Ever notice the drywall in your basement sweating, or even trickling and leaking? It’s more common for basements than you may think—and the problem can escalate to mold, mildew, nasty smells, and even structural damage.
Let’s learn more about why wet drywall happens, and what you can do to stop it.
What Causes Wet Drywall?
While basements can be useful for extra storage and space, those that are surrounded by drywall are especially susceptible to water damage. How does any water reach your drywall in the first place?
- Internal Leaks
Because basements are built underneath ground level, your basement walls are surrounded by a maze of pipes and drains, possibly even more than one would expect—all carrying gallons upon gallons of water to and from your house. Many of these pipes and drains are built to last a very long time, but they are not always perfect. Water is, surprisingly, a very damaging element, especially for metals.
Any internal leak can cause water to saturate the drywall of your basement. Given enough time, this can make way for wall cracks to form. Internal leaks or flooding can happen for several reasons:
- High water pressure
Although your pipes and drainage systems are used to channel high volumes of water daily, high water pressure can cause leaks from any available gaps in the pipe. Water pressure in your pipes can rise if it is clogged somewhere. When this happens, water that usually flows through is forced to stop. With more water rushing along the pipe, this will increase the pressure of the water at this clog, resulting in backups and possible leaking. While this rarely happens, a pipe under immense water pressure can quite possibly burst, resulting in flooded drywall.
Corrosion and rusting are two phenomena that happen when metal reacts with oxygen, in both air and water. This reaction forms chemicals that can wear away at the metal over time, resulting in corrosion and rusting.
Since your pipes are constantly exposed to water, it is not always easy to avoid pipe corrosion or rust. Fortunately, because the primary role of your pipe and drain system is to export water, they are commonly made in a way that delays corrosion and rusting and can last for years on end. However, with excessive exposure to water and oxygen, pipes can corrode or rust, becoming weaker with time, leaving them prone to breakage and leaks.
- External Leaks
The pipes in your basement walls are not the only culprit behind wet drywall. The external environment, such as your soil and foundation, can also result in leakage and may encroach upon your basement drywall.
If you live in Cleveland, OH, you are no stranger to heavy rain in the winter and fall. During especially powerful rainstorms, high levels of rainwater can accumulate in your soil and around your foundation. This rainwater buildup can leak into your basement walls, resulting in wet drywall.
External leaks are more likely to occur if the soil around your home is eroded or if you have cracks in your basement walls. Both can let water seep into your drywall. Soil erosion happens when water washes away soil particles. This can decrease the amount of soil surrounding your home, exposing your foundation to rainwater, which may potentially flood your basement over time if not fixed.
If your basement wall has cracks, either from previous structural issues or water damage, excess water around your basement will make its way into the drywall. This will cause your basement drywall to become wet since the water has nowhere else to go.
- High Humidity Levels
Humidity levels tend to be higher in many basements since they are underground. Because of that, the basement can retain cooler temperatures, as well as any moisture in the air.
High humidity levels tend to be more problematic in the winter, due to the frequent rain. When the air outside is cold and wet, your basement will tend to mirror these conditions. Since most basements are built lacking a proper ventilation system, the moisture in your below-grade area will continue to rise. With enough time, it can certainly cause your basement drywall to become wet.
In general, humidity levels may never get high enough to even dampen your drywall. However, leaks, either internal or external, can also cause humidity levels in your basement to increase, regardless of the weather outside. Any exposure to excess moisture will alter the humidity levels, which may pose risks for wet drywall.
Problem Signs of Wet Drywall
Fortunately, many of the problem signs of wet drywall are quite noticeable. It’s still always useful to check a few times a month—just to be safe!
- Wall Discoloration
Many homeowners tend to notice discoloration of the walls right away, simply because it is so unsightly. Water tends to discolor drywall. In areas where there is more water, your drywall may look a shade darker than what you are used to.
This happens because when water hits any surface, such as paper (which is what much of drywall consists of), it reduces the amount of light that is reflected off that surface. If that surface is colored, that color will become more saturated. In other words, our eyes perceive wet surfaces as darker compared to dry surfaces.
- Bulging or Sagging Walls
Wet drywall tends to bulge outward or sag when wet. Most drywall consists of paper and gypsum, a soft, sedimentary deposit often used in construction. The paper and gypsum are what you see on the outside, but this is typically layered on top of boards or plaster.
