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Top 10 Things You Need to Know about Water Damage [ Mitigation & Restoration ]

Top 10 Things You Need to Know about Water Damage [ Mitigation & Restoration ]

Water damage, whether caused by heavy storms, flash floods, hurricanes, or leaky pipes, can range from mild to severe. The longer building materials are exposed to wet conditions, the more potential there is for deadly mold and mildew to develop, and the more hazardous the situation becomes. Some water damage situations, such as sewage backups and toilet overflows, can create severe odor problems on top of the water damage that will require professional help to remediate.

Of course, safety is always the primary concern on any water damage job, whether it’s classified as mild gray water or severe black water. Personal protective equipment such as coveralls, gloves, boots, goggles, and respirators are a must to protect the health and safety of anyone dealing with water damage. Whether it be a professional water damage restoration company or a DIY homeowner.

1. Different types of water damage and how to deal with them:

There are 3 different Categories and 4 different Classes of water damage. Categories describe the type of water and degree of potential contaminants; while Classes are used to determine and define the scale and severity and the probable rate of evaporation based on the type of materials affected.

Determining the Class and Categorie of a water loss is an important first step, and will help to determine the amount and type of equipment needed to mitigate damages.

Categories of Water Damage:

CAT 1: Clean Water – water losses that originate from a sanitary water source and do not pose substantial health risks.  It is important to remember that even if the water loss was clean initially, environment or the time passed since the damage occurred can change the classification of the loss to Category to 2 or Category 3.

CAT 2: Grey Water – water that originates from toilet bowls with urine (no feces), sump pump failures, seepage due to hydrostatic failure, and water discharge from dishwashers or washing machines. Rainwater that makes its way into a home from the outside is also considered and treated as CAT 2 since there is no way of determining what types of contaminants it encountered before entering a property.

CAT 3:  Black or Toxic water – this is used to describe water that is grossly contaminated and can contain pathogenic, toxigenic, or other harmful agents. Such water may carry silt, organic matter, pesticides, heavy metals, regulated materials, or toxic organic substances. Sewage, toilet backflows that originate from beyond the toilet trap [ regardless of visible content or color ], all forms of flooding from seawater, ground surface water and rising water from rivers or streams, and other contaminated water entering or affecting the indoor environment such as wind-driven rain from hurricanes, tropical storms, or other weather-related events.

Classes of Water Damage:

CLASS 1: Slow Rate of Evaporation. Affects only a portion of a room. Materials have a low permeance/porosity. Minimum moisture is absorbed by the materials.

CLASS 2 – Fast Rate of Evaporation. Water affects the entire room of carpet and cushion. May have wicked up the walls, but not more than 24 inches.

CLASS 3 – Fastest Rate of Evaporation. Water generally comes from overhead, affecting the entire area; walls, ceilings, insulation, carpet, cushion, etc.

CLASS 4 – Specialty Drying Situations. Involves materials with a very low permeance/porosity, such as hardwood floors, concrete, crawlspaces, plaster, etc. Drying generally requires very low specific humidity to accomplish drying.

Okay, we now know the category and class of water damage we’re dealing with. Whats next?

2. Health & Safety:

Every water damage situation is different and requires careful assessment and constant monitoring to ensure proper removal of water and any contamination. Flood Doctor highly recommends that property owners employ the services of a trained restoration professional for all water damage situations. When dealing with water damage you will be exposed to many hazards. The water may contain sewage, pesticides and other waterborne organisms that can cause disease, as well as sharp objects and other debris. Caution should be used upon entering any water damaged structure.

  • Wear heavy rubber gloves; thick-soled boots, goggles, hard hat and an N95 dust mask. These are the minimum requirements for persons working in moldy or flood-contaminated houses. 
  • Change your work clothes before entering any clean areas in a house or building to avoid cross-contamination. 
  • Wash work clothes separately from your regular laundry to avoid any cross-contamination. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Rest frequently to avoid overheating and exertion. 
  • Wash your hands and face frequently using an anti-microbial soap if available.
  • Keep your fingers away from your eyes, nose, and mouth. 
  • Have a first-aid kit handy. Treat cuts and abrasions immediately with an antibiotic ointment. 
  • Only use electrical equipment in dry environments to avoid the risk of electrical shock.

