Drywall is one of the most common construction materials used in Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, for very good reason. As well as being lightweight, durable, and cost-effective, drywall is easy to tailor to the needs of a space and makes decorating a breeze.
Unfortunately, it is weak to water damage, which means that wet drywall in your property is a serious issue that you should not ignore. As well as being a sign of deeper issues, you run the risk of having to replace the damaged drywall if you can’t dry it out quickly enough.
There are many potential causes when it comes to finding wet drywall in your basement or home at large. As a non-professional, you may find it hard to identify the likely causes, which is why we recommend you call a local expert as soon as you notice a problem.
However, there are some other problem signs you can look for to help you narrow down the possible problem areas. This will help you to give whoever you call all the information they need to address the problem quickly and effectively.
Dampness and Humidity: The Causes of Wet Drywall
Wet drywall is a serious issue that you should never ignore as a homeowner. First and foremost, wet drywall is a sign that there is a source of water somewhere in the vicinity. Whether it’s the result of generally high humidity and rising dampness or an active source of water, wet drywall is not something you can afford to ignore.
What Happens to Wet Drywall?
If left to become fully saturated, drywall panels will quickly start to deteriorate and lose their structural integrity. Unlike wooden panels, drywall panels are made from compressed gypsum paste. When they are fully saturated, they can start to crumble and fall apart. As such, any walls with these panels are in very real danger of deforming, sagging, or collapsing entirely when wet.
Even if this does not happen, however, wet drywall can be incredibly unhealthy. It attracts pests and can provide a perfect environment for mold growth and spread. When mold takes root in drywall, it will speed its deterioration and could reach other parts of your home very quickly.
The Most Common Causes of Wet Drywall
The issues that are most likely to provide enough water to pose a serious risk to drywall panels include, but are not limited to:
Serious damage to your pipes or plumbing system can result in leaks or even a full-scale plumbing flood. This can be incredibly damaging to your property as a whole but will be particularly bad for drywall panels. Of course, a plumbing flood is very easy to spot and will usually be dealt with in a timely manner, which lessens the likelihood of affected drywall failing entirely.
However, low-level or moderate plumbing leaks are more likely to go unnoticed for a period of time. This means they are most likely to cause noticeable raises in relative humidity and serious dampness in your drywall panels.
Leaking Windows or Window Wells
Leaky windows or basement window wells can cause real damage in your home. Dampness and humidity are just some of the potential side effects of this kind of issue. Depending on the amount of water that is leaking through your window frames or wells on a regular basis, the damage to your home can vary from musty basement smells to crumbling drywall.
Thankfully, leaking windows and window wells are fairly easy to spot and fix. The issues tend to be within the window itself, rather than the wider structure of a property.
The phrase “foundation repair” is incredibly daunting to any homeowner. While dampness and humidity are common side effects of foundation damage, they are also one of the least pressing issues for people dealing with this kind of structural damage. The most common kinds of foundation damage that can cause serious dampness are subsidence and settlement.
Subsidence is a process of sinking that tends to be connected to saturated or incredibly expansive soil. This process generally causes a property to sink in an uneven manner and puts disproportionate strain and weight on certain areas of your home. This will result in large, spreading cracks and allow water into your home.
Settlement, by contrast, is more likely to occur when soil is very weak, loose, or dry. It sees large chunks of a property’s foundation break away and drop into voids left behind by shifting or receding soil. This allows water into a property when the soil becomes saturated again. In serious situations, this can lead to flooding in your basement.
Seepage is a process unique to basements that have poured concrete foundations and walls. Concrete has many benefits, but it is incredibly porous, which means it will start to absorb water when the soil around it is saturated. Over time, the water it absorbs will make its way through the concrete and into the property.
This can cause dampness and humidity serious enough to saturate drywall and cause it to deteriorate. Unfortunately, seepage is a very difficult issue to solve, because it is not actually a form of damage. As such, waterproofing is really the only effective solution.
Sump Pump Failure
If your property is prone to dampness, humidity, and flooding, it is likely that you will have some kind of waterproofing appliances and measures in place already. A sump pump is one of the most common waterproofing appliances in Cincinnati and Columbus, OH.
If your sump pump fails during a storm, it is very likely that your basement will flood. This is sure to saturate any drywall panels in the affected area and could potentially ruin them.
