How to Fix a Leak in the Ceiling


Once you spot a leak, damage control is your top priority.

1. Get something to contain the water

Grab one or more waterproof containers to catch dripping water. Line the containers with an old t-shirt or towel to prevent the falling water from splashing out when it makes contact.

2. Move or cover your furniture

Move aside any furniture and decor in the path of the water. If something can’t be moved, drape a waterproof cover over it. A tarp or plastic sheeting works best, but if you don’t have either, you can use a vinyl tablecloth, vinyl shower curtains, a deflated kiddie pool, or a waterproof tent.

3. Soak up water on the floor

If you don’t remove the water from your floor fast enough, the flooring could warp or develop a mold or mildew problem. Soak it up with a mop or old towels. You can also use a wet/dry vacuum (like a Shop-Vac) for a big pool of water.

4. Make a small hole for drainage

Though it may seem counterintuitive, you want to help the leaking water drain downward. This will prevent it from spreading across your ceiling and weighing down the building material.

Grab a sturdy ladder or stool, and poke the center of the dark or bubbling spot with a screwdriver to make a drainage hole–just make sure there’s something underneath to catch the water first! Don’t worry about creating a hole in your ceiling. If water is already soaking through, that section will need a repair anyway.

5. Call a plumber or roofer

Even if you can’t spot the exact source of a leak, the weather outside is a good indicator of what type of leak you have. If it’s raining, you probably have a roof leak. If there’s no rain, you probably have a plumbing leak.


How to Repair Internal Ceiling Leaks

  1. Repair Toilet Leaking at Base

    A ridge of water around the base of the toilet indicates that the toilet is leaking where it connects to the closet flange.

    1. Remove the toilet.
    2. Scrape off the wax ring seal.
    3. Check the closet flange and replace if broken or rusted.
    4. Install a new wax seal or silicone seal at the bottom of the toilet.
    5. Replace the toilet.
    6. Caulk around the base of the toilet.

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  2. Fix Leaking Shower or Tub

    Showers or bathtubs can leak water that spills over the side or from the faucet, drain, or overflow.

    1. Fix or replace shower doors that leak water over the side.
    2. Caulk between the bathroom floor and the bathtub or shower pan. If the floor is not moisture-proof, consider replacing it with sheet vinyl, tile, or luxury vinyl plank.
    3. Unscrew the showerhead and re-wrap the threads with Teflon tape. Replace the showerhead and tighten by hand.
    4. Unscrew the bathtub drain with a drain remover tool. Scrape away plumber’s putty and replace with fresh putty. Replace the drain and screw tightly into place.
    5. For bathtubs, use a screwdriver to unscrew the cover to the overflow drain. Make sure that the overflow drain meets the overflow hole on the tub and is properly sealed. Replace the cover.

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  3. Repair Leaking Water Lines or Drain Pipes

    1. Check the water supply line to the toilet and replace it if it is leaking.
    2. Under the bathroom sink, tighten or replace all water supply lines that are leaking.
    3. Also under the sink, run the water and make sure that the P-trap (drain) is not leaking. If so, re-install it or replace it.
    4. For leaking pipes behind walls, cut away the drywall with a jaw saw. Copper lines with pinhole leaks or faulty joints should be replaced by a licensed plumber. Or you can cut away the damaged line and replace it with PEX plastic pipe and push-fit connectors.

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

3. Drain the leak with a screwdriver

Take a screwdriver and push it into the center or the location of the leak (away from framing boards) to allow the leak to drain and prevent further water damage.

If water keeps accumulating over the ceiling, it can cause a large hole or even a ceiling collapse.

Step 8: Fixing the leak

Once you find where the leak is coming from, there are a few things that you can do to fix this issue. I usually tape off all of these spots in case another one wants to unexpectedly appear from nowhere as well. Once you have gotten rid of all your leaks, it’s time to repair any damage and make sure that you do not run into this problem again. Firstly, it may be as simple as tightening some nails or screws on top of your eave-like spot on your roofing material. To do this, just screw a hook or nail into the ends of your house (just below where they meet with your roof), and use a rubber mallet or hammer to tap them in. Make sure that you do not stick too much into the house, as it can damage other things.

Step 3: Tape an area around the leak

Take a strip of painter’s tape, and put it directly over the suspected leak on your ceiling. If possible, place this tape directly over where the water is dripping down onto your ceiling. The point of doing this is to identify whether or not there is a leak in that area. Take note if there are any leaks in other areas as well (such as the same areas as light fixtures) It will make it easier to spot when you go outside later looking for leaks upon eave-like spots in your roofing material.

Ways to Fix Ceiling Leaks On Your Own

Here are three ways you can fix the common causes of ceiling leaks on your own. 

1. Toilet Leak Repair

There are two simple ways to fix toilet leaks. The first way is to replace the wax ring, and the second way is to fix the supply tube or leaking shutoff valve. 

