Got Brown Spots on Your Ceiling? Causes & Solutions for Water Stains

Whether you’re installing a new commercial roof or taking care of an existing system, it’s important to maintain your roof and address problems.

You may not know you have a problem with your roof until you see signs inside your building, such as brown spots on your ceiling or puddles on your floor. These are signs that you need to have someone inspect and repair your commercial roof immediately.

At West Roofing Systems, we take pride in the new roofs we install and the maintenance we provide for our customers and their commercial, industrial, and manufacturing buildings. Our M.a.R.S. (Maintenance and Repair Service) Program is available for new and existing roof systems.

Roof Leak in Office Building
Roof Leak in Office Building

Our technicians answer many questions from facility owners and managers. One question we often get is, “What are these brown spots on my ceiling?” That’s why we wrote this article to show you what water stains are, the dangers of water stains, and how to repair your facility.

What Are Brown Spots on My Ceiling?

When you see brown spots, or patches, on your ceiling and interior walls, they are water stains caused from a leak above. This leak could be a malfunction in your commercial roof systems or a leak with another part of your facility, such as HVAC units or leaking pipes.

5 Common Causes of Water Stains

There are a few causes that we find while inspecting internal leaks that cause water stains. Some are caused by a failure of the roof, but there are also many other reasons that water is leaking into your building.

Read More: Common Causes of Roof Leaks

1. Vents/Skylights

TPO Single-Ply Membrane around Roof Penetration
TPO Single-Ply Membrane around Roof Penetration

Most commercial roofing systems have accessories attached such as skylights, air vents, plumbing vents, and more. To accommodate these units, your contractor needs to cut their roofing material to fit around the unit. These areas are not seamless roofing material, so they are vulnerable to leaks through the penetrations. This problem will show when you have stains around vents or skylights in particular.

2. HVAC Units

HVAC units can cause issues in a few ways:

  • Improper installation around the HVAC unit
  • Water leaking from the actual HVAC unit (not a roofing problem in this case)
  • Water leaking from the unit on top of the roof causing problems if it doesn’t drain properly

Whether you call your roofing or HVAC contractor, they should be able to help you narrow down the cause of your HVAC area leak.

3. Leaking Pipe

Sometimes water stains are not caused by a roof issue at all. Leaking pipes in ceilings and walls can slowly drip water until a stain appears in your building. Pipes can be prone to leaks when they are aged and withstand extreme changes in temperature.

4. Roof Flashing Failure

Flashings are pieces of metal that are installed on a roof where two areas join together. The purpose of these metal pieces is to prevent water from leaking through the vulnerable area. Since the area underneath is at risk of leaking, it’s essential to keep your metals flashings in proper working order.

If there’s a failure with your flashings, water may be able to leak not only through your roof, but you’ll often see water stains down walls as well.

5. Damaged or Aged Waterproofing Membrane

The membrane of a commercial roof is the waterproof layer. When there’s damage to the membrane from the weather, foot traffic, mechanical damage or any other numerous situations, it can allow water to leak through the waterproof membrane and saturate the underlying insulation.

Most commercial roofing systems last 15-20 years; this lifespan can vary depending on the type of roof you install on your facility. The older a roof is, the less reliable it can be for leaks. While enrolling in a roof maintenance plan can extend the lifespan of your roof, after a certain number of years, it’s time to replace your roof system.

How to Repair Water Stains

The quicker you are in responding to your water stain, the better it’ll be repairing it. Your first step is to address the cause of the stain. If you only address the water stain without fixing the cause, it will not only reappear, but it will cause more damage in the long run.

The extent of your repair depends on the amount of damage your facility has sustained. Hopefully, you caught the problem early and took action. Options to repair and clean up water stains include:

  1. Use a bleach/water solution to blot and wipe the stain away
  2. After the area dries, if it is still stable, you can directly paint over the area
  3. Remove the damaged part of the ceiling/ceiling tiles, drywall and replace with new, clean sections
  4. Sand off the damaged layer and seal the area (wood ceiling)

Watch for Mold

Indoor Mold

If your stains have yellow or green colors, chances are you have mold in that area. As mold grows, it becomes darker and more dangerous over time. If you have mold in your facility, you need to take action right away for the safety of everyone in your building. Mold needs to be killed, whether it is a simple bleach/water mix or if you have to call a mold removal company.

Read More: EPA Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings Guide

Got brown spots on your ceiling? What are your next steps?

Investing in a commercial roofing project can be a daunting task. But by being prepared and asking the right questions, you can find the right contractor to deliver high-quality work at the right price.

Choosing West Roofing Systems as a turnkey roofing company will provide you with highly trained teams and award-winning service. Our services are flexible and diverse; we can recoat, repair or replace your facility’s roof so that it lasts decades.

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