Do you ever look up and think, “hmm, how long has that water stain been there?” You pass it over thinking it must have been there for years and you just now noticed. You call the handyman and have the ceiling repainted. Done. Fixed. What was it you were saying?
What Causes Water Stains?
Sure, water is clear, so why does water create a stain? If you have a water leak, the water will seep into building materials, insulation, drywall, and finally come through the paint. The water itself will evaporate; what is left is a stain caused by the minerals in the water and any reaction it may have had with the material.
“A word of caution: If you cover up a water stain without addressing the leak that caused it, you run the risk of additional staining on the ceiling, not to mention more serious structural or electrical damage. That’s why it’s so important to find and repair the cause of the water stain as soon as possible, even if it is no longer wet.” Bob Villa
Water Stains Don’t Just Go Away
Ignoring a water stain can be a mistake, especially if your rainy season picks up its pace. If water came in once, it will come in again. Your building has an envelope to seal it from the elements. That’s the primary reason for a roof, insulation, and flooring.
In the industry, we call water leaks water intrusion. It really is an invasion. It can attract algae, mold, and insects. (Eww. Gross. Sorry, but yeah.) Not only that, but water can cause corrosion of metal. Rust. Yep. It’s not just unsightly, it’s a destructive process. Corrosion is a problem if your structure is reinforced with rebar or if you have metal studs.
Water Stains Mean You May Need a Roofer
Water has a funny way of taking the path of least resistance. When it falls on your roof or melts from snow, it will go somewhere. A well-built roof system will direct the water to your roof drains and scuppers or eaves and downspouts. If you don’t engineer an escape route for water, it will find its own path — maybe through your roof to your ceiling.
A qualified roofing contractor will inspect your roof after looking at your water stains. They will also give you some options for repairs. Depending upon the type of roof you have, the price can vary. “It depends” is the most frustrating answer, we know. Most roofing materials are petroleum-based products (asphalt) and those costs are dependent upon the commodities market. (Are you thinking of Trading Places or did we just date ourselves?
Plumbing leaks can also be the source of water stains. We don’t always want to blame the roof, but it’s better to check; just to be safe. Water stains on a top floor or from a single-level residence could also be from leaking HVAC ducts or condensate pans. (Great, right?) We relate to the frustration. Honestly, it’s better to find out the facts sooner than later. No one wants a surprise right before a family gathering or before you sell.
Leaks, floods, and condensation can cause cracks, crumbling, bubbling, and discoloration in your home’s drywall. If it’s wet for an extended period of time, drywall will often grow mold and mildew. Unless you’re able to dry and salvage it, replacement is necessary. Whether you choose to hire a professional or do it yourself, repairing water-damaged drywall will look fairly similar.
After your roof is inspected and the source of the water intrusion is professionally repaired, then you can wash your wall with a bleach mixture, paint it with Kilz Premium, and repaint it to your delight.
How to Repair Drywall Water Damage
If your drywall is damaged, painting over it isn’t a very good idea. You’ll need to do the following:
- Locate and Repair Leaks – Before beginning the repair, it’s important to identify the source of the water damage. Finding pipe leaks may require the removal of drywall first. Roof leaks may require a trip to the attic during a rainstorm to trace the leak to the source. If damage has been caused by flooding, wait until the storm has passed completely and further seal the area before beginning.
- Clear, Dry, Sanitize – If there is excess standing water, remove it as quickly as possible using a pump system. Depending on the amount of water, it may be necessary to rent a pump system or wet/dry vacuum. Once the excess water is removed, dry the area thoroughly using high-efficiency blowers and dehumidifiers. Do this until drywall and studs are completely dry. Because mold grows well in heat, it’s best to avoid heating the area as much as possible. A chemical sanitizer will stymie the growth of mold and deodorize the affected area. Do not use bleach, as it is dangerous to inhale and isn’t effective at killing mold.
- Remove Drywall – Remove drywall in square or rectangle sections larger than the affected area using drywall or keyhole saw. It’s best to cut 16-inch sections (or multiples of 16 for larger areas) to the center of each stud to avoid the need for drywall clips. Be aware of wires and pipes as you cut.
- Measure & Install – Measure the section you removed and cut an identical piece of replacement drywall (measure twice, cut once!). Insert the new drywall into the gap and secure to studs on both sides using a drywall screw every 8 inches or so. For sections that cover outlets and switches, measure and cut openings before you attach the new piece.
- Blend & Paint – Using mesh or paper tape (preferred by most professionals), tape the seams overlapping an inches or so at each corner. Apply joint compound in layers using a joint knife, blending into the rest of the wall 4-6 inches on each side. Let each layer dry 12-24 hours before sanding and adding multiple layers when necessary. Once completely dry, prime the affected area before painting to seal repair.
If that water stain or damaged drywall is bugging you or you have concerns, we’d love to hear from you.