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Cleaning Basement Floors After Water Damage

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020
water damage cleanup

Because water naturally finds its way to the lowest point inside a home, basement water damage is a frequent occurrence. Water inundation into a basement can result from household plumbing leaks, sewage backups and infiltration of ground water in the soil.

Basement water damage clean-up is a multi-stage project. If the basement is simply wet, DIY clean-up is doable.  However, if deeper standing water is present—or if the source is toxic—it’s best to contact water damage professionals.

First, Be Safe

Wet basements can be dangerous if electrical wiring or outlets have been contacted by water. Before entering a wet or flooded basement, have an electrician verify that it’s safe.

Next, determine the source of the water. Sewage backups often affect basement drains first. Raw sewage presents a serious toxic contamination hazard. Avoid any contact with the water and stay out of the basement to avoid inhaling fumes. Contact professional water damage experts to handle toxic clean-up. 

Cleaning Up

If the basement environment is safe to enter here are some suggestions for cleaning basement floors:

  • If pooling water is less than an inch deep, you may use a wet/dry vacuum or a portable sump pump to extract water from the basement. Mop up lesser amounts of residual water.
  • Open windows and run fans and a dehumidifier to help dry out the basement.  
  • Remove any basement carpeting or other absorbent materials that have been saturated. These will usually have to be discarded as cleaning and disinfection isn’t practical.
  • Assuming that basement floor drains are present and functional, wash away any residue with a hose or other water source. Then scrub the floor using a floor broom and a mixture of soapy warm water.  Rinse thoroughly.  
  • Disinfection is a critical part of basement water damage cleanup. Dormant mold spores common in basements are activated by moisture. In less than 48 hours, spores begin producing active growing mold that eventually spreads contamination throughout the house. Scrub the floor with a mixture of chlorine bleach and water to kill spores, then rinse again.
  • Continue operating fans and ventilating the basement until it is dry.

Water Mitigation Versus Restoration: What’s the Difference?

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020
water mitigation versus restoration

Dealing with water damage typically involves two phases: water mitigation and restoration. Most water damage incidents evolve from a time-critical crisis into a more predictable stage of repair and recovery. Research has shown that best results are achievable when this sequence of events is properly managed. In most cases, water mitigation and restoration techniques will be executed by a single company equipped and certified to handle all phases of the process and deliver optimum results.

Read on for definitions of the terms “water mitigation” and “restoration.”  

Mitigation is the fast, first response to an immediate emergency.  It is designed to address present water damage issues and put a stop to the process of further damage. Specialized equipment and proven techniques are immediately applied to address these specific issues:

  • Locate and stop the source of water if it’s still occuring.  
  • Establish safe conditions inside the house by identifying and resolving dangers like electrical hazards or collapsing ceilings.
  • Utilize high-volume water extractors to rapidly remove the major amount of water from the house.  
  • Remove soaked materials such as carpeting, mattresses and other absorbent items from the house.
  • Deploy industrial-grade dehumidifiers to prevent secondary damage due to spread of water vapor.  
  • Protect from further damage if necessary by taking actions such as installing roof tarps, boarding up windows, etc.  

Restoration is the longer-term process of total drying inside the structure, as well as neutralizing secondary effects of water damage. The goal of recovery is to fully restore the indoor environment to the status it was before the water damage incident occurred. These are some of the basic elements:

  • Replacement of permanently damaged materials like soaked drywall and flooring that cannot be restored to previous quality.  
  • Restoring damaged structural areas such as the roof.  
  • Utilizing moisture-detection technology to locate and eliminate any residual moisture in areas such as inside wall cavities and other hidden zones.  
  • Applying mold prevention techniques throughout the house. This will likely include later follow-up air samples to verify that mold is not an issue.
  • Testing to confirm that established industry standards for full drying inside the house have been met.   

Eight Facts About Drywall Water Damage

Thursday, January 16th, 2020
drywall water damage

It’s no surprise that water damage to drywall is common.  Lightweight, durable, non-combustible and quickly installed, drywall, also known as gypsum board, is the most prevalent building material in American homes today. However, drywall and water don’t always get along. While the material readily withstands random splashes and drips, drywall is often one of the first casualties of serious home water damage.  

