This week I received a question from a reader that I'd like to share with all of you. She said, "Dear Bob, I have noticed some small cracks forming in my bathroom ceiling near the shower. Does this mean I need a new coat of paint or could it be something worse?"
I am so glad the reader asked this question because it's something that is incredibly common and can easily happen in any home. The reason ceiling cracks appear is because the bathroom usually holds the most moisture in the house. If the bathroom doesn't have proper ventilation, water and steam from the shower can get trapped in the ceiling, softening the drywall and eventually cracking the paint. An easy cosmetic fix could be to fill in the cracks and repaint the ceiling, but my advice is to first check to ensure no leaks or drainage issues are causing the problem in the first place.
I spend a lot of time in attics and I often see bathroom fans that have been disconnected or knocked off track. So while they sound like they are working, they aren't actually extracting the moisture properly. First floor bathrooms can be even more susceptible to cracking because of the possibility of plumbing leaks inside the ceiling that originate from an upstairs bathroom. So what can you do?
If you fix the crack, you don't want it coming back again, so start by making sure you have no leaks or damage in your plumbing. If that checks out, have a look at your bathroom fan to ensure that it's working properly. If the fan is old, it's probably worth having it replaced. Once you're ready to patch and paint, make sure the surfaces are very dry and use water resistant compound and paint to repair the ceiling. Ensure you give the compound plenty of time to dry before painting - I recommend one day or more. Finally, make sure you're preventing any excess moisture build up in the future by running the fan during and for 20 minutes after each shower.
I love hearing from my readers, so please keep those questions coming!