Ceiling Leaks

Ceiling Leaks

It’s one of a homeowner’s worst nightmares.  A water spot on the ceiling.  Or, worse, water leaking from the ceiling.  It can cause drywall and structural damage, mold growth, and damage to your possessions if the leak becomes major.

While your immediate inclination may be to call your friendly neighborhood plumber, there may be other factors at work.  Here are some reasons water can come through the ceiling that are NOT related to plumbing:

  1. If water is coming through your ceiling during heavy rain, the problem may be with your roof, or blocked gutters.
  2. Similarly, water can freeze and get under the roof during the winter, and can cause spotting and leaks when the ice melts.
  3. Snow can also blow through a ridge vent (vent installed at the peak of a sloped roof which allows warm, humid air to escape a building’s attic) during a heavy snow storm and, once it melts, cause spots and leaks.
  4. While water that comes through a ceiling after a shower can be the result of a plumbing leak, it can also be the result of missing grout or caulk, or a poor seal on a shower door.

Of course, there is the real possibility that the leak is due to a plumbing problem, such as a leaky toilet, sink or shower, or a bad water or drain pipe.  Here are some things you can do to determine the cause of the leak:

  1. If the leak only occurs during bad weather, or the winter, the problem could be with the roof or gutters.  You can check the gutters yourself, and have a roofing professional check the roof.  Leaks that occur in all types of weather may not be related to the roof.
  2. Check the water.  If it is dirty or stains the ceiling, that is another indication there might be a leak in the roof.  Clean or fresh water suggests a leaking plumbing line or fixture.

So what if the leak is coming from your bathroom?  The only absolute way to determine the source of the leak is to open the ceiling and run each fixture individually until you determine the leak source.  If you don’t want to open the ceiling, you can try the following:

  1. Check the exposed supply piping to the lavatory faucet and the toilet.
  2. Two –piece toilets will have a gasket between the tank and bowl.  Check the tank to bowl seam for leaks.
    The connection between the toilet and floor is sealed by a wax ring.  If the wax ring wears out, or if the toilet rocks on the floor, it can cause water to leak onto the bathroom floor or straight through to the ceiling below when the toilet is flushed.
  3. If the leak occurs only when you are using one particular fixture, the drain line serving that fixture may be compromised.  You can test this by only using the toilet in that bathroom for a few days, followed by only using the faucet for a few days, etc. to help determine which fixture is the culprit.
  4. The easiest way to check for a leak from grout, caulk or seal around the shower door is to use a hand spray to spray water all over the interior surfaces of the shower and the shower door.  If you lack the expertise, call a tile company or a shower door company for these repairs.
  5. If the leak continues long after you have run any water, it may be from a water pipe that is leaking.

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*Based on research conducted January - August 2016