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How Long Should I Use a Post-Leak Dehumidifier

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

water damage recovery

Comprehensive water damage recovery—including prevention of secondary effects such as mold contamination—means extracting all the moisture from the house. This includes the major volume of water you may see pooling on floors, saturating carpets, or flooding the basement. Powerful extractors, high-volume air movers, and pumps are utilized by water damage professionals during this phase. 

However, effective water damage recovery also means drying out the moisture you can’t see: seepage under and inside walls, wet building materials like drywall, saturated floor substrate, as well as damaging high water vapor content in the air. To remove those additional sources of water damage, use of high-volume professional dehumidifiers is critical.  

The Professional Approach

Consumer-grade home dehumidifiers typically can’t remove more than 5 to 7 gallons of water over a 24-hour period, an amount insufficient for significant damage. Commercial dehumidifiers utilized by water damage professionals extract over 20 gallons of water per day from indoor air and multiple units are typically deployed inside a water-damaged house. The ultra-dry indoor environment created by continuous dehumidification eliminates hidden water from the structure, draws absorbed moisture out of building materials, and keeps indoor humidity continuously low.

How Dry Is Dry Enough?

The question frequently arises about how long a dehumidifier needs to run after water damage. The only responsible answer is: “As long as it takes to dry the house.” There’s no set time requirement and duration can range from only 12 hours up to several weeks in very extreme circumstances. The volume of water involved, the extent of the spread inside the structure, the type of construction materials affected and other variables play a role. However, here are a few general guidelines:

  • In average cases, recovery professionals keep dehumidifiers and high-volume fans running continuously from 24 hours up to four days to achieve acceptable dryness. 
  • Moisture meter readings in various parts of the structure are one specification that determines dryness. Generally, moisture readings of 6% to 8% in specified building materials are considered dry.
  • To prevent the activation of mold growth, the indoor relative humidity should be effectively stabilized below 50%. 

7 Things to Know About Water Damage Mitigation

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020
water damage mitigation

Professional water damage mitigation is a science, backed up by ongoing research and development of new techniques and technology. For homes and other structures affected by water and accompanying consequences such as mold, our goal is a safe, healthy, and fully restored indoor environment. While each job is approached as an individual project, certain fundamental facts apply to the process of water damage mitigation overall. Here’s a sample of things every homeowner should know:

  • About 65% of water damage incidents originating indoors result from a plumbing system failure—usually, a ruptured water supply line. Appliance or fixture overflows are the number two most common cause and ruptured/leaking water heaters are third.
  • Water damage is a dynamic process. As the clock ticks, water penetrates ever-deeper into the structure of a house, saturating absorbent materials and triggering toxic mold growth.  
  • The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) has three categories of water damage. Category 1 is clean water from a sanitary origin such as a ruptured pipe. Category 2, known as “gray water,” refers to sources tainted with bacteria such as an overflowing washing machine or dishwasher. Category 3 “black water” is highly toxic sewage requiring extensive decontamination methods.
  • Drywall often doesn’t dry well. In just three hours, a half-inch of water contacting the bottom edge of a sheet of common drywall will be absorbed six inches upwards into the material. Saturated drywall usually needs to be cut out and replaced.
  • Dormant microscopic mold spores exist everywhere, outdoors and indoors. After contact with moisture, dormant spores begin converting into active toxic mold growth within just 48 hours. Successful mold remediation must, therefore, begin ASAP in combination with eliminating all sources of water and residual moisture.
  • Soaring humidity inside a water-damaged house is a significant cause of secondary damage, even in rooms not contacted by water. Professional dehumidifiers are continuously operated throughout the house and thermal hygrometers are utilized to track the humidity level during the recovery process.
  • Every successful water damage remediation project must meet published industry specifications for standards of structural dryness, indoor humidity reduction, and air sampling for mold contamination.

Can Furniture Survive Water Damage?

Thursday, June 25th, 2020
water damaged furniture

Among the first casualties of home water damage is furniture. It’s often constructed of absorbent materials and positioned at floor level where standing water accumulates. Furniture’s also vulnerable to high levels of indoor humidity common in the aftermath of water inundation.

There’s no all-purpose answer as to whether furniture affected by water damage is salvageable or not. In all cases, however, timely action to remove the furniture from the wet indoor environment and make a thorough evaluation is paramount. Other critical factors include:

Origin of the water. If water damage comes from a clean source like a ruptured supply pipe, saving affected furniture is more likely, assuming efforts begin rapidly. Water damage from contaminated sources like outdoor flooding or a sewage backup makes salvage unlikely if furniture has been in direct contact with water.

