Water Damage Restoration: A Step-By-Step Guide December 7, 2016 – Posted in: Blog, Industrial
Flood damage can be found in any geographical area, regardless of elevation. The causes of flooding can range from natural disasters to burst pipes or sewer lines. Regardless of the cause, restoration professionals are often called upon to repair water damage and restore flooded properties. The water damage remediation process is highly regulated in order to ensure that properties damaged by flood or sewer events can be effectively restored to a safe space for building occupants and that workers remain safe during the cleanup.
Categories of Water Damage
The Institute of International Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) is an accreditation given by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). This administering government body sets the standard that addresses the water damage restoration process for both best practices in restoration and safety.
The IICRC S500 provides a specific set of practical standards for water mitigation, flood damage repair, and sewage cleanup. The document provides the foundation for basic principles of water damage restoration, including the steps in the process. It includes both the standards and the supporting references.
It is important to note that the guide does not attempt to teach the comprehensive and complex water damage remediation process — rather, it provides the foundation for the basic principles of proper restoration practices.
There are three main categories of water damage that result from a wide range of water damage causes. These can be from a busted potable water line, a rupture of a drain waste and ventilation (DWV) pipe carrying gray water, a backup of a sewage line sending biologically contaminated black water through a building, or a natural disaster where brackish runoff or seawater floods the property. These classifications are based on the level of contamination of the water responsible for the damage.
Category 1 Water Damage
This is where the water originates from a portable or sanitary source and is fit for human consumption. This water does not pose a threat to ingestion, dermal, or inhalation exposure. Sources typically include broken supply lines, sprinkler systems, overflowing containers with no contaminants, or natural sources like rain or meltwater. This is known as “fresh” water.
Category 2 Water Damage
This is where the water contains significant contamination and potentially can cause sickness or discomfort if humans consume or come in contact with it. This type of water contains unsafe levels of microorganisms and/or chemical or biological matter such as diluted urine, detergents, seepage from hydrostatic pressure, or ruptured storage tanks. This is known as “gray” water.
Category 3 Water Damage
This is where the water is “grossly contaminated” and contains harmful pathogenic and toxigenic agents. Raw sewage is by far the most common offender of “black” water and can be deadly to people and destructive to the property if sewage damage restoration is not completely remediated. Sources of black water include sanitary sewer backups, brackish water from rivers and streams, flooding seawater and all forms of ingress from natural events where contaminants like pesticides and heavy metals are carried into a building.
It is important to note that one category of water damage can amplify into a more serious category if not remediated quickly. Wet, warm and enclosed areas are perfect breeding grounds for organic pathogens. Spores quickly multiply and become mold that can move an easy cleanable Category 1 spill into a hazardous and expensive Category 3 situation.
Water Damage Classes
The IICRC further separates water intrusion into four classifications:
Class 1 Water Damage
Where a minimal amount of water has flowed onto materials that are predominately low porosity. This class of water damage requires limited mitigation and little moisture is left after the bulk of the water is removed, leaving a minimal amount of evaporation needed to finish drying. Examples would be a burst hot water tank on a sealed concrete floor or an overflowed toilet on a tile floor.
Class 2 Water Damage
Where there is a significant amount of water discharged and the exposed materials are medium to high porosity. There is a greater absorption of water into the materials and the water removal process is lengthened by the volume of water that needs to be removed and a lengthened drying time. Examples would be a ruptured pressurized water line inside a gypsum board wall, or a wooden floor joist system.
Class 3 Water Damage
Where a large amount of water, regardless of its category, is absorbed by highly porous materials, resulting in the highest rate of evaporation necessary to affect the water damage repair process. Examples are a storm-forced leak, which floods a building’s interior and soaks carpeted areas, or broken water mains filling an underground parking area.
Class 4 Water Damage
Where water intrudes and is trapped by building materials and assemblies, which makes the restoration process difficult, time-consuming and expensive. Affected areas are highly porous or tightly confined and require special methods and equipment, longer drying time or substantial vapor pressure differentials. Examples would be stormwater flooding of wooden, plaster, masonry or concrete enclosures or a severe sewage backup that permeates floor and wall systems.