3. Inspection & Initial Steps:

  • Try mitigating water damages during daylight hours. If at all possible do not initiate the work at night or in the dark.
  • Don’t use candles or gas lanterns. 
  • Leave the house immediately if there is an odor of gas or any suggestion of instability in the structure.
  • Notify authorities and wait for an authorized inspection before re-entering. 
  • If the power is off, turn the main electrical breaker off and tape it down to prevent it from accidentally turning on when the power is restored. 
  • If you have fuel oil or propane, turn off the fuel valve at the tank. Turn off natural gas at the meter.  See Health and Safety, above, for minimum personal protection requirements.

4. Preparation 

  • Support or drain sagging ceilings. (Punch drainage holes around the edge first, then gradually work towards the lowest section.) 
  • Remove raised floor tiles and other tripping hazards. 
  • Remove wall-mounted mirrors and heavy pictures before they fall from weakened drywall. 
  • Go room-by-room and make a list of all furnishings and personal property.
  • Document the contents and damage with photographs. 
  • Before starting demolition, seal off any areas that escaped damage by stapling or taping plastic sheeting (available at HomeDepot or Lowes) over all openings to limit the spread of airborne contaminants.
  • Note: Areas that appear to have been unaffected may still have mold growing within wall and ceiling cavities. On walls and ceilings that show evidence or are suspected of having been wet, cutting small holes (approx. 6”x6”) will allow inspection of the wall backing and interior for mold growth or other damage.
  • To prevent the foundation from collapsing, do not pump out flooded basements until the water outside of the building has subsided. Pump out 2-3 feet and check the following day. If the level has risen, it’s too early to drain the basement.  Get fresh air moving throughout the house. Open doors, windows, closets, and cabinets.

Personal Property Restoration

5. Contents

  • If dealing with Flood Damage, remove all contents from areas that were under water and hose down. 
  • Double bag and discard all food items and get them off site as quickly as possible. 
  • Discard rugs, mattresses, pillows, upholstered furniture and other porous materials that have been affected by flood water. If dealing with a Cat 1 clean water damage loss, most contents can be easily dried and restored to pre-loss conditions using a combination of Low Grain Refrigerant Dehumidifiers and high volume air mores.  
  • Organic materials such as leather, animal trophies, and furs are not restorable. 
  • Washable garments, towels, and linens can be laundered in hot water and detergent.
  • Items with visible mold are not restorable. 
  • Discard refrigerators and other appliances that contain internal insulation. 
  • Hard, items such as metal, glass, china and finished wood may be decontaminated and restored. 
  • Guns and uncoated metals are subject to rust and should be coated with rust preventive or moisture displacing oil until full restoration can be performed. 
  • Remove computer hard drives and spray with a moisture displacing oil, letting it dry completely before reinstalling into the computer and turning it on.  It is highly recommended to hire an electronics restoration company to inspect and test each electronic item that was affected.
  • Documents and photographs should be stored flat and allowed to dry.
  • Photocopying is the most cost-effective way to preserve deeds and other important papers. 
  • Damaged antiques and valuable artworks cannot be evaluated immediately. Dry and clean only as necessary to preserve them for a future evaluation by an art restorer or appraiser. Appraisal information is available from the American Society of Appraisers, [email protected]. 
  • Continue to list and photograph damaged contents during removal.

Water Damage Restoration Team

6. Demolition & Decontamination

  • If weather permits, open windows for air circulation and drying. 
  • Remove plumbing fixtures for possible decontamination and re-use. 
  • Slice saturated carpets into small strips, roll up and carry out in double plastic bags. 
  • If electrical power and equipment are available, vacuum all contaminated or moldy surfaces with a HEPA vacuum.
  • Remove shoe moldings, baseboards, door & window trim, drywall, paneling and insulation to at least two feet above the high water mark. 
  • If there is mold on the back of the drywall, extend demolition until all moldy materials have been removed. 
  • Remove finished flooring to permit drying and decontamination of the sub-floor. 
  • Moldy structural framing may remain in place for cleaning and decontamination. 
  • Bag moldy materials in double plastic bags before removing them from the demolition area. 
  • Open all water damaged wall and ceiling cavities for drying.

  • Hose down mud and silt, mop or squeegee dry. 
  • Clean moldy surfaces with a HEPA-vacuum, if available.
  • Wash all affected surfaces with a combination cleaner-disinfectant if available, or with household detergent and water, using a scrub brush or scraper for stubborn stains. 
  • Saturate contaminated surfaces with a disinfectant cleaner or bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) and keep wet for at least 10 minutes. (Caution: do not use bleach with ammonia or ammoniated detergents!) 
  • Remove insulation from saturated crawl spaces.
  • After drying, remove existing plastic sheeting and replace with new material. 
  • Drying a water damaged structure can take around two weeks or possibly longer unless industrial LGR dehumidifiers and high volume air movers are used.
  • HEPA-vacuum all surfaces in unaffected areas and re-seal with plastic during repairs.


