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What to Do If Your Appliances Get Wet in a Storm

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020

storm damage

Among the numerous potential casualties of storm damage to a home are its electrical appliances. Very few home appliances are waterproof and contact with water usually means at least a repair bill—if not total replacement. Moreover, in the aftermath of storm damage, the indoor environment may present electrical safety hazards related to appliances.

Here are some guidelines to observe before and after storm damage affects household appliances.

Before a Storm

  • If an approaching storm poses potential household flooding danger, unplug as many appliances inside the house as you can before the storm hits. This includes the refrigerator, dishwasher, cooking appliances, washer and dryer, and computers.
  • Turn off HVAC system circuit breakers. Also, shut off power to the outdoor unit of the central A/C at the breaker switch usually located inside a small hinged box on a wall adjacent to the unit.

After a Storm

  • Never step into pooling water in rooms where appliances or extension cords may be plugged in, or electrical outlets are submerged. This poses a severe electrocution hazard.  
  • Don’t turn on appliances that may have been exposed to storm damage, even if the water is no longer evident. Internal components and circuits inside the unit may still be wet and powering it up may damage the appliance irreparably.
  • Have all appliances affected by storm damage inspected by a professional technician before turning them on. This can make the difference between an appliance that is repairable and one that must be discarded due to electrical damage caused by short circuits or other issues inside the unit.
  • For safety reasons, some appliance components require replacement after any contact whatsoever with water. For example, burners in gas furnaces, gas stoves, and gas water heaters, as well as gas control valves.
  • Central air conditioner components in the outdoor condenser unit are generally weatherproof against rain. However, certain electronics may be irreparably damaged if totally submerged by flooding. Before turning on the A/C after storm damage, have it checked out by a qualified HVAC service technician. 

Repairing a Water Damaged Kitchen Floor

Thursday, July 30th, 2020
water damaged kitchen floor

A water damaged kitchen floor is a more common occurrence than floors in other rooms. The sink, dishwasher, disposal, ice maker, and associated plumbing—all in a single room—make kitchen floors likely to be exposed to water at some point. On the plus side, certain common flooring materials tend to make kitchens more water-resistant than floors elsewhere in the house.

Seepage into the wooden subfloor beneath flooring is often a deciding factor in assessing a water damaged kitchen floor. If a subfloor has absorbed substantial moisture, removal of all flooring material may ultimately be required to effectively dry the subfloor and prevent wood rot and mold contamination. Contacting qualified water damage professionals, ASAP, is vital to remove standing water and extract residual moisture as quickly as possible.   

Here’s how flooring types react in a typical water damaged kitchen floor:

  • Vinyl flooring. Usually a highly water-resistant material, vinyl flooring is often cut in a single large piece to fit the entire kitchen, minimizing seams that permit seepage into the subfloor. If seepage occurs at baseboards, a flooring professional may lift that limited section, dry the subfloor beneath, then glue the vinyl flooring back into place.  
  • Tile floors. Ceramic tile common in kitchens is impervious to water. However, the grout that secures tiles in place may deteriorate if submerged and individual tiles may loosen. Generally, loose tiles may be removed, the subfloor beneath dried, and the same tiles replaced with new grout.
  • Hardwood. Hardwood flooring is less common in kitchens. Hardwood in a water damaged kitchen floor absorbs moisture and may warp or buckle. Staining may also occur. Water penetrates between planks and soaks the subfloor. Professional restoration by a hardwood specialist is often required to save an expensive hardwood floor following water damage. 
  • Wood laminate. A water damaged kitchen floor made of wood laminate material rapidly degrades in standing water. Glues in wood laminate dissolve and the material swells and disintegrates, saturating the subfloor beneath. If water exposure is prolonged, laminated wood flooring generally requires total replacement.

Repairing Water Damaged Doors

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020
water damaged doors

Water damaged doors are a frequent consequence of heavy rain and/or outdoor flooding. However, damaging water may also originate from less dramatic issues such as chronic splashing due to roof runoff or leaky gutters.

Water damaged doors don’t necessarily mean water damage inside the house. Worn weatherstripping around an exterior door may allow water to repeatedly penetrate just far enough to soak into the bottom of the door, triggering wood rot in the door and door frame.   

