We recently discovered this water damage on the first floor directly below the second floor bathtub in our 1884 house. The spot has some give with a very firm press but is not at all mushy or leaking or wet. We honestly can’t remember if this has been here the whole year we have, or if it’s new.

I painted over it a few days ago but the discoloration has returned in that time, which has alarmed me.

We know virtually nothing about home improvement but can scrape by, and can’t afford any repairmen, deductibles, or assessors right now.

Thank you!

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  • 1
    First thing: stop using the bath. If you can't afford to fix this you can't afford to keep breaking it.
    – KMJ
    Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 18:41
  • Second thing is open it up to see what you actually have there!
    – Huesmann
    Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 23:10

1 Answer 1


The biggest thing is going to be: stop the leak. You have to get into the space under the tub to find out what's leaking. If you cannot access this space under the tub from the side, perhaps cutting open a wall from another room, you may have to come at it from below, where the water damage is. Considering that you may likely have to replace the ceiling where the water damage is anyway, opening the ceiling under the tub is probably a reasonable place.

Once the ceiling surface has been opened, you can see where the leak was coming from, if pipes need replacing, if the structure of the house between the bathroom floor and ceiling has rotted, etc.

After you've determined what has gone wrong, asking here or doing web-searches may be able to tell how to fix the problems yourself.

Finally, some videos on repairing wall and ceiling holes may be able to show how to make the ceiling look reasonably nice again. You may have old-style lath and plaster up there, or there may be drywall, if repairs were done since 1884.

  • 3
    Also inspect the floor around the bath. It's possible the only leak is through the floor covering (or where it meets the bath panel), from water that has been splashed onto the floor, especially as it seems dry. But if the drain pipework, or the seal where the drain meets the bathtub, is leaking, that will only get damp when the bath is used, so could feel dry when you check it
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 16:38
  • "The spot has some give with a very firm press" - that's L&P. And if it's your first time trying to surgically cut a hole in it, you will lose the patient. That'd be a great question. Uh... you have to be nice to it, or entire parts or strips start ripping down.
    – Mazura
    Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 4:57

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