Moisture condensation stains can show up in numerous places throughout your home, and they are different from a water stain created by a leaky roof. The most important thing to realize when a moisture condensation stain appears is that it won’t go away without fixing the root cause of it. But where to start?!

You can bet on condensation stains being caused by excess moisture in your home. Where that moisture originates is a challenge that you need to uncover before remedying the stain. If you do not, the stain will return. 

What Are Moisture Condensation Stains?

Moisture condensation stains form when there is excessive moisture in your home. Kearns Brothers will help you walk through common places where excess moisture can be found. 

The most important thing is to get the moisture issues rectified quickly and correctly. If persistent moisture is present, larger more expensive repairs may be in order. 

How are Condensation Stains Different From A Leaking Roof?

One thing that condensation stains and leaky roof stains have in common is they are both unsightly. They can be commonly mistaken for one another. 

Yellow Condensation Stains on Ceiling That Is Not Wet

One of the easiest ways to identify a condensation stain is that it isn’t wet. They

  • Do not form with rainfall or melting snow

  • Form without the presence of a roof leak

  • Do not follow a moisture path

  • Form due to moisture inside your home

A roof leak stain is different because

  • Requires an active roof leak

  • Tied to damaged shingles, worn out flashing, ice dams, and more

  • Can trace a water spot to a leak in the roof

What Causes Condensation Stains? 

A stain has appeared on your ceiling, let’s rule out the obvious stuff and why.

Eliminate the Roof

First, where did you find the condensation stain? Can water travel there easily? From plumbing or a roof leak, rule out the obvious. 

Check out your attic and inspect where the stain is. Is the insulation wet? Or can you spot an active leak? Check the underside of your roof decking to determine if water has traveled to where the stain appears. Didn’t find anything? Let’s move on. 

Flashing Leaks Are Commonplace

Flashing can wear out or get damaged by the weather. A roofing expert will inspect your roof flashing as part of their complimentary inspection service. Places that you may be able to determine flashing problems from inside your attic are

  • Chimney

  • Venting that exits your roof

  • Skylights

  • Any other places that pipes or products exit out of your roof

A roofing professional will be able to provide a more thorough inspection but it never hurts to give your attic an annual once-over. 

Ice Dam Formation in the Winter

MI gets cold and has a substantial winter. If your home has had ice dam formations there is a ventilation issue in your home. Ice dams form when your attic is too warm. Ice and snow melt and slide to the eaves. Your eaves extend past your home exterior and are at a cooler temperature. The melted ice/snow hits the eaves and re-freezes. 

Water expands when turned to ice so this bulk of ice over your gutters gets bigger and can push its way under your shingles. If the ice has pushed under your shingles, you may find a roof leak, wet decking, or water damage on the exterior walls of your home. 

Excessive warmth in your attic comes from hot air entering your attic somewhere so finding a way to seal off your attic will be important. Additionally, ice dams can form if there is inappropriate venting of appliances or insufficient insulation in your attic. 

How Do You Fix Ceiling Condensation Stains? 

You’ve inspected your attic and ruled out a roof leak. What about ventilation in your attic. Appliance venting and heat loss in your attic can create the conditions for condensation stains to form. 


Your home ventilation system will pull in cool air and vent it out of the ridge vent or whichever type of ventilation system your home uses. If you discover any condensation in your attic, that could be a sign that your attic is getting too warm. Address the condensation before it develops into something more serious. 

Appliance Venting

Appliances venting into your attic space is a big no-no. Typically these appliances expel hot and humid air out of your house. Entrapping it in your attic can cause mold growth and rot. Before tackling a ventilation project with your appliances, be sure to read your local codes to make sure you are doing it properly. You should not rely on your roof system to properly ventilate hot and humid air from your appliances.

Cooktop Exhaust

Cooktops push hot, humid, and greasy air out of your home. Local rules and regulations should be followed but venting the cooktop into your attic will create problems for your home. Typically, cooktops vent directly out of the side of your home. 

Dryer Venting Tips

Much like cooktops, your dryer pushes hot and humid areas out of its exhaust. The dryer vent can enter your attic space but it cannot exit within your attic. Don’t introduce extremely warm and humid air into your enclosed attic.

Bathroom Exhaust Tips

There is a theme here and its hot and humid air is bad for your attic. Venting your bathroom into your attic is going to cause problems for your home. 

  • Warm air penetrating

Can Excess Humidity Cause Condensation Stains?

Absolutely. Humidifiers can introduce excessive moisture to your home. Michigan winters can be dry because of the low humidity. Alternative heating methods like pellet stoves will dry your home out further. The EPA recommends the humidity in your home should be between 30% to 50%

If your home is too humid, you may experience

  • Mold or mildew growth

  • Condensation on the inside of your windows

  • Condensation stains on your walls or ceiling

Upgrade Bathroom and Kitchen Exhaust

Are your exhausts moving enough air out of your bathroom and kitchen? Your bathroom exhaust may not be moving enough air out of your home. 

Your kitchen exhaust may not be keeping up either. Determine if your current fan is doing its job here.

How Do You Get Rid of Condensation Stains on the Ceiling?

Once you have remedied the condensation problem, let’s focus on the clean-up process. Typically, it’s cleaning the area and not cutting and replacing drywall. 

The supplies you’ll need to remove the condensation stain on the ceiling.

  • Bleach

  • Spray bottle

  • Rag or sponge

  • Drop cloth

  • Protective gloves

  • Goggles

  • Ladder

  • Painters tape

  • Stain blocking primer like Zinsser or Kilz 

  • Roller

    • If you have a textured ceiling, use a ¾- inch to 1-¼ inch nap roller cover

    • If you have a smooth ceiling, use a 3/8 - inch nap roller cover

  • Regular ceiling paint

Condensation Stain DIY Solution

  • Mix one cup of bleach with three cups of warm water

Follow These Easy Steps

  • Clean the stain

First, get your rubber gloves and eye protection on. Then using the bleach solution, wipe the stain with a rag or sponge. The solution will help fade the stain and also remove any dirt and mildew. Rinse the excess away with a spray bottle filled with regular water and then wipe dry.

  • Prime the Area

Tape off the area that you are priming so you don’t get paint all over. Specially formulated stain-blocking primers help mask the stain. Follow the instructions on the package and let dry

  • Paint it

Find a matching ceiling paint to go over the area. Ceiling paints have a specific formulation to help mask imperfections. You will want to put two coats of paint on to ensure proper coverage.

Schedule A Complimentary Appointment with Kearns Brothers Today!

If condensation stains are forming in your home and you’d like us to inspect your roof/ attic, you will want an expert opinion. Kearns Brothers have served metro Detroit for nearly 40 years. We’ve won numerous awards for our commitment to delivering exceptional service. Contact us today to schedule.