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Question DetailsAsked on 6/1/2018

Who do I call to investigate severity of water damage?

My upstairs neighbor flooded his apartment with a mis-installed washing machine and no drip tray. While he mopped it up, we now have some water staining on our ceilings. Do I need to investigate or can I just paint over? And if I need to investigate the severity, who should I call? It's not a plumbing or roof issue, so I'm really just concerned about more moisture being trapped in my ceiling and causing problems down the line.

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1 Answer


No universal answer, but in normal wood frame or concrete construction, a one-time relatively small leak into a ceiling/floor will self-dry by air leakage through the space and wicking/dispersion, and not cause problems- though you might get a bit of mildew or mold growth in there before it dries. usually not a problem EXCEPT if someone in the house is unusually sensitive to mildew/mold - in normal cases as it dries out over several days the mildew/mold will die off due to lack of moisture.

This of course presumes you have air conditioning running, or fair ventilation in the area (might run a large fan aimed at the ceiling), and that the building humidity level is not over about 50%. If real humid will dry slowly and grow mildew/mold much more readily and aggressively. I have seen cases in real humid buildings and locales like Maine and western Washington/Northern Oregon/Western Canada/Southeast Alaska and Aleutian Alaska rain forest/wet maritime areas where it can take weeks to dry out naturally and ended up growing serious fungus on the wood and such. Ditto to real humid "deep south" type conditions if the building is not running air conditioning to dehumidify the air. In those conditions artificial ventilation and dehumidification of the floor framing area is certainly necessary. On the other extreme, dry desert areas in the summer it can dry out by itself in a day or so - too quickly to even start mildew/mold growth.

In very tight construction sometimes, especially if a pool of water gets trapped by a plastic or metal ceiling panel (one which will hold watertight) you can get mold which will persist and start throwing off mold spores, which can be a problem - especially if your home is normally humid. But normal plaster or drywall ceilings usually wick the water through very readily so dry out the overlying floor cavity pretty well in a few days to a week.

Steel construction ditto to above but if left to dry by itself can start rusting - usually not wetlong enough to cause a structural problem by itself, but by starting the rusting process that will usually continue with just normal ambient moisture so many times it is recommended to open up the ceiling or floor and power ventilate the space to rapidly dry it out.

As for painting over - Kilz is the "cure-all" for overpainting the inevitable stain on the ceiling - use latex type unless you know for sure the paint on the ceiling is oil based. Also comes in spray can (oil based) which as long as you do several light coats can be used over pretty much any type of paint. Then topcoat after day or more with your finish paint color. Wait a week or more before doing the Kilz and finish painting (maybe two if the ceiling area really got well soaked - had a lot of water coming through), to be sure the ceiling has actually dried out - otherwise you can get more staining bleed-through from the damp ceiling materials. Make sure the Kilz goes at least several inches beyond the wetted/stained limit.

Of course, depending on how worried you are about this (unless a lot of water got in there I would not personally worry in the normal case other than letting it dry out), he (or his insurance company) would be liable for your damages - any drying out of the floor framing cavity (which if his insurance is paying for a Water and Smoke Damage company to do cleanup of his water damage would be a good idea to do), Kilz priming the wet spots, and finish painting - and on the finish painting, to get a true match on the ceiling unless it was pretty recently painted (say within last year or less) AND you have the original paint, usually the entire ceiling has to be repainted to get a color/tone match, depending on how picky you are regarding the repair appearance.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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