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Long-Term Effects of Water Damage: What to Look For


Residential water damage can be caused by any of a number of problems. It may be a minor concern, such as a small water-pipe leak or a slightly backed up basement drain. Or it could be a major crisis, such as flooding, storm damage or sewage backup. Either way, no matter the level of severity, costly, long-term effects can take place if the damage is not addressed quickly.

If you are a residential restoration contractor, disaster-response contractor, mold remediation expert, home inspector or independent adjuster, it’s good to know how to spot those long-term effects.

Let’s take a look at the types of unfortunate consequences that can result from water damage, and why you should document those troublesome matters during a home inspection.

Structural Issues

Water damage can have lasting effects on a home’s structure, including:

  • Deteriorating roof underlayment and decking – This can lead to even greater water damage if the roof becomes prone to leaking during rainy periods
  • Softened, warped or bowed wood-frame components (because wood is very porous) – These problems may affect the home’s structural, load-bearing abilities, and also can lead to the home settling unevenly
  • Eroding concrete or brick foundation – If the foundation is not sealed correctly, water can erode it, creating defects and weakening the home’s structure
  • Impaired wood siding on the home’s exterior – Signs of damage include rotted areas, warping, cracks and anywhere the wood has expanded unnaturally
  • Water-logged insulation – This can diminish the effectiveness of the home’s thermal envelope

Electrical, Plumbing and HVAC System Breakdowns

  • Water and electricity do not mix well – When water comes in contact with wiring, outlets or electrical boxes, the electrical system can become inoperable
  • Contaminated water can corrode and break down pipes that are meant to carry only clean tap water
  • Any water that leaks into HVAC ductwork can cause corrosion and deterioration of the metal components

Cosmetic Concerns

Visually apparent water damage can affect the appearance of a home. Look for:

  • Permanent water stains and unsightly mold water damage markings on ceilings, walls and floors
  • Erosion of drywall, often causing it to be warped or changed in texture (TIP: newer water spots will feel firm to the touch, while older water damage will create a spongy, mushy feeling)
  • Bubbled paint
  • Peeling/stained wallpaper
  • Warped or separated wood flooring

Impairment to the Contents Within a Home

Unattended water damage can result in destruction of a home’s contents, including:

  • Furniture, carpeting, window coverings and other porous home-décor materials
  • Electrical appliances (washer, dryer, range, dishwasher, furnace, etc.)
  • Electronic items (TVs, DVD players, modems, headphones, etc.)
  • Personal belongings (clothing, bedding, books, photos, keepsakes, toys, etc. – virtually anything that water contacts, but especially items made of paper, cloth and wood)

Worrisome Health Issues

Threats to health include any unsafe and unhygienic conditions brought on by water damage:

  • Rampant mold growth impacting indoor air quality – One of the most dangerous effects of unabated water damage, mold can hide above ceilings, behind walls, under floors, behind cabinets, and in other nonvisible areas, and can lead to allergic reactions and respiratory and digestive problems
  • Pathogen contamination – Particularly if unsanitary, pathogen-filled water entered the home
  • Insect, animal or reptile infestation – Any pests that are attracted to standing water
  • Ceiling damage – Which may cause a ceiling to collapse suddenly
  • Shorts, fires and electrocution risk – These dangers can be caused by a damaged electrical system or compromised electrical appliances (therefore, a home’s electricity should be turned off by a trained electrician after flooding or other severe water damage has occurred)
  • Musty or Nasty Odors – Some surfaces will become smelly within a very short time following water exposure

DID YOU KNOW: Mold spores will begin to form in as little as 24 hours after water damage occurs, and will spread over time.

Read more: Indoor Air Quality Inspections: A New Revenue Stream for Your Contractor Business

How All of These Long-Term Effects of Water Damage Can Impact Homeowners

Devalued Property

Unaddressed water damage can have a detrimental effect on the valuation of a residential property. This is a major concern if the owner is looking to get top dollar when selling the home someday. Once potential buyers are made aware of any long-term water damage effects, they may quickly lose interest in making an offer.

Monetary Problems

If the damage is extensive, professional water damage restoration services can be costly. Plus, if any contents of a home are unsalvageable, purchasing replacement items can run up a big bill as well.

Why Water-Damage Documentation Is Important

Here are four reasons why detailed documentation matters:

  1. To the extent that water damage in a home is covered by an insurance policy, the insurance company will want to receive some evidence showing the damage to the home.
  2. Documentation is necessary to determine a cost estimate for any mitigation or restoration work that needs to be done.
  3. Thorough documentation will help guide mitigation and restoration services, so contractors can know exactly where problem areas are located and what types of work need to be completed.
  4. Potential home buyers want to be made aware of any problems – including signs and dangers of water damage – before making an offer on a home.

The easiest, fastest way to create a water-damage report during a home inspection is to use a mobile floor plan app with built-in reporting capabilities. This handy type of app will allow you to create and email a digital report, complete with a marked-up floor plan and photos that thoroughly explain any telltale signs of water damage.


Water damage can wreak havoc on a home. Whenever water appears in unwanted places, some sort of damage can occur – with effects that can be long-lasting. If you are responsible for inspecting a home, look for the many signs of these effects by performing a visual water damage inspection and also using moisture-detection tools. And document your findings efficiently with a high-quality, digital floor plan app with reporting capabilities.


Learn how to boost your IAQ business by Marketing Inspections to Multiple Audiences.

Or read our guide on why you should be adding Indoor Air Quality Inspections to your menu of services.