Probably one of the most stressful aspects of buying a new house is not knowing whether it has hidden damage that could cost you thousands of dollars down the road. And water damage — along with things like foundation and electrical problems — is one of the top concerns for prospective homeowners. Of course, the smartest thing you can do is find an inspector you can trust; buying a home is a big real estate decision, and having a professional home inspector look for signs of water damage should be an absolute must. Still, it can’t hurt to be able to recognize some of the signs and symptoms of water damage yourself, too. Here are six things to look out for:
- Water Stains
This is the most obvious one. Water stains usually show up as irregularly shaped brownish or yellowish patches on the walls or ceiling.
- Buckling Surfaces
Drywall and wood both absorb water, making them swell. You can often feel this buckling when you walk over an area or run your hand along the walls. Keep in mind that even small amounts of water leakage over time — a tiny place where tile isn’t sealed in the bathroom, for example — can cause this type of damage.
- Crumbling Wood
Water infiltration will cause wood to crumble (although many other things will too). Pay attention to baseboards and the areas around doors and windows, in particular.
- A Musty Smell
Sometimes your nose will find water damage even when it’s hidden from sight. Mold and mildew have a distinct odor that goes behind the usual staleness of a house that’s old or has been shut up for a while.
- Dripping Sounds
Especially if you’re worried about a roof leak, keeping your ears open when it’s raining can help you determine whether any water is coming into attic areas. Rain sounds very different coming through the roof than it does hitting the roof.
- Fresh Paint
Paint isn’t a sign of water damage in and of itself, of course. But some unscrupulous sellers will try to cover up the signs of water damage with a fresh coat of paint. If just one area has been patched and painted while the rest of the house has been left untouched, it’s probably smart to investigate further.
Do you have any other tips on spotting water damage? Share them in the comments.