Duration of exposure. The length of time furniture stays wet matters. However, no single time frame applies to all types. Composite wood-like particleboard commonly used in less expensive furniture degrades rapidly after water damage and frequently cannot be saved. Hardwood furniture, conversely, absorbs water much slower and can often be salvaged, though sanding and refinishing may be required to eliminate water stains. Vinyl plastic furniture is generally water-resistant and only requires cleaning with disinfectant and air-drying.

Is it worth it? Padded upholstered furniture may potentially be saved if the source of water is clean and does not permanently stain the material. However, making the decision largely depends on the value of the piece.

  • Upholstery will have to be stripped off the frame and cushions, then steam-cleaned with a disinfectant mixture.
  • The frame must be cleaned, disinfected, and dried. If the structure is composite wood, a wet frame usually deteriorates, glued joints disintegrate, etc.
  • Padding and cushions that have absorbed water will inevitably mildew and must be discarded and replaced.

Because salvaging fabric or upholstered furniture after water damage may not be worth the expense in many cases (valuable antiques and heirlooms may be exceptions) it’s a good idea to get an estimate from a professional furniture restorer before making a decision. 

Repairing Water Damaged Wood

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020
water damaged wood

Unlike some building materials, wood can be particularly susceptible to water damage. Cellulose fibers in porous wood absorb moisture quickly and dry very slowly. Staining also occurs and wood may be contaminated by saturation with raw sewage or toxic floodwater. Swelling and warping may permanently distort wooden materials.

The most vulnerable wooden materials with substantial value are typically hardwood flooring and wood paneling. In most cases, DIY methods are not sufficient to remedy significant water damage. Rapid treatment by qualified, equipped professionals is necessary to save or repair wood floors and wall coverings. Here’s a summary of what’s involved.   

Hardwood Floors

Action must begin as soon as possible following water damage to salvage affected hardwood floors.

  • Wet/dry vacuums and powerful extractors can remove pooling water and suck moisture out of the flooring. This may prevent saturation of the subfloor beneath.  
  • Air drying utilizes high-volume fans that direct airflow across the floor. Industrial dehumidifiers also accelerate drying.
  • If water has penetrated below flooring, portions or all of the floor require removal in order to dry the subfloor beneath and prevent wood rot and mold growth.  
  • Hardwood flooring planks may cup, warp, or buckle during drying. Sanding may restore a flat surface. If distortion is significant, however, affected planks will have to be replaced.
  • Sanding and re-staining may be required to erase stains caused by water damage.

Successfully drying hardwood flooring after water damage is very time-intensive. Several weeks of continuous air drying and humidity reduction may be necessary.

Wood Paneling

If wood paneling is affected by water damage, the wall structure behind it is likely wet, too. Wet paneling must be removed to access the drywall and internal wall cavity. Saturated drywall requires replacement and the wall cavity must be dried and disinfected to prevent mold contamination.

Some wood paneling may be successfully dried without warping if the drying process is slow and natural. After removing the baseboard, individual panels can be taken down and wiped clean with disinfectant. Panels should be separately placed upright, away from direct sunlight, HVAC vents, or other factors that might accelerate drying and induce warping. 

Dealing With Basement Water After a Downpour

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

Insurance industry statistics include the startling fact that 98% of homes with a basement will experience basement water damage at some time. Frequently, the damaging water originates from heavy rain outside. As ground surrounding the house becomes deeply saturated during a downpour, wet soil presses inward against basement walls and leakage becomes more likely. An extended period of rain may also temporarily raise the level of natural groundwater, causing hydrostatic pressure that pushes seepage upward through the basement floor.

Chronic rain-related basement water damage can deteriorate basement walls and floor, spawn toxic mold growth inside the space, and ruin wiring and other house electrical components. Appliances like washing machines installed there—as well as valuable possessions stored in the basement—are also at risk.

Here are some suggestions to help prevent basement water damage:

  • Keep gutters clean and intact. During rain, water from clogged and/or leaky gutters pounds the ground around the perimeter of the house and leaks into the basement.  
  • Install downspout extenders. Where basement water damage is a problem, gutter downspout extenders should be installed to discharge water at least five feet from the house.
  • Grade landscape away from the house. Proper grading drains pooling water that saturates soil away from the foundation and basement walls. For adequate drainage to prevent basement water damage, the ground should be graded to establish a downward slope away from the house of about six inches over the first 10 feet.
  • Have basement walls repaired. Various DIY brush-on sealants can be applied to basement walls to help inhibit leakage during rain. However, these methods are unlikely to be totally effective unless cracks and gaps in the walls are located and professionally repaired first.
  • Get a sump pump. A sump pump installed in the basement floor helps prevent basement water damage in two ways. As rising groundwater during heavy rain is collected in the sump basin, the pump automatically actuates to remove water and discharge it away from the house. A sump pump also protects against basement flooding from interior sources such as ruptured water supply lines.

