Got Water Damage? What Do You Do?

If you’ve got water damage, what do you do?  Water damage is normally the fourth most common reason behind homeowners filing insurance claims. This happens for many reasons such as flooding and leaks. So, first of all, you must determine the cause, shut down the source, if applicable, and turn off electricity as necessary to prevent shorting and shock. Then what?  Next, it’s time to assess the damage, clean up the excess water, and repair the damage as quickly as possible.


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Excess water needs to be removed quickly, and drying needs to be performed because wet materials will start developing serious problems within a very short period of time, sometimes within just a few hours. This can result in falling ceilings, mold, or other issues.  You may well need emergency services in order to properly clean up the mess and mitigate the damage!  A damage mitigation and true restoration company performs whatever it takes to undo the damages and restore a home or business to its original condition, or better.

There are different types of water!

In fact, there are three types of water, and each must be attended to differently.

1.  There is “clean” water, which can come from rain, condensation, or leaky fresh-water pipes.  In most small cases, you can clean up this type of water yourself.  However, drying wet drywall, plaster, carpet/padding, wood floors, cabinets, and such, may require you to obtain outside services and specialized equipment in order to mitigate damages. 

2.  The second type is “gray.”  This is dirty water coming from dishwashers, washing machines, sinks, and such.  This water may well contain contaminants, but you may be able to clean it up yourself if you have the equipment and proper safety gear to protect yourself with.  If in doubt, it’s best to call experts in. Beyond the damages this can cause to your home or business, are the health risks that can come with gray water flooding. 

3.  The third and last type is, “black.”  This water contains sewage, other waste, bacteria, and other more serious contaminants. Black water is dangerous to your health, and you should not try to clean it up by yourself.  Professionals will have the equipment and protective gear needed to safely clean up black water and know what must be done with contaminated furniture and materials.

Once the excess water is gone!

Inspect the damage!

Now, it’s time to perform a more thorough inspection of the damage and determine what drying efforts must be done. If there is already existing mold and mildew, it must be removed immediately to prevent it from spreading. Depending on how much moisture materials such as drywall have absorbed, and how open the moist or molded areas are to air circulation, such materials may need to be removed and replaced. You will need to be very careful with existing mold and mildew.  Mold can be toxic and very damaging to the materials it infests.

Professional mold remediators have the experience and safety equipment needed to safely remove the mold.  Should you hire professionals to handle the mold and/or mildew, be sure they use the proven text-book methods of mold removal.  Just spraying mold with chemicals will not kill the mold.  It must be treated and removed with appropriate cleaners.  If you find mold, try to eliminate air flow to the area, get out of the area, and call for help!

Dry the wet areas out!

If no mold or mildew is found, or as mold or mildew is being removed, then the next action will normally be drying of the wet areas.  This is normally done using specialized equipment that cleans the air and blows air at the same time.  It is important to get the drying operations going as quickly as possible, in order to avoid the additional potentials for mold and mildew, as well as prevent further damage to materials due to water absorption.

For small leaks, you may be able to do this yourself using fans, hair dryers, and such.  For larger areas, you may even be able to rent large-capacity dehumidifiers to dry our surrounding wood, carpet, and other materials.  However, you may wish to call professionals anyway to ensure proper drying as they have tools for measuring moisture, and you don’t want any moisture left after the drying process is completed.  And, if in doubt, it is normally best to call for professional drying services.  This is especially true for large areas of damage.  Professionals may be able to save furniture and fixtures that you might otherwise have to replace.

Remove and toss damaged porous materials!

Porous materials such as carpeting, padding, insulation, fabrics, and such may need to be removed and disposed of.  Water can permanently damage most porous materials by shrinking or warping them, and mold will damage them even worse.  Again, if in doubt, call a professional to see what can be done about saving the material or furniture.  Drying it out quickly with the right equipment may save it!

Water on floor!

Disinfect the remaining materials as necessary!

Once all the damaged material needed to be removed has been removed, all mold and mildew is removed, and drying has been completed, you should disinfect the entire area before restoration is begun. While this may not be necessary in the event of a small clean water damage event, it is critical for gray and black water flooding events.  In any case, when in question, disinfection should be done to help make sure there are no mold spores lingering behind.  

Most commonly, a bleach/water solution is used to do this by lighting spraying it all over the contaminated area and quickly wiping it off, one small area at a time so that the disinfectant doesn’t soak in or dry before it is wiped off.  There are many available disinfectants that can be used.  If in doubt, call professionals for this.  Professionals will use commercial cleaning products designed specifically for mold and mildew removal.

So now it’s time to repair the damage!

Where do you start?  Ceilings!  Ceilings exposed to water damage are more at risk due to gravity causing them to sag or collapse.  So, start there when applicable. Remove any affected ceiling panels or boards first. And as we said in the beginning, make sure you understand what caused the damage in the first place, such as a leaky pipe or damaged roof, and ensure that problem has been solved and cannot cause further damage.  We assume that has already been done long before we got this far.

  • Take time to make sure that the water didn’t cause any structural damage to beams or rafters. If in doubt, call professionals.
  • Replace all damaged wood!

All severely warped wood, rotted wood, and wood with mold/mildew problems, must be replaced.  You will need to pry apart damaged boards and thoroughly clean beneath them before replacing them.  And if the wood is a structural component of your house, you must be very careful when replacing it so that the structure is not compromised.

Install new floors as necessary!

From wet carpets to swollen floorboards, it’s often evident when water has damaged your floor. But if you aren’t sure, it’s important to check immediately in case moisture has become trapped underneath. Note that underlayment and padding are particularly susceptible to water damage and must usually be removed. However, this also presents an opportunity to install new, waterproof flooring in the area. Ceramic tile, high-end vinyl, and certain engineered wood materials can all help protect floors against future water damage repair.  If in doubt, ask a professional.

Replace damaged drywall.

Things are calming down now and you’re nearly out of the woods.  You will need to replace damaged drywall which should have already been removed in the damage mitigation phase.  How much drywall to remove and replace is a question you will have to answer. Generally speaking, if drywall has swelled or sagged 3/8” or more from the baseline, then you will need to replace the entire sheet.  Otherwise you can cut out and replace water-stained portions.  And, don’t forget to check the condition of any insulation existing behind damaged drywall.  Also, and again, if in doubt, call a professional!

For significant damage, check your insurance.

If you have significant damage, check your homeowner’s insurance to see what type of water damage is covered.  Repairs can be very expensive, and even with insurance, you will most likely have to pay a deductible amount that can be substantial.

When you decide that you need professional help, who do you call?  Read This!