After water damage to ceiling, what next?
February 20, 2019 7:48 AM   Subscribe

In a roof leak, I sustained this damage to my ceiling and window frame. Can you point me forward?

The leak is fixed. I have a few questions:
• Can I determine the extent/nature of the damage by myself?
• If so, how should I decide what kind of contractor I need – painter, or drywall + paint?
• If not – same question. Should I call a painter or a drywall contractor?

My hesitations:
• If I call painters, and they’re over-optimistic about their ability to repair it, later I may still need drywall + paint.
• If I call drywall contractors, they may be inclined to recommend more work than we need. (It’s natural enough – ask a barber if you need a haircut.)

Again, here are pics.
posted by LonnieK to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The drywall needs to come down and be replaced. You can do this yourself - no need to be shy, drywall is inexpensive and water travels a long way and pools as it soaks through. I would bet on replacing the entire ceiling by the looks of it.

The usual concerns about lead paint, drywall dust, and so on apply. That demolition may reveal structural damage, or a need for other repairs, so be aware you might find some more bad news. On the plus side, if you wanted to install some canister lighting or a sound system, now is a good time.

Any contractor can do it. Restoration specialists are usually recommended by insurance companies, so if you are working with insurance, your agent may be able to recommend one.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:59 AM on February 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yep, drywall and trim off, but plan on leaving it open for a while to make sure things are actually dry in there before you put up new stuff. A fan and/or dehumidifier will speed that process up. Beware possible additional damage indeed, particularly if your roof was simply patched rather than having been opened up and replaced. If you get the drywall off and end up feeling overwhelmed at how to proceed, it's okay, you can always call someone in at that point.
posted by teremala at 8:23 AM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

There's a difference between a patch and a repair when it comes to roofing. If you are not confident that a true repair was actually carried out, it could turn into a repeat problem within a few years. A true repair typically involves a roofer removing some shingles, inspecting everything, and then redoing the faulty section of roof. Patching is more along the lines of throwing tar over some cracked roofing tiles.

There's what appears to be a skylight involved. Roof penetrations are typically a big leak magnet. Is the skylight part of this incident? If so, was it replaced, complete with new flashing etc?

It's worth waiting a little while to see if things hold up under a real deluge. Doing drywall work isn't particularly difficult, but it really does stink to do it more than once. Also, this allows time for things to dry out.

Doing a large portion of a ceiling yourself could be a bit of a challenge, especially if there's attic above, which the skylight implies. Insulation can be a challenge to take care of during a repair like this, so you probably want to ascertain what will be required before you make any decisions about undertaking the project yourself. You can make a hole in the middle of one of the areas that will need replacing and take a peek up above the drywall.

As the other contributors have noted, there's definitely a chance of other structural damage, especially if this was going on for any length of time. It isn't too hard to find guys to hang drywall on the cheap, but the flip side of that is that some of them won't be too concerned about any damage they find, maybe because they don't notice it, or maybe because they don't care since they're not equipped to fix it. Likewise, a general purpose handyman might or might not do a good job, depending on experience and knowledge. A professional contractor should get it right, but will typically be a somewhat more expensive option.
posted by jgreco at 9:21 AM on February 20, 2019

OP here. Thanks everyone for the detailed replies -- not what I hoped to hear, but what I needed.

I gave minimal details originally so as not to complicate matters (I thought), but here's a bigger picture:

We got a new roof ~3 years ago. The roofer advised us to replace the skylights at the same time, and noted that, if we didn't, he was not responsible for leakage. But to save money, we chose not to -- a bad choice, and now an expensive one.

Soon afterward the skylights leaked, with what appeared to be light damage to the ceiling. Though not obliged by the contract, the roofer made skylight repairs. They held up until a few months ago, when the skylights began to leak again, with more damage.

A different roofer replaced the skylights a few weeks ago, and they've held up since, under fairly steady rain and a few real deluges.

There's no attic above -- the room is an addition. The points on possible structural damage are well taken.

I'll talk to some contractors tomorrow.
posted by LonnieK at 12:04 PM on February 20, 2019

A good restoration specialist will come out and evaluate the damage for free. You might see if any friends have someone trustworthy they would recommend.
posted by Candleman at 12:37 PM on February 20, 2019

You didn’t ask but... You know homeowners insurance will likely cover this, right? We had a roof leak recently, and while the roof repair was not covered, the damage to the walls, drywall etc was. We called a restoration company who dealt with the insurance company directly and handled all restoration and repairs start to finish.
posted by amro at 3:28 PM on February 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

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