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Spotting the signs of ceiling damage

Ceilings are one of the home’s most overlooked and ignored parts. Many people don’t notice ceiling damage until it is too late — like when leaks happen or materials break down. Knowing the signs of ceiling damage can help people spot issues early on and potentially avoid more expensive repairs.

What to look for

Here are some common things to watch out for.

Water stains
Yellow or brown-coloured stains on the ceiling could mean water has got inside a property. Depending on the size of the possible leak, these stains could be small or spread across a larger area.

Changes in the colour of the ceiling, especially dark spots or patches, could be another sign of water damage, mould growth or other issues.

Sagging or bulging
A sagging or bulging ceiling is a more serious sign of water in the house and possible structural damage — this usually needs immediate attention.

Peeling ceiling

Peeling or bubbling paint
Moisture can make paint or wallpaper peel or bubble on the ceiling’s surface.

Cracks in the ceiling, especially ones that seem to be getting wider, can potentially be a sign of structural issues or setting problems.

Damp or moisture
Damp spots or moisture condensation stains on the ceiling could be a sign of a leak or too much humidity. 

Musty smell
An ongoing musty or mouldy smell in the room could mean there’s hidden water damage or mould growth in the ceiling.

Flaking or crumbling
Flaking plaster, crumbling drywall or other ceiling material falling off could be a sign of age-related damage or water in the home.

Pests or insects activity
Signs of pests or insects in the ceiling, like droppings or nests, can lead to long-term damage.

Visible leaks
Obvious water dripping or pooling from the ceiling is usually a sign of an active leak that needs immediate action.

Bowing or warping
Wood ceilings can bow or warp over time if there is too much moisture in the home.

Unusual sounds
Listen for strange sounds coming from the ceiling, like creaking or cracking. These could be a sign of an issue that needs to be addressed.

If you’re a homeowner, it’s wise to contact a professional if you notice any of these signs so they can look at the damage and work out the best course of action.

Damaged roof

What causes ceiling damage?

Many things can cause ceiling damage, from structural problems to weather conditions and even the age of a home. Understanding what has caused the damage to a ceiling makes it easier to fix it and could stop more issues or safety hazards.

Water leaks
One of the most common causes of ceiling damage is water leaks from plumbing issues, roof leaks or damaged pipes. You can usually spot signs of a ceiling leak by looking for stains, discolouration, sagging or bubbling paint and plaster.

Roof problems
Damaged or poorly-installed roofs can let water in, breaking the ceiling down over time. Check a roof for missing shingles, cracked flashing and clogged gutters, which can cause roof problems.

Plumbing issues
Leaking pipes or plumbing fixtures above a ceiling can make water seep into the ceiling structure. This can lead to water stains and eventual long-term damage.

Humidity and condensation
High humidity levels in a room can cause condensation on the ceiling, leading to mould, peeling paint and the ceiling materials eventually breaking down. 

Structural settlement
Buildings can go through settling over time, which can then mean cracks in ceilings.

Poor ventilation
Poor ventilation can cause ceiling problems, including mould growth, discolouration and breakages. A bathroom ceiling crack can be caused by bad ventilation and moisture in a home. Water and steam from the bath or shower get trapped in the ceiling, with nowhere to go, eventually softening and cracking the paint. 

Pests and rodents
Infestation of pests and rodents in the ceiling can cause lots of damage, as they chew through important materials or create nests.

Ceiling material breakdown
Plaster, drywall or acoustic tile ceilings can break down because of age and wear and tear, causing cracks, sagging, or crumbling areas.

Weight overload
Lots of weight on the ceiling, such as putting heavy objects on top or installing ceiling fans and chandeliers, can lead to damage over time.

Accidental damage
Accidents like items falling or impacts from above can immediately damage the ceiling.

Fixing ceiling damage
Fixing damaged ceilings can be difficult, so getting it right is important. Proper ceiling repairs help protect, insulate and support a building.

Cost to replace ceiling

If you’re a homeowner, the cost to replace a ceiling depends on several things, including the ceiling material, the size of the area, how difficult the job is and where you live. You’ll need to know if you need to remove some of the ceiling before putting in a new one, as this will cost extra. Decorations such as recessed lights, ceiling fans and mouldings will make the replacement more expensive. Other issues like fixing water damage or reinforcing the framework will also add to the total cost.

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