Drywall is a panel used to make interior walls and ceilings. It’s commonly used because of how inexpensive it is and how easy it is to install. Despite these positive attributes, one major problem typically associated with drywall is water damage. Drywall that has suffered from a certain amount of water damage will begin showing problem signs after a certain amount of time.
Not only does wet drywall look bad, but it also causes health problems and ruins other structural parts of the house. The damage caused by wet drywall can end up being expensive and dangerous if the problem is ignored for too long. Here’s everything you need to know about detecting wet drywall so you can protect your home from falling apart.
How to Tell If Your Drywall Is Wet
The kinds of problem signs wet drywall will display and how quickly these signs appear depend on the severity of the water damage. If your home has recently been flooded and or your drywall has come in contact with an enormous amount of water, you’ll probably start noticing problems within a few days to a few months. Other problem signs are a lot more subtle because they develop over a longer period of time.
As a preventative measure, the best time to check for wet drywall is during the rainiest months of the year. In northern states like Minnesota and North Dakota, the rainiest months are during the summer and springtime, respectively. If your basement isn’t fully waterproof, there’s a good chance that water will find its way inside during this time of year. Thankfully, many northern states aren’t at risk of flooding as much as other parts of the country, but that doesn’t mean your drywall can’t experience water damage.
Any machinery and appliances in the basement could cease to function and cause leaking or flooding. If this happens, you need to act quickly so you can save your drywall from water damage. Doing so will not only preserve your drywall, but it will also save the rest of your house from structural damage.
Drywall is an absorbent material. It takes in water and holds it until it dries out. If the moisture stays there long enough, there will be mold growth. Mold growth is one of the most problematic, unwanted effects of wet drywall for multiple reasons.
First, it is extremely aesthetically unpleasant. Mold growth on drywall has this green-ish, brown-ish hue to it (with the occasional speck of white) that makes the drywall look incredibly dirty. If you first notice a small spot of mold on your drywall, don’t ignore it; mold grows over time and will completely overtake your drywall until the mold covers the entirety of the space.
Mold isn’t just an ugly stain on the wall. It’s also incredibly destructive. Because mold is a microorganism that needs to survive, it eats away at whatever it can find, including the drywall and wooden structures all over your home. If you allow the mold to thrive on your drywall, it will eventually transfer over to the wood in your home.
If the wet drywall problem is in your basement, this can spell trouble for the rest of your house. Many basement walls are load bearing and have wooden support joints that carry the weight of the rest of the house. When covered in mold, wood becomes soft and brittle. If the wooden support joints are unable to bear the weight of the rest of the house, the walls and floorboards upstairs will begin to bend and break.
Mold is also a health risk. Long-term exposure to mold increases the chances of respiratory issues and can lead to throat, lung, and sinus problems.
Smell is a pretty common indicator of wet drywall. The smell can mean many different things: it can either be the smell of humidity, the smell of the actual materials the drywall is made of, or it could be the smell of mold.
If your drywall contains heavy amounts of moisture, you might smell it before there are any visual signs. Drywall is made of calcium sulfate dihydrate, paper, and other materials such as clay or resin, which serve as binders. These materials have a certain smell to them that is very strong when the drywall is put into place, though they do abate with time. Moisture can bring out the smells of these materials and make the drywall smell differently.
If your wet drywall has mold, even if you don’t see it, it could also give off a certain smell. This is especially true if mold growth is occurring in the basement. Due to the stack effect, the air in your basement travels upward, meaning that the air you breathe every day comes from your basement.
One of the most common signs of wet drywall is bulging. This occurs when the paper coating separates from the gypsum the drywall is made of. The drywall then forms a brittle, bulging pocket of air that eventually breaks apart.
The severity of this issue can range from a small air pocket in the corner of the wall to a long, bulging streak running across the entirety of the drywall. Even if the damage is small and in a seemingly contained area, it doesn’t mean that the moisture exists only in that small space. It’s possible that the wall is holding onto a lot more moisture, but the short-term outward damage manifests itself in a small area.
Stains on drywall are a good indicator that something is wrong. If they are gray in color, they are most likely wet stains. These kinds of stains are most common on ceilings made of drywall because gravity causes the water to pool right on the surface of the drywall. Moisture in walls is typically absorbed within the actual drywall itself, so it’s rare for a wet stain to show up along the surface.
