While it may not get the attention of the walls and floors, the ceiling can be an indicator of certain problems affecting a home's condition, so it's important to identify and address any issues that arise.
From "popcorn" to plaster, wood to drywall, there are many different ceiling materials in today's homes. Look for signs of damage no matter what the material. Ceiling stains can indicate water damage from leaking pipes, a bathroom fixture overflow, or a leaky roof. Before any attempt is made to repair water damage, it must be determined if the cause of the leak will continue to affect the ceiling, or if it the damage is related to a single event in the past. If water is dripping from the ceiling, the source of the water will need to be found and stopped, and the ceiling material will need to be thoroughly dried before attempting any repair work. If the damage is severe, a professional contractor specializing in structural drying should be consulted.
Mold is a real threat when moisture is allowed to remain in the ceiling and the space above it. It can take a little as a few days for mold to begin growing inside a ceiling, so acting quickly to get everything completely dry is the best course. In addition to being a health hazard, mold can eventually cause structural damage to the home if left to grow and thrive. Mold removal should be done by a qualified professional who will certify that their work is done correctly.
Minor ceiling cracks are not uncommon and may simply be the result of the home settling. Even older homes can continue to settle for decades. If the cracks are minor, they can be repaired with relative ease. The technique used will depend on the ceiling material. Old plaster ceilings will often sag and crack over time, and can be patched with drywall instead of new plaster. Cracks in a popcorn ceiling can be covered with aerosol sprays made specifically for this use. Major cracking can be due to seismic activity or structural issues and should be assessed by a professional before repair or replacement.
Paying attention to the ceiling can really pay off by allowing the discovery of small problems before they can become big ones - avoiding serious and potentially costly problems down the road for homeowners.