Paint Over Water Stains
Picture this. You had a roof leak. Now you have a water stain on your ceiling. You pull out the touch up paint, give the stained area a quick coat of perfectly matching color, and, in only an hour or so, the paint becomes completely dry. But, much to your dismay, the entire stain returns as soon as the paint dries. Yikes! Talk about frustrated. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. Using a few simple precautions you can rid yourself of stains forever – easily and inexpensively.
A roof leak isn’t the only cause of water stains. Flooding and pipe leaks can result in a similar end result. The technique required to make a good repair is the same in each case.
You can use any good “stain-killing” paint on just about any ceiling or wall surface and completely hide a stain – no trick here. However, it is better to take a few precautions beforehand. Not doing so could mean peeled paint a few days, weeks or months down the road. No sense in doing the job twice. Doing it right the first time can save from having to make a bigger, more expensive repair later.
Here are a few things that you need to do before you repaint a water-stained ceiling:
- Clean the surface
- Dry the area out completely
- Check the stained surface (once it has been dried) to determine if it is stable enough to hold the new coat of paint
Make sure the area to be painted is clean and free of oil, grease, dust, wax and dirt. The degree of cleanliness is not always easy to determine by visual inspection. Sometimes you must simply rely on the cleaning process. For example: a coat of wax might be cleaned from a surface and disappear without notice hidden within the foam of a spray cleaner. Bottom line – clean whether it looks like it needs it or not.
If mildew exists use our famous formula to rid the area of the black, smelly stuff. Here’s what to do:
- Mix 1/3 of a cup of powdered laundry detergent and a quart of liquid chlorine bleach into three quarts of warm water. Add the bleach to the water first and then the detergent. Mix the contents thoroughly and pour into a spray bottle.
- Spray the concoction onto the affected surface. Re-spray as often as possible to keep the surface slightly wet until the black spores turn white.
- Rinse with fresh water and towel dry.
What you believe to be mildew might in fact be a black algae. As a precaution it would be wise to take one extra step. Once you’ve used our mildew formula re-clean the area with an algaecide. Stop by your local pool store – that’s where you’ll find it.
Caution: Algaecide is a pesticide and is therefore poisonous. Be careful to exactly follow the manufacturer’s precautions.
Plain old-fashioned household ammonia is another great cleaner. If no mildew exists ammonia is your very best bet. Remember, NEVER mix ammonia with bleach as the combination can be lethal.
This step is even more critical than cleaning. Paint will simply not stick to a wet surface. No matter how clean it is. Plus, you can’t test to be sure that the surface is sound until it is completely dry. Naturally, you will first want to insure that the source of the leak has been completely repaired. If a winter leak is repaired after the rainy season the leak should be water-tested to insure that it was properly repaired.
Recently, we had our roof patched. We made a minor modification that required about 50-feet of repair. It rained the following day and water poured through. The patch was redone and it rained again. The second time the repair held. We were fully prepared to water-test the area after the second repair. We hadn’t thought of doing so after the first one. Hey, live and learn.
Anyway, once the leak is stopped and the stained area has been thoroughly cleaned you must dry the area completely. A hair dryer is great for small areas (a foot or so in diameter) or a heat gun can be used for larger areas (several feet in diameter). If an area is really wet, a dehumidifier may have to be used. What ever it takes, keep in mind that paint will not stick to a wet surface.
Wallboard that has been wet is sometimes seriously damaged. Not every time, but often enough to take an extra step. Perform the following steps to insure that the surface to be painted is sound. You will need a short length of duct tape and a razor knife:
- First, use the razor knife to cut an ‘X’ in the center of the damaged area
- Next, firmly press the duct tape against the center of the X
- Finally, pull the tape away
If the surface is secure it will remain in place. If damage has occurred the surface will pull away with the tape. If the surface pulls away you will need to replace the damaged material and then paint. Again, you can paint if you wish. However, chances are you will be back at it again before you can say – “I already repaired that!”
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