Four Signs of Undetected Water Damage

A leaky pipe under the sink causing water damage that will be undetectable

With summer underway, it’s important to be prepared for storms as well as signs of potential water damage to your house. A failing sump pump or poor drainage can be two causes; leaky pipes are another.

To avoid undetected water damaging your dwelling place, keep your eyes peeled for these signs of concealed water damage so you can take action right away. 

Sign #1: Rank or Musty Odors

Just because you don’t see water damage doesn’t mean you can’t spot it with your other senses. If areas of your house smell like a damp basement, there could be mold forming under the surface — and mold is a certain sign of leaking water.

Angie’s List contributor J.T. Gonzales explains, “Mold thrives on moist, dark areas. And a pipe, which is typically hidden in a wall or under flooring, provides the perfect starting point for mold or mildew if the pipe springs a leak.”

If the smell continues to worsen, your house may have unseen water leaks.

Sign #2: Discolored Paint or Peeling Wallpaper

If water is building up behind the drywall, that moisture will slowly tarnish it from the inside. Although you may not see that moisture damage, you can spot its effects on the drywall — particularly in patches of discolored or bubbling paint or loose wallpaper.a man picking at flaking dry wall from water damage

According to the experts at home emergency company Disaster Restoration Services LLC, “Water from a leak inside the walls will absorb into drywall and sheetrock. As this water increases saturation, discoloration and staining will occur … Flaking, peeling and bubbling on walls are almost always signs of hidden water damage.”

Related: How much should you actually spend on housing?

Sign #3: Marred or Soft Surfaces

Continual exposure to and contact with water can soften drywall, wood and the ground under concrete. This can lead to cracks, depressions or deterioration in walls, floors and ceilings. 

This is particularly true if the water leak is underground below the house, which water detection company Leak Doctor says can manifest in cracks or shifts in the foundation or pavement.

Sign #4: Unexplained Water Bill Increases

If your water bill is increasing but water pressure and water usage are decreasing, that water could be leaking under your feet or behind the walls. 

This is another reason to pay close attention to your bills each month. Most utility companies or public works departments include a chart on your water bill to help you compare current and past usage. If it’s taken a sharp increase and you can’t think of a reason, it might be time to investigate. 

What Should I Do If I Suspect Water Damage?

If any of these signs are present in your home, don’t delay taking action. The longer you wait, the worse the problem will become and the greater the potential damage to your house. Document the water damage and contact your insurance agent to determine the course of action to make a water-related claim on your home insurance.

Most home insurance policies cover water damage resulting from burst pipes, a leaking roof or appliance overflows, but might not cover pipe backups or leaks. Make arrangements for a plumber to inspect the area and identify the problem, and then an insurance adjustor can determine if your insurance policy will help pay for repairs.

Whether your home insurance covers this water damage or not, you need to take action before the situation becomes disastrous. Even if you slightly suspect a leak, get a professional second opinion. There’s nothing wrong with being cautious! 

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