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  • Writer's pictureTania Dunn

Key Indicators for Spotting Water Damage in a Home You’re Purchasing

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Spotting water damage in a home you're purchasing is crucial to ensure that you're making an informed decision and potentially avoiding expensive repairs in the future. Drips, leaks and flooding can cause major structural damage if not addressed properly promptly.

Here are some key visual indicators to look for when inspecting a home for water damage. The best practice is to hire a property inspector to give you a full building inspection report on the home you are looking at purchasing.


Here are some important visual signs that often indicate excessive amounts of water have been – or are still – present in a property:


Discoloration and Stains: Look for stains or discoloration on walls, ceilings, and floors. Yellow or brown stains, as well as peeling or bubbling paint or wallpaper, can indicate past or ongoing water intrusion.


Musty Odours: Mould and mildew often produce a musty smell. If you notice a persistent, damp odour, it could be a sign of hidden water damage.


Mould Growth: Check for visible mould growth in areas like bathrooms, basements, and around windows. Mould can appear in various colours, including black, green, or white.


Dampness and Moisture: Feel the walls, floors, and ceilings for any dampness or excessive moisture. Soft or sagging areas may indicate water damage.


Warped or Buckled Materials: Look for warped or buckled flooring, warped baseboards, or areas where the floor feels uneven. This can be a sign of water damage underneath.


Water Stains Around Windows and Doors: Stains around windows and doors could indicate that water is entering the home through gaps or leaks in the seals.


Ceiling Stains: Water stains on the ceiling can suggest a leaking roof or plumbing issues in the floor above.


Fresh Paint: While it’s common to see new paint present in a home that’s for sale, this can raise suspicions if only one room has been painted, or especially if it’s contained to one area of a wall, ceiling or floor. A fresh coat of paint in the basement is particularly alarming.


Previous Repairs: Look for any signs of recent repairs or patches on walls, ceilings, or floors, as they could indicate past water damage.


Rotting Wood: Inspect wooden elements for signs of rot, especially near windows, doors, and on the exterior. Rotting wood is a clear sign of water damage.


Efflorescence: This is a white, powdery substance that appears on masonry surfaces due to water intrusion. It can indicate ongoing moisture problems.


Cracks in Foundation or Walls: Cracks can allow water to seep into your home. Inspect both the interior and exterior of the foundation and walls for cracks.


Blocked Gutters and Downspouts: Poorly maintained gutters and downspouts can lead to water pooling around the foundation, potentially causing water damage.


Visible Water Leakage: Check for signs of active water leakage, such as dripping water, watermarks, or puddles, especially in areas like the basement.


Inspection of Plumbing: Thoroughly inspect plumbing fixtures, pipes, and connections for leaks or signs of corrosion.


Roof Inspection: Check the roof for damaged flashing, missing tiles or other signs of water intrusion. A damaged roof can lead to significant water damage.


Exterior Drainage: Evaluate the grading around the home. Proper drainage should slope away from the foundation to prevent water from accumulating near the walls.


It's highly recommended to hire a professional home inspector to conduct a thorough inspection for water damage before purchasing a home. They have the expertise to identify hidden issues and provide you with a comprehensive assessment of the property's condition.


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