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How to Tell If House Water Damage Is New or Old

“It’s water damage” is a dreadful phrase for any homeowner to hear. Sometimes the problem is obvious, causing unpleasant discoloration and odors. But other times, it can be more subtle, spread, and cause decay before anyone notices.

Assessing the age of the damage will give you a better idea of how to repair the area and prevent water damage from happening again. Please keep reading to understand where water damage comes from and how to identify it in your home.

Know the Age and History of Your House

Whether you are in the market for a home or just looking to take better care of the one you have, knowing the age of a home can give you a good idea of where to look for potential water damage and its causes.

Knowing when your home was built, how many owners it has, and what materials it is made of can help you understand water damage potential and probability.

For example, plumbing in older houses may consist of pipes and parts of all different ages that don’t fit together quite right. In addition, layers of paint build-up and tile can hold more water than other materials. So depending on the location and drainage patterns of tile, pipe, or other elements, your home’s building materials can trap moisture, causing damage.

Understanding your property’s climate helps you locate and even prevent water damage. For example, if you live in a coastal, humid city or see heavy rainfall, your home will be more at risk for water damage. Take the time to know your home to address water damage quickly.

Know Where to Look and When to Check for Water Damage

Water damage is typically most apparent in a home’s ceiling: a water stain stands out. However, water damage on your ceiling could be due to leaks in the roof or pipes that aren’t sealed correctly.

You might also find water damage to walls and floors. Damage in these areas is often related to plumbing. Any room with water running to it, such as a bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room, is more susceptible to water damage. Older houses and appliances are typically more at risk for leaks or issues that result in pooling water.

It’s always beneficial to check these high-risk areas of your home after bad weather, like heavy rains and strong winds. At a minimum, conduct regular inspections to prevent a slight water leak from turning into severe water damage.

How to Assess the Age of Water Damage or Wet Spots in Your Home

When a water spot appears, look closely to see if there are any rings around it. Rings may indicate that the water damage has been present for a while and goes through cycles of drying up and becoming wet again. This may indicate an inconsistent leak that could result from poor protection from the weather.

Next, touch the spot. If damp but still firm, it may be new, and the area will likely be structurally sound. However, if the spot is soft and the dampness has spread over a larger area, it is most likely older water damage that has started causing decay.

Mold is the final age indicator for water spots. Mold typically takes a few days to appear and usually grows in areas that do not have access to direct sunlight. If you have mold on water spots in your home, you’re likely dealing with an ongoing water leak.

Know When to Call a Professional

Some water leaks can be repaired at home if the cause of the leak is simple and there is minimal damage to the affected area. However, more severe water damage issues may require the help of a professional.

Before buying a home, it is essential to inspect it for pre-existing water damage. If left untreated, old water damage can cause severe problems down the road. This is especially important in areas that receive frequent flooding or heavy rainfalls. Unfortunately, even significant water damage can be challenging to discover.

If you find water damage in your home that has spread or started causing rot, talk to a professional to ensure that it has not affected any structural elements of your home. Finding the source of the leak will help you determine the next best steps to water damage restoration.


The best method to address water damage is first prevention. For example, lifting your foundation or relocating your structure to a safer property mitigates water damage that can destroy a home or historical building. It is also essential to ensure your roof, windows, and doors are all appropriately sealed to prevent water from getting in.

Water damage is one of the most subtle and destructive disasters a homeowner can face. Contact DeVooght House Lifters to learn how we can deliver peace of mind to you and your family starting today.

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