Here are some steps you can take to fix toilet leaks:

Wax Ring:

1. Drain and remove the toilet.

2. Remove the existing wax ring.

3. Remove the toilet flange bolts.

4. Attach the new wax ring.

5. Position and bolt the toilet back to the floor.

6. Reconnect the toilet and test the new wax ring.

Supply Tube:

1. Turn off the water supply to your toilet.

2. Empty the water from the toilet.

3. Loosen the nut connecting the supply line using a wrench.

4. Install the new supply line.

5. Turn the water back on.

6. Check for leaks.

2. Shower Leak Repair

For shower leaks behind the wall, here are the steps you need to take to fix it:

1. Cut an inspection window to inspect the shower pipes.

2. Look for signs of leaking.

3. Turn on the shower to find the source of the leak. You may need a flashlight or a mirror for this.

4. Fix a leaking shower arm or valve. If the shower arm is the reason for the leaking shower, all you have to do is remove the circular metal plate unscrew the shower arm, clean the joint compound with a wire brush.

Next, wrap the threads with plumbing tape, and screw the arm back into the water pipe joint.

If it’s the valve leaking, you’ll have to turn off the water valve and replace the cartridge. If it is the valve body that is the problem, it is best to call a professional plumber to hep you solve the problem.

3. Sink Leak Repair

There are two main types of sink leaks that may cause a ceiling leak: water-supply leaks and drain leaks.

Here are some ways to fix sink leaks before they become a major problem:

Water-Supply Leaks:

1. If the leak is not already visible, check for the leak by wrapping toilet paper around the supply line.

2. If you notice the water coming from the supply line connection, tighten the connection with a wrench.

3. If this doesn’t work, turn off the water at the supply valve. Remove the nut and spread plumber’s pipe compound inside the washer fitting and onto the threads. Tighten it down again.

4. If the leak persists, you may have to replace the supply line.

Drain Pipe Leak:

1. Take out the sink outlet flange and drain pipe.

2. Inspect all parts such as the gaskets, rubber sealing, drain pipe, and nut to see if they might be cracked or if the metal or plastic threads are stripped.

3. If these items are damaged, you’ll need to replace them and put the parts back together.

4. If the sink parts are not damaged, you’ll need to purchase a few items to fix the problem to ensure the leak doesn’t continue. You’ll need plumbers tape or plumbers putty to make sure the connections are water-tight.

4. Utilize a Rubber Sealant Coating to Stop the Leak

While there are several roof leak repair products out on the market finding one that can repair the roof leak can be difficult. A product that we’ve had success with is Flex Seal. Similar to silicone this isn’t a long term fix but can help in an emergency situation. You can apply it in wet or dry conditions. For smaller holes we suggest applying it to the area where the leak is coming from. For larger areas you may need a combination of techniques to stop the leak. You can utilize a tarp and then rubber sealant on the edges to make it air tight. Where ever you spray this it will change the color of the material that it’s sprayed on. Don’t over spray or use it in areas you don’t plan on replacing. I could leave large colored spots on your roof. We’ve also had good success using it to patch holes in leaky guttering.

1. Identify the source of the leak

Look for identifiable signs of moisture, and remember that it can be the answer to the question, why is my ceiling cracking? 

To fix the leak, you’ll have to locate the area of your ceiling that is leaking water.

‘If you’re unsure of where the water is coming from, look for drywall panels that are sagging or crumbling,’ says Nick Cryer, founder of construction company Berkeley Place (opens in new tab). ‘You may also notice areas of the ceiling with tea-like stains.’

How to Tell If Your Drywall Needs to Be Replaced

If you’re not sure whether a ceiling has suffered from water damage, there are a few signs you can look for that can cause you to need professional service.

Here’s what to keep an eye out for:

Here’s what to keep an eye out for:

  • Sagging Drywall – Drywall that appears to sag can mean it has absorbed an excessive level of water. This presence of moisture causes it to bludge and sag over time, changing the shape of the ceiling. Another sign of sagging, if not apparent right away, is loosened bolts and screws around the wall. If you notice significant sagging, you need to replace it as soon as possible.
  • Soft Drywall Feel – Drywall should feel hard and dry. If it’s soft and feels wet or mushy, that’s a sign you need to replace your ceiling drywall.
  • Discoloration – Staining and discoloration of the ceiling drywall is an easy-to-spot indicator of water damage. Painting these stains is not the solution, but replacing the drywall is.
  • Mold – If mold has started to grow on your ceiling, it’s a matter of health as well as a matter of structural integrity that you replace the ceiling as soon as you can. Certain molds are toxic to humans, and some people with respiratory problems or allergies may be more prone to health problems.

Who to call for a water leak in the ceiling

When you have more water damage than a mop and fan can dry, you need to quickly find a reputable cleanup and restoration company. Sure, you can quickly Google “ceiling leak repair near me” but how do you choose a company? Reviews are helpful, but you should also look for the IICRC (Institue of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification) logo on their website. This certification goes way beyond what a regular house cleaning service may offer. It means the team that arrives at your home is specifically trained to remove water and thoroughly dry your floors, walls, and other cherished belongings. They use commercial air movers, dehumidifiers, and air scrubbers to remove odors and any contaminants. In just a short time, you’ll have your home back to normal.