Drywall is one of the most common construction materials used in house building in North America. It’s made of a thick coat of gypsum placed in between two dense paper sheets. These materials constitute both the drywall’s strength and weakness. They represent its strength because they’re lightweight (so the installation process is quick and easy also for an amateur), and they make the drywall a low-cost yet versatile material. They are also a weak point because they can be easily damaged by water.
That brings us to the main question that we want to address in this article: can wet drywall be saved? The short answer is: it can be done if you act quickly. There are a few factors to take into consideration here: the damage extension, the type of water that got the drywall wet, and how long did it take you to notice the water damage.
At the end of this short article, you will be able to decide if your drywall can be recovered, or if it needs a replacement. Just read through these simple steps.
Identify the Damage Extension
The first thing you need to do is identify how large the damage is and if it’s something that can be dried out or if it needs a replacement. Let’s make up some situations:
- A small accident happened (you dropped a glass of water and it hit the wall). In this case, you can simply dry out your drywall: wipe it first with an absorbent towel and then dry it out with a fan. Remember that wet drywall is very weak: don’t apply too much pressure when you wipe it, or you will break it.
- You found out that there’s a pipe leaking. If you are quick enough, you might be able to avoid a large replacement. Use a moisture meter to identify how large the damage is. You want to check the outer part of the drywall first, and then the interior of the wall if the external surface doesn’t show signs of water damage yet. If there’s sewage water involved, call a professional.
- Heavy rain caused a roof leak or flooded your basement. In this case, you should replace it completely (ceiling damage is no joke because it can cause a collapse). Even if you dry it out, heavily saturated drywall becomes a liability because it loses its structural properties, and it can easily crumble.
- There has been moisture build up in a corner of your house, and now there’s mold everywhere. You might think that you can dry out the affected portion of the drywall and be done with it. The reality is that mold will likely continue to spread in your home, becoming a problem for your health. The best thing here is to hire a qualified professional to remove all the spores.
Take Action: Dry Out the Drywall or Replace it
After assessing the drywall conditions, it’s time to do something with it. Let’s talk a bit about the two possible alternatives you have.
Drying Out the Drywall
If the damage is limited to a small portion of the wall, you might get away with a towel and a fan. On the other hand, if the damage is more extended but you were able to catch it before the drywall started sagging and warping, then you can still try to dry it out. If the damage is done by a leaking pipe, obviously you want to get that fixed first. Then you will need to get a dehumidifier and a big fan for the drying process. Seal the room up to make the process more effective, and check the moisture level of the drywall frequently with a moisture meter. Let the tools do their thing: this process can take quite some time (up to a couple of days if the damage is extended).
Replacing the Drywall
There are some situations where a replacement is needed. In these cases, the gypsum will lose its stability if you dry it out, so there’s no other way around. We talked about those cases in the paragraph above.
If there’s a leakage involved, deal with it first. After that, cut out the damaged section of the wall. Keep on cutting until the weak portion of the drywall is completely gone. Then, cut up a new section that will perfectly fit in the space you created before. After this new portion is secured to the studs properly, patch it with drywall tape to the older one. After that, you may want to apply a primer and a sealer to prevent any future water damage. Then, apply the desired joint compound to level the wall surface up. Finally, paint the new drywall to match it with the rest of the wall.
Should I Hire a Professional?
If the damage is extensive, or there’s mold or sewage water involved, then you should definitively hire a qualified professional. Drywall absorbs water very quickly. It pretty much acts like a sponge. The drying process must start within a couple of days for it to have a chance of being successful. You can tell if it’s too late if the drywall has already started sagging and bulging.
If the drywall has been wet for more than a couple of days, chances are that mold growth has already started within the panel, and that can be a major concern for your family’s health. To make sure that the spores that caused it are completely gone, it’s probably better to get the job done by qualified personnel. If it’s not removed properly, spores will spread further in your house, and you will have to deal with it again sooner or later.
Another thing you don’t want to mess with is drywall damaged by sewage water. The toxins are easily transferred from the water to the drywall, which is very absorbent. Contaminated drywall is harmful and needs to be handled by qualified professionals.
In this article, we learned that wet drywall can be saved under the right circumstances. The main thing here is to act properly and quickly to prevent the situation from getting worse. However, other cases require partial or complete replacement. If wet drywall is a frequent problem of yours, make sure to tackle the source of the problem also.
A good idea here is to do a thorough inspection of your home once a year to locate possible leaks or pipe damaging or mold sources. Doing so will save you a lot of headaches.
When in doubt about the proper way to deal with damaged drywall, calling a professional for advice is always a good idea.