Who knew that as an adult the scariest sound on earth would be the sound of running water when there isn’t supposed to be any water running? If you’re dealing with water damage, hopefully you’ve already shut off the water source and the power and likely wondering what on earth to do next. The most important thing is to act quickly. Wet things get moldy fast (within 24-36 hours) so time is of the essence.
- Know the Different Types of Water
Not all water is created equal and the type of water damage you have matters a lot in the cleanup. The worst is Black water, which is water that comes from sewage or from a flood (rising lakes or streams, etc.). You can probably guess that this type of water is the most damaging and dangerous as it contains all sorts of nasty bacteria and other contaminants. This stuff is not to be messed with and you should avoid attempting to clean this yourself. It can make you sick. Call in the professionals in this case.
Next is Gray water. This is water that’s somewhat dirty but not with the really dangerous stuff. This might come from a broken washer, dishwasher, toilet, etc. With the proper safety precautions and being careful you could probably attempt to clean this up on your own if the damage is caught quickly and not severe.
Finally there is Clean water. This would be water that hasn’t interfaced with anything that might cause it to be contaminated. This might be water that comes from a leaky pipe (an intake pipe, not a drain) or condensation from rain. You might decide to clean this up on your own if the damage isn’t too bad, but hiring a professional is always an option.
- Check the Damaged Area for Mold and Mildew
Mission critical after cleaning up the water is to check for mildew and mold. In many conditions you can see these things grow in less than 36 hours, especially if it’s warm. If you detect mold or even something that you think might be mold but you aren’t sure, it’s best to proceed with extreme caution. Some molds can be dangerous to your health and all mold is bad for whatever it’s growing on. If you think the mold issue is serious, make sure the air from that location isn’t circulating through the rest of the building, leave the area, and seek the help of a professional mold removal company. Remember that mold isn’t always obvious. It can grow in hidden spaces such as under the flooring or inside your walls.
- Dry it Out!
This may seem obvious, but you need to get rid of every drop of moisture as quickly as you can. The longer it’s there, the more damage it can do. This might be pretty simple for the smaller leaks of clean water or even Gray water but even if you’re doing this yourself, you need to make sure you get it all. Keep in mind that water runs down so just because you have it all up from your floor doesn’t mean some hasn’t entered the sub floor. You’ll want to check the ceiling under the leak if it’s in an upstairs area. You’ll want to then use as many fans as you can get your hands on to dry out the area. You also might consider renting or borrowing a dehumidifier to make sure all materials have all of the water extracted. You want to get it all.
- Throw Away Damaged Porous Materials
This might include things like insulation, fabric, carpets, clothes, etc. Anything that absorbs water. These items typically cannot be safely or fully cleaned and you can’t risk having mildew and mold growing inside of these items. You need to throw them away, as painful as that may be. If you have an item that is of great importance or sentimental value, you might try to salvage it by drying it thoroughly and disinfecting it, but proceed with caution.
- Disinfect and Clean Everything that’s Left
Once you’ve thrown away those porous materials, you’ll want to completely clean and disinfect the entire area and all remaining things. Ideally you’ll want to use something with some bleach in it as mold and mildew hate bleach. It’s important to make sure you kill all the mold spores so be thorough.
- Start with the Ceiling for your Water Damage repairs
Why start with the ceiling? Because it’s at higher risk due to the simple force of gravity. Left wet, ceilings will begin to collapse or cave in. Get rid of any damaged panels or planks / sheet rock pieces first. You may be tempted to just paint over a water stain but the best plan is always to replace heavily damaged areas. You also want to make 100% certain you’ve found the source of the leak so that you’re not making this same repair next time it rains. Fixing ceilings is no fun!
- Purchase and Install Sealed Flooring
When your flooring becomes water damaged, it almost always needs to be replaced, especially if it’s wood, laminate, or especially carpet. You’ll want to check all the way down to the underlayment, padding, and even the wood subfloor. As you consider your options to replace your flooring, you might want to consider a waterproof choice such as luxury vinyl plank, ceramic tyle, or vinyl flooring.
- Caulk and Paint
Once you have completed all repairs of flooring, walls, and ceilings, it’s time to make that area look good as new. Yes, of course you’ll want to paint to restore your look to how it was before, but don’t forget the all important step of caulking the area to help minimize any future water issues. It’s incredibly common for people to skip this all important step which can truly save you from further water damage repairs in the future by keeping water out of areas it shouldn’t go. Don’t skip this critical step in your water damage repairs.
- For Significant Damage, Check Your Insurance
If your water damage is very severe or beyond what you are able to fix on your own, we would encourage you to check your insurance policy (homeowners or renters) to find out what type of repairs for water damage are covered by your policy. Usually things that happen suddenly such as an exploded pipe are more likely to be covered by your policy than things that happen slowly over time, such as a slowly leaking toilet. You may be able to make a claim and get the repair paid for, but you’ll need to check and act quickly. If you find out you are able to make an insurance claim, you’ll want to make sure you hire a reputable water damage cleaning services company who is familiar with insurance work and can handle your claim for you, stress free.