We are in the process of purchasing a new home, but it has a strong damp/musty odor. How can we make sure it has no water damage? -Raul
There are a number of possibilities that could be causing your problem including a leaky roof, plumbing leaks, excessive moisture in the crawl space, a slab that wasn’t waterproofed correctly, condensation in the walls due to an improperly installed vapor barrier, or damage from flooding.
While it’s not easy to check inside of walls, you can inspect the attic as well as under the house or in the basement for signs of leaks, moisture buildup, mold, or rot. A moisture meter can be used to check for excessive moisture in wood while a hygrometer can determine the moisture content of the air.
Water stains on rafters are a telltale sign of leaks, either past or present. Also, be sure to examine the floor joists under the house for signs of mold. If the house is in an area prone to flooding, look in out of the way places—like closets and inside of cabinets—for stain lines on the walls or water damage on the floor.
I would definitely have a competent home inspector examine the house before you purchase it, as mold and excessive humidity can be costly to eliminate.