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I need to refinish the bathroom ceiling in my 35-year-old house. Before I bought the house a few years ago, the bathroom had just had some work done (new wallpaper, probably new lights, and I assume new ceiling). In just the past couple years, the ceiling got moldy and started peeling.

We talked to a local contractor about installing a fan but he thought the bathroom was too small to need one. I assume all the previous owners didn't have to redo the bathroom ceiling every few yeaers, so I think the problem is just that the ceiling wasn't done properly. My guess is that the texture absorbed and stored the moisture when we showered, allowing the mold to grow and causing the texture to crack and peel and fall off. Now that I'm refinishing the ceiling, I want to do it right. I did see another question related to the bathroom ceiling mold, but I still have a few questions:

  1. If it had been painted would this not have been a problem? (the ceiling was textured but not painted before it started disintegrating)
  2. Is there any particular reason to finish it smooth vs. textured?
  3. If I just paint it smooth right now, does that make it harder to texture later if I want to do that?
  4. Do I need to install a fan? (ceiling area is about 52 sq ft)
  5. If I install a fan, will it be easier to do it before or after I refinish the ceiling?
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Install a fan. Any bathroom with a shower/tub needs a fan, size of the room makes no difference (except when choosing the fan size). –  Tester101 Nov 24 '11 at 19:30
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Every bathroom requires an openable window that provides at least 1.5 square ft of air flow area when open – 2006 IRC [303.3] OR mechanical type ventilation: 50 CFM intermittent or 20 CFM continuous operation – 2006 IRC [303.3X] –  gregmac Nov 24 '11 at 21:37
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Have you cut a piece of the ceiling out to 100% confirm that the moisture problem is from the inside out(originating in the bathroom), and not from the top down(a possible leak)? –  Hemm Nov 28 '11 at 1:11
    
"he thought the bathroom was too small to need one" - Size has no impact on what moisture will do to a wood/plaster surface. Find a new contractor. –  The Evil Greebo Nov 28 '11 at 17:43
    
@Hemm: I don't see the type of ceiling spots that I'd normally attribute to a roof leak, but you're right, I should also check for that anyway. On another note, after working on it a little and looking more closely at things, I definitely think the bathroom has an internal moisture problem because some edges of the wallpaper are coming up and the light fixtures on the other side of the bathroom have started to rust from condensation in a couple places. –  rob Dec 2 '11 at 1:04

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted
  1. Paint may have helped. It would act as a bit of a seal, causing the water to drip off rather than absorb into the texture.
  2. I would do it smooth. A rough surface has a larger surface area meaning a larger surface for condensation.
  3. I would recommend against texturing at a later date.
  4. I would put a fan in. It's a good idea to put it on a timer so that it turns off automatically. This allows you to leave it running after you leave, and is also good for bathroom odors. Also, be aware that cheap = loud when talking about fans.
  5. Definitely put the fan in before. You're going to need to cut and repair drywall as well as drill through the brick to create a vent. You'll mess up any work you've already done.
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I'd also recommend against textured surfaces as they're harder to clean. In a moist environment, the surface will attract dust and dirt. It's just more maintenance to worry about. –  Hemm Nov 28 '11 at 1:10
    
Good points; I'm going to put in a quiet fan, finish the ceiling smooth, and paint it. I never even knew they made quiet bathroom fans until a couple years ago. I guess I grew up with cheap bathroom fans! :D –  rob Dec 2 '11 at 1:27

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