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How to Determine if Water Stains are Old or New + What To Do About Them

Coming home and finding water stains on the ceiling of your home is never fun. Even worse is if you’ve seen them time and time again, either staying the same or possibly growing in size.

As a renter in particular, discovering water stains may raise red flags, questions, and worries as to where they are coming from and whether you’re responsible for them or not.

If you’re seeing water spots and wet spots on your ceiling, keep reading to learn how to tell if water stains are new, old, or something in between.

Causes of Stains on Ceilings

First, we should address the possible causes of water damage stains on the ceiling. There are three different types of water damage, and each presents itself differently. 

The most common causes of water stains are from leaks in appliances and hvac systems, like dishwashers, laundry machines, and heating/cooling ducts. If you believe the stains are coming from an appliance, check the drains for clogs or debris build up. 

If you want to play it safe, call a professional to check the drain lines for you. If you’re a renter, you may need to call your landlord about any water staining due to faulty hvac ductwork.

How to Tell if Water Damage is New or Old

Once you discover water damage, you should then try to figure out how old the stains are. Here are four things to do to figure out how old your water stains are.

1. Look for rings

Just like a fallen tree, you can tell how old a water stain is by the number of rings around its center. The outer rings will be the oldest stains, because water spreads outwards from the center. These rings will tend to be the darkest in color, and the rings will get lighter towards the middle.

The entire stain might be dried if it was from an old leak, but it’s worth touching to check to see if the water leak is damp or not.

2. Check for dampness

Dampness is important because it can reveal if the leak is still active or not. A leak that is current will still be damp, whereas a dry water stain will be from a leak that has stopped.

The good news about a damp water stain is that it gives you a good starting point to investigate leaky, burst pipes, or faulty appliance hookups. If you’re a renter, it’s best to review your lease agreement and give your landlord a call. Your lease should outline what damages you may be responsible for and which ones you aren’t.

Your landlord will be able to tell you if they will investigate the leak themselves and how to proceed. Of course, always double check your lease agreement before agreeing to pay anything upfront. 

3. Estimate the area of the spot

After checking the water spot for dampness, you’re going to want to estimate the size/area of the spot. This gives a gauge as to how big the leak is. A bigger or spreading water stain means a bigger, stronger leak. A smaller stain may indicate a tiny leak.

Knowing the size of the water spots also lets water damage restoration experts estimate the cost of the repair. It costs more to open up and repair a wider section of piping than a smaller section.

4. Check for mold

The biggest culprit for new water damage stains is mold. There are a few different types of mold so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with what mold looks like. 

Mold typically starts developing within two days after a new leak is discovered, and it particularly enjoys moist, humid environments like bathrooms. Mold can quickly develop into an even bigger problem, so it’s best to take care of it right away.

New mold will have tiny black or white spots and a powdery, fine appearance. It will be most dense closest to the leak, and spreads thinner as it grows. 

What to Do about New Water Stains

New water stains that seem to pop up out of nowhere are indicative of fresh leaks and may be more easy to spot than old water stains. The most important thing to do is monitor the leak in case it spreads. If it grows in a straight line, the leak could be following condensation from hvac ductwork in the ceiling. If it grows in a large circle, it could be a leaky pipe in one specific spot.

As a homeowner, you’ll want to call a trustworthy water damage restoration company to investigate the possible causes of the water damage and get a quote for the repair work.

As a renter, you’ll want to inform your landlord about the new water stains and they’ll decide what they plan to do. If it’s new construction, they’ll want to work with water damage experts specifically to do the job right.

What to Do about Old Water Stains

Old water spots are a bit trickier to deal with. For example, a landlord may have had a major plumbing job done in the past to fix leaks and forgo the cosmetic work needed to actually fix or remove the stain. This may save the landlord money, but the renter may be left wondering if there’s a new leak when there’s an unsightly stain in their unit. 

It may be worth calling the landlord and asking if they can repair the old stain. The property owner may have thought the old stain was already taken care of!

If you’re the property owner, it’s a good idea to do seasonal maintenance of your water pipes and hvac systems. As the seasons change, so can the workload on your mechanical systems. For instance, burst pipes due to pipes freezing is more common in the cold winter months. Be sure to plan for regular maintenance so you’re not blindsided with a hefty bill when you find a water spot on your ceiling some day. 

Commercial Water Damage Restoration

If you believe you have a water leak, don’t delay in taking action. Leaks can quickly become worse and do more damage. Contact our commercial water damage experts at U&S Companies. 

We’ll evaluate the area and find the root of the water damage. Commercial property water damage can become a serious problem, and restorative work done swiftly can reverse the damage done.

Call the Michigan Commercial Water Damage Experts Today

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