Two yellow stains appearing on living room ceiling

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Posted by: from Thornhill
1/8/2013 at 12:15:55 AM

I will try to be concise (if I can!). The problem was noticed a few weeks ago, on our living room ceiling, when the stains were very light with light brownish borders - and hardly visible.

Fast forward a few weeks, and while the length of these stains has not appeared to have grown, one of the stains (refer to this as stain #1) is growing more yellow, and is definitely visible (see images attached). Also, there is another stain, but this remains quite faint and hardly visible (stain #2).

Both of these stains run parallel, with stain #1 being approx. 3-5 feet, meanwhile stain #2 is under a foot in length. Stains start several feet from the nearest wall and are several feet apart. While there is a bedroom directly above the living room, and a bathtub/shower, there is no indication that there is water leaking (all caulking is in great shape with no cracks or separations, the floor is ceramic with good grout and the bathroom it self is about 4 feet from where the stains on the LR ceiling begins).

There is good visual access and again, there are no indicators of water leakage or damage. The topside of the ceiling drywall is perfect, no moisture on water or drain pipes, yet my gut tells me that water is collecting here somehow. I believe the thickness of stain #1 is growing slowly and slightly. Visibly it looks like small anaconda snake.

So, any suggestions as to what I should look for? Home is 10 years old. Hopefully the images attached help as visual descriptors to the recent problem.

[AS an aside" It has snowed heavily recently. It is cooler temperatures this time of season. As well, lengthy hot showers are taken. Lastly, the bathroom directly upstairs runs hot water for 5 full minutes to steam up the room, keeping it warm for 4 month baby to take baths. I'm wondering if these are causes?]

Thanks for any feedback or suggestions.

two yellow stains appearing on living room ceiling
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Date/Time1/8/2013 at 1:15:14 AM

Pipe may be leaking and its soaking through the taped seam. All that means is there is a puddle up there and the water is making its way through the mud first. You will have to pull down the dryway most likely to find and fix the issue. If you leave it too long it will grow mold and with a 4 month old baby, thats the last thing you need.

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Dan from Valois Painting in Surrey
Date/Time1/8/2013 at 1:20:11 AM

It might be a case where the cause can remain a mystery and soon to be forgotten.

If the ceiling material stays within 12% humidity for a long time (measured electronically) then use spray sealer.

Next quality level is to spot paint with ceiling paint. Next quality level is to paint the whole ceiling.


Valois Painting

Surrey, BC

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Date/Time1/8/2013 at 2:36:51 AM

Hello Gary,

It has a reason why the stains appeared and the fact that these stains still "grow" tells me there is a source which is "feeding" these stains otherwise they wouldn't grow anymore. So the first thing you have to do is finding the source and thereafter you can fix the ceiling.

Sometimes it is pretty hard to find the moisture source especially if it is just dripping. Here is a short story, which happened to my neighbour just yesterday. He hit the lamp in his garage and suddenly the water runs out of the electrical box. It was about a full bucket of water. So he ripped a pretty big portion of the drywall from the ceiling (this was btw. totally soaked up) to see where the water comes from however he couldn't see anything. There was also no pipe in this area. The closest pipe was about 6 feet away and this was the feeding pipe for the fridge. However this pipe seems to be OK and the drywall in this area was also dry. So he called me and ask for my opinion. Happily I found the source after about 30 minutes investigation

What happened?

I looked closely to see where the water comes from and recognized it was coming from the floor above dripping through every hole it could find like nails in the plywood floor and also where a small cable penetrated the plywood floor. However in the living room above was a hardwood floor and in the nearby kitchen was a tiled floor.

The fridge was already pulled out and the tiles underneath were dry. The Waterpipe for the fridge was also OK. It was installed through the plywood and was running between the joists underneath the kitchen floor above the garage ceiling. Then I noticed that one joint right in the pantry was wet ans another short piece joint too. I opened the pantry to to look inside if there were more wet joints, however the joints inside were also dry. However right in the corner there where the tiles not very well cut so I could see the plywood. It was totally wet.

So the water must come from somewhere nearby. Now I investigated the fridge an noticed there was water at the bottom where the aggregates are mounted. The next step was taking some cool water from the fridge and suddenly the water squirt it in a bow.

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Date/Time1/8/2013 at 2:38:28 AM

The small PVC-pipe which is feeding the cooler was broken. Between the floor tiles and the wall was an about 1/4 inch gap and every time when someone was using the cold water supply the water squirted for a couple seconds right into this gap. So no water was coming out under the fridge. The water travelled then between the tiles and the plywood and further underneath the hardwood and it came finally out a couple feet further through every single hole in the plywood and accumulated to the deepest point on the garage ceiling.

