Signs You Have a Water Damaged Wall

Did you know that on average, a single home in the US wastes over 10,000 gallons of water each year?

Even a single leaking toilet can already waste up to 8,000 gallons of water in a year!

That’s enough reason to get all those leaks in your home detected and fixed ASAP. After all, the longer you put off the repairs, the more money you’ll lose in paying for water you didn’t even use.

Another good reason is that leaks can spring from inside the walls. If this happens, you’ll end up with a water damaged wall.  Not only will this affect your home’s structural integrity — it can also give rise to health concerns.

The question is, how can you tell that your wall has water damage or that there’s a leaking pipe inside?

We’ll answer these questions in this post, so make sure you read until the end!

Recent Water Intrusion

Within the last decade, all 50 states have had at least two major floods. The frequency of high-tide flooding has also increased by 100% in the last three decades.

That said, inclement weather and flooding in your area may have caused some damage to your home. If you’ve had a recent water intrusion problem, your walls may have absorbed some of the moisture. In this case, it’s best to contact an emergency water removal specialist.

These experts will first remove any remaining surface water in your home using a water claw. This is a device designed to extract water (and their contaminants) from carpets and pads. Prompt water removal can help salvage your floor and wall carpeting.

Next, the contractors will use a filtering machine to remove subsurface water. This step allows them to get rid of as much moisture as possible from the affected surfaces. This makes drying your walls (or the rest of your home) faster and more efficient.

Wall Paint or Wallpaper Bubbles

Bubbles on the wall paint or wallpaper are the earliest signs of a water leak in the wall. These are air pockets caused by the loss of adhesion between the material and the surface of the wall. Adhesion loss usually results from excess moisture, heat, or both.

Aside from a leaky pipe inside the wall, excess moisture can also come from a leak in the roof. A faulty gutter can also be directing water toward the exterior side of your walls. In either case, water can seep into the wall and create excess moisture.

A leak from your second-floor bathroom may also be dripping down the ceiling and into the wall. Water from outside can also enter through gaps or drafts in your windows.

As soon as you see bubbles on your walls, get in touch with a water damage remediation expert. Using diagnostic tools, they will pinpoint the source of the excess moisture. They will then use the most appropriate water removal and drying method on the affected wall.

Peeling Paint or Wallpaper

As the paint or wallpaper loses more adhesive, the material will start peeling away from the wall. Sometimes, they may swell up to form one huge bubble first. The corners of the wallpaper may also lift and curl up.

This is why it’s crucial to address the root cause of smaller paint or wallpaper bubbles right away. Until you get rid of the source of the excess moisture on the wall, more paint or wallpaper damage will occur. You should treat the water damaged wall first before applying new paint or wallpaper.


Over time, water damaged walls will develop ugly stains that are yellow, brown, or even black. These marks usually develop through slow and consistent leaks. They often appear as streaks, but bigger leaks may cause larger circular stains.

Condensation on Walls

Do your walls appear like they’re sweating, especially when you turn on the heater? If so, then that’s condensation. This occurs when hot, moist air comes in contact with cold, dry air.

If that contact point is your wall, then water droplets will form on that surface.

However, it’s possible that your wall is actually the one exuding the water droplets. The heated air from your furnace may be enough to extract some of the excess moisture inside the wall. As a result, your wall “sweats” it out.

You may have also noticed a sheen on your wall. Upon closer inspection, you realize that it’s a layer of water. This is another sign that you either have a leak inside the wall or that it already has water damage.

Mold Growth

Mold, a type of fungus, is a tiny organism that can be white, green, brown, orange, green, purple, or black in color. Most molds are harmless in small amounts, but they can multiply in as little as 24 to 48 hours.

All they need is a damp area to land on and a humid environment. Molds are certain to grow and spread when the indoor relative humidity (RH) reaches 70%.

Any type of leak can raise your home’s indoor RH to these levels. However, a leaky pipe inside the wall or water dripping from above also makes the wall damp. This makes the affected wall more prone to mold growth.

Molds aren’t only ugly — they have also shown to contribute to at least 40% of all asthma attacks in U.S. homes. Even in small amounts, molds can be dangerous to people who have asthma and allergies. They can also raise a child’s risk of developing asthma or other respiratory ailments.  

Even if no one in your family is asthmatic or allergic to mold, you should control their population ASAP. Molds increase the absorption ability of organic materials, such as paper and wood. This, in turn, makes them more susceptible to even more water damage and decay.

Musty Odors

Water damaged walls may also emit musty odors before showing visible signs of damage. These odors are comparable to the smell of wet socks, moldy bread, or clothes that didn’t dry properly. The smell is usually strongest upon first entering the room.

