How To Check for & Repair Water Damaged Drywall

Water damage—the silent destroyer. It can lurk in your drywall for weeks, even months, before you spot it. At first glance, these little signs may look harmless. But left untreated, drywall water damage can cause severe structural and health problems to your home. 

If you’re not sure how to tackle the damage, start by scheduling a water restoration inspection.

The repercussions are wide-ranging and potentially costly, from unsightly water stains to harmful mold growth. In this guide, we’ll provide you with the fundamental knowledge and instructions you need to navigate the repair process successfully. 

How To Check for Water Damaged Drywall

To check for drywall water damage, look for water stains, discoloration, or soft spots on the wall, among other signs.

Look for Water Stains, Discoloration, or Soft Spots on the Wall

First, look for visible stains, blemishes, and discoloration on your wall’s surface. The discoloration isn’t always consistent; you may see streaks running down your walls or splotchy patches instead of an even spread. This is typically indicative of leaking pipes behind the drywall.

Water stains caused by wet drywall may appear as discolored patches, ranging from yellowish-brown to dark brown. These stains often indicate that water has seeped into the wall, leaving behind residue and causing the drywall to absorb moisture.

Similarly, you should look for any areas of your wall with soft spots. These areas feel spongy or damp to the touch. When water seeps into the drywall, it weakens the material and causes it to lose its rigidity, thus, creating these soft spots.

Check for Signs of Mold Growth

To check for mold growth, start by visually examining the affected areas of the drywall. Look for any fuzzy or discolored patches, particularly in places that have experienced water exposure or show signs of staining or discoloration.

However, recognizing signs of mold goes beyond catching sight of visible patches; often, it’s hidden behind the walls or lurking in crawl spaces. You should also look for a lingering musty odor that refuses to dissipate even after cleaning efforts.

Furthermore, be aware of any allergic reactions or respiratory symptoms experienced by individuals near the affected walls. Mold spores can cause allergic reactions and respiratory issues, such as coughing, sneezing, nasal congestion, or asthma attacks.

Remember not to touch or disturb these areas without appropriate safety measures like dust masks and safety goggles in place.

Observe Warping, Swelling, or Sagging of the Drywall

When drywall absorbs water, it undergoes physical changes like warping, swelling, and sagging, often visible to the naked eye. To detect water damage on your drywall, keep a keen eye out for these physical changes. 

It’s essential to address these issues promptly to prevent further damage, such as the development of mold, increased structural instability, or potential collapse.

How To Repair Water Damaged Drywall

purifier placed next to the water damaged wall from mold and fungus

Knowing the proper techniques and steps involved in repairing water-damaged drywall is crucial for restoring the integrity and appearance of your walls.

Remove Peeling Paint and Damaged Sections of Drywall

To start repairing water-damaged drywall, carefully inspect the water-damaged areas of the drywall. Look for places where the paint has visibly peeled or blistered and where the drywall appears warped, soft or weakened. It’s crucial to remove any peeling paint and damaged sections. 

Using a paint scraper, gently scrape away the loose or flaking paint from the affected area. Take your time and be careful not to gouge or damage the underlying drywall surface.

Next, assess the extent of the damage. If there are small cracks or holes in the drywall, these can typically be patched up with a joint compound. Apply a thin layer of joint compound over the damaged area using a putty knife, then smooth it out with a second pass using light pressure.

However, if larger areas of your drywall have been severely damaged by water and have swollen or sagged more than 3/8 of an inch from their original shape, they must be replaced entirely.

Remember that safety should always come first when dealing with water-damaged drywall.

Dry the Affected Area Thoroughly

To effectively repair drywall water damage, it’s crucial to ensure that the affected area is completely dry to prevent further harm and inhibit the growth of mold and mildew.

After fixing the leak or addressing the source of water intrusion, begin by removing any remaining moisture from the area. One effective method is using high-volume fans and dehumidifiers to circulate air and expedite drying.

Remember that drying times may vary depending on factors such as humidity levels and the extent of water damage.

Apply a Sealer or Primer To Prevent Future Damage

Applying a sealer or primer is crucial to prevent future damage associated with water-damaged drywall. This simple step can go a long way in protecting your walls from any potential moisture-related issues.

When choosing a sealer or primer, choose a mildew-resistant option for water-damaged surfaces. These products are formulated to resist the growth of mold and mildew, which is essential to preventing further water damage.

Once applied, the sealer or primer is an additional defense against future leaks or moisture infiltration. It helps seal off porous areas in the drywall where water could potentially penetrate again.

Patch or Replace the Drywall

replacing drywall from water damage signs

If the water damage to your drywall is extensive or severe, you may need to patch or replace the affected areas. Repairing small holes and cracks can be a relatively straightforward DIY job.

Start by cleaning out debris from the damaged area and applying a thin coat of joint compound using a putty knife.

For larger areas that have been significantly damaged, replacing the entire sheet of drywall may be necessary. This is particularly true if the drywall has swelled or sagged over 3/8 of an inch from its original position.

Once you’ve removed the damaged portion, measure and cut a new piece of drywall to fit snugly in its place. Secure it using four drywall clips at each corner, then apply joint compound and smooth it out with a putty knife.

Avoid over-tightening the drywall screws during the repair process. Use drywall tape over the seams or gaps between the new drywall and the existing one to reinforce the connection and prevent cracks from forming.

Remember that safety should always come first when working on water-damaged drywall. Use appropriate protective gear such as safety goggles and dust masks, especially if you suspect mold growth or mildew smells.


Checking for and repairing drywall water damage is crucial to maintaining the structural integrity of your home. You can immediately prevent further damage by identifying signs such as water stains, mold growth, or warping in the walls.

Repairing water damaged drywall involves removing peeling paint and damaged sections and applying a sealer or primer to protect against future damage, among other steps.

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