Identifying Water Damage

Water damage is not an issue that should be taken lightly. The slightest sign of it could be just the tip of the iceberg in what could be a much larger problem. Some of these problems include mold growth, structural damage to your home, and hazardous health conditions for the people living inside of the house. Below are some tips for spotting water damage so you can hopefully avoid a much larger headache.

Water Stains

One easy test is to look for stains on ceilings, walls, and floors. If you see a puddle-shaped discoloration, you need to find the source of the water creating the problem and stop it immediately.


Water damage can often reveal itself through pungent odors. The smells that should get your attention are those reminiscent of mold and mildew. These odors do not necessarily mean that you have water damage in the area, but they can help lead you to it in some cases.

Crumbling and Buckling

Water can cause many materials to crumble and flake away. Sometimes you can easily see this with your eyes, but other times a light touch will help you discover the weakened surface. Moisture can also infiltrate flooring and walls from a variety of sources, causing them to swell and buckle. When wood floors are involved, this can be a particularly pricey fix.


An ant infestation is another sign that there is water damage in the area. Ants are attracted to damp wood. Carpenter ants are most commonly found at nighttime during the spring. If you suspect that ants are hiding in a space in some wood, take something hard and tap it against the surface. If ants are present, you should be able to hear the scurrying movements after you tap it.

Be Wary When Buying a New Home

Identifying water damage in a house can be trickier when looking to buy a new home, because sellers often make an extra effort to cover up any evidence of it. Pay extra close attention to the warning signs listed above and be wary of fresh paint. Giving a room a fresh coat of paint before selling a home is of course a common and encouraged practice so it’s certainly not a red flag, but sometimes paint over water damaged spots is used as a band aid until the problem is off of their hands. This is not a problem you want to inherit, especially if it’s right when you’re moving into your brand new home.

Water Damage by Material

Water damage can reveal itself in many forms. Here are some helpful hints for identifying it on different types of materials.


Water stains, warping, and rotting are common indicators of water damage on wood surfaces. For wood floors in particular, possible signs of excessive moisture include the middle of a board crowning higher than the edges and buckling, which occurs when too much water is absorbed by the flooring and subflooring causing a separation between the two layers. If you are dealing with a water damaged wood door or window, they will become harder to open and close due to warping.


Some key signs of water damage to look out for on tile surfaces and the surrounding grout are discoloration, cracks, warping, and decay. The most high-risk areas are of course the kitchen and the bathroom. In the kitchen, watch out for water overflow on the ground around the sink as well as near appliances that are attached to a water supply line such as the refrigerator and dishwasher. In the bathroom, examine the tile around the sink and outside of the shower or bathtub, where water can often accumulate from splashing or excess dripping when people get out of the shower.


Water-damaged drywall reveals itself in several different ways. It shares some of the same warning signs as other above materials like warping, stains, and discoloration, but its unique signals include softening, chalkiness, and paint peeling and flaking.


If there are areas on your ceiling that are starting to sag, develop a stain, or bubble, this area is likely water damaged. If you live in an apartment complex with someone living above you, it could be resulting from something developing in his or her unit. If this is the case, you should get this inspected immediately as you will want to alert your neighbor of the issue so they or their insurance company can resolve the problem and pay for repairs.

Water Damage Causes

Plumbing Problems

Whether it’s something small like a toilet clog that spills over or something large like an issue with your neighborhood’s main sewer line, sewage backup is a very common reason for water damage in a home. Various causes for sewer backup include clogs, tree and shrub roots, broken sewage lines, and complications from combined pipelines. These causes are mapped out in more detail on our Sewer Backup page.

Defective Appliances

Household appliances that require a connection to a water line run the risk of creating water damage at some point. The main ones to keep an eye on are washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators, and water heaters. Over time, these water line connections can break down resulting in problematic leaks.

Dark and Damp Areas

There are certain corners of every home that don’t get much light or ventilation and when moisture is added into the mix, the chances of water damage and mold growth skyrocket. Places with this concerning recipe for trouble include basements, attics, windowless bathrooms, and crawl spaces. These areas are probably the scariest for these risks since they aren’t often visible, giving the damage more time to spread and wreak havoc on your home before they are noticed. Make an effort every now and then to scan these areas extra closely.

Water Damage Restoration

To minimize the destruction done by any form of water damage, you will want to get a water damage restoration specialist in your home as soon as possible. There aren’t a lot of do-it-yourself fixes that you can rely on to hold up over time, especially when faulty plumbing is involved. Depending on the scope of the problem, you may also need mold remediation professionals. For free quotes from water damage restoration and mold removal companies in your area, call 855-425-5157.