We’ll take you through the key considerations and action steps involved in recovering from a water loss in the hope that we can offer a measure of clarity and help make a stressful, burdensome process just a little bit easier.
Types of Water Damage
Few catastrophes have the power to upend the flow of life and business in a home or workplace in the way that extensive water damage does. Whether by flood from a severe weather event, an internal breach or small incidents compounded over time, the cause of water damage matters less to the home or business owner than the bottom line: impact. A disabled commercial building is a loss of revenue, and an uninhabitable house is a major life disruption. Here we’ll take you through the key considerations and action steps involved in recovering from a water loss in the hope that we can offer a measure of clarity and help make a stressful, burdensome process just a little bit easier.
First, know your vulnerabilities. The primary contributors to water damage in the home and workplace are:
- Overland flood
- Pipe bursts
- Drain backup
- Major appliance malfunction
- Structural degradation due to deferred maintenance
No matter the size or source of early water damage, it is imperative to act at the first sign of a problem. Investigate immediately and address the source of the problem expeditiously. Engage a professional to help you determine the true extent of the damage and perform repairs as soon as possible. Deferring this maintenance will no doubt cost you much more down the line.
Be prepared. Click here to download your water and flood guide and checklist.
Water Damage Categories
Category 1: Clean water
Sources: Treated water supply lines, appliance malfunction, sink overflow.
Level of contamination: Low
Category 1 water is the easiest to manage. Be sure to address any damage within 24-48 hours to reduce the likelihood of potentially hazardous microbial growth.
Category 2: Gray Water
Sources: Rainwater inifiltration, sprinkler systems, untreated HVAC/cooling water.
Level of contamination: Slight to severe.
Category 2 water may pose an elevated health risk to those dealing with cleanup. In some cases, it may appear cloudy or carry an unpleasant odour. Loss of some property and materials is likely.
Category 3: Black Water
Source: Sewer backflow, Storm drain backups, ALL overland flooding (from rivers, ponds, streams, the ocean).
Level of contamination: High
Category 3 water is very likely to carry infectious viruses and bacteria, parasites, and toxic and allergenic materials. Any floodwater from any source that passes over the ground is contaminated. This type of water may be identified by a cloudy appearance, the presence of debris, and a strong odour. Clean up and restoration efforts after Category 3 water damage can be very difficult and will require extreme care regarding contaminants. Most materials will be unsalvageable.
Once the immediate reaction to a crisis is handled, you’ll be left with a mess to clean up. Here’s a quick checklist to get you started:
- Prioritize safety. Until the category of water is known, keep people and pets away from the affected area. Anyone coming in contact with floodwater should wear personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Remove standing water as quickly as possible. Depending on the amount and category of water you are handling, this may require specialized pumps, a wet vac and/or mopping. Materials that have come into contact with Category 2 or 3 water will require extensive cleaning, sanitization and drying. Testing for hazardous materials (lead, asbestos, etc.) may also be necessary. These processes are best handled by a professional team.
- Document, document, document. Photos, video and detailed, itemized lists are your best allies should you need to file an insurance claim. Also document any efforts at loss prevention.
- Remove all furniture and items from the impacted area. Document each item and detail its damage.
- Look for signs of bound water – water suspended in the ceiling or wall – and release it by cutting small holes for drainage. Any wallpaper or wall coverings must be removed to allow the area to fully dry. A “flood cut,” or removal of a portion of drywall (usually the bottom few feet), may be necessary to completely dry any materials housed behind it.
- Begin the dehumidification Very high humidity levels can cause damage far beyond the area directly impacted by the water. Air movement, light and dehumidification are your biggest allies in the drying process.
- Mould is now the chief concern. Mould can begin to grow in just 48 hours after a flood. Improperly handled, it can cause sickness. Take the necessary steps (drying, treating, testing, etc.) to keep your home or workplace safe. A professional will be able to assess your situation and identify the necessary response.
- Find areas of the building that are not easily accessible to dry. Make sure that every area affected and every type of material affected is known; each will have its own drying time.
