Can I Salvage My Drywall?

When people think about the walls in their home, they tend to assume that those walls are safe. However, no wall is impervious to all forms of damage, especially drywall. From everyday accidents to acts of nature, there are numerous ways in which drywall can become heavily damaged.

Examples of Drywall Damage:
Water- This is one of the most common causes of severe drywall damage in the home, especially in the bathroom. Whether the origin of the water is a leak, excessive moisture in the air, or a full-blown flood, water can be a serious problem. Drywall that has been exposed to excessive moisture can begin to sag, warp, or even grow mold, another severe problem.
Whether or not you have to replace drywall after it has been exposed to water depends on several factors:
How much of the drywall has been exposed to water.
How long the drywall has been in contact with the water.
How resistant to water your drywall is.
Physical Impact- Sometimes, a wall in the home might be subjected to a physical impact. Whether it is the result of a cabinet falling over and hitting the wall or an accident that happened while nailing a new painting to the wall, you have an unsightly hole where a nice, pristine wall used to be.
The process for fixing a hole in drywall depends on the size of the hole. For very small holes, such as nail holes, a small amount of joint compound (or “mud”) can be spread over the hole, then smoothed out with a putty knife, sanded down, and painted over to match the existing wall. Larger holes will require the use of a patch, or even the replacement of that section of drywall as necessary.
Fire Damage- The paper that forms the outside layer of most drywall is highly flammable. When exposed to a flame, this paper will burn off, and the interior of the drywall will crumble. Even if the drywall does not crumble from the fire, there can be smoke damage to the wall which needs to be addressed.
You may need to replace fire-damaged drywall depending on:
How much smoke damage there is.
How much of the drywall is intact after the fire.
Mold- This is perhaps one of the hardest forms of damage to detect. Commonly caused by excessive moisture exposure, mold can grow unseen in a wall for months before the problem becomes readily apparent to the naked eye. Once mold has taken root in your drywall, it can remain even if you dry out the drywall later. Mold can destroy the drywall from the inside, and even pose a significant health risk to you and your family if left untreated for too long.
Indications that you have excessive mold in your drywall include chronic respiratory problems and irritation of the skin and eyes. As mold spores propagate, they enter the air of your home and can be breathed in by your family, causing the above health problems. Other signs that you have a mold infestation in your drywall are similar to the symptoms of excessive moisture (too much moisture does contributes to mold growth, after all), such as sagging or warps in the drywall, or discoloration.
If your drywall has mold growing in it, you will probably need to remove and replace any and all affected sections of drywall. Black mold in particular poses a severe health hazard, and has been known to cause medical complications severe enough to result in death. As such, when dealing with mold, it is important to wear the appropriate protective gear, including gloves, goggles, and a protective mask that covers the mouth and nose to prevent mold inhalation.
In most cases, your need to replace the drywall is largely dependent on the extent of the damage. For small holes from nails or pin, the damage can be addressed using only a small amount of joint compound, a sander, and some paint without having to replace the drywall.

Saving Drywall From Water Damage
If your drywall has been exposed to excessive water, you may not necessarily have to remove and replace it if you can get to the affected section of drywall quickly enough. If the source of the water is external, you may be able to clean up the excess water before the drywall absorbs too much.

First, open up the air circulation in the affected rooms. Open up the windows, turn on the fans (assuming you can do so without risking exposing electricity to water), and let the air flow out of the room. This will reduce the overall moisture in the air and make drying the drywall faster and easier.

Next, blot spills with a dry towel. If the drywall has absorbed a lot of water, you will need to be very careful to avoid causing more damage. Do not apply too much pressure to the affected section of wall, or else you could end up punching a hole into the wall you are trying to fix.

If, after the drying process is complete, the drywall is warped, then you will most likely have to replace the drywall.

Hopefully, you will be able to remove the moisture before the drywall begins to grow mold. As mentioned before, once mold takes hold in drywall, it can still persist even after the drywall has been dried out.

Fixing Smoke Damage
If your drywall has been exposed to smoke damage, you may be able to mitigate the damage. Ehow.com has a fairly comprehensive step-by-step process for repairing smoke damage to drywall, but here are a few quick tips:

First, you will need to put on appropriate safety equipment, including gloves, goggles, and a painting respirator/mask.
Next, you can dip a rag in paint thinner and begin gently scrubbing the walls and ceilings.
Cut away damaged drywall sections with a knife, and then use a clean rag to clear debris from the edges of the cuts.
Wipe the drywall again, this time with a normal wall-cleaning product.
Fill in holes with joint compound and patches, just as you would for a normal hole.
Sand down the patches, apply more “mud” as necessary, and paint after your work has had a chance to set dry.
If you need further advice about how to deal with drywall damage, or want the services of a flood and fire damage restoration expert, contact us right away. Time is of the essence when dealing with damage to the home, especially when it comes to preventing the onset of mold. Don’t wait until it is too late to save your home from mold and other hazards, get your home restoration started right away.