A whopping 20 billion square feet of drywall is installed in North America each year— most for construction of residential walls and ceilings. Here are eight facts from the Gypsum Association regarding drywall water damage:

  • The first priority must be identifying the source of water and eliminating it. In addition to obvious scenarios such as flooding, damage may occur from hidden sources such as leaky plumbing pipes routed through wall cavities and above ceilings—both areas typically enclosed by drywall.  
  • To reduce the likelihood of mold growth occurring in wet drywall, effective drying techniques must be initiated within 24 to 48 hours following the water damage incident.
  • Proper ventilation, continuous indoor dehumidification and adequate air circulation with fans are essential elements in drying out wet drywall.
  • Drywall is very absorbent. If the source of water damage is toxic such as raw sewage, affected drywall must be replaced to ensure toxins are fully removed from the indoor environment.  
  • Physical damage due to water exposure is also an indicator of replacement. Drywall that has lost structural integrity and is bulging or sagging cannot be restored and must be replaced.
  • Other signs of deterioration due to drywall water damage include rust on fasteners used to secure drywall as well as delamination of the outer layers of paper from the internal gypsum material.   
  • Moisture meter readings must be taken to verify that the internal gypsum material is fully dried. If meter readings are not consistent, laboratory testing of samples is recommended to ensure that the drying process is complete.
  • Deciding to replace drywall may depend on some or all of the above factors.  However, if doubt still remains about whether or not to replace wet drywall, the Gypsum Association recommends opting for replacement. 

How Long Does Water Damage Take to Occur?

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020
water damage

Most people associate water damage with an isolated incident, such as a ruptured pipe or overflowing appliance. However, it’s actually a dynamic process that continues to worsen over time unless intervention by water damage recovery professionals is applied.  Interior building materials and construction methods are generally not waterproof. Therefore, water loose inside a structure travels far and fast, causing damage wherever it goes. During that time frame, the clock is also ticking on serious secondary consequences such as toxic mold contamination.

While the extent of damage depends upon factors such as the origin and volume of the water, the general timeline is fairly predictable. Here’s how a bad water damage incident becomes worse as time passes.  

The First Minutes 

Absorbent materials such as drywall, carpeting, mattresses and padded furniture in the immediate vicinity of the incident will be soaked and retain water. Paper possessions such as books, photographs and other items stored near the floor may be saturated and permanently ruined. Water pooling on hard surface floors may begin to spread beneath baseboards.  

After One Hour

Water damage continues to expand beyond the immediate space where the event occurred, infiltrating the interior of walls and seeping into adjacent rooms. Paint on wet walls will begin blistering.  If the damage originated on an upper floor, water may be dripping through ceilings into rooms below by now.  Spreading water may contact electrical wiring or outlets, presenting a potential electrocution hazard inside affected rooms.

After Several Hours

Household flooring will be permeated by standing water and moisture will saturate the plywood sub-floor below. Soaked drywall in walls or ceilings may lose structural integrity and swell, sag and possibly collapse. Seepage of water may continue downwards into the basement, damaging HVAC components and infiltrating ductwork.

The Next Day

Moisture contacting dormant spores present in any structure begins triggering active mold growth. This will be followed by release of airborne reproductive spores, spreading contamination throughout the enclosed indoor environment. Pungent odors caused by mold and mildew permeate the house. Metal appliances and electrical wiring that have been wet now begin to rust, corrode or deteriorate.   

What Is Rising Damp?

Thursday, January 9th, 2020
rising damp

“Rising damp” may sound like the name of an Eighties metal band. However, it’s actually a phenomenon that occurs inside homes which can cause noticeable water damage as well as impact the overall health of the indoor environment. Expressed simply, rising damp is moisture that is absorbed upwards into the structure of a home from an ongoing source of wetness somewhere below.

How Does It Happen?

Moisture accumulating underneath a structure may be drawn upwards into certain absorbent building materials, most notably drywall, plaster, and masonry. Think of it as the effect of water being sucked up by a dry paper towel.

Where Does the Moisture Come From?

Groundwater rising up beneath the house keeps the crawl space underneath chronically wet. This moisture may be gradually soaked up into structural materials above.

A chronically wet basement due to seepage from outdoor soil, frequent flooding, or even plumbing leaks, may also provide a water source that migrates upwards into the structure.

What Are the Consequences?

Rising moisture content inside building materials gradually deteriorates the material. You may first notice that affected walls always feel damp. This typically progresses to flaking paint, peeling wallpaper, and eventually decomposing, stained drywall.

Chronically damp building materials indoors also provide a focal point for mold growth. Airborne spores released by growing mold spread contamination throughout the house and may trigger allergic reactions in susceptible individuals.

How Can It Be Treated?

Eiminate the moisture source.

  • The crawl space should have a plastic cover installed atop the soil to prevent intrusion of rising ground moisture, as well as adequate ventilation.
  • Reduce seepage through basement walls by grading landscape to divert pooling rainwater away from the house perimeter. A french drain installed in the ground can also remove excess soil water. Seal obvious cracks or leaks in basement walls that admit water.
  • Water permeating through the basement floor can be removed by a sump pump.
  • Identify and repair plumbing leaks.

