How to Tell Whether Water Damage Is Old or New
Posted in Insurance on June 2, 2021
If you discover signs of water damage in your home, you may wonder if it’s been there or if you have a new water leak. It is important to determine whether water damage is old or new so that you can take immediate action if it’s the latter. There are methods of estimating when the water damage happened, as well as identifying the source of the problem if it is new.
Assess the Material
The material where you notice the water damage can give you a clue as to whether it is old or new. Hard materials, such as brick, tile or cement, take longer to show visible signs of water damage. Softer materials, such as drywall or wood, can show water damage almost immediately. If you notice mold, wet spots or water stains on a hard material, you are most likely looking at the signs of old or existing water damage. With softer materials, it can be harder to estimate when the water damage occurred.
Check for Dampness
Touch the spot or stain to see if you feel moisture. Old water damage will have dried out, but recent water damage will still feel damp. Press in lightly with your fingers. If the wood or drywall feels soft, it means the water has had time to fully soak into the material, so the initial leak or incident most likely happened a few days before. If the material still has its integrity, this can mean either that the leak is brand new and has not had time to soak the material or that you are seeing stains from an old issue that didn’t compromise the wall.
Look for Rings
One of the telltale signs of old water damage is ring stains on the material. Soft building materials will develop rings if there has been repeated water damage over an extended period of time. The rings are from water soaking through the material and causing discoloration in the wood or drywall as it dries. Multiple rings of discoloration mean intermittent water leaks drying over time in the same spot. Rings occur most often in places where the water leak is occasional, such as a spot beneath a roof leak that only gets wet when it rains.
Search for Mold
Mold growth is a sign that the leak is relatively new. Fresh mold develops within two days of new water damage. You may have mold if you see black or white spots on a surface that appear like powder, cotton or velvet. You can tell if the mold is old or new by studying its appearance. Active (new) mold has visible filaments that make it appear bushy. These filaments can grip the surface, making it harder to clean. Inactive, or old, mold is dry and powdery and can easily be brushed off of the wall. Mold is a dangerous substance, so be careful not to breathe it in. Call a mold damage professional in immediately for an assessment.
Can You Get Insurance Coverage for Old Water Damage?
Another reason it is important to determine if water damage is old or new is for insurance purposes. In general, a homeowner’s insurance policy will not cover damage it believes is pre-existing. It will only pay for the damage related to the recent covered event. However, whether or not you are covered depends on your insurance company’s definition of pre-existing.
Filing a claim for water damage is also tricky on its own. Most homeowners insurance policies will cover water damage related to internal issues, such as a leaky pipe. However, it will not cover flood-related water damage. You need a flood insurance policy for this type of coverage. Furthermore, an insurance company will not cover water damage from lack of maintenance.