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Water Damage: Why Is Speedy Repair Critical?

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020
water damage

Once it strikes inside a home, water damage waits for no one. In scientific terms, water is classified as the “universal solvent.” For good reason: it penetrates, dissolves, and deteriorates more substances than any liquid on earth. The damage that occurs due to the influx of water inside a home isn’t a self-limiting event. It’s an active, ongoing process that keeps on keeping on as time passes.

Certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification (IICRC), professional water damage recovery services are available 24/7 365 days a year to intervene and stop the steadily worsening process of water damage, and then begin remediation immediately. Here are some examples of why rapid response and proven techniques are critical to minimizing water damage losses.  

  • From the very first minutes of an incident, water spreads, seeping under baseboards and into adjoining rooms. Since water always flows downward, if an event occurs on an upper level, water will soon penetrate ceilings into rooms below, as well.
  • Absorbent building materials are early casualties. Drywall is permeable and highly absorbent. Just a few inches of pooling water on a floor may be absorbed as far as two feet upward into drywall. Soaked drywall swells and loses structural integrity and may collapse at any time. Insulation inside exterior wall voids may become saturated and require replacement, too.  
  • Flooring exposed to pooling water soon begins deteriorating. Common glued wood laminate flooring disintegrates quickly and is typically unsalvageable. Hardwood floors absorb water more slowly but begin to warp or buckle within 24 hours after water damage, requiring replacement or expensive repair.
  • After 48 hours, dormant mold spores in hidden areas are activated water damage. Growing mold begins proliferating throughout the house, releasing airborne reproductive spores that spread contamination. A mold-contaminated house presents severe health hazards to individuals with mold sensitivity.
  • As water penetrates deeper into the structure, household systems are at risk. In most cases, electrical wiring that has been contacted by water no longer meets safety code standards and must be replaced. Outlets and circuit breakers are also ruined. HVAC ductwork may become flooded and retain water.

Sewage Cleanup: Not Your Typical Water Damage Situation

Thursday, October 15th, 2020
Sewage Cleanup

No matter how much you may know about water damage inside a house, sewage cleanup is different. Most everything about a standard water damage incident becomes more urgent, more complex, and more hazardous when the source is a backed-up sewer line. Raw sewage—appropriately called “black water” by water damage professionals—is teeming with toxic bacteria and viruses that can turn formerly clean, safe indoor living spaces into a contaminated danger zone. From guidelines of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency down to local health department recommendations, the informed consensus is that sewage cleanup inside a house is definitely not an appropriate do-it-yourself project.   

Rapid response by professionals certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration (IICRC) and specially equipped for sewage cleanup is critical. Delay can be dangerous as airborne pathogens released by raw sewage rapidly spread infection throughout the premises. After an initial survey to determine the scope of contamination, the process of sewage cleanup generally follows this sequence: 

  • Absorbent materials or objects contacted by sewage are non-salvageable and must be disposed of. These include carpets and padding, mattresses, upholstered furniture, curtains, wet books, and papers, etc. Clothes, towels, and linens can usually be retained for cleaning and disinfection.
  • Porous structural components that have absorbed wastewater cannot be decontaminated and must also be removed: saturated drywall, baseboard trim, paneling, insulation inside walls, and similar materials. If standing black water has penetrated below flooring, the flooring material may also require removal during sewage cleanup.
  • Any remaining wastewater must be removed from structural spaces utilizing pumps and extractors, if necessary. The solid or semi-solid waste matter often present in sewage has to be removed manually, securely bagged, and disposed of according to EPA and/or local regulations.
  • Non-porous surfaces such as hard floors are scrubbed and then treated with EPA-specified disinfectants.  
  • High-volume air movers and dehumidifiers are run continuously to fully dry the premises as rapidly as possible. This is often followed by a second application of disinfectants and deodorants to affected surfaces.
  • New structural materials are installed to replace contaminated material removed during the cleanup procedure.

What Leads to Higher Water Damage Restoration Prices?

Thursday, October 8th, 2020
water damage restoration

Like the natural flow of water itself, water damage restoration prices vary according to a number of factors. Water damage is not a consistent event from one location to the next, and certain unique conditions may increase or decrease water damage restoration prices. That’s one more good reason why a prompt professional inspection by a qualified water damage recovery provider is critical to an accurate estimate of costs as well as time to completion. While it’s impossible to be specific without a competent, thorough inspection, here are some potential issues that may influence water damage restoration prices in a typical setting. 

  • Origin of water. Clean Type 1 water directly from a sanitary source like a broken water supply line generally means a less complicated and inexpensive remediation if addressed promptly. Toxic Type 3 water, however, from a sewage backup or outdoor flooding, requires special protective measures, advanced equipment, and disinfectant techniques to make the house safe to occupy. Water damage restoration prices rise accordingly.
  • Extent of spread. The more square footage affected by water, the more it’s likely to cost to remediate damage. Where water was limited to the hard floor of one room, the process is simplified; water that has spread throughout several rooms, soaking carpets and seeping under walls, is another matter and imposes greater costs.
  • Presence of remaining water. Where a large volume of moisture still remains in certain areas of the house—a flooded basement, for example—water damage restoration prices will be greater due to the need to utilize pumps and heavy-duty extractors to fully dry the premises. 
  • Type of material damage. Not all building materials are equal following water damage. For example, drywall is absorbent and deteriorates rapidly when wet. However, it’s also relatively inexpensive and can be speedily replaced with new material in most cases. Hardwood flooring is another matter. If exposed to water long enough, hardwood may not be salvageable and expensive removal and replacement is the only option. In addition, the plywood subfloor beneath may be saturated and ruined, imposing labor-intensive procedures to remove and replace.  