- Do not begin repairs or restoration efforts until all areas are completely dry. Trapped moisture will very likely lead to greater problems down the line: hazardous conditions, business downtime or an impact to the resale value of your house. A professional team will have specialized tools to handle this: hygrometers, moisture meters, infrared cameras, and – most helpful of all – a wealth of training and experience.
Embarking on the repair and restoration process can be overwhelming. Where to start? What can be salvaged? Should different materials be used in the rebuild to mitigate future damage if you should suffer a repeat loss?
To offer an idea of what to expect when initiating a restoration effort, we’ve compiled some quick tips on salvageability and the repair process by area of concern:
Water Damage Repair
Flooring Repair / Flooring Water Damage Repair
When trying to salvage and repair flooring, the necessary first step is to identify the extent of the damage. Has water reached the baseboards? The subfloor? If these are wet, swollen or warped, they will need to be completely dried and, in some cases, replaced.
- Carpet – In almost all cases, carpet padding will need to be replaced. Good quality carpet in good condition may be salvageable in instances of Category 1 water damage. It must always be replaced after exposure to Category 2 water.
- Hardwood & engineered wood – These materials will swell after contact with water and will take a long time to dry. They may be able to be sanded and refinished to be reused.
- Ceramic tile – Tile is extremely resistant to water damage. If the water should travel underneath the tile to the subfloor, the tile would need to be pulled up to fully dry the underlying area.
- Laminate – Laminate flooring is ruined if it absorbs any substantial amount of water and almost always needs to be replaced.
- Vinyl sheeting – This material is quite resistant to water damage and is the least likely to need replacing. Should water get trapped between the sheeting and the subfloor, the vinyl would need to be pulled up to adequately dry.
Drywall Repair / Drywall Water Damage Repair
Structurally compromised drywall will need to be replaced. But in clean water situations, and if dealt with immediately, wet drywall can often be salvaged. A moisture meter can aid in measuring the extent of the damage. Cutting small, patchable weep holes at regular intervals will help to release any bound water and ventilate the inner wall. If the materials behind the wall (insulation, wooden studs, wiring, etc.) are wet, a “flood cut” or removal of a portion of drywall, may be necessary.
Ceiling Repair / Ceiling Water Damage Repair
Bound water – or water trapped in a ceiling or wall after an event – must be released. Cut weep holes in the ceiling where there are signs of sagging or delamination to let this water escape and to better ventilate the area. Replace any ceiling tiles with visible damage (discoloration, swelling, warping, etc.). Be sure to allow the affected area to dry completely before patching and restoring.
Basement Repair / Basement Water Damage Repair
As soon as a problem becomes apparent, the best move is to engage a professional to identify the extent of the damage and outline next steps. Basement repair is never simple or cheap. Even temporary solutions, such as epoxy-based fillers for cracks in the foundation or additional sump pumps and dehumidifiers, will always need to be re-addressed down the line. Working with an experienced, knowledgeable professional ensures the best possible outcome for your unique situation.
Furniture, Office Furniture & Technology Repair
Furniture and technology damage is often top of mind for those who have suffered a water loss, and with good reason: Judgments about the salvageability of these items are among the first that must be made. Damage to furniture from Category 1 water is often able to be remedied. The items may be dried and judgments made on a case-by-case basis. Any soft goods or upholstered items that have come into contact with Category 2 or 3 water will likely need to be replaced. Depending on the extent of the damage, wooden furniture may be able to be dried, treated and restored. Technology and hardware – computers, phones, copiers, printers, etc. – do not fare well when it comes to water exposure.
The Bottom Line
In almost every situation involving water damage, we recommend working with a professional team. Having the job done correctly from day one saves time, confusion and, ultimately, expense. First Onsite can handle all of the necessary documentation, mitigation and recovery efforts to return your property to its pre-loss condition as quickly as possible. Our project managers communicate completely, giving you an idea of what to expect, a timeline, an estimate and a projected deadline. Throughout the recovery process, our clients can expect regular communication with a professional, experienced, knowledgeable and uniformed staff. We’re here for you every step of the way, every day.