Everyone has had water in their facility where it shouldn’t be. It’s always a mess, but how much is too much? When water damage occurs, when do you handle it with your own staff and when should you call in a professional water restoration company?
The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration (IICRC) sets national standards for how to properly handle water damage in 7 steps:
- Turn the water off first. It is no use to start cleaning up the mess until you have fixed the problem. So fix the leak, call the plumber, call the city, wait for the seepage to stop; whatever you need to do to stop the problem is your first step.
- Determine the path that the water traveled. Find out where the water started and where it went. This isn’t always easy. Water can travel through walls, behind cabinets, through building materials of all kinds. Only when you know where it traveled can you dry out all the areas affected. Missing some areas means problems later. Your trusted restoration company has several types of moisture meters (costing from $600 into the thousands) that will determine where the water traveled. Find out more about the cost of water damage restoration here.
- Protect the contents. Many times, furniture is also affected by the water. For example, wet legs from chairs or furniture can release stain into carpet and other flooring and cause permanent damage. Get everything up and out of the water right away.
- Remove the surface water. It seems that it is always more than you think. A simple toilet supply line can leak between 700 to 1,400 gallons of water in 24 hours! Be prepared with enough staff and equipment to vacuum it up in a reasonable time.
- Dealing with carpet pad. In most cases, remove and discard the pad from the affected areas. It is inexpensive to replace and very hard to dry. Take it out, dry what is left and replace it.
- Prevent mold growth. Treat the wet area with an antimicrobial solution once the surface water has been removed (staff must have the proper certification). Spray this on hard surfaces and under carpet and then draw it through the carpet with a vacuum. Then be sure to dry the area within 3 days or less. Mold takes time to grow so time is on your side, but if the area isn’t dried quickly it will grow and cause further problems.
- Balance the moisture evaporation. This part can be tricky without the proper test equipment owned by a restoration company. In a nutshell, when you start a fan on an area to dry it, you put moisture in the air. This requires a dehumidifier(s) to wring the moisture out of the air at the same rate that you are putting it in with the fan. Without the proper balance you can cause secondary damage to walls and other building materials. Qualified restoration companies are experts in this process and should be hired if you feel the amount of water is too large to dry in a single day. Waiting too long to call them results in a host of other problems you don’t need in the future.
A simple evaluation of your ability to respond to water damage today will provide you with an appropriate response when it happens. Do you have enough equipment to vacuum water readily available to all buildings? Do you have large fans available too? Can this affected area be cleaned and dried in one day? If not, call in help.
Secondary damage and mold growth caused by not drying water damaged building materials has resulted in thousands of lawsuits across the county. Your best defense is to plan ahead of time and be prepared to call in help from a qualified restoration company if conditions warrant. It will save a host of problems in the future. Water damage happens in every facility. Be ready.
IICRC Certified Technician Water/Fire/Mold
Continuing Education Instructor
ServiceMaster Professional Services
St. Cloud, Hutchinson, Willmar, Marshall – Minnesota