Drip marks down all the walls--why?

still_lynnskiFebruary 15, 2011

When we bought this house, the walls in the first floor bathroom looked terrible, with drip marks on all the painted walls. We cleaned the walls really well, and re-painted with a high-quality latex paint with mildewcide. Now the walls look terrible again, and show drip marks everywhere. The drip marks are not 3-dimensional; they are just slightly darker than the wall color, and they are on ALL the painted wall surfaces.

The bathroom is approximately 9' x 6' in size, and has a plastic (fiberglass? acrylic?) surround shower/bath with sliding doors that don't go all the way to the ceiling. There is no exhaust fan, so I'm sure that's part of the problem, but is that the whole story? I've lived in other places w/o a bathroom exhaust, but have never seen this issue before. The shower gets used an average of once daily (it's not the only shower/bath in the house).

Should we just plan to install an exhaust fan and then repaint? Or is it likely that there's more going on here? I'd like to replace the tub/shower surround and sliding doors at some point, but money is tight now. In any event, I'd like to understand the Big Picture.

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There may be a leak that's inside the wall from the second level.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 1:39PM
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A photo would be helpful. Are the drip marks only at the top of the walls or all the way down? Can you wash away the drips or are they 'within' the paint?

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 2:58PM
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I think it is warm condensation coming in contact with a cold wall. I have seen this in my house.

You need to install an exhaust fan and turn it on before you start your shower.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 3:26PM
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Thanks for sharing your ideas.

davidtay--What a horrible thought! I don't think it's a leak from above, however, as we've recently insulated the crawlspace above and there were no signs of water leakage.

socalsister--the drip marks are all the way from top to bottom of the walls, and yes, I can wash them away. No pics, however.

mike home--I'm guessing this is the main issue, although the affected walls are interior walls and not particularly cold. When you've seen this in your home, was it on all the walls, and running the entire height of the walls?

Thanks again for any suggestions.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 4:26PM
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I had a similar issue with my master bath that currently is under construction. I don't have a definitive answer for you, but I think an exhaust fan would dramatically improve the situation. The walls appeared 'moist' and the drips never evaporated, I had to physically scrub them away. The bathroom had a window instead of an exhaust fan (is this only in California?). Our guest bathroom (also under construction) had a poor exhaust fan and I would notice the same thing when guests took long showers. When the walls were scrubbed, the drips didn't return--until the guests did! You might want to test by cleaning the drips and not using the shower for a day or to see if the drips appear only after someone uses the shower.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 8:32PM
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Worst case - in-wall leak

The easiest, non destructive way to exclude in-wall leaks is to check things out using digital thermography.

The last time I had drip stains on my wall (previous abode) was from a leak in a shower pipe that had not been soldered correctly. I ended up having to perform a unscheduled remodel.

Best case - Insufficient ventilation
Fix - vent the area.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 12:34AM
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I have this problem in my masterbath that does not have an exhaust fan. That's on the agenda for this weekend actually.

I notice it mainly on the 2 exterior walls but after cleaning it off with 409 or something similar I noticed all the walls had it to some degree. Mine only goes about halfway down the walls which could be due to upper wall is sheet rock and bottom is wainscoting. Luckily with the good quality paint we used I am able to clean it off and it takes a while before it builds up again.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 10:08AM
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