When drywall becomes wet, both the paper material and gypsum that it is made of will become softer, causing it to sag downwards or bulge out from the board underneath. It may look as if your wall has an air bubble underneath it. You may even notice wrinkles around a wet area, indicating that the paper and gypsum are sagging down from the weight of the water.
- Musty Odors
Detecting musty odors in your basement is one of the more subtle problem signs of wet drywall. Musty smells can be caused by several things, but they all center around water leaking somewhere it isn’t supposed to.
If excess water makes its way into the pipes behind your basement drywall, it can result in degraded metal pipes. The decay of this metal from prolonged water exposure can give rise to a very unpleasant and musty smell in your basement. Likewise, if the wood in your drywall becomes saturated with water, wood rot can cause an earthy, stuffy smell over time.
- Wall Cracks
Once your basement drywall becomes discolored, bulging, or sagging from water exposure, the formation of cracks in the wall is soon to follow. Drywall tends to crack if it continues to experience built-up stress that water places on the drywall material. The saturation of the paper and wood that makes up the drywall can disrupt its structural integrity. Weakened drywall will crack easily.
- Mold and Pests
The presence of mold and pests is one of the more concerning problem signs of wet drywall. Not only is it unattractive and bothersome, but it can potentially be detrimental to your health and invite more problems.
Mold thrives in moist environments. It can grow on surfaces in as little as 24 to 48 hours of water saturation. If you or someone in your household is sensitive to environmental allergens, you want to get this cleaned and your wet drywall problem resolved as soon as possible. While mold allergies are rarely life-threatening, they can be quite uncomfortable to deal with.
Similarly, pests are attracted to wet environments. The most common include cockroaches, silverfish, and centipedes, but many others will also gravitate toward your moist drywall. No one wants to deal with unwanted visitors in their house, especially when some can be difficult to chase out. Fortunately, household bugs that are drawn to excessive moisture tend to arrive after long periods of neglect. That’s why finding the early problem signs is so important.
How to Fix Wet Drywall?
If you have a good understanding of how your basement drywall has become wet, you are one step closer to finding the proper solution. At this point, it’s wise to reach out for professional assistance. With the right know-how, gear, and experience, a local expert can begin fixing your wet basement drywall in several ways:
- Fix the Source
If you believe that leaks are the cause of your wet basement drywall, then getting those fixed will certainly prevent it from becoming worse. Although this does not directly fix your wet drywall, it is a good preventative measure in the long term.
If internal leaks are the cause behind your wet drywall, you want to contact a plumber to inspect any damaged pipes or drainage systems. They will also be able to repair and replace any problematic spots, as well.
External leaks, which are usually caused by weakened soil or walls, can be slightly trickier because they are not always easy to repair. In some cases, you may need to fortify your home with the use of push piers or helical piers, instead of just fixing the drywall. You should rely on expert contractors if you suspect that your external walls need replacing, as this can be quite dangerous.
Dehumidifiers are excellent tools to have when mitigating moisture levels in your basement. Although many kinds of dehumidifiers are readily available on the market, unfortunately, they are not always powerful enough for large-scale basement problems.
The good news is, Ohio Basement Systems offers a powerful and energy-efficient dehumidifier that can be installed for these large-scale problems. It is fully capable of removing 95 pints of water at a minimum, per day, without needing any maintenance on your part. It drains its contents directly into your sump pump, so you do not have to worry about emptying containers on your own.
Additional benefits of this dehumidifier include filtering out your basement air, removing dust and mold, and simultaneously working to decrease humidity levels.
This dehumidifier works to minimize the moisture in your basement so that your drywall can remain just that—dry. It even does this without much sound, so you can live comfortably.
- ExTremeBloc™ Insulation
You may want to consider insulating your basement against the elements, especially if it has a vulnerable drywall. Repairing leaks and replacing damaged drywall can certainly resolve the problem for a while, but it is not guaranteed to remain that way in the long term. Basement insulation is the best solution and preventative measure for wet drywall.
The ExTremeBloc™ Insulation is made of a rigid foam that is waterproof. This insulation can be installed in your existing basement drywall. The material does not absorb any water whatsoever, so any leaks that occur, either internally or externally, will not cause damage to your drywall. It also acts as an effective thermal barrier, so the moisture levels and temperature in your basement are properly controlled. Your basement walls will no longer have to suffer from fluctuating humidity, rain, or shine.
