You come home from a weekend away and discover that a faucet has been leaking and the sink has overflowed onto the floor. Or you run the washing machine and a hose gives out during the rinse cycle, sending a cascade of water into the laundry room. Or worse, a sewer line breaks and… well, no need to describe that picture. Water damage can also come from rain and snow that seeps into attics and eaves or rises in basements.
Whether it’s a slow drip over time or a sudden deluge, water can do more damage than you might think. It’s not enough to mop things up and forget about it. In some cases, this isn’t a do-it-yourself cleaning job. It takes experienced professionals like Service Master Restore with the equipment and know-how to safely remove the water and restore your property to its original condition.
Here’s what you should know:
There Are Different Types of Water
All water is wet, of course, but there are actually three different kinds of water and they need to be dealt with differently when they overflow into the wrong areas.
- Clean water. This is the water from rain, condensation, a water heater, leaky pipes and the like. It’s relatively harmless to clean up yourself.
- Gray water. This is the slightly dirty water from dishwashers, washing machines, clean toilets and so on. It may have some contaminants in it, but you can clean it up yourself if you remove it carefully and wear rubber gloves to protect yourself.
- Black water. This is water from sewage or serious flooding from a nearby river or other body of water. It can contain waste, bacteria and other dangerous contaminants and can cause severe health problems. You should not try to clean it up yourself.
The First Things to Do
If the source of the water is inside the house, the first thing to do is to shut down the water supply to the appliance or, if necessary, to your entire house. Before an emergency requires it, you should make yourself familiar with the location of the shut-off valves on your water heater, toilets, sinks, washing machine and even your refrigerator if you’ve got an automatic ice maker or water dispenser.
If the flooding is severe, you should also shut down the electricity and certainly never approach a pool of water if there’s an electrical cord in or near it.
Then Assess the Damage
If you can see that the problem stemmed from a water heater, a pipe or an appliance and the leak or overflow didn’t stray too far from its source, it may be that all you need to do is call a plumber or repair service.
If the water damage is extensive, though, or happened as a result of weather conditions and affected your roof, attic or basement, you’ll need to take further steps and consider calling in professional help.
- Inspect for mold. In the right conditions, mold can start to grow in as little as 24 hours. Some mold and mildew is toxic to humans, and all mold is damaging to the materials it infests. For small issues, cut out the material, bag it and throw it away immediately. If the issue is serious, leave the area, close the doors to it, and shut down any airflow to avoid spore contamination. A professional should treat the visible mold as well as inspect for hidden mold inside walls and under floors.
- Dry out affected area. It’s critical to get rid of all moisture before it causes more damage. Use fans to circulate air, and if the area is large, consider renting a large-capacity dehumidifier.
- Toss damaged materials. Water will permanently damage most porous materials, and mildew will damage them further. You may have to remove and discard carpet, insulation and items made or covered with fabric. Unsealed cement, drywall and wood are also porous, so they may need to be replaced as well.
For significant damage, check your homeowners insurance to see if you can make a claim. Professional restoration companies will also coordinate directly with your insurance adjuster to make the process as easy as possible for you, and will generally be able to bill your insurer directly.