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Practical painting solutions

Water damage to ceilings

There are few things in a home as unsightly as brown stains on a ceiling, which are generally caused by damp. But it is not all bad news; with the right attention, sorting out the problem need not be too much trouble, according to Dawid du Plessis, technical services manager at Prominent Paints. But, says Dawid, while water damage of this kind can usually be fairly easily rectified, the important issue is to discover the root cause first.

When it comes to the repair of anything involving water damage, the two most precious commodities for the homeowner are the right advice and the right products. And that starts with understanding how the damage occurred in the first place. These ugly marks can be caused by a range of issues, making it vital to establish the reason behind the damage. Damage as a result ofhumidity occurs from within the room. However, more often than not, the trouble comes from above the ceiling boards: burst geysers, leaking waterproofing or broken roof tiles are all causes of water damage. Once you have identified the cause of the problem, focus your initial efforts on solving it.

While the advice sounds obvious, some people fix water-damaged ceiling boards in the winter only to see the problem return along with the summer rains. And while a burst geyser will be obvious, broken tiles and leaky parapets are sometimes trickier to discover.

With the underlying cause of water damage resolved, it is time to move on to repairing the affected ceiling area. This is easily identifiable by the telltale brown stains, but you should also check if the ceiling boards are warped. If they are warped, they will have to be replaced. If not, allow them to dry. 

Once dry, use a universal undercoat as a barrier to prevent the stain leaching through, and then coat with the appropriate product for the environment. If it is a bathroom or kitchen, you need a paint designed to stand up to humidity; if in a living room or bedroom, you can coat it in a standard acrylic PVA.

Since most ceilings are made of Rhino Board, the bad news is that whole sections may need replacing. This material is prone to warping, so if you are even slightly unsure whether it is or isn’t warped, the best advice is to rather replace the section to avoid future problems.

Although less common, there are still some older houses which feature pressed ceilings. These are made of steel, and if there is a leak from above, the water runoff usually leaves marks in the corners of the room. The key area of damage is therefore the paint on the walls.

When addressing the root cause in this instance, it is necessary to ensure that the pressed ceiling is properly waterproofed, or it might rust from the inside out.

Burst geysers are a major problem and usually cause damage to both ceiling boards and the paint on the walls. To redo the walls, you will need to strip them back to a sound surface, before spot priming, then repainting. 

Be aware that there may be some moisture trapped in the plaster. Once you have fixed the root cause of the leak, wait about a week before attempting to repaint the damaged areas.

Hide imperfections with paint

Just like a beautiful face can benefit from the skilful application of make-up, the walls of your house can undergo a transformation with a coat of good paint. And, like make-up, such an application can conceal the minor imperfections which can otherwise ruin visual appeal.

Flaws can range from minor cracks in the underlying plaster to unsightly bumps or depressions - the remnants, perhaps, of previous projects. While the major damage should receive appropriate attention, many of the imperfections can be covered through the judicious application of the right choice of paint.


Where there are depressions, a filler is required, while unsightly bumps will require attention with sandpaper. Once smooth, any areas which have received filling or sanding will also require spot-priming before being painted over. Following this preparation, the choice of paint will have a substantial impact on just how good the final finish will look.


There are high-traffic areas which are more likely to experience problems. Whether in the kitchen or scullery where the walls often get bumped, or in children’s rooms where posters are affixed to the walls with Prestik, flaws are likely to show up quickly in these areas. If the paint has become chipped through wear or it has been pulled off in areas where posters have been hung, consider sanding down the damaged area before priming and repainting. This approach is preferred to the use of filler, especially where a number of layers of paint are already on the wall.

Look for intermediate texture coats to cover minor flaws. For example, Prominent’s Ripple Smooth provides a stipple-like finish, while Ripple Coarse delivers a coarser stipple finish; both are specifically designed to hide unsightly blemishes on walls.

The type of paint finish can also have a significant impact on how well these imperfections are concealed, since glossier paints like eggshell, gloss and semi-gloss have a tendency to show flaws in wall surfaces. Flat or matt finishes, on the other hand, are far better at hiding rough spots. Furthermore, matt paint is simple to touch up at a later stage if this becomes necessary.

Another way of hiding flaws is through the use of an identical hue, but in two different sheens. This can produce an exciting, customised pattern that not only personalises the room, but breaks the line of sight, making any flaws less likely to stand out. Acrylic over gloss enamel is always better. This is more durable and looks good for longer while generally performing better at hiding flaws.

Avoid trying to hide structural or other, more serious damage by painting over it. Rising damp, serious cracks or other damage should be properly repaired and prepared before applying a topcoat.

Where aesthetic damage may be too great to simply be hidden by a coat of paint, another option is wallpaper, which is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. 

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