Common Causes of Ceiling Condensation

The causes of ceiling condensation are few, but their results are dramatic. Condensation on ceilings can lead to the formation of mold, water damage and costly repairs. 

Condensation forms when warm, moist air meets a cold object. Think about a cold glass of iced tea sitting on an outdoor table in the summer. It doesn't take very long for that glass to start to "sweat." The sweat is actually condensation forming as the cold glass attracts moisture from the warm summer air.

Improper Ventilation Causes Ceiling Condensation
One of the central tenets of modern home building is that a "tight" house is cheaper to heat and cool. One of the major drawbacks of this philosophy is that houses that reduce external airflow also limit the ability of the house to "exhale" moisture.

Probably the best way to deal with this problem is to use exhaust fans. If you're planning a new home, make sure to insist on exhaust fans in all bathrooms and in the kitchen. Your exhaust fans should be properly sized to match the size of your home. If you're in a home with exhaust fans, make use of them on a regular basis. Showers and cooking generate plenty of warm moist air and your exhaust fans are the perfect tools to move this air outside. Finally, if you live in a home without exhaust fans, consider having them installed-it's an investment that could save you from costly future repairs.

A Lack Of Insulation Can Cause Ceiling Condensation
Insulation is your home's defense against temperature extremes. If you have a room where ceiling condensation is an issue, there could be problems with the insulation above the ceiling. Typical problems include:

  • Too little insulation. If there isn't enough insulation above the ceiling, the ceiling itself becomes cold. A cold ceiling will promote condensation as it contacts the warmer air of the room. Increasing the amount of insulation or replacing the insulation with something that has a higher R-value will help to keep the ceiling temperature closer to the room temperature.
  • Improperly placed insulation. If the insulation doesn't completely cover the ceiling, open areas will become cold spots. It's not unheard of for installers to miss a spot or for contractors to dislodge insulation as they carry out other jobs. HVAC contractors and cable installers are the usual suspects in this case. Other times, gravity can be the culprit, such as in the case of a sloped or vaulted roof where insulation can slip downward over time. A thorough inspection above the ceiling will reveal any issues that need to be addressed. Your fix could be as simple as repositioning existing insulation or filling gaps with new pieces.
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