When you see it, your heart skips a beat. That yellowish-brown stain on your ceiling – It’s not a good sign, but what exactly does it mean and why is it there? Greg and Brandon from G&C Plumbing and Heating have a few explanations to help keep you out of the emergency room.
The Good News Is, It’s Not Always a Plumbing Problem
“Well, that might not actually be good news either, because it typically means you probably need some repair work done on your roof,” said Greg Sheck, Grand Master Plumber and guy who has inspected about a gazillion ugly ceiling stains over the course of his career.
When stains appear at the ceilings along outside walls at the corners, it’s typically ice dam related. If the insulation in the attic is insufficient and there are attic air leaks, it’s very likely that ice dams caused the leaking. “In these cases, you’re going to have to call a roofer, not a plumber, sorry,” said Greg.
Stains Around the Bathroom Fan
“This is a very common ceiling stain spot and it’s caused by condensation,” said Greg. When a bathroom exhaust fan is connected to an un-insulated or under-insulated duct and doesn’t make an airtight connection to the roof cap, the moisture doesn’t exhaust properly and condenses like crazy. “The moisture then condenses inside the duct and eventually drains down to the bottom and leaks on the ceiling next to the fan.” Gross ceiling stains ensues.
“The easy fix is to make sure the duct for the bathroom exhaust fan is properly installed and insulated and we can help with that,” said Greg.
Stains Below Bathroom Fixtures
“These make up the majority of ceiling stains that we encounter,” said Greg. “As soon as you notice a leak, inspect it because consistent leaking will quickly destroy your ceiling and left untreated, you’ll end up with a hole in your ceiling which is even worse than a stain.”
Toilets are a big source for the ugly yellow stain which is why Greg and Brandon are always encouraging you to test your John for leaks.
Water supply lines that attach to the toilet or to the sink trap are also a big culprit for ceiling stains. The leak may come from water seeping out at the point where the water supply lines join, or maybe the connector joints need tightening. “Feel along the water supply line for dampness to find your problem. If it’s simply a matter of a loose connection, you can try tightening it, but you may have to replace the whole fitting if that doesn’t work,” said Greg who really should just say “call me,” at this point.
Drain pipe leaks are those that appear and disappear across your ceiling. If the drainpipe is the culprit, you’ll have to replace the fittings. “Most modern drainpipes are either made with black ABS or white PVC. You’ll need to make sure that you get the right tools needed to replace the fittings, including the specific type of glue and primer needed to reattach PVC or ABS,” said Greg but if you don’t want to end up smashing your bathroom with a hammer out of frustration, just give him a call instead for Pete’s sake.
A bad caulk job. Sometimes the problem is not that bad, maybe your kid forgot to bring the shower curtain liner in the tub with him and the caulk around your tub or tile just needs repairing. Phew!
“Check the ceramic tile walls surrounding your tub, shower, and floor. Cracks can develop in the grout between the tiles, allowing moisture to seep through. To stop the leak and prevent further damage you’ll need to seal all the places where water can penetrate,” said Greg. (Hey, we actually did a blog on this already – score!)
Yes, the yellow stain on your ceiling is bad news and yes, you need to fix it – just setting a bucket under the growing stain to wait for the dripping to start is not going to help lower your blood pressure or make the problem go away. If you just can’t bring yourself to look at it, give the guys a call and they can have you fixed up in no time.