Common Causes of Water Damage in New England

causes of water damage in new england

Water damage in Maine and New Hampshire homes can vary greatly. Factors such as the elements, the seasons, and even the region’s rugged geography can all influence the type of water damage homes receive. If you live in the region or are considering a move, here are some of the primary causes of water damage that homeowners should be aware of and prepare for: 

Burst Pipes in Winter

One of the leading causes of water damage to homes is a ruptured or burst water pipe during extreme freezing temperatures during winter. Water expands when it freezes, putting tremendous pressure on whatever it contains, including any water pipes in a home. Pipes in unheated areas of a house are particularly susceptible to freezing when temps drop. Such areas can include basements, attics, garages, crawl spaces, and even under sinks in the kitchen or bathroom. If a home has pipes within exterior walls with inadequate or no insulation, they are at risk of freezing during winter. Consider insulating vulnerable pipes with pre-molded foam rubber sleeves. This can also help lower costs associated with your water heater. 


Aged, neglected, or faulty roofing can lead to issues such as lifted, cracked, or damaged roofing materials. These issues can create openings that allow water to seep beneath the shingles and through roof penetrations, eventually finding its way into your home. This intrusion can result in costly water damage and potential mold growth, which can compromise the structural integrity of your home and pose health risks. Annual inspections of your roof and roof penetrations during the warmer months can help ensure your roof is in good shape. Faulty roofing can lead to water damage, so it’s important to check for lifted, cracked, or damaged materials, bad gaskets, or seals around penetrations.

Ice Dams

Ice dams are a build-up of ice on the eaves of roofing and can be seen anywhere in New England that experiences significant snowfall. It forms when heavy snow buildup on the roof melts during the day and refreezes when temperatures drop overnight. In houses not sufficiently insulated, heat can escape through the roof, causing large patches of snow to melt. As the process of melting and refreezing repeats itself daily, blocs of ice form along the eaves, with noticeable lengths of icicles hanging from them. Ice dams can cause damage to roofs and serious water damage to interior sections of your house, such as insulation, drywall, ceilings, and floors, which, if left untreated, could lead to serious mold damage.

Foundation Cracks

The freeze-thaw cycle from winter to spring can sometimes cause existing foundation cracks to widen, allowing water to penetrate basements and lower levels of homes. In early spring, rapid snowmelt caused by rising temperatures or heavy rainfall when the ground is still frozen can lead to increased runoff. This may also cause the water to seep into basements and crawl spaces, causing flooding.

Obstructed or Clogged Gutters

Gutters serve to divert water away from your home during intense storms. A gutter obstructed with leaves and other debris can lead to water seeping into your property via roof leaks, impaired siding, or a compromised foundation, causing water damage. Regular cleaning is essential to ensure gutters remain free from debris. Ideally, this should be done once a year, involving the removal of leaves, twigs, seed pods, and other obstructions. While engaging a gutter specialist is advisable, ensure all safety measures are strictly adhered to if you choose to clean your gutters.

Summer Mold Growth 

Summers in New England can experience heat waves that bring on rainy, hot, and extremely humid conditions. The periods of high humidity result from the coastal climate the region experiences. Such conditions during the summer can also increase the risk of water damage to your home in the form of excess moisture that can lead to mold and mildew, especially in the basement. Basements can be prone to mold growth during the hot and humid summer days. They are, in general, damp and poorly ventilated environments where humidity in the air can stagnate. This can cause surfaces to remain damp, making it difficult for wood and drywall to dry completely, leading to mold growth. 

Clogged Perimeter Drains

A perimeter drainage system is an important barrier that separates your home from the elements. A perimeter drain is an underground drainage system that surrounds the foundation of your house. It consists of a plastic or PVC pipe with perforations—tiny slits that allow water to enter the pipe and direct it away from the building’s basement or crawl space. Designed to carry away excess groundwater, the system acts as a barrier to prevent water from accumulating around the foundation of a home. Water cannot drain properly if perimeter drains freeze or get clogged with roots and debris. It could seep into the basement, causing water damage and posing a risk to heating systems, especially in winter. Look for water stains or puddling along the foundation walls in the basement. In the winter, this can occur due to melting snow, which is a sign that the perimeter drain could be clogged.

For homeowners, being prepared is certainly the best option. Still, if water damage does occur, one of New England’s leading water damage service providers, Octagon Cleaning and Restoration, can help restore your property. We offer expertise and experience, free estimates, and 24-hour emergency water damage repair. Contact us today for your free estimate!