Plumbers and home builders spend countless hours trying to keep homes protected from water damage. Most areas inside your home are simply not built to withstand high amounts of moisture.

When water leaks occur, it causes unsightly stains on your drywall ceilings and interior surfaces. In severe cases, it can even cause the drywall to crumble and fall apart.

If you’re planning on selling your home or getting an inspection for any other reason, water damage represents a huge home inspection red flag. You will definitely want to complete the repairs beforehand.

The good news is that, with the right knowledge and tools, you can do some water damage restoration on your own. This step-by-step guide will help you accomplish a DIY repair the right way.

Step #1 – Finding the Leak

In some cases, you may notice visible signs of moisture on your ceilings or walls. There may be dripping water, sagging drywall panels or other obvious signs. In other cases, there may just be small water stains on your drywall that get larger over time.

Before you can start any actual repairs, you must find the water leak’s source. Repairs won’t do you any good if the source of the leak remains. Unfortunately, the source of a leak can be quite difficult to find. Water can travel throughout your home and cause damage in unexpected places.

To find a water leak, you should prepare yourself to do some thorough investigation and exploration.

You may need to remove some damaged drywall to help you find the leak. This is where Step #2 comes in.

Step #2 – Removing Damaged Drywall

Before you start prying away at your damaged drywall, you should always consider your safety. If the leak has been there for an extended period of time, there could be a significant amount of mold inside or on-top of the drywall. You should stop and call a professional if a large amount of mold is present.

In cases where there is only a small amount of mold, you can safely remove the drywall as long as you take precautions such as safety goggles, a dust mask and gloves.

Before you begin, place tarps and drop-cloths down to catch the drywall dust and debris that you’ll create during the removal. This will help to protect other interior surfaces and make the clean-up process much easier.

Take a good look at the drywall to determine the severity of the water damage. Drywall will sag or crumble when it is full of water. You can removed all the compromised portions with a wrecking bar, the claw of your hammer or by hand.

If your drywall panels are just stained and not structurally compromised, you may be able to repair them by simply cutting out the stained area. You can use a keyhole saw to cut a rectangular or square-shaped hole around the stains. Then, you can use another drywall piece to patch the opening.

Step #3: Performing the Repairs

If you just need to do a patch repair to replace stained areas of your drywall, start with these mini-steps:

  1. Measure the area of wall that you cut out from the previous step.
  2. Cut a replacement piece of drywall that is 2” longer and wider than those measurements.
  3. Lay your replacement piece on a flat surface (backside up).
  4. Measure 1” from all edges and make a pencil line.
  5. Use a utility knife and a straightedge to cut the backside paper and gypsum material. DO NOT CUT THE FRONT-FACING PAPER LAYER!
  6. Peel away the gypsum and backside layers with a putty knife.

For openings between 6 and 12 inches:

  1. Drill two small holes in your replacement board.
  2. Pull some string through the holes and tie the ends to a stick.
    1. Try to leave about 8 inches of string between the stick and board.
    2. The front of the board is considered the “stick side.”
    3. The stick is used to hold your patch in place.
  3. Carefully twist the stick until it applies pressure to the rear of the replacement board.
  4. Smoothly apply cement adhesive around the edges of the board.
  5. Place the patch into the drywall hole while positioning it so that the adhesive grips the area around the rear of the hole.
  6. Turn the stick in the clockwise direction to increase the pressure and ensure the board holds firmly until the adhesive dries.
  7. After the cement adhesive dries completely, apply joint compound and smooth out the area.
  8. Allow the area to thoroughly dry again, then sand down any high spots.

For openings smaller than 6 inches:

  1. Apply joint compound around the drywall opening.
  2. Insert the patch.
  3. Use a putty knife to work the edge of the paper into the compound.
  4. Feather the compound edges so that it will dry effectively.
  5. Use fine-grit sandpaper to lightly sand the area before applying a second layer of compound to finish.

If you still need help, check this page out to learn more about patching drywall like a pro.

If the water stain on your drywall is over 12 inches, you should consider the total replacement of the panel. Large portions of drywall should always be anchored to the ceiling joists or wall studs.

If the area you remove exposes a joist or stud that will allow you to anchor your patch, you should be fine by doing that. If there is not joist or stud available, replacing the entire panel may be your best option.

Removing an entire sheet:

  1. Remove the drywall panel and drywall screws that anchored the panel to the studs or joists.
  2. Get accurate measurements of the opening.
  3. If your measurements require a custom-sized panel, use a drywall saw or utility knife to cut a patch to fit the opening.
  4. Align the new drywall panel with your studs or joists.
  5. Secure the new panel to the studs or joists with drywall screws.
  6. Apply joint tape at all the exposed seams.
  7. Apply joint compound over the tape with a putty knife.
  8. Allow the compound to dry and then sand down until all the seams are flush with the panels.

Step #4: Priming and Painting

Before you start priming, make sure that the area is well ventilated. Open windows and use fans if necessary.

With a large paintbrush or paint roller, apply interior primer to the entire wall or ceiling surface. After the primer dries, apply the interior paint in square 6-foot sections. Use a continuous pattern of overlapping “W” strokes while you move from right to left and then back to spread evenly. Then use a small paintbrush to fill-in the areas where your roller couldn’t reach.

If necessary, apply another coat on the entire surface.

Water damage restoration can be a long and frustrating process, but following these steps will help you save big money by doing-it-yourself!