Do you know what the number one property loss in America is today, in terms of total cost? Water damaged property.
The things that may come to your mind might be Hurricanes and overflowing riverbanks. But these are not the most common sources of a wet basement or flooded basement or business. In the Midwest, a broken sump pump, frozen water pipes and backed up sewer lines are the most frequent reasons for water damaged property. Appliances which go on the fritz are also common culprits; if you’ve ever had a hot water heater, washing machine or dishwasher abruptly start to leak (or gush) water, you’ve likely experienced alarm and dread (or just plain panic) watching water flow places it was never intended to go, coming into contact with walls, flooring and personal possessions easily ruined by water.
How do you handle such a situation? How do you stop or reduce the water damage to your property and possessions should you find your otherwise dry basement or business suddenly wet?
The answer is to know what is happening and quick actions – the faster the better.
Types of Water Damage
First, there are three categories of water:
Category One is clean water. Water coming from a dishwasher or hot water heater is clean water.
Category Two is mildly contaminated water.Washing machine water,or ground water resulting from a broken sump pump, is mildly contaminated water. It contains elevated levels of bacteria, but levels not high enough to pose an immediate health risk to humans or pets.
Category One water, if left standing, can turn to Category Two water within two days.
Category Three is severely contaminated water, containing levels of bacteria and/or pathogens that can pose an immediate health risk to humans and pets.
Category Two water, if left standing, will turn to Category Three within two or three days.
Category three water typically comes from sewage or backed up sewer lines, and would include water from lakes and rivers.
Handling the Situation: Water Damage Restoration
What to do when your house or business floods?
First, try to find out where the water is coming from to see if there is an immediate action you can take to help lighten the problem.
Example: if your basement is flooding during or immediately after a rain storm, there is probably nothing you can do, because either the sump pump is out or the city sewer is backing up through a floor drain.
But, if water is pouring through the ceiling or walls it’s pretty certain that it’s a broken pipe and you need to turn the water off to the whole house. If you’re on city water the main shutoff valve is almost always in the lowest level of the house, at the front of the house by the water meter. It also helps to open the faucets in the house to drain the pipes.
If the source of the flooding is a plumbing problem, call a plumber right away.
Next, call a water damage restoration company. Why? Because time is of the essence. Preventing or minimizing water damage to your property and possessions requires thorough drying, quickly.
Clean water will become mildly contaminated water within two days, and become a potential health risk within two or three more days.
Mildly contaminated water will become a potential health risk within two or three days.
And if you’ve got something line a sewer line backup, you’re already dealing with a potential health risk.
Mold is the other significant threat: damp walls, ceilings and possessions quickly become home to mold. Once dry basements can easily gain the musty smell associated with basement mold and mildew. Preventing basement mold is easier than removing it.
Quick, thorough drying of the area is the key. Standing water can be quickly removed with water extraction equipment. Drying can include several types of dehumidifiers, specialized blowers, or air injection systems (for walls, ceilings, and floors). Well-trained water damage technicians are usually also certified specialists in sanitizing and disinfecting contaminated areas. They can also provide professional odor treatments.
Now, get your belongings out of the water, if possible. The longer things sit in the water the more water they will absorb. The exception of course is, if it’s Category Three, sewage. Wait for the technician to arrive.
Mold and Mildew
If you have an area that was previously water damaged and now has a musty smell, or you have since experienced health-related problems which you think might be related to mold and mildew in the environment, call a certified water damage restoration technician and ask about doing a test for mold. If you do need mold and mildew removal, a professional can help ensure full removal.
Minimizing water damage is a matter of knowing what to do, and doing it quickly.
Electrocution warning: If the flooded area has several inches of water, don’t go into it! Electrocution is a real possibility!