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Drying drywall after water damage

It doesn’t take much to get your walls wet. A leaky pipe upstairs can drench a drywall in the rooms below it. Rain water can seeps below the window sills and soak the sheetrock. Moreover, your intuitive diagnosis for the cause of the problem might not be the correct one, leading to an accumulation of damage and potential insurance claims issues regarding gradual damage. The best way to identify, and remedy, the problem rapidly, and while enjoying insurance coverage for the damage and the remedy is to call a professional company that will do it for you.
However, if you identify and remedy the root cause of the soggy walls by yourself, you still have a difficult situation on your hands – the drywall adjacent to the leak (and sometimes farther afield) will turn into a sponge. Its porous material will rapidly absorb moisture and wick it up into the wall. Worse, the damp spreads behind trim, bleeds under baseboards and saturates insulation.
This is very bad news. While drywall isn’t load-bearing, its condition still affects surrounding infrastructure. Furthermore, soggy drywall, turns into a breeding ground for mold colonies. Here are a few tips for dealing with the situation:
  • It’s easy to spot wet areas on wall surfaces, but determining if the drywall is wet below the surface is a horse of an entirely different color. You can’t rely on a visual inspection to identify subsurface damage- you need a reliable moisture meter. A reading over 1 percent or out of the meter’s green zone indicates compromised drywall material. A good professional company will be certain to employ this device- be sure to ask about it.
  • Take into account the effect of paint cover on the walls– if you only have one or two layers of paint on the walls that should not interfere with the drying out process of the wall surface, and your visual inspection should be able to identify the general location of the water damage. However, vinyl wallpaper, high-gloss enamel or more than one layer of wallboard take much longer to dry and interfere with your ability to even notice the damage, meaning you might require professional attention.
  • Your walls won’t dry themselves under most circumstances – air moving equipment including high volume fans and large dehumidifiers is required. You are obviously not going to have this equipment lying around your home, and purchasing it is likely way beyond your budget. However home improvement centers are sometimes prepared to rent it – remember however, that the clock is ticking on drying out your walls before mold sets in and that this equipment can be tricky to operate correctly.
  • Seal up the room, fire up the equipment, and monitor moisture. The more airtight you make the room, the faster your drywall will dry. So hang plastic sheeting over doors and windows and let your dehumidifiers rip. Still, even with the best sealing and equipment it will take you two to three days to dry out your wall- carefully monitor moisture levels to ensure that you don’t end the job too soon.
  • Repaint your walls After ensuring that the moisture levels are sound it’s time to repaint your walls, using a thin coat of alcohol- or oil-based primer.
  • Know your limits, and know when to call for help. Some jobs need professional attention, either because you can’t spare the time, or because dealing with the underlying cause of the wet drywall, securing the equipment required to assess and remedy moisture in your drywall and then thoroughly drying it out before mold sets in (typically within 72 hours) might be beyond your capabilities. Don’t hesitate to call for professional help- remember, given the attitude of insurance companies to gradual water damage, calling for professional help as soon as possible may end up saving you money in the not so long run.
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