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How to Repair Drywall Ceiling Water Damage

Water damaged drywall ceiling repair options with step by step instructions for replacing the damaged section and finishing the drywall.

Water from the leaky shower drain dripped onto the basement drywall ceiling causing a fair amount of water damage. What appeared to be a simple stain on the finished ceiling is really a hole on the unfinished side of the drywall.

Drywall Ceiling Water Damage cause by Plumbing Leak

Drywall Ceiling Water Damage cause by Plumbing Leak

Drywall Ceiling Water Damage Caused by Plumbing Leak

Water from the leaky shower drain dripped from the shower drain PVC pipe U-bend onto the suspended drywall basement ceiling. The leak caused the drywall paper backing to delaminate and eroded the gypsum drywall material leaving a crater:

Drywall Ceiling Water Damage Caused by Shower Leak

Drywall Ceiling Water Damage Caused by Shower Leak

The basement ceiling is 14 feet high because the house sits on a hillside and has high basement walls. I used a 16 foot extension ladder with a ladder stabilizer to hold the ladder off the wall to better reach the water damaged drywall ceiling. The water stain doesn’t look that bad from this viewpoint, however upon closer inspection the drywall paper is delaminated with a sagging bubble in the center:

Drywall Ceiling Repair: Water Stain

Drywall Ceiling Repair: Water Stain

Drywall Ceiling Water Damage Repair Options

There are several methods to repair damaged drywall. The best option depends the extent of the damage (small or large area) and location (wall or ceiling).

Repair Option 1: Self-Adhesive Mesh Drywall Patch

Drywall patches are widely available at home improvement stores that consist of a thin metal mesh with a sticky backing. The metal mesh provides support for the drywall spackle. The patch is stuck over the hole, spackle, sand and paint. Self-adhesive metal patches work best on walls and small holes, but often sag when used on ceilings. I therefore chose not to use a metal repair patch.

Repair Option 2: Cut Out and Replace with New Drywall

The best way to repair the roughly 5″ by 5″ area of damaged drywall ceiling is to cut out the area and replace it with a new section of drywall by installing a wood reinforcement frame, tape the joints, apply joint compound, sand and paint. The most difficult part was working on the extension ladder to reach the high ceiling.

Repair Option 3: Install a Drywall Access Panel

The problem with Options 1 and 2 are if the leak were to happen again, you’ll be redoing the ceiling repairs. Depending on the nature of the leak, it may be necessary to cut an opening in the ceiling to fix the plumbing. In the 3 years since I made this repair, I’ve been introduced to the bauco drywall access panels. The bauco access panel solves both the repair and plumbing access problems. If I were to do this repair again, I’d use the bauco access panel.

bauco rondo Drywall Access Panel by Access Panel Solutions, Inc.

bauco rondo Drywall Access Panel by Access Panel Solutions, Inc.

How to Repair Drywall Ceiling Water Damage

Drywall Ceiling Repair Tools and Materials

You’ll save yourself a lot of time if you assemble the necessary tools and materials before starting the job. The items needed for this project are:

  1. Drywall Screw Setter – automatically sets the drywall screw the right depth every time. A 4-pack costs $5.
  2. Course Thread 1-1/4″ Drywall Screws
  3. Combination Square
  4. D. Pencil
  5. Utility Knife
  6. Cordless Drill/Driver
  7. Tape measure
  8. 12″ Drywall Taping Blade
  9. 6″ Drywall Taping Blade
  10. Drywall Jab Saw
  11. Drywall Sanding Sponge
  12. Roll of Self-Stick Fiberglass Drywall Tape. Cost is about $8.
  13. Drywall Joint Compound. A 1 gallon bucket cost about $6.
  14. 2ft x 2ft x 1/2in Drywall Repair Panel. Cost about $4 at Home Depot.
Water Damaged Drywall Ceiling Repair - Tools and Materials

Water Damaged Drywall Ceiling Repair – Tools and Materials

A large drop cloth is also needed to keep debris and dust off the floor.

Remove the Damaged Section of Drywall Ceiling

Before you cut out the damaged section of ceiling, know what’s on the other side of the drywall. Are there electrical wires, plumbing, gas lines, HVAC ducts, wood joists or metal support runners? I knew from looking into the ceiling crawlspace the center of the leak was close to the drywall suspended ceiling metal supports. If you can’t see what’s on the other side, cut a small inspection hole in the drywall with a utility knife and look inside with flashlight and small mirror.

I began the drywall repair by tapping drywall jab saw into the ceiling, knowing that I was inside the suspended drywall ceiling metal supports:

Drywall Ceiling Repair: Cut out the Water Damaged Area with Drywall Jab Saw

Drywall Ceiling Repair: Cut out the Water Damaged Area with Drywall Jab Saw

The cut is continued until I was well clear of the water damaged area. You might ask: “How do I know I’m making a straight cut?” because I’ve not marked cut lines on the ceiling with square. Right now it doesn’t matter – I’ll cut out the damaged area first and square up the hole later:

Water Damaged Drywall Ceiling Repair: 1st Cut with the Drywall Jab Saw

Water Damaged Drywall Ceiling Repair: 1st Cut with the Drywall Jab Saw

Knowing the leak was just inside the intersection of two suspended drywall ceiling metal supports, I made the second cut in the other direction:

Water Damaged Drywall Ceiling Repair: Second Cut with the Jab Saw

Water Damaged Drywall Ceiling Repair: Second Cut with the Jab Saw

The water damaged drywall ceiling section cut out with the jab saw. Water from the leaky shower drain dripped and splashed creating the hole. The problem with slow plumbing leaks is it takes time before the damage become apparent:

Water Damaged Section of Drywall Ceiling

Water Damaged Section of Drywall Ceiling

This repair is continued in How to Repair Drywall Ceiling Water Damage – Part 2.

Hope this helps,

Bob Jackson

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