Water damage is costly and may occur before you notice trouble. Mold can create health concerns. Learn what to look for and how to prevent problems from water leaks.
Standing water on the floor is easy to see. Less obvious signs of problems include:
Deal with problems as you find them. Clean up any water or moisture, locate the source and make repairs. Tracking down a leak isn't always straightforward — water can travel along components in the building structure, so the indications of the leak may be in a different part of the home than the leak itself. If necessary, contact a professional roofing contractor, plumber or water damage restoration specialist to help with identification and repair.
In addition to the damage that water causes, it can encourage the growth of mold on walls and floors — where it's readily visible — and in ductwork, attics and crawl spaces — where you might not notice it. A musty odor is a sign that mold may be present.
Mold can cause damage and lead to health problems — deal with it quickly. If the affected area is larger than 3 feet by 3 feet, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends you find a professional mold remediation contractor. For smaller areas, you can clean nonporous surfaces with commercial cleaning products, soap and water or a solution of a cup of bleach to each gallon of water. Follow the instructions and safety precautions for the cleaning product you use and wear appropriate safety gear. Porous surfaces such as drywall need to be replaced. For more information on mold in the home and how to clean it up, see A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home on the EPA's web site.
Inspecting common sources of water leaks and taking some simple preventative measures can be an effective way to reduce the risk of water damage and mold.
If you'd like to check for mold and allergens yourself, consider these kits. First, test areas of concern and then send the samples away to be analyzed. Based on their findings, they can tell you if the levels in your home are normal, slightly elevated or elevated and need to be immediately addressed.
Several molds, such as Stachybotrys — more commonly known as black mold — can be hazardous. If you have concerns about dealing with mold yourself, contact a professional.
A toilet that runs when not in use may not leak water onto the floor, but it wastes water and needs to be repaired. See Test a Toilet for Leaks for tips on correcting the problem.