Repairing your home after water damage can be a costly and time-consuming project. Replacing sheet after sheet of drywall adds up quickly. If you have a few sheets of drywall that only have a few small to medium-sized stains, you may wish to leave them in place instead of replacing them. This will allow you to save your cash for more important repair measures, such as mending the floor or replacing your shorted-out refrigerator. By following the steps below, you can successfully camouflage small to medium stains on your drywall.
Step #1: Make sure the spot is entirely dry.
Do not even attempt to address water damage until the drywall is completely dry. If it still feels damp to the touch, aim a fan at the spot and give it a few more days to dry out completely.
Step #2: Fill dings with joint compound.
If your drywall has any nicks or gouges, use joint compound to fill them in. Apply plenty of compound to a putty knife, and then drag it across the drywall at a 45-degree angle, allowing the compound to catch in the cracks and nicks. Let this layer dry completely, which will take about 24 hours, and then apply a second layer, if needed. Once the final layer is dry, use sandpaper to smooth out the edges.
Step #3: Apply an oil-based primer.
Do not use an acrylic primer—the water stains will shine right through it. Apply the oil-based primer only after the joint compound is dry, and do so with a foam brush so you don't leave any unwanted brush strokes. Make sure the primer extends a few inches past the water stain on each side. Let the primer dry completely, and then apply a second coat.
Step #4: Paint over the primer.
If you no longer have the paint that you used to paint the original wall, have no fear. Most paint shops have color-matching technology. Take in a chip of the paint on the wall, and they can mix the exact color for you. Do not apply the paint until your primer is completely dry. Use a roller rather than a brush to paint over the primer, since this will yield better coverage. Once the paint is dry, apply a second coat.
Step back and admire your work. Painting over a water stain is not terribly difficult. The real secret is using the right kind of primer and applying several coats so no traces of that pesky water stain show through.