Water damage poses a massive risk for homeowners, especially if it’s allowed to fester for a while. Even in small amounts, it can lead to wet drywall, which can escalate into issues for your health, the structure of your home, and even your resale value. That makes it important to spot—and stop—the damage as soon as it occurs.
Problem signs, obvious and more subtle, present themselves whenever water damage appears in walls. Being wet to the touch, producing musty odors, and bulging or sagging are just a few of the signs a homeowner is likely to run into with wet drywall. By identifying these and getting in touch with a local expert early, you can sometimes reverse the damage—and safeguard your home against it in the future.
Wet Drywall Problem Signs
Wet drywall can happen anywhere in the home, but it’s most commonly found in the basement. Even if a basement is finished, it is exposed to moisture from the foundation, appliances, and heavy rain or snowfall, especially if the waterproofing measures are subpar or non-existent.
If you spot standing water in your basement, you should immediately check your drywall. However, if you can find no obvious signs of water or leaks, you can still use these problem signs to warn you that your drywall is under attack.
The first noticeable sign of wet drywall is a musty smell permeating from the problem area. This smell is created by moisture, which has been absorbed into the drywall or the wood within the home. The odor is produced as water creates a thriving habitat for mold and mildew formation.
This smell will grow more intense during hot summers or when you turn on heating in the basement. The moisture will evaporate and the mold will grow at a more rapid pace. This smell can be very subtle at first, leaving most homeowners to ignore it until it’s begun to spread into other areas of the home.
Drywall that is wet to the touch is a definite sign of a moisture problem. This is something you should immediately check if you’ve spotted a leak or standing water somewhere in the basement. Drywall can be very absorbent, especially if it’s exposed to moisture long-term. It’s also very unlikely to recover from this damage, so touching it even days or weeks after the leak has been cleaned up should produce this problem sign.
Bulging and Sagging
Once the wet drywall is allowed to continue untreated for a longer period of time, it will begin to bulge or sag. This is because the moisture can deteriorate the chalk, paper, and other materials in the drywall. It will be unable to support its own weight and will begin to droop. This may be subtle at first, leaving the wall with an uneven or slightly bowed appearance. Over time, it will be impossible to miss.
Just as the wet drywall will start to sag or bulge in areas with the most moisture, visible stains will form on walls or baseboards. If the drywall has been wet for a long time, not even paint nor wallpaper will hold back long stains that run down the wall.
Painting over the stain as it forms might sound like a tempting idea, but it’s not a good one for the long haul. Though it might not show for a while, the moisture in the drywall will remain and spread, flaking away from the paint or changing its color. If left unattended, it could result in a full collapse of the wall.
Peeling Paint or Wallpaper
If the drywall is wet, you can also spot damage to the paint or wallpaper that coats it. This is because the bowing effect and the moisture itself will unseat the contact points that paint or wallpaper has with the drywall.
Likewise, most paint used for drywall is water-based. It’s more likely to deteriorate when exposed to moisture long-term and in direct contact. Wallpaper, on the other hand, stays on the wall through the use of glue, but that does not mix well with water.
If you see peeling or bubbling paint, this indicates the drywall has been wet for some time. The drywall may be unsalvageable, but calling a local expert will help you ensure the damage doesn’t spread.
The sheetrock behind the walls is extremely absorbent and will continue to absorb more water as it encounters it. The more water it absorbs, the more warped the walls will appear. Unlike bowing or sagging, this problem sign will appear mostly around the edges of the drywall. They may curve inward or begin to flake away in chunks.
You can smell mold because of its musty scent, but if the drywall has been wet long term, mold can also grow on the outside and manifest visibly. This can appear as multiple dark spots on the drywall or run in streaks. It can look black, brown, green, or even white. Depending on the type of mold and the stage of development it’s in, it can appear flat or raised and fuzzy.
Unfortunately, mold spreads quickly throughout an impacted house. Once it starts, it will have enough moisture and organic fuel to spread further to other rooms and levels of the home. At this point, it will be releasing spores into the air, causing negative symptoms such as breathing problems, headaches, and dizziness, just to name a few.
Depending on the placement of the wet drywall and the problem that caused it, it’s possible that portions of the ceilings in the home will start to buckle. This happens for the same reason as warped walls; when the sheetrock has had enough time to absorb too much water, it can no longer hold its own weight.
It’s also possible that the issue isn’t with the ceiling itself, but rather the walls supporting it. As the moisture spreads outward, it can weaken the contact points between the drywall and the ceiling plaster or tiles. This is a clear sign that your drywall has a consistent water problem and the area needs heavy repairs or replacements.
Causes of Wet Drywall and Repair Solutions
After discovering the problem signs that indicate you have wet drywall, the next step is to find the root cause. That’s because a catch-all solution rarely works in these situations.
