Can You Fix Water Damaged Walls Without Replacing Them?

A small water leak can lead to major damage on your ceiling or wall. If you act quickly, you may be able to avoid an extensive and costly repair.

Assess the Damage

Drywall doesn't always require full replacement, depending on the extent of the water damage. If you want to try and save the drywall, especially if it was just a small leak that was quickly repaired, you will need to act quickly.

Begin by drying out the wall. Use a fan, aimed directly at the wall, to dry it out quickly. If possible, turn up the heat in the room and run a dehumidifier to further speed drying. Poke the wall with a small nail to make sure it's dry and no longer soft and moist.

If the water damage doesn't dry completely within 24 hours, or if you already notice mildew or mold growth, it's too late to save the drywall. You may also need to replace it if the damage has resulted in a large bubble or cracked surface.

The Simple Fix

You managed to dry the drywall and the only visible damage is some discoloration and a bit of an uneven surface. You can likely save the drywall. Start by sanding over the damage with a fine grit sandpaper to remove any slight bubbles or rough surface. Next, paint over the stain with a primer. The primer will prevent the water stain from seeping through the new paint. Finally, repaint the entire wall.

Although you can paint just the damaged area, the repair will likely show because paint tends to fade over time. Any patchwork will be slightly more vibrant than the paint on the remaining wall.

The Drywall Patch

If the damage is too severe to paint over, but not major enough to ruin the entire drywall sheet, you can usually get away with a patch.

Cut out a square around the damaged area with a sharp utility blade. Wash the wall around the removed portion with a 10 percent bleach solution to kill any remaining mold or mildew.

You can purchase mesh drywall patches or make your own from a spare sheet of drywall. If you only need a small patch, your local hardware store may have drywall offcuts available so you don't have to buy a whole sheet. Use drywall putty to hold the patch in the hole, and then putty over the joints to fill them. Scrape off the excess putty with a drywall knife and let everything dry overnight. The next day, you can primer and paint.

For more tips and assistance, consult repair experts such as Mike's Drywall Service Inc.