Water Damage Do’s & Dont’s

All of us at Restorative Cleaning Solutions are pleased to provide you with this consumer information about water damage mitigation and how to choose a water damage mitigation company.  For a list of helpful links, read to the bottom of this page.

Under The law, it is your right to determine what company will perform work in your home or business. Some insurance carriers have “preferred contractors” that they recommend, who have agreements with the insurance companies to handle water losses in a certain manner, and at pre-determined prices. You should be aware that these companies often rely on these referrals from the insurance carriers for their company’s livelyhood.  This could create a conflict of interest. These companies may not hold the protection of your health and property as their top priority. Restorative Cleaning Solutions works for you; to protect your interest, not the insurance company’s.

Water damage mitigation is something that must be dealt with quickly and effectively. Most insurance policies not only cover the cost of water damage mitigation, but also require the policyholder to take the necessary steps to prevent secondary damages. Preventing the presence of mold is one of many concerns for those who have suffered from a water damage event, but it should not be the only, or primary concern. In fact, people have so many misconceptions about water damage and the potential for mold growth, that we decided to offer this consumer education message, so when you need to select a water damage mitigation company, you can make an informed intelligent decision.

I’ll share with you the steps you can take immediately following a water damage event to help minimize secondary damages as well as precautions that should be taken during water damage mitigation to protect your health and safety. Then, I’ll also give you seven questions you should ask a water damage mitigation company before you invite them into your home.

To start with, water damage mitigation is a specialized field that requires special protective measures, specialized equipment and testing capabilities as well as certain engineering controls to protect you and your property. Most restoration contractors know how to perform simple drying and site clean up. Experienced companies, such as Restorative Cleaning Solutions, know how to provide restoration services that protect not only the structure, but also you and your family’s health.

Water damage can be the starting point for many serious problems that can affect a building, damage personal property and present serious health risks to occupants. To restore property and protect health, a professional restoration contractor must carefully manage the project. He has to be knowledgeable in several disciplines… stopping bacteria from spreading, preventing mold growth, preventing secondary damage and saving the structure and its many contents. Additionally, he must be able to communicate to the water damage victims and insurance company representatives with confidence and authority. Water damaged structures can be the perfect breeding place for mold. Poor indoor ventilation can also cause molds to thrive. Wet building materials and humid indoor air are mold’s best friends.

Often, the do-it-your-selfer or less-experienced restoration company will compound problems during water damage by not understanding the proper steps and precautions that must be taken and how critical the passing of time is. The EPA says, “Stop the water leak quickly and begin restoration during the first 24 hours. It is important to dry water damaged areas and items within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth”.

While mold requires high humidity and/or wet surfaces in order to grow, it also requires a food source. Indoors, many molds grow on leather, paper and some building materials. Molds can also grow and thrive on bio-film such as cooking grease.

The most effective way to prevent mold growth on water damage losses is to begin the drying process quickly. Restoration companies who are aware of possible mold growth problems usually know how to dry structural materials with heat, air movement and by lowering the indoor relative humidity. This is an effective way to dry a building because material removal is minimized and mold growth is retarded.

Knowing how to determine exactly what is wet during a water loss is a critical part of the job. If areas of moisture are overlooked, molds and bacteria can grow. To protect your property and health, all of the moisture must be found and dealt with. Restorative Cleaning Solutions’ uses moisture sensors, as well as infrared technology, that is capable of “reading” wallboard, masonry and wood to find hidden moisture that is often impossible to detect any other way.

Sometimes water flows down the inside of wall cavities. Other times standing water will wick up a wall. Unless water stains appear this moisture could go undetected until molds and odor problems occur. This is one of the reasons a professional is equipped with the proper instruments to detect and locate wet areas before the drying process begins. Today’s restoration is more than drying wet carpets.

Let me explain the different types of water damage. The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration (IICRC) have developed the industry standard for water damage mitigation. The IICRC S-500. This document classifies water damage into three categories; Category 1, category 2 and category 3.

Category 1 or clean water is that in which the source of the water is from a clean water source such as a plumbing supply line.

Category 2 or gray water damage is that in which the source of the water may contain chemicals or other contaminates that could cause discomfort or sickness to the occupants. Some examples of this would be an appliance discharge, a broken waterbed or fish tank or overflows from toilet bowls.

Category 3 or Black water contains pathogenic agents and is grossly unsanitary. Examples include Toilet backflow that originate from beyond the toilet trap, flooding from seawater, ground surface water or rising water from rivers and streams. Category 2 water that is not removed promptly, may be re-classified as category 3 water.

When a sewage backup affects a structure, a unique set of restoration techniques must be employed to safely handle the situation. Federal, state and local government agencies agree that the best protocol of restoration is to follow the published standards and guidelines developed by the IICRC.

During sewage backups or other “black water loss”, large amounts of bacteria can enter the interior environment and pose potentially serious health risks to the occupants. In fact, the bacteria introduced to the structure could stay active for up to one month if left untreated. Advanced restoration methods are employed to rid the structure of all traces of sewage and make the structure clean and safe for occupancy.