Once the categories and classification of the water damage have been assessed, proper steps can then be taken to mitigate and repair the damage. Flood damage to a factory from black water will require different processes than a potable water spill in an office building. Each range of categories, compounded by the class of water intrusion, will require different skills for assessing the damage and selecting the right restoration process and equipment.
What is Water Mitigation?
Water damage repair shouldn’t stop at restoring back your real estate back to proper functioning. Inspect underlying causes that caused the water damage in the first place and make sure there won’t be a reoccurrence. Repair structures and replace materials to make your property safe for years to come.
If your property has been exposed to water damage you may have to do water mitigation. Strict actions are required in water mitigation such as removal of damaged materials such as drywall and flooring. Molds and mildew that have accumulated in areas in your property will be disinfected and deodorized to restore a healthy environment. Further cleaning and deodorizing should be done to make sure your real estate is back in top shape.
Water damage mitigation should happen immediately after flooding or water buildup. Take action immediately because letting your property sit in water causes further damage and expense. Materials soaking in water collect microbes and spreads water-borne diseases. Furniture, wood flooring, and walls will crack, sag and collect fungi after prolonged exposure to moisture.
If your property is particularly old it may be time to replace materials such as pipes to prevent a reoccurrence of water damage. If pipes are behind walls it may require more extensive repair.
The water mitigation process will depend on how long your property has been exposed to water. Air humidifiers and restoration equipment must be turned on round the clock in areas with severe water damage. Mold spores are especially dangerous to health and thorough cleaning and disinfecting should be done as part of the water damage mitigation. It is advisable to get the temperature, humidity, and moisture of your property tested to see if it has been restored to normal standards.
Tips for Water Damage
Water damage is truly problematic because it can cause structural damage and even adversely affect the healthy environment of your home or establishment. Continued rainfall, burst, and leaking pipes are common culprits of water damage. It is essential to have a water clean up immediately after an event to prevent further accidents and damage. If water builds up in a certain area it is important to start a flood damage cleanup by shutting off the water source. There are some emergency water damage restoration tips you can do immediately right after a sudden water build-up.
Remove the water by mopping the area and blotting areas with high saturation. If the flooded area has furniture and valuable items like paintings or electronic devices it is important to get these items in a safe place. Carpeting and rugs should be removed immediately and laid outside to dry. If water damage occurs in the summer, open doors and windows to let the air aid in drying the wet area. Open all closed compartments like closets and cabinets to hasten to dry. Any wet fabric should be hung to dry.
Water damaged ceilings should be given immediate attention because it can fall off due to gravity and cause accidents and further damage. Check for the source of leaks in ceilings and roofs and repair them immediately. Porous materials are usually the most susceptible to water damage and these include your furniture’s upholstery, carpet, and insulation. Drywall, unsealed cement and wood are other porous materials that can degrade when exposed to water. More often than not you may have to replace these materials completely if they have been left in the water for too long.
Professionals can help with extensive water damage. Besides their technical skills, water damage remediation companies have high powered equipment that can repair water damage in a few days. Air movers are especially powerful in promoting fast drying of surfaces like floors and wet walls because it aids in the circulation of air inside the area. Dehumidifiers hasten to dry by removing moisture from the air and air scrubbers help restore cleanliness and sanitation by removing musty smells that come with mildew.
Water damage is a grave concern for many property owners because if left unchecked it causes considerable destruction that results in thousands of dollars of repairs. Inspect areas where water damage is likely to occur on a regular basis to ensure a safe environment in your property.
How to Prevent Water Damage
Preventing water damage requires regular inspection and maintenance where damage is like to occur. Basements, attics, bathrooms, and kitchen are likely sources of water damage so repair water leaks immediately and check for watermarks on walls which signal a leaking pipe. Ensure there is good drainage in your property by directing downspouts away from your property and checking your sump pump to make sure water is being drained out of your property during rainfall.
How to Prevent Water Damage in Your Home
Water can get in your home during heavy rainfall or if there are burst pipes and malfunctioning appliances. It is important to clean and inspect areas where damage is like to occur such as gutters and roofing. Replace shingles immediately and apply coating and sealants to holes. Make sure your lawn doesn’t tilt toward your home because it may cause flooding in your home during rainfall.