Depending on the severity of the damage, you may or may not be able to repair wet basement drywall yourself. There are several situations in which you can, while in other situations it is best to leave it to the professionals.
- When DIY Repair Is Safe
Fixing wet drywall at home can be perfectly safe—if the conditions are right. If the water damage is restricted to your drywall, and no other structure of your home, replacing it can be quite simple. If you find mold on your wet drywall, make sure to take note of its color. The most common mold color is greenish black. While it is the “safest” mold, it is still recommended that you use a mask when cleaning up residue, as it can irritate your respiratory system.
If your drywall is not slanting or if it does not have any cracks that extend past the wall, it is generally safe to repair the wet drywall yourself. You want to remove the wet area first. Secure drywall clips to the hole in the wall, making sure that you use drywall screws to hold it in place. Blend drywall tape and joint compound until the surface is smooth and sand the wall if necessary. All these materials can be found at your general hardware store.
- When DIY Repair Is Not Safe
In contrast, if the water damage has reached other structures of your home, such as your foundation walls or pipes, you should consider reaching out to experts for help. This is because entire sheets of drywall need to be removed to fix the water damage that is behind it. It is much more complex than it sounds, and repairs require the appropriate tools and knowledge to complete safely. Mold is another item to watch out for. While it is commonly found on wet drywall, mold that is gray, soot-like, wet, slimy, or even fuzzy and brightly colored can be toxic.
You should also avoid drywall repairs if you have slanting walls or cracks that extend past the drywall and onto your ceiling or floors. This indicates other structural problems. It is best not to tamper with basement walls when you see damage on your ceiling or floor because you may cause something else in your house to break, which can be very dangerous.
Dehumidifiers can be very effective. However, if you do not find the source of the wet drywall, a dehumidifier will just delay future problems rather than resolve them completely.
- Find the Problem Source
Finding the source of your wet drywall is always the most effective way to prevent more damage in the future. Even if you fix your drywall, if the source of the problem is not discovered and resolved, you will have to repair wet drywall repeatedly.
Wet drywall is often caused by water nearby. The most likely culprits are pipe and drainage system leaks, but they can also result from leaks around the outside of your home too. These external leaks are most common when the weather is very rainy and if your yard is prone to flooding.
- Why a Dehumidifier?
Rainy days will still come, and leaks can still always happen at the drop of a hat. A dehumidifier prevents severe wet drywall, as well as other related consequences. That’s because dehumidifiers work to balance the moisture levels in your basement. They take in large amounts of water from the air so that condensation does not build up on your wall.
Ohio Basement Systems offers a powerful dehumidifier that also protects against mold and mildew growth. This improves the air quality and lowers the condensation that builds up on your walls. If you’re trying to avoid mold, wood rot, and other problems that come with a humid basement, a dehumidifier is a great choice.
Drywall is, admittedly, not the best material to use in a basement. Fortunately, Ohio Basement Systems offers waterproofing options for you if you want to remodel your basement completely.
- Waterproof Walls
Waterproofing walls, especially in your basement, can be extremely cost-effective for you in the long run. Drywall is very sensitive to any form of moisture. As a result, it’s not the most reliable to have in basements, since it is surrounded by water pipes and drain systems.
Ohio Basement Systems offers waterproofing measures that can resist moisture and look sleek in your basement. Products like vapor barriers and insulation are made of inorganic material, which is highly resistant to mold and water damage, even if your house does spring a leak.
- Waterproofing Systems
Ohio Basement Systems also offers an entire waterproofing system to maximize protection against water damage and flooding. The waterproofing systems available are typically non-invasive but still very effective. You can benefit from vapor barriers, drainage systems, sump pumps, dehumidifiers, and other gear that will keep your basement dry and tidy.
This cannot only prevent water damage from getting out of hand. It can even regulate the climate in your basement, bringing down your electricity bills and protecting the structure of your home. Once the basement has been properly encapsulated, it can even work as an extra living space.
Seek the Experts
Although wet basement drywall may not seem like a huge problem right now, it can certainly pave the way for other larger issues. You should get it repaired as soon as possible to ensure a healthy and safe home. You can contact us online or by phone to schedule a free inspection. We’re happy to serve Cleveland, OH, and offer no-obligation quotes, so you can decide what’s right for you.