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Question DetailsAsked on 1/2/2017

My upstairs carpet is wet what do I do

My tenent was away three weeks. He found the upstairs carpet wet and we can't tell where the water came from. It's been raining last few days and periodically since he was away. Who do I call to see what needs to be done. When do I call insurance agent? Should I pull up carpet now and dry?

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If you can get into the attic to check for water/wetness/staining there, that is the obvious place to look. Check not only the underside of the roof, but also any attic floor insulation over the wetted area - sometimes a roof leak will drip down in a very small area, pass through the insulation on the attic "floor" wetting only a foot or less diameter of it, and pool on the top of the underlying ceiling (especially if there is vapor barrier over the ceiling drywall) - and can run on top of the vapor barrier to a low spot (commonly interior wall or pipe penetration or ceiling light fixture) and then through the ceiling there. Sometimes it saturates the bottom of the insulation (particularly if fiberglass batt) but does not wet to the surface of it, so most of the residual wetness is at the bottom of the insulation.

Other times a roof leak will run down the underside of the roof sheathing or rafters, dropping off where the rafters sit on the top of the wall or hit an angled or vertical support member then down it or into the wall, or down the underside of the sheathing till it hits insect screening at the outer wall and then down into the wall there, so the actual "leak" can be at the eave area even though the roof leak is well up on the roof.

Leaks also commonly occur around or into pipe/exhaust flue penetrations and at fan exhaust ducting.

Also if the attic is where air conditioner is, check for condensate pan overflow or drain stoppage. Ditto if you have an attic water heater location.

And check for a window left partly open.

Generally speaking, unless pretty much the entire carpet is soaked, the leak will normally be about midpoint between the wetted edges - come in from around the wetted edges or perimeter equal distances to locate the probable source area where the water hit the carpet. So if a full wetted circle in the carpet the leak is about at the center of the wetted circle (usually meaning came from above through a ceiling fan or light fixture but could also be from an in-floor heating loop system if in concrete floor), or if a wetted area extending away from the wall in an arc but only wetted at one wall find the midpoint of the wetted area along the wall and the leak likely came from that point from inside (or under from adjacent room) at the wall. Then look for what water sources (pipes) there are in that area - if none, then likely leaking pipe in the attic or upstairs (if pipes going up to higher floor or attic), or a roof leak that got into the wall.

Also, look under all sinks and around toilets, tubs, showers, kitchens etc in that area or overhead for possible leaks or wet spots - either from leaking pipes, dripping toilet tank fittings or bolts, or from leaking ventilation fans getting water from a roof penetration leak overhead. Also check under/around any other piped appliances like roofer, washer, dishwasher, permanent humidifier, etc.

Also sniff at the rug to be sure it is water - not something theat leaked out of a cleaning or personal care product bottle in bathroom or kitchen or closet or such.

With all noise-making things off (including all fans, boiler circulating pumps or furnace blower, AC, etc) and with water heater not heating (turn down to vacation if it is trying to heat water) put your ear to the faucets and walls (or to track down a leak use a metal-head stethoscope from local pharmacy department) and listen for the sound of water running. You can commonly hear even a minute pressurized pipe leak as a hiss or gurgling or running water sound. Of course, pay attention to both hot and cold sources (listen at faucet or wall or individual pipes) and any in-floor or baseboard hydronic heating systems as possible sources. Low-pressure steam or hydronic heating systems sometimes yes you can hear a leak, but sometimes minor leaks can go on for maybe years without detection in that type of low-pressure system. I have seen some with several pounds of calcium and lime buildup as a stalagmite or stalagtite at the drip point but no water damage beyond a foot or two radius - the hot water just evaporated as fast as it leaked from the low pressure system, sometimes not even reaching the floor.

Since he was away at the time, assuming you don't find kitchen or bathroom wetness under cabinets or on floors from leaking pipes or appliance, rain is the obvious source.

If it has been cold in your area, consider also (especially if there was an extended power outage in that area) if there is any chance of a pipe having frozen and burst - though if that is the case almost always putting your ear to any pipe or faucet would result in you hearing the sound of water running or hissing.

You could rent a thermal infrared camera typically about $50-80/day (sometimes 1/2 day rentals available) at Home Depot or tool rental place or some auto parts stores - usually pretty good at showing the limits of wetted wood and insulation. Track it from the wet carpet (assuming this is real recent so wood/insulation would still be wet) up or horizontally to where the leak is.

If you still can't find a likely source, then sort of a devil's choice - you could call either a roofer or a plumber and hope they find the source - given about a 50-50 chance of chosing the one you need to fix the problem. Or you could call a Handyman to track down the source, though he may or may not be the right person to fix it. Or you could go direct to a Water and Smoke Damage remediation company to locate the source and repair it, and to then take care of the wetness AND do repair and remdediation and any needed mildew/mold control all in one contractor.

Or if you think you will likely have a substantial claim (signficantly more than your insurance deductible) you can contact your insurance company claim line - many of them have water and smoke damage companies they routinely deal with and can sometimes get a lot faster response. However, doing so will almost always have it count as a claim - even if they end up paying $0 because the total adjusted loss amount is less than your deductible, so you have to be careful about that - can raise your rates. However, remediate it without filing a claim and then filing a claim only if the $ amount ends up being significantly more than your deductible can be a catch-22 - they may not allow the claim after the fact because they did not see the damage. At least be sure to document it well and retain the removed damaged material (say in garage) for inspection and have the contractor measure and document the damage, at least.

Generally speaking, if there is not a mildewy or moldy smell in the carpet yet, the leak is probably only 1-2 days old (assuming normal household temp in the 60's or above while tenant was gone). The carpet needs to be thoroughly dried (wet cleaned and vacuumed by a carpet company then dried with dehumidier and fans, or taken up and dried or disposed of) within a couple of days of wetting or it will go mildewy then moldy. IF it has been sitting for some time wet (so subfloor is thoroughly wet) usually the insurance companies write off the carpet and hasve it torn out and the subflooring dried out (and of course the leak source fixed) before replacing the flooring (assuming are are talking a flooring material that is damaged by wetting). Also, some carpets use water-soluble backing or "warp" adhesive, so they fall apart when saturated so cannot be salvaged if just vacuiuming the water out does not do the job. Generally, if saturated by the leak, as long as the water is vacuumed up by a carpet cleaning shampoo machine AND then kept evaporating the base and subfloor water using large fans blowing over it and dehumidifier (or open windows on warmer low humidity days), as long as the carpet and padding materials themselves are not damaged by water contact that treatment will suffice IF done before mildew/mold sets in. Mildew-mold generally starts 24-48 hours at normal house temps - can take as long as 3-5 days if in the 40's, or even less than a day for it to start smelling in high-humidity about 80 degree or higher temps. Here is a link to an Angies List article on wet flooring treatment -

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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