The case of the bulging ceiling

Got home this evening, heated up some food, sat down to do some magazine reading, noticed a sort of ticking noise from somewhere in the house. Figured it was probably the heater ticking to itself, as heaters sometimes do.

But the noise didn't stop. It seemed unlikely to be a clock in the walls, so I went to investigate. And I found a remarkable and kind of scary sight in the bathroom: an organically smooth bulge swelling out of the ceiling, like some otherworldly Lovecraftian excrescence.

And it was . . . dripping.

Water, thank goodness.

As far as I could tell, anyway.

It was rather beyond my experience, but I gradually picked up the pieces of my shattered sanity composure and set about trying to investigate. The floor was wet, though not flooded; I got an old towel and mopped up the water, then got a plastic bowl to put under the drip.

Went upstairs to the upstairs guest bathroom, didn't see anything amiss.

Came back down, tried to figure out what was precisely right above the spot. Went back up. Discovered, on closer inspection, that the upstairs bathroom floor was also wet, and the floor mat was thoroughly sodden. Dumped the mat in the bathtub, got another towel, mopped up the water on the floor.

But there was no sign of where the water might be coming from. It hasn't rained in a week or so. There were no obvious leaks or drips or wet surfaces, other than the floor.

I went back downstairs, sent email to my usual handyman asking if he could come look at it tomorrow, sent email to a mailing list asking if anyone had any ideas. Did a quick Google search to find out more about bulging ceilings. Went outside, found the water shutoff valve, shut off the water to the house. Came inside, made sure the water was shut off.

Then I lanced the abscess, just a tiny cut at the lowest point, while holding the bowl right underneath. Fortunately, the substance that began to slowly ooze out from the resulting cut continued to appear to be water, rather than, say, blood or something.

There was rather less water than there had originally appeared to be; only about half a bowlful. I dumped it out, and left the bowl under the drip to catch any remaining drips.

Then I went to pick up Kam and her parents at the airport; their flight had been very delayed, so they needed a midnight pickup.

Just got home. The downstairs bathroom ceiling is still dripping, though at a much slower rate than earlier. (As of someone gently nipping, nipping at my chamber floor. Only this, and nothing more.) The upstairs bathroom floor has gotten wet again. My working theory is that there's a pipe under the upstairs toilet that has a small slow leak in it.

So I'm gonna close various doors (to block sound) and go to sleep, and hope the handyman can fix it all tomorrow.

5 Responses to “The case of the bulging ceiling”

  1. Jim Moskowitz

    Youch! That’s one awesomely scary photo.
    I don’t remember having any problems with the bathroom when I stayed there… I saw water on the floor once, but it was after I had taken a shower so I assume I was the source of that.

    Thanks for the phrase “Lovecraftian excrescence”

  2. jere7my

    Has anyone pointed out yet how much worse off you could be?

    • Jed

      Jim: Yeah, nobody has previously reported any water problems in that bathroom; I think it must’ve been a very slow leak in the toilet tank.

      J7y: Yeah, I ran across that last night while frantically Googling to find out what might have possessed my ceiling. But I forgot to link to it, so thanks! It is mighty impressive. (And I was amused by the several comments saying that it had to be a Photoshopped fake.)

  3. allogenes

    Yeah, but blood would make for a better story! 🙂

    Hope it got sorted out today!

  4. Breht

    Remarkable and priceless photo. And, to think I had the honor of removing it and will eventually make it smooth again. After which, it will be another unremarkable bathroom. Really smart to have poked a small hole and drained it.


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