, it is critical to act quickly. Roof leaks never get better or repair themselves. Even if the leak isn’t yet severe, fix it immediately.

We frequently hear from homeowners who noticed a stain on their ceilings or possibly some bubbling but thought it wasn’t serious. Ignoring and avoiding a roof leak will not solve the problem. Often, by the time you start noticing damage in your home, it is too late.

The National Roofing Contractors Association advises having your roof inspected twice a year, in the spring and fall. Here’s what to look for to keep a fixable problem from becoming a costly and damaging repair:

Look for the following on the inside:

  • Dark spots
  • Sagging
  • Spots where external light shines through

Keep an eye out for the following on the outside:

  • Shingles that are missing, rotting, warped, peeling, blistering, broken, or buckling
  • Loose or worn material around vents or chimneys
  • Clogged or slow-draining downspouts/gutters

If your roof is less than 15 years old, it can most likely be repaired rather than replaced entirely. Remember that a minor leak will not go away; it will only worsen.

Roof leaks are frequently symptoms of a much bigger issue. If left unaddressed, the likelihood of structural erosion and danger increases. Regular roof inspections are your best line of defense against a leaking roof. Keep an eye out for leaks and regularly communicate with your contractor about your roof’s condition.

What Should You Do If Water Is Seeping Through Your Ceiling?

When you discover a leak, the priority is to contain it.

Get Something to Keep the Water Contained

Take out one or more waterproof canisters to catch any dripping water. To prevent falling water from splashing out when it comes to the containers, line them with a towel or an old t-shirt.

Cover or Relocate Your Furniture

Remove any decor or furniture that is in the way of the water. If you can’t move something, cover it with a waterproof cover. If you don’t have a plastic sheeting or tarp, you can use a vinyl tablecloth, a deflated kiddie pool, vinyl shower curtains, or a waterproof tent.

Soak Up Any Water on the Floor

a girl mopping the wooden floor of her house

If you do not remove the water from your floor quickly enough, the flooring may develop mildew/mold or warp. Using old towels or a mop, soak it up. You can use a dry/wet vacuum (such as a Shop-Vac) for a large pool of water.

Make a Small Drainage Hole

You want to assist the leaking water drain downward, which may seem counterintuitive. This will keep it from spreading across the ceiling and weighing down the structure.

Grab a sturdy stool or ladder and use a screwdriver to make a drainage hole in the center of the bubbling or dark spot— make sure there’s something beneath to catch the water first! Don’t be concerned about making a hole in your ceiling. If water has already soaked through, you must repair that section.

Contact a Roofer or a Plumber

Even if you can’t pinpoint the exact source of a ceiling leak, the weather outside can tell you what kind of leak you have. If it is raining, you most likely have a roof leak. If there’s no rain, you most likely have a plumbing leak.