Everything You Need to Know About Drywall Water Damage

From recognizing the signs of water damaged drywall to DIY solutions and how to prevent future water damage, here’s everything you need to know.
Written by Annette Maxon
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Discoloration, musty smells, soft drywall, or surface cracks are signs that you have drywall water damage. Though this problem requires immediate attention, you can repair minor water damage yourself. If your drywall needs to be completely replaced, you’ll need to call in the pros to help you out. 
Maybe there’s been a growing stain on your ceiling that you’ve been watching. Or perhaps a recent flood left behind a musty smell in your basement, even long after the water is gone. The root of both instances is likely water damaged drywall.
Unfortunately, ignoring the signs of water damage poses risks not just to your home but also to your health. 
That’s why
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, created this guide to help you tackle water damaged drywall as soon as you find it. From the basics of drywall to signs of water damage and how to repair damaged drywall, here’s the answer to all your drywall questions. 
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What is drywall water damage?

Drywall water damage happens when your home’s drywall absorbs water, which damages the drywall. Even worse, this is the prime spot for mold to form, which can cause even more damage to your wall.
Failure to fix damaged drywall can be costly. Collapsed ceilings, toxic spores from
, not to mention structural damage are a few of the reasons why it’s best to address any water damage sooner than later. 

Drywall vs sheetrock: what’s the difference?

You may have heard the terms drywall and sheetrock get thrown around in similar contexts, but what’s the difference? They’re essentially the same thing—both are made from thin layers of gypsum plaster that are held together by two thick sheets of paper. The only difference is that sheetrock is manufactured by the U.S. Gypsum Company
Since both are made from paper, drywall and sheetrock can be damaged by water. What’s more, you can use the same methods to identify and treat damaged areas!

Causes of drywall water damage

Like with many house ailments, water damage can be caused by numerous things, ranging from minor spills to major flooding. 
Here are the common causes of water damage in drywall:
  • Excess condensation formed on your air conditioner
  • Minor water spills in your house that are not fully cleaned up
  • Leaky roof
  • Burst pipe
  • Overflowed tub or toilet
  • Failure to keep the curtain inside the shower basin while showering
  • Weather-related events, such as hurricanes, storms, rising water levels, flooding
Know that this list isn’t exhaustive and that there may be other reasons causing the damage to your house in particular. No matter the reason, it is good to be aware of possible causes in order to prevent water damage in the future. 

Signs of drywall water damage

If you suspect water damage in your drywall, there are three things to look for.
Discoloration is one of the most obvious to spot. If the drywall is damaged, you’ll likely be able to see a stain that is a different color than the rest of the paint. 
Another clue to look for is any signs of mold growth. Whether you find a full-blown colony or simply the beginning of what might look like mold, you’ve likely got damaged drywall on your hands. This is especially common in areas that are regularly exposed to steam and/or water. 
Bathrooms, showers, kitchens, basements, and attics are places where mold would be most likely to form. 
Finally, take a look at your floors for any holes or cracks—these may allow water to seep into the floor, producing another opportunity for
dry rot
. Though they’re not a telltale sign of water damage, they’re good to watch as a high-risk area for future damage

How to repair water damaged drywall

It’s recommended that you tackle any drywall repairs as soon as possible. If left for too long, damaged drywall will start to collapse, warp, or buckle, all of which may cause structural damage to your home. 
Before tackling any drywall repairs, start by finding the water source that caused the problem. Doing this is essential to preventing further water damage. Once you trace the source, stop the flow of water before trying to address your damaged drywall. 
Once you’ve stopped the water leak, here’s how to address the different problems caused by water damage. 

How to dry water-damaged drywall

Your first step should always be to thoroughly dry the affected area. Always start by stopping the water source that’s causing the damage. Then, pull away any carpets, baseboards, and crown molding that may be hiding additional moisture. 
If the water is a manageable amount, dry the area by wiping up any water. For larger problems, use a high-volume fan or dehumidifier (both of which can be purchased at a hardware store or even rented) to get the area thoroughly dry. 
Drying the area may take a few days, so be patient! While you’re letting the space dry, keep the room airtight by closing the doors and windows—this prevents any external moisture from messing with the drying process.

