Seven Ways to Spot Water Damage in Your Old House

Shannon Lee

The older a home is, the more likely it has suffered water damage at some point in its history. According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, homes over 30 years old were three times more likely to have a major plumbing or drain problem. That same study found that a full 75 percent of water heaters fail within the first twelve years--and that can mean a major water damage headache.

How to Check for Water Damage

Learn how to spot the signs of water damage in an old house so you know what you're getting into if you choose to purchase the property:

  • Feel for soft spots. Does the floor sag a bit when you walk next to the shower? Do you see water stains around the toilet or bathtub? Those are signs that water could have gotten into the floor and is causing the wood to rot.
  • Look for rust. A rusted tank on your hot water heater could indicate a slow leak. Also check the water heater for sediment. It should be flushed once a year to prevent sediment buildup, but the previous homeowner might have neglected to do it.
  • Find warped or cracked flooring. Walk carefully along the tile and wood floors. Do you feel any warping or cracking? These could be signs of water damage. Feel for gradual rises underneath carpeted floors that might not be as obvious as the problems with hardwood or tile.
  • Run the water. Turn on the water and watch for a moment. Is the water any color other than clear? Do you hear spurts of air coming through the lines as the water runs? These are both signs of plumbing problems that need immediate attention.
  • Look up! Unscrupulous homeowners might try to cover up signs of water damage instead of fixing the problem. Look for quick repairs made to ceilings, such as new, heavy paint that might be covering up telltale brown water stains.
  • Step outside. Walk outside the house and look at the foundation. Is the yard landscaped for proper drainage, or does water pool next to the house? Check outlet hoses and drains if there are any, and make sure they are in good working order.
  • Inspect the roof. Missing shingles, pools of water, damaged flashing, or signs of wind damage could make your roof vulnerable to leaks. Have the roof and attic thoroughly inspected before taking the plunge and buying that house.

Protect your investment! Before you buy that old house, check it over for water damage. Your bank account will be glad you did.


About the Author

Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.

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