So the best way to find your source is to open the ceiling where the first stain started and look if you can see any further water drops. Look very very closely to . Then use your brain and common sense to determine where the water comes from.

Is it possible that there is a lot of condensation water from a cold water pipe in a warm environment?

I wish you good luck and hope you will find the water-source.

3D-Tile-Design - Bertram Tasch

Maple Ridge, BC (Greater Vancouver)

+1 (778) 886-9503

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Date/Time1/8/2013 at 3:18:39 AM

Hi Gary:

Most definitely, the stains are being caused by a water source. Since you have plumbing in the upper region, it most likely will be from that location. However, it could be from pipes running in the ceiling. I would contact a plumber and see if he can apply a pressure test to the house. This will give you an idea of whether you have a leakage in the pipe.

The other issue that you mentioned are the steam showers. Excess condensation can cause water to drain and build up in unwanted areas. Make sure that you turn on the bathroom fan and crack the window in the bathroom a bit. This will give extra air flow for the fan to properly exhaust the bathroom.

Water, no matter how much you think an area has been sealed, can find its way through the most minute of cracks. Also, a drip can accumulate in a pool, and then flow to the lowest point which would cause the stain to spread.

Irregardless, you have to find the source of the problem before it causes mould and other extensive damage.

Best of luck.


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Kaz from Kaz in Dundas
Date/Time1/8/2013 at 8:55:34 AM


It's either from the plumbing side or ice damning outside. Check your evestroughs in the target area,

If the gutters are full and icicles are present, the snow is melting and freezing and the water is backing up under the shingles.

Remove the snow if possible or apply ice melt to the gutters to help the water run off.

Take care


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Date/Time1/8/2013 at 9:03:42 AM

Hi There,

Your problem may not be cracks in the floor or wall, it could be water pipe on connection point. After wile with vibration they tend to come loose and water slides along the pipe and that would enplane two separate stains.

You can open the water in to a bucket and do it few time and you will see clearly if the ceiling under neath is wet. If not then you have crack somewhere in the floor or wall.

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Date/Time1/8/2013 at 9:23:32 AM

In my own opinion occasional leak is the factor. For me if the water is not constantly running even just a drip every second or two for a long period of time it will make that drywall soak and wet and ready to fall off or down. There is small amount of leak from the tub or condensation somewhere.

Wish u luck, hopefully this helps.

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Date/Time1/8/2013 at 9:41:40 AM

Hi there,

I see that many others have made some very good suggestions on what it could be. Here is one more. Do to the weather, perhaps you have cracked caulking where your stack is in your roof (bathroom vent for smell), allowing some heat to escape through the attic. The snow melts, and the water may be travelling down the stack, and falling to the drywall. As for that stain, it seems the water is following the seam in the drywall, and or it is following the joist, hence the straight line.

As for repairs, the painters have made great suggestions,

Good luck, hope everything works out for you.

Happy new year.

Steve Rose

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Dolphin Construction Co. in Ottawa
Date/Time1/8/2013 at 9:55:51 AM

Just open up a ceiling and take a look. You have to replace the drywall anyway.

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Date/Time1/8/2013 at 1:03:27 PM

Hi Gary,

Robert nailed it! It is water and you are going to have to replace the drywall anyway. Just open it up, find and fix the issues, and replace the drywall. You really don't want to be worried about mould so sooner is better than later.

All of the other guys gave you great ideas of the potential causes but the bottom line is you have to deal with it.

There is a major splash factor involved with bathing kids (experience speaking here) so my vote for the leak is going to be either the trim plate around the faucet assembly (usually only the top is sealed) or the floor. Your tile is waterproof but the grout is not.

Good Luck with it!

Jim Kuzma

Kettleby Handyman Services

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Date/Time1/8/2013 at 1:08:42 PM

It looks a roof problem. If you know the age of the roof there might be no ice water sheild and check if you have ice build up because that will creep under the shingles and cause a leak.

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Date/Time1/8/2013 at 5:41:27 PM

As for the yellow stains, your right. Is due to condensation or some type of moisture getting to the drywall. If this continues. Your best bet is to take down the drywall and find the source of the problem. Cause if you dont it is going to become a bigger problem. Your talking mold build up and eventually it will get to your wood and your talking more money.

Best of luck.

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Date/Time1/9/2013 at 10:15:17 AM


Beyond the suggestions or comments you have already received, you might check the insulation to make sure it is sufficient in that area, if not it could be condensating and creating the water marks.

If you choose to re-insulate or add more insulation, it is important you use "cellulose fibre" insulation and not fibreglass.

