Water leaking through ceiling - Posted by FrankIL

Posted by David Barnett on March 21, 2009 at 16:30:42:

I had a similar problem… here’s what was happening…

when the washing machine ran and it pumped out the water into the drain and it would leak somewhere else in the building. This is because there was a partial blockage in the line and when the pipe filled it backed out of another drain in another part of the building. Have the plumber snake the drain down from the washing machine.


Water leaking through ceiling - Posted by FrankIL

Posted by FrankIL on March 18, 2009 at 07:32:01:

Need some advice. My townhouse rental unit is 12 years old. The furnace, water heater, and washer/dryer are all in the same room on the 2nd level directly over the kitchen. I’ve had 3 occurrences over the past several years of water seeping through the kitchen ceiling. In the past it was the furnace - when the AC was on the coils would sweat and leak water - this would not be seen in the room with the furnace but it would leak through the floor and down into the kitchen. Drywall and paint would fall out and I had to get it repaired a few times.

Yesterday my tenant informed me that water is coming through the ceiling again but seems to happen when they use the washing machine. Has anyone else had this happen before? I don’t understand how I can keep getting water pouring through the ceiling. There is no water at all in the laundry/furnace room. Somewhere under that floor something is happening and leaking water. When it was the furnace AC coils I had it fixed by having the unit cleaned and putting in a drain pipe. I’m tempted now to rip out the entire furnance and put in a new one cause it’s too expensive to keep fixing this. I’m not a fix it guy so I have a plumber coming today. Any thoughts on what’s going on here?

Re: Water leaking through ceiling - Posted by Beachbum

Posted by Beachbum on March 20, 2009 at 14:55:03:

It shouldn’t be that difficult to find the source. It’s NOT Rocket Science. As another poster pointed out, water runs downhill. All you have to do is follow it back to the source. Water leaves telltale signs, usually a light colored mineral deposit, which is easily traced to the point of origin. You may have to cut more holes, or actually MOVE the washing machine out of the way to find and follow this trail. It REALLY helps if you use a decent flashlight!

In never ceases to amaze me when people, especially so-called professionals that charge $145 for accomplishing nothing, don’t even try to actually illuminate their work area. I have had two instances in just the past six months where the “Pros” opened a wall looking for leaks, declared that there was none, and then I flick on my $10 pocket LED and instantly spot a single small droplet of water seeping out of a joint on one, and the other actually had an extremely fine…hair sized… pinhole pressurized stream from a flaw in a cast elbow.

It is also possible, since you mention a prior ac condensate leak, that the pan where the condensate accumulates prior to running out the drain tube may be rusted through, allowing the condensate to leak out even though the drain line itself is clear. These CAN be tricky to identify, but you should still be able to narrow your search with proper diligence.

Happy Hunting…

Re: Water leaking through ceiling - Posted by Dan

Posted by Dan on March 19, 2009 at 21:54:55:

After reading everything below. One possibility might be the condensate drain line from the AC.
They typically stop up if not designed to drain properly or due to blockage. In Florida we bleach
or use pressure to blowout. If the coils looked fine this might not be the answer or the AC
might have not run long enough for the drain line to backup and the drain pan to overflow. Just
a guess. Best of luck.

Re: Water leaking through ceiling - Posted by Bart (FL)

Posted by Bart (FL) on March 19, 2009 at 08:17:09:

My daughters house had a plastic combination faucet/drain enclosure. When they moved in, my son in law hooked up the washer, however he did not tighten the cold water hose enough, which created a steady drip.

The enclosure was designed to catch this type of drip and send it down the drain. It did not work as designed because the drywall crew, when installing the drywall, cut into the enclosure which allowed the water to seep down to the first floor.

Big mess.

Re: Water leaking through ceiling - Posted by BigV

Posted by BigV on March 19, 2009 at 06:46:42:

When I moved into my house, I noticed there was water in the basement after we use a shower upstairs. I tried everything to find the leak, turn water on at full force, then let the tub fill up and pull the plug out. No leaks.

Finally, almost by accident, we discovered that the water was leaking through small holes in the tiles right above the tub, so when one washed the bath tub after shower, then the water would go through the tiles and straight down into the basement. Is the place of the leak located directly below a bathtub?

Re: Water leaking through ceiling - Posted by Kerry( Ind )

Posted by Kerry( Ind ) on March 19, 2009 at 05:50:17:

If the water is not leaking all the time it is probably a drain and not a pressure line.When the washer discharges it creates enough pressure to force water through either a small hole or a loose joint.If you have plastic drain it is a loose fitting,If the drain is galvinized it could be either one.It sounds like you have the wrong plumber,this should be a fairly straightforward and inexpensive fix.

Re: Water leaking through ceiling - Posted by Keith (OH)

Posted by Keith (OH) on March 18, 2009 at 16:44:47:


Hidden plumbing leaks can be a pain in the butt. You have to start narrowing things down little by litte.
The first thing I would do is to see if you have a leak in the plumbing lines with NO water usage and no appliances running. This is done easily here by locating the water meter and looking at it while no water is running. Hopefully your water meter is like ours and easy to get to.

