How Long Does Water Damage Take to Occur?

water damage

Most people associate water damage with an isolated incident, such as a ruptured pipe or overflowing appliance. However, it’s actually a dynamic process that continues to worsen over time unless intervention by water damage recovery professionals is applied.  Interior building materials and construction methods are generally not waterproof. Therefore, water loose inside a structure travels far and fast, causing damage wherever it goes. During that time frame, the clock is also ticking on serious secondary consequences such as toxic mold contamination.

While the extent of damage depends upon factors such as the origin and volume of the water, the general timeline is fairly predictable. Here’s how a bad water damage incident becomes worse as time passes.  

The First Minutes 

Absorbent materials such as drywall, carpeting, mattresses and padded furniture in the immediate vicinity of the incident will be soaked and retain water. Paper possessions such as books, photographs and other items stored near the floor may be saturated and permanently ruined. Water pooling on hard surface floors may begin to spread beneath baseboards.  

After One Hour

Water damage continues to expand beyond the immediate space where the event occurred, infiltrating the interior of walls and seeping into adjacent rooms. Paint on wet walls will begin blistering.  If the damage originated on an upper floor, water may be dripping through ceilings into rooms below by now.  Spreading water may contact electrical wiring or outlets, presenting a potential electrocution hazard inside affected rooms.

After Several Hours

Household flooring will be permeated by standing water and moisture will saturate the plywood sub-floor below. Soaked drywall in walls or ceilings may lose structural integrity and swell, sag and possibly collapse. Seepage of water may continue downwards into the basement, damaging HVAC components and infiltrating ductwork.

The Next Day

Moisture contacting dormant spores present in any structure begins triggering active mold growth. This will be followed by release of airborne reproductive spores, spreading contamination throughout the enclosed indoor environment. Pungent odors caused by mold and mildew permeate the house. Metal appliances and electrical wiring that have been wet now begin to rust, corrode or deteriorate.   

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