When your roof or Ceiling becomes water damaged it can cave in and collapse, causing not only major damage to your home but also presenting a potentially fatal accident if anyone is unfortunate enough to be there when it happens.
A ceiling or roof collapse can be a disastrous occurrence for any homeowner.
But there are early warning signs you can look for, and things you can check on to help prevent the worst from coming to pass.
In this guide, we’ll go over early indicators that your roof is taking damage, what you can do about it, and what to do if your roof or ceiling does collapse.
Can Leaking Ceilings or Roofs Actually Collapse?
Over time, if water is allowed to accumulate, the entire ceiling could potentially collapse.
As water leaks, it can weaken the plaster or drywall, and eventually the damage combined with the increased weight from holding water can cause the ceiling to collapse downward.
Ceiling collapses are much more common than roofs caving in, but we’ll go over both.
Most often, ceiling collapses are caused by water leaks in the interior plumbing. When pipes crack or burst, they release water over time which can cause the collapse to occur.
Interior water leaks give early warning indicators, however, and thus give warning signs before a collapse occurs.
Holes or leaks in the roof that allow water to get through can also cause a collapse in your ceiling.
Drywall and plaster ceilings, when exposed to prolonged water exposure, will fail and collapse if the issue is not addressed.
Ceilings can also collapse if poor or improper materials are used in their construction.
Drop ceilings made with mineral fiber or fiberglass tiles are great cost-effective ways of hiding things like air ducts and wiring, but if water is able to accumulate on them, eventually the tiles will begin to sag and eventually break and fall.
Poor or improper installation is another common reason for ceiling collapse.
If the contractor is in a hurry or does shoddy work during the install, it can put stress on the ceiling where it isn’t mean to be, which can lead to eventual collapse.
The main cause of collapsing roofs is water leaks. Over time, as water is able to seep into the roof through the tiles, it can absorb into the structural supports such as the roof joists.
Once moisture absorbs, it creates an environment where fungus can thrive, causing wood rot and eventual collapse.
The most common reason for leaking roofs is that the roof exterior needs replaced.
Different types of roof exteriors have different lifespans. Slate and copper roofs can last in excess of 50 years, wood shake roofs can last about 30, fiber cement shingles last about 25 years, and traditional asphalt shingles last approximately 20.
Beyond that, roof exteriors run the risk of allowing water in from gradual degradation, so its important to monitor the condition of your roof and be vigilant for any signs of needing repair or replacement.
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Warning Signs Your Ceiling Will Collapse
Typically, your ceiling isn’t going to just collapse out of nowhere. There are warning signs that can tip you off ahead of time, and hopefully prevent costly repairs or worse, bodily harm.
When ceilings being to bow or sag, it’s a good indication that water has begun to either warp the material, or is pooling above it.
Either way, it’s an early warning sign and should be addressed as soon as possible.
Peeling and discoloration
Discolored patches and areas where the drywall or plaster has begun to blister indicate water damage is occurring.
If you notice the outer layer peeling away from the drywall, it’s a sign that your ceiling is taking on water over time, and should be addressed as soon as possible.
Cracks in the interior walls or ceiling
If a crack runs across a ceiling and then down a wall, it’s almost guaranteed that structural damage has occurred, and should be taken seriously.
Major/recurring roof leaks
If a major leak suddenly comes down through your ceiling, it means the problem has likely been ongoing and is just now manifesting visibly.
If this leak continues every time it rains, it means your ceiling is suffering ongoing water damage, and is at risk of collapsing.
Sprinkler heads dropping down below ceiling tiles
If your sprinkler heads were flush with the ceiling when they were installed, it usually indicates an issue with installation.
However, issues with installation can lead to leaks, which in turn lead to water damage, and you can see where this is going.
Better to have them inspected, and be safe rather than sorry.
Warning signs your roof might collapse
Though somewhat less common, when roofs collapse the results are catastrophic.
If your ceiling is showing signs of a potential collapse, you should check your roof as well, and keep an eye out for a few things.
Sagging sections of exterior shingles
Sagging sections of exterior shingles can indicate that water is pooling in a specific area, or that structural damage has occurred. Both can be early warning signs that the roof could potentially cave in.
Cracks in exterior masonry or walls
While not always indicative of roof damage, if you inspect the cracks and notice discoloration or mold spotting, these cracks could be caused by leaks in the roof.
Along with the implications of structural damage that could be occurring, they could be pointing to roof issues that could become a much larger issue later on.
Bends or ripples in roof supports or joists
As water is absorbed into wood, it can cause issues like bowing and wood rot.
When this occurs, sections of the roof become structurally unsound, and eventually the damaged sections can give way, causing the roof to cave in on itself.
Creaking, cracking, or popping noises
While noises aren’t uncommon in any home, if you hear your roof making strange new sounds like creaking or popping (especially when it rains), it could be an indicator that damage is occurring and your roof supports are straining to hold it up.
Better to investigate strange noises than to ignore them and hope for the best.