Does Insurance Cover Mold Damage?

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020
mold damage

Mold damage in homes is common, but is it commonly covered by standard homeowner’s insurance? Like so many questions about insurance coverage, this typical answer frequently applies to mold damage, too: “It depends.”

Specific circumstances surrounding mold contamination issues can spell the difference between fair insurance compensation and having to pay for the damage out of your own pocket. Here are some examples of when homeowner’s insurance coverage applies to mold damage and when it doesn’t.  

Sudden and Accidental” Incidents

This represents the largest category of mold damage that does qualify for coverage under a standard homeowner’s policy. Water damage inside the house is the most common cause of mold. The “sudden and accidental” term applies to unforeseeable water damage incidents such as sudden pipe breakage, an appliance overflow, or a ruptured water heater. Another cause that qualifies under this category is mold due to water released by firefighters extinguishing a fire in the house.

Maintenance Issues and Chronic Causes

Mold may be caused by ongoing problems that aren’t recognized and/or not responsibly addressed by the homeowner. This includes scenarios like a roof leak that isn’t repaired in a timely manner or neglected household plumbing maintenance. When mold ensues after one of these preventable causes, coverage under a standard homeowner’s policy will usually be denied.  

Certain circumstances beyond the homeowner’s control may also rule out compensation for mold damage. For example, if mold growth is triggered by high humidity which is a natural feature of the local climate, insurance compensation for mold remediation will be denied. 

Are There Other Options?

In certain cases, insurance companies offer a special mold endorsement to a standard homeowner’s policy that includes many types of contamination not usually covered. This is available at an increased yearly premium.

What About Flooding?

Water damage and resultant mold contamination due to outdoor flooding or inundation from severe storms aren’t covered by homeowner’s insurance. Insurance coverage for damage caused by flooding is provided by the National Flood Insurance Program, a program administered by the federal government and available to all homeowners.  

Minimizing Water Damage to Wood Flooring

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020
water damage

The beauty and resilience of wood flooring has one drawback: water damage. Hardwood floors and water simply don’t play well together. The natural composition of wood fibers makes the floor absorbent and susceptible to water damage. However, the unexpected presence of water on your floor is not necessarily always a worst-case scenario.  

If the volume of water involved is limited to minor pooling that doesn’t extend under baseboards, and you’re able to act fast, you may successfully avoid further complications common to wood flooring in more serious water damage incidents. If that doesn’t describe the situation you’re facing, however, contact qualified water damage professionals immediately to handle the job instead.

Here are some steps to take—quickly—to minimize water damage.

  • First, a no-brainer: Stop the source of water wherever it originated.
  • Now move everything out of the room. Start with anything that’s soaked and contacting the floor such as a sopping wet rug. Remove all furniture from the wet area to take the weight off the floor.
  • Mop up the major volume of water.
  • Use a wet/dry vacuum (available at home rental outlets) to remove additional water. Continue to vacuum the floor surface even after visible water is removed, applying suction to pull moisture out of wood pores.
  • Begin air drying. Use multiple fans to continuously circulate air. Tilt the fans to direct airflow to the floor surface.
  • Don’t run the furnace or use space heaters to accelerate drying. Excess heat will increase the likelihood that flooring planks will warp or cup following water damage.
  • Rent a dehumidifier. Place the unit in the center of the room and keep it running continuously for 24 hours, at least. Two or three days is preferable.
  • Keep foot traffic in the room to a minimum as drying proceeds.
  • Use a moisture meter—inexpensive at local home centers and easy to utilize—to check moisture content in the formerly wet area. At typical household temperatures, a reading of 6% to 9% is considered acceptably dry.
  • If discoloration occurs where the floor was wet, sanding and refinishing the entire floor after drying may be necessary to restore uniform appearance. 

How Much Water Damage Can Leaky Gutters Cause?

Thursday, June 4th, 2020
leaky gutters

Every year during the rainy season, your home’s gutter and downspout system effectively prevents costly water damage by safely collecting and diverting thousands of gallons of roof runoff.

Except, that is, when it doesn’t. Damage due to clogged or leaking gutters as well as downspout problems is unsightly, destructive, and, typically, expensive to repair. Here are some examples of how gutter and downspout issues can trigger home water damage from the roof to the basement. 

Exterior Wall Damage

A clogged gutter filled with stagnant water becomes very heavy, bending its mounting brackets and often permanently damaging the fascia board around the roof where the gutter attaches to the house. The gutter itself may also sag and segments may disconnect due to the extreme weight.

Overflow from clogged gutters often runs down the outside of the exterior wall. This causes damage in several ways:

  • Unsightly staining of wood or vinyl siding on exterior walls as well as permanent discoloration of brick and mortar.
  • Exterior walls are generally rain- and splash-resistant, but not designed to resist a continuous cascade from a clogged, overflowing gutter during heavy rain. Water infiltrating behind the siding causes internal damage, including rot and mold growth concealed within the wall structure.    

