25 Silent Signs Your House Is Falling Apart
These little issues could mean big problems in the future.
There are countless things the average homeowner or renter does to keep their place safe, from installing security systems to doubling back after leaving the house just to triple-check that the stove is turned off. However, despite the many ways in which we’re vigilant about protecting our homes, there are countless issues that you’re likely overlooking when it comes to the condition of your space—ones that could lead to serious problems down the line.
To make sure those home issues don’t become catastrophic over time, read on for the silent signs your house is falling apart.
Your air conditioning has lost pressure.
Your air conditioner used to keep your home at a pleasant temperature no matter how hot it got outside, but now it’s barely cooling your home at all—what gives? According to Benjamin Ross, a real estate expert with Mission Real Estate Group in Texas, a loss of pressure in your vents is “a sign you have animals tearing into your AC ducting either under the floor or in the attic” and need an exterminator.
Your cabinets have shifted.
If those gorgeous cabinets you spent a pretty penny on are suddenly looking cockeyed, “that is a sign there is mold growing above,” says kitchen designer Lisa Fennessy of Kitchen Magic. However, that doesn’t mean you should immediately replace the cabinetry—instead, you’ll need to hire a mold remediation expert to fix the underlying issue or the problem will rear its ugly head once again.
Your doors and windows don’t open or close properly.
While all homes settle over time, which can cause changes in how the odd door or window fits in its frame, it shouldn’t be happening throughout your house. When this becomes an issue with multiple doors or windows, “it likely means that the support holding up the home’s foundation or the soil beneath a slab foundation is no longer strong enough to hold up the weight of the home,” says to Craig Russell, CEO of The English Contractor, a contracting and building firm in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Before the problem gets worse, it’s important to get a foundation expert to assess the level of damage.
Your plumbing has lost pressure.
A low-pressure shower isn’t just un-fun for you—it’s pretty bad news for your house, as well. If you find that your water pressure is low, that could “be a sign of more serious plumbing issues lingering beneath the surface,” including leaks, says Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, a Neighborly company.
Your faucets won’t stop dripping.
While a dripping sink isn’t exactly an uncommon occurrence, it could be a sign you have a bigger leak on your hands. And unfortunately, that “can add to your regular utility bill and also lead to expensive repairs,” says James.
Your floors are sloping.
Anyone who’s ever lived in an older home likely has a few floorboards that seem a little less than level. However, if your floors are suddenly sloping—or if an already sloping floor has become more pronounced—that could spell serious trouble.
“Sloping floors can mean that there are just missing joists, but they can [also] mean there is major structural damage to the home,” says Russell. This is particularly concerning if the floors on more than one level of the house are sloping in the same direction. In that case, call in a foundation expert or structural engineer ASAP.
Or they feel bouncy.
While having a spring in your step can be a good thing, if that spring comes from your floorboards, you’ve got a major problem. According to architect Evan L. Goldberg, soft and spongy floorboards are a telltale sign that you may have “severe termite damage to the structural floor joists.”
After contacting a pest control company to abate the problem, get in touch with a structural engineer to see if your house needs serious work to maintain its stability.
Or the floor around your appliances is warped.
A foundation issue isn’t the only reason you might find your floorboards warping. If you have this problem near your appliances or toilet, it’s likely that there’s a leak somewhere nearby.
Another way to spot a leak? “Make sure the flooring is solid in each of these areas and that there’s no staining,” says James, who recommends looking for ceiling stains below bathrooms and kitchens, too.
There are stains underneath your windows.
That discoloration underneath your window may seem like no big deal, but it could be a sign of serious water damage. These stains typically indicate that “water has infiltrated the connection of where a window meets the framing construction,” says Goldberg. It may even be a sign that there’s potentially harmful mold lurking behind your walls that needs remediation by a professional.
Or there are stains around the ceiling fan in your bathroom.
If your bathroom fan has a stain around it, don’t waste time getting it looked at. It’s likely the result of condensation that could be weakening the surrounding drywall and framing, according to Joe Murphy, interior design specialist at The Shower Head Store. It can also point to a roof leak, so if having your fan re-insulated or replaced doesn’t solve the problem, it’s time to call a roofer.
Or the ceiling below your bathroom has spots on it.
While many bathrooms develop some light mildew if they’re not properly ventilated, if you have spots all over your ceiling, it could point to bigger problems.
“Brown stains on a drywall ceiling are a telltale sign that there has been a water leak at some point,” says Andrew Helling, a Nebraska-licensed real estate agent and the owner of REthority.com. According to him, this discoloration is an indication of moldy drywall, especially if it appears below a bathroom or kitchen.
You can see daylight or water coming through cracks in your foundation.
