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How Do Home Inspectors Check a Home for Water Damage?

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Buying a home is exciting. A thorough home inspection can alert you to potential problems that you may request the homeowner fix at their own expense before closing on the property. While many issues can be found, the one concern most home buyers worry about is water damage. How does a home inspector know that there is water damage when they inspect the home?

Discovering water damage can be a bit tricky. Thankfully, experienced home inspectors know what signs to look out for, such as cracks, warped floors, stains, musty odors, peeling paint, and plumbing issues. Each issue is dutifully noted and reported to you before closing on your new home.

In this article, you will learn more about the different signs that home inspectors look for that indicate water damage.

Cracks and Holes

Water damage can be the beginning of mold, be careful!

Most home inspectors work from the top-down, meaning that the first place they head is the attic. While in the attic, they look for things that are amiss, such as wet insulation. They also look for holes in the roof, which may leak rainwater into the house.

As they move through the home, they continue looking for cracks and holes in the exterior walls. These cracks or holes can allow water into your home, even if the roof is leak-free. Small cracks may go undetected by the homeowner, and they may not realize that their home is subjected to water damage, which can also damage the home’s structure.

Warped Floors or Damp Carpets

Water damage doesn’t always come from the clouds above. Sometimes it comes from underneath the house, either from a broken water pipe, drainpipe, or cracked foundation, allowing groundwater to seep in.

A smaller leak might go unnoticed at first, but it will begin to make subtle changes in the floor beneath your feet over time. Home inspectors look to make sure there are not noticeable weak spots in the flooring, which may indicate water damage.

Cupping and warping in the flooring may be due to installation issues, but it is more common it indicates water damage.  The water damage might not be caused by a leak but could be caused by humidity in the area. Home inspectors will determine if it is caused by the environment, poor installation, or actual water damage.

When it comes to flooring, inspectors do not just look at your tile, laminate, or hardwood surfaces. If you have carpets in your home, they look at the state of this as well. A wet rug is an indicator of a leak. The leak should be addressed, and the carpet cleaned or replaced if necessary.

Stained Walls or Ceilings

Sometimes there are cracks, holes, or buckled floors to indicate water damage. Instead, the water damage may show through discoloration on walls and ceilings. 

Staining should be addressed as soon as noticed. Home inspectors will look for discoloration throughout the home. Even if you repaired the leak that caused the discoloration, there still could be issues with mold that must be fixed before a sale can go through.

Peeling Paint or Wallpaper

Not all stains from water damage are visible. Sometimes they are covered by paint or wallpaper. You may notice a wet spot on your wall or that the paint or paper is peeling. If so, there may be a leak from plumbing that runs behind that wall or from the roof.

The owner may not have noticed the paint or paper bubble at first. In fact, it might take a while for the water to seep through the wall, where it would begin to affect the covering. Most report that one day before, the wall looked fine. The next day the paint was peeling, or the wallpaper was falling off. 

For a leak to be substantial enough to make the paint bubble, a home inspector will tell you the water damage is significant enough to cause concern.

Musty Odors and Mold

Most homeowners become used to the musty smell closets can get, mostly if they are shut up for an extended period. However, a musty smell throughout the house could indicate to a home inspector that there are more significant issues than just some closed linen closets.

Musty odors throughout the home can be an indicator of an untreated water leak. Some indicators include:

  • A leak that causes the smell can make the air in the room feel damp or humid regularly.
  • A musty smell that only appears after heavy rain or when the winter snow begins to melt in the spring could indicate your home may have a foundation issue.
  • Changes to the smell strength throughout an area may indicate a leak from an appliance that only occurs during use.

However, if it is more commonplace or changes over time, there may be a leak in your plumbing. 

Signs of mold are another indicator to a home inspector that there is water damage in the home. While mold spores are in the air, they thrive in damp environments. Black, brown, or green splotches on walls, ceilings, or baseboards are an indication that water exposure occurred. There is also the potential for health problems if mold growth worsens.

Plumbing Problems

In some areas, you may need a separate plumbing inspection conducted to ensure that there are no plumbing issues, as water damage can come from many different sources. It is crucial as the buyer, that you have this inspection alongside your general home inspection. Plumbing issues can cost thousands of dollars to repair. 

Plumbing inspectors will check the lines to determine the condition of the pipes. If there are signs of water damage, they will closely inspect these areas to ensure the damage is not caused by a leaky pipe. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports an average of “1 trillion gallons of water” unnecessarily used in homes across the United States as a result of  various “household leaks.”

Lines that are beginning to sag, rust, or crack will be brought to your attention. Inspectors will also check water and gas lines running from appliances to ensure no issues may cause leaks or backups. Leaks from appliances may cause water damage that remains hidden until someone moves the machine.


There are several ways that a home inspector will find evidence of water damage. By having a thorough inspection that looks for cracks, flooring issues, stains, and peeling paint, you can ensure the home you are buying is in tip-top condition.

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