How to Troubleshoot and Repair a Leaking Ceiling

Ceiling leaks can signal the presence of a larger problem lurking in the attic, roof, or upper floors. Identifying the ceiling leak, tracing it to its origin, and stopping it must all be done before repairing the ceiling.

Signs of a Leaking Ceiling

A ceiling leak can be as obvious as water dripping from the ceiling onto the floor, or it can manifest itself in ways that are more difficult to detect: musty smells, ceiling fixtures full of water, or infestations of insects. Most ceiling leaks are persistent, not one-off or isolated problems. The leak does pass through the ceiling, but it can also continue and drip down walls.

Bubbled Paint

Bubbled ceiling paint is often a sign of a ceiling leak. Interior latex paint is sturdy enough to hold in water, much like a balloon. So, the water passes through the ceiling drywall or plaster and is held back by the paint layer.

Dark or Rancid Water

The leaking water is often dark-colored and it will stain white or light ceilings or walls. It may smell mildewy or even rancid. Or, the water might be clear and odor-free.

Events Causing Leaks

A leaking ceiling can often appear after it rains or snows or with activities in the home, such as flushing a toilet or taking a shower. Ceiling patches may even indicate previous ceiling leaks.


Ceiling condensation is not a ceiling leak, though the two can be confused for each other. In ceiling condensation, steam collects on the ceiling and forms water drops, which give the impression of a ceiling leak. Ceiling condensation is the result of poorly ventilated bathrooms, kitchens, or laundry rooms.

Safety Considerations

Investigating and stopping ceiling leaks can place you in the way of any number of household dangers: lead-based paint in the ceiling; asbestos in the ceiling insulation or on pipe wrap; or black mold behind drywall or in insulation. Climbing ladders into attics or onto roofs may cause you to fall. Falls are a leading cause of household injuries or death.

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Examine Home for Internal Ceiling Leaks

Mark Pooled Water

Start at the water’s end-point. If the water is pooling on the ground, mark the area with a bucket, painter’s tape, or chalk.

Check for Condensation

Eliminate condensation as the cause of the ceiling leak. If condensation is the source, add an exhaust fan or run a dehumidifier.

Look Upward From Pooled Water

Follow the pool of water upward. The drip area on the ceiling is usually obvious and remains even after the drip has dried up. Water travels downward, seeking the path of least resistance, though sometimes with a circuitous route.

Mark Water Leak Area

If the drip area on the ceiling is widespread, mark its outline with a pencil. Test areas that are not visibly obvious with the moisture detector.


The shape of the outline can help you determine where the leak is coming from above the ceiling. If the outline is circular, there’s a good possibility that the leak is starting at the center point of that circle. If the leak is cone- or fan-shaped, the origin of the leak may be at the small part of the outline, with the water fanning outward from there.

Look for Collection Points

Light fixtures sometimes act as containers for ceiling leaks. The leak may not necessarily be directly above the fixture. Instead, the fixture is the lowest point on the ceiling, so it collects water. The tops of kitchen wall cabinets, too, act as collectors for water leaks.

Investigate Attic

If the area above the leak is an attic, access the attic by placing a ladder under the access door, usually located in a closet or a hallway. Bring a flashlight. Wear breathing protection and gloves. Locate the area of the leak. Roll up fiberglass insulation batts. For loose-fill cellulose insulation, scoop it up with a dustpan and set it aside.

Check Bottom of Roof

Visually follow a vertical sightline upward from the leak on top of the ceiling drywall. See if the underside of the roof is wet. Underside leaks of this type often start high and move downward. So, if the roof is leaking, the leak may be located at the beginning point of the leak’s path.

Investigate Upper Floor

If the area above the ceiling leak is a habitable floor instead of an attic, try to locate the exact area above the ceiling leak by measuring inward to the leak from the walls. If a bathroom is directly above the leak—specifically the bathroom’s toilet, shower, or bathtub—there is a good chance that the leak is coming from any of those. In some cases, water supply lines or drain lines behind walls or under floors may be leaking.

Examine Home for External Ceiling Leaks

Check Gutters

Rest the extension ladder against the house to look at the gutters. Gutters full of leaves or debris can overflow back into the house’s attic. Gutters that do not maintain a slope of at least a 1/4-inch vertical drop per 10 horizontal feet can collect water and send it back into the attic.

Investigate Roof

From the top of the ladder, look at the roof. Raised, damaged, or missing shingles may be leak points. Damaged shingles near the edge of the roof may indicate water leakage from ice dams.

Examine Roof Ridge and Flashing

Walk on the roof and further examine the shingles, along with the roof ridge. Look at the metal step flashing alongside the chimney for signs of water entry points. Check all pipes and vents that extend from the roof.

Disclaimer: Curated and re-published here. We do not claim anything as we translated and re-published using google translator. All images and Tattoo Design ideas shared only for information purpose.

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