How Can I Dry Out Wet Walls?

An event that leads to water damage in the home may affect the floors and the walls too. When walls are not dried quickly, it can lead to a number of problems from mold growth to a lack of structural integrity. It’s important to contact a local restoration company to dry the walls and reduce the chance of further damage that’s expensive to fix. In this article, we will explain how drywall is saturated and how you can attempt to dry it yourself.

How Does Water Saturate Drywall?

When water enters an area at ground level, it will cover the floors and the floor coverings until they become fully saturated. At this point, the water will “wick” up the walls due to capillary action which is a common characteristic in porous materials. The speed and full extent of this upward water movement will depend on a few factors, such as: the volume of water present, the height of the water, the construction of the wall and more.

In this scenario, drywall is a bad material because it’s extremely absorbent and it contains cardboard and gypsum on both sides which are vulnerable to wicking. This may come as a surprise, but drywall can wick water up to a height of around 30 inches. This is on both sides of the drywall and the water can go higher on the inner wall surface due to restricted evaporation. Many people believe that water damage is visible, this is only partially true, the drywall can be soaked and it may display no signs of moisture.

Drying Out Wet Walls

The first consideration is whether you are going to hire a professional company to deal with the problem or if you’re going to attempt a DIY approach. We will always recommend the former. This may seem like bias, but drying out wet walls is a lot of work. The situation is exacerbated if the water damage is hidden and/or extensive in nature. There are many cases where a homeowner has attempted to dry out walls with no water damage restoration training and they have missed damaged areas. If you are determined to tackle this task, the following section may help.

The DIY Approach

If the source of the localized flooding is a burst pipe, then it’s important to shut-off the water source immediately. A local plumber should be contacted to identify and fix the section of broken pipe before you can dry the walls. When the repair is completed, you can open the windows and doors to speed up the drying process. Using floor fans to increase the air circulation in the affected areas in another smart move. If you have a dehumidifier, set it up near or in the room to remove the moisture from the air. This will remove more moisture from the damp walls indirectly.

Speeding up the evaporation process can help too. Remove the baseboards and molding to prevent the buildup of moisture behind them and store them in a dry location. If there are wall hangings on affected walls, they should be removed and put somewhere safe.  If you have wallpaper, it should be removed and this can take a while when the paper is soaked. But, this is a crucial stage, the wallpaper will act as a seal to hold moisture next to the wall until it’s removed. You can find wallpaper removal products to dissolve the adhesive at your local hardware store. Then you will need a 3 inch up to a 6 inch scraping tool or flat broad knife to remove stubborn sections of wallpaper.

When you dry out walls, it’s important to have patience because the process can take a long time. It may be tempting to rush the process or to start refinishing when the walls feel touch dry. But, this is a bad idea because the walls must be fully dry before you refinish affected rooms. One stage that many people miss is to check for the presence of mold growth in affected areas of the wall. Mold will release mold spores which are unhealthy to breathe and they will weaken the wall in the medium to long-term.

It’s important to dry the well walls quickly and correctly to reduce the potential for further damage. The walls will not fully dry if the problem is ignored and it will get worse which will drive up the eventual repair bill. The DIY approach is not recommended, a water damage remediation specialist has the experience and tools to dry walls faster.

The Professional Approach

A restoration professional will have a tried and tested approach to your water damage problems. The technician will start with a survey of the affected areas to ascertain the true extent of the water damage. At this stage, they may use a non-invasive moisture meter which tests the walls with radio waves to prevent further damage. Another professional tool is the infrared imaging camera which displays where the water is located in the walls. When walls are wet there is more evaporation and this makes them look cooler than the walls that are still dry. Again, this is a non-invasive process and this helps the professional to identify the most affected areas for drying.

If the affected walls are not insulated, the restoration technician can dry the walls with no holes and the baseboard can stay in place. They will use high capacity air movers at 10-14 feet spacings along the entire wall, These will remove the excess moisture from the surface of the wall and then evaporate it quickly. A low grain refrigerant dehumidifier can be installed in a damp wall to prevent mold growth and reduce the humidity. Small holes may be drilled above the sill plate to get air into the wall cavity. This approach is a fast and effective way to dry water damage, but moisture barriers such as latex paints and wallpaper must be perforated or removed entirely. If the wall contains foil or plastic on the inner wall surface, it may be necessary to remove it because the wall will not dry properly.

If the affected walls are insulated, the process is similar to above if fiberglass insulation with paper backing is in place. But, foil-backed fiberglass, styrofoam or blown-in cellulose cannot be dried. The damaged wall sections will be removed with the insulation to start the rapid drying process and to prevent the growth of mold.

The restoration specialist will monitor the drying equipment at least once per day to check the progress. Moisture measurements will be taken to determine the drying times and when the dryness levels are equal to the unaffected areas the process is completed.

If you need plumbing pipe repair and water restoration services, contact your local professional plumber today.