Should You Replace Drywall If It Gets Wet?

For all the advantages that help make drywall America’s most popular building material, the inescapable fact remains that the product is notoriously incompatible with water. What is more, this shortcoming just so happens to be, in essence, inbuilt. You see, gypsum, of which drywall is largely composed, is a naturally porous material and is therefore prone to both absorbing water and retaining it over an extended period. Needless to say, neither of these water-retentive attributes are exactly conducive to promoting longevity.

Particularly not, given that water damage can cause the drywall to warp and rot. An upshot which, in a large number of cases, requires that the saturated drywall must be replaced. That said, if prompt and decisive action is taken to address the issue, the good news is that drywall can be salvaged.

Rescuing Drywall

Upon identifying a leak, your first course of action should be to immediately cut the supply of water. Next, the affected area of drywall should be dried using towels. And then a fan should be positioned so as to blow air across the water damaged area. In addition to this DIY approach, professional assistance can prove invaluable and greatly bolster the chances of salvaging the affected drywall.

Either way, it must be reiterated that the key to success is speed. On this note, it’s also worth remembering that once drywall begins to exhibit visible signs of weakening its structural integrity has been fundamentally compromised. At this point, replacement becomes the only option.

However, sometimes even an immediate response might not be enough. For example, if drywall becomes inundated by unsanitary water or sewage it may, irrespective of the speed of response, need to be replaced on health grounds.

Irretrievable Scenarios

Once the drywall has been exposed to a significant amount of water, such as that emanating from a steady leak or flood damage, the window to retrieve the situation effectively closes. Even when the affected drywall does eventually dry it will never recover its former profile and will, moreover, be decidedly prone to crumbling under pressure. A scenario that unequivocally signposts the need to replace the water damaged section of drywall.

When it comes to irreversible water damage, the imperative to replace is particularly pressing when it comes to drywall ceilings. Indeed, given the heightened risk posed to structural components and the threat of ceiling collapse brought about by such water damage, immediate removal should be considered a non-negotiable priority.

The Insulation Factor

Sodden insulation can prevent the enclosing drywall from properly drying. As such, oftentimes it can make financial sense to cut out drywall in order to remove the underlying insulation.

The Mold Problem

As luck would have it, the combination of drywall and water happens to create the ideal environment for mold to thrive. So ideal, in fact, that it can take as little as 24 hours for a mold colony to take hold in water damaged drywall. To cap things off, the problem cannot simply be alleviated by drying out the drywall. Rather, the only real option, once again, is to remove the mold-affected section of drywall.

On this front, procrastination is not to be encouraged. Although seemingly benign, mold can, in fact, prompt a range of health issues including numerous respiratory problems.

Water-Resistant Drywall?

Drywall can be treated with a water-resistant coating to provide additional protection to small leaks. However, since this protective coating does not constitute comprehensive waterproofing, it does little to protect against long-term water damage.

Conclusion

Should you replace drywall if it gets wet? In all but those cases where swift remedial action has been taken the answer is yes. You see, water damaged drywall cannot simply be written off as an unsightly eyesore. The troubling reality, in fact, is that it can harbor illness and, as part of a ceiling, represent a structural hazard. Happily, despite those risks, replacing drywall is a relatively straightforward procedure.

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