How to Identify Water Damage Early

How to Identify Water Damage Early

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    The older a home is, the more likely it is to experience water damage. One of the reasons why older homes are more vulnerable to water damage is because of the piping network that they have.


Most homes that were built prior to 1968 were built with galvanized steel pipes. One of the downsides of galvanized steel pipes is that when the pipes interact with minerals in the water, they rust.

A second reason why older homes experience water damage is because they have older water heaters. Water heaters only have a shelf life of between 12 to 20 years. As they age, water heaters leak. And they can create a huge headache for homeowners. This means that homeowners, and especially those in older homes, need to be drip detectives. What are some things to look for?

Identifying Water Damage

One thing to look for is soft spots in the floor. If the floor sags when you walk next to a plumbing fixture, such as the shower, this is an indication that there may be water damage that has led to wood rot.

Rust on water heaters is an indicator of a slow leak. Although water heaters are insulated to protect them from the water they hold, at times during the installation process, this protective coating becomes damaged. Slowly, water begins to penetrate the coating and attacks the steel that the heater is made of. This leads to rust, which leads to a larger leak. Also, it’s a good idea to check your water heater to make sure that sediment has not built up. This could also lead to a leak. Most problems with a newer water heater are covered by a home warranty.

As you walk through your home, look at the tiles and pay special attention to wood floors. Are the floors warped? Has a tile cracked? If so, there may be water damage. These same principles apply to carpeted floors. It is not always as easy to see the warping in a carpeted floor as it is with a hardwood floor. However, a careful examination will reveal if there is any damage.

At times, the plumbing network itself may give indications that there is a leak. For example, if you turn on the water faucet and see brown water coming out, or if you can hear air coming through the plumbing lines, these are indications that there is a serious leak somewhere in the piping network. This must be addressed.

A good way to identify a plumbing leak is to simply look up. Brown water stains on the ceiling indicate that there is or that there was a water leak. If you are purchasing a new home, look for areas on the ceiling that have fresh paint or that have heavy coats of paint. Often times, homeowners will use these things to cover up signs of leaks prior to selling the home.

Examining the exterior of the home will also give an indication of water damage. For example, look at the foundation. Does water pool around the foundation? Is the landscape graded so that water drains toward or away from the home?

Finally, look at the roof. Missing shingles, pools of water, and damage to flashings and other roof fixtures could indicate that there is a leak in the home.

What to Do If You See Signs of a Leak

A homeowner may wonder what they should do if they see signs of a leak. First, do not panic. Many times it is easy to ascertain the source of the leak by looking in the area around where the signs of a leak exist. For example, if there is a brown spot on the ceiling, it is likely that there is damage to the roof in the area that is close to where the leak appears. The same is true of water pools on the floor, or discoloration in the walls.

Depending on the level of expertise that you have, you may choose to repair the source of the leak yourself. Or you could contract the work out to a professional. Something simple like replacing a shingle might be a do-it-yourself project. However, a damaged sewer pipe or cracks in the home’s piping network are probably things best left to professionals. Usually, when one portion of the piping network has been compromised, there are problems that exist throughout the entire network.

Your home is your most important investment. Protect it by being a drip detective and quickly identifying and repairing water leaks.



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