Foundation and Basement Issues

Overflow impacting the ground directly beneath clogged gutters typically penetrates deeply into the soil and may cause multiple water damage consequences.   

  • Pooling water around the perimeter of the foundation during every rain can eventually undermine the slab and cause cracking or other deterioration.
  • Over-saturated soil exerts excess pressure on basement walls, triggering cracks and leakage into the basement that causes indoor water damage and mold.  
  • Pounding water from clogged gutters frequently excavates a deep rut in the ground directly below, forming continuous pooling that gradually penetrates the foundation or basement.
  • Landscaping beneath chronically overflowing gutters is often uprooted and destroyed.  

Downspout Issues

Where gutter downspouts are too short, roof runoff may be discharged too close to the house. As absorption deep into the soil occurs, foundation and basement water damage may result. 

How to Treat Mold Inside Walls

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020
mold inside walls

Discovering a mold problem anywhere inside a house is never good news. Mold inside walls, however, is particularly problematic. Microscopic mold spores in wall cavities typically remain dormant unless/until moisture triggers the spores into active growth mode. Potential internal moisture sources include seepage from plumbing pipes routed through the wall, water from roof leaks dripping downward into walls, recent flooding or other significant water damage.

What Are the Signs?

A mold problem inside a wall may become extensive before it becomes obvious. Signs of possible contamination include:

  • Persistent musty odor that is strongest in a certain room.
  • Black spotting on walls where internal mold growth has penetrated through the drywall.  

What If You Suspect Mold Inside Walls?

Direct visual examination to confirm a suspected mold problem typically requires cutting access holes of significant size in drywall. Opening a mold-contaminated wall cavity, however, may release toxic spores that spread mold throughout the house.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends engaging professional mold remediation services for inspection and treatment to eliminate a mold problem inside walls.

How Is Mold Inside Walls Treated?

Simply applying disinfectants to an active mold problem is not sufficient. Some spores typically survive topical treatment and mold eventually recurs. All mold growth inside walls must be physically removed and properly disposed, followed by treatment with effective fungicides.

  • The internal wall cavity should be cleaned with a HEPA-filtered vacuum.
  • Infected drywall requires replacement if mold growth is established on the inside surface or has penetrated the material.
  • Fiberglass or cellulose insulation present inside a contaminated wall cavity cannot be effectively disinfected. Insulation should be removed and replaced with new material.
  • If wooden studs or joists exhibit mold growth, the mold must be physically removed. Sanding wooden surfaces may also be required to ensure no residual spores remain.
  • After removal of mold growth, the wall cavity should be sprayed with an EPA-approved antimicrobial disinfectant.  
  • Encapsulating sealant may be applied to surfaces inside the wall. This coating, similar to paint, contains fungicides that kill residual spores as well as inhibit any future mold problem.

What Causes Sump Pump Failure?

Thursday, May 28th, 2020
sump pump failure

If a sump pump failure occurs, will you find out the hard way? Installed inside a covered basin in the basement floor, sump pumps tend not to get much attention—until they fail, that is. When the basin overflows with infiltrating groundwater that didn’t get properly pumped out, or a water pipe ruptures and the pump doesn’t actuate to prevent major basement flooding, the situation suddenly becomes obvious.

Here are a few likely causes of sump pump failure:

  • Clogged inlet screen. A screen on the inlet located at the bottom of the pump filters out debris that might clog the pump mechanism. If the pump screen and the basin aren’t cleaned at least once a year, debris accumulating on the screen may block the intake of water and the pump will fail to function when it’s needed.
  • Faulty float switch. As the level in the pump basin rises, a float switch actuates the pump to remove water. A stuck or defective switch means the pump doesn’t turn on and the basin rapidly overflows, causing basement water damage before it’s noticed.  
  • Burned out motor. While pump motors may fail simply from age, another cause is a defective float switch. In this case, the switch may actuate the pump correctly but fail to turn the pump off. The pump runs continuously and overheats, eventually failing completely. Because it’s installed in a basin down in the basement, a continuously running sump pump is often not obvious to residents upstairs.   
  • Defective backflow valve. As the pump empties the basin and turns off, a backflow valve located in the discharge line prevents water from flowing backward into the basin. If this valve is faulty, backflow into the basin will quickly trigger the pump to actuate again. The pump empties the basin, turns off, then activates again immediately due to backflow entering the basin. This continuous on-off-on operation will cause the pump to fail prematurely.

Annual sump pump maintenance is a good practice to ensure that when the pump’s needed most, it will do the job. Sump pump maintenance is typically provided by a qualified local plumber.