As a homeowner, you're familiar with the feeling of dread that settles in your stomach when you look up to see a leaky, yellow patch in the ceiling. Your mind immediately leaps to the cost of the damage and repairs. You probably also wonder how you'll locate the source of the leak, and how to stop the leaking once you've found it.
If you've faced this situation before, you know how frustrating it can be. In this blog, we at EZ Plumbing will tell you how to diagnose a leaky ceiling and when to call the professionals. At the end of our blog, you'll be prepared to confidently deal with your next leaky ceiling.
Step 1: Rule out Other Possibilities
You first need to make sure a leak is really the culprit. If you noticed the leak in the bathroom or another humid room, like the laundry room, you should always take a second look. You might just have an issue with condensation.
Condensation can cause problems similar to leaks. It can discolour your ceiling, staining it yellow or brown. It can also cause mould. So how can you tell if you have a condensation problem rather than a leaky ceiling?
Ask yourself these questions:
Do I only use the bathroom fan rarely?
Have water droplets accumulated on multiple spots on the ceiling, not just one location?
Does the drywall beneath the water droplets feel solid instead of damp?
If you answer yes to all three questions, you might have a condensation problem, not a leak. Wipe the water droplets off the ceiling with a clean cloth. Then, open your windows or turn on the fan. Wait for the bathroom to dry out. As long as you continue to use the bathroom fan and ventilate the room correctly, the problem shouldn't recur.
However, if the drywall feels damp or if you see a ring of water damage, not just scattered droplets, you might have a leak.
Other telltale signs of a leak include:
Peeling, rotting, or damp wood
Discoloured stains in ring formations
Visible bulges in damp drywall
Water dripping from the ceiling
The earlier you catch a leak, the better. If water is already dripping onto the carpet, the structural damage from the leak is already severe.
Step 2: Identify the Problem
Once you've verified that you have a leak, you can start looking for the leak's cause. Ask yourself these questions to narrow down the suspects:
When does the leak occur? If you only notice the leak during rain or snow, or if the leak occurs several days after the most recent rain or snowfall, you probably have a roof problem. If the leak occurs regardless of the weather, you probably have a plumbing problem.
Is there a bathroom above the leaky ceiling? If so, check the plumbing fixtures to make sure they're not leaking. Do you see a pool of water, no matter how shallow, around any of your appliances or underneath the sink? Cracked sealant or fixture damage could cause the problem.
What colour is the leak? If the water from the leak is dirty, it might originate at the roof. If it's clear or seems fresh, it probably comes from a plumbing fixture or pipe.
These questions might not tell you exactly where the leak comes from, but they will help you decide if you should call a roofing professional along with a plumber. The more you can tell the plumber about the problem, the quicker he or she will be able to pinpoint the issue.
Step 3: Mitigate the Damage
Unless you know exactly where the leak comes from and can easily fix it, you'll want to call a plumber for help. While you wait for him or her to arrive, do what you can to minimize the water damage to your home:
Shut off the water supply to any leaky fixtures.
Turn of the electricity in the leaky area if water has pooled on the floor.
Place a bucket or trash can beneath the leak to catch the water.
Use a towel to soak up any water on the hardwood floor or carpet. You might need to use a wet/dry vacuum for excessive water.
Move any belongings near the leak to a safer, drier area.
Once your plumber locates the problem and stops the leak, you can begin the process of repairing your ceiling and floor. Use fans and dehumidifiers to dry out the wet area. Let the room air out for several days to dry the ceiling. If you spotted the leak early, simply drying it out might be enough to repair the ceiling. Otherwise, you'll need to patch and repaint the drywall.
When you follow these three steps, you'll be prepared to identify leaks, contact a plumber, and deal with damage before it becomes a big issue. Learn more by reading our informative blogs and do not hesitate to contact us at EZ Plumbing for more tips on coping with common plumbing issues.