Repairing water marks on a ceiling is not a particularly difficult thing to do if you know how to do it properly, but before you begin your repairs, make sure that whatever was causing the damage has been fixed. This type of damage can occur from a leaky roof, an overflowing bathtub or even a leaking pipe. So check your roof for leaks or a problem with the flashing. Make sure that caulking around the bathtub and shower is thoroughly sealed. Generally a leaking roof will only damage the ceiling on the top floor of a house, so if you have a two story house and you see water damage on the first floor or even the basement ceiling, it is most likely caused by something else. Regardless of where the water damage appears, before you begin repairing it, make sure that the true cause of the leak has been found and repaired.
Measuring the Damage At its simplest level, you can repair a water stain on the ceiling by sealing it and repainting the area to match the rest of the ceiling. Before you start painting though, you will need to assess the ceiling to see if a drywall repair is in order. Sometimes when the drywall of a ceiling has been softened by water, it will be mushy or crumbly and will not properly hold paint. In this case you will need to cut out the damaged section of ceiling with a utility knife and replace it with a new piece of drywall. When you patch a ceiling in this fashion, make sure that your drywall compound has thoroughly dried before trying to paint it. Any time the drywall has been damaged to the point of being crumbly, make sure to replace the damaged section before painting.
Light Stains For less severe water damage, you can try bleaching the area and skip repainting all together. To treat the ceiling with bleach, pour some bleach into a small container, and lightly dab it onto the stained area of ceiling. You may have to apply it several times before the stain completely fades away. If a little touch up is needed, you can use white chalk or ceiling paint.
Severe Stains For areas of the ceiling that have sustained heavier water damage, you must first be sure that the ceiling is completely dry and not crumbly. Then use a good quality stain blocking primer to seal the area and keep the water stain from bleeding through the paint. When you are selecting the best primer to use for this job, look for a primer that is designed especially to seal out stains. After the area has been sealed, then you can paint the ceiling. Remember to let each layer of primer and paint dry completely before adding the next layer to the ceiling.
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