The Air Inside Your Home Feels Stuffy or Heavy

A room that feels stuffy or heavy also indicates excess moisture in the air. In most cases, this is due to walls, floors, and ceilings retaining moisture.

If this “heavy” feeling in the room comes with musty odors, then you likely have molds in that area. Check the walls for stains or signs of mold or fungal growth.

Soft or Spongy Spots on the Walls

There are over 1,500 species of white-rot fungi that can degrade the lignin in wood. That’s a considerable feat, seeing as lignin is a polymer that protects wood from rot and makes it rigid. Brown and other soft rot fungi species can also decompose lignin in wood walls.

These fungi can settle on walls that have prolonged exposure to excess moisture. Over time, they will cause wall rot, which will make sections of the material soft or spongy. Unless you get rid of the rot, it will continue to spread.

Wall rot can also extend to and damage your insulation. Give it enough time, and the rot can also corrode or deteriorate steel studs in the wall.

Increased Pest Sightings

Excess indoor moisture and humidity attract pests like earwigs, silverfish, and cockroaches. Rotting wood, on the other hand, provide a source of nutrition for termites.

Earwigs are mostly harmless, even if they look menacing because of their pincers. They do, however, love to nest in rotting or moisture-ridden wood.

Silverfish, despite their creepy looks, aren’t poisonous nor do they carry diseases. However, they can bore holes in books, nibble on clothing, and feed on stored food. Like earwigs, high levels of moisture and humidity attract these insects.

You should be more concerned about roaches — they carry at least 30 species of bacteria. These include pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella. They also love warm and humid environments, such as rooms with water-damaged walls.

Termites either feed on rotting wood or their presence can be a precursor to wood rot. Either way, wood and moisture provide these pests with a valuable source of nutrition. Keep in mind that a mature termite colony can eat up to 11 pounds of wood in a month.

As you can see, moisture is the common denominator among these pests. If you’ve noticed these pests at home, it’s likely that you have water damage.

Contact a water damage remediation expert right away to get rid of the source of moisture. You should also get in touch with a pest removal company if you have a serious infestation.

Baseboards That Separate From the Wall

Water leaks in the wall may cause the baseboard to separate from the wall. This can occur due to adhesive loss or warping in either the baseboard, the wall, or both.

Water damage on baseboards also makes them prone to cracks or discoloration. This is also where you’ll usually find pests congregating and even nesting.

Discoloration on the Edges of the Floor

If the leak inside the wall is closer to the floor, you may notice stains on the floor itself. If you have carpeting, the edges that are closest to the wall may also be damp or discolored. Staining in these sections may also indicate mold growth.

Creaky or Squeaky Floors

Creaking or squeaking floorboards may also signal water damage from a leaky pipe in the wall.

Creaks, for instance, are often made by shrunk wood boards or planks. These materials can shrink when they get wet and then dry out. This process creates a tiny space or gap between the boards or blanks.

When you put pressure or weight on the wood pieces, they can rub against each other. This contact between the two is what creates that creaking sound.

Whereas squeaks usually occur when nails slide in and out of the floor joists. This means that the subfloor is pulling away from the floor joists.

Wear and tear is usually the main cause of this subfloor issue, but it can also arise from moisture problems. For instance, a leak inside the wall can spread to the floor and make its wooden components damp. Over time, the nails can rust away and become loose, letting them slide in and out of the joists.

Wood Floor Damage

If your floors aren’t carpeted, look out for the following symptoms of water damage.


Warping or buckling in wood floors usually occurs once they’ve absorbed moisture. That dampness can affect their composition and shape. Extended moisture exposure can also make wood components pull away from the subfloor.


Cupping is also a common type of floor damage that results from excess moisture. In this case, the edges of the wood board absorb more water than its center part. This then causes the edges to rise, giving the wood piece a “cupped” appearance.

The water from a leaky wall pipe can reach the side of the wood floor closest to the wall. As this side absorbs more water, it can begin to rise higher than the less damp parts. In this case, partial cupping may occur.

Persistent Condensation on the Floor

This is similar to condensation on water-damaged walls. However, you may also notice an increase in slipping incidents.

Don’t Delay Repairs on a Water Damaged Wall

There you have it, your complete guide on the symptoms of a water damaged wall. As soon as you notice these signs, address your moisture or humidity issues. Get your walls checked for possible leaking pipes ASAP.

After you have those leaks sealed up, next is to have the water damage remediated. The sooner the remediation takes place, the sooner you can get the water damage under control.

Whether you need emergency, same-day, or next-day water damage repair, we can help. Get in touch with us now so we can help you find reliable water remediation and removal experts near you!


Picture of Mike Warchowszki

Mike Warchowszki

Mike has been saving homes and businesses from water damage throughout Maryland, DC & Virginia for over 12+ years

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