Did you know that Canadian properties have suffered more from flooding than forest fires in recent years? Even more worrying is that most future property owners aren't familiar with the risks or impacts of flooding. Before buying a home these days, it is wise to consider flooding as a variable for financial and safety reasons. If a house has been in a flood, it will show you. You just need to know how to read the signs.

It's vital to raise awareness of flooding in Canada

Consider that about 1.8 million Canadian households are found in high-risk areas and that flooding insurance is regularly claimed in non-flooding zones, too. It is clear that the issue is more significant than it seems at first glance.

Damage from flooding costs homeowners a billion dollars every year. When you consider that the pandemic made many set up a home office with expensive tech that can be irreparably damaged in flood, the expenses are likely to skyrocket.

First-time homebuyers should be particularly cautious. They need not only to anticipate the threat and protect their residence from future floods but to look into their prospective home's past. Knowing whether a house has been flooded and taking adequate measures to repair or prepare will ensure they purchase and live in a safe, healthy home.

It all starts with an inspection

Conducting a professional home inspection before investing in real estate doesn't have an alternative. Nonetheless, even a quick checkup can raise red flags at the beginning of a home buying process.

A peeling white wall.

Certain signs are obvious even to an untrained eye.

In the end, inspecting a home is cost-effective and provides some peace of mind. To get there, focus on the five signs showing if a house has been in a flood recently and consider the essential pieces of advice that inevitably follow.

  1. Landscape grading;
  2. Water stains on the walls;
  3. Hardwood floor stains;
  4. Soft drywall;
  5. Floor joists.

Why does it matter to check for signs of past flooding? If it happened once, it would likely happen again. Damage repair is costly, and regularly repeated damage repair is even more so. If a home is in a flood zone, it will negatively affect its price. Furthermore, it will increase home insurance premiums over time.

Hence, if you're considering moving to a high-risk flooding area, do your homework on time. Regarding home relocation in the Toronto area, hiring residential movers is more than a good idea. An expert team can assist you with moving better than anyone else. But a home inspection is irreplaceable when it comes to ensuring your future home is safe for you and your belongings.

#1 Positive and negative grading

Take a walk around the home and look at the ground. The uneven grade of the landscape around the home clearly indicates that a home has been affected by a flood in the past. Hence, look for a drastically sunken area at the foundation level.

Ideally, a home should be placed at the highest point where the ground surrounding it slopes away from it in all directions. It is an example of positive grading that will ensure runoff moving away from your home. If a home lies at a lower point of the terrain due to negative grading, flood water will quickly run over oversaturated soil straight into the house.

#2 Old water stains

Flood water will stain the foundation and siding once it drains and dries, leaving yellowish marks or discolorations behind. Look for these stains as you walk around the house as their presence implies the home suffered flooding.

A wall with yellow stains shows if a house has been in a flood.

Discolorations or stains indicate water damage.

Although the stains can be removed or repainted, the damage done to the foundation and facade is still there. Going inside and checking the home from within will give you more clues.

#3 Floor damage and stains

Wooden floors, particularly hardwood floors, are susceptible to water damage. Flood water is quickly absorbed into the planks due to their porous structure. As a result, the planks swell, cup, and warp, leaving distinctive marks and stains.

Apart from floors, all wooden elements in a home at floor level are at risk of flood water damage. Think baseboards. For better or worse, multiple checkpoints make it easy to spot if a house has been in a flood. So, either make repair arrangements or step away from the home buying deal.

#4 Damaged drywall

The bottom of the walls is a zone where flood water damage is visible if present. Drywall, in particular, may be crumbling, or baseboards might be discolored or warped. In the case of the drywall, you can check if it suffered water damage with a quick test.

With a simple rubber mallet, knock at the base of the wall. If everything is alright, it should bounce off. If not, it will sink in slightly. Soft drywall clearly indicates it has been damaged by flooding in the past.

#5 Basement and floor joists

If the outdoor and indoor inspections showed no signs of flood water damage, it is time to go downstairs. The basement walls and joists on the basement ceiling are likely to show if flood water ever entered the home.

The obvious sign of high humidity, problems with hydro isolation, and untreated flooding damage is the presence of mold. As it is a problem in its own right, only a mold inspection and testing will determine the gravity of the issue.

A moldy wall.

Where there is mold, there is humidity.

While you're still in the basement, take a flashlight and look at the joists overhead. If they show dark marks or they're bowed, the past presence of floodwater is apparent. Even if the rest of the home is neat, the basement often clearly reveals if the property was flooded.

A couple of points to focus on

Depending on the maintenance work the owners have done, the house will either show the negative grading, water stains on the walls, floors, and joists, hardwood floor and drywall damage, and mold stains - or not. The ultimate goal is to live in a safe home and minimize future flooding risks. 

Before making a purchase of a lifetime, make sure you know what you're buying. A detailed home inspection will show if a house has been in a flood allowing you to choose the best course of action.