COMMERCIAL Property Restoration Services


7. Hiring a Restoration Company:

Your home has been damaged by water from a leak, pipe break or appliance malfunction. How are you going to address the problem in your home?

Restoration Companies are usually the first responders following significant damage to a home or business from floods and fires, water damage, sewage backup and other major events. The job of a restoration company is to clean up the mess and to preserve and protect the home and its contents so that further damage will not occur.

Restoration Companies do not repair your home unless they are licensed to do home improvements by the state and have a separate contract with you for home repairs.

Water Damage is usually split up into two separate parts:

  1. Water Damage Mitigation
    • Water Damage Mitigation consists of Water Extraction, Debris removal, Cleanup of affected areas, demolition if it is needed, and structural drying.
  2. Water Damage Restoration
    • Water Damage Restoration is the repair and rebuilding of building materials that could not be salvaged during the mitigation portion and had to be removed. i.e. Afttected drywall, carpet, hardwood and other building materials.

8. Water Damage Restoration Step by Step Process

[ Flood Doctor’s Step By Step Water Damage Restoration Process ]

  1. After the major catastrophe, place a call to your insurance agent or other representatives.
  2. The insurance company will typically provide you with information about restoration companies who will remove the water or other contamination. Most insurance adjusters and claim representatives are familiar with the Restoration Companies available in your community that can begin the clean up quickly.
    • It is important to know that you are always allowed to choose your own Restoration Company.  Some insurance companies have been known to make deals with national Restoration companies which provide them with incentives to cut corners and mitigate damages to your home or business based on what is cost-effective, not what is best for you or your property. It is always recommended to do an online search of the company your insurance adjuster suggests and make sure they are not sending you someone who is working for them instead of you.
  3. Review your responsibilities under your insurance policy for cleaning up the home to prevent additional damage. Discuss any questions you have about clean up with your insurance representative or claim adjuster.
    • Most policies indicate that it is your responsibility to mitigate damages as soon as you discover them. If you wait to hear back from your adjuster before taking the necessary steps to stop the spread of damages they might deny your claim.
  4. When the Restoration Company arrives, thoroughly walk through your home with the Restoration Company Representative and discuss the areas that need to be cleaned. Your insurance company adjuster or claim representative may recommend what and how your home should be cleaned, but in the end, it is your decision. If you have a camera, take pictures of the damage.
  5. After the Restoration Company evaluates the work and equipment needed to clean your home, they will begin to mitigate damages.
    • It is important to note that Water Damage Mitigation is unlike most other types of contractor work. An upfront estimate is typically not provided due to the progressive conditions inherent to water damage. Most of the time when a contractor is hired they will provide a general scope of work in their contract and begin work immediately.  Unlike other contractors who have time to price out different materials and know exactly what work needs to be done during a remodeling of a home for example; emergency restoration contractors are working against the clock and taking the necessary time required to estimate a job would cause the spread of water to unaffected areas as well a the potential for mold.
    • Read the contract to make sure all the services discussed are listed. You must sign this contract before the Restoration Company will begin work on your home. Ask for documentation showing drying progress and completion. Once you sign this contract, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE for paying the Restoration Company for the work described, NOT your insurance company.
    • Most insurance claim settlements will cover the cost of the cleanup done by the Restoration Company. If your insurance claim is denied, your contract with the Restoration Company requires you to pay for their services.
  6. In the weeks following the water damage, frequently inspect the areas where the Restoration Company worked to make certain no moisture or dampness remain in your home.

REMEMBER: You are not obligated to hire the Restoration Company called by your insurance Company. You may select any Restoration Company to do the clean up, but the work must be done quickly to prevent further damage to your home.


9. Important Tips

  • Choose a well respected Restoration Company to clean your home.
  • Ask if they are IICRC certified.
  • Read the Restoration Company’s contract carefully and keep a copy.
  • If a problem occurs with the quality of work, contact your Restoration Company IMMEDIATELY!
  • KNOW what your insurance policy requires you to do following a major loss.
  • If you have insurance coverage questions, ask your claims adjuster for answers in writing.
  • Response time is crucial to prevent further damage, including mold damage. Any delay can lead to a much more costly recovery, salvage, and reconstruction.
  • Begin repairs to your home promptly following the cleanup services Identify a good restoration company before you have an incident.

