Water Damage Restoration
Water is the leading carrier of pathogens in the world also the cause of damage in some of the worst natural catastrophes North America encounters on a regular basis: hurricanes.
As destructive as hurricanes are, they are not the leading cause of water intrusion and water damage in structures.
Water damage can also occur in buildings due to construction defects, plumbing failures, damage from freezing pipes and improper maintenance.
Water Damage Restoration Process
The goal of the water damage restoration process is to transform an abnormally wet, potentially damaged structure into an environment of equal or better appearance and cleanliness than before the intrusion occurred, and to do so in the most economical and efficient means possible.
Water Damage Job Procedure
When water damage occurs, the single most critical factor in determining the amount of potential damage is the amount of time the structure remains abnormally wet. When abnormal moisture is present, microorganisms rapidly multiply and spread causing structural deterioration, create odors, and can potentially cause serious health issues for the building’s occupants.
Water can cause serious damage to a property if not efficiently dried within 48 hours to prevent mold growth. Costs will quickly escalate the longer restorative drying is delayed. The water damage restoration job procedure involves six major steps to completing the water damage restoration process safely and efficiently.
1. Safety, Education, Inspection
The water damage restoration technician’s first responsibility when arriving at a water damage site is identifying and eliminating safety hazards. Our focus is always on the health and safety of the customer and on mitigating any further loss to the contents and structure.
During the initial inspection, we educate the customer on what services will need to be completed as well as find and stop the source causing damage. Our company provides free inspections and estimates on the preliminary cost of damages at the time of the water or mold damage inspection. Water damage restoration technicians are equipped with respirators and personal protective equipment for safety.
Our company provides free inspections and estimates on the preliminary cost of damages at the time of the water or mold damage inspection. Damage restoration technicians are equipped with respirators and personal protective equipment for safety.
Water Damage Inspection
When inspections are performed properly, the restorer can accurately evaluate the progress being made. More important than the amount of moisture currently present in the structure is the change in moisture over time. Several inspections of the drying environment need to be conducted to ensure that the intended result of returning the structure to a clean, dry and safe living environment is achieved.
The initial inspection to identify items that will influence the restorer’s end goal, ongoing inspections to ensure that expected progress is being made, and the final inspection to ensure materials have reached their predetermined drying goals.
The restorer documents what types of materials have been affected. Proper documentation includes photos and measurements that are taken at the beginning and throughout the job until completion. Improperly documented claims can cost the customer time and money. The water damage restoration process begins by identifying and documenting what types of materials have been affected.
The degree of contamination, damage to the item, and replacement cost versus restoration cost determine if an affected material should be restored or replaced. All materials that are determined to be restorable are inspected further, and the amount of moisture absorbed by the material is measured and documented.
Proper containment needs to be set up and affected customer content is handled. Containment is a barrier that separates the clean area from the contaminated area.
A very simple form of containment is closing the door between a contaminated room and the rest of the structure. In damage restoration work, containment will need to be more than just closing a door.
Before starting remediation work, how large the containment needs to be, how to seal the containment to the structure, and how large the air filtration device which normally also provides negative air pressure needs to be.
Containment is usually built with transparent polyethylene sheeting with the size of the containment structure depending upon job size and complexity. In general, there are three different types of containment.
Source containment is used for small areas of mold growth or suspected mold growth usually under 10 sq. ft. and involves a patch covering of polyethylene sheeting over the affected area. Before installing the covering, the affected area should be HEPA vacuumed to control and remove dust and airborne particles from the contained area.
Local containment involves affected areas of 10 to 100 sq. ft. and is used for more complex and larger remediation jobs than source containment. Local containment is established by creating an isolation room using polyethylene sheeting to separate the affected area from the unaffected area.
Full containment is for affected areas that are larger than 100 sq. ft. and usually is for whole rooms or sections of a building. Full-scale containment is built similarly to local containment, just larger in size.
Negative Air Pressure
Once containment is built, negative air pressure or a vacuum is established inside of the containment structure. Negative air pressure assures that contamination is unable to escape into the clean area outside of containment. An air filtration device combines an air mover with a series of filters.
Air Filtration Device
An AFD that filters and re-circulates the air is referred to as an air scrubber whereas an AFD that filters air and creates negative pressure is referred to as a negative air machine. Air filtration devices can be used in two configurations; as an air scrubber or as a negative air machine.
4. Machine Placement
Dehumidifiers, air movers, and negative air machines are left within the structure until reaching the set dry standard. Many small vacuums, such as shop vacuums, do not provide sufficient vacuum power to support water removal from carpet and underlay.
Restorers must use equipment specifically designed for removing water from materials. Types of vacuums used in restoration range from truck mounted machines to portable electric vacuums. The essential tools of water removal are air movers and dehumidifiers.
Air movers are placed in the structure to ensure rapid evaporation across all affected surfaces. Of all the tools and equipment used in water removal, air movers are the greatest in number. The function of an air mover is to blend the air at the surface of wet materials with other air in the affected structure.
An air mover helps accelerate the rate at which warm air heats surfaces increasing water evaporation. The number of air movers needed depends upon the number of wet surfaces, the amount of water present, and the ability for air to reach the affected material.
An air scrubber is a portable filtration system that removes particles, gasses, and/or chemicals from the air within a given area. These machines draw air in from the surrounding environment and pass it through a series of filters to remove contaminants. An air scrubber stands alone in the center of a room with no ducting attached. The air is filtered and recirculated, greatly improving the general air quality.
The size and complexity of an air scrubber system will depend on the size of the space being serviced, as well as the range, type, and size of contaminants that must be removed from the area. Air scrubbers help protect the health of workers and building occupants by providing a clean and healthy environment.
