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Repairing a Swollen Ceiling

Friday, March 5th, 2021
swollen ceiling

Since leaking water naturally flows downward inside a structure, ceilings sometimes get in the way and water damage occurs. Homes with leaky roofs, or multi-story houses with bathrooms or laundry rooms on an upper floor, provide a starting point for leaking water on its way downward. When it contacts drywall ceiling panels, ugly stains and deterioration of the ceiling—usually swelling and sagging—typically occurs.

If you are considering attempting DIY ceiling water damage repair, consider the following issues first:

  • Cosmetic ceiling repairs, i.e., simply painting over an ugly water stain, are not a conclusive solution. First, the source of the water damage has to be identified and repaired. If the origin is an upstairs bathroom, a considerable portion of the damaged ceiling below will likely have to be cut out in order to access and repair plumbing beneath the bathroom floor, as well as the underside of the bathtub, shower stall, etc. For most do-it-yourselfers, this is a job best left to a professional.
  • Because wet drywall is not structurally sound and cannot support its own weight, swollen, water-damaged ceiling panels may be problematic to remove and repair without special equipment and multiple workers. Even if the leak is repaired and the ceiling panel dries, any part of the ceiling that has been saturated is never reliably stable again and may further deteriorate and/or collapse.   
  • Signs of ceiling damage due to water also may mean that mold contamination is affecting one or more ceiling panels and other parts of the adjacent structure. In a typical residence, ceiling panels made of gypsum drywall readily absorb and retain water. This source of moisture rapidly triggers mold growth within the material and throughout the space above the ceiling.  

What To Do About Ceiling Water Damage?

If water is actively dripping through the ceiling, cut a small drain hole in the center of the area where the leakage is occurring. Place a bucket underneath to catch the water. This enhanced drainage helps contain the spread of water to adjacent panels until plumbing and water damage recovery professionals can repair and remediate the damage.

How Serious Is Your Water Damage?

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021
water damage

All water damage is not created equal. Among the first tasks confronting water damage recovery professionals is an assessment of the severity of the incident in order to develop a recovery plan that addresses specific circumstances. To know what to expect in the recovery process, here are some of the factors in evaluating water damage to a typical home.

  • Extent of damage. Is the water limited to a single room? If water is pooled on a hard floor and has not yet spread under walls, the recovery process is generally uncomplicated. Conversely, if the water has spread and penetrated deeper into the structure, or if upstairs water damage is also affecting rooms downstairs, remediation will be more extensive.
  • Type of water. Classification of water involved is a major determinant of recovery techniques required. Water damage from a clean source like a broken supply line that occurred less than 48 hours ago—known as Category 1 water—is usually uncontaminated and remediation is straightforward. Category 2 water originating from an overflowing appliance or a roof leak, for example, is considered slightly contaminated. Raw sewage—Category 3 damage—is dangerously toxic and requires specialized techniques for removal followed by intensive decontamination procedures.  
  • Structural issues. Wet drywall is structurally unsound and may collapse. In most cases, portions or all of the saturated drywall panels in walls and ceilings require replacement. Examples of other structural issues include a flooded basement that may be damaged by the weight and volume of water and storm damage to roofing materials.
  • Electrical factors.  If water has entered electrical outlets, contacted the main circuit breaker panel or major electrical appliances, safety is the initial concern. After electricity to affected areas or the entire home has been shut off, recovery can proceed. Because many electrical components such as wiring inevitably corrode after contact with water, inspection is required and potential replacement may be necessary.
  • Mold contamination. If 48 hours have elapsed since water damage affected the house, mold growth is presumptive. Professional mold decontamination techniques must accompany the recovery process.

Water Damage: How Bad Is It?

Thursday, February 25th, 2021
water damage

Water damage differs from house to house, depending on a number of variables.  One thing that doesn’t vary, however, is the concern and urgency a homeowner experiences when such damage occurs. A certified water damage specialist knows the feeling well, and is also trained and experienced to evaluate the severity of the damage, and then apply appropriate procedures to restore the home to a safe, healthy environment.

After the source of water has been stopped, here are some of the factors a water damage pro will consider to determine the level of damage and the most effective treatment.

Source

The origin of the water is a major element in assessing the extent of the damage. For recovery and restoration purposes, industry professionals categorize the source of water into three types:

  • Type 1 water is “clean” water coming directly from a broken pipe or other sanitary origin and present in the house for not more than 24 to 48 hours.
  • Type 2 is “gray” water, mildly contaminated from sources like a washing machine or dishwasher overflow or rainwater leaking through a roof leak. Type 2 also includes Type 1 water damage that has been present for more than 48 hours.
  • Type 3 is “black” water, a raw sewage backup, or an influx of outdoor floodwater. This presents severe health threats and requires advanced decontamination methods to make the indoor environment safe again.  