How to Prevent Water Damage to Wood
Wood that has been damaged by water, rots and affects the structural integrity of your property. Wood that has been exposed to moisture should be thoroughly cleaned of dirt, mold, and mildew. You can apply an oil-based waterproofer or sealant on wood to protect it from water damage in the future. Mold can live on wood and it is important to disinfect wooden materials in your home to prevent mold growth after water damage.
How to Prevent Water Damage to Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring is beautiful and versatile but to prevent water damage on this kind of flooring use it away from water prone areas like your bathrooms, kitchen, and basements. It is important to wipe spills immediately from laminate floors because it may stain and discolor the laminate material. If your laminate flooring has already suffered water damage you should have extra boards on hand to replace severely damaged boards to keep your floor looking good as new.
Common Water Damage Restoration Equipment
When water damage occurs in indoor commercial or industrial environments, it is vital to get the right restoration equipment in place as quickly as possible to minimize damage to property and the risk to the workers’ health. There is a wide variety of commercial air movers, dehumidifiers, air scrubbers and other disaster restoration equipment available from suppliers like Aer Industries. Professional equipment suppliers like Aer Industries have the industry knowledge to offer the most effective solution to a water damage remediation process.
There are many popular pieces of disaster restoration equipment available through Aer Industries. Three of the main devices are:
- Air Movers: These are portable drying devices that move a large volume of air around the flooded area. Air movers promote fast drying of surfaces like floors and provide general air circulation for the entire indoor space. Aer Industries provides air movers in many sizes, ranging from compact models to larger, more powerful units. They are measured in the capacity of Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM), as well as the electrical power consumption in amperage required. For instance, the BlueDri® One-29 air mover is powerful, lightweight and efficient at 2.9 amps.
- Commercial Dehumidifiers: These are also portable machines that are effective for removing the excess moisture from the air which contributes to growing mold and mildew. Dehumidifiers come in ionizing and non-ionizing models and a range of sizes, from compact and conventional to LGR (Low Grain Refrigerant) models. Conventional models, like the BlueDri® BD 76-P, are capable of pulling up to 150 pints of water in a 24-hour period. An LGR dehumidifier, like the B-Air® Vantage LGR VG-3000, can remove up to 225 pints daily.
- Air Scrubbers: These are designed to remove odors and other particles from the air. Typically, air scrubbers are used for fire damage restoration, where they remove smoke particles from the air. However, these tools are also effective for removing the musty smells associated with water damage and mildew presence. Wet air scrubbers have a wet filter that traps and removes airborne particulates, whereas dry scrubbers use an ionic purifier. The B-Air RA-650 is recognized as the best and most mobile HEPA filtration device in its category.
Aer Industries provide a wide array of air movers, dehumidifiers and scrubbers for every type of commercial and industrial application in water, sewage and flood restoration. Our popular brands include:
- B-Air®: This is a California-based manufacturer of high-quality restoration dryers, dehumidifiers, and air scrubbers. B-Air®’s water damage restoration product line offers a wide selection of axial fans, air movers, dryers and dehumidifiers. They are the first choice of professional restoration contractors who need fast-acting and economical solutions for moisture and mold removal. B-Air products have resulted from years of thorough research and development that have produced the most technologically advanced drying solutions. Their manufacturing plant is state-of-the-art and incorporates stringent quality assurance measures.
- BlueDri®: They are a top provider of commercial and industrial dehumidifiers and air dryers. BlueDri® products are ideal for cleaning up catastrophic events, like flood damage repair, as well as drying smaller areas caused by plumbing leaks and rain ingress. BlueDri® dehumidifiers come in conventional, compact and Low Grain Refrigerant (LGR) models. LGR dehumidifiers are the optimal industrial-grade dehumidifiers and they are the most popular machines used in large-scale operations. All dehumidifiers produced by BlueDri are top-quality and designed for optimum performance in their recommended settings.
- Soleaire®: Soleaire® provides air moving equipment. These water damage restoration devices range from ½ horsepower to 1 horsepower and are ideally suited to remove moisture from small and confined spaces and for use on larger restoration projects. Soleairev’s line of air movers includes the Max Storm, the Monsoon and the Super Monsoon.
