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Professional Guide On Water Damage Restoration & Moisture Damage Removal

Best Practices of Water Removal, Damage Restoration, Remediation and Safety

If there is one disaster that can strike any home in any climate or at any elevation, it’s flood damage. There are so many causes that it is always a risk. It could be from leaking or burst pipes, sewer line issues or even from heavy rain or snowfall. No matter what causes it, flood damage can result in major damage to a home. Water damage restoration professionals can help repair the damage and get any flooded property back to normal as quickly as possible. There are many regulations and laws that govern water damage restoration. These are in place so that homeowners, business owners, and building occupants can feel safe after the repair and restoration process is finished.

Types of Water Damage

The best practices of water damage restoration remediation and safety are outlined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). They administer the accreditation of the International Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC). The IICRC document outlines the principles behind safe and ethical water damage restoration. This includes the steps that a contractor must take and the references for the sources behind the standards. This is more a basic foundation for the principles. It is not meant to provide a detailed process for water damage restoration.

As mentioned, there are several possible causes of flooding and water damage. It might be a plumbing issue, such as a burst water line or pipe, a sewer line backup, which can cause wastewater or blackwater back into a building, or a natural disaster that causes flooding on the property. Water damage can be placed into one of three classifications. These are based on how much contamination there is in the water that has caused the damage to the property. Here is a rundown of those categories.

Water Damage Removal Process

Category 1: The first category relates to water that is generally sanitary and could be safely consumed by a person. There is no danger of infection or illness if it is ingested, touched or inhaled. Sources of water for this classification can include sprinkler systems, rainwater or any kind of fresh water.

Category 2: For this category, the water can potentially cause someone to get sick were they to ingest, inhale or touch it. The microorganism levels in this water is high enough to pose a threat, or there is biological matter that is unsafe, such as human urine or chemicals. This type of water is usually called gray water.

Category 3: In this case, the water has been severely contaminated. It contains dangerous toxins and pathogens. This will include raw sewage, also known as black water. It is not just potentially harmful, but it could be deadly as well. Remediation in these cases must be complete, or else there could be an ongoing risk to occupants of the building. This type of water comes from sewer backups, contaminated water from overflowing natural waterways, or water that contains unsafe amounts of pesticides and heavy metals.

If remediation is not completed quickly, then categories 1 and 2 can turn into category 3. Standing water is a prime spot for bacteria and pathogens to breed and develop. Spores can turn into mold, which can cause a major health risk. What may have been a simple and easy cleanup job may turn into something more extensive and costly if not addressed quickly.

The amount of water that has affected the property has also been classified into four categories by the IICRC.

Class 1: This is when the saturation of water is relatively low, or has come into contact with surfaces that are not porous and thus not easily damaged by water. Once the water is removed in the remediation process, there may be very little or even no more work or evaporation needed to finish the job. This might be when water leaks onto a sealed concrete or tiled floor.

Class 2: For this category to be relevant, the surfaces affected must be more porous than with the previous category. More water is absorbed into the material, which means there is more potential for damage. After the flood water is removed, there is still a significant amount of effort that must be placed into drying the area completely. This can happen with gypsum board surfaces and wood floors.

Class 3: This is when there is a significant amount of water that comes into contact with very porous materials. This category requires the maximum amount of evaporation to make sure that the water damage restoration process is followed correctly. This is when the building is soaked throughout, and carpets and upholstery have absorbed water. Flooded underground areas may also fall into this category.

Class 4: Sometimes, the intruding water can be especially difficult to remove, for a variety of reasons. This can make the water damage restoration process extremely difficult and can add time and money to the final result. It may be that the water has flooded difficult spaces to clear, or it has affected highly porous materials. Special effort or equipment may be needed to get the job done properly. This may be when enclosures or any material have been diluted, or if sewage absorbs into wood floors or the walls of a building.

The type of water damage and the classification of the saturation must be made before any work can be performed. Once those are determined, then the water damage restoration contractor can begin to repair the damage. There are different processes and procedures that must be followed depending on the type of flooding and damage. One of the most important steps in the process is properly assessing the classification and category of damage so that the right equipment and techniques are used.

Equipment Used in Water Removal

When it comes to water damage restoration and remediation, time is always of the essence. When it is a commercial or industrial space that has been affected, then it is crucial to use the proper equipment to dry out the area quickly so that the health of the workers is not at risk. There is wide array of equipment, such as dehumidifiers, air movers, and air scrubbers.

Air Movers
Air movers are small drying machines that blow air throughout the area. As the air circulates, it helps dry the space quickly and efficiently. They can come in several sizes. The larger the air mover, the more powerful it is. They measure that power in how much air is moved per minute. Specifically, capacity is measured by how many cubic feet per minute are covered by the air mover.

As opposed to drying out moisture on the surfaces of an area, a dehumidifier removes moisture from the air. Excess moisture can promote the growth of mold and mildew. Dehumidifiers come in many sizes and with several options. A standard unit used in water damage restoration can remove approximately 150 pints of water from the air every 24 hours. There are larger industrial units that can remove even more, up to 225 pints a day. These larger units are known as Low Grain Refrigerant Models.

Air Scrubbers
Air scrubbers work to clean the air by eliminating odors and particles that cause them. These are very useful when it comes to fire damage restoration, when smoke particles linger in the air after the fire is extinguished. With water damage restoration, they are used to get rid of the smells associated with mildew and mold. There are wet air scrubbers and dry air scrubbers. Wet air scrubbers utilize a wet filter. This catches airborne particles and keeps them from recirculation. Dry air scrubbers have an ionic purifier to perform a similar function.

Moisture Damage Restoration Health and Safety Information

It is one thing to get a building back to normal after suffering water damage, but health and safety must be of paramount importance at all times. Each type of water damage comes with specific safety and health risks that require specific precautions. This could mean something simple like ventilating the area properly or wearing full protective outfits. No matter the category of water damage, there are safety precautions that must be followed.

The Occupational Health and Safety Association (OHSA) has very clear guidelines and standards for proper health and safety precautions. They have put regulations in place that dictate how much exposure any worker can have to hazardous materials and situations. They identify substