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How Long Does It Take to Dry out Water Damage?

Thursday, September 17th, 2020
dry out water damage

Anyone affected by it wants to know how long it will take to dry out water damage. Quite naturally, they want their home and their daily routine back, ASAP.

We get it. However, exactly when a house is “dry” by established industry standards isn’t determined by the amount of time on the job. The process to dry out water damage involves meeting criteria developed by the IICRC (Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification) and utilized by professionals in the industry. These include:

  • The downward track of indoor humidity, a reliable indicator of water present inside a structure.  
  • Repeated moisture meter readings at specific locations to quantify the amount of water in common building materials and inside structural spaces.
  • Air sampling to detect airborne spores that indicate mold contamination.  

Here are some contributing variables that affect the timespan to dry out water damage:

  • The volume of water. Obviously, a few gallons from a brief appliance overflow that is stopped quickly is a shorter project than a plumbing pipe rupture occurring when no one is home to notice.
  • The category of water. Water from a clean source like a leaky water supply line that is promptly resolved presents fewer complications than contaminated water that requires extensive disinfecting procedures.
  • The extent of spread. Water that has soaked deeply into flooring and saturated the sub-floor, for example, or penetrated ceilings into wall structure and rooms below, will necessarily take longer. Conversely, a limited volume of pooling water that hasn’t spread under baseboards presents a faster, straightforward procedure to dry out water damage.

Ballpark Figures

Currently, the industry average to dry out water damage in a typical residential scenario is 4.9 days to achieve standards of dryness and mold prevention. Following that initial phase, if additional repairs should be required—for example, saturated drywall that can’t be dried must be replaced—the process may extend anywhere from several days to two weeks. In the event of severe water damage, such as widespread outdoor flooding inundating the entire house, the expected timeline for the project would most likely exceed a month.

3 Cs of Water Damage Prevention

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020
water damage prevention

Effective water damage prevention is always preferable to dealing with the expensive consequences after the fact. Insurance claims for home water damage now average over $10,000 per incident and a typical home is seven times more likely to incur losses due to water than from theft or fire. A few very basic principles of water damage prevention, however, can help tilt the odds in your favor to avert many incidents or, at least, minimize losses if one should occur.

Check for Leaks

Effective water damage prevention is proactive. Conduct a semi-annual inspection of potential water damage suspects inside your house.

  • Plumbing supply lines. Anywhere you can see them—under sinks, in the basement or crawl space, in bathrooms—inspect plumbing for signs of seepage or leaks. Any evidence of leakage from water supply lines whatsoever is a serious red flag that should be reported to a plumber.
  • Water heater. Water heater tanks often begin leaking due to internal corrosion after 10 years or earlier. Minor leakage is often the precursor of a total tank rupture, typically resulting in major water damage averaging over $4,000. Timely water damage prevention means replacing water heaters before they fail.
  • Appliances. For maximum water damage prevention, replace rubber washing machine hoses now with braided stainless steel lines. Also, look for leakage at the joint where the water supply line connects to the refrigerator ice maker. Use a flashlight to check under the dishwasher for evidence of leaky hoses or components.

Confirm the Shutoff Valve

Know the location of the home’s main water shutoff valve. Test the valve twice a year to make sure it turns freely in the event of an emergency. If it becomes difficult to operate, have a plumber check it out.

Call in the Pros

Don’t delay summoning professional help. For every hour that passes, water seeps deeper into the structure of the house and the status quo worsens exponentially. Keep critical contact info on hand to make two calls immediately: one to inform your homeowner’s insurance agent and another to summon certified professional water damage recovery services.  

Water Damage: What Is Restorable?

Thursday, September 10th, 2020
water damage restoration

Water damage affects a structure on many levels, from the very conspicuous damage you can’t miss to more subtle effects you can’t even see. In some cases, building materials are restorable after water damage, depending on the source of water as well as the duration of exposure. However, certain other materials may not be salvageable, or the time and cost required simply make replacement more practical. Here’s how some common home materials and systems may be restorable after water damage—or not, as the case may be.

Drywall

Water-saturated drywall is usually not worth the effort to save it. Wet drywall loses structural integrity. Even after drying, it remains crumbly and continues to deteriorate. Soggy drywall also provides a favorable starting point for mold contamination. Since drywall panels are readily removed and replaced, installing new material is usually advisable.

