toilet leaking resized 600So one day you notice a stain on the downstairs ceiling, which just happens to be below a bathroom upstairs. Where do you start?

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The answer is that it is a guess. Just because a stain is in a certain location doesn’t mean the leak is directly above it. I know people that measure the distance from walls and determine that the cause must be this or that because it is directly above the stain. Not so. Water (or waste) doesn’t always drip straight down, but will land on a framing member and follow it until it finally drops onto the ceiling below.

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If you are into the guessing game, you can try to replace the wax ring to the toilet first. This is a common cause, and it is a fast job. The only way to really determine the cause of the leak is to cut open the ceiling and look around. The cause will be evident. You will see stains from the path of the water leading to the source. In any event, run the water until you find the cause. It will typically be either the drain or the pressurized piping.

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You can turn this into a guessing game or you can open the ceiling and know for sure. It is painful, but once you know the cause, you can repair it.

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