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. In this article we’ll shed light on all the top things to know about water damage.
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.
- 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.
- 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@example.com.
- Continue to list and photograph damaged contents during removal.
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.
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