After a Roof Leak

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Dear NH, We recently had some water damage on the ceiling of our bedroom. It appears that some mold/mildew is on the surface. Here is what I think I should do.

  1. Fix the roof to stop water from entering the home
  2. Remove damaged (wet) insulation from the attic
  3. Remove damaged drywall from the ceiling.
  4. Clean any exposed wood with bleach to kill the mold/mildew.
  5. Allow time to dry thoroughly.
  6. Install new drywall.

Am I on the right track? JN

JN, You are "on track" and your plan seems well thought out! You should pay special attention to steps (3) and (4).

If the drywall turns out to be solid after it dries, you might not have to replace it. Killing the mildew with bleach and priming with Kilz or an equivalent oil-based stain killer should give you a good, paintable surface. If the drywall is solid... but a little "bumpy" or uneven because the facing paper is loose... score the paper with a utility knife (don't cut deeply... just the paper!) and peel it off. Then use drywall compound to level and smooth the surface prior to priming/painting. Or just use compound to smooth the area if the defect is really minor.

It isn't absolutely necessary to clean the wood, even if it has mildewed. Once the source of the moisture is gone and the wood dries out, the mildew will cease to grow. It is true that mildew spores can remain alive for long periods of time with no water, but if you fix the leak there should be no recurrence of mildew growth. Of course, if you have any "hygienic" or allergy-related reasons to clean it please do.

I like to use the pre-mixed mildew-killing sprays with chlorine bleach that are available for bathroom use. They are very strong and effective. Since you may be spraying upwards, be careful to protect your eyes and don't breathe the spray. You shouldn't need a respirator, but if you think you might inhale the mist use a dust mask, which will at least catch the droplets. Though the instructions call for rinsing the treated surface, you need only to wipe it with a damp sponge to get off any loose dust, especially since you are going to prime the drywall surface and repaint. I have not found the dried bleach residue to affect the adhesion of Kilz at all! Not much does!!

Also, don't worry about rinsing the bleach from the wood... the action of the bleach will be short-lived and will not cause any damage to the wood if you don't rinse it. You might want to sponge off any excessive amounts of mildew if you have grown a fungus-forest up there!! NH

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