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Posted by Kevin Stevens | Aug 16, 2012

Dumb Things People Do That Ruin Drywall

When drywall gets wet one of the first things that can happen is mold feeding on the soggy paper “skins”. As the moisture finds its way deeper in to the material, the gypsum begins to soften and eventually turn to mush…or crumble away.

This drywall had to be cut to access electrical wires. Photo by Kevin Stevens.Back in the old days walls were done in lathe and plaster.  The amount of work and skill needed for those installs is mind blowing compared to the ease of drywall.  Drywall however is not quite as robust as a lathe and plaster wall when bumped with a piece of furniture. Dings and gouges are just one type of damage that drywall endures; the greatest enemy is water. The following is a list of reasons that people have to pay drywall companies to replace their drywall.

Drywall + Water = BAD

I have done a great number of shower remodels where drywall was the backing substrate for a tile installation. Now days you have a wide variety of far superior options for tile installations.  Greenboard had a slight advantage over plain drywall with a moisture resistant “paper” but these gypsum based products still share the weak and very moisture vulnerable core. (Today the norm is to use a cement board product in showers for long term durability.)  A new type of drywall is available now that has fiberglass facing; this is naturally mold resistant and makes a great choice for humid locations like baths and laundry rooms.

When drywall gets wet one of the first things that can happen is mold feeding on the soggy paper “skins”.  As the moisture finds its way deeper in to the material, the gypsum begins to soften and eventually turn to mush…or crumble away. It does not take much water or much time for this to occur.  I have seen mold happen after just one “flooding” type event in a mater of days. An example of how destructive water can be, I have done some demo on entire shower walls were the damage was so bad that the demolition work was simply done with my bare hands. This moisture issue is not limited to showers. I have seen laundry rooms become mold farms as well as poorly vented baths, flooded garages, kitchen back splashes, etc.

Holes and Patches

The second most common drywall fixes I have done over the years are “spot” repairs. One of the more common is the dreaded behind-the-door-doorknob-hole. This can be avoided by installing door stops or bumpers.  Other spot repairs usually have to do with either a plumbing or electrical problem.  Walls are often “opened up” to gain access to upgrade a faucet or add some new electrical service.  Other patch repairs are fixing damage due to leaks.  Here not only to you need to fix the cause (leaky pipe, valve drain, etc); you need to fix all of the damage that the leak caused.  Making a patch invisible is pretty tricky if not impossible.  Textured walls can be a real tough match; smooth walls are easier in one sense but more difficult when it comes to hiding ridges or seams.

Hanging Wallpaper Directly on Drywall

This anecdote comes from DIY blogger and Hometalk member Cheri Peoples of the DIY blog It's So Very Cheri: "A few years ago we were buying a brand new home. They had beautiful wallpaper up in the house but one room (kitchen) wasn't my style. I could live with it until I got around to changing it but knew at some point I would want to change it. I asked if it had been properly prepped. I was told that it had been. We bought the house. We were busy with our careers and a couple of years later I finally got around to redoing the kitchen. I started working on getting that wallpaper down and OH NO--they had no prepped and not only that but the wallpaper had been applied straight to the dry wall and it was going to rip out chunks. I had luckily begun in an area that could be easily fixed and would not be obvious."

"I ended up painting over the wallpaper in a cappuccino and rag rolled over it in a mocha cream so you wouldn't notice the lines. I painted over the border in a cranberry and wrote in gold leaf pen. Everyone always commented on how beautiful and I don't think anyone noticed that I had painted over the top of the wallpaper."

Small Holes and Hanger Hardware

Many people will hang art and other objects on their walls or attach shelves and other such contrivances.  Because drywall is not as sturdy as wood, many of these mounting screws are set in a “drywall anchor”.  Fast forward in time …and this shelf or object is no longer needed or wanted. What is left behind is the drywall anchor.  Having worked in many student rentals I have seen some walls peppered with a dozen or more of these old remnants.  Removing them makes an even bigger hole, which stands out just as much if not more. It is possible to camouflage them somewhat but in many cases you just need to install a bigger piece of art.  When layers of drywall problems start to stack up, sometime it is best to tear out the old and start fresh.  Drywall is not overly expensive and a flat smooth new wall is indeed a thing of beauty.

Kevin Stevens does tile repair and carpentry work in the Denver area.

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