11 Sure Signs of Water Damage in the Walls

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: March 18, 2024

Have you noticed discolored streaks forming on the walls of your home? Perhaps unusual splotches appeared overnight.

Both are indications of water damage hiding inside the walls.

It’s a serious situation that you can’t ignore. Even a small leak behind the wall quickly spreads and results in extensive water damage. You have to get the situation under control right away.

Our teams help Chicago homeowners deal with water damage inside walls every day. Based on our experience of more than 14 years, we’ve developed this guide.

We want you to understand the long-term risks of this type of water damage. We also want to give you smart prevention strategies for protecting your home from future mishaps.

What Causes Water-Damaged Walls?


The water inside a wall usually traces back to faulty plumbing, but it can also be a weather-related problem.

Let’s break it down.

  • Fluctuating pressure damages pipe joints, resulting in slow leaks and wet drywall.
  • Old copper, lead or galvanized plumbing corrodes and drips inside walls.
  • Water from a clogged tub overflow drain soaks the wallboard behind tiles.
  • High humidity in the bathroom, kitchen and laundry room permeates drywall.
  • Appliance supply and drain line connections inside the wall come loose and leak.
  • Clogged gutters overflow and push rainwater under roof edges and down into walls.
  • Loose shingles and damaged flashing result in attic leaks that seep into walls below.
  • Rainwater accumulates inside walls through bad seals around window and door frames.

What Are the Common Signs of Water Damage In Walls? 


The indicators of hidden water damage in the walls fall into three categories: signs you can see; damage you can feel; and clues that aren’t as obvious.

Visual Signs

1. Discolored, streaked areas running down the walls

2. Paint that bubbles or peels away from the wall

3. Drywall that appears to sag or seems in danger of buckling

4. Patches of mold and mildew growing on wall surfaces

5. Warped or stained baseboards, door and window frames

6. Damp spots on carpets and floors adjacent to walls

Tactile Signs

7. Dark spots on the wall that feel wet to the touch

8. Drywall that feels soft or spongy when pressed

9. Wall surfaces that crumble or flake when touched

Hidden Signs

10. The sound of water dripping or running behind the wall

11. An unexplained increase in your monthly water bill

What Problems Do Water-Damaged Walls Cause?


Dealing with a water-damaged wall can be challenging. You know it needs to be taken care of right away. However, many homeowners underestimate how quickly the damp impacts surrounding areas.

These are a few examples.

1. Floor and Ceiling Damage – The moisture that permeates a wall moves downward, affecting the floor below. In the case of water-damaged drywall on a second floor, ceilings below become water-logged and can collapse.

2. Unhealthy Indoor Air Quality – The dark space inside a wet wall void creates an ideal environment for mold growth that compromises indoor air quality. If the fungus spreads into your home’s ductwork, it creates an unhealthy atmosphere throughout the entire house.

3. Structural ProblemsDrywall is porous, so it quickly soaks up moisture from damaged pipes or weather-related leaks. Anything in contact with its exterior or interior surface is also affected. For example, damp wall studs begin to rot, causing serious structural damage.

4. Ruined Contents and Belongings – If the wet walls are adjacent to a storage area, such as a closet or pantry, the moisture eventually soaks into cardboard boxes, soft goods and even packaged food. The humid atmosphere also damages important papers, photos and electronics.

What Is the Best Way to Fix Water Damage Inside Walls?

If you’re trying to figure out how to deal with a water-damaged wall, we recommend following these five basic steps. However, it’s important to understand that the job may be too big for a DIY solution.

  1. Turn off your home’s main water supply, and assess the extent of damage.
  2. Locate and repair the leak behind the wall, or call a licensed plumber.
  3. Contact your homeowners insurance agent, and start the claims process.
  4. Clean up and sanitize water-damaged areas, and replace ruined drywall.
  5. Set up heavy-duty air moving equipment to speed up structural drying.

If you have any doubts about doing it yourself, call a certified restoration professional. Our teams are always available to help Chicago homeowners dealing with hidden water damage.

How Do You Prevent Water Damage Inside Walls?


There aren’t any guarantees that you can prevent water-damaged walls in your home. However, there are ways to increase the odds of avoiding a huge cleanup project

  • Routinely check walls under sinks for signs of leaks.
  • Take care of small repairs right away, or bring in a licensed plumber.
  • Keep an eye on appliance hose connections to interior lines.
  • Make sure gutters are free of clogs and downspouts are working properly.
  • Pay attention to unusual fluctuations in water pressure or persistent water hammer.
  • Have your plumbing system professionally inspected once a year.
  • Consider installing a smart-home leak detector or water alarm.

Are You Dealing With Water-Damaged Walls in Chicago? We Can Help

If you’re like most Chicago homeowners, dealing with a water-damaged wall isn’t on your list of DIY projects. We understand. We can help, and we’re here for you 24/7.

Our technicians can’t see behind the walls, but we have the equipment and expertise it takes to solve the problem. We clean, repair and restore drywall, ceilings and floors, and we help with filing insurance claims too.

Give us a call, and let ServiceMaster by Zaba deal with your water-damaged walls: 773-647-1985