Chronically moist and/or moldy sections of drywall in the house may be unrepairable. However, they can be cut out and replaced with new material.

What Causes Wet Walls?

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020
wet walls

If you’re noticing wet walls in your home, there are several possible explanations. Whatever the cause turns out to be, you’ll want to take a proactive approach to remedy the problem because chronic wet walls in a house seldom get better by themselves. In fact, they usually become more damaged as time passes.

Place the palm of your hand against the wall. If it feels damp and typically noticeably cooler than the house in general, that’s probably an indicator of wet walls. Other signs may be speckled black or gray evidence of mold growth or mildew on the wall, as well as flaking paint. In more severe chronic cases, powdery, deteriorating drywall may be evident.

Here are some of the most common causes of wet walls inside a house and what can be done to solve the problem:

  • High indoor humidity. All homes produce water vapor inside the house. If the humidity level rises too high, condensation can occur on walls, keeping those surfaces damp or outright wet. Depending on the indoor temperature, condensation may develop on surfaces when humidity levels in the house exceed 50%. Exhaust fans in rooms that produce water vapor—kitchens and bathrooms—help reduce indoor humidity. For a more comprehensive solution, a whole-house dehumidifier can be installed in HVAC ductwork.
  • Wet basement. Dampness due to a chronically wet basement may migrate upwards into the house. This ongoing source of moisture keeps large flat surfaces in the house, such as walls, damp, particularly when the house structure is cooler in winter. Identify sources of basement moisture—seepage of ground water, plumbing leaks, etc.—and repair to reduce infiltration of moisture into living spaces.
  • Leaky plumbing. Various plumbing pipes are located inside wall cavities. While a severe pipe rupture will cause the wall to deteriorate rapidly and water to enter the room, subtle chronic pipe leakage may cause a wet or damp wall generally limited to the area where the pipe is routed. A plumber can use a moisture meter to check the moisture level inside the wall and pinpoint the problem.

What to Do About a Leaking Waste Pipe

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019
leaking waste pipe

A leaking waste pipe can be a minor event or a significant cause of water damage, depending on where the leak occurs. The waste pipe is a larger diameter pipe into which smaller household drain pipes connect. Typically, the waste pipe receives drain water from the shower, tub, sinks, washing machine, and similar sources. A waste pipe does not convey water from the toilet.

Waste pipes are routed underneath the house— beneath the floor or through the crawl space or basement—and may have many drain connections along the route to the main household sewer line. Depending on local building codes, the waste pipe may be black ABS plastic specified for sewer piping, while the smaller drain pipes connecting to it from individual fixtures can be white PVC plastic.

How Will You Know There’s a Leak?

A leaking waste pipe can be hard to detect and trace. Wastewater flowing through the pipe isn’t under pressure, so leaks may be subtle rather than obvious. Visually inspecting the crawl space and basement may reveal evidence of dripping, such as wet spots or pools of water.  

Waste pipe leaks may continue unnoticed for a long time, damaging the adjacent wood structure and providing favorable conditions for mold growth.

Where Is the Leak?

Because of the difficult location beneath the house and the multiple connections to various drains, locating waste pipe leaks can be very difficult. This is typically a job for a qualified professional plumber—not a DIY project.

  • Leakage that appears to originates from the waste pipe may actually be coming from a joint in a drain pipe in the house above. Leaking water may run down the drain pipe and appear to drip from the waste pipe.
  • Leakage at joints in the waste pipe itself may be repaired by cutting out the affected section of pipe and gluing in a new section and joint.
  • Another possible leak location is the junction where the waste pipe connects to the house main sewer pipe. A coupling or bushing at that point may fail and begin leaking—another case that requires the services of a plumber.

Quick Facts About Snow and Water Damage

Thursday, December 26th, 2019
water damage

Sources of water damage don’t always come in liquid form—not at first, at least. Snow is a good example. In winter, a powdery, fluffy snowfall is good material for snowballs or a snowman. However, as we all know, it doesn’t stay that way indefinitely. Eventually, the melting process turns all that snow on and around your home into water.

One inch of snow on a typical residential roof melts into about 100 gallons of water. That’s not much compared to heavy rainfall. Nevertheless, several aspects specifically relating to snow make it a real factor in winter-related home damage.

Melting Snow and Seepage

Rainwater runs quickly off the roof and into gutters. Snow often melts gradually, however, applying a more ongoing source of water to shingles and roof structure. Over a longer time frame, slow seepage from snowmelt on the roof may infiltrate through small leaks and into the attic where it can saturate insulation, cause mold growth, and other damage. 