How to remove stains from damaged drywall

Remove any loose items that are attached to the damaged wall—so take down any photos, mirrors, lights, and any other wall hangings. 
Next, fill a pail with soap and hot water. Using the soapy water, scrub down the stained drywall until all the stains are gone. Repeat this process two times per day for three days. Once the three days of washing the area are over, allow the treated area to dry completely. A good way to do this is to point a fan at the affected area. 
Then, wait another three days for the wall to dry out. By the end of this process, the stain should be completely removed! If not, paint over the completely dry stain to hide any remaining discoloration.

How to remove blisters from drywall

If you notice a blister, or raised bubble, on the surface of the drywall, you’ll want to remove these since they may be a sign of deeper water damage. Fortunately, removing them can be easily done with nothing more than a screwdriver or screw, bucket, and fan. 
Here’s how to remove blisters:
  • Place a bucket beneath the damaged area
  • Using a screwdriver, pop the water bubble
  • Let the area dry thoroughly by pointing a fan at the infected area
  • After letting it rest, check the drywall to see if it is hard and doesn’t give when touched—if it is, then your job is done 
If you’ve walked through these steps and you’re finding that the affected area is still soft to the touch even with the blister removed, your drywall will likely need to be fully replaced. In these cases, calling the pros for a second opinion is your best bet for having your drywall properly treated.

How to decide if the water damaged drywall needs to be replaced

Let’s say you’ve walked through all of the initial steps of stopping the water flow and drying the area and the drywall is still showing signs of damage. Now’s the time to determine whether the drywall needs to be replaced
To do this, try pushing on the affected area—if it is soft or has any give, you will need to replace the drywall. 
Other signs that the drywall may need to be replaced are:
  • Extensive discoloration
  • Bulging, blistered appearance, or sagging in the wall
  • Damp, musty smells (often a sign of mold or mildew)
  • Mold or mildew on porous surfaces or beneath the wall’s surface
If you spot any of these ailments on your wall, it’s a sign that the water damage has seeped deep into the drywall and needs to be removed entirely
Know that replacing drywall is not a simple process and often requires some practice in order to master it. Since dealing with water damaged drywall poses some significant threats (think: extensive structural danger and toxic mold), it’s recommended that you call a professional to do the job for you. 
Trying to do the project yourself, especially if it’s your first drywall replacement, may cause further damage to your home or fail to actually eliminate the problem. What’s more is that any damage that involves sewage will need special biohazard cleanup.
Key Takeaway DIY repairs are useful for putting a stop to the source of the water damage. However, for more extreme cases that require the drywall to be completely replaced, it’s best to call in the pros to make sure any structural damage done to your house is fixed quickly and safely.

Tips for preventing drywall water damage

Fortunately, there are some tried and true tips to prevent additional drywall water damage from happening in the future. First, and most importantly, is to identify the source of the water that caused any prior drywall damage. 
Make sure the water source is completely stopped so that no further moisture can damage your walls (if not caused by extreme weather, that is).
Once you’ve done this first step, keep an eye out for any minor drywall water damage, such as the beginnings of stains or blisters. The sooner you deal with signs of water damage, the less severe the damage will be. 
Finally, be careful to reduce the amount of excess moisture in your house. We get it—this is easier said than done! However, cleaning up small spills, keeping your shower curtain contained in the tub, and addressing faulty faucets, are some quick ways to help keep your drywall damage-free.

Does home insurance cover drywall water damage?

It depends. If the water damage done to your drywall was caused by an unexpected
incident named in your policy
, then your home insurance policy will cover the costs. 
Note that damage due to wear and tear, neglect,
or flooding
will not be covered by your home insurance in all but rare instances. 

How to find affordable home insurance

Whether your policy covers water damage, having a good homeowners insurance policy is important in case an unexpected accident befalls your home. But with high price tags and complicated lingo, it can be hard to figure out where to start. That’s where
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It depends on how quickly the area is treated. If the water is allowed time to seep into the drywall, then it will likely ruin the drywall. However, if you catch the problem quickly, you will likely be able to save your drywall by stopping the water source and drying the affected area.
To spot drywall water damage, you’re looking for discoloration or stains that are a different color than the rest of your wall, blisters in the drywall, or signs of mold growth. Other clues that you may have water damage range from musty smells to finding the wall to be soft to the touch.
Not long! Mold may germinate and grow within 24 hours of water reaching your drywall. So, it’s especially important to treat wet drywall within 48 hours of becoming affected to keep mold from growing on your drywall.
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