How Deep Is the Damage?

Checking for water damaged doors can be as easy as a simple inspection. Examine the bottom corners of exterior doors, where wood rot due to water exposure usually shows up first. Then, look across the lower edge of each door for signs of deterioration.

Use a finger to push against the door at the corners and along the bottom edge for wood that feels softened. This is a giveaway of wood rot inside water damaged doors. Unfortunately, once internal rotting has begun, in most cases, the cost-effective solution is to replace the door.  

Preventative Measures

A less serious sign of water damaged doors is a superficial deterioration of the outer finish that does not yet extend into the core of the door. Refinishing the damaged portion with sealant is typically enough to stop the process. Here’s a simple procedure to restore a waterproof finish and prevent water damaged doors. 

  • Clean the affected area of the door thoroughly with a household cleaner and allow it to dry.  
  • Very lightly sand the affected portion of the door with medium-grit sandpaper to take off superficial water damage without removing the coat of paint. This also makes a sealant adhere better to the surface.
  • Paint the area with a thin coat of clear multi-purpose wood sealant. Observe the manufacturer’s instructions for drying time, which will usually be two to four hours.
  • After it’s dry, very lightly sand the area again and apply a second coat of clear wood sealant. Leave the second coat un-sanded to form a tough seal against water.
  • Install new weatherstripping around the door frame and door sill.  

Recovering From Home Water Damage

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020
home water damage

After the water stops and you catch your breath and gather your thoughts, the process of recovering from home water damage begins. Reclaiming your home and peace of mind will probably be a major priority for the immediate future. The good news is: Experienced help is available from water damage mitigation experts who’ve been there and done it many times before. When home water damage suddenly disrupts your daily routine, these professionals have the training and specialized equipment to help you get your life back, ASAP.

Here are some steps to begin the process of recovery from home water damage: 

  • Make two important phone calls. First, inform your homeowners insurance agent. Then contact a reputable home water damage recovery company. Your insurance agent may suggest some local options. Look for a company certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC).
  • Dress appropriately for the occasion: wear gloves and waterproof shoes. Boots are even better if you have them.
  • Be safety-conscious. Stay out of rooms where standing water is present until electricity is turned off at the main electrical panel. Saturated building materials may collapse without warning. Be aware of danger signs like a soaked, sagging ceiling or wet bulging drywall.
  • If home water damage is the result of a sewage backup, stay out of any affected areas of the house. Sewage is highly toxic and direct contact or even breathing the air may be hazardous. Wait for a professional water damage recovery service for further advice.
  • Once electrical hazards are eliminated and it’s safe to do so, remove as much water from the house as possible. Mop up water and/or use a broom to push pooling water outside through an exterior door. If you have a wet/dry vacuum and the use of electricity is safe, that’s another good option.
  • Open doors and windows to allow fresh air inside. Run fans continuously to keep air moving.  
  • Take photographs of all damaged areas which can be safely accessed now, before professional recovery work begins.
  • Start compiling a written list of all valuables contacted by water.

Tarping Your Roof After a Storm

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020
tarping a roof

Tarping a roof after a severe storm is critical to limiting damage to what’s already done. Getting an effective tarp in place ASAP helps prevent further water damage in the attic and down into living spaces, including potential mold contamination. In addition, most homeowners insurance policies include the requirement that the homeowner takes any reasonable necessary steps—including tarping a roof—to prevent further water damage to the home. 

Commercial services for tarping a roof are readily available in areas where severe storms are frequent. However, if you’re committed to the DIY route—and physically able and equipped to work on the roof safely—here are some basic steps for tarping a roof.  