Health and Safety in the Water Damage Restoration Process
Each category of water damage has its own health hazards that present workers with various safety issues where precautions must be taken. These precautions could include anything from ensuring adequate ventilation to wearing fully enclosed biological hazard protective equipment, depending on the level of contamination and the health risks associated. Each situation will present its particular safety-related challenges, whether it is simple freshwater mitigation, flood water damage or sewage cleanup.
Occupational Health and Safety (OHSA) regulations are very clear and strict about what materials present a health hazard in flood and sewage cleanup. OHSA rules and regulations identify the risks of many materials that workers can be exposed to in the water damage restoration process and prescribe the measures of dealing with them to minimize the hazards of exposure. This includes the methods of treatment, water removal, bagging or packaging of hazardous materials, and the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to be used by workers who may be exposed to hazardous materials.
Generally, Category 1 water damage presents little or no hazard from the clean and potable water itself. This could expand the risk if there are hazardous materials where water comes in contact, including exposed electrical wiring or devices.
Category 2 situations present moderate risk from the presence of gray water. Standard PPE like coveralls, waterproof boots and rubber gloves should be worn and all workers should be aware of what incidental materials on the job site may present a health and safety risk. With this information, PPE should be adjusted accordingly.
Category 3 water damage situations must be taken seriously. The presence of sewage and non-organic contaminants can be highly dangerous to workers. These effects can be immediate (acute) or long-term (chronic). Category 3 cleanups require full-body protection and for contaminated materials to be placed in biohazard containers. Commonly, entire biohazard suits are worn, including an air-assisted ventilation apparatus.
Education and Training in the Water Damage Restoration Process
All workers involved with the water damage remediation require training and education regarding their tasks and the possible environmental hazards, especially where flood damage restoration or sewage cleanup is required.
All workers and supervisors must be aware of the applicable OHSA rules and regulations, as well as health and safety orders from local and state authorities. Before starting a flood or sewer damage restoration project, all workers should attend an IICRC WRT class and IICRC ASD class, and be familiar with their industry’s standards of care and safety.
Proper training in the use of PPE should also be completed, including the fitting and wearing of respirators and the proper use of eye protection. They should also be aware of the workplace hazardous materials, as well as the information on applicable Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).
Water Damage Restoration Process Scenarios
Here are helpful scenarios describing real-life situations and what can be involved in the water damage restoration process, depending on the category and classification of the damage severity. They include the steps to be taken and the equipment to be selected and implemented, as well as the safety precautions to be taken.
Scenario One: Burst Hot Water Tank in a Light Commercial Complex
This Category 1, Class 1 situation is a routine event in aging complexes that are minimally maintained by the landlord. The business, a small woodworking company operating in a steel-frame and low-porosity concrete slab floor facility, opens in the morning to find their 40-gallon hot water tank has ruptured and is discharging potable freshwater. The tank is set in a mechanical room constructed of steel studs and gypsum wallboard and approximately 200 gallons of water have flowed onto the floor. Most water has been eliminated by the floor drain, but about 1/3 has flowed out to the shop’s sawdust-covered floor.
These water damage restoration process steps were followed:
- All safety hazards are assessed, including electrical cords or devices that may be standing in water. Power supplies to these are cut off.
- The water shutoff is located and the flow is eliminated. A plumber or the landlord is contacted to remove and replace the tank.
- Further expansion of the water flow is blocked. The drain is inspected to make sure it is not obstructed.
- All wet materials are removed and taken elsewhere to dry or be disposed of.
- Surface water is eliminated by mopping or sponging.
- Ventilation is added by opening doors or windows.
- Air movers are brought in to begin drying operations. For a 1,000-square-foot shop, two Soleaire ½ horsepower models like the Max Storm would be needed to surface dry the area quickly.
- Once standing water is eliminated, long-term drying of isolated spaces, such as in wall cavities and under shelving units, begins.
- A dehumidifier would greatly assist in the restoration time frame. Because this is a moderately damp area now, only a small dehumidifier with a 14-pint-per-day capacity would be necessary. The BlueDri BD-76P, for example, should be sufficient to handle the job.