Extent

The volume and extent of water spreading away from the source impact remediation. Where the quantity of water damage is minor and limited to a single room, recovery is relatively uncomplicated. If the water has spread under walls to other rooms and seeped deeper into the structure, however, more comprehensive recovery techniques are required.

Duration

The clock is ticking. How long has the water been present in the house? Microbial Growth triggered by exposure to water inside a home begins in 24 to 48 hours. Treatment and recovery are simplified if professional water extraction and drying techniques along with approved mitigation procedures are applied before that time frame elapses and microbial growth begins.

Dealing With Frozen Pipe Water Damage

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021
water damage

While water damage to a home is a year-round possibility, in many parts of the country, winter cold imposes a very specific risk: frozen pipes. Water supply lines exposed to unusually low temperatures may freeze. Ice formation inside pipes increases internal pressure that eventually splits the pipe material or causes pipe joints to disconnect. Ruptured household water lines can release several hundred gallons into your home per hour, inflicting extensive water damage. 

Generally, outdoor temperatures must drop below 25 degrees before pipes are at risk of freezing. Duration of cold also matters. The longer outdoor temperatures remain in the danger zone, the greater the likelihood of a frozen pipe and subsequent water damage.

Freezing mainly affects pipes:

  • Routed inside exterior walls.
  • Located in an unheated crawl space, basement, attic, or garage.
  • In cabinets under a sink close to an exterior wall.

When temperatures below 25 degrees are forecast:

  • Prepare in advance by installing pipe insulation on all accessible pipe segments routed through unheated zones.
  • Set furnace thermostat to continuously maintain indoor temperatures of 60 degrees.
  • Open faucets to allow slight dripping that releases internal pressure if ice forms.
  • Leave cabinet doors beneath kitchen and bathroom sinks open to allow household heat to reach pipes.

If you suspect a frozen pipe:

Loss of water pressure at one or more fixtures indicates a frozen pipe. Don’t wait for the pipe to thaw out and cause water damage. Turn off all water to the house at the main shutoff valve immediately and call a plumber.

Should a pipe rupture occur:

  • Shut off water to the house at the main shutoff valve and call a plumber.
  • Avoid flooded rooms where electricity is still on. Turn off circuit breakers to affected rooms before entering.
  • Where possible, use a floor squeegee or a broom to push standing water out of the house through a nearby exterior door.
  • Contact qualified professional water damage recovery services ASAP.

Common Water Damage Risks

Thursday, February 18th, 2021
water damage risks

Statistics show that water damage risks are second only to wind/storm damage. Every day, over 14,000 American homes experience indoor water-related damage. Water damage risks vary according to factors such as the general age and condition of the house, as well as maintenance of household systems like plumbing.

Industry data also reveals that all water damage risks are not created equal. Certainly, if a 300-gallon rare fish aquarium topples over inside a house, the damage will occur to both fish and home. However, statistics repeatedly show that water damage risks from these four causes are far greater:

  • Ruptured pipes. A ruptured half-inch water supply pipe routed to kitchens and bathrooms can release up to 50 gallons per minute. Pipe-related water damage risks may result from long-term deterioration or sudden events like ruptures due to freezing. Even apparently minor pinhole leaks in plumbing pipes should be taken seriously and a professional plumbing service contacted ASAP.
  • Appliance breakage and overflows. Rubber water supply hoses connected to washing machines can rupture after only five years, potentially flooding the homes at a rate of 600 gallons per hour. An overflowing washing machine, meanwhile, typically spills about 15 gallons—enough to damage nearby floors and surrounding walls. Broken water supply lines to dishwashers and refrigerator ice makers are also appliance water damage risks.  
  • HVAC issues. A central air conditioner may generate 20 gallons of condensate daily in hot weather. A clogged, overflowing condensate drain pan located beneath the indoor air handler may spill multi-gallons into the house every time the AC cycles on. Because the drain pan is situated out of sight, considerable damage to the immediate area typically occurs before the problem is noticed.  
  • Sewer backups. Sewage flowing backwards into a house can result from blockages in the home sewer line—tree root intrusion or clogs from flushing inappropriate paper or other items are common causes. A more widespread issue such as floodwater inundating the municipal sewer system is another potential source. Raw sewage is considered Category 3 toxic water and must be remediated only by qualified water damage professionals.

