Attempting a Paint Job Post-Water Damage? Here's Everything You Need to Know

With a bit more prep, you will be able to get your space looking good as new.

Painting your home's surfaces after they have experienced water damage is much different than a standard job. These types of surfaces require a bit more prep work in order to make sure that the coating will look its best—and that it will continue to look that way long after you've put your brushes and rollers away. Ahead, everything you need to know about attempting a paint project after a period of water damage.

Painting over a water mark or stain involves more prep work.

According to Christian Lacroix, the Texas-based owner of Handyman Connection of McKinney, the main difference between covering water damage and a traditional project that the former involves prep work—if you have experienced a leak or found a spot of moisture, expect there to be more of it. "With regular painting, you can often just grab a brush and the color of your choice and get to work, using painter's tape, primer, patching nail holes, and other prep steps are optional, depending on your preferences," he says. "However, when you are painting over water damage, it is imperative to first assess your situation and see what kind of situation you are dealing with."

pouring paint to paint interior home wall
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Assess your drywall.

If you're working on walls, Lacroix suggests accessing the moisture level of your drywall before you get started. "If there is a water stain, but the drywall is still hard to the touch and otherwise undamaged, you can move forward with a primer and paint," he explains, noting that your primer choice matters. "You can't just coat over a water stain, because it will bleed through—you must first use a water or oil-based primer."

A stained area that is soft or saggy to the touch means that the drywall has been impacted and needs to be replaced prior to painting, notes Lacroix. "Replacing drywall is typically best left to experienced DIYers or professionals," he says, and recommends calling a professional contractor who can access the situation. "If you detect mold, call a water restoration company so they can clean or remove it before it expands."

Smooth over defects or imperfections.

You also need to scan the area you're repairing for damaged, broken, or severely sagging pieces of drywall that will need replacement. "Sometimes, the water will create 'bubbles' in the paint when it gets under the paper in your drywall," he says. "If this is the case, you will need to first remove that loose, pealing paint with a scraper." Next, sand the damaged drywall using a medium grit sandpaper and patch the area if needed. "Finally, you will be ready to apply a coat of primer and follow with the paint," he notes.

Choose your paint and supplies.

In general, Lacroix recommends stocking up on a scraper, putty knife, sandpaper, texture spray, drywall compound, paint brush or roller, primer, and paint (of course!) to get started. "If you need to re-secure sagging drywall to the studs (typically in a ceiling), you will also need drywall screws," he says.

Beware of any special materials.

Be extra cautious when painting over any baseboards or pieces of crown molding that have signs of water damage, since some of these may be made of wood composite; this may need to be replaced, instead of repainted. "The glue that holds these particle boards together reacts to the water, causing the boards to swell and making it unsalvageable," Lacroix says. "In this case, you would need to replace the wood before painting it."

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