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All you need to know to repair bathroom wall water damage

Water damage is a common household problem, and one that, if left unrepaired, can quickly lead to structural problems and health issues. The two most likely rooms where water damage may occur is the bathroom and the kitchen – where water is used often and there is high humidity.

In this article, you’ll learn how to repair bathroom wall water damage, as we walk you through:

  • Categories of water damage
  • Health effects of water damage
  • Signs of water damage
  • Repairing bathroom wall water damage

What is water damage?

It is easy to think of water damage as caused by a flood or leaking tap or burst water pipe. However, when water damage is assessed, there are three main categories into which water falls (as classified by the American National Standards Institute). These categories are defined as:

·       Category 1 Water – ‘Clear Water’

This is sanitary water. There is usually no major threat to health by washing with this water, drinking it, or inhaling if it is streaming. Most water that enters your home will be category 1 water, while most water leaving your home will be either category 2 or 3 water. It may also come from melting snow, rainwater and water tanks.

Damage caused by this type of water can usually be repaired or restored, though this doesn’t mean that there are no potential health issues.

·       Category 2 Water – ‘Grey Water’

This is contaminated water – sometimes considerably so – and will cause illness if consumed or if it comes into contact with your skin. Water damage in this category is often caused by overflows from toilet bowls, and damage to washing machines and dishwashers. While damaged items might still be repaired or restored after damage by grey water, it is more difficult and more expensive to do so.

If the water damage in your home has been caused by grey water, it is advisable to have repairs made by professionals.

Over time, grey water will deteriorate and become black water.

·       Category 3 Water – ‘Black Water’

Category 3 water, also known as black water, is highly contaminated and a great risk to health. This may contain raw sewage, heavy metals, and other toxic substances. It will smell terrible.

If this is the water that has caused damage in your bathroom, do not touch it. Stop the water flowing if possible, seal the room and call the experts: it really isn’t worth the risk of ill health and disease that could be fatal. It is very unlikely that items can be repaired or restored if they have been damaged by black water.

Act fast if you notice water damage

As you can see, the damage caused by water becomes more severe as you move from clear water to black water. You should also note that water deteriorates if it is left over time. This is because the conditions encourage growth of mold, bacteria and insects that could be harmful to health.

The secret to limiting damage caused by water is to act quickly. This is especially the case when you repair bathroom wall water damage.

Health Effects from Water Damage

If you don’t act quickly to resolve a water damage problem, you could find that it develops into a mold issue, or worse. Here are three health issues that not repairing water damaged bathroom walls could cause:

1.      Mold

Mold grows best in warm, damp conditions – like bathrooms. Possible health issues caused by mold include respiratory problems, fatigue and headaches, as well as vomiting, nausea and other illnesses. Black mold is especially hazardous, and care needs to be taken when cleaning and disposing of black mold. See our article “Is it safe to tackle mold removal yourself?” for more information.

2.      Bacteria

Bacteria thrives in similar conditions that promote mold growth. Nutrients in water encourage bacteria to grow and these may cause illnesses such as strep throat and ear infections. Some bacteria can be fatal.

It is also possible for untended water damage to carry viruses such as influenza.

3.      Insects

Water damage works in a number of ways to encourage insects into your home. Water can cause cracks in walls, or existing cracks to become holes. These provide insects an entry point into your home. Standing water is an ideal breeding ground for insects like cockroaches and mosquitos. Not nice creatures to have infest your home.

Signs of water damage

There are many signs of water damage in the home and in the bathroom. It can be seen, smelled, heard and felt. Common signs include:

  • Brown staining
  • Bowed or warped walls
  • The musty smell of mold or mildew
  • Peeling or bubbled paint
  • The sound of water dripping
  • Damp surfaces

Water damage can also cause wood rot, and destroy the fabric of your home – as well as providing sanctuary and a food source for termites and carpenter ants.

In the bathroom in particular, water damage may cause tile grout to discolor and loosen. If you have noticed this, then it could be that you have water damage hiding behind your drywall.

