Does Water Ruin Drywall?

water damage

Because drywall is one of the primary building materials in a home, it’s also a frequent target when water damage occurs. Drywall is inexpensive, quickly installed, and easily cut to size, making it an ideal construction material. Typically utilized to construct walls and ceiling in most houses, however, drywall is particularly vulnerable to water damage originating either above or below.

Water and Drywall
Drywall is a rigid panel made of white gypsum mineral rock sandwiched between thick exterior paper. Its main drawback is the fact that it absorbs water readily. This can present significant water-related issues, including the following:

  • Once saturated, drywall tends to retain water and dry very gradually.
  • The absorbent gypsum material draws water up into it like a sponge. Pooling water on the floor that comes into contact with the bottom edge of the panel can be absorbed upwards into the drywall at a rate of one inch per hour as long as the water is still present on the floor.  
  • Wet drywall may lose structural rigidity and sag, bulge, or even collapse completely. Drywall that is distorted by water exposure cannot be restored and must be replaced.
  • If the source of water is polluted by sewage or some other toxic source, the absorbent drywall is typically permanently contaminated and cannot be retained. It must be removed and replaced by new material.
  • Even where there are no structural or contamination issues, the ceiling drywall that has been contacted by water will usually appear conspicuously stained and require repair and repainting.

Mold and Drywall

Water-damaged drywall also creates a very favorable medium for the growth of toxic mold. Because it stays wet for an extended time period and the gypsum is porous, dormant spores will be activated by water exposure and active mold growth will soon infect the panel, both internally and on the external surface of the material. Because treating contaminated drywall is problematic, the most expedient course of action when drywall is infected by mold is usually removal and replacement.

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