It’s not something you want to see on the ceiling: a circular stain of discoloration marring the pleasing décor of a room. But when you notice a ceiling stain, the solution isn’t to get a can of paint and brush over it to disguise it. A ceiling stain is often an indication of a more serious problem that will require calling on a professional plumber to repair it.
What Might Cause a Ceiling Stain?
The likely cause is a leaking pipe. It doesn’t take much water to create damage to the drywall of most ceilings. Even a small buildup will rapidly begin to eat through the drywall, as well as create mold and mildew that cause further damage. If the stain is located beneath an upstairs bathroom, then leaking pipes are almost certainly the source. The bathroom has more plumbing pipes concentrated in it than any other room in the house (this includes the kitchen) so even a small leak in this spot can mean a lot of water.
It can also mean a lot of trouble: the leak might have been going on for a while before you noticed it. The water damage weakens flooring material with wood rot, and this can lead to parts of the ceiling starting to fall in. The worst case scenario—and yes, this does happen—is for the toilet to crash through the floor. You don’t want to hesitate when it comes to finding out if you’ve got a plumbing leak.
There are other possibilities. The problem may be a leaking roof that’s allowing water down into building materials. The leak might be coming from the bathroom, but not from a leaky pipe: deteriorating caulking around sinks and showers can allow water to seep through the floors.
What Needs to Be Done
First, don’t worry about the stain itself—it’s not the current priority. It will get taken care of later. Worry that you may have leaking plumbing. If you live in an older house (built pre-1970), this could be a major warning that your old pipes are starting to decay. Galvanized steel pipes are prone to corrosion, and if you still have these types of pipes in your home, you may need more extensive repiping than fixing that single leak. Call a plumber no matter what so you’ll have the problem correctly identified and fixed.
And please, don’t try to cut through part of your ceiling to reach the pipe and attempt a DIY fix. You might end up causing even more water damage—possibly to other parts of your house. A licensed plumber will have the job done right and done fast, with no mess. Then you can worry about taking care of the unsightly stain. That’s usually the easiest part.
Mallick Plumbing & Heating is the Service Contractor of Choice for Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.