If its moving with no water running then you have a line leak or the hot water heater is leaking. The only thing I would suspect on the furnace this time of year would be a humidifier. The filters clog and run over. If you have one shut it off as well.

Then I would fill up the washing maching and let it sit overnight.

Somewhere in there you will find the problem. I rencently had a problem with a water heater. Small crack in the rear. Couldn’t see the crack and the water was never visible standing in the front of the heater. The fact that you have had water problems here before tells me there is an easy path for water to go from that closet to the kitchen. you may never see it on the 2nd floor.

Good Luck,

Re: Water leaking through ceiling - Posted by michaela-CA

Posted by michaela-CA on March 18, 2009 at 07:41:40:

The fact that it happens when they use the washing machine makes me think that it’s not related to the furnace.

Update #2 - Posted by FrankIL

Posted by FrankIL on March 19, 2009 at 07:27:22:

When the plumber was there he cut a hole in the kitchen ceiling - big enough to put his head in and look around with a flashlight. He said there was no leaking from the washing machine. He also ran the washer, showers, toilets, sinks, and no water was seen.

I brought the furnace guy out yesterday as well to see if the coils on the AC were leaking again (tenant had AC turned on this past Sunday and this was a cause of the leaking in the past but I doubt there would be this much damage from one day of AC being on). The furnace guy said the coils were fine. I am totally stumped.

Update - Posted by FrankIL

Posted by FrankIL on March 18, 2009 at 13:29:12:

Plumber was out there today and knocked a hole in the ceiling. Said it was not the washing machine. Said he could not find the source of the leak. $145 for that and I still have water coming through. What a nightmare.

One other incident - Posted by Keith (OH)

Posted by Keith (OH) on March 21, 2009 at 18:23:30:

I had a leak in a 2nd floor bathroom that had me stumped one time. Every time my daughter took a shower water would leak into the 1st floor. When I ran the water to check for leaks I could never find anything. Went on for a week. I finally realized that the difference between when I was running the shower and when my daughter was, was that when she was running the water she was actually standing in the shower and the water was splashing off of her all over the surround. When I ran the water it went right down the drain. I took the shower head and pointed it at the wall and found the leak in 2 seconds.

Re: Update - Posted by Kristine-CA

Posted by Kristine-CA on March 18, 2009 at 22:05:09:

Frank: I feel your pain on this one and am having so many emotions
about paying the plumber $145 and…no answers? As far as I’m
concerned he should still be there, sleeping bag and all, looking for
the cause…:slight_smile:

As someone else asked, did the plumber run a cycle on the washing
machine. As in complete fills and drains? And did he run it on
warm/hot to make sure it doesn’t trigger a water heater leak problem?

I don’t know how familiar you are with leaks. But I’m telling you that
it’s a skill that A LOT of, if not most, plumbers don’t have. That’s why
there are franchises like A-1 Leak Detection, etc. If you have a hole in
ceiling now, your tenants should be able be able to tell you what
triggers it. Kristine

Re: Update - Posted by michaela-CA

Posted by michaela-CA on March 18, 2009 at 15:53:32:


did the plumber run the washing machine, while he was there?

Since there now is a hole in the ceiling, it should be possible to figure out where the water comes from, if it only leaks when the washer is running


Do you have pans and drain lines - Posted by Rich-CA

Posted by Rich-CA on March 18, 2009 at 15:43:00:

under each of the appliances? I know in some areas a drain pan and overflow pipe are required for water heaters and I have seen them under washing machines. Perhaps you should put in a drain pan under the appliances that have water and run a line into a drain. I have also seen the angle stop (the part that comes out of the wall you connect things like a sink or washer intake hose to) start to leak. Or it could just be a washer on your intake hose. I would check these before wasting more money on a plumber as they are normal maintenance.

Can you get a list of exactly what the plumber did check?

Also, on the water heater, check for rust spots on the outside and at the base. This would indicate a cracked liner and may also be the source of the leaks. Another water heater problem I have seen is when the temp is turned up too high, the heater “boils over” and the water comes out the overflow spigot on the water heater.

Re: Update - Posted by camgere

Posted by camgere on March 18, 2009 at 22:51:10:

A professional leak detector may be the way to go. Sometimes amateurs have the patience to be thorough where professionals want answers in seconds. Keith’s idea of looking at the water meter is usually a good idea on any leak. Sometimes there is a very sensitive dial in the very center. You can have smeone turn the water on and off for a second to see it spin.
Liquids run down hill under gravity. Just because water is leaking off something doesn’t mean that is where the problem is. It could be leaking up higher and running down hill. You can sometimes use flour or any powdered substance to test for moisture. Clean and dry an area and sprinkle with flour. Try to make the leak happen. If the flour shows moisture, the leak may be higher up yet.
Good Luck