While placing a dehumidifier might work if your basement is dealing with too much humidity, it won’t do anything for drywall that’s exposed to a consistent leak. In that vein, encapsulating your basement will help prevent more water from getting into the area, but it won’t reverse the damage that’s already present.
That makes it important to consult with a professional who can identify all the obvious and subtle issues, narrow down the real cause, and apply the right solution.
A flooded basement is one of the most obvious (and fast-acting) culprits behind wet drywall. Basements are prone to flooding for various reasons, such as a bad storm, a broken sump pump, or water seeping up from the foundation. No matter how much the basement floods, whether it’s an inch or two feet, drywall within the basement will absorb the water, escalating into more issues.
Professionals, such as those at Indiana Foundation Service, will have the tools a homeowner needs to fix such a problem. This will include finding out where and why your basement is flooding. The expert will then clean up the damage, stop the flow of water, and begin safeguarding your home from further flooding.
Basement waterproofing is one of the best ways to prevent a recurring issue. The process begins with installing a sub-floor drainage system, which pulls water from its surroundings and redirects it toward a sump pump. If you have one already, the expert can check if it’s up to date, malfunctioning, or needs minor repairs. In some cases, your basement may need an upgraded model to handle the volume of water you’re dealing with.
Leaky pipes are not uncommon inside of a home, especially in a basement where many appliances such as washers, dryers, and hot water heaters are stored. A great deal of plumbing is also directed through the basement, where it can fall victim to leaks, bursts, or deterioration over time. Unfortunately, this is one of the most common reasons for wet drywall.
Since basements are mostly used for storage, it’s easy for a leaking pipe to go unnoticed for several weeks, if not months. Likewise, apart from bursting pipes, it’s possible for leaky windows to be ignored. Many basements are built with egress windows of various sizes that can get damaged with time.
Waterproofing the basement will help keep out some of the water or stop it from pooling beneath the house. Installing the right drainpipe, backup pump, and even a dehumidifier will help fix potential wet drywall problems.
Cracks in the foundation walls of the basement are a huge danger. They break the sealed nature of your basement and allow water to seep in from multiple sources. This may be water runoff after a freeze, rain after a storm, water from your sprinklers, or even moisture that naturally seeps up from the ground. This is made all the worse if your home is built upon expansive soils. Expansive soils can both escalate cracks and cause them.
Fixing the cracks is just one part of the full solution. A professional will assess what led to these cracks forming and apply a solution. This may include crack repair, but also wall anchors or a pier system to help safeguard your home against future cracks or structural weaknesses.
Humidity seems like a minor issue until you realize the damaging effect of condensation. Condensation occurs when the air is no longer able to contain the moisture it holds. This happens when a hot basement is already contending with a leak, but it can also be the result of a basement in a humid climate without encapsulation or temperature controls.
When the extra water is deposited from the air, it can gather on your drywall and begin to seep in. This can damage the drywall and lead to the formation of mold, as well as other issues. Although Indianapolis, Indiana, is known best for its cold winters, it can be home to scorching summers. If your basement is poorly encapsulated or has no temperature regulation at all, this can prove harmful.
An expert will be able to assess the damage and apply the right solution. This may include installing a high-grade dehumidifier to get better control over your basement’s air quality. That can be matched to vapor barriers to help properly seal your basement against outside weather, temperatures, and moisture.
Faulty Gutters and Downspouts
When your basement has water issues, you may not immediately check the roofline. However, if your downspouts are directing water off your roof and directly next to your foundation, both your basement and your foundation could be at risk.
This buildup of moisture can lead to water seeping in through the walls or up through the floor. It can even make expansive soil issues worse, causing damage to your foundation and basement walls. This damage can escalate to large cracks or gaps between your walls and the floor. Water can then easily get inside, seeping into your drywall.
A local expert can provide suggestions to re-angle your downspouts or to install new drainage options. By redirecting water a safe distance from your home, you can avoid moisture issues all throughout the home. This pairs well with basement waterproofing measures so that this area of your home isn’t vulnerable while your soil takes its time to readjust.
If your basement’s drywall is a wreck, it’s natural to first think of the cost. That’s especially true if multiple panels of sheetrock are sagging or damp to the touch. Since basements see little foot traffic, wet drywall catches most homeowners off guard—and their budget is unprepared. That can make DIY the only natural conclusion. However, there are many reasons why hiring a professional is actually the cheaper solution.
- The Dangers Of DIY
Replacing a panel of drywall seems like an easy venture. However, it can be very costly to buy or rent the tools necessary to take down the damaged sheetrock, let alone put a new one up. Likewise, you will need to buy new sheets and have them delivered, and then appropriately cut them to size. Leveling, spackling, and plastering the final result takes even more gear and materials.
