Maybe my reaction when I found out our son was filling water balloons in the bathroom INSIDE OUR WATER-CURSED HOUSE was a little inflated. Maybe.
Are you CRAZY??? We had to replace that floor down to the joists because of water damage. I’m upstairs plastering the bathroom because of a leak. NO. WATER. PLAY. IN. THE. HOUSE!
His response: “But I covered the floor in towels just in case I spilled!”
Wise beyond his years. Sort of. I had just finished folding those towels…
We’ve now experienced eight—count ’em, eight—leaks in this house.
Our latest was not the fault of the previous owner. For once.
When the plumber replaced the pan under our air handler, he neglected to clean out the drain lines. The small pipes clogged. Water backed up into the air handler and poured down into the air ducts. Missed it? Read all about the horror (and how to prevent major damage) in Part 1.
Last night I finished priming the bathroom. In case you have a leak of your own, here’s what you need to do after installing the drywall.
Remove any paper tape on the edge of existing drywall. This will make it easier to make a seamless connection with the piece you install.
Use low-dust drywall compound. This stuff is magic. Instead of creating an invasive cloud of white dust which will cover every surface in your home, particles of low-dust compound fall straight to the floor as you sand. The drywall knife you see is my favorite. The stainless steel never rusts and is perfectly flexible. A big rectangular blade works best for working large areas but I love the smaller blade for most of the plastering.
I forgot to take a picture of the fiberglass tape. If you have an edge that doesn’t quite match, lay fiberglass tape along the edge to help build the plaster. Here, if I slathered on enough plaster to meet the existing edge, it would likely crack. Fiberglass tape (looks like gauze) helps prevent cracking. Use fiberglass to join all flat surfaces as well. Fiberglass tape is slightly sticky, which means you can apply it directly to the drywall, then plaster over it.
Working in from the edges and corners, smooth on thin layers of plaster. Also fill in the dents where screws are used (always use drywall screws, not nails) since this will take several thin layers. I used paper tape (not fiberglass) on the 90-degree edges (plaster directly on drywall, lay tape, smooth with plaster knife, add thin layer over tape, allow to dry). Paper tape works better because you can fold it at a 90-degree before placing on the wall. Thin layers work best. Scrape the edges flat with the blade. Smoothing it as you go means less sanding.
Cover all of the drywall with a very thin layer of compound (it’s okay if you can still see the drywall; this is for paint uniformity). Using a large, rectangular blade works well here. Sand the entire surface. Any rough edges will be magnified by the paint, so be thorough.
Bare plaster in a bathroom doesn’t work well (shower steam, etc.) so I primed and painted the ceiling and primed the walls as soon as the plaster dried. Color-change paint is best for painting white-on-white. Mine starts out pink and turns white as it dries. The wall primer looks really weird in this picture but dried to a light tan.
Air handler broke
The water leaked
I felt angry—
Pulled plaster out
wanted to beat
Door down (what did you think I was going to say?)
and painted too
and now I’m done
Thank GOD WAHOOOOOO!
I’m very thankful for our house, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes, I dream of living elsewhere. In a house with dry walls and ceilings. No bubbles of water under the paint. No soggy insulation.
We’ve had seven leaks in this house. No, eight, counting this week.
On Wednesday, I planned to do some yard work to surprise Hubby. He’s been under crazy pressure at work and I was excited about giving him a break. Pulling on work clothes, I looked up at the wall in our bathroom next to the door. A swelling bubble, the size of my hand, glared back at me.
No no no no no.
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.
Positioning my fuzzy purple towel under the anomaly, I pierced the bottom of the bubble with tweezers. Sure enough, water soaked out into the towel. A tiny splash hit my toe from the other side of the doorway; I craned my neck to see a steady drip-drip coursing down the wall from the ceiling on the opposite side.
The only source of water in the ceiling was the air handler, possibly dripping too much condensation into the drain pan. I ran downstairs to grab the shop vac (an item I highly recommend you keep on hand if you live in an older house).
With the kids’ help, I lugged the cleaner up the creaky attic ladder. The lightbulb had blown and I couldn’t see a thing. Fighting vertigo caused by being more than two inches off the ground, I took pictures in order to see in the dark attic. Sure enough, a small, steady stream of water poured from the handler’s corner.
Water stained the floor under the handler supports.
I checked the water level in the pan; oddly, the water level stood nowhere near the top. My initial suspicion that the pan had overflowed was incorrect.
Yet everything under the pan was soaking.
The insulation was sopping.
And then…I found the source. (See the shine? It’s a little hard to see.) Water leaked between the tape on the duct work joints onto the insulation below.
After vacuuming up the water in and around the pan (just in case there was still a pan leak), I called for a dry towel. The attic temperature was triple-digits; I didn’t trust my sweat-soaked ability to navigate back across the trusses without a slip-and-crash, feet-first entrance through the ceiling below. I clambered down the ladder and hyperventilated for a moment. Phillipe Petit I am not.
Then, I started pulling away the saturated drywall. Steady drips fell from seams in the duct (that silver thing in the picture below). No drips, steady or otherwise, should be falling from the duct—it’s for air flow only. I stuffed my towel in to stem the flow, then pulled down more drywall (wet wall?) and then removed the batts of fluffy yellow fiberglass insulation. Like yellow cotton candy, but way more itchy.
Three industrial garbage bags later, I had most of the wet insulation out. Hubby arrived home about that time, so together we pulled down more drywall and removed insulation until we felt sure all the standing water was removed. We cut away about a foot around the top of the wall anywhere it was damp and I peeled the paint away like sunburned skin.
With two high-powered fans (and the really hot attic) on our side, the walls steamed. We finally made it to bed around 1 am. The next morning, things were dry enough to consider replacing the ceiling.
We called the plumber (who also does HVAC work). In short order, he fixed the air handler (an internal pipe clogged, causing water to fill the unit on the INSIDE and spill down into the ducts).
That afternoon, less than 24 hours from leak discovery, we replaced the insulation and drywall. We’re leaving the wall open for a week to make sure everything is completely dry.
And that, my friends, is how to mitigate a ceiling leak. All you need is a shop vac, broom and dustpan, trash bags, a drill, drywall screws, two fans, a slab of drywall and a trusty purple towel.
P.S. I’ve used Wikipedia in my links this time (rather freely), which is normally taboo for this blog, since I like to be right. And I like to be right all the time, according to my mother… Anyway, I’m so tired right now, I checked to make sure the first sentence was accurate and moved on. Before making any decisions based on information found in Wikipedia, please double check facts elsewhere.