Number 1 Building Defect - Water Damage

According to research, internal water leaks and water penetration from outside are 1st and 3rd most common building defects found during the building inspection. More than 40% of inspected properties have these defects (source). These defects mean number 1 building defect – water damage to the property.  One of the reasons that a water leak can be so destructive is that it can go unnoticed for a long time and keep damaging the property. 

Building Inspection Council has observed that fixing water damage is costly and significantly lowers the value of the property. A quality building inspector not only counts the crack in the walls and missing roof tile but also assesses the water damage due to water leaks and external water penetration.

What are the causes of water damage?

  • Faulty Plumbing: This is the most common cause of water damage. There could be bad workmanship in regards to plumbing or plumbing fitting do decay with time leading to water leaks.
  • Poor Drainage: It could be due toBlocked gutters poor workmanship, poor design, clogging, and wearing with time.
  • Blocked Gutter: Broken, rotten, or clogged gutters result in the backflow of the rainwater into walls and eaves. (Read more about gutter defects here)
  • Water Penetration: Due to faulty waterproofing, damage in the structure, termite damage there could be water penetration from the outside.
  • Humidity: Buildings in the high humidity area are prone to water damage and need better protection.

What are the risks of water damage?

Mold Building: Any damp, humid and warm area is an ideal breeding environment for mold. Mold spores are always floating in the air and start growing as soon land on moist surfaces. Mold looks ugly, smells musty and cause health risk such as allergy, skin irritation, toxic reaction, etc. (Read more about mold here)

Structural Damage: Continuous exposure to water damage can damage the structure of the building. Once the foundation or timber structure is damaged, your whole building is compromised.

Termite and Pest Infestation: Termite, cockroaches, or other pests love moist and dark places. Moisture attracts the termite leading to further damage and costly repair.

Aesthetic Issue: Even at the surface level,  strain marks, discoloration, peeling paint, falling of tiles, Carpet damage, and buckling of the timber can be quite an unpleasant sight. 

How to detect water damage?

Changes in appearance: The changes in the visual appearance are the most common sign of water damage. Peeling paint, water strain, and mold will form in the area with water leaks.  

Musty Smells: Bad odor is another way to detecting water damage in the house. This smell is caused by mold or mildew which produces a musty odor. 

Change in Sound: The sound of dripping water is a clear indicator of water leaks. Inspectors do check the faulty pipes, faucets, and valves through the sound of running water.

Rust formation: If there is a presence of rust, it means there is moisture and hence the chances of water damage. Rust forms with a combination of metal and water. 

Abnormal water Bill: An abnormal water bill means that there is water leakage and it may be damaging the property and need a thorough audit.

What areas of the house are inspected for water damage?

 Kitchen, Bathroom, and Laundry: A homeowner can point out the leaking taps or showerheads but water leaks are mostly hidden and so is water damage. A professional building inspector will inspect inside the cupboards, under the shelves, under the carpet and floor to detect any slowCommon Area detected - Building Inspection leaks. Fixture and drainage are checked for any clogging. Any change in the color of skirting is a sign of moisture typically rising dampness. Missing or worn sealant could be another part to look for water damage chances.

Exterior – Roof, and Foundation:  The missing tiles, missing or loose flashing, missing mortar, sealant around vents are some of the primary parts to inspect for water leak risks. The roof cavity is checked for any sign of water damage such as mold, smell, or discoloration. The damaged gutters especially are the cause of water backflow which can penetrate walls and eaves.

How to avoid number 1 building defect - water damage?

At the time of building inspection, it is too late for this, but here are some points to prevent water damage.

  • Make a list of possible water leak points (sealant, tiles, fixture, fitting, etc. ) and check them regularly
  • Clean the roof gutters as clogged gutters are a common cause of water penetration.
  • Monitor your water bill, any abnormal spike may be an indicator of the water leak.
  • Fix any leaks as soon as possible
  • Keep an eye for change rust, discoloration, or odor to detect an issue.

Finally, a naive property buyer can easily find the visual water damage but water damage could be under the surface hidden from the naked eyes. Even a seasoned property buyer can miss the hidden water damage and the vendor go to any extent to hide it. A professional building inspector has training and knowledge to detect hidden and concealed water leaks and defects. This will protect you from potentially expensive repairs.

Building Inspection Council is a not-for-profit community service that helps Australian property buyers with free building inspection quotes from local expert building inspectors and protect you from number 1 building defect – water damage. The best thing about being a not-for-profit organization is that we do not have to compromise for profit. The property buyers get the best quote without any bias or influence. To get free quotes, please click here.

Number 1 Building Defect - Water Damage