How to Fix Water Stains on Ceiling

Water stains on ceilings is one of those home repair projects that demands attention.

It can either be an old problem whose cause was repaired but not finished or a new problem that needs identified before it leads to more damage. Either way, it’s a something that makes a difference when done right.

Identify the Source

The first step in solving a water stain problem is understanding when the water damage happened. With just a bit of work, you can narrow down the problem.

1. Is this a new or old water stain?

Have you known about this for a while and simply not repainted it? Did the homes previous owners disclose water damage and you are just now getting to fixing it? Or have you just noticed it, and it’s wet, and you’re starting to get worried.

2. Where is the stain?

Is there a bathroom above it? Maybe the tub over flowed at some point and the water stained the ceiling. Perhaps there’s a slow leak from the toilet.

Is it close to an outside wall? If this is the case, you’ll need to look at the roof and downspouts. There might be a clog in a downspout and water is heading into the house. Or you might have roof damage and need some shingles repaired.

Is the water stain under your HVAC system? In Philadelphia, there are quite a few older homes that can have leaking pipes or old radiator systems that should be checked out. Doing a little investigating will provide indication of how to tackle the source of the problem.

3. Can you fix the problem or do you need a professional?

You know your skills and limits. Some of these problems are easier to fix than others and a quick trip to the home improvement store might be all you need. But water damage is not something to mess around with so make sure everything is fixed before moving on.

How to Fix Water Stains on Ceiling

Once your repairs are complete, you’ll need to do a few things before simply slapping some paint on the ceiling. Take the time to gather all your supplies to clean, prime and paint the area.

1. Clean and disinfect the stained area

This step is critical to the success of the project. The stain could have mildew, grease, dirt or other gross stuff that you’ll not only want to clean up but also their removal helps the paint adhere better. Bonus: cleaning the stain can lighten the stain so the new paint does not need to work as hard to cover it up. To clean the area, you’ll need bleach, sponge, bucket, ladder, drop cloth, clean towel and safety goggles.

Set up a drop cloth on the floor to protect any bleach drips that can stain your floor.

Put on your safety googles! Bleach is not something you want in your eye. Mix 3 cups of water with 1 cup of bleach. Mix to combine, soak your sponge, wring it out a bit so it’s wet but not dripping. Rub the sponge onto the stain and completely work the entire area. A ladder will be easier to reach the ceiling than just a chair. You may be able to see the stain coming out a bit!

Grab your clean towel and get it damp with clean water. Rub the stain again, removing the bleach and anything else that comes off. You could also use a spray bottle if you’d rather. Spray a light mist on the stain and rub that off with a dry towel. Let the ceiling dry.

2. Prime the ceiling with appropriate paint

Again, another step that is tempting to skip but is important to the success of fixing your water stain. Interior latex paint is water soluble meaning that it dissolves if paint comes in contact with water. While this is great for cleaning up after a painting project, it’s not good when repairing water caused ceiling issues. Head out to purchase an oil-based, mold-resistant, stain-blocking primer. For this part of the project you will need a paint roller with an extender, 3/8 nap roller cover if you have smooth ceilings or ¾ – 1 ¼ naps for textured ceilings, painters tape, a brush to edge with, and that drop cloth and safety googles from before. A paint sprayer is also appropriate and they can be rented if you’d rather use that.

Because this is simply a primer coat with a purpose, you don’t need to paint the entire ceiling.  Make sure you get the entire stained area covered and perhaps a few inches around that.

Painting ceilings is hard work. While it looks easy, the process of tilting your head up is not a natural motion. You’ll need that paint extender, safety googles, and lots of time. Depending where your stain is, you might want to apply some painters tape to your walls so you don’t hit them getting too close with the roller. Also, you’ll want a brush to edge around those walls since you can’t get close enough with the roller.

Pro tip: grab a damp cloth to carry around with you. When you notice a drip on the wall or floor, simply wipe it up as soon as possible with that cloth.

3. Paint the ceiling

Here’s where the transformation happens. When this step is complete, you’ll have a clean, new ceiling that you’ll want to just keep looking at. Ceilings get dirty and faded from their unique sun patterns so you’ll want to repaint the entire ceiling, not simply the patched area. And plan on 2 coats of paint to make sure you get everything covered and uniform.

Yes, there is special ceiling paint to use. It’s a bit thicker than wall paint and has a different shine to it. To finish this project, you’ll need to get your roller with extender, a cleaned out or new roller cover, painters tape and brush for edging, drop cloth, maybe a ladder, safety googles, and your ceiling paint of choice.

Take a moment and make a plan for painting around lights or other ceiling issues. Removing lighting fixtures provides a better final project. If you don’t want to remove things, make sure you seal their edges with painters tape.

If you did not edge around the walls when you primed, you certainly will need to do that now. Take your roll of painters tape (typically a bright blue color) and attach it on the wall right where it meets the ceiling. Press it down with your fingers so it really sticks. This way, when you paint close to the wall, your brush will hit the tape and not the wall.

Some people prefer to edge around with a brush first and then roll the ceiling. The benefit of that is you go over the brushed part with the roller which looks better than seeing brush strokes.  It’s not a big deal, especially on a ceiling. You’ll need your ladder for this one, or a really tall friend.

Once you’ve taped, edged, and rolled, let everything dry for a few hours. It will say on your paint can how long you need to wait before the second coat goes on. Then paint on that second coat, let it dry and enjoy your new ceiling.

Contact the professionals at Heiler Painting today!

Would you rather a professional take on this project? Heiler Painting would love to fix the water stains on your ceiling. We are Philadelphia’s favorite painting company because of our quality work and commitment to excellence. Simply put, we treat your home like ours.

Find out why Heiler Painting is considered the best house painting contractors in Philadelphia. Our proven process ensures your painting project will be handled properly and your home will be treated with the care it deserves.

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