Project Book: Repairing Water Stains on Ceilings or Walls

After a winter with as much snow build up as the one we just experienced, this spring will find many people with water stains on their ceilings or walls. This can be a symptom of a few different problems so it’s best to identify where the damage is coming from before we start the restoration. An ice damn may have sprung a leak in your roof over the long, hard New England winter, or you may have a leaking pipe somewhere hidden behind the walls. If you are planning on replacing your walls, then consider getting Woodgrain Wall Paneling for a luxurious look for your home after you are done with the water damage restoration

Make sure the area you will be working is well ventilated. Wear gloves, mask and eye protection.  Exercise caution in cleaning and disinfecting molds because they release mold spores when disturbed.  Never mix bleach with any other cleaning product; the fumes from that combination could be toxic. 


Find The SourceWhen dealing with a water stain, your first step ALWAYS needs to be identifying the source of the problem.  You need to find out how and where water entered you home and then properly repair it before any more damage can occur. Once you have the cause of the water stains fixed, it’s important to let the affected area dry out completely.


There are several areas which are the most common offenders when it comes to cause water damage to your roof, and most of them have a nice easy fix!


A burst or leaking water pipe is a very common culprit when looking at water damage on ceilings. A leaking pipe can be cause by freezing, metal fatigue, a loose connection, worn out washer, nut, connection, or any number of other issues. A leaking pipe could quickly become worse and could necessitate the removal of part of the ceiling to find the source. However, it’s still preferable to remove and repair a piece of the ceiling than to have a waterfall in your house!


Ice dams build up along the gutters and the edge of roofs that can force water up and underneath the eaves. When ice dams melt, water can leak through any damage made in your roof by that very same ice dam! A winter with wild temperature swings that are constantly rising above and dipping below freezing can be a disaster for roofs and ceilings alike!

Lucky for you we thought ahead and have plenty of information on ice dams. CLICK HERE to read more!


Roof damage, such as missing shingles, worn out flashing around chimneys and vents and obstructed or damaged gutters can all cause the water you want kept outside to come inside. Depending on the affected area, it may take a very long time for the water to soak through layers of absorbent insulation to reach the ceiling plaster. This can not only cause tons of damage to the roof, plaster, and ceiling, but also create mold which will need to be dealt with. Inspect your roof regularly!


Sometimes the problem isn’t as big and glaring as a leaking pipe or missing shingles. Several areas in a bathroom can leak water which will be noticed on the next floor beneath it in your home.

Check the area around your bathtub, shower, and sink for signs of water damage such as:

  • Peeling paint
  • Spreading Discoloration
  • Sag

Removing the old caulk and adding a nice tight seal should fix any immediate problems around this problem area.


spraying-concrobium-mold-cutterOnce you’ve remedied your leak and let the affected area dry, your next step is to treat for mold. Microscopic mold spores can begin to germinate within only 24 hours of the leak.

There are a few options for killing mold; the most popular being to use a diluted bleach solution. However, bleach is only effective if the mold is growing on non-porous materials such as tiles, bathtubs, glass and counter tops.

Because bleach cannot penetrate into porous materials, it does not come into contact with mold growing beneath the surface of materials such as wood and drywall. Using bleach on these materials will only kill the mold above the surface. The mold’s roots within the material will remain and the mold will soon return.

Since your ceilings and walls are most likely made of porous materials, you should use a product like Concrobium Mold Control. Instead of using harsh chemicals to kill the mold spores, this product’s patented formula coats the spores and seals them so they essentially starve. The added benefit is that as it coats the surface, it provides a protective barrier that keeps mold from attacking in the future.  For more detailed information on how this product works, check out our Concrobium Mold Control Product Spotlight blog post.


Priming Over Water Stain CeilingNow that you have eliminated the problem and taken care of the mold, you’ll want to get everything back to looking normal. That involves paint and primer.

For small leaks that don’t require drywall repair, the best option is to prime the affected surface with a solvent-based primer. Using a water-based primer will not be sufficient. Water stains are able to permeate through water-based products. Your solvent-based primer can either be oil based (such as Benjamin Moore’s Prime Lock) or shellac-based (like Zinsser’s B I N.).


rollOnce you have your surface primed you can use an high quality latex paint to finish the job. Now your ceilings and walls not only lacks water stains, but also have a nice, fresh coat of paint.  This is sure to brighten up the room!


A water stain isn’t something to ignore. It also isn’t merely a cosmetic issue to be painted over and forgotten about.  Here at Koopman, we’ve got all of the advice and tools you’ll need to fix the problem that led to that unsightly water stain and then get your house back to looking like it should. Stop by one of our conveniently located stores or visit us online at Koopmanlumber.com!

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