Removing Soggy Drywall in 8 Not-So-Easy Steps

flickr / frankenstoen

First step: marking

The waterline (the highest point the flood has reached) becomes visible on the drywall. Mark a cut line six to 12 inches above it either with a laser or mark the space at an even height above the floor. Then snap a chalk line. This seems needlessly fussy at this point if you’re just trying to remove damp drywall to help ventilate the wall. But a decent job now will greatly speed up the installation of replacement drywall.

Step two: place the tarpaulin

Place a tarp at the base of the wall to catch dirt. The tarp is a smooth surface that will keep the damaged area cleaner and make it easier to remove dirt from the floor.

Step three: cutting

Cut along the line with a sharp utility knife.

Step four: puncture

Take a frame hammer and punch a hole in the drywall that allows you to get to the other side. Make sure you do this between the studs and below the cut line so that you are damaging the drywall that you plan to remove anyway.

Step five: remove and test

First, remove the panels from your sockets and pry off the baseboard trim. Next, reach into the hand hole with gloves and pull the drywall away from the studs. The first couple of bays will be difficult. When you’ve opened a large area, use a flat bar, hammer, or shovel to pry the drywall off the cleats.

Check the outside walls for moisture. Put your hand in the insulation. Your goal here is to remove the drywall to the point where the insulation is dry so that whatever gets damp is replaced. If the insulation is still wet to the touch where you made your first cut line, do another test cut higher up the wall.

NOTE: Removing (and replacing) electrical cords, receptacles, and receptacle boxes should be carried out by a licensed electrician.

Step six: transportation

Transport the debris outside. Ideally, you already have a dumpster, dump truck, or garbage truck so you don’t have to remove the rubble twice. If this is not possible, pile the debris on the ground and cover it with a tarp to prevent it from becoming wetter and heavier. Weigh the tarpaulin or pin it in place so it doesn’t blow away.

Remember that drywall is heavy – especially water-filled drywall. However, there are several ways to postpone this. One is to slide it into a tarpaulin. Large chunks can also be put in a wheelbarrow or thrown in a plastic trash that you can push out of the house or use a handcart to transport.

Whatever you do, figure out the dirt handling before you cut your first piece of drywall and you’ll have an easier time overall.

Step seven: discard the rest

Cut off damp fiberglass insulation and stuff it in trash bags. Remove drywall screws by pulling them out or breaking them off. The same goes for drywall nails.

Step eight: ventilation

Fans accelerate evaporation and reduce the likelihood of condensation forming in interior walls and the formation of mold.

Installation after the flood

To reassemble your walls after the flood, an electrician will need to replace the electrical outlets and cables, and possibly the electrical outlets as well. At PM, our view has always been that a homeowner doing their homework is responsible for basic electrical work, but flood damage is a special case. Flood-damaged electrical materials should be replaced by a professional who can also assess the home’s grounding and connection system. After that, you can replace the insulation you have cut out and hang up new drywall.

To do this, cut off each piece of replacement insulation so that it snuggles against the piece above. Pin it in place. Next, cut off the spare piece of drywall and screw it onto the studs. Use one screw on each side of the connection (i.e. one screw in the new drywall and one screw in the older drywall above). Spread the adhesive tape compound on the seam and bind the paper tape into the compound. Properly embedded paper tape is strong and easy to apply. Peel off any excess drywall joint with a 6 inch knife and allow the joint to dry. Sand away any burrs and bumps before applying the next coats of compound.

For more information on how to install drywall, check out our guides on how to do it well and finish it properly.

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