Water Damage Causes: Foundation Cracks

Tuesday, September 29th, 2020
water damage foundation cracks

While water damage causes foundation cracks and other issues, this same process is likewise the origin of indoor or structural damage that frequently ensues later on. Because a concrete foundation is porous, water pooling on the surface or contained in the soil surrounding the home soaks into the concrete foundation and initiates gradual deterioration. Eventually, foundation cracks develop and/or the foundation destabilizes. Subsequent water damage causes a variety of long-term issues including the following:

Basement Damage

Water infiltration through a cracked foundation can be an intermittent problem as groundwater occasionally seeps upward through a cracked basement floor or leaks through damaged basement walls.  Eventually, however, occasional water damage causes long-term issues inside the basement, such as toxic mold growth as well as rotting exposed wooden structure. Vulnerable electrical components like the main breaker panel installed in the basement are at risk from water, as are the home’s furnace and HVAC ductwork. A finished basement usually includes drywall that readily absorbs water and deteriorates, as well as carpeting and other materials susceptible to damage.

Structural Changes

Defects in the house structure are also among the water damage causes that can that be traced back to foundation issues.  During winter weather, water infiltrating foundation cracks may freeze and expand, gradually deforming and/or shifting the foundation. As changes in the foundation may eventually cause separation at the joints between exterior walls and/or between walls and the roof, subsequent water damage occurs to the structure during rainy weather.

Plumbing Issues

Among the major water damage causes inside a home, broken pipes rank high on the list. These events may actually be initiated, however, by previous foundation water damage. When severe outdoor flooding—or long-term standing water from any cause—occurs, the ground beneath a house may become unstable and the foundation may gradually tilt and/or sink. Foundation instability and movement eventually stress house plumbing, particularly water supply lines, potentially triggering an indoor pipe rupture that causes flooding inside the house.

What Complicates Water Damage Recovery?

Thursday, September 24th, 2020
Water Damage Recovery

Water damage recovery is often a straightforward procedure. Except when it’s notWater damage recovery can be complicated by a number of ancillary issues that make the process of remediation longer or more complex. Some potential factors involved in water damage don’t become apparent until after basic recovery procedures have already begun. Others may not manifest until after the process is over. Here are some examples of how simple issues become complicated.

Foundation Issues

Outdoor flooding can wreak severe damage to the interior of a house and belongings. A less immediate consequence of floodwater, however, is foundation damage. Water undermining the foundation may eventually manifest as structural changes. Complications such as windows and doors that stick, cracks in walls and floors, and basement walls that are bowed inward are a familiar result that ultimately requires restoration procedures.   

Mold Contamination

Dormant mold spores are activated by contact with moisture. Visual evidence of active mold growth may not occur immediately after water damage, but it is an eventual fait accompli in most scenarios. To avoid subsequent complications caused by the presence of mold, contamination should be assumed any time water damage occurs. Professional mold remediation procedures should be part of any water damage recovery project.  

Electrical Matters

Where water inside a home is deep enough to affect electrical wiring and other components, simply removing the water isn’t the end of the story. Electrical components and water do not mix as corrosion initiated by contact with water continues to degrade these parts even after drying. In most cases, electricians recommend that wiring, outlets, switches, circuit breaker panels, and switches must be replaced during a comprehensive water damage recovery project.

Unsuspected Surprises

A current water damage recovery project may turn up less obvious, previously existing issues. For example, while tracking water damage from an overflowing appliance, moisture originating from a longstanding hidden roof leak may be detected inside a wall, leading to the discovery of deterioration in the attic structure, ruined insulation, etc. 

After a Flood: Structural Integrity

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

Structural damage to a house after a flood may be subtle or extensive. Often, the full consequences will become fully apparent only later on. However, structural damage can be just as significant—if not more so—than the more immediate results of flooding. Structural issues are generally the aftermath of specific damaging forces present during and after a flood. Some of these  include:

  • Hydrostatic pressure. Generally, this refers to the weight of floodwater contained inside a structure. Pressure exerted by the weight of thousands of gallons of water trapped inside a house can damage interior and exterior walls, fracture the foundation and seep into and deteriorate solid building materials like brick and concrete.
  • Hydrodynamic pressure. This refers to the current of moving floodwater around and inside a house. Water moving just 10 mph exerts as much pressure on a house structure as a 275 mph wind. Moving water may separate walls at joints, pull up flooring and even dislodge the house from its foundation.
  • Buoyant pressure. In floodwater just two feet deep, a wood-frame house may readily float. A house can be detached and lifted up off its foundation by buoyant forces, causing irreparable damage.

After a flood, a visual inspection may reveal telltale signs of water-related  damage to structural integrity including:

  • House is leaning or tilting.
  • Portions of the house have separated from the rest of the structure.
  • House has shifted off its foundation.
  • Roof is sagging or deformed in some way.
  • Segments of roof are missing after a flood.
  • Internal roof structure inside the attic is damaged.
  • Exterior walls bowing or otherwise distorted.
  • Exterior wall is no longer secured to the foundation after a flood.
  • Noticeable gaps in frames of exterior doors and windows.
  • Doors and windows are jammed by structural shifting and won’t open.
  • Ceilings and/or floors inside the house are sagging or feel spongy.
  • Interior ceilings and/or walls have collapsed.
  • Basement walls are cracked or have collapsed inward or been deformed outward.
  • Basement beams or posts supporting the first floor have cracked or are detached from the floor above. 

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.