What Causes Stains on the Ceiling?

A stain on the ceiling of a home is certainly an unattractive and worrying occurrence. A number of things cause stains, but it actually can be important to identify what the root cause is. While some stains are simply the result of accidents, others indicate a potentially more serious problem within your home.

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The placement of attic joists can affect ceiling stains.

Leaking Roof

Water is one of the most common causes of a stain on a ceiling. If you have a leak in your roof, the water will slowly drip its way downward toward the ground. The design of your house and the location of the leak will determine where you finally notice it, but often a leak results in a water stain on the ceiling. Usually, water on a roof results in a brown stain.

Leaking Pipes

Water stains on the ceiling don't always come a leaky roof. A problem with a plumbing pipe is another reason that water might be collecting above your ceiling. This is a problem seen often in older houses with old pipes. If a leaky pipe is causing the stain, repairing the problem involves accessing the pipe to perform a repair. If you can't access it from the attic easily, this often involves doing major work on the ceiling.

Interior Causes

Always think about where the stain is located in order to figure out what might be causing it. For instance, if a stain appears on the ceiling in a room where you have been known to burn candles, that could cause the mark to appear. Cigarette, cigar and pipe smoke can all discolor ceilings. In addition, stains above the stove are often a result of heat, smoke and grease spatter coming from the stove while you cook.

Heating

Heating problems also cause stains on the ceiling. Thermal tracking stains often show up as lines or as stains with straight edges. Sometimes, uneven heating of the ceiling where joists or obstructions alter the temperature cause these stains over time. Places where insulation gaps exist can also stain over time in the shape of the missing portion of insulation. Finally, sooty stains that look like dusting blown outward from a vent can occur if you have dirt in the ductwork of the house.