Drywall Repair Questions Answered by a Professional

Before choosing a drywall contractor here are a few answers to questions I commonly get asked in the drywall industry.

Question: I have water damage to my drywall, is it still good? Does it have to be replaced?

Answer: Water can come from many different sources in your home. Roof leaks, air handlers, dishwashers you name it. Drywall is a surprisingly resilient product when it comes to water and can withstand a great deal of water before total product failure occurs. Once it is dried out damage is usually only cosmetic. Typically a dark stain or hairline crack appears along a joint line where the drywall compound has been dissolved by the water and the tape has let loose. Not to fear, a drywall professional can usually repair the damage in a few hours with little to no mess. Even if the area has gotten wet for months, water will always find the path of least resistance and come out all in one spot. In this case all that is required is cutting out the affected area, usually only a 3′ – 4′ area and patching it in. In either situation cost is typically under $300.

Question: Should I be worried about mold on my drywall?

Answer: The most important thing to remember, without moisture mold cannot survive. So first and foremost remove the water source and the mold is history. Although lawyers and so-called mold removal experts would like you to think otherwise and open up your checkbook, mold is rarely harmful to humans and can be easily eradicated. Spraying a little bleach on it will also do the trick. If it has gotten so bad where the paper on the drywall has been actually eaten away by the mold, then a small patch job to cut out and remove the affected area is in order. Cost likely around $250.

Question: Do I have Chinese drywall in my home?

Answer: Although considerably more serious than mold and definitely in need of complete removal, my advice is to not overreact if your concerned you may have it. It’s unnecessary to spend a great deal of money for another specialist that is trying to profit on someone else’s misfortunes. Trust me; if you have Chinese drywall in your home you will know it, no question about it. The metallic burning sensation in your eyes and throat will quickly give it away. It is obvious within months of installation and unmistakable. My best advice is to call a reputable drywall or building contractor who can steer you in the right direction. Recent legal rulings are very specific in the removal of the product and failure to follow them exactly can lead to future resale problems.

Question: What does it take to remove popcorn texture from my ceiling?

Answer: As long as the ceiling has not been painted, which most have not been, a drywall professional can remove and re-texture an average sized ceiling for as little as $500 – $600. The only catch is what kind of condition the existing ceiling is in. Popcorn (acoustic) texture can hide an amazing amount of flaws, hence the reason for its popularity years ago. Some ceilings may not have been finished to normal standards and may need a complete finish coat before applying a lighter texture. Large dips, sags, or even cracking may be hidden with this texture so care should be taken before removal to fully understand how large a project you are getting yourself into.

Question: What type of texture should I pick?

Answer: I think this is probably one of the biggest issues my customers struggle with and it is probably one of the least important. I’ve found most individuals seldom even notice what texture is on the walls of a home they walk into. The only time it comes up if it’s an extremely bold or heavy texture. These textures are usually trendy and tend to wear out their welcome after only a few years. My advice is to keep it on the lighter side. Be aware of drywall contractors trying to talk you into heavy textures, it’s likely they don’t have the ability to do a high enough quality of work without heavy textures to cover up the flaws.

Question: What textures are available?

Answer: The most common texture and most universal is orange peel. It’s sprayed on with a machine to provide a light, washable, and very patchable finish that few people really notice on the wall. It’s used to bring down the labor and therefore the price of a perfectly smooth finish which can get quite expensive. It appears similar to the texture of a magnified orange peel once painted, hence the name. To dress up ceilings and also provide additional hide, knock down texture is commonly used. It is sprayed on as well, but much thicker, with larger dots. It’s a very cost-effective texture which primarily replaced popcorn texture back in the day. When the spray has tacked a large paddle is used to flatten or knock down the dots which give it its name. This texture will provide an enormous amount of hide on a ceiling or wall and many people feel its dresses up a room, but the downside is it’s extremely hard to patch and difficult to clean.

The last of the common textures is skip trowel. It is a hand texture applied with a trowel with a back and forth motion. It can be applied heavy or light depending on your preference. Because of its labor intensity it is commonly used on the ceilings of higher end homes. It can give an old world or Spanish type of look to a home as well.

Question: How do I pick a drywall contractor I can trust to do a good job?

Answer: This is a very hard question to answer, but here are a few things to watch for that might help steer you in the right direction. The biggest red flag to watch out for is a drywaller who wants money up front before they do the job. In this line of work it typically means the minute they leave your eyesight there gone never to be seen again. It’s sad, but unfortunate. Look at their vehicles, are they kept in a reasonable state. Messy, broken, or untidy vehicles tend to emulate their owners level of craftsmanship. Everyone wants to hear good news, but anyone that tells you everything you want to hear can be someone to watch out for. An example might be a texture like knockdown, which is simply impossible to patch perfect. For nine out of ten people it will look good enough, but not PERFECT. The only way to make it perfect is to skim out the entire ceiling smooth and re-spray it all. More costly, but at least you have that option up front before its painted and before you have shelled out the money to fix it once already. I would rather be honest and let people know there are limitations to what can be done than have an unhappy customer.

Hopefully this article has answered a few of the more commonly asked questions to help better inform you on picking a quality drywall contractor.