4 Signs Your Flooded Home Has Structural Damage

Posted on: 14 May 2015

Coming home to a severely water-damaged house is frightening, but careful handling of the situation can prevent injury and minimize further damage to the house. One important safety measure is making sure your house isn't structurally damaged before you enter. If you discover that it is, be extra careful, because it may not be safe to live there until it's fixed. Here are four of the most important signs to look out for when inspecting your home for structural damage.

1. Distorted walls

Like many other items on this list, problems with your walls are easier to spot if you're familiar with what they normally look like. For example, if you hardly ever go out behind your house except to mow and never look closely at the wall, it's hard to be sure if any cracks you find now were caused by the flood or not. This is why it's a good idea to monitor your house's normal appearance so you can be sure whether or not the damage is new. Problems with walls to look out for (both outside and inside your house) include:

  • Bowing or warping
  • Cracking
  • Buckling or sagging
  • Mold and peeling wallpaper, which can indicate long-term damage that may affect structural stability
  • Cracks above or around window frames and door frames

2. Foundation failure

Because foundation failure is potentially serious, be sure to check your foundation before entering the house. Floodwaters can affect foundations both directly and indirectly. For example, shifting enough of the ground that supports your foundation can cause it to tilt and crack. Walk around the outside of your house and examine the foundation from every angle. Some important problems to note include:

  • Erosion
  • New, larger, or widened cracks
  • Buckling, sagging, or crumbling
  • Walls coming apart from the foundation or sitting differently

3. Shape changes

Stand back and look at your house's shape. Compare it with a picture from before the flood. This will help you to determine whether walls have shifted or the house is sitting at a different angle than it used to. Don't ignore the roof, either. Since the structural support of the rest of the house is essential to the roof's staying put, you can often diagnose a structural problem by examining the roof. Are its lines clean and straight? If the roof dips where it didn't before, there's probably something wrong with its support system (the walls of your house).

4. Sagging floors or ceilings

Any floor that feels squishy to the touch, sags visibly, or seems to move when you place your weight on it is unsafe. Ceilings that sag are also a clear indicator that something is wrong. There may be a pocket of water trapped in the ceiling, adding weight and increasing its chances of collapse.

Depending on the severity of the water damage, it may or may not be safe to inhabit your home during remediation. Changes in structural integrity can not only cause a risk of collapsing but can affect power lines and gas, creating additional hazards. If the damage is localized, however, you may just need to keep away from that area of the house while repairs take place. Ask your water damage experts for advice on the safest way to proceed. Remember, damage may not be evident at first, so keep an eye out for any damage that may appear in the days and weeks after the flood as the ground continues to settle.