Dealing With Standing Water in Your Yard

Thursday, February 11th, 2021
standing water in your yard

Every lawn needs regular watering, but frequent standing water in a yard is a problem, not a benefit. A yard that remains wet for one or two days after rainfall is normal. However, if persistent puddles or continuously soggy areas of the yard are still noticeable for a longer period following a storm, you may have an issue with standing water. Where parts of a lawn are frequently waterlogged and swampy, a number of drawbacks can be expected:

  • Soil that remains saturated for extended periods can degrade the foundation of the house and trigger chronic seepage
  • into the basement, resulting in indoor water damage and mold contamination.
  • Instead of supporting a healthy lawn, the continuous presence of water actually kills grass. Algae, moss, and other water-loving vegetation are spawned by standing water and these competitive plants destroy grass roots.  
  • Standing water provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other undesirable insects.   

Here are some actions to take to eliminate standing water and restore proper drainage.

  • Fill in depressions. If pooling water is due to existing low spots in the terrain of the yard, these areas should be filled with topsoil, compacted, and then graded level so rainwater will not accumulate. The area may then be reseeded with grass.  
  • Divert water from the foundation. The ground surrounding the home’s foundation should be graded so it slopes away from the house and standing water does not accumulate.  
  • Utilize french drains. A french drain consists of a perforated plastic pipe buried in a trench filled with gravel. In chronic problem areas where pooling frequently accumulates, the french drain continuously collects water in the soil and channels it away to another part of the lawn. Grass may be replanted above the drain.
  • Install a sump pump. Frequent standing water may be a sign of a naturally high level of ground water. Guard against ground water infiltration into the basement by installing a sump pump in the basement floor. Make sure the pump discharge pipe releases water far away from the house. 

Ceiling Water Damage: Ten Fast Facts

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021
ceiling water damage

Ceiling water damage is more than just really, really ugly. No doubt, those dark discolorations on a ceiling quickly become the very first thing you notice every time you walk into an affected room. However, stains are just the visual manifestation of water damage and the potentially more urgent issues that go along with it. Here are 10 fast facts about ceiling water damage, how it happens, and what comes next.

  • Evidence of water damage to a ceiling generally means one of two things: a roof leak or, in a two-story home, leakage originating in the room above the damaged ceiling. Usually, it’s a bathroom.
  • Ceiling panels are made of drywall that readily absorbs water. Once the drywall has been saturated, it becomes heavy and swells or sags.
  • A large area of a ceiling that is wet—or was wet in the past—may be considered structurally unsound and likely to collapse.
  • Wet ceiling panels almost always spawn the growth of mold on and inside the drywall material.
  • If ceiling water damage coincides with heavy rain, roof leakage is the principal suspect.
  • Since roof leakage tends to run laterally along interior attic structural members, the actual location of the roof leak may not be directly above the ceiling damage.
  • Before roof leakage contacts the ceiling, it typically soaks the bed of attic insulation installed just above the ceiling. Wet insulation usually becomes moldy and requires replacement.
  • Common sources of second-floor bathroom leaks that may be the cause of ceiling water damage below include leaky drain plumbing under the bathtub or shower stall, a leak at shower valve connections inside the bathroom wall, cracks in the shower stall or bathtub, leaky water supply lines routed through the bathroom floor, or an isolated event such as a toilet overflow.
  • Where a ceiling light or other electrical device like a ceiling fan is installed, ceiling water damage may cause an electrocution or fire hazard.
  • Unless the damaged portion of ceiling is smaller than a 12-inch square, the best repair option is to replace the entire drywall panel. 