A little crack in your home’s foundation may be no big deal, but if you can see through to the other side of the crack—or if water is getting through, you’ve got a much bigger problem on your hands. “A larger crack that is gaping enough to allow water or daylight through can mean a more serious problem, like severe foundation shifting and/or water damage,” says Russell.
Your paint is bubbling.
While you might chalk up that bubbling color on your walls to your less-than-professional painting skills, it could be a sign that you’ve got a problem with pests. According to Arrow Exterminators, paint that appears bubbly or has cracked could be a sign of a termite infestation.
After hiring an exterminator to remove the bugs themselves, it’s important to keep shrubbery, tree branches, and firewood away from your home to reduce the likelihood or reinfestation.
Or your bathroom paint is peeling.
That peeling bathroom paint is more than just a sign you should’ve shelled out the money for better primer. “When paint is peeling on the bathroom walls, there has been an untreated moisture problem for quite some time,” says Helling.
The good news? The addition of a bathroom fan can help mitigate the problem going forward. The bad news? Moisture issues can quickly devolve into mold issues, so get a professional to inspect as soon as you can.
There’s a persistent unpleasant odor you can’t identify.
Sure, you’re bound to have some unpleasant smells come out of your garbage can or disposal from time to time, but if you’re dealing with a persistent smell you can’t identify, that could mean big trouble.
“A wet or unpleasant odor around your home, specifically in a centralized location, often means mold has settled down somewhere nearby,” says Gary Findley, CEO of Restoration 1, a company specializing in fire, water, and mold damage restoration services. Just don’t try to solve the problem yourself—mold behind your walls requires professional attention.
You smell a gunpowder-like odor.
Unless you’re hosting regular duels, there’s no good reason for your home to smell like gunpowder—and if it does, it’s time to call an electrician or heating tech.
“A distinctive gunpowder-like aroma could result from a fried circuit board or fan motor” in your furnace, says Richard Ciresi, owner of Aire Serv in Louisville, Kentucky. Just make sure you get the issue looked at immediately, or you could be putting yourself at risk for a fire.
Your lights are flickering.
Before you call a paranormal specialist for those flickering lights, call an electrician. According to Helling, flickering lights are frequently a sign that there’s a short in your electrical wiring, which could also pose a fire risk if left unchecked.
There are gaps in your gutters.
If your gutters aren’t lined up with the edge of your roof, you could have a major problem on your hands. “If you look up and see daylight between the gutter and roof, there is a gap, which will ultimately let water behind the gutter,” says Helling. Over time, this can lead to water behind your walls, in your attic, or in your basement, requiring expensive repairs or even mold remediation.
Your walls look warped.
Warped walls are frequently a sign that your drywall has absorbed water and is swelling. “Over time, the damaged area starts to crumble, especially around the baseboards,” says Jack White, vice president of technical services at Rainbow International, a Neighborly company that specializes in treating water, fire, and mold damage. If your wall feels significantly uneven to the touch, it’s time to call in a professional.
Your baseboards are separating.
If your baseboards are moving away from your walls—or their adjoining pieces—you need a foundation expert stat. While this movement is often subtle at first, Alex Berezowski, the owner and general manager of The Foundation Experts Inc., says that it can indicate major foundation issues and shouldn’t be left unaddressed.
Your chimney is cracking.
That crack in your chimney isn’t just your house’s way of telling Santa he needs to lose a few. According to Berezowski, cracks in chimneys are also signs that you have a serious foundation issue affecting the structure of your home.
Your bathroom tiles have started to crack.
Those cracked bathroom tiles indicate more than just shoddy craftsmanship. According to John Judd Jr., co-owner of Judd Builders, a home builder in Asheville, North Carolina, this is a sign you’ve got a foundation problem that needs to be addressed before your home starts sinking further.
You find water in your basement.
While basements frequently lack climate control and, as a result, get humid and damp, if standing water starts to appear, it’s likely a foundation issue, says Judd. However, if you have your foundation looked at and there aren’t any problems with it, it could also be a sign that your boiler is leaking and needs attention from a technician.
Your wooden surfaces sound hollow.
Knock on a solid wood door or floorboard and you should hear a relatively deep thud. If you knock on one and it sounds hollow, however, that’s often a sign of termite damage, according to the experts at Arrow Exterminators. When termites descend on your property, they will excavate any wood surfaces they can find, hollowing them out over time.
Your whole family is suddenly experiencing allergy-like symptoms.
Can you suddenly find yourself allergic to something? Sure. However, if your whole family is experiencing persistent allergy symptoms, like a runny nose, sore throat, itchy eyes, or difficulty breathing and there’s no obvious cause, it could be mold, says Findley. And for additional symptoms that merit immediate attention, check out these 17 Allergy Symptoms You Need to Stop Ignoring.
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