Flooring

Tile floors, including linoleum and ceramic tiles, are the most water-resistant and usually respond to cleaning and disinfectant following limited water exposure. Wood laminate floors, however, deteriorate rapidly after water damage as glues and adhesives dissolve and the material swells. These floors cannot be restored and usually must be replaced. 

Most hardwood floors resist water at least for a limited time. Dimensional changes may cause cupping in certain planks and splitting and staining may occur, too. However, unless the subfloor beneath is affected, individual hardwood planks can be replaced while the remainder of the floor may be restored by sanding and refinishing.

Insulation

Wet fiberglass attic insulation can be removed, air-dried, and disinfected, then re-installed. Whether this is worth the time and cost versus installing new material with improved insulating properties is a decision the homeowner must make. Blown-in cellulose insulation is usually permanently ruined by water damage and not restorable. Replacement is the only option.

Electrical Wiring

Most professional electricians advise the replacement of electrical wiring and components like outlets and the breaker panel after any contact during water damage. This is for safety reasons as corrosion initiated by moisture continues to deteriorate wiring even after the water has dried, eventually leading to potential fire and shock hazards.

Dealing With Water Damage: Document Drying

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020
water damage document sharing

Among the most permanent consequences of water damage to a home is the potential loss of vital documents. From insurance policies and tax records, to legal papers like wills and property titles, to irreplaceable keepsakes like handwritten letters from loved ones, exposure to water damage poses a very real danger of destruction. Certain common-sense preventative measures should always be taken:

  • Avoiding storing important documents in areas that could be vulnerable to flooding like the basement. Also, always store documents on higher shelves elevated above floor level.
  • Place vital papers inside 12-inch sealable plastic bags and/or inside waterproof sealed plastic containers.
  • Scan critical documents to a permanent media like a DVD or flash drive, or upload to online storage, so a digital copy will always be available.

If worse comes to worst, and paper documents are affected by water damage, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Act quickly. Water damage plus time is a destructive equation when wet documents are involved. Once documents are accessible, begin protective steps, ASAP.  
  • Move papers to a dry area with low humidity.
  • Carefully separate wet pages. Place each individual sheet of paper on a plain white (unprinted) paper towel.
  • Put each sheet and paper towel in an area with direct sunlight. Place paperweights on the corners of each paper to prevent curling.
  • Keep air circulating in the room with a fan. Don’t blow air directly on drying paper. Direct fan airflow upwards and away from the paper.  
  • Until the documents dry fully, continue to regularly replace the wet paper towel under each document.

Mold growth is destructive to paper and usually triggered about 36 hours after water damage. If you can’t initiate drying techniques in that time frame, put documents in one or more 12-inch sealable plastic bags and place them in the freezer. Freezing documents interrupts the process of mold growth and allows you to delay the drying process until some later time.  

For extremely valuable and/or irreplaceable papers, commercial document restoration and drying services that utilize specialized vacuum-freezing drying technology are available.

How to Prevent Water Damage When Defrosting a Freezer

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020
Defrosting a Freezer

To prevent water damage while defrosting a freezer should be a simple procedure if everything goes right: Unplug the unit, leave the door open to allow the ice to melt, and monitor water as it gradually flows through the drain line into the drip pan at the bottom of the unit.

When everything doesn’t go right and attempts to prevent water damage while defrosting a freezer aren’t successful, these may be common causes:

Clogged or frozen drain line.  If this occurs, water may pool in the bottom of the freezer unit as the ice melts instead of flowing freely through the drain line and into the drip pan. As water accumulation becomes deeper, it will leak out of the freezer onto the floor and/or behind the unit. A blocked drain line may be due to debris such as food particles or because ice has formed inside the line.

Water overflowing from the drip pan. The freezer drip pan beneath the unit is wide and can hold substantial water to prevent water damage during defrosting. If the drip pan overflows during or immediately after defrosting the freezer, however, it could be due to:

  • Excess ice inside the freezer compartment. Thick ice formation on freezer walls may increase the volume of water enough to overflow the drip pan before the evaporation process can take place. A common cause of excess ice is the infiltration of humid outside air into the freezer compartment due to a worn, leaky door gasket.
  • Evaporation in the drip pan is too slow to prevent water damage. After the unit is restarted, water collected in the drip pan is evaporated by heat released from condenser coils located in the bottom of the freezer just above the drip pan. However, dirty, dusty condenser coils can impede the evaporation process, allowing the drip pan to fill and soon overflow, resulting in water damage around the freezer as well as triggering toxic mold growth.

To diagnose and prevent water damage due to freezer defrosting issues, professional service by a qualified appliance technician is recommended.

