Imagine this. You left your home last season with the water turned off and the AC thermostat set at 78 degrees. When you arrive, you notice a musty smell and discover that the drip pan under your AC unit has overflowed—the shut off value that is supposed to stop the overflow has malfunctioned and you have water everywhere. Not a great experience when you arrive in paradise!

Regardless of the source, the best way to avoid the development of potentially serious indoor air quality issues and problems such as mold and damage, is to address the cause of the water intrusion as quickly as possible, stop the intrusion, then dry out the materials that are wet.

So, the example of a drip pan overflow is obvious, but how do you detect water damage that isn’t so easy to determine?  Sometimes the signs are not so visible—they are hidden within the walls, underneath a cabinet or your flooring or even on the exterior of the house cloaked by the exterior finish.  The critical step in resolving the issue is finding the source of the water. And that isn’t always easy.

Anywhere you have puddles of standing water generally indicates a larger scale leak such as your water heater, a failed shut off valve on your air conditioning drip pan, a leaking toilet, leaking drain pipes, an overflowing tub, or a leaking roof.  Areas that appear wet next to a dry area, any change in coloration such as a yellowing, browning or copper looking spots could help determine where your leak originated. Look for bubbling paint, peeling paint or cracks in the wall, as well as the water staining.

Water can be clear or dirty depending on the location and type of damage.  For example it may be easier to spot a water stain on the ceiling than along the baseboard or under the flooring.   If you smell a musty smell it could be a telltale sign of water damage.

water damage

Rusty drip pan caused by months of standing water

Flooring damage can be detected by observing the same discoloration patterns as above.  Warping and curling at the ends of your floorboards (and/or buckling) is caused by changes in humidity and temperature.  Soft spots that may appear in hardwood floors could be an early sign of rotting wood. Wood and laminate floors will expand when they soak up too much water as it causes the materials to swell and separate from the substrate.  

Water damage occurs anywhere in your home with areas near water sources being at a higher risk than others.  That is why Carefree Home Watch uses the water zone method for our visits to your home. We are trained to look for discoloration signs and the musty smell that indicates there is a problem. We look in those out of the way spots that you may not think to look, like the ceilings in your closets.

Moisture or water vapor moves into the home in some of the followings ways:

  • Air infiltration
  • By diffusion through building materials
  • Leaks from the roof
  • Plumbing leaks
  • Sewer line backup
  • Flooding, through seepage from runoff or rising groundwater
  • Structural wood decaying
  • High indoor humidity and resulting condensation
  • Expansive soil, which may crack your foundation
  • Undermined foundations
  • Metal corrosion
  • Mold Growth
  • Overwatering and sprinklers spraying your home

Air movement accounts for a high percentage (90 %+) of all water vapor movement into the building structure.  Air naturally moves from high-pressure areas to low-pressure areas by the easiest path possible. Moisture air currents move quickly through the home moving several hundred cubic feet of air per minute.  As a result, seemingly small cracks or leaks in the building envelope can be disastrous unless the air paths are permanently sealed.

I once had a basement flood because of a plugged emergency exit window well  drain. The drain was blocked by fallen leaves, and an unusually heavy rain caused water to rise and seep through the exit glass resulting in a major basement flood.  This is less of a problem in Southwest Florida since we don’t have basements, but one issue that I have seen repeatedly is overflow caused by blocked AC drip lines with malfunctioning overflow valves.

One way to minimize damage from becoming a disaster is to engage a professional home watch company such as Carefree Home Watch to perform regular visual observations of your home.  We work with you to customize a checklist of items required to care for your home and provide onsite visits weekly or bi-weekly. The reports, with pictures, are accessible to you 24/7 from anywhere in the world.

Whether you are a seasonal owner of a home, condominium or investment property, or if you are a permanent resident taking an extended vacation, or you have a family emergency that could take you away from your home for an extended time frame, we can assist you.

We take exceptional care when you’re not there!



National Association of Home Inspectors


University of Florida Continuing Education