How water damage happens

Water damage in the bathroom could be caused by something as simple as water spray from a shower head, water seeping into faulty caulking around the tub, or it could be something more serious like a leak in a pipe behind the bathroom wall.

Before making a repair because of bathroom wall water damage, it is important that you discover the source of the water that is causing the damage and repair this. If you don’t, the problem will recur and worsen.

If you have a broken pipe, then you should turn off the water, call a plumber, and have the fault repaired. The sooner you do this, the less damage will be caused and the easier and cheaper the repair to your bathroom wall will be.

However, the worst water damage is usually caused over a long period, by slow and hidden leaks. If you spot signs of water damage but cannot locate the source, it is best to call a plumber to investigate.

Repairing your water damaged bathroom wall

As is the case when making any repair, your first consideration should be safety – yours and others in the home. Even clear water contains dangerous microbes, so you should ensure that you keep safe by wearing:

  • Safety goggles
  • Gloves
  • A dust mask
  • Disposable coveralls
  • A hard hat to prevent injury from falling ceiling debris

Having identified and repaired the source of water that is damaging your bathroom wall, and taken precautions to stay safe while you make the repair to the wall, you are ready to get started on making the repair. Follow these steps to do so:

Step 1: Remove the tiles from the affected area

Most tiles that have been affected by water damage are likely to come away by levering with your hand. For more difficult tiles, you will need to use a putty knife or chisel. Do this carefully, and you will be able to replace them when you have completed the repair to the wall behind.

Step 2: Remove the base or shoe trim

Remove the trim from the floor of the wall. Again, do this carefully so the trim can be replaced, unless you plan to replace with new trim.

Step 3: Locate the next closet stud

You should work outside of the area of damage, locating the next closest stud and drawing a vertical line at its center, extending above the uppermost edge of the damaged drywall. Do the same to both left and right of the damaged area, and connect top and bottom.

Step 4: Cut out the damaged drywall

Cut along the square that you have drawn using a utility knife. Gently lever the damaged section of drywall away from the non-damaged drywall. Remove any screws or nails that remain in the exposed studs.

Step 5: Replace rotted studs

If any studs have rotted, you must replace them. This may involve cutting away a larger section of drywall.

Step 6: Replace the removed drywall

Measure the hole that needs to be filled with new drywall of the same thickness as the existing. Cut a new piece of drywall to size, and secure with drywall screws.

Step 7: Fill in screw holes and seams

Use drywall mud to fill screw holes and squeeze into the seam between the new and existing drywall. Apply drywall tape over the mud, and then apply a thin layer of drywall mud over the tape. When it is dry to the touch, sand down gently to a smooth finish.

Step 8: Repeat drywall mud application

Repeat the application of drywall mud over the raised bump at the seam two or three more times. Sand smooth on each occasion. When the bump and seam are unnoticeable, move on to the next step.

Step 9: Paint the drywall

If the wall is untiled, paint it the same color as the wall.

Step 10: Replace tiles and finish

Now that you have made the repair to the water damaged bathroom wall, all that remains is to finish off. If the wall was tiled, replace the tiles and grout. Finally, cut and install new base trim, before applying silicone to the inside edge where the drywall and tub meet to create a watertight seal.

Should you hire a professional to repair bathroom wall water damage?

Repairing a water damaged bathroom wall is a task that is within the capability of most seasoned DIYers. However, not only does it depend on your DIY skills, but also the size of the repair needed. If you are in any doubt about making the repair yourself, or if the repair is a large job, then hiring a professional contractor may be the best option. This is because:

  • The repair will be made more quickly
  • The contractor will have all the tools needed to do the job
  • The repair will be guaranteed
  • If you are claiming from your insurance policy for the cost of the repair, it is likely that your insurance company will only pay out if the repair is made by certified professionals.

Whatever your cleaning or restoration needs, you can rely on Porter’s Cleaning. Contact us today – we’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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