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Do I have to Replace Drywall After Water Damage?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020
water damage

Water damage is a common reason for drywall replacement in homes. While low cost and versatility make it a very practical interior construction material, resistance to water exposure is not one of drywall’s strong points.

Under certain limited circumstances, drywall can be retained after water damage. In many cases, however, replacement is indicated. The good news is, drywall is not a load-bearing material and can be quickly removed and replaced by qualified professionals without any consequence to the structure of the house. Here are some examples of different possible scenarios:

Minor incidents. Small amounts of water exposure for a brief time—such as splashes from an overflowing appliance or some other temporary incident—are often superficial and are not absorbed into the drywall if dealt with promptly. Wipe the wet portion immediately with absorbent towels, then point a fan at the affected area and run it for an extended period to ensure thorough dryness.

Heavy soaking. If water exposure is substantial due to flooding or other severe incidents that continue for an extended time, the gypsum in drywall inevitably becomes saturated. Typically, the material will deform—sagging, bulging or collapsing. Even if intensive drying techniques are applied, drywall usually does not return to its original shape: After drying, the gypsum core loses its solidity and crumbles easily. In these cases, drywall removal and replacement is a necessary part of professional water damage remediation.

Mold contamination. Drywall affected by water exposure may initially appear intact. However, a delayed consequence may still make replacement necessary. Moisture exposure from any source—acute or chronic—may trigger mold growth on drywall. This typically appears as dark spotting or blotches on the exterior of the wall. Surface decontamination of moldy drywall with effective biocides may eliminate mold growth while it is still superficial. However, once mold has penetrated below the surface into the porous gypsum material, replacement of part or all of the affected panel is usually the most practical recourse.

Does Water Ruin Drywall?

Thursday, March 19th, 2020
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.

Eight Facts About Drywall Water Damage

Thursday, January 16th, 2020
drywall water damage

It’s no surprise that water damage to drywall is common.  Lightweight, durable, non-combustible and quickly installed, drywall, also known as gypsum board, is the most prevalent building material in American homes today. However, drywall and water don’t always get along. While the material readily withstands random splashes and drips, drywall is often one of the first casualties of serious home water damage.  

A whopping 20 billion square feet of drywall is installed in North America each year— most for construction of residential walls and ceilings. Here are eight facts from the Gypsum Association regarding drywall water damage:

  • The first priority must be identifying the source of water and eliminating it. In addition to obvious scenarios such as flooding, damage may occur from hidden sources such as leaky plumbing pipes routed through wall cavities and above ceilings—both areas typically enclosed by drywall.  
  • To reduce the likelihood of mold growth occurring in wet drywall, effective drying techniques must be initiated within 24 to 48 hours following the water damage incident.
  • Proper ventilation, continuous indoor dehumidification and adequate air circulation with fans are essential elements in drying out wet drywall.
  • Drywall is very absorbent. If the source of water damage is toxic such as raw sewage, affected drywall must be replaced to ensure toxins are fully removed from the indoor environment.  
  • Physical damage due to water exposure is also an indicator of replacement. Drywall that has lost structural integrity and is bulging or sagging cannot be restored and must be replaced.
  • Other signs of deterioration due to drywall water damage include rust on fasteners used to secure drywall as well as delamination of the outer layers of paper from the internal gypsum material.   
  • Moisture meter readings must be taken to verify that the internal gypsum material is fully dried. If meter readings are not consistent, laboratory testing of samples is recommended to ensure that the drying process is complete.
  • Deciding to replace drywall may depend on some or all of the above factors.  However, if doubt still remains about whether or not to replace wet drywall, the Gypsum Association recommends opting for replacement. 

So There is Moisture in Your Walls…

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

Nothing good comes from the presence of moisture inside wall cavities — the number of damaging consequences that can happen to a home is extensive:

  • Toxic mold growth
  • Rotting wood structure
  • Stained swollen drywall
  • Peeling paint or wallpaper
  • Ruined insulation
  • Insect infestation
  • Continuous odors

Moisture inside a wall is typically a result of some fault or failure in the construction or maintenance of the house. It also will never get better on its own. Instead, things will get progressively worse. Here are reasons why and how wetness can seep into areas where it doesn’t belong.

