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13 Water Signs to Look for At a Showing

When looking to buy a house, learn more about the 13 problem signs to look for to spot water damage in the basement or crawl space.

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The last thing you want to deal with after moving into your new dream home is a water leak. That’s why it’s important to look for water damage signs even during the first showing of a home. Since you already know the home meets your basic requirements, location, number of bedrooms, outdoor space, etc., the walkthrough is the time to look for signs of water damage the seller may not want you to notice.  

Although it’s typically against the law to hide and not disclose a leaky basement or wet crawl space, that is little comfort when you’re mopping water at your new home. So, it’s important to look for the warning signs.  

Basement Leak Signs to Look For  

Unfortunately, you can’t control the weather before visiting a home. Still, there are ways to see if water has been a problem in the past. Look for:  

Water seeping through corner between wall and floor in cove joint

Water Where the Floor & Wall Meet

Water or water staining where the floor and the wall meet (or the cove) means water is saturating the outside soil and leaking in at the weak point. If active water is not visible, look for dark or damp concrete that looks different than the concrete surrounding it.

Heavy Efflorescence on brick


If concrete walls are unfinished in the basement of the home you are viewing, look for a white powdery substance known as efflorescence on the walls. Although it is not toxic, efflorescence is often the first sign of a water problem. That’s because this powdery salt deposit forms after water evaporates. If you see efflorescence, it’s a clear sign water has been a problem in the past.

Wet carpet in basement

Wet or Discolored Drywall or Carpet

Wet drywall or carpet is an easy sign of a water leak, especially if it’s around an exterior wall or corner. Slightly harder to spot are water stains on the carpet and drywall. Look in corners and low on the wall for any stains or discoloration.

Condensation on Windows or Plumbing

Noticing condensation on things like windows and plumbing means the humidity is very high, and there is usually a water leak somewhere. Even if no water leak is active, water vapor is passing through the basement wall and floor at such a high rate that condensation is visible, which is definitely a red flag.

Plumbing Leaks

If plumbing is exposed, look for leaks or water stains on pipes and surrounding beams. Locating a plumbing leak is often tricky, especially if the home has been vacant for a while.

Closeup of the bottom of a rusty water heater

Rusted Water Heater

Metal only rusts when water is present. So, a rusted water heater or metal storage unit is a sign water has been active in the past.

Basement Waterproofing - Before

Musty Smell

Even though it’s not uncommon for basements to smell musty, it doesn’t make it healthy. A musty basement could be an indicator of a much larger problem.

Crawl Space Water Problem Signs

A water problem in a crawl space is not always as easy to locate. There are several problems you can spot on the main floor, but many you will need access to the crawl space to discover.

pests in crawl space

Insect Infestations

One indication of a water problem in the crawl space is an insect problem on the main floor. Bugs and creatures are drawn to a wet, dark, damp environment like an untreated crawl space, eventually making their move upstairs.  

Sagging Floors

Another red flag on the main floor is sagging or sloping floors. Floors may also feel spongey or springy, and both can be a sign that water has damaged the wood structures responsible for supporting the floor.

Loose Crawl Space Door

Taking a look outside, water, not to mention bugs and rodents, can enter through a loose or missing crawl space door. Both indicate the crawl space has not been maintained, and serious problems may lurk inside.

Standing Water

If you are able to get into or at least see into the crawl space, look for signs of standing water. Obviously, pooling water is easy to spot but also look for signs of water stains on bricks or wet fallen debris.

Wood Rot & Mold

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Sagging Insulation

Another indicator of water or high humidity in the crawl space is wet sagging, often moldy, insulation. This commonly pink insulation absorbs water and water vapor easily and is often the first sign something needs to be addressed in the crawl space.

Consider Repair Instead of Walking Away  

Spotting water damage red flags during a showing can definitely be concerning, but if you are sold on the rest of the house, don’t let water damage necessarily make you walk away. Once the root cause of the problem is discovered, often a solution can be installed in a day or two. Getting work done when the home is empty eliminates a lot of headaches, and you can rest easy knowing your new home is protected for years to come. First, it’s important to get an inspection from a knowledgeable and reputable company that will be able to solve the problem instead of just bandaging up the problem signs. Groundworks can help. Reach out today to schedule an inspection with an expert in your area.

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