Water Damaged Drywall- Repair or Replace?

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Water damaged drywall doesn’t always need to be replaced. Depending on the amount of water penetration and how quickly you address the problem, you may be able to salvage it.

Water damage to the ceiling or wall drywall or sheetrock can come from any number of sources in or around your home. The sources range from very minor incidents that are quickly remediated and dried to a heavy soaking that causes significant saturation and potential damage within your walls or ceiling. 

You may have a roof leak, excess condensation on your air conditioning unit, external flooding from a storm, hurricane or rising water level, burst pipe, faulty appliance, roof imperfections, ice backups, overflowing upstairs toilet or tub, or something as simple as a guest showering with the curtain out.

Regardless of the cause, water damage must be addressed promptly and completely. Left unchecked wet drywall can lead to dangerous collapsed ceilings, structural damage in the adjacent areas, and hazardous mold damage and mildew

Step one is always to identify the source of the water and stop the flow as quickly as possible. This must be done before attempting to dry or replace the drywall.

drywall damage

What is the difference between drywall and sheetrock?

Drywall and sheetrock are basically the same things. They are panels of gypsum plaster that have been pressed between two sides of heavy paper. Sheetrock is simply a brand of drywall from the US Gypsum Company. The terms are used interchangeably but mean the same thing. Sheetrock and drywall are used in both ceilings and walls. They are used as a wallboard, which is the term for any material that gets attached to studs to make flat wall surfaces. 

Drywall is affordable and easy to work with. it is sturdy but water can damage its structural integrity and make it soft and can even lead to collapses. On the milder end, water can lead to a simple water stain that can sometimes be addressed with some drywall compound and paint.

How to tell if water damaged drywall needs to be replaced

If the water “incident” in your home lasted only for a short time and did not involve a lot of water, for example, a simple overflowed toilet or leaky appliance that was quickly noticed and addressed, the water may not be absorbed into the drywall and it may not need to be replaced if you handle it immediately. Wipe it up and direct fans to dry it and address any water stain after it is dry.

drywall repair

If the damaged area was fully soaked from flooding or a burst pipe and the drywall has had time to get saturated you are probably going to want to remove and replace it. You can easily test the damage by pushing on the surface of the drywall. If it is still hard to the touch, you may be able to dry it out. 

It is often best to try to repair a water-stained ceiling than to patch it. If it is blistered or crumbling, repair or painting over will not be an option.

If it is spongy and soft, the integrity of the wall or ceiling is at risk and it is best to cut out the section before it gets worse, spreads and creates other damage, or even collapses. And the risk of mold is always present in a water damage situation. Mold damage can occur as quickly as within 24- 48 hours on the ceiling, walls, or even in the wall cavity.

A blister in the paint on your ceiling or wall does not mean drywall can’t be saved. Place buckets under the damaged ceiling and pop the water bubble with a screwdriver or screw to release the water. Let is settle for a day and then test the next day to see if the drywall is hard and stiff. 

If this remediation is done quickly, the area may not get saturated and may possibly be salvageable. If you are not sure about the security of the ceiling, you can add some extra screws to secure it to the rafters or studs.

If mold has formed and just appears to be on the surface, you may be able to safely eliminate the mold. If the mold growth is below the surface and into the porous material, a replacement will be your best bet.

Another special consideration is the source of water. If the source of water is polluted by sewage or other toxic sources, then the drywall in the damaged area is likely contaminated and should be removed. 

Always be sure to find the source of the water and stop the flow immediately. Don’t risk a recurrence that could be potentially worse or go unnoticed longer. Always err on the side of caution and put the safety of your home and your family first.

Since drywall is not load-bearing, it is fairly quick and affordable to replace. Left unchecked it can be dangerous, cause hazardous mold damage, and even affect the surrounding structure. Safety first!

And if you have any doubts, there are many reputable and affordable drywall installers and professionals who can safely, quickly, and seamlessly repair your walls. A reputable water damage expert will have the expertise and equipment necessary to safely and effectively handle your water leak and repair your water damage.

What are the dangers of wet drywall ceilings and walls?

Soaked drywall in a water damaged ceiling can be dangerous in several ways. Wet drywall can collapse from the weight once the gypsum is soaked and starts to break down, and fall in on the occupants. Water can seep to other areas of your home causing electrical hazards, further damage, threatening the structural integrity of your home, or the moisture can lead to dangerous toxic mold growth in your home.

How to dry wet drywall after water damage

Remember, your first step is to address the water flow or water leak. Once the water is stopped, you must fully assess the damage. 

Carefully inspect the area, checking all around the damaged area, looking for damage on lower floors, in crawl space, or other hidden areas. Lift carpets looking for water and look for any other water stains, rusted screws, and other signs of water or moisture throughout the house.

Inspect it visually, and if you are in doubt you can use a moisture meter to check the levels in our home. If it registers out of the green area or above 1% the area is compromised. 

Damage Buddy Tip: Empty your room, pull up wet carpets, and remove any baseboards or crown molding to allow for quicker drying. 

If the moisture is more than you can simply wipe up, consider renting drying or air moving equipment. Your home improvement store will have high volume fans and dehumidifiers that will help you accelerate the drying process.

Keep the damaged room airtight by sheeting the windows and doors before running the equipment, and check in frequently, and monitor with the moisture gauge. It may take a few days, but when you get a good reading on the moisture meter you should be ready to move to the next step.

When the area is completely dry, you are ready to paint over any water damaged ceiling or stain.

Caution! Drywall can be dangerous.

If the damage is extensive, contact a professional. Don’t risk a ceiling collapse or mold infestation. And if sewage is involved, this requires special biohazard cleanup. There are plenty of drywall specialists and water damage professionals in your area.

How to repair wet drywall

Always take proper safety precautions. Turn off circuit breakers if there has been water near them. If you are dealing with drying out and painting over stains that is simple. Wear a mask and rubber gloves.

If you are repairing drywall, the damaged materials will need to be cut out with a utility knife and removed. You may also have to remove damaged studs, flooring or ceilings. Be sure you are up to the job!

Dry the entire area around and inside the walls. Use fans and blowers and open doors and windows to speed up the process.

Sanitize the walls using a commercial sanitizer to prevent mold and bacteria from forming in the walls.

Measure the size of the hole you are replacing. Cut the piece out of a sheet of drywall, Attach the new piece to the hole using drywall clips and drywall screws. Use drywall tape and some joint compound to blend it with the surrounding area. Sand the area until smooth. You are ready to paint once the surface is fully dried.

How to paint stained drywall

Any new drywall will need to be taped with drywall tape, mudded, and sanded several times. You will need to be sure the drywall is completely dry and all the dust is cleaned up and the area is smooth before you paint. Paint over any affected walls or ceiling using a thin coat of alcohol or oil-based primer. If you are patching, feather the paint into the original area and allow it to dry. 

Repeat the primer application, and then finish off with a fresh coat of paint. It can be difficult to match original paint and you may have to paint the entire area to get a satisfactory result. Apply two coats of the final paint color.

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