You need:

  • Quality thick woven polyethylene tarp
  • 4 or 5 lengths of 2 x 4 lumber
  • Hammer and nails
  • Utility knife
  • Ladder, safety glasses, and gloves

Tarping a Roof

  1. Spread the tarp out from the roof peak downward, covering the entire damaged area. Pull about 4 feet of tarp backward over the peak of the roof. Allow excess length at the other end to hang over the eaves.
  2. Select a length of 2 x 4 two feet longer than the width of the tarp. Center the tarp in the middle of the board. Nail the tarp to the 2 x 4.  
  3. Rotate the board to wrap the tarp around it once. Secure the 2 x 4 to the roof about 4 feet over the peak with screws. Place another length of 2 x 4 atop this board and nail it in place to sandwich the tarp material securely between the two boards.
  4. Nail 2 x 4s along both edges of the tarp running down the roof toward the eaves. This will hold the tarp tight.
  5. Where the lower end of the tarp overhangs the eaves, nail a 2 x 4 to the end of the tarp and rotate the board to wrap up excess tarp material and remove slack. When the overhanging length is about 4 feet, nail the wrapped 2 x 4 to the underside of the eaves to secure the tarp in place.

Can Photos Be Saved After a Flood

Tuesday, July 14th, 2020
after a flood

There are many important possessions to be concerned about after a flood affects your home. Among these are family photographs. These often irreplaceable images are a major recovery priority after a flood if direct contact of water has occurred. Water and photographs definitely don’t go together well. However, certain steps you can take after a flood will help minimize the effect of water damage and make additional later options—such as digital restoration—more feasible.

Begin with the most valuable photos for which there are no existing negatives. These should be highest priority as there’s no option for direct reprinting.

  • If photos are stored inside an album that is water-soaked, gently remove them from the album pages and and lay them out individually, face-up.
  • If photos stored stacked together are wet after a flood, gently separate them and lay each out individually, face-up. Avoid touching the delicate emulsion (image) side of the print.
  • Rinse photographs individually by dunking them gently in a bucket or sink of clean, cold water (distilled water is best). Change the water frequently.
  • Lay photos out individually, image side up, on clean dry paper towels. Don’t use newspaper or any paper that is printed as the ink will transfer.
  • Change the paper every two hours during the time the prints are air drying.
  • Don’t expose wet prints to direct sun or any other heat source. This may cause prints to permanently curl.
  • If you’re unable to lay photos out for drying immediately, after rinsing, stack the photos between sheets of wax paper, place them in a zip-lock bag and put the bag in the freezer. This inhibits potential mold growth and allows you to do the air-drying process at some other time.

If certain wet photos are stubbornly stuck together after a flood, attempting to separate them by more extended soaking in lukewarm water (up to 30 minutes) may work—or it may cause more damage. If the photo is very valuable and you’re not comfortable with the risk involved, freeze the stuck photos and consult a professional photograph conservator for more advice.

5 Things to Know About Dishwasher Water Damage

Thursday, July 9th, 2020
dishwasher water damage

Dishwasher water damage often isn’t dramatic but can be very damaging. The dishwasher’s among the most frequently utilized appliances in the house; typically, operated more often than the clothes washing machine. While the average unit only uses about six gallons of water per cycle (far less than hand-washing dishes), chronic dishwasher leakage can rot the floor structure underneath the unit and become a source of mold contamination.

Here are 5 things to know about dishwasher water damage and its various causes:

  1. Leaky water inlet valve. The inlet valve admits fresh water from your plumbing into the dishwasher. Leakage in the valve—or at the water hose connection—typically drips down under the dishwasher and may not be readily visible. Twice a year, remove the kick plate and look underneath the unit with a flashlight for signs of dishwasher water damage. 
  2. Deteriorated door gasket. The soft rubber or vinyl seal around the dishwasher door keeps water from leaking out. This seal may become leaky due to accumulated soap scum or simple deterioration from age. The source of the water is usually obvious as it seeps out around the door on the front of the machine. If wiping the seal clean doesn’t fix the leak, get professional service for a new seal.
  3. Drain hose leak. The drain hose under the unit may crack or otherwise deteriorate over time and begin leaking. This is another cause of dishwasher water damage occurring unseen beneath the unit. Remove the kick plate and inspect it twice a year.
  4. Defective float switch. The float controls the dishwasher’s internal water level. If the level rises excessively high because the float switch fails to shut off the water inlet valve, leakage may occur from the front of the machine. Replacement of the switch is usually required.
  5. Unattended operation. As with washing machines, it’s a good preventive measure to run the dishwasher only while you’re at home and awake. Starting the unit, then leaving the house or going to bed could make a dishwasher water damage incident more extensive and expensive.

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.