In a black water loss, care must be taken to not disturb the bacteria in the water and make it airborne. When bacteria are contained in the water and not sent airborne, it is not easily breathable by restoration workers or occupants. This means that doors and windows should remain closed during clean up. The typical fans and blowers used to dry a structure that has experienced a “clean water loss” (non-sewage) should not be used in the early stages of a sewage clean-up project.

Negative air machines, equipped with HEPA filtration, are utilized to remove bacteria and other contaminants from the air during restoration work. Standing water and bulk sewage must be extracted with self-contained vacuum equipment with proper waste holding tanks. The waste is then disposed of at a sanitation station or, authorized dumping facility. Hard surfaces that are impacted must be cleaned and sanitized.  Soft structural materials such as carpeting, carpet paddings, plaster wallboard must be removed and properly disposed of.  Any material that absorbs substantial amounts of moisture and cannot be adequately cleaned must be removed. Once contaminated materials have been removed a second application of sanitizers must be applied to all work surfaces.

As you can see, time is of the essence when dealing with a water damage event. Steps that you can take to minimize the damages and protect your family are:

Eliminate the source of water if possible, or contact appropriate parties to eliminate the water source or to make necessary repairs. Keep any parts that are replaced for your insurance company inspection.

If there is no risk of electrical shock, turn off circuit breakers supplying electricity to wet areas; unplug and remove any small electrical devices currently located on wet floor coverings or other wet surfaces.

Remove and secure small furniture items to minimize rust or other stains and expedite restoration.

Place aluminum foil under legs of wood furniture, especially antiques that may permanently stain carpet.

Hang draperies and pin up furniture skirts as possible to prevent contact with wet floor coverings, minimizing damage such as water marks, browning, dye transfer or migration.

Remove books, shoes, paper goods, fabrics, potted plants or other items that may stain the carpet (check especially under beds and in closets for these items).

Remove and secure breakables, moisture sensitive or high-value items.

Make plans for restoration crews to remove large furniture items from affected areas. Don’t forget the china cabinet, entertainment center, waterbeds or aquariums!

Be aware that time is a crucial factor, and delays in loss mitigation and restoration may result in adverse health and safety effects, and additional damage to the structure and contents.

In Category 2 and Category 3 Water Damage you should also:

Turn off the HVAC or air handling system if safely accessible.

Protect yourself against contact with sewage or sewage-contaminated items.

Wear gloves, boots, goggles, protective clothing and a respirator if you absolutely have to perform any cleaning or handling of sewage-contaminated items.

Wash your hands after handling any sewage-contaminated items.

Contact your doctor if you have any adverse health effects.

Things that you should not do include:

Use your home vacuum (wet/dry vacuum) since electrical shock may result, as well as damage to the equipment itself.

Place newspaper on wet surfaces since newspaper ink transfers easily.

Walk on wet surfaces any more than necessary in order to minimize safety hazards and to keep from spreading damage and possible contaminants.

Activate the HVAC system if it has been directly contacted by water, or if it might serve as a means of spreading contamination.

Adjust indoor air temperatures unless instructed by a qualified restoration technician.

Enter an area that has standing water because of the potential for electrical shock hazards.

In category 2 or 3 water damage do not:

Consume any food that has been left out in a contaminated environment.

Use personal hygiene items that have been left out in a contaminated environment.

Turn on fans to dry things out.

Do not stay in the building if you:

Have respiratory problems, including allergies and asthma.

You are under the age of 2 or over the age of 60.

Have a weakened immune system because of illness, medication or any other reason.

When selecting a Water damage mitigation company for your project consider the following:

Is the company a member in good standing of the Restoration Industry Association (RIA)

Does the company employ individuals that hold advanced certifications by industry trade associations such as the Water Loss Institute or the National Institute of Damage Restoration to perform water damage mitigation?

How many years of experience does the company have in the field of water damage mitigation?

Can they provide proof that the company is properly licensed and insured?

Does the company follow accepted standards for water damage mitigation such as those published by the IICRC?

Does the company have the necessary testing to locate areas of damage not visible to the naked eye?

Does the company have the necessary drying equipment to ensure a complete and competent mitigation?

As you can see, there is much more to water damage restoration than is often imagined. When water damage strikes, most persons are concerned with the wet carpets, which are usually a soggy mess. An experienced restoration contractor has many other concerns. After all, he knows anyone can rent or buy fans to dry a wet carpet. In fact, in recent years, carpet and carpet cushion have been designed and manufactured to withstand water. Using special microscopic textures on carpet fiber, many carpets are made to prevent molds from growing.

Today, with the widespread use of drywall vs. plaster, engineered wood products vs. wood, and the use of vinyl wall-coverings, moisture can become trapped and provide the needed environment for mold growth.   Appropriate management of these water problems is the key to reducing microbial growth to help to ensure the health of building and it’s occupants.

If you currently have an emergency situation, call us at 1-888-287-8755 and we will dispatch a crew to your location usually within the hour.  Our emergency services line is answered by a certified technician 24 hours a day; 365 per year. We invite you to give us a call and our trained customer service staff who are all certified mitigation specialists would be happy to assist you with any questions or coments.

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