How To Tell If Water Damage Is New Or Old

Every homeowner’s nightmare is to look up and notice water spots on their ceiling. Not only does your mind go into action mode, but you start thinking the worst. Fortunately, if you are noticing water damage for the first time, it is likely fairly fresh. A leak might have started in the attic or walls of your home and thus creating some water damage to your ceiling. Also, it is possible that your home has developed too much moisture, creating water rings on your ceiling. This can preclude the future development of mold and mildew. How to tell if water damage is new or old? Touch it to see if it is firm or squishy. This gives you a timeline of how old the damage is.

Let’s take a look.

Water damage in ceiling and walls.

How Does This Happen

Water damage can occur in any place of your home and often we look at the ceiling or walls as the only place for damage to occur. Keep in mind that it can also occur on your floors. Your water damage chances are substantially increased after heavy rain or a malfunctioning part of your home.

Standing water as a result of a leaking appliance can cause drywall or wooden floors to be damaged and buckle. The type of materials that are exposed determines the period of time that water damage spots are identified. Below are some of the best ways to identify how old or new water damage is.

What Is The Best Way To Tell

To fully understand how old water damage is in your home, there are a few steps that you can take to find out. Keep in mind that there is no perfect and exact way to tell if water damage is many months or many days old. However, you can get a good idea as to if the water damage is very recent or has been there for a bit. Let’s take a look at what to look for:

  • Know your Home – keep in mind the age of your home. Pipes and HVAC units get old and can allow condensation to build up in your attic or walls. The presence of water spots can take time and not happen immediately. So, if you keep in mind how old the structures in your home are, the determination of how old or new water damage is should be easier to diagnose.
  • Touch the Spotput on gloves, protective eyewear, and a mask over your mouth. Then touch the water spot where the water damage has appeared. Water spots will feel firm if they are new. Older water damage will create a squishy and mushy feel. The results are damaged materials and create leaks.
  • The Presence of Water Ringsdark spots on the ceiling or walls indicates a more freshness of water damage while older water damage can develop rings on the wall or ceiling. The more rings that are present, the older the water damage is. As the rings change colors, the water damage is telling you that it has been wet, dried, wet again, and dried again over time.
  • Check the Structures – know your home structures. Walls that have thick paint from a buildup over time can trap moisture and water. This can give a clear indicator as to hold long water damage has been there. Also keep in mind that even the smallest water damage can have existed for a long time.
  • Mold Presenceidentifying mold on the spot of water damage means that the damage is at least two or three days old. You won’t want to touch it at this time, rather call for a mold inspection to determine if the mold is elsewhere. Mold growth will be present within 48 hours of water damage.
  • Decaythe decay and breakdown of your ceiling, wall, ceiling tiles, or other material making up your ceiling, walls, and floors are consistent with water damage that has occurred more than once. Deterioration does not happen overnight. It takes time for the water to break down the materials. This should also tell you how long or how often the water damage has occurred.

Other Recommended Maintenance

While you are learning about how old or new water damage might be, take a look at the areas that could potentially cause the water damage to occur. For example, have you thought that if you have a skylight, it might leak? After a heavy rain, you might see some water spots begin to form if there is a leak in your skylight. Understanding how to seal a skylight is definitely an important project to read up on.

Water damage in walls due to leak.

In addition, learn more about the signs of water damage in your walls. Believe it or not, you can have thermal imaging conducted that can identify if your pipes in your walls have leaks. You can also determine if the water damage to your walls has come from other issues in your home.

Lastly, gain an understanding of what types of tools a home inspector uses while on the job. Most homeowners do not have the resources to conduct their home inspections. In addition, the understanding of what to look for and how to find it takes special training. Read up on what your local home inspection team uses to complete a quality home inspection.

When Do I Call A Professional

Calling on a professional contractor to assist you with water spots on your walls or ceiling is a great idea. As a homeowner, you should never feel the need to attack water damage on your own. Additionally, there are too many potential health hazards to do this project yourself.

Before calling on a professional contractor to assist with the damages, reach out to your local home inspection team. They can conduct a home inspection and determine if more repairs are needed for your home. In addition, they can recommend the most reputable professional contractor to get the job done.


Dealing with water damage is not a fun task. No matter how old or new the water damage may be, the fact that water infiltrated your home is bad. You should immediately call on a local home inspection team to identify where the water might have infiltrated your home. This allows you to seal the area and repair the damage in a timely manner. Call on Twin State inspections to conduct a quality home inspection in the Twin State areas of VT and NH.