These are not the only things that can cause wet drywall. All it really takes is prolonged humidity or dampness. Whatever the cause of this dampness, your drywall is likely to be affected. Of course, wet drywall does not need to be a disaster as long as you catch it quickly.
While it’s true that the basement is rarely the nicest part of any home, it should not have a strong or unpleasant smell. If your home has a musty, powdery odor, there could be something very wrong.
When your basement gets damp or humid, it will inevitably start to take on a slight smell. This will first be the scent of stagnant water, but as textiles, cardboard, and wood in your home become saturated, they will give off their own smells. If they are persistently damp, however, they may start to rot, and this is where the real trouble starts.
Wood rot, in particular, can give off a strong and unpleasantly musty odor that will spread throughout your whole home very quickly. Of course, a bad odor is not the most pressing side effect of wood rot. Depending on what function the wood performs, there could be serious structural implications. If the wood in question is a floor joist, for example, the floor could start to sag and pull away from the walls.
Mold and Infestation
Damp basements that are rarely used are vulnerable to mold, mildew, and pest infestation. Each of these issues can cause an odor of some kind. Mold, for example, is likely to cause a strong, sharp, powdery smell that can be almost sweet or chalky. Meanwhile, mildew has a very mild smell that will generally not be noticeable over the general smell of dampness.
Pest infestations, however, are most likely to cause severe and strongly unpleasant smells. Cockroach infestations tend to produce the most immediately noticeable odor. If the bad smell in your home is being caused by an unnoticed cockroach infestation, you will notice a pungent and slightly oily edge to the odor. The smell may also be concentrated around electrical items and appliances (which are common nesting sites for cockroaches).
Dampness and humidity, as well as the presence of pests, can do a lot of damage to every part of your home, but drywall panels are particularly vulnerable. While wet drywall may not seem like a huge issue, there are reasons you should worry.
Drywall panels are incredibly versatile and durable; this is why they are used so frequently. However, drywall panels have one very important weakness: water. Because they are made of compressed gypsum paste sandwiched between a heavy lining, they are incredibly absorbent. Unfortunately, when they absorb too much water, they lose their structural integrity.
So, if you notice that drywall around your home is becoming wet, you could be looking at serious structural damage in the near future. Drywall that has been completely saturated may start to bubble, peel, and sag. In fact, it could collapse entirely if it is not dried out quickly enough. This will lead to the whole panel needing to be replaced. In fact, because of the panels’ proximity to its wooden framing, you might find that they have started to rot.
While this may seem somewhat obvious, rotting drywall and wood are not the healthiest of substances to spend your time around. As well as the obvious issues that dampness can bring, rotting drywall or wood present a whole different list of potential problems you cannot afford to ignore. You see, these materials provide a perfect environment and breeding ground for mold, mildew, bacteria, and certain kinds of pests.
Black mold, for example, is notoriously fond of rotting drywall and wood. This is worrying, of course, because black mold can cause lightheadedness, skin irritation, headaches, and respiratory problems. If you have pre-existing medical conditions like asthma, emphysema, or dermatitis, mold will also exacerbate these issues. Pest infestations, however, are more likely to make you sick because of the ways in which they spread bacteria.
Wet drywall is like any other problem. If you catch it early enough, it should be possible to rectify the issue without too much stress, mess, or cost. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should try to go it alone.
Dealing with the Dampness Comes First
If you have noticed that you have damp or wet drywall panels around your home, it can be tempting to start by addressing them. After all, these are the most visible parts of the problem, and it is human nature to want to act in a crisis. However, it is important to remember that wet drywall is simply a symptom of a deeper problem. The drywall panels are being soaked by something, whether it be an internal leak, seepage, or high humidity.
If you rush ahead to deal with the drywall panels themselves, you will only be setting yourself up to deal with the problem again in a short while. Instead, you must identify the underlying cause of the dampness and humidity in your home. Only by removing the source of water from the area will be you able to guarantee a long-standing solution to your problem. Of course, we do not recommend that you try to resolve these issues alone. Instead, you should contact a professional.
