Water-stained ceilings are unsightly, but often enough, minor damage can be repaired so your ceiling looks good as new. Other times, the damage has gone too far and replacement is the only option. Knowing how to decide will save you time and money.
Replace or Repair?
In general, it’s best to repair a water-stained ceiling when possible. Not only is replacing a section of ceiling messy and time-consuming, but it’s also difficult to match the new section with the rest.
Older lath and plaster ceilings stand up to water damage reasonably well and even a crack up to 1/4 inch can be repaired. Drywall (plasterboard) ceilings are more susceptible to damage because drywall, being made part of the paper, is highly absorbent and breaks down quickly when wet. These ceilings can be repaired only if the damage is superficial, such as light stains or bubbled paint.
If your plaster or drywall ceiling is crumbling, swollen or bulging even after drying or shows signs of mold growth, the material should be replaced by a professional.
Taking Care of Minor Damage
In a plaster ceiling, you can seal a small crack with a strip of fiberglass mesh tape, then plaster over the tape. Repairing a larger crack is trickier, but doable with the aid of plaster buttons (washers) and drywall screws.
Water damage of less than around 4 inches across is usually safe to repair yourself. For anything larger, consult a professional.
To repair damage in plaster, first let the ceiling dry completely, scrape off damaged material with a putty knife, then clean the area with a damp cloth. Next, apply one to three coats of stain-sealing primer or primer-sealer designed for your ceiling material. This prevents the stain from bleeding through better than an ordinary primer.
When the primer is dry, apply a setting-type joint compound to repair a plaster ceiling. For drywall, apply ceiling paint. This paint is formulated to adhere to ceilings and hide imperfections more effectively than wall paint.
For more tips on dealing with water-stained ceilings and other water damage, contact us at 866.334.9111