• How To Paint Over Water Stains On Walls and Ceilings


    When water leaks from the outside of your home through the wall or from roof leaks, stains are often the result.
    The first and most important step is to stop the infiltration of moisture. If it continues, mold will quickly develop and the construction materials might begin to rot.
    Once the house is secure from exterior leaks, getting rid of the stains is quite easy. It’s something that can be a DIY project, though a painting contractor could be hired for the work too.
    Depending on the size of the area affected, painting over water stains will take an hour to a couple of days, in most cases.

    Wall and Ceiling Water Stain Coverage Tips

    Our goal here is to provide you with a good overview of the job in front of you.
    When you know what needs to be done, you’ll have the information to decide whether to do it yourself or to hire a painter for the work.
    How-to tips are included along with a tools and supplies list for the project. Painting costs are found below for both DIY and professionally done repairs.
    The last section includes resources including step-by-step instructions for painting over water stains on walls and ceilings.

    Here’s an overview of the work required with tips for doing it yourself or finding the right painting contractor for the work.

    • The first tip is to make sure the leak that caused the staining has been found and repaired
    • See our blog post “Repair a Leaking Roof” for how to locate and fix a leak cause by faulty shingles, missing flashings or cracked caulk
    • Once the leak is stopped, make sure the drywall on the ceiling or wall is in good condition
    • Remove drywall that is falling apart or clearly deteriorating, replace it and cover it with a quality primer
    • Our post “Repair a Large Hole or Sheet of Drywall” provides direction on this important repair
    • Once the drywall is determined to be sound, the most important factor is to choose an oil-based primer and stain-killer (water-based products won’t work) designed for use on water stains and one that will kill mold and mildew
    • When applying the primer/stain killer, use tape to protect molding near the affected area
    • Consider using a drop cloth when painting ceilings to keep paint off of floors, countertops and other surfaces
    • Use a quality bristle brush to apply the oil-based, stain-fighting primer
    • Dip only the first quarter to third of the bristles in the primer and scrape it off one side of the brush when loading the brush with paint
    • Two thin coats are preferred to one heavy coat since the primer will penetrate more effectively and reduce the potential for runs
    • Follow the directions on the product’s label for applying each coat and allowing it to dry between coats
    • Once the stain-covering primer has thoroughly dried, check to see if the stain is covered, and add another coat if necessary
    • When the stain is completely covered and sealed, you will have to paint the entire ceiling or wall with a good interior latex paint
    • If the paint you choose won’t cover oil-based products, an additional primer might be required

    Water Stain Coverage Costs

    What does it cost to cover water stains on the ceiling and walls? Here are painting prices to help you get an idea of what your costs will be.

    DIY Painting Costs to Cover Stains: A gallon of Kilz, Zinsser or similar product costs $17 to $25 and will cover 150 to 200 square feet. Interior latex, depending on quality and finish, will cost $12 to $25 per gallon. A good brush is $7 to $15, a drop cloth costs $4 to $10 and a step-ladder costs $30 to $50.

    Professional Painting Costs for Stains: It’s unlikely you’ll get a painting contractor to your home for less than $150, even to cover a very small stain. If an entire room needs to be repainted once the stain is covered, expect your estimates to be $1.50 to $3 per square foot. For example, the ceiling of a 20’x25’ room of 500 square feet will cost $750 to $1,500 depending on the complexity and work preparation that needs to be done.

    How to Save Money on Water Stain Painting

    The best way to save money on a DIY job is to borrow the tools you don’t have and ask a friend to help. You might be able to get your costs down to just the price of the stain killer/primer and the paint you use to complete the work.

    You’ll find the lowest painting contractor prices when you get several estimates from painters in your area who understand that they must submit competitive bids. This isn’t a complicated job, but check the experience of the contractors you interview to be reasonably assured that they’ll do a good job for you.

    Resources for DIY Stain Coverage and Painting

    If you’d like additional help in this DIY house repair, these resources will help.

    AZ Restoration – This drywall contractor gives good advice for getting rid of stains on drywall.

    YouTube – Here’s a video from a painting contractor discusses covering water stains on a ceiling.

    Grants Painting – These tips about primers will help you choose the right one for the type of stain you have.


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