Many wet stains are confused for mold. Both mold and moisture debilitate drywall enough to get it to soften up, so don’t try to determine what kind of stain it is by touching, because you might get it wrong. Smelling the stain might give you an idea, but it wouldn’t be wise to do so. On the off chance that it is mold growth, you’ll be inhaling the mold spores, which could damage your respiratory system and trigger allergies.
A good way to tell if the stain is mold or not is by determining its color. Mold has either a green or dark brown coloring with occasional white specks. If the color of the stain is gray or light brown and is consistent, it’s probably a wet stain.
- Structural Damage
Drywall is not a tough material. It’s light and partly made of organic materials. Because of this, once it has been exposed to water for long periods of time, it begins to fall apart. Wet drywall becomes soft over time, and because of this, it loses its shape. Even if it’s dried and all moisture is removed from the drywall, it can never go back to being as solid as it once was.
Among the structural damage you can find in wet drywall include cracks, bends, and chipped surfaces. If too much pressure is applied to damaged drywall, it could potentially collapse.
Anything made of metal or iron that is near the drywall will rust due to the nearby moisture. For example, drywall is commonly fastened with nails, and depending on the kind of nails used, they will either rust or not. While many nails are made of stainless steel, some inexpensive nails are made of normal steel, which rusts over time.
- Humid Room
Another indicator of wet drywall is an increased amount of humidity. Because the drywall retains the moisture inside the actual wall itself, it’s difficult for the moisture to evaporate. The moisture makes the air more humid, and when the humidity in the room changes, this is something many homeowners can easily notice.
What Is the Fastest Way to Spot Wet Drywall Problem Signs?
Despite the numerous problem signs wet drywall can display, it can sometimes be a little difficult to spot these signs before it’s too late. Apart from actually seeing the drywall get wet, there is one reliable way of checking.
If you don’t have one already, you can purchase a reliable moisture meter online for a low price. Of course, this method should never replace a professional inspection of the drywall, but it should give you a quick, easy way to determine the general moisture levels.
This tool comes in handy when trying to determine the moisture content in a place such as a basement. It can be rather difficult to assess the immediate water damage drywall has in these spaces because the usual problem signs are common attributes in basements. Basements are usually musty, humid, and serve as nests for pests, so you can’t go off of smell and general humidity levels alone.
If leaking occurs in your basement, the water has most likely affected your drywall, even if it doesn’t seem like it. You can use the moisture meter to detect the moisture content in your basement’s drywall. From there, you can go on to contact a professional to determine how to fix the issue, how much of the drywall can be saved, and how to future-proof the space.
Part of the reason drywall is used as a construction material is because of its ease of use. If part of the wall has been damaged, the entire thing does not need to be replaced. The damaged part can be cut, removed, and replaced by a brand-new piece in no time at all for a very low price.
- It Needs to Be Replaced If…
If the drywall has been wet for more than two days, it automatically needs to be replaced. After two days, the drywall will be so saturated, and the materials so weakened, that it cannot function as a proper wall anymore. This is usually the case for homes that have been flooded for extended periods of time. Homeowners in southern states know this because flooding happens frequently in those areas. In states like Minnesota and North Dakota, flooding isn’t really a big issue, but basement equipment can malfunction and flood at any time, so contact a specialist if it’s been over 48 hours.
Sometimes, moldy drywall can be restored if the mold growth isn’t too severe. This, however, can only be determined by a specialist. If you try any DIY methods of mold removal, you might end up missing some spots. Even if only a bit of mold is left, as long as there’s moisture and something to eat, the mold will survive and spread. Because some of the binder used in drywall is made of organic material, it’s very easy for mold to survive on it.
- It Doesn’t Need to Be Replaced If…
As long as the wall hasn’t been wet for more than 48 hours, drying out wet drywall is something you could do yourself. Still, it would be wise to contact a specialist just to make sure the drywall won’t be presenting delayed issues. Even moldy drywall can be fixed if the specialist determines it.
Unfortunately, most homes suffering from wet drywall need to get the walls replaced. The only thing that can save your walls is acting fast, but many problem signs aren’t detected until it’s too late. As convenient as drywall is, it doesn’t stand a chance against water damage, so in the fight against wet drywall, the best methods homeowners should use to win are preventative.