  • Condensation. Gaps and cracks in exterior walls may allow cold outdoor air to seep into the warmer interior wall space. This cold air will naturally form condensation on surfaces inside the wall cavity, creating a perpetually moist environment trapped inside the wall. Careful review is required to locate and seal external cracks and gaps that allow outdoor air to infiltrate exterior walls.
  • Plumbing leaks. Water supply lines routed through wall cavities may have tiny pinholes due to deterioration and/or seepage at joints. These may leak continuously or intermittently, soaking insulation inside walls, saturating wood structure and drywall. Uninsulated copper cold water pipes may also “sweat” condensation in amounts sufficient to cause damage inside walls, particularly if structural cracks and gaps allow humid outdoor air to infiltrate the wall cavity.
  • Penetrating rainwater. Exterior siding resists showers and splashes, not water flowing continuously down the wall. Clogged gutters overflowing during rain frequently cascade water down exterior walls. Water penetrating siding may also infiltrate the wall void, triggering internal moisture damage.

Drying Out

If external signs aren’t obvious, eliminating suspected moisture inside walls requires determining its exact location. Moisture meters that utilize needle probes can identify presence of moisture inside wall cavities without drilling large holes. Once moisture is pinpointed, the wall can be opened for drying, treating mold contamination, repairing any plumbing leaks and removing saturated insulation, if present. Rotted wood can also be replaced.

Using qualified professional services to identify the cause and make the repairs will be safer and more cost-effective in the long run.

Can Drywall be Sealed and Painted After Water Damage?

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

When indoor water damage strikes, drywall is often among the most conspicuous casualties. A ruptured pipe inside a wall cavity, a roof leak dripping down through the ceiling during heavy rain, water flooding a room and rising to meet the bottom of the walls—any of these scenarios can affect the highly absorbent combination of gypsum core and thin cardboard backing that composes a sheet of drywall. Is it a lost cause?

Maybe, Maybe Not

If wet drywall loses structural stability and sags or becomes deformed —or crumbles or collapses—it’s not a candidate for anything other than replacement. But what about drywall that remains intact, yet displays the discolored blotch that’s often left behind when wet drywall dries? Can you successfully seal and paint that ugly stain out of your life?

Here are some guidelines to painting stained, water-damaged drywall.

  • Rule 1: You can’t paint drywall until it’s completely dry. Ideally, this should be verified with use of a moisture meter to be certain. To adequately dry soaked drywall and prevent mold growth, professional water damage remediation experts utilize equipment such as an industrial dehumidifier running inside the sealed room as well as high-volume fans that continuously move air to accelerate the drying process. Only when the moisture meter reading drops below 1% —usually not before at least three days of intensive drying following the initial contact with water—should painting intact drywall be considered.
  • Once it is tested and confirmed dry, seal the drywall by painting the affected area with a thin application of an oil-based or alcohol-based primer. Allow the first coat to dry completely, then apply a second coat of primer.
  • After the primer has fully dried, you can apply the first coat of latex or whatever other type of paint was originally used. It may be difficult to match the existing color when painting only a small stained area affected by water, so you may have to paint the entire wall or ceiling for consistency’s sake. After the first coat dries thoroughly, apply a finish coat.

Do Water-Stained Ceilings Need to be Replaced?

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

water stained ceilingWater-stained ceilings are unsightly, but often enough, minor damage can be repaired so your ceiling looks good as new. Other times, the damage has gone too far and replacement is the only option. Knowing how to decide will save you time and money.

Replace or Repair?

In general, it’s best to repair a water-stained ceiling when possible. Not only is replacing a section of ceiling messy and time-consuming, it’s also difficult to match the new section with the rest.

Older lath and plaster ceilings stand up to water damage reasonably well and even a crack up to 1/4 inch can be repaired. Drywall (plasterboard) ceilings are more susceptible to damage because drywall, being made partly of paper, is highly absorbent and breaks down quickly when wet. These ceilings can be repaired only if the damage is superficial, such as light stains or bubbled paint.