Outside of technical costs, you need to consider the dangers you’re imposing on your basement, your health, and anyone helping you. When taking down drywall, you may damage any wiring that lies behind the walls or even the support joists themselves. This could lead to electrocution, collapse, or subtle issues in the structure of your home that only develop into worse problems over time. It’s also easy to overlook subtle issues, like mold or floor cracks, as you remove the wall and put up a new one. A professional is trained to catch these dangers and apply permanent fixes.
- Professional Services
Hiring a professional will include an up-front expense; however, you are benefitting from their specialized products, equipment, and technical training. Often, a professional can get better deals on materials and equipment that are purchased from wholesalers or manufacturers. This ensures the materials needed to repair or replace your drywall, the tools necessary to complete the job, and even the required safety equipment are all at a lower cost. That will reflect in the quote you’re offered during a free inspection.
A professional also has experience with the types of issues your home is facing. They will know how to assess any co-occurring issues and get to the root problem at hand. Instead of fixing just one symptom and masking the real problem, they can apply a complete fix that ensures you don’t need more work in the future. As a plus, they will also have experience in removing, placing, and finishing drywall without accidentally damaging your basement, appliances, plumbing, or wiring. This ensures there are no harmful or costly accidents that haunt you later.
When you choose a professional to check out your wet drywall, they will come up with two solutions: repair or replacement. In some cases, drywall is far too damaged to repair, so it must be redone from scratch. In other cases, the water damage is surface level or has only just begun, allowing an expert to save your walls.
Sheetrock cannot recover from water damage that’s fully sunk in. However, if you catch the problem early, a waterproofing expert may be able to halt and repair the damage with the use of fans and dehumidifiers. The idea is to extract the moisture as quickly as possible before it undermines the strength of the drywall itself. A local expert can also apply these measures to the other walls in your basement so they don’t later develop issues from contact with the damaged wall.
Depending on the extent of the damage, some walls may need to be replaced, while others can just be treated for issues that might develop as a result of being in contact with the damaged wall. This may include treating the area for mold and checking if there are any signs of staining, bowing, or mildew. If the water damage has had any effect on the structure of the basement, piers, or wall anchors may be necessary to help correct bowing, shifting, or sagging.
Once the fix is in place and the home is dry again, the preventive stage will begin. This is designed to keep the issue from recurring but also has many other benefits. For example, encapsulating your basement and using insulation around plumbing can help lower electricity bills, keep out pests, and improve the air quality of your home.
A few basic measures will include the BasementGutterTM drainage system, a vapor barrier, and SafeDriTM sump pumps. Depending on what caused your wet drywall in the first place, it may also feature a dehumidifier and other measures that are custom-tuned to your home and its exact needs.
Basement waterproofing can’t happen overnight, especially if you need a complete overhaul in your basement. The good news is, if you get it done by a quality team, it can have an impressive lifespan, saving you money in the long term.
- How Long Does It Take?
In general, basement waterproofing takes one to three days, based on the number of systems or measures that need to be installed. For example, if you already have a quality drainage system, then the team at Indiana Foundation Service may only need to install vapor barriers or upgrade your sump pump. This can be done in a day. If you need waterproofing from scratch, then it can take around three days of consistent work to finish your basement properly.
The amount of damage your basement has sustained will also affect this timeline. If your local experts in Indianapolis, Indiana, need to replace drywall, repair cracks, address bowing walls, and treat mold, these individual processes will add time to the project. That’s why it’s often smart, time-saving, and cost-effective to invest in waterproofing measures long before it appears that you need them.
- How Long Does It Last?
On average, basement waterproofing will last around 10 years. The length of time will fully depend upon weather conditions and potential issues the home might run into along the way. For example, if you experience harsh storms, your sump pumps and drainage systems may be working overtime. If you do not maintain the vapor barriers or environmental factors damage the insulation in your basement, the lifespan of the entire waterproofing project may shorten.
The good news is, annual maintenance can do wonders to extend the lifetime of your waterproofing measures. By having a professional check in on your basement every six to 12 months, they can spot small issues before they develop into harmful ones. They can also clean, repair, or modify your sump pumps, dehumidifiers, vapor barriers, and other systems to ensure they’re performing at their best. If no one system is required to pull additional weight, it will last for its maximum lifetime, which could be far more than 10 years.
Handle Your Wet Drywall Problems with the Help of Your Local Experts
Wet drywall is more than just an unsightly mess. The integrity of the home is compromised the longer a problem like that goes unresolved, which means there’s no time to wait. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Indiana Foundation Service for a free quote and inspection.
We can schedule an appointment and provide you with a written assessment of your basement’s condition, our suggested repairs or replacements, and a full look at the total cost. That will help you make the best decision for your home without pressure.