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Question DetailsAsked on 1/2/2014

we have a slow leak in our 1st floor ceiling. who (what type of service) should we call to address it?

we have seen water stains for the past year or so. we now have small cracks and mold. not sure what it's coming from or how to address it.

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2 Answers


You need to give a bit more info to get a good answer. You say first floor so I am assuming there are rooms above the leak. Is it a bathroom and if so does the leak occure all the time or just when shower is used, toilet is flushed or when the sink is used. Or is there a window above. To many variables to give an answer with info provided.


Answered 6 years ago by ContractorDon


If there is an attic overhead, get up there and look for water staining or mold on the underside of the roof, and wet or moldy or stained insulation or drywall in the attic "floor" to track the source.

If there is another floor above, unless this is right at the outside wall below a window or outside door, most likely a leak from a bathroom. A plumber can track that for you.

To save cost, if you want, there are two alternatives to do an initila investigation yourself, which will reduce what you pay to a contractor since they will not have to track it down, plus might tell you if you need a plumber or a tile man or a door and window man:

1) get a utility knife and cut a large enough hole in the ceiling at the water stains (be careful about cutting too far through and nicking wiring) to get an arm with a mirror and flashlight up there to look for where the water and staining leads from

2) to dramatically reduce drywall repair cost, rent (about $15-25/day) or buy (about $100) a COLOR (B&W just does not have enough contrast to track staining) video display type fiber optic inspection tool like this -

and drill a 1/2" hole for the camera at the water stain (between floor joists), and start tracking back with holes at about 3-5 foot intervals to where it comes down - may be travelling along the top of the drywall quite a ways, and may be travelling along the bottom of overhead floor joists a ways too, so may take several holes to find where its source is - if along an exterior wall could be from a baseboard hot water heating system pipe (if you have that) or window or door or remotely possibly a roof or siding leak, if from an interior wall that serves a bathroom likely a leaking pipe, if under a bathroom floor likely leaking toilet seal or tub/shower drain or shower pan. Unlikely to be tile leakage, because usually tile leakage is not enough quantity to cause cracking and mold in an underlying ceiling - damage from that dsource is normally limited to the immediate area where the water is getting through the grout. Look for both the water trail, and also mold or dry rot in the timber, as if you have noticeable mold or certainly dry rot you are going to do more opening up to kill that off and get any remedial repairs taken care of by a mold remediation specialist, and possibly a general contractor if major joisst repairs or flooring replacement in the floor above is needed.

Once you open the holes take a good sniff - very likely to smell wet and moldy, but if smells like sewer gas or urine almost certainly a leaking toilet wax seal, which is fixed by removing toilet and replacing the seal (and fixing any rot found). If smells very acidic and earthy - like freshly turned over leaf mold or humus, probably dry rot somewhere.

If you cannot tie down the source, assuming a bathroom above, try running water in the sink, toilet, bath/shower one at a time to see if it starts leaking again when you do that. If you have mold inthe ceiling, the leak should be large enough to see visible wetness or dripping when you run the source. Of course, if it is a leaking water supply pipe or sewer pipe (as opposed to a drain or shower pan), it will be wet and possibly dripping when you first open it up.

Once the source is tied down, hopefully you will know whether you need a plumber, tile man, or door and window installer or roofer - Search the List for local contractors and their reviews and ratings.

If you don't want to tie down the location yourself, I would start with a roofer if this ceiling is overlain by an attic and roof, or a plumber if overlain by or close to an upstairs bathroom. Or, if you are not going to want to get a drywall repair person and painter yourself for repairs, then you need a general contractor who can do the tracking down, and get whatever trades you might need to remediate the problem.

Now for the bad news - if you had attacked this as soon as you saw the staining your homeowner's insurance might have covered it - but since this is now a long-term leak issue, almost all homeowner's policies exclude that sort of damage. Read your policy, and if possibly covered contact the carrier - they might help you get a contractor for repair.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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