If your plaster or drywall ceiling is crumbling, swollen or bulging even after drying or shows signs of mold growth, the material should be replaced by a professional.

Taking Care of Minor Damage

In a plaster ceiling, you can seal a small crack with a strip of fiberglass mesh tape, then plaster over the tape. Repairing a larger crack is trickier, but doable with the aid of plaster buttons (washers) and drywall screws.

Water damage of less than around 4 inches across is usually safe to repair yourself. For anything larger, consult a professional.

To repair damage in plaster, first let the ceiling dry completely, scrape off damaged material with a putty knife, then clean the area with a damp cloth. Next apply one to three coats of stain-sealing primer or primer-sealer designed for your ceiling material. This prevents the stain from bleeding through better than ordinary primer.

When the primer is dry, apply a setting-type joint compound to repair a plaster ceiling. For drywall, apply ceiling paint. This paint is formulated to adhere to ceilings and hide imperfections more effectively than wall paint.

For more tips on dealing with water-stained ceilings and other water damage, contact us at Rytech.

3 Possible Causes Of Water Damage To Check On Regularly

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

ceiling water damageWaiting for it to happen isn’t the best strategy to avoid water damage in the home. Many water damage crisis events are actually the culmination of an ongoing problem that’s been worsening for some time. Keeping an eye on a few of the most likely suspects—and taking prompt preventive action, ASAP—is always preferable to reacting after the fact. To avoid water damage in the home before it happens, here are three possible causes to check on regularly:

Roof Leakage
Chronic roof leakage can severely damage wooden attic structure, ruin insulation and spawn toxic mold before you’re aware of it. By the time roof leakage finally drips through the ceiling down into living spaces, extensive attic water damage is a fait accompli. A couple of times a year, climb into the attic and look for evidence of leaks. If it isn’t raining, you may only see evidence of previous water intrusion such as dark streaks on the underside of sub-roofing, rotting wood structure, saturated or deteriorated insulation and the telltale musty odor of mold contamination.

Plumbing Issues
Drips and other signs of plumbing dysfunction shouldn’t be accepted as “normal.” A dripping water supply line is a red flag warning of a potentially catastrophic pipe rupture that could flood your house with hundreds of gallons. Inspect water supply lines anywhere they are visible including inside kitchen and bathroom cabinets and behind fixtures. Shine a flashlight into the crawl space and look for wet spots or dried mineral residue on pipes that indicates seepage.

Sewer Problems
Buried under your yard, the household sewer line can harbor a hidden source of water damage, poised to strike. Tree root intrusion, collapsing segments and other unseen dysfunction can trigger reflux of raw sewage into the house—a toxic biohazard that requires extensive professional decontamination to make the premises safe again. Video inspection of the sewer line is the gold standard to check for developing problems before a backup occurs. Schedule inspection with a qualified plumber every three to five years.

Signs And Symptoms Of Drywall Water Damage

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

drywall water damage on ceilingIndoor water damage often includes drywall water damage. When pipe ruptures, overflowing fixtures, outdoor flooding, or other inundations affect a house, this ubiquitous building material is usually involved. Composed of a layer of gypsum sandwiched between cardboard paper facing, drywall’s water resistance is very dependent on duration of exposure. Once drywall has absorbed water, it may not be salvageable or worth the cost of attempting to dry out and repair versus removal and replacement with new material.

Evaluating drywall water damage

According to Gypsum Association guidelines, if drywall has been affected by Category 3 water —such as from a sewage backup or outdoor flooding—the decision is a done deal: Replace it. Absorbed contamination such as e coli bacteria and outdoor pollutants like fuel, pesticides and other chemicals make drywall a toxic hazard that needs to be eliminated from the house. Here are some other signs and symptoms to evaluate drywall water damage:

  • If drywall shows visual evidence of bulging or sagging, this is a sign of saturation and the material must be removed. A soaked, sagging drywall ceiling or wall is also a safety hazard to occupants. Other signs of saturated drywall include swelling or buckling and/or pulling loose from the mounting screws that secure the material to studs or ceiling joists.
  • If drywall feels wet and/or mushy to the touch and has remained wet for longer than 48 hours before drying procedures could be initiated, mold growth is very likely to occur. Removal is therefore advised, along with any wet insulation behind it. Mold remediation techniques should be applied inside wall and ceiling voids covered by the material.
  • In addition to visual signs and symptoms, a water damage recovery professional will utilize more accurate, definitive methods to evaluate drywall condition after water damage. This includes use of moisture meters with specific settings to measure moisture content inside gypsum wallboard. Based on these readings, superficial residual moisture may be eliminated with standard drying procedures including forced air and heat while saturated drywall will likely be replaced.

Contact Rytech, Inc. for information about the professional approach to resolve drywall water damage.


When Drying A Water Damaged Space Isn’t A DIY Project…

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

industrial dryerything beyond that limited scope, however, properly drying a water damaged space requires more than do-it-yourself grit and determination. Here are some additional scenarios where professional service is indicated.

  • If the source is questionable. Only Category 1 water, straight from a broken household supply line or other sanitary source should be considered DIY-friendly. Category 2, typically drain water, an overflowing toilet bowl or washing machine, etc, contains bacterial contamination and requires prompt, professional removal. Category 3—also known as “black water”—refers to a sewage backup or outdoor flooding that has inundated the house. Classified as an acute toxic bio-hazard, clean-up should be handled strictly by experienced technicians only.
  • If water is on the move. Inside a house, water rapidly migrates under walls and through floors away from the point of origin. Drywall, insulation and other building materials absorb and retain water. Damaging wetness can spread far and wide long after the initial event—pipe rupture, flood, whatever—has been resolved. Simply mopping up what you see here and now only removes a partial amount of total moisture from the house.
  • If you’re not equipped. Effective, efficient water damage recovery requires specialized equipment purpose-built for the task. This ranges from powerful extractors to pull water out of carpets and flooring, high volume pumps to remove standing water, ventilation fans, moisture detection meters, industrial strength dehumidifiers and other stuff that probably isn’t out in your garage. Reputable, certified water damage recovery firms make substantial investments in the latest hardware and technology to do the job right.


4 Crucial Steps For Dealing With Water Damage In The Home Safely

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

home floodingDealing with water damage can certainly be inconvenient and frustrating. However, it’s important to realize that the same conditions that cause water damage can also be a source of real safety concerns. Most structures including homes aren’t constructed to be waterproof. Therefore, anytime water is released inside a house or inundates the premises from outdoors, please consider safety first before dealing with water damage yourself.

Electrical Danger
Even after extensive water damage, household electrical circuits may still be “hot” with live electricity. Ensure safety by having an electrician check the premises. Never wade into standing water or walk into saturated areas until a professional has confirmed that it’s safe. Don’t attempt to shut off electricity at the main power panel yourself if the panel or the immediate surrounding area is wet. If the local power grid is down due to flooding or a storm, don’t assume the outage will continue. Power may be restored unexpectedly at any time without notice and could present a severe hazard.

Structural Issues
Some building materials are not water-resistant and become hazardous when wet. Beware of bulging, water-logged drywall after flooding. This material can absorb a large volume of water that dramatically increases weight and makes the wall unstable. Saturated drywall may collapse suddenly and cause injury. Ceiling panels are also absorbent and may fall without warning.

Contaminated Water
If the source of water damage is clean water such as from a ruptured supply line, it’s generally not an immediate health hazard. Water damage from a backed-up sewer or outdoor flooding, however, is a toxic hazard and contact should be avoided. Water damage recovery personnel are equipped to safely clean up after these events with professional protective gear.

Hidden Hazards
The aftermath of water damage can harbor unpleasant surprises: Slip and fall injuries due to wet surfaces are frequent, standing water may conceal hazards like sharp debris, dangerous animals such as snakes may enter the premises along with floodwater. Stay alert to these hidden dangers and avoid injury.

Need experienced help or advice dealing with water damage? Contact the professionals at Rytech, Inc.