Before you go to repair or paint over a ceiling stain, it’s a good idea to determine whether or not the stain is due to a condensation buildup or if you have a roof leak. “How do I figure that out? Isn’t a stain just a stain,” you ask? Not really. If you have a rain leak, due to a roof problem, that stain is going to keep coming back and you’re going to risk doing serious damage to your ceiling over time. In addition to this, the constant wetness and water damage from a leaky mobile home roof can lead to the growth of toxic black mold. No one wants that in their house!
Taking a few minutes out to investigate your ceiling can tell you whether you have a condensation stain or something more drastic going on in your mobile home. Should your problem turn out to be a leaky roof, you’re further ahead to put away your painting supplies and focus on that first.
How to Tell the Difference Between Stains
There are two main things that will offer valuable clues as to whether you’re dealing with a condensation stain or a more serious problem like a leaky roof. Those are location and the actual stains themselves.
It’s All About Location: If you’re dealing with a roof leak on your mobile home, your rainwater stains can occur just about anywhere on your ceiling. It’s common to see them along exterior walls, but they can also be found in the center of the room, around ceiling fixtures or around air vents. Condensation stains, however, are usually limited to ceiling areas near the exterior walls of your home or in the corners of the room.
Examining the Stain: I was quite upset when I noticed the stain on the bedroom ceiling of my mobile home. Of course, the first conclusion that I (and most mobile home owners) will jump to is that a stain on your ceiling means you have a roof leak. Wrong. Take a moment and examine this stain. Does it have a dark center that progressively lightens as it nears the edges? If so, I’m sorry to say that you’re correct and you probably have a drip. The reason you can tell this is because, as the water droplets or rain droplets steadily drip down, they stain the ceiling and the water gradually soaks outward. As more drips fall, this stain just continues to grow.
If you have a stain with a white center, but darker borders, chances are that you’re dealing with a condensation stain. The wetness isn’t dropping continually down in the same spot, like it does in the case of a leaky roof and a rainstorm. Instead, the wetness spreads out and soaks into the ceiling in a more random pattern. This is what creates your condensation stains.
Covering Up Small Ceiling Stains
If you just have a small ceiling stain and you know it’s not due to a water problem, such as a leaky roof, you can cover the stain up relatively easy. All you have to do is dab on a bit of paint or even white shoe polish can work. Some people will color it over with chalk or even use a little bit of caulking to cover up the discolored area. Molded and contoured to match the texture of the surrounding ceiling tiles, this is a great quick-fix for small stains or even little nicks or scratches in the ceiling.
In some cases, you can even remove or lighten mobile home ceiling stains with a little bit of undiluted household bleach. Before you do this, however, make sure the floor and any surrounding furniture is covered, be sure to wear protective gear such as rubber gloves and goggles, and make sure there is adequate ventilation in the room. Using a rag or sponge, lightly dab the bleach onto the stain and let sit. It may take a few applications to significantly lighten the stain, but it will definitely help.
Sealing More Severe Stains
If you’re dealing with a more severe stain, or one that’s been caused by grease or fire, you’re going to have to seal the stain before you can paint it. Pigmented shellac sealants can be purchased at any local hardware store. Some good examples of pigmented shellac sealers include the popular Kilz and Bins sealers.
You have two options for using a sealer on your mobile home ceiling stains. You can either spot-paint the immediate area of the stain or, for a good all-over coverage and even look, you can seal and then paint the entire ceiling area. If you have the time, money and energy to pain the whole ceiling, this is your best bet, as it will give you a more uniformed and blended look all over.
Be forewarned that, while most stains can be sealed with one application, it may take a second coat of sealant in order to cover severe stains.
Prepping Your Room for a Ceiling Painting
Before you begin, you’re going to want to have some blue painter’s tape, plenty of drop cloths or a generous amount of plastic to put down on the floor. Also be sure to don old clothes and, unless you think white hair streaks are en vogue, some sort of covering for your hair. Also, since you’re going to be looking up for most of this task, protect your eyes and get a cheap pair of safety goggles. Your eyes will thank you.
Using your painter’s tape, cover any exposed moldings, window frames and battens between the panels (unless they are white and you don’t mind painting over them too). It’s a good idea to do a little test stick somewhere first, making sure it won’t remove the finish when you go to pull the tape off later.
It’s also important that, if you have a ceiling fan or a light in the middle of your ceiling, it’s important that you turn off the power to the area and remove the ceiling fixture. Failing to do so could result in a shocking situation that none of us want.
Finally, drop your drop clothes, being sure to cover any furniture or flooring that could be damaged by paint drops, spills or splatters. Now you’re ready to apply your sealant and paint.
Painting the Ceiling in Your Mobile Home
Once you’ve covered the stain (or entire ceiling) with primer, be sure to let it dry thoroughly. Remember that the better ventilated your room is, the faster your sealant will dry. It’s not a bad idea to give it several hours, just to be safe.
For good uniform color, you will want to add a layer of primer over your sealant. Primer will help your paint to go evenly on your tiles, which is important, particularly if you have porous tiles. Failing to do so could result in discoloration in places or a ‘patchy’ appearance.
Once your primer is dry, you can now brush or roll your paint on across your ceiling until you have a nice even coat. In most cases, when using a quality primer, you will only need to put on one coat of paint. When your paint is dry, you simply pull up your painter’s tape, replace your ceiling fixture and pick up your drop cloths and supplies. Congratulations! You’ve accomplished another task on your do-it-yourself mobile home checklist!
Personal experience as a mobile home owner