Repair and Replacement Should be Undertaken by Professionals
We understand the allure of DIY repairs, especially when you are on a tight budget. However, DIY work may not be as efficient and cost-effective as you think it will be. In fact, homeowners who try to deal with issues like this alone are most likely to increase their costs because of the need to re-address the same issues over and over again. When it comes to wet drywall, this is even more likely because a permanent solution requires you to find and deal with all the sources of moisture in the area (and this is not as easy as it sounds). The chances of you being able to do this alone are minimal unless you have the right training.
Professional basement waterproofing and repair specialists will not only be able to diagnose the precise causes of the dampness and humidity in your home, but they will be able to formulate a tailored solution. This will ensure that your problems with humidity are stabilized and don’t reoccur. If they are able to save the affected drywall panels, they will. This may not be the ideal situation, but it is by far the best solution to the problem.
The Problem Signs You Should Be Aware Of
There are some signs of wet or compromised drywall panels that are incredibly obvious, but there are many others that are more subtle. In fact, if you want to protect your home fully and prevent drywall panels from becoming wet in the first place, you should be aware of the general problem signs for dampness and humidity in a basement.
Red flags you should be aware of are:
If your basement, or your home as a whole, has taken on a musty smell you cannot explain or get rid of, it is very likely that you have issues with dampness within your home. As well as being a sign of dampness and humidity, musty or powdery/sweet odors can be a sign of mold formations in and around your home.
Visible Mold Formations
Mold and mildew formations go hand in hand with dampness and humidity. They are most likely to form in generally damp or wet areas like kitchens and bathrooms, but they should form beyond a few spots unless the area is very poorly ventilated. If you see large, actively growing mold formations anywhere in your home, however, you should call a professional immediately. This is not just a sign of seriously high levels of humidity in your home—it could be dangerous to your health.
Some levels of condensation can be found in most homes on an irregular basis. Most commonly you will see condensation inside windows in the bathroom or kitchen, for example. However, if you notice that there is condensation on your windows more often than not, or you see condensation on your walls, this is a very bad sign.
Puddles or pools of standing water are, of course, a strong sign that there is a source of water somewhere in the vicinity. They are also going to contribute to higher levels of humidity in the area around them. This makes water formations somewhat of a cyclical issue.
If you can actually see a leak from an appliance or pipe, you should call a professional plumber immediately. This is not just going to cause dampness and wet drywall, but it could have far-reaching consequences for your appliances, the structure of your home, and your health and well-being if you do not act quickly.
One of the most common side effects of leaks and dampness in a property is staining, bubbling, or cosmetic damage to wallpaper and drywall. Concrete walls can suffer staining, especially if there is an active leak somewhere above them.
The most obvious sign of drywall damage and severe dampness is sagging, bubbling, or otherwise deformed drywall panels. Drywall can become damaged in many ways, but if it is bulging or sagging rather than flaking or leaning, dampness and humidity are more likely to be the root cause.
Each of these warning signs can be a red flag for a number of different issues, but they are all connected to dampness and humidity in some form. As such, you should act quickly when you notice them. If you notice more than one in tandem with others, you should prioritize a solution.
What You Can Do When You Have Wet Drywall in Your Basement
If you have noticed warning signs of dampness, leaks, or damage to drywall panels in your basement or your home as a whole, there are a few things you can do. First and foremost, if you have a serious and noticeable leak, you should consider whether turning off your water will be the most efficient solution.
Secondly, shut off any rooms that have large, visible mold formations if you are able to. Some species of mold are actively toxic and so you should limit your contact with them. You should also keep pets and children away from them entirely.
Finally, you should contact a basement waterproofing and repair specialist as quickly as possible. A professional will be able to identify the causes of your dampness and damage, formulate a solution, and restore your property to health and stability. Whatever you do, do not attempt to implement DIY repairs.
Call Ohio Basement Authority to Safeguard Your Drywall and Home from Dampness
If you have noticed wet drywall in your basement, or anywhere in your home, call Ohio Basement Authority for a quick and efficient resolution. Our team has decades of collective experience and will be able to identify all underlying causes of dampness and damage in your home with ease. We have been the foremost basement repair and waterproofing team in Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, since 2009 and have helped thousands of homeowners since then.
All you need to do is contact us to schedule a free inspection and basement waterproofing quote. Once one of our expert inspectors completes a thorough assessment of your basement and home, you will have a better idea what you are up against and what kind of solutions can be used to address your dampness and humidity issues.