Damaged, wet drywall should be replaced whenever possible. Replacing drywall might be more difficult and expensive, but it’s worth doing to avoid mold growth. It’s especially important to replace wet drywall if it’s in the basement.
Because of the stack effect, the air from the basement flows upward into your home. Due to how harmful mold spores are, you should prioritize replacing basement drywall over repairing them and then focus on waterproofing the basement.
- How Moldy Drywall Gets Repaired
If the drywall has mold but it’s not severe enough to require replacing, it can be removed in multiple ways. Even if you have experience removing mold around your house, you might want to leave this one to the professionals. Not only is mold potentially dangerous to deal with (especially if you have a weak immune system), removing surface mold is different from removing mold that is deeply settling into a wall.
Professionals will prepare a strong product that deeply penetrates the drywall. Many times, experts have access to chemicals and substances that are not commercially available due to their toxicity. This allows them to create a professional-grade mold remover that completely cures your drywall of any mold.
- Other Repair Methods
If the drywall has a bulging spot or the surface is chipping away, it can often be repaired depending on how much moisture the wall has. If the moisture has remained on the surface, an expert will be able to completely dry out the moisture from the wall.
After that, the damaged parts are removed and a primer is applied. Once that dries, the contractor applies the paint. It’s important to use ceiling paint on drywall instead of wall paint when repairing them: Ceiling paint has special adhesives to better stick on to the material they are applied on.
Greenboard drywall is a term used to describe moisture-resistant drywall. At its center, the same gypsum material is used in greenboard drywall. The difference lies in the surface materials, which have thicker paper as well as a wax coating to deter water. If you’re a homeowner that has frequent problems with wet drywall, you might look at greenboard as a lifesaver. However, you should know that greenboard drywall isn’t fully waterproof.
You can still have wet drywall problems with greenboard. Water can still get past the wax coating, and even the thicker paper sides can’t stop the water from reaching the center once that happens. It all depends on how much water the drywall came in contact with and for how long.
- When not to Worry
Greenboard drywall is typically used in basements and other areas of the home where moisture and humidity are ever-present. If some water was splashed on the drywall, even if it has been a few hours since then, you don’t have to worry. The drywall will still need to be dried out, but mild amounts of water will not have significant long-term effects on the wall.
Much like normal drywall, you can use an absorbent sponge to remove the surface moisture. Then, fans and heaters should be used to dry out the drywall for at least 24 hours. Again, even after drying it out, a specialist should be called in to verify that the drywall is sound.
- When to Worry
Remember, greenboard drywall is moisture-resistant, but that does not mean it is waterproof. If the drywall has come in contact with a lot of water for more than two days, the affected spot needs to be replaced. You might be wondering what the use of greenboard drywall might be if you have to be just as cautious with it as normal drywall, but the wax coating really does provide an extra protective layer. Without it, the water permeates through to the drywall’s core a lot faster.
If the greenboard is soft to the touch, it is damaged beyond repair. Once drywall has lost its strength, it cannot function as a proper wall anymore. If the wall has been wet for a while but it’s still solid, it can be saved.
Can I Repair Wet Drywall Myself?
As a homeowner, if something is broken, the first thing you try to figure out is whether something can be repaired yourself. While it is possible to dry out the moisture in drywall on your own, it is only possible if it is done immediately after the water has met the wall. If some water spills on the drywall, you can soak up some of the water using a towel and then use fans and heaters to dry out the water.
If your problem was something you couldn’t resolve right away, you’ll need to contact a specialist. It’s very dangerous to try to repair wet drywall yourself, especially if it has mold. If you try to replace a section of moldy drywall yourself, the mold spores will spread to the rest of your home, which will encourage mold growth in other places and endanger the other members of the household.
Call Innovative Basement Authority for Your Drywall Repair Needs
Innovative Basement Authority has been a leading basement and foundation repair company since 2005. Not only do we repair basement walls, but we also take care of mold growth for you. We are proud to serve both Rush City, Minnesota, and Fargo, North Dakota.
Call us or use our online contact form and we can get a field expert to your home in no time flat. On the day of the free inspection, our expert will tell you everything you need to know about the repairs, pricing estimates, and timelines. So don’t hesitate. A dry, stable wall is one scheduled appointment away.