Leaks and All: Common Residential Water Problems

Home Inspector with National Property Inspections

Water leaks in the home are a problem in many ways. Every drop our of the faucet costs us money. It is also a waste of a resource. And it can make a huge mess. But how big of a mess can water make? If left undiagnosed, a simple water leak can lead to mold growth, rotting wood and eventually structural damage. Our homes are built to put up a constant fight against excess moisture. And it's a fight they must take up every day as the use of showers, dryers and even cooking on the stove adds more moisture to the air. If allowed to condense, that moisture can lead to problems. Following is a list of seven ways water causes problems in our homes. Just understanding these issues can help you minimize your risk.

1. Rain penetration - This is perhaps the most obvious water problem. Proper roof flashing, weatherproofing windows and doors, and a drainage system that includes well-maintained gutters and drainpipes can prevent rain from entering walls and ceilings.
2. Structural decay - Once water enters the walls or ceiling, it can seep into wood, causing shrinkage, swelling, cracking and rot. This can also cause bowing in walls and floors or cracking in the drywall.

3. Mold growth - Mold spores are part of indoor and outdoor air everywhere. The spores can attach to damp places on wood, paper, food or carpet and begin to grow. Controlling indoor moisture is the way to control mold growth. By cleaning up wet spots within the first 24-48 hours, and keeping an eye on indoor humidity and condensation, you can reduce the chances of mold growth.

4. High indoor humidity - Humidity relates to the amount of water air can hold at certain temperatures. Warm air can hold more moisture than cold air. So, when warm air cools, the water in the air can change from a gas form into liquid. This condensation can lead to mold and mildew growth. Inside the home, water is added to the air via clothes washing, bathing, cooking and house plants among other things.

5. Condensation - Condensation occurs when water is released from the air. Attics and windows are common places for condensation problems to occur. When warm indoor air is cooled quickly, condensation is the result. In the attic, this can lead to wood decay and eventual structural damage. Insulation, proper ventilation and vapor barriers can help keep condensation from occurring inside the home.

6. Underground pressure/seepage - The slope or grading of a lot and placement of structures is important to controlling moisture intrusion. The ground should slope away from the foundation of a home. Proper compaction and ground preparation also helps prevent foundation damage. However, soil types and foundation construction play a role. If water seeps into the home via the foundation, several steps can be taken to correct the problem.

7. Ice dams - This is a common problem on roofs. Warm air in the attic can melt snow high up on the roof if ventilation doesn't keep the air moving. This snow melt runs down and refreezes when it comes in contact with cooler parts of the roof. The resulting ice block can cause later snowmelt to overrun drainage measures and back up into the walls or ceiling. Adding insulation can help prevent this problem.

A professional inspector will look for these types of water intrusion problems throughout the inspection, carefully noting any areas of concern. A home inspection is a visual examination. Many inspectors also use a moisture meter in areas of significant concern to determine if an issue is present. To find an inspection professional in your area, click here.


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Erol Kartal
Schaumburg, IL

Good information. A good % of problems I find particularly in older homes are related to water in one way or another.

Home Inspector Chicago Suburbs

Aug 28, 2007 02:46 AM #1
Kenneth Miller
Jordan Hill Home Services, LLC - Berkley, MI

Excellent post, T.  Now if we could get lanscapers to look at #'s 1 & 6

Aug 28, 2007 04:33 AM #2
Gary White~Grand Rapids Home Selling Pro Call: 616-821-9375
Flexit Realty "Flexible Home Selling Solutions" - Grand Rapids, MI
Real Estate Services You can Trust!

Informative post, thanks for sharing.


Sep 28, 2007 11:40 AM #3
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