When your walls and ceilings have water damage
Water Restoration, Biohazard Clean Up, Mold RestorationPublished October 18, 2019Last Updated July 22, 2020

Help! My Walls and Ceilings Have Water Damage! What Do I Do?

After a water damage event in your home, chances are that the walls will be affected, as well. If that occurs, it’s important to dry the walls immediately to prevent further damage and mold growth. Mold will not only literally eat the walls, but it can also affect your health.

Thus, it’s essential to quickly dry wet walls, preferably with the help of a professional restoration company. Here are guidelines for drying out damp drywall.

Understanding how water saturates drywall

Before you learn how to dry a wall after water damage, here’s a look into how water saturates drywall. Water that enters a room from ground level will cover the floor and floor covering. It will then begin to “wick” up the wall because of capillary action in porous materials. The extent of this movement depends on the wall’s construction, the amount of water, and the water’s height on the wall material.

Drywall is an absorbent material that contains gypsum and a cardboard-like paper on both sides. Drywall can wick water up to 30 inches! The water will be present on both sides of the wall. Often, however, it’s higher on the inside due to restricted evaporation on that side of the drywall. While water damage is sometimes visible, at other times, the wall does not show signs of this moisture.

How to dry out damp walls

  • After stopping the water source, remove paintings and other objects from the wall.
  • Follow up by removing moldings, baseboards, and wallpaper.
  • Open windows and doors to help speed up the drying process.
  • Use fans to move air around the damp walls. Also use dehumidifiers, which can help remove moisture from the air and walls.
  • Professionals use tools like moisture meters, infrared imaging devices, dehumidifiers and heavy-duty fans. That ensures the walls are truly dry before further repair, painting or refinishing.

How restoration professionals dry damp walls after water damage

First, technicians determine the extent of the water using a range of water damage restoration tools. One choice is a non-invasive moisture meter. This meter uses radio waves to test for water without putting holes in the wall.

Another professional instrument is an infrared imaging (IR) camera. Since the evaporation from wet walls makes them cooler than dry walls, the IR camera can find water in walls. It does so with no holes or other invasions of the wall material.

Once the professionals identify wet walls, they use specialized drying equipment to dry them.

If the walls aren’t insulated:

In this case, the restoration professional can dry wet walls without holes or removing the baseboard. The technicians place high capacity air movers along the wall every 10 to 14 feet. These air movers remove moisture from the wall’s surface, evaporating it quickly. As the moisture evaporates, more moisture goes to the surface where it evaporates.

The restoration expert will also install a low grain refrigerant dehumidifier near the damp wall. Depending on the moisture levels, one or more will be needed. This advanced drying equipment reduces the humidity levels to help with drying and prevent mold growth.

When appropriate, the restoration professional will install an inner-wall drying system by putting small holes above the sill plate and forcing air into the wall cavity. Studies have shown that this solution is the best and fastest way to dry walls with water damage.

Additionally, if there’s a moisture barrier on the outside or inside the wall, the drying plan changes. Moisture barriers are coatings or materials that inhibit the movement of moisture from the wall material.

Most latex paints are permeable and don’t make up a barrier. But, glossy paints may create a barrier and enamel paint or vinyl wall coverings create a complete barrier. Technicians will need to perforate or remove barrier to allow moisture to escape and the walls to dry. If there’s plastic or foil on the inside of the wall, then technicians will need to remove the wall. That’s because drying will not occur properly, and mold will develop in such situations.

If the walls are insulated:

If there is fiberglass insulation with paper backing, then an inner-wall drying system can be used, as described above. But, if the insulation is foil-backed fiberglass, blown-in cellulose, or a Styrofoam material, then it can’t be dried successfully.

In those cases, removing the damaged portion of the wall along with the insulation is necessary to allow rapid drying and to prevent mold growth.

Regardless of the procedures used by the restoration professional, homeowners should know that the equipment must operate, without stopping, throughout the drying process.

Monitoring the drying system

Finally, restoration professionals will monitor the drying system at least once a day. That ensures the equipment is operating correctly during the drying process. Monitoring includes moisture measurements to determine when the materials will successfully dry. Material dryness is measured against similar unaffected contents in that structure. When dryness levels are equal, the drying is finished, and the equipment removed.

For drywall water damage drying and repair, call the pros!

A professional restoration company, such as PuroClean, understands and uses the principles and procedures of how to dry damp walls. For efficient drywall water damage repair, call your local PuroClean office. Our trained and certified technicians can dry walls and other items quickly and thoroughly, preventing further damage and mold growth.

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