How to Identify Water Damage

By Chris Blank , last updated February 4, 2011

By identifying water damage in its early stages and making minor repairs, you may save yourself a major headache down the line. In some cases, damage from water intrusion is easy to identify. Sometimes, a bit of detective work is necessary. Water intrusion can result in expensive repairs if left to its own devices. When checking for damage from water intrusion, remember that the site of water damage does not always indicate its source.

The usual suspect locations for water damage in and around your home are windows and doors, the roof, the basement or foundation, exterior walls, plumbing systems and anywhere termite damage is apparent. Check for gaps, leaks or poorly installed seals or peeling paint around windows and doors. Cracks or gaps in the sealant of expansion joints can also cause water damage. Water damage can occur around the chimney caps in the attic. Improperly installed insulation can allow heat to escape that melts snow on the roof and causes leakage beneath the shingles. Clogged roof drains can cause water to accumulate, resulting in the collapse of the entire roof. Flat roofs are especially vulnerable.

Inside your home, water stains on walls or on the ceiling is an obvious indicator of water damage. Buckling of wood floors is another indicator of possible water damage, because wood is highly porous. In the kitchen, leaky faucets are an obvious source of water damage. Check under the sink, around the refrigerator, the dishwasher and under the sink for standing water or water stains. In the utility room, check for "sweating" pipes, clogged drains and other problems around the washer and dryer. Rust stains or standing water around the water heater can also result in water damage. In the basement, crawl space or foundation, check for flaking, cracks or crumbling in a concrete floor, or dampness anywhere in the space. Accumulated rainwater and melted snow cause water damage in gutters and drains.

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