How to Recognize Water Damage Before It Becomes a Disaster

When I bought my first home I had no idea what I was doing. Although I had it inspected before I purchased it, there were still plenty of hidden problems to be uncovered. One of the hardest problems I had to deal with was water damage. Now, don’t get me wrong. The house I had purchased had not flooded and did not have any major water damage issues when I bought it. However over the time I owned that home many plumbing issues and other hard to deal with water problems came up. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and not let your water problems create as much damage as mine did:

Water Damage


In the Kitchen

One of the most common places for water damage is in the kitchen. Of course that makes sense as you have a sink, a dishwasher and probably a disposal in your kitchen all linked up to water. In my case the water damage was because of a broken pipe under the kitchen sink.

Apparently when the disposal was replaced someone decided not to attach it properly and just duct taped it closed. Needless to say that did not last long and before I knew it there was a foul stench coming from beneath the sink. When I finally tracked down the source I pulled out all the things stored under there, cleaning products, light bulbs etc. , and saw that they were covered with slimy, stinky ooze. The whole underneath of the cabinet was rotting and covered with this same slime.

It turned out that every time we ran the disposal it shot the crunched up food all over underneath the sink. After some time the damp food rotted and stunk! Totally grossed out, I removed the disposal and the cabinet around it. We had to get a new disposal because the original one couldn’t take being moved and fell apart.

The duct taped pipe also had to be replaced and we found a second, smaller, crack in the U-turn of the pipe. We had to cut off the pipe at the wall and replace it. Did I mention that the drain for the water supply was also located beneath the sink? The builders were not very smart apparently.

In the Bathroom

Another place that is common for water damage to occur is in the bathroom. In my house we had two bathrooms. One upstairs and one downstairs. I’ll start upstairs first.

Everything looked good from upstairs, but we quickly discovered that if you filled the bathtub or sink too high and the water ran into the overflow pipes it drained into the downstairs bathroom! When it starts raining on your head when the shower is not on you know you have a big problem on your hands. The steady dripping sound should have been another clue. Eventually we had to replace the ceiling downstairs and the pipes upstairs to fix the issue.

Another upstairs leak happened under the sink. The original faucet was in place and with it was the ancient metal hot water hose. After years of use it finally rusted through, causing a leak. We attempted to replace it only to find out it had been welded in place. For a while we just did not use the hot water in the sink because it was too much to fix at the time. I am sure glad we figured out it was welded and did not try to force it off the pipe or we could have flooded the whole house!

Downstairs we had problems with the tub and toilet. First of all I would like to warn you to never leave an unlit firecracker in the bathroom. It is a recipe for disaster. After the toilet cracked, it was all we could do to clean up the huge mess it made. It stank. It was clean water that leaked out but it smelled anyway. It got onto the carpet outside the bathroom and caused a stench that was very hard to remove. Only several cleaning treatments and a lot of baking soda cut it down. The toilet itself had to be replaced and I took on the job myself. It wasn’t hard but it was a lot of unnecessary work for a stupid reason.

The bath tub was another issue. When the faucet began to leak I thought it would be simple to just replace a washer and get on with life. No such luck. It turned out that the faucet was too old to fix and had to be replaced. Well, in order to do that we had to break away the tile around it to get to the pipe. After the ordeal of fixing the faucet we then had to replace the tile and get the bath tub back into working order.

In the Attic

One place you never expect rain is inside your garage. At least, I never did. Alas, one day I came out to my car and saw the steady drip, drip, drip. Since it was the middle of a humid, hot summer I wondered where it could be coming from. It turned out that the air conditioning drain pipe had gotten clogged and the drip pan could not handle the excess water. Before we could get the drain fixed, as it took three men coming out to figure out what was wrong, the garage ceiling had bubbled, bowed, and collapsed.

We got the problem fixed, replaced the ceiling, and thought we were done. Then come next summer, at the height of the heat, the bubbles appeared again. This time we figured out that the drain pipe had never been installed correctly and fixed it slightly faster than before.


One preventable incident of water damage was entirely my fault. I left a ladder out in a storm and it fell into the back yard water faucet. Everything looked okay on the outside until someone noticed the wall on the inside of the house was sweating. We had to cut out the siding around the faucet to find out that the pipe had twisted with the impact and formed a small but powerful leak that was slowly getting worse and spraying water all over the inside of the walls. Resume the cutting out and replacing thing and we were back in business. Only this time we had a wall of siding to replace, paint and get back into shape.

On the Roof

Last but certainly not least is the roof. This is a hard one to spot leaks before they get bad. Thankfully I ran across a great way to spot them. Put up Christmas lights. I was climbing on my roof to put up the seasonal decorations when I noticed a soft spot. Upon further investigation we discovered that due to missing roofing material a leak had started to eat through the roof and into the attic. We were able to fix it before it got too bad.

Another indication of leaks is bowing of your siding. One of our pieces of siding was constantly rotting and bowing no matter how many times we replaced it. We finally uncovered that the source was a leak that went behind the siding whenever it rained. We fixed that and the bowing and rotting stopped.

As you can see, water can come from anywhere at any time. You have to pay attention and recognize the signs of water damage before it becomes a disaster. Keep a lookout for drainages hoses that are not draining, damp spots on walls or ceilings, soft spots, a moldy smell, and darker spots. These are all signs of water damage that, if you catch them soon enough, can be prevented from turning into a disaster of epic proportions. Learn from my mistakes and keep your home in good shape.

Author Bio:

Ken holds a master’s in business leadership from Upper Iowa University and multiple bachelor degrees from Grand View College.  As president of  morningsidenannies, Ken’s focus is helping Houston-based parents find the right childcare provider for their family. When he isn’t working, he enjoys spending time with his three children and his wife.

Erin Emanuel