How To Conceal A Small Water Stain On Your Ceiling

If you have a small water leak upstairs, such as that which would occur if a toilet or bathtub overflowed, the ceiling below the leak probably has some staining. In most cases, there is no need to replace the ceiling. You can conceal the water damage by following these instructions.

Supplies you'll need:

  • 1 gallon of oil-based primer
  • 1 - 2 gallons of ceiling paint in your color of choice
  • 1 small container of joint compound
  • 1 roll of joint tape
  • A putty knife
  • A paint brush or roller
  • Sandpaper


  1. Wait until the ceiling is completely dried out before you start concealing the damage. If you start working while the ceiling is still wet, the stain will probably just seep through, and you may encourage molding. Ideally, you should wait at least a week after the spill to start the repair process. You can speed drying by directing a fan at the ceiling.
  2. Use your putty knife to apply a layer of joint compound to any areas where the ceiling appears to be cracking. Use the knife to ensure the joint compound is smooth, and then press on a piece of joint tape that has been cut to the approximate length of the crack. Let this first layer dry.
  3. Apply a second layer of joint compound on top of the tape, and let it dry completely (this takes about a day).
  4. Use the sandpaper to sand down the joint compound, ensuring that it is smooth. Don't worry if the joint compound is looking a bit discolored or if the stain is showing through. The primer will take care of that.
  5. Apply a coat of the primer to the entire stained area, including the portion that has been covered with joint compound. Make sure you're using an oil-based primer. Water stains will show right through most acrylic primers.
  6. Once the primer is dry, apply a layer of paint to the entire ceiling. Using a roller is the best way to get an even coat and also speed up the process. You will want to use a paint brush to reach the edges and corners.
  7. Let the paint dry for at least 6 to 8 hours, and then apply a second coat.
  8. Step back and admire your new-looking ceiling!

It's important to repaint the whole ceiling when you get a stain. If you only repaint the stained area, the shade of the paint may look different because the paint on the rest of your ceiling has changed color with age. Don't try to cut corners by repainting only the stained area or by skipping primer. Both of these steps ensure the stain is as well hidden as possible.