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Date/Time1/9/2013 at 4:51:36 PM

Hi Gary,

I think you know from the responses you have read, there is most definatly A water issue. I have read a number of the responses regarding your finding it.

I have always started to remove the drywall on the cieling. It is the only way to truly find the source of the water escape. Depending on what you find, the repair may be accesable from below. If not, at least you know precisely where to go in from above.

The most common leaks I and my plumbers who I sub contract find, is the shower.

But I suggest you post another note when you know what the source is. Then I, and others will offer sugestions for the repair.

Good Luck,

James Fram

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Date/Time1/10/2013 at 6:45:26 PM

You have a leak from bath because it got worse in such a short time. I see this all the time..water will find a way even if 10ft. Away from source.

Common area are:

Gasket on drain, tub, toilet, sinks

Gasket on ovrrflow

Leaking taps or shutoffs

Lines leaking in walls and last but common...water splashing out of tub sides and going on floor when bathing

Only way to check is cut hole in ceiling underneath and trqce leak. May require extra holes..then fix.

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Date/Time1/11/2013 at 9:25:34 AM

Without investigating on site, this definately looks like moisture.

The stain looks like that because the moisture is comming through at the tape joint of the drywall.

The Showers should not be the issue.

I suggest you call a professional down. If you are confident it is not a leak in the roof, then you should talk to a local insulation/vapour barrier specialist, as it may have something to do with the moisture condensating in your attic from the snow on your roof.

Maybe your Roof Vents are blocked by the snow, and the air cannot escape your attic space.


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Date/Time1/11/2013 at 3:20:11 PM

From my experience where i have seen similar stains, I'd be looking for vents or lines that reveal themselves on the outside of your home. When looking where these lines I'd check for their proximity to the damaged areas on your ceiling. In several cases, I've found birds nests inside vents.

In many cases many more (as many as 5 in one pipe) that you can't see. They may have been made by birds like Starlings when the house was built or later. Humid air from the house passing through these pipes, freezes on these nests. Then when you have a quick thaw, it melts and these water droplets form on the bottom of these pipes and begins to find it's way through seams and screw holes in the pipe. This thawing and freezing cycle continues to feed the leakage and it continues to expand its travels throughout the ceiling but not penetrating the drywall, because it's a limited amount of water each time.

Let me know if I'm close on this one.

Best of luck


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Gary in Thornhill
Date/Time1/17/2013 at 4:41:43 PM

@Brian from Hamilton House Painters : Thank you, yes I did determine this too be the problem.

@Dan from Valois Painting : this would be a second fix. The first is to determine the reason for the leak on to the ceiling, and stop that. Then your fix steps are ideal. Thanks again for taking time to contribute Dan.

@Bertram from 3D-Tile-Design - Bertram Tasch : very thorough investigation you did. While you are on the right track, the fridge or area on the same floor as the ceiling is not the cause of the leak. The solution is posted at the end...

@Chuck from Meadowood Homes: yes, condensation notes you wrote are correct. Very accurate in your solution and suggestions. Thanks a bunch. I post what we believe is the problem below...

@Kaz from Kaz : valid to check roofing, but not the case here.

@Steve from OMC Contracting: good tests for condensation, but likely won't note the problem because this took a while to build up. it's very minute dripping or leaking buiding up into a stain. Solution or what we believe is problem is posted below...

@Steve from Rose Home Renovations, thanks.

@Robert from Dolphin Construction Co, and also @Rod from Espinal Contracting. Ideal, but expensive and messy.

@Jim from Kettleby Handyman Services, thanks.

@Joe from InLine General Contracting it's not the roof.

@Brent from Reitzel Brothers Insulation, thank you.

@James from Fram Construction & Design Ltd, very true. In this case though if it was shower, we likely would have had the ceiling drop in by now. It's smaller collections overtime, which result in this pattern stain on ceiling shown in the images, and that is likely flushing in toilets, or steam collecting and creeping into cracks or underneath the loose toilet.

@Ray from Amberwood Homes Ltd. : we believe it's the bathroom above the ceiling

@John from In The Minds Eye Contracting : excellent and yes, your experience shows it to be correct. Gasket is issue we believe too, but toilet.

@Manny from Manny Raon General Contracting Inc. : yes, tub, or condensation, or flushing of toilets (which need to be fixated into place, as they are now moving slightly after 10+ years. We will be getting plumber to redo toilet gasket (i believe), redo the cauking around bathtub, which is directly above the ceiling. and use exhaust fans during shower. Keep long hot showers to minimum to prevent condensation on pipes.


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