Wet Sheetrock: Do I Fix or Replace

Due to Florida’s unusually intense hurricane season, water damage is a serious issue and one you must keep in mind for your Sarasota home.  Water damage often occurs through any flaws of the roof.  This could mean a loose tile or shingle or even an unrepaired vent. Unfortunately when it comes to sheetrock it does not take much water leakage to ruin the existing pieces. The aftermath of water damage to drywall can be very dangerous, resulting in mold and even possibly a collapse of the ceiling. When is it okay to simply repair the damage and when must it be replaced?

Assess the Damage:

The first step in determining how you are going to fix your water damaged sheetrock you must ask yourself a series of questions:

  1. How large of a leak was it?
  2. Was I able to contain some of the water as the leak was happening?
  3. How old is the water damage?

After answering these three questions you can decide where to go from there.  Each situation is different but you must remember the risks involved in not replacing fully damaged drywall.

How large of a leak was it? 

Was there a malfunction in the roof that led to a leak on the ceiling? Or did condensation from the window drip onto the surrounding drywall? The water damage to the ceiling is clearly much more serious than the slight dripping of condensation. Additionally, if a pipe bursts in the wall and causes a great amount of water leakage this is a more complicated situation than if a window was left open during a rainstorm. Determining just how bad the leak was is the first step in your route of repair.

Was I able to contain some of the water as the leak was happening?

Containing some of the water during a leak can be a great thing if possible and can help curb the damage. For example if your toilet overflows and you are able to quickly shut off the water source you can greatly reduce the need to fully replace the sheetrock in the bathroom. If the same thing happens while you are on a ten day cruise, that can cause a much larger problem and will almost always end in a need to replace your sheetrock in the affected areas as the water will definitely have seeped into the drywall.

How old is the water damage?

The age of the water damage may be the most important question. The answer is vital in beginning your repairs. If the water damage occurs while you are home and you notice it you should then immediately tend to it. This is the best case scenario. If you notice water damage gradually appearing on your ceiling you must assess how long ago the initial damage took place. Take a look in the attic and look for any signs of rust on metal fixtures around the affected area. Rust will determine whether there has been water leakage for quite some time as it does not just develop overnight. Knowing how old the water damage is important in terms of mold and mildew. If the water was just leaked moments ago you have a far less chance that mold has or will develop. However, if the water has been seeping into the sheetrock for days or weeks, mold and mildew are sure to be in the works.

The Risks of Water Damage:

Water damaged ceilings prove to be quite dangerous. If you notice sagging or bulging in the ceiling, you will want to remove any and all valuables from that room including all furniture as the ceiling is at great risk for caving or collapsing altogether.  There could also be a large buildup of water on the other side of the ceiling if you notice it bubbling or drooping.  Another serious side effect of water damage is mold growth.  Mold spores are hidden in most ceilings. The temperature is ideal, and they have food. The only missing component is water and after a water leak that is now present. If you do not act immediately, mold can develop within days. Mold is detrimental to your health and can cause severe allergic reactions. Aside from the health risk, the smell can be brutal and difficult to get rid of.

Repair or Replace:

Whether you simply repair your existing sheetrock or if you have to replace it, you must act fast. If you notice bulging or sagging you can drain the water by poking a nail through the ceiling and essentially popping the bubble. Catch the water in a bucket but be prepared for a generous amount to pour through. Next you will need to poke the ceiling with your fingers to test the drywall and see if it is still hard as it should be. If so you may have not experienced water damage. Contrarily if the sheetrock is spongy or soft you will definitely need to replace it. You can cut that section of the ceiling out and replace just the affected area. This can prove to be difficult for people unskilled in finishing drywall. Besides drywall being difficult to work with, you must be very careful when cutting the ceiling as there are many wires and pipes on the other side of it that could be damaged.

Here in Florida we experience one of the most extreme storm seasons. As a peninsula we are a target for hurricanes no matter where your home is located. It is important to be sure your roof is prepared for any such storms as to not result in any leaks. Water damage is a serious problem. It can be time consuming and costly to fix or replace effected sheetrock. Once water damage has occurred, go through all the steps to determining if the existing sheetrock can be salvaged or not. Mold growth and ceilings collapsing are both severe risks involved with major water damage. If the sheetrock is still firm after drying out the wet drywall you may have lucked out of replacing the whole section. However, if the water has seeped in and has started destroying the fibers that make up the drywall you will need to replace it before a collapse takes place or mold appears. Protect your Sarasota home by getting routine inspections of your roof and pipes. This can greatly reduce your risk of experiencing severe water damage.