Ice Dams

Melting snow on the roof doesn’t necessarily stay that way. As runoff reaches the lower, often colder portions of the roof, the snowmelt may re-freeze, forming ice dams. These obstacles obstruct the flow of runoff into gutters, causing water to pool on the roof. Shingles and roofing materials are designed to shed moving water—not to resist water pooling. Water penetrates roofing materials, causing damage in the attic and perhaps dripping all the way down through the ceiling into living spaces.

Ground Saturation

Snow on the ground can also be an issue. Slow-melting snow seeping deep into the ground can oversaturate the soil immediately adjacent to the home’s foundation. This process can undermine a slab foundation or penetrate basement walls and cause water damage, mold growth, etc., inside the basement.  

Roof Damage

Another characteristic of snow is its surprising and potentially damaging weight. One foot of snow deposited on the roof of an average size home will typically weigh over 18,000 pounds. Extreme weight can damage shingles and the roof structure, leading to water intrusion inside the house.

Where Should I Start in Assessing Water Damage

Tuesday, December 24th, 2019
water damage recovery

Professional water damage recovery entails an in-depth inspection of the affected house. Since the water you can actually see is only a small part of the damage, professionals conduct the assessment with the help of a variety of specialized technology to detect and track hidden moisture inside the structure. This involves all spaces in the house, including areas usually out of sight like the attic and crawl space.

Saturated building materials will be evaluated, as well, for drying or replacement.  Water vapor content in the indoor air is also a factor in secondary damage, so that will be tracked, too, throughout the process of water damage recovery.

As a homeowner faced with the immediate consequences of water damage, you can perform a basic assessment of the status quo by taking into account these factors:

  • Has the source of water been eliminated or stopped? If the damage is due to a ruptured pipe, for example, you need to verify that the water to the house has been shut off at the main valve. If not, and you’re unable to do it yourself, a plumber should be summoned immediately.
  • What is the source of the water? Try to determine if the water is relatively clean Category 1 water, such as would come from a broken water supply line. Category 2 water would include discharge or overflows from washing machines or dishwashers or water seeping in from the outdoors. Category 3 is water inundation from outdoor flooding or raw sewage from a sewer backup into the house and is considered toxic.  
  • How far has the water apparently spread? Water begins migrating deeper into the structure immediately. Note any signs of water damage in other rooms or parts of the house removed from the original flooding or water incursion.
  • Safety must also be taken into consideration. Note the condition of the structure, such as saturated drywall in walls or ceilings that are sagging and may collapse. If electricity is still on, wet rooms may be unsafe due to possible electric shock. An electrician should be called to cut off the power to affected areas.

Four Worst In-Home Plumbing Disasters

Thursday, December 19th, 2019
Plumbing Disasters

A plumbing emergency is a special kind of crisis. If leakage is limited to a small pool on the hard surface floor of a single room, without migrating under baseboards or leaking to a lower level, you may be able to handle clean-up yourself. An amount exceeding that—or any amount of toxic sewage—requires the services of water damage recovery professionals.

Here are four plumbing emergency events you’d rather not experience:

Water Supply Line Rupture

Leakage from only a 1/8-inch crack in a typical indoor water supply line can exceed 250 gallons in a day.  Indoor damage may be widespread. Know in advance where and how to turn off the main water valve to the house if a pipe rupture occurs. Apparently “minor” pinhole pipe leaks can be a red flag warning of impending pipe failure. Call a plumber to diagnose and repair all supply line leaks promptly.

Broken Washing Machine Hose

Rubber washing machine supply hoses become brittle over time. Eventually, they are prone to rupture, releasing hundreds of gallons of water, often before you’re aware of it. It’s a good idea to reach behind the machine and turn off the water valves when the unit’s not in use. Even better is to replace rubber washing machine hoses with braided stainless steel lines that are more resilient and reliable.  

Sewage Backup

Sewage reflux into the house is a toxic contamination issue. Category 3 raw sewage, also known as black water, contains biological and chemical contaminants that present an immediate danger to residents. Clean-up and disinfection must be performed by professionals. Residents should avoid any direct contact with sewage and even breathing the air in contaminated rooms may be hazardous.  

Toilet Overflow

It combines a feeling of panic and embarrassment with an often disagreeable clean-up experience. All residents should be familiar with the water shut-off valve usually located behind the tank, near the floor. If a toilet overflow occurs, turn off the valve as quickly as possible to limit spillage. Once or twice a year, test the valve to make sure it still operates easily.