Plumbing Leaks: 10 Fast Facts

Thursday, February 4th, 2021
plumbing leaks

While a variety of malfunctions and mishaps may be a potential cause of home water damage, common plumbing leaks are number one. The network of supply plumbing that distributes water under pressure throughout the house, the drain pipes that carry away wastewater, and the various fixtures and appliances connected to this system present many potential scenarios for plumbing leaks. Here’s a miscellany of fast facts about the causes, effects, and prevention of home plumbing leaks.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that plumbing leaks from all homes in the U.S. total one trillion gallons annually.  
  • Leaks from household water supply lines account for most plumbing-related water damage.
  • Major plumbing leaks due to total pipe ruptures are most often the result of internal pipe corrosion or frozen pipes that burst during frigid winter weather.
  • Inspecting water supply lines regularly for leakage is a good preventive measure. Check supply lines under sinks in kitchens and bathrooms as well as those connected to toilets and to washing machines, dishwashers, and refrigerator ice makers.
  • Pinhole leaks in copper water supply lines often appear insignificant. However, a pinhole can be external evidence of extensive internal pipe corrosion. Pinholes should be considered an advance warning of a potential pipe rupture that could occur at any time.
  • Sink and bathtub drain pipes aren’t under pressure, but can still leak considerable water at joints and seals. Look for drips under sinks and check out any unexplained pooling on floors around bathtubs and showers.
  • A dripping faucet is a leaky faucet. A single faucet dripping once per second due to a leaking internal cartridge wastes over 3,000 gallons per year.  
  • Dark spots on a downstairs ceiling may indicate plumbing leaks in a bathroom upstairs. Typical sources are bathtub/shower supply pipes or drain pipes routed through the bathroom floor.
  • Moisture from hidden or ignored plumbing leaks is a major trigger for toxic mold growth that can infect the entire house.
  • Note any unexplained increases in your water bill. They may be evidence of undiscovered plumbing leaks from a water supply line in a crawl space or other hidden area.

Dealing With Water Damage in Winter

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021
water damage in winter

While summer may bring damaging rain, winter’s the season of home water damage related to frigid weather. During one recent winter, 49 of the 50 states experienced freezing temperatures at some point. Home water damage in winter routinely totals over $1 billion nationwide.

Here are two areas where home water damage frequently occurs in winter, as well as strategies to deal with it. 

The Pipes

Sustained temperatures below 25 degrees can initiate ice formation inside pipes that may eventually rupture the pipe. This may release hundreds or thousands of gallons of water into a house. To prevent home water damage due to frozen pipes:

  • Insulate all pipes located outside the heated enclosure of the home, for example, pipes routed through the crawl space and/or attic. Seal the openings in exterior walls that allow frigid outdoor air to infiltrate the structure and contact pipes.
  • If you’re leaving town during possible freezing weather, consider turning off the water supply to the house at the main valve.
  • If you have reason to believe a pipe has frozen, turn off the water at the main valve and call a plumber immediately.

The Roof

Ice and snow can trigger home water damage in two ways:

  • Ice dams forming along the lower edge of the roof prevent melting snow from draining into gutters. Standing water on the roof rapidly penetrates shingles and leaks into the attic. Ice dams are related to heat accumulation in the upper portion of the attic, melting snow at the roof peak more rapidly while the lower roof remains frozen. Prevent ice dams by eliminating heat infiltration into the attic. Verify that attic insulation is intact and meets current specs. Seal the cracks and gaps in ceilings to prevent heat transfer into the attic.
  • Snow accumulation on a roof can be heavy enough to damage the roof structure and trigger leakage. About 10 inches of snow exerts five pounds per square foot on roofing materials. If accumulated snow becomes deep enough, roof leakage due to excess weight may seep into the house and cause indoor water damage.

Water Damage: Dealing With Unpleasant Odors

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021
water damage unpleasant odors

Unpleasant odors are a frequent side effect in homes and other buildings affected by water damage. Contained within enclosed premises, the cumulative effect of chronic odors on occupants is often greatly intensified. Bad odors can also indicate an actual health threat present in the indoor environment, as well, from toxic contaminants such as mold. Here are two basic premises that can help you deal with unpleasant odors that result from water damage: 

  • Moisture is an activating factor. Water damage inside a structure commonly triggers chemical and bacterial reactions that result in the release of smells you’d rather not be living with. An odor-free house, conversely, is one of the many criteria utilized by water damage professionals to confirm that the home has been properly treated and fully dried. If you’ve attempted to dry out the house yourself without professional assistance, the continuing presence of unpleasant odors like mildew or chemical vapors should be a red flag that moisture still exists somewhere inside the structure.  
  • Mold is a major contributor. Without proper water damage remediation, residual moisture inside a home with a history of water damage usually triggers mold growth. Active mold, in turn, releases microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOC) that produce pungent, earthy odors, often compared to the smell of dirty socks or decaying wood. Mold odor generally penetrates the entire house. Professional mold remediation includes air sampling and testing to determine the type of mold, the extent of contamination, and location. Complete removal of all mold accompanied by sterilization of areas where growth occurred is required to eliminate mold odors.

DIY attempts to eliminate odors associated with indoor water damage—commercial air fresheners, potpourri, etc.—are only cover-ups and ultimately ineffective. Identifying and eliminating all moisture sources is necessary to permanently eliminate odors from enclosed structures. In addition, professional testing for the presence of mold—along with proven remediation techniques if mold growth is confirmed—is essential to achieve an odor-free indoor environment.