Bathroom Water Damage? 5 Steps to Take Right Now

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: February 15, 2024

Water is the foundation of life, but too much of it inside your home can have many consequences. Burst pipes, faulty fixtures, leaky roofs and storm flooding are just a few of the things that can quickly turn your comfortable space into a major health hazard.

This is especially true in the bathroom where water flows every single day.

You may have an old toilet that leaks or a bathtub that doesn’t drain properly and not notice it for years.

Over time, even the smallest amount of water causes permanent damage and mold growth. Signs of hidden bathroom water damage may include a musty odor, visible mildew and warped flooring, baseboards and walls.

Mold hiding in your bathroom can cause a variety of health issues including throat, nose, eye and skin irritation. Mold-related illnesses can be as serious as long-term respiratory or gastrointestinal problems. In some cases, mold can even be deadly.

If your bathroom is water-damaged, it’s past time for a remodeling job. This isn’t a simple project, so where do you start?

5 Signs of Water Damage in the Bathroom

Water damage in a bathroom hides behind walls and lurks under floors. While it’s not always obvious, these problems are usually sure signs of water damage in your bathroom.

  1. Persistent Odors – Pervasive musty smells indicate mold growing in water-damaged bathroom walls and floors.
  2. Stubborn Fungal Growth – Mold that reappears after you’ve cleaned is another sign of hidden water damage.
  3. Tile or Drywall ProblemsMoisture behind walls can loosen tiles and cause warps and bubbles in drywall.
  4. Damaged Grout and Caulk – When these seals fail, moisture soaks materials under tiles and creates damp conditions that result in water damage and mold growth.
  5. Spongy Floors – Water damage in a subfloor rots plywood and leaves areas feeling soft or spongy underfoot.

How to Fix a Water-Damaged Bathroom

how to fix a water damaged bathroom

Step 1: Mold Inspection and Remediation

The first step before beginning your bathroom renovation should be a thorough inspection for mold.

If you can detect mold growth in the bathroom by its musty odor or the stains it leaves on walls and surfaces, you can be sure the fungus is hiding somewhere behind your bathroom’s drywall or under the subfloor.

In-home tests can help you detect mold, but they aren’t 100 percent foolproof.

If you suspect the water-damaged bathroom walls or flooring are hiding large mold infestations, it’s best to contact a certified mold remediation company and arrange for an inspection.

If the restoration contractor confirms the presence of mold, you can get to work on removal and remediation. However, handling this kind of work yourself can be a health hazard, and you can’t be sure of removing it all with DIY techniques.

Consider turning the job over to your restoration professionals. Their certified technicians have the skills and tools it takes to get the job done. Most importantly, you’re not putting yourself or your family’s health at risk.

Step 2: Prepare the Room

Once the mold has been removed, begin gathering materials and preparing the bathroom for renovation.

Shut off your home’s main water valve to prevent further damage in case of a mishap while you’re working. Disconnect the toilet from the floor and the waterline.

With the toilet out of the way, you’ll have room to work removing other damaged items or fixtures that need replacing. This might include your cabinetry, tile or vinyl floor and wood subflooring.

Step 3: Start With the Drywall

If water damage left the bathroom structurally compromised, your DIY project may turn into a job for a professional. However, if it only affects small portions of drywall, use a hammer and keyhole saw to remove damaged areas. Cut the drywall in a circular or rectangular shape so that it’s easier to patch.

Depending on the size of the area you’re working with, patch or replace the drywall. If you’re patching, use clips to hold new material in place, and secure with tape and joint compound. Once the compound dries, sand down the patch so that it’s flush with the surrounding drywall.

Now you’re ready to prime and paint over the repaired area. This might be a great opportunity to repaint the entire bathroom.

Step 4: Repair the Bathroom Floor Water Damage

Clean up debris from the drywall repair, and prep the bathroom floor. Start by clearing the damaged area and pulling up the vinyl or tile. You may need to move out cabinets and the toilet. Follow up by removing any protruding nails, screws and adjacent baseboards.

Draw a strait-edge line through the center of exposed joists on either side of the damaged floor. Using this as your guide, cut out the subfloor material with a circular saw. Let joists dry.

Carefully measure replacement oriented strand board or plywood, and cut to fit. Secure the fresh subfloor in place with wood screws, apply adhesive, and lay down replacement vinyl flooring.

If you’re replacing tile, you’ll need to install concrete board over the plywood. Set the new tile with thin-set mortar, let it dry, and finish by grouting tile joints.

Step 5: Install the Fixtures

Once your walls and floors are complete, replace or install new cabinetry, the toilet and anything else you removed before the bathroom renovation. If you’ve always wanted new light fixtures or a new paint color, this is the perfect time to update the room’s looks.

Be sure to clean up all debris and address damp areas before you replace anything. Otherwise, you’ll end up in the same predicament in the near future.

How to Prevent Bathroom Water Damage

It’s probably the wettest room in the house, but all that damp doesn’t have to cause problems. These simple tips help prevent water damage in bathroom walls and floors.

  • Always investigate discoloration on bathroom walls and baseboards.
  • Regularly check floor and walls tiles for damaged grout or caulking.
  • Don’t ignore drains that seem slow or are leaking in sinks and tubs.
  • Keep bathroom floors dry with absorbent bath mats.
  • Replace leaky faucets, shower heads and overflow tub drains.
  • Control bathroom humidity by installing an exhaust fan.
  • Know how to turn off bathroom supply line shut-off valves.
  • Make sure you have contact information for an experienced water damage company.

How Much does it Cost to Repair a Water-damaged Bathroom?

Water-damaged bathroom repair and restoration averages between $1100 and $4500. A reputable restoration contractor will inspect the extent of damages before giving you a written quote.

Dealing with water-damaged bathroom in the Chicago area? Give us a call for emergency help: 773-647-1985

Why are my bathroom walls wet?

Wet bathroom walls are usually caused by condensation. A closed bathroom environment traps water molecules that accumulate on walls and countertops. Open a window when you shower or bathe. A dehumidifier can also reduce moisture on bathroom walls.

Can mold in a water-damaged bathroom make you sick?

Yes. Mold quickly grows in the humid environment of a water-damaged bathroom. Common reactions to mold include red eyes, sneezing, respiratory problems and skin rashes. Individuals with immune system issues, asthma or allergies are especially vulnerable.