10. Common Water Damage Restoration Equipment

Water Damage Drying Air Movers Fans

  • Air Movers: These are portable drying devices that move a large volume of air around the flooded area. Air movers promote fast drying of surfaces like floors and provide general air circulation for the entire indoor space. Aer Industries provides air movers in many sizes, ranging from compact models to larger, more powerful units. They are measured in the capacity of Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM), as well as the electrical power consumption in amperage required.


Water Damage Repair Dehumidifiers


  • Dehumidifiers: These are also portable machines that are effective for removing the excess moisture from the air which contributes to growing mold and mildew. Dehumidifiers come in ionizing and non-ionizing models and a range of sizes, from compact and conventional to LGR (Low Grain Refrigerant) models. Conventional models are capable of pulling up to 150 pints of water in a 24-hour period. An LGR dehumidifier can remove up to 225 pints daily.

Water Damage Repair HEPA Air Scrubbers

  • Air Scrubbers: These are designed to remove odors and other particles from the air. Typically, air scrubbers are used for fire damage restoration, where they remove smoke particles from the air. However, these tools are also effective for removing the musty smells associated with water damage and mildew presence. Wet air scrubbers have a wet filter that traps and removes airborne particulates, whereas dry scrubbers use an ionic purifier.

11.  Why Cant Water Damage Mitigation Companies give an Estimate?

Most claims require an estimate, however, water damage is an exception due to the possibility of mold and further damage occurring. Time is of the essence when it comes to Water Damage.

It is considered standard in the construction and building repair services industry to expect an estimate of the cost prior to the work being performed. Why then would a Water Damage Mitigation Company refuse to provide an estimate?

  • It saves money:

There are actually a number of reasons why estimates are not normally supplied for water damage drying and mitigation services. First and foremost, when a water damage loss or flood occurs to a property, time is of the essence. Even small delays in getting the mitigation and drying started can result in a substantial amount of additional damage, and associated cost, to the property. The Insurance Industry, which has spent countless billions of dollars paying water damage claims, does not require Mitigation Companies to provide a quote prior to performing the work. These Insurance Companies have learned that the delays associated with waiting for an estimate only increases the overall damage to the property as well as the amount the insurance company ends up paying out in damages.

  • Subsequent damage may be the property owner’s responsibility:

The property owner’s insurance policy typically includes a clause which places an obligation on the property owner to take action to mitigate further damages. This requires the property owner to protect the property from this further damage. In a water damage loss (pipe break, etc.) or flood, proper and timely drying and mitigation are considered necessary to stop secondary water damage. The water will continue to wick from wet building materials to dry materials, often in hidden locations such as inside wall cavities, etc., until there are no longer any dry materials thereby causing this secondary damage. Timely, professional mitigation initially slows and finally stops this process. If the property owner fails to mitigate a water loss in a timely manner, the Insurance Company can, and will, refuse to pay for any additional damage (secondary damage) caused by this delay. As a result, secondary property damage as a result of unnecessary delays while the property owner waits for price quotes could cost the property owner directly.

  • It prevents delays that could result in mold:

In addition to secondary water damage, Mold contamination is also a factor. Delaying mitigation, even less than a day in some cases, can result in the beginning of mold growth. Once mold begins to grow, costs can skyrocket, increasing the overall job costs by 4 to sometimes 10 times what would have been necessary prior to mold contamination. Prompt, professional, and timely drying and mitigation are essential to reducing costs when a water damage loss or flood occurs. Any delays, even delays associated with getting estimates, generally only increase the overall cost.

  • Water Damage estimates are inaccurate:

Last, it is virtually impossible for a Mitigation Company to accurately estimate the price of a water damage drying and mitigation job. There are too many variables that can affect the nature of the drying, and the time and labor that may be needed to properly dry out a building. As the property dries, water infiltration, by its very nature, will still continue to wick from wet to previously dry areas until the drying is complete. As well, different building materials dry out at different rates. For instance, drywall is more easily dried out when compared to plaster. Also, the humidity and temperature within the home, as well as the weather conditions outside, can often affect the drying and mitigation services to your property. It is impossible for any professional Mitigation Company to predict where water will migrate during the drying process or how quickly the property will dry. This makes it impossible to provide an accurate estimate.