Water damage is one of the worst things that can happen to a home, it can create lasting structural problems, destroy furniture and even make your home unlivable due to health hazards. Unfortunately, it is also more common than you’d think. Every day we help new people find restoration experts in their area to fix water damage issues. Even worse, most of the damage could have been avoided if they had spotted the damage in its early stages, where it only requires minor fixes.
That’s why we wanted to put together some helpful tips for spotting the early signs of water damage. By learning what water damage looks like, you will save your wallet and potentially your family’s health.
The primary signs of water damage are:
- Warped floors
- Swollen furniture
- Musty smells
- A sudden spike in your water bill
- Stained walls or ceilings
- Peeling paint
How long does it take for water damage to show?
Water damage is usually noticeable after 24 to 72 hours — if it’s happening somewhere visible. What this means is that if you have a small leak in the pipes inside your walls, you might not realize it until the damage is severe, though there are some clues we’ll talk about later. On the other hand, if the damage is happening somewhere more visible, like a carpet, furniture or wooden floors, the damage is easy to spot, and knowing the signs can save you hundreds, even thousands in restoration fees.
Early signs of water damage
Depending on the source of the damage, and the type of flooring your home has, there are a few tell tale signs that there’s something going on. If you’ve got wooden floors, look for soft spots, warping or staining; Tiles can come loose without explanation, and linoleum can peel.
Rugs and carpet will show similar signs of water damage, if your carpet feels damp to the touch, smells musty or has white or dark spots chances are there has been some kind of water damage. You should be especially careful with rugs and carpet, since they are hotspots for mold growth, which can spread to other areas and is quite dangerous if inhaled. That’s why we suggest taking action as soon as possible, rather than waiting to see if it dries out. If you want to know more about the danger of mold, you can check out our article here.
Furniture can be damaged when water gets inside the home somehow, which is usually due to floods, a door or window that doesn’t close correctly, or even a leaky AC unit or refrigerator during the summer.
Plastic furniture isn’t at much risk of being water damaged, some porous plastics can present mold growth after long periods of exposure to moisture, but since water can’t get inside the plastic, occasional sources of water probably won’t be cause for concern.
Wooden furniture, on the other hand, will soak up water like a sponge and can warp, peel, discolor and even rot if left unchecked. That’s why if your furniture feels spongy, damp, or has dark or white stains -even if they fade- you should take action. Luckily, wooden furniture can be salvaged with some DIY work, learn more about it here.
Dampness has a particular smell that is very hard to miss, which makes it a great way of knowing there is water damage present, even if you can’t identify the source. If your home suddenly smells damp and musty but you can’t see any damage, you should contact a professional to find it for you. Unfortunately, the smell can be caused by dampness, but also by breathing in mold spores which can be quite dangerous, so you should take action immediately.
Spikes in your water bill
A sudden and unexplained hike in your water bill is usually a sign that somewhere in your house, a pipe is leaking, which can also cause sounds of running water. That water has to go somewhere, most commonly your walls, floor, and foundation. So if your next water bill is unreasonably high, don’t just call your water company and complain, call us and find an expert to check your pipes as soon as possible.
What does water damage look like on walls?
Since water can destroy your home’s foundation, it is important to be on the lookout for water damage to spot it as soon as possible and put an end to it. Unfortunately, unless you’re dealing with a huge leak, there is no way to know for sure whether your pipes are leaking or not. What you can do is learn how to spot the early signs of water damage on walls, and if you’re lucky, avoid having to tear down whole sections to fix it.
Water damage on walls looks like:
Spots and stains
Much like furniture and floors, walls will also show spots and stains when water damaged. If the stain is wet to the touch, then it is definitely water damage, if it’s soft or fuzzy, then it’s mold. To clean up mold, you can spritz it with vinegar or bleach to kill it, however, this won’t fix whatever caused it or kill the mold inside your wall, so it’s not a permanent solution.
When your wall begins soaking up water, it can expand slightly, not enough to be noticeable with the naked eye, but enough to cause the paint to crack, bubble or peel off due to the increased pressure.
Does water damage get worse over time?
Unfortunately, yes. If the source of water is not plugged or fixed, it won’t just cause your unpleasant smells and floor and wall warping – it can deteriorate your foundations to the point where your house is at serious risk of collapsing. Even if you do put an end to the source of water, the water that is already inside the wood and drywall will continue to damage it for months.
Is water damage covered by insurance?
Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover water damage when it is caused by an accidental and unexpected source. However, water damage caused by floods and other weather events is not always covered, since it falls under flood insurance. In any case, you’re always better off contacting your insurance as soon as possible, since there is no charge for asking and they may refuse your claim if you take too long to contact them.