Negative Air Machines
A negative air machine uses ducting to remove contaminated air from a sealed containment area. The filtered air is exhausted outside of the containment area. This creates negative air pressure (a vacuum effect), which helps limit the spread of contaminants to other areas inside of the structure. An air scrubber can be used as a negative air machine, but it requires ducting, a sealed housing, precise airflow adjustment, and a variable speed blower motor.
Dehumidification reduces the moisture content of the air and a dehumidifier is a machine that is used to remove the moisture that air movers sweep away from wet materials. After the excess water has been removed by the water extraction process, the time required to dry wet materials is determined by the rate of evaporation.
As water is evaporated, the water vapor is removed by dehumidification or ventilation. A balanced drying system is achieved when the rate of dehumidification is greater than or equal to the rate of evaporation.
5. Contamination Removal
Safe removal of all unsalvageable building materials. Affected materials are evaluated against the degree of contamination, damage to the item, and replacement cost versus restoration cost to determine if the item should be restored or replaced.
Only after identifying the material and considering these three factors will the water damage restoration technician decide which materials should be restored and which should be replaced.
When dealing with contents that are in a mold-contaminated building, the one question that has to be answered is if the objects in question can be cleaned and decontaminated. If an item cannot be cleaned and decontaminated, then it should be discarded.
Prior to any cleaning, restoration or preservation actions are taken, a thorough inspection should be done on all items located within the contaminated area of the structure. Before moving potentially mold-contaminated contents from a suspected or known moldy room to a cleaner room, the restorer should contain contaminated items such as bagging them before moving.
6. Reach Dry Standard
Restoration contractors set an effective dry standard for use in structural drying by obtaining data from several materials in several unaffected environments. Doing this yields a range of normal moisture levels for building materials in the specific geographic region.
This record then becomes a reference to evaluate suspect materials in a wet environment. Abnormally high humidity can alter the amount of moisture in materials that are not directly affected by water.
The drying process is not complete until all affected materials reach their drying goals, which are normally based on a dry standard. A dry standard is established by obtaining a moisture reading of an unaffected material.
This reading is then used to establish a standard against which the affected materials can be compared. Regardless of the material type the meter was intended for, unaffected materials will yield a relative reading that can be used as a control to which suspect materials can be compared. The drying process cannot be regarded as complete until affected materials have reached the goals established based on the dry standards.
Checking that the dry standard has been reached and verifying that contamination levels are safe is the final step in a water damage restoration job procedure. Affected materials must be compared against a dry standard or the drying goal.
The drying goal is a moisture reading obtained from a known unaffected sample that allows the restorer to set drying goals for the affected structure and contents made from the same material. As materials return to their dry standard, equipment is reduced. Only after all drying is complete will equipment be removed entirely.
Types of Damage
Water affects materials indirectly. Excessive moisture leads to elevated humidity. Many building materials will absorb excess water vapor and suffer damage, especially when the air in the structure is allowed to remain above 60% relative humidity. There are three types of damage the restorer will need to identify.
Pre-existing damage is a condition that was present before the water intrusion that may or may not have been caused by moisture. Restorers can be held liable for conditions that are not a result of the restoration process.
It is critical therefore, that pre-existing damage be identified, documented and communicated to all materially interested parties during the initial inspection.
From a restorer’s perspective, the most important forms of pre-existing damage to note are microbial growth (mold) and carpet delamination (the separation of primary and secondary carpet backings).
Water intrusion will affect building materials both immediately and over time. Damage that occurs immediately by direct contact with water is referred to as primary damage.
Damage that occurs because material remains wet for an extended period of time is referred to as secondary damage. Damage from high humidity is referred to as secondary damage. Secondary damage includes dimensional changes, loss of structural integrity, microbial growth and staining.
Hidden And Permanent Damage
Hidden damage can occur that will require a more invasive method of inspection. One of the most common forms of hidden damage occurs with wall insulation.
Removal of permanently damaged materials must occur promptly in the initial stage of restoration. If the material is removed without delay, the moisture contained in the material will also be removed. This will speed the drying of the remaining affected materials that can be saved, reducing the total restoration cost.
Structure And Contents Evaluation
Structure and contents must be evaluated for the presence of primary and secondary water damage.
As with pre-existing damage, primary and secondary damage need to be properly identified, documented and communicated to the appropriate parties.
This process needs to include the necessary work to restore the appearance and performance of all affected material.
Hygroscopic materials absorb moisture easily, whether from direct contact with Water or from exposure to high humidity. As a result, hygroscopic materials are very susceptible to secondary damage.
Such materials gain and lose moisture continually in an effort to equalize with the water content in the surrounding air. The more hygroscopic the material, the faster it will collect water vapor, and the easier it will suffer secondary damage.
Prioritize The Response
Whether evaluating structure or contents, this triage process guides decision-making in the first moments inspecting the loss. Affected items are categorized into the three potential actions, and each action has its own set of potential deviations and considerations. We prioritize affected items and structures into three types of actions.
This type of action requires the restorer to make more independent decisions. Communication with involved parties, such as the building owner, insurer or adjuster, is always preferred. Take immediate action when dealing with items highly susceptible to secondary damage.
Materials or structural components that have suffered minor but repairable damage should be low on the priority list. These items face little risk of secondary damage since they typically are not hygroscopic, are not wet, or do not suffer from short-term exposure to water.
Examples include concrete, brick, structural lumber, synthetic materials, or any hygroscopic material that has not been exposed to high levels of abnormal moisture.
Restoration of an item to pre-loss condition may not be possible when it has suffered irreparable damage due to contact with moisture, contamination, or physical damage.
During the initial inspection, most items fitting this description should be listed on a schedule of loss, set aside for review by an adjuster, and, if approved, discarded and replaced.