Does Water Damage Worsen With Time?

Thursday, August 27th, 2020
water damage

When baseball legend Yogi Berra famously remarked, “It ain’t over until it’s over,” he wasn’t talking about water damage. However, he could have been. Water damage inside a house is an active, ongoing process that continues to worsen until intervention by qualified professionals, utilizing proven remediation methods, interrupts the sequence.

The timeline of damage due to water is well-researched, documented, and usually predictable. Among the established facts is the certainty that the sooner water damage remediation services are on-scene, the more damage can be averted.

Here’s how typical water damage worsens as time passes:

The First Minutes

A sudden major event like a pipe rupture or appliance overflow quickly saturates the floor and carpets and affects furniture and possessions in direct contact with the floor. Porous items soak up and retain water. In minutes, water flows under baseboards and infiltrates wall cavities. 

As Hours Pass

Drywall absorbs water upwards into the material as far as two feet above floor level. Saturated drywall bulges and becomes structurally unsound.  If water damage occurred on an upper level, standing water has now seeped through flooring and leaked through the ceiling into rooms below. Metal surfaces contacted by the water begin to develop surface corrosion. Dyes in carpeting and furniture fabrics dissolve and begin to run and stain. 

After Two Days

A pungent, musty odor is noticeable—the telltale scent of mold activated by contact with water. Airborne spores contaminate indoor air. Paint has blistered off walls; wallpaper is peeling. The wooden sub-floor is now saturated and swelling, dislodging flooring material such as tiles. Some drywall in walls or ceiling may have collapsed. Wet electrical wiring is corroding and metal equipment contacted by water such as appliances and HVAC components may now be permanently ruined.

A Week Later

Severe damage has occurred as water has penetrated deeply into structural materials. Mold contamination is established and widespread. The house may be unsafe to enter and many possessions may not be recoverable. Major restoration will be required to make the home fit to occupy. 

What Does Water Damage Look Like?

Tuesday, August 25th, 2020
water damage

Water damage may not always look like you expect it to. Certainly, a cascade through a downstairs ceiling or a wading pond in the basement is unmistakable evidence of water damage. However, the signs may be more subtle at other times, depending on the source and amount of water, and when the event occurred. Wherever and whenever you may notice the signs, water damage only gets worse as time elapses. Therefore, one of the first priorities is getting advice from a qualified professional water damage recovery service, ASAP.

Here are some of the many signs of water damage to be aware of:

  • Discoloration. Anywhere you see it—on walls, ceilings, or even floors—an unexplained change in color is often a sign that water is present somewhere in the structure. It may be yellow, brown, or chalky white stains. A dark area in a carpet may indicate that water from some source is soaking the pad beneath.  
  • Deteriorating paint. Bubbling or peeling interior paint may indicate the presence of water affecting the interior of the wall structure.
  • Sagging walls or ceiling. Sagging drywall panels in walls or in the ceiling usually mean the material has absorbed a large volume of water. In severe cases, the affected drywall may collapse at any time.
  • Tile or other flooring warped and/or loose. Tile or wood flooring that has buckled, cracked, or come loose may be evidence of water damage affecting the sub-floor.
  • Swollen or warping walls and sticky door casings. If walls appear to swell and doors become difficult to close or open, dimensional changes caused by chronic water exposure may be the hidden cause.   
  • “Sweating” walls. Water that has entered a wall cavity may initially trigger the appearance of a thin film of moisture droplets on the outside of the wall similar to sweating.  
  • Mold growth. Anywhere and anytime you notice signs of active mold growth—blotches of black or greenish growth on surfaces—some source of water is present or has been very recently.

What Causes Refrigerator Leaks?

Thursday, August 20th, 2020
Refrigerator Leaks

Refrigerator leaks probably aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of kitchen water damage. A busted water supply line under the kitchen sink or an overflowing dishwasher seems to be a more likely suspect. While refrigerator leaks may not be dramatic—frequently they appear as a recurrent “mystery puddle” around or behind the refrigerator—chronic leakage can rot the floor underneath the unit, spread under nearby baseboards into wall voids, and trigger mold growth.  

Here are two common sources of refrigerator leaks and what needs to be done to eliminate them.

Water Line Connection

Many refrigerators are connected to household plumbing that provides water for the internal ice maker. This is typically a 1/4-inch water supply tube that connects to the rear of the refrigerator with a compression fitting.

