How to Repair Ceiling Water Damage

Water rings on a ceiling and around a light fixture indicate a leak.
  • 4-12 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 60-200
What You'll Need
Vacuum cleaner
Safety glasses
Drywall or plaster
Putty knife
Joint compound
Paintbrushes/paint roller
Ceiling paint

Repairing ceiling water damage, whether it is the result of a broken pipe or torrential rainfall, is particularly important for the health and comfort of your home. Left unaddressed, the damage can lead to mold and a weakened structure. Regardless of whether it is made of drywall, plaster, or some other material, no ceiling can be fully protected against these vagaries of water. For this reason, it is important to know how to repair damage once it occurs. Follow these steps and restore your ceiling to a better state.

Step 1 - Stop the Source of Water

The very first thing to do is to stop the water from leaking, otherwise all your repair work will come to no good. Locate and fix the roof leak or replace the leaking pipe with a new one. Then, proceed with the steps below.

Step 2 - Dry the Ceiling Above and Below

Before you start, protect the floor and furniture by spreading a tarp over them. Once the leak has been sealed or fixed, dry the ceiling with towels, a vacuum, and/or fans. You have to dry the area both below and above the ceiling. If water is still dripping down, it is an indicator that the ceiling is saturated. Dry it once again or cut out the still-wet portions. If the ceiling drywall has bulged out, place a bucket underneath the swollen section; then, take a knife or a screwdriver and stab it. Be careful as water may pour down.

The danger of mold forming and spreading is always present. To avoid this additional, and rather costly, nuisance, make sure that the damaged area is completely dry before you start with the actual repairs.

Step 3 - Remove the Damaged Parts of the Ceiling

If there are any portions of the ceiling that are loose or bulging, you should scrape them away. Use a putty knife or paint scraper to remove any flaking or chipping surface as well. You won't have to scrape anything, however, if the ceiling is still flat and smooth.

Step 4 - Prepare the Ceiling Surface

Use sandpaper to smooth over the ridges between the affected and clean areas. Remember to put on safety glasses before you start working to avoid getting dust in your eyes. If there are big holes in the ceiling, use new sheets of drywall or plaster to repair them. Smaller holes need to be filled with joint compound only. Remove any resulting bumps with sandpaper.

Step 5 - Prime and Paint

If there are visible stains on the ceiling, apply a coating of primer over them. Allow the primer to dry and apply a second coat if necessary. If you skip this step and apply a coat of paint directly over the stains, they will show through. Once the primer has dried, you can begin to paint. To achieve a uniform color, it is recommended to simply cover the whole ceiling.