Why are Water Stains Brown?

Have you ever experienced the unsightly effects of a leak coming from somewhere in or around your home?

Perhaps it is a leaky roof that recently started (…or has been leaking for years).

Or maybe you have a pipe that is leaking or perhaps something funky going on with your bathtub that is causing water to leak through the ceiling areas directly below it.

Whatever the case may be, if you have experienced some type of leak along these lines, chances are that you not only had to deal with the issue of correcting the leak itself, but you also had to figure out a way to fix the damage that the leak ultimately ended up causing.

More often than not, one type of damage notoriously synonymous with leaks in our homes is that of the water stain.

Water stains may show their faces as tiny drips, or they may spread out over larger areas.

Sometimes they are formed due to a one-time occurrence because of a random ice dam or some other similar type of anomaly.

Other times they are seemingly “always” wet every time it rains.

Whether due to a one-time event or seemingly constantly being added to, one tell-tale sign of water staining are their brownish colors.

If it is a REALLY in-depth stain, one may even see a reddish tone working in with the brown and for leaks that are long-term and never seem to dry, one may even see mildew or mold specks mixed in with the water staining.

All this being said, where does the brown color of the staining stem from?

Many folks recognize that the brown staining that they may see on an occasional ceiling stemmed from or is stemming from some type of leak, but few probably stop to think as to why the color is brown.

Obviously when the leak begins, the water that is leaking is typically not brown in color.

Contrary to some beliefs, rarely does the water that is leaking come through as an actual rust stain on a ceiling (unless the water passes through an already rusted area and pulls the rust with it through the ceiling below it).

Instead, the brown stains actually come from the more prevalent building material that the water passes through on its way to showing itself on the visible side of the ceiling.

More often that not, the water pulls the tannins out of the wood in the framing of the house behind the ceiling and as it passes through the plaster, does so in a fashion that maintains its brownish color and shows through on the ceiling as the brown water stain.

Once the leak is corrected, fortunately the brown staining is not that difficult to get rid of.

With the help of spot-priming wherever the brown staining is located with an alcohol-based shellac (using multiple coats of the primer if need be), the stains can easily be neutralized and then top-coated with the desired finish.

Where I see mistakes made is when people attempt to get rid of the stain by first priming them before finish coating with an oil or latex-based primer or sometimes trying to wash it away with a concentrated solution of bleach.

While these actions may help lessen the stain, unless an alcohol-based shellac is used, the water stain’s presence may be a long-term lingerer.

Water stains can be truly annoying to look at as one passes by them each day, although eliminating them may prove frustrating if not tackled correctly, doing away with them can easily be accomplished if approached in the proper manner.

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