Two issues may trigger refrigerator leaks:

  • New refrigerators frequently come standard with an inexpensive plastic water supply tube that loosens and leaks over time at the compression fitting on the back of the unit. Gently tightening the compression nut at the fitting with a wrench may stop minor refrigerator leaks at that point.
  • If tightening the tubing connection doesn’t stop leakage, the water supply line and connection hardware at both ends should be replaced. Copper or stainless steel replacement water supply lines are more reliable than original equipment plastic tubing. While not out of the range of experienced do-it-yourselfers, replacing the refrigerator water supply line may be best left to a qualified plumber.

Drain Tube Clog

Most refrigerators generate a small volume of water during the automatic defrosting cycle. This water is diverted down a tube from the freezer section into a pan in the bottom of the unit where hot air from the compressor fan evaporates the water. A clogged drain tube may cause water to back up and drip out of the freezer, eventually puddling on the kitchen floor. A drain tube clogged by debris such as food particles will usually need to be blown out with compressed air to clear the clog and stop leakage.

Assessing After a Storm

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020

The process of assessing storm damage to a home is among one of the (many) priorities facing homeowners after the weather clears. Issues affecting the house or its contents should be documented with written details and photographs to provide an accurate record of storm damage. Ideally, a formal assessment of storm damage by a qualified professional insurance adjuster should occur as soon as possible after the immediate area and the house is safe to enter.

For the purpose of assessing storm damage, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has established four categories:

  • Affected
  • Minor 
  • Major 
  • Destroyed

FEMA also publishes the following examples to illustrate potential scenarios in each of the above categories. These may be helpful to the homeowner to gain a general idea of how severe damage may be and what to expect from insurance. However, inspection by an adjuster is always required after storm damage for a formal determination of damage and insurance compensation.

  • Affected homes are those where some water has entered an unfinished basement or a crawl space, but no damage has occurred to contents or systems such as electrical or HVAC. Water intrusion into an external structure such as a patio or garage is also included. 
  • Minor damage includes water inundation from one inch to three inches depth in one essential living space or in a finished basement. Water exceeding three inches but less than 18 inches may still be considered minor depending upon the time duration of flooding, whether water contained toxic contaminants, and whether or not water entered electrical outlets.  
  • Major damage refers to homes with water deeper than 18 inches and/or affecting electrical outlets in one essential living space. A totally flooded basement accompanied by standing water of any depth on the first floor of the house is also classified as major damage.  
  • Destroyed homes are those where the water level reached or exceeded the roof of the house and complete failure of at least two major structural components occurred. These include the collapse of the basement, interior walls, foundation, or roof. 

Repairing a Water Damaged Bathroom Floor

Thursday, August 13th, 2020
water damaged bathroom floor

Though bathrooms are built to be water-resistant, a water damaged bathroom floor is still not uncommon. The sink, bathtub, shower stall, toilet, and associated pipes and connections are usual suspects if and when it happens. If the water damaged bathroom floor happens to be on an upper level, ceilings in rooms below may also be affected.

Bathroom Floor Damage

For obvious reasons, bathroom flooring is usually waterproof vinyl or ceramic tile. Unless significant flooding occurs, a simple overflowing sink or toilet usually doesn’t result in a water damaged bathroom floor assuming the incident is fully resolved and water is promptly removed.

However, a bathroom floor can also be affected by ongoing indirect sources other than obvious spills or overflows. Water originating elsewhere in the bathroom migrates into the subfloor, causing changes in tile or vinyl flooring. Signs of hidden subfloor damage include:

  • Buckling or uneven flooring
  • Cracked flooring material
  • Loose tiles
  • Areas of floor that feel soft or spongy
  • Stains on flooring for no apparent reason
  • A chronic musty odor, indicative of mold growth

Locate the Source of a Water Damaged Bathroom Floor

Potential sources that may result in a water damaged bathroom floor include:

Drying the Subfloor

After resolving the source of water, some or all of the wet subfloor must be exposed and dried.

  • A portion of the bathroom tile may require removal. Afterward, tiles may be reinstalled with new grout.
  • Vinyl flooring may be cut out to access and dry a limited area, and then replaced and seams where cuts were made sealed.
  • In severe cases, all flooring material must be removed to access the entire subfloor.
  • Mold growth under a water damaged bathroom floor is likely. In addition to air drying, wet portions of the subfloor should be treated with fungicide disinfectants to kill mold.  
  • Where a subfloor is chronically saturated, or structural instability such as wood rot has set in, the entire subfloor must usually be removed and replaced.