- Limited PPE would be required, other than rubber boots and gloves.
Scenario Two: Sump-Pump Failure in a Commercial Restaurant Facility
This would be a Category 2, Class 2 situation. Many commercial restaurants have below-floor drainage located in crawlspaces and basements. Many are equipped with electric sump-pumps situated in capture wells and have float-activated switches. Typically, the restaurant has a greasy environment where food oils and organic waste are disposed of in the facility’s drainage system and are pumped out into the municipal sanitary sewer system.
In this case, the pump failed to work for several days before the manager was alerted by the musty smell coming from below. The standing water measured six inches deep, covering an area of 300 square feet, and the existing mold was quickly multiplying. These water damage restoration steps were followed:
- An assessment is made of potential hazards prior to entering the crawlspace. These include electrical and airborne threats as well as arranging for proper access and work lighting.
- An assessment is made of potential hazards prior to entering the crawlspace. These include electrical and airborne threats as well as arranging for proper access and work lighting.
- All sources of further water are evaluated and halted
- A plumber or other professional is contracted to either repair the existing pump, replace it, or install a temporary pump to extract the standing water.
- All standing water is removed, along with any soaked materials, which trap water.
- Ventilation is ensured by opening exterior passageways.
- Cross airflow begins using at least two portable air movers, such as the BlueDri One-29. The majority of standing water is eliminated before beginning the dehumidifying process.
- The small volume of the area to be dried would require a small capacity dehumidifier to assist with the restoration process as it is imperative the restaurant gets back to business as quickly as possible. The best choice for a restoration contractor, in this case, would be a BlueDri BD 76-P that’s capable of removing 150 pints of moisture per day.
- Depending on the amount of mildew and odor, an air scrubber may be necessary.
- Once the moisture is controlled, a non-toxic, anti-fungal agent would be applied to the surfaces.
- Due to the hazard presented by a mild mold presence, workers would wear full boots, gloves, coveralls, eye protection and would breathe through a HEPA filtered, face-fitted respirator.
Scenario Three: Sewage Flood in Industrial Warehouse
This is a Category 3, Class 4 situation. Heavy rains have caused a nearby river to overflow, thereby blocking the sewage outfall pipe from an industrial warehouse in a rural area. The floodwaters exceeded the banks and sent a foot of water into the warehouse. To compound matters, the ground outside the warehouse is heavily contaminated from years of oil spills and the sewage drain system has percolated back inside, mixing fecal matter in with the toxic, non-organic compounds inside the 5,000-square-foot, steel-framed, and porous-floored building.
These are the remedial steps:
- All external hazards are identified and eliminated, such as electrical and structural instability caused by water damage.
- Additional ingress of water is prevented or diverted by blocking or ditching methods, or crews must wait for the waters to recede on their own.
- Standing water is removed by pumping, mopping or other means.
- The building is heavily ventilated by opening all passageways.
- Increased airflow is started. Because of the large area, multiple large-capacity air movers like the Soleaire Super Monsoon would be needed.
- Once the majority of standing water is removed, heat would be added as necessary. This may come from the building’s existing HVAC system or may be supplied by commercial, portable heaters.
- Dehumidifiers may not be effective due to the structure and volume of air space. This would be decided on a case-by-case basis and would depend on whether unique construction methods like enclosed wall assemblies or highly porous substances are present.
- The presence of high-risk pathogens from the sewage and oils would mandate the workers to wear full personal protection, including respirators. All contaminated material would be removed in approved containers and disposed of at an approved site.
Water Damage Restoration Is Best Left to Professionals
With so much to know about the process of water mitigation, including flood and sewage damage restoration, it is always recommended that water damage repair and cleanup be left to trained professionals.
Professional emergency water damage restoration companies and contractors have the training and capabilities to be able to safely, effectively, and economically undertake water damage. Both proper trainings in best practices and safety measures and proper equipment are necessary to take on these projects.
The professionals at Aer Industries also know the water damage restoration business. We are the leading supplier of industrial air movers, dehumidifiers, and air scrubbers.
Check out our extensive inventory today! Need help selecting the right equipment? One of our knowledgeable sales reps would be more than happy to assist you.