What To Do If Your Ceiling Has Started To Cave In
If you notice the warning signs of an impending ceiling collapse, there are some steps you can take to address the issue yourself. Ceiling collapses can be dangerous, however, and if you’re unsure of your ability, you should call for professional help.
That being said, here’s what you do.
1.Clear the area
You’re going to want to move any furniture or electronics out of the way. Not only will this prevent them from getting wet, it will give you room to work.
Tarps can be used to protect floors, and buckets will catch any active leaks, if necessary.
One common trick if there is water being visibly dispersed throughout your ceiling is to make a small hole centered underneath the leak, giving the water a “path of least resistance” to follow and allowing you to control where it comes out.
2.Find the source of the leak
Next, you’ll need to find where the leak is physically coming from. You’d be surprised how far water can travel from its source before it leaks through, making them difficult to locate.
Be prepared, because you might end up having to cut a hole in your ceiling.
Once the area is exposed, try to recreate the leak and see if you can determine where its coming from. While you’re here, check any joists or roof supports in the area for damage.
This could unfortunately become a much larger project at this point, and keep in mind it’s never too late to call for help.
After the leak has been determined, it will need repaired or replaced, as necessary. If the issue is plumbing, there are several short-term solutions such as pipe wraps. If there’s a hole in your actual roof, repairs will get a bit more complicated.
3.Dry the area out
While you make necessary repairs, the affected area will need to dry out.
This goes double for the ceiling cavity; any moisture that’s been trapped behind the drywall will lead to mold, which can lead to wood rot, which can lead to a whole slew of other problems.
Minor leaks will generally dry out on their own if you leave the area open, but for larger leaks you may need to enlist the aid of some fans to get air circulating through the area.
If moisture is visible and you’re able to reach it, it never hurts to get up what you can with towels. Just make sure the area has had a chance to dry out completely before going any further.
4.Repair the ceiling itself
For smaller leaks, this could be as easy as using a bit of spackle and paint to smooth over the area.
Larger leaks, however, could lead to replacing and repainting an entire ceiling.
The important thing to keep in mind is that it’s easier (and less expensive) to replace a section of ceiling than it is to rebuild a roof that has caved in.
What To Do When Your Ceiling Or Roof Actually Collapses Due To Water Damage
Should the worst come to pass, and you find yourself in this situation, a collapsed ceiling isn’t the end of the world, so to speak.
Be extremely cautious, but otherwise use the opportunity to inspect the area as stated above.
Find the source of the leak, inspect the joists or roof supports, and start planning to make necessary repairs if the situation warrants.
That all being said, a collapsed roof is a much more serious occurrence.
If your roof has collapsed, there are only two things you should do: leave the house, and call 9-1-1. A collapsed roof can have a domino effect on other things in your home, such as structural failure, broken gas lines, and damaged wiring.
A collapsed roof means the house will need to be assessed by professionals, not to mention the gas and electricity will need to be cut off at least until the situation has been resolved.
Until the house has been cleared by professionals, it should be considered unsafe to live in, and anyone living in it needs to vacate immediately.
The Process of Repairing Collapsed Ceilings
Fortunately, homeowner’s insurance covers most cases of ceiling collapse.
If you find yourself facing a collapsed ceiling repair, it would be wise to get in contact with your homeowner’s insurance provider first, and find out what all is covered under your current insurance plan.
As for the process itself, you’re looking at a few things. Traditional drywall is a commonly used ceiling material, and costs anywhere from $45 to $55 per square foot.
Other materials can be more expensive, and rack up the cost of the repair quickly.
When attempting the repair yourself, you’ll start with cutting out the damaged section. Take your time, and leave yourself square corners so it’s easier to install the new ceiling.
When installing new sections of drywall, make sure your screws are long enough, and are going into the joists above.
From there, you’ll be using plaster or spackle to smooth things over and give it a “finished” look, sanding down any uneven spots and putting any finishing touches before painting it to look like the rest of your ceiling.
It’s an involved process, and can be costly depending on how large of a section you’re fixing and what kind of tools you may have to acquire beforehand, so if you have homeowner’s insurance it’s recommended you go through them as it is likely covered.
When To Call A Professional
As stated above, any time your roof or ceiling itself collapses, you should vacate the house immediately and call 9-1-1.
Minor leaks in ceilings can be repaired as a DIY Project in most cases.
If you see that your ceiling has started to sag it’s advisable to get in a professional as soon as possible to assess the damage and repair it before the ceiling actually has a chance to collapse and cause catastrophic damage.
In case of an actually collapsed ceiling or Roof, it’s always recommended to get in touch with a Professional Water Damage Restoration Company as soon as possible.
Even if you started out on a minor repair yourself and suddenly feel as though you’re in over your head, it’s never too late to call and get professional help.
Water damage can often be accompanied by mold, which if left to hide in a ceiling cavity poses a number of health risks for you and your family.
We have Water Damage Restoration Technicians that can help Find the Source of the Water Damage ,Stop it & Repair the Damage Caused to Ceilings or Roofs.
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