At this time of year, water damage from melting snow, from rainfall accumulation on frozen ground, and from river and lake overflow, is a real concern for many people. Water damage to a home can mean a number of things depending on the severity and where and how it enters.
Whether you are buying a new home or preparing a home for sale, there are a few telltale signs that a home has experienced water damage, signs that indicate further investigation, and potentially repair, is required. In some cases, the signs may be obvious but in others, the signs are subtle and easy to overlook.
Staining on wet basements or main floor ceiling in a two-storey home can indicate an issue with plumbing, either past or ongoing. Identifying the source of the issue and determining the extent of the damage is key.
Staining on walls may indicate leakage from a roof or chimney and also bears investigation.
While in some cases such staining may be visible, other signs of water damage that are less obvious can include a freshly painted ceiling, stucco that is not uniform across a ceiling, drywall that is soft to touch, bubbling under paint or moulding that is warped.
When water soaks into wood it causes it to warp, therefore a through inspection of hardwood floors for visible warping, but also for areas where wood may be darker or feel soft is important. Special attention should be paid to areas along walls, areas where throw rugs exist and seem out of place, and corners.
Again, some signs of damage to floors may be visible while others require a more thorough examination.
Cracks in foundations are generally repairable but they can be costly since, depending on the severity, repair may require excavation. Minor cracks can be very subtle and difficult to see, but they often show themselves in subtle ways. In unfinished wet basements, concrete that is discoloured or carpet that is stained can be indicative of a leak. In some cases, because of the dark, damp nature of wet basements, there may even be visible signs of mould or fungus (think mushrooms) in little used corners or under furniture.
Uneven paint, signs of patch repairs, or walls that feel damp can also indicate either a past or current issue. Depending on the level of snow or conditions outside, areas outside the home where water visibly pools can point to areas inside the home that should be investigated more thoroughly for damage.
Understanding that prolonged water damage can warp and soften wood, it is evident why identifying and correcting water leaks can be important to the integrity and structure of a home. This includes both the wood components, and the home’s very foundation.
Water, when it is allowed to sit, can also lead to the development of mould which can cause health problems. In healthy adults the impact may be minor but mould can lead to more significant problems, especially in the young, in older adults, or those with underlying health issues, making the very environment within the home uncomfortable and potentially unsafe. An air sampling can help determine the home’s air quality and whether mould is a concern.
Home insurance, in many cases, will cover the costs of repairing water damage but the process can be long and strenuous as the source of the damage is identified, estimates are gathered, and work is completed.
Whether a home requires water clean up, repair or cosmetic touch ups to bring it up to livable standards, knowing the extent of damage and what it means to the overall picture of the house can help you make an informed decision about whether the work is something you are willing to take on yourself, or whether it is something best left to the current homeowner.
Thomas Rando is a Registered Home Inspector and President of Clearview Home & Property Inspections.