Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
Drywall is a relatively affordable construction material ideal for making walls and ceilings or separating rooms in residential and commercial buildings. It also provides an excellent paint canvas for adding color and texture to your interiors. Unfortunately, drywall tends to get discolored with time, changing to an unpleasant brown.
Here are 8 reasons why drywall turns brown over time:
- Moisture from the outside enters the drywall.
- Fluctuations in air temperature.
- It could result from condensation.
- Exposure to dirt, dust, and air pollution.
- A combination of dust, dirt, mold, and dampness.
- Surfactant leaching.
- Excessive exposure to sunlight.
- Poor cleaning habits.
This article will explore all the above reasons in greater detail. Stick around to learn why your drywall might have changed color and what to do about it.
1. Moisture From the Outside Entering the Drywall
Moisture can be pretty destructive to your home. It also darkens your drywall, and prolonged exposure can severely alter the drywall’s appearance. Even worse, a damp environment can trigger the growth of mold and mildew, causing the drywall to form unsightly brown, gray, black, or green patches.
Incorrectly installed HVAC units and lack of proper insulation, piping, and ventilation are typically how this problem occurs. This is because these elements can allow moisture from outside to gain entry into your home. The moisture can also result from flooding or leaking water seeping through the building material into the drywall.
The outcome is severe deterioration of the floors, walls, and ceilings that might require you to replace the drywall in affected areas. Additionally, while the walls or ceiling might dry out eventually, the ugly yellowish-brown stains remain, ruining the look of your home.
Apart from discolored walls, the moisture build-up can also warp the drywall, causing fractures, crumbling, and generally affecting your home’s structural integrity. Mold can lead to health problems or escalate them, especially if you have existing allergies. This is why fixing any leaks before repairing your drywall is essential.
Once you notice brown stains on your walls or ceilings, inspect the areas surrounding the stains carefully for roof failure or pipe leaks. If the spots seem velvety, then you have a mold problem. Identifying the root cause of the problem is key to eliminating the issue.
After pinpointing the source of the moisture, you can then fix the problem by calling in a professional. While a mixture of bleach and water can help eliminate the brown spots from your drywall, you need a permanent solution to prevent it from happening again.
For this reason, it’s also best to conduct regular maintenance and repairs, including cleaning vents and fixing leaking pipes and insulation. Doing so will help stop further discoloration. It’s also a good idea to consider using a dehumidifier in the affected rooms.
2. Fluctuations in Air Temperature
Your attempts to keep cool might also contribute to your drywall turning off-color. This is because temperature fluctuations cause air to circulate. As the air moves around the rooms in your home, it picks up dirt, dust, and other particles that end up attaching themselves to your drywall which can, in turn, cause your drywall to become discolored.
3. It Could Result From Condensation
During winter, large stains can appear on your drywall as a result of condensation. Inside air contains moisture (humidity), and when this air encounters a significantly colder surface (like your wall or ceiling), condensation takes place, and the air turns into liquid. This provides a good breeding ground for mold, which is why you see brown stains.
4. Exposure to Dirt, Dust, and Air Pollution
Exposure to dirt, dust, air pollution, and other dry particles or compounds like organic material, tobacco, wood, or candle smoke can discolor your drywall. These particles accumulate on your walls, causing some areas to change shade. If your walls are constantly exposed to dust and dirt particles, there’s a good chance they’ll change color to look brown and “dirty” over time.
5. A Combination of Dust, Dirt, Mold, and Dampness
At times, the browning on your drywall could result from a combination of various factors. This includes damp walls, circulating dust and dirt particles, soot, and even mold. The slow build-up of these components could accelerate or worsen the situation as the small particles easily stick to the damp spots on your drywall.
Builders and painters use the term ‘ghosting’ to explain this phenomenon of dark streaks or brown patches on walls and ceilings. Light-colored walls tend to make the discoloration more apparent.
Fortunately, regular cleaning of the walls, plus keeping as much dust and dirt out, can help prevent your drywall from suffering such discoloration. A good paint job can also cover up the discolored areas, though this might not be a long-term solution.
6. Surfactant Leaching
Surfactants are water-soluble components found in latex paint. Surfactant leaching occurs because of painting your walls using these latex paints. The surfactants migrate to the surface with time, resulting in brown streaks, splotches, or residue on the painted surfaces. The residue can appear sticky, glossy, discolored, or soapy.
The unattractive staining happens when newly applied latex paint gets exposed to high humidity or moisture levels during the curing period. It mostly occurs in humid spaces like bathrooms or on walls and ceilings. Painting your walls with high-quality latex paint designed to deliver optimal performance in humid interior environments can help mitigate surfactant leaching.
7. Excessive Exposure to Sunlight
Excessive and consistent exposure to intense sunlight could cause the original paint on your drywall to fade off, leaving it looking dull or darker. This is especially so in regions that receive lots of sunlight. When combined with environmental contamination, the fading can cause a visible change in your drywall’s appearance.
The type of latex paint used on your walls will play a significant role in determining the extent to which this happens. Options with a higher sheen have more latex, which acts like glue, forming a protective coating over the paint and drastically minimizing fading by reflecting the sun’s radiation. It’s therefore advisable to use such paints on your drywall.
8. Poor Cleaning Habits
While regular cleaning can keep your walls looking bright and shiny, improper cleaning methods can make your drywall brown. This is because they can result in more particles that could cause discoloration.
For instance, using a damp cloth on your drywall can contaminate the surface with dust, dirt, grime, pollutants, or other residue found on the fabric. To reduce the risk of this happening, make sure to clean your drywall correctly. If you’re unsure how to maintain it, check with your builder during construction, and always ensure your drywall is dry after you’re done cleaning.
- All American Painting Plus: Why Is Your Drywall Discolored?
- YouTube: How Do You Fix Water Damaged Drywall?
- West Coast Fire And Water: What to Know About Drywall Water Damage and Mold Growth
- Home. Howstuffworks: How Drywall Works
- Benjamin Moore: Surfactant Leaching
- Homesteady: How to Repair Drywall Crumbling Due to Humidity
- Epa.gov: Can Mold Cause Health Problems?
- Home-Partners: Ghosting On Interior Walls
- Dulux: Color Fading
- Hallmark And Johnson: How Condensation Can Cause Drywall Stains In Your Home
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