Drying Drywall After Water Damage: 5 Effective DIY Steps

Author: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Last Updated on

It doesn’t take much to make the walls wet. A leaky pipe upstairs drenches drywall in the rooms below. Rain water seeps under window sills soaking sheetrock. Once you figure out the problem and get it fixed, you still have a soggy situation on your hands.

It almost sounds like a riddle. How do you go about drying drywall after water damage?

As Chicago’s leading water cleanup and restoration company, we know that drying wet interior walls can be a successful DIY job. By following these guidelines, you can assess the damage, learn how to dry out walls after a leak and restore your room’s original good looks.

Wet Walls Wick Up Problems

Whether it’s a washing machine disaster in the laundry room or a slow, hidden leak under the kitchen sink, you can count on adjacent drywall turning into a sponge. Its porous material quickly absorbs moisture and wicks it up into the wall. The damp spreads behind trim, bleeds under baseboards and saturates insulation.

Drywall isn’t load-bearing, but its condition affects surrounding infrastructure. When it becomes wet, the material turns into a breeding ground for unhealthy mold growth. Fast-growing microbial colonies multiply quickly by releasing airborne spores.

You have to dry out wet walls as soon as possible to head off potential mold problems that can spread throughout your home’s wood framing, crawl spaces and ductwork.

How to Dry Out Wet Drywall in 5 Easy Steps

1. Gauge the Extent of the Damage

It’s easy to spot wet areas on wall surfaces, but how to tell if drywall is wet below the surface isn’t always obvious. Trust your visual inspection to determine the general location of water damage, but gauge the extent of the problem with a moisture meter. Any reading above 1 percent or out of the meter’s green zone indicates compromised drywall material.

moisture meter
You can buy a moisture meter at your local hardware store or online  –  usually for less than $40

Power Tip: Make your inspection easier and speed up drying time by moving everything out of the room. Be sure to check carpet and padding for water damage, and pull it up if necessary.

2. Factor in Wall Covering or Paint Type

If you can easily see the damp in your sheetrock, the walls are probably painted with one or two coats of flat or semi-gloss paint. These finishes don’t seal up moisture in the drywall, and that makes the drying job easier.

Areas covered with vinyl wallpaper, high-gloss enamel or more than one layer of wallboard take much longer to dry and may need professional attention.

Power Tip: Remove baseboards and trim to help speed up the wall drying process, and be on the lookout for any signs of potential mold growth.

3. Be Prepared to Rent Equipment

professional dehumidifier
You can rent professional dehumidifiers at your local hardware store.

You probably don’t own heavy air-moving equipment necessary for this kind of job, but you can rent high-volume fans and large dehumidifiers at home improvement centers.

Explain your project to store personnel, and ask about equipment specs. You want a dehumidifier that generates temperatures around 115 degrees Fahrenheit at no more than a 14 percent relative humidity.

4. Seal, Fire Up, and Monitor

Make the room as airtight as possible by taping plastic sheeting over doorways and windows. Fire up the equipment, keep a close eye on the dehumidifier’s collection well, and regularly check progress with your moisture meter. On average, it takes three days to completely dry wet drywall.

5. Double Check and Repaint

painting drywall white

Put the moisture meter to work one last time to be certain that your sheet rock walls are completely dry. When you’re confident that the job’s finished, paint over affected drywall with a thin coat of alcohol- or oil-based primer.

Feather into surrounding areas that don’t need repainting, and let dry. Repeat the prep process, and then finish off your now-saved drywall with a fresh coat of paint.

Some Jobs Need Professional Attention

If you address the damp right away, you can usually dry out wet drywall with good results. If you’re facing extensive damage, call in a professional restoration company. Some projects are just too big to tackle by yourself.

• Make sure you’ve uncovered the root cause of the water damage. When in doubt, call in an expert before things get worse.

• Drywall water damage can set up an environment that breeds toxic black mold. If anyone in your home deals with significant health issues, let certified specialists handle the drying process.

• Drywall that’s been soaked for days loses its structural integrity. In many cases, water damaged drywall needs to be replaced. A water damage contractor handles recovery including drying procedures, material tear-out and complete restoration.

• If soaked sheetrock results from overhead flooding, you may be in danger of a ceiling collapse. Don’t risk your personal safety when dealing with drywall ceiling water damage. Call in a restoration company right away for a structural assessment.

• Water damage caused by sewage backup must be handled by certified professionals. This kind of job requires an industry-level understanding of biohazard cleanup.

Your Source for DIY Solutions

Whenever you need DIY solutions for water disaster cleanup at your home or business, always check in with us. From tackling a flooded basement to drying drywall after water damage, we’re here for you with solid information and actionable plans.

servicemaster water damage expert

Whenever you feel overwhelmed by the size of a cleanup project, always call us first. You can count on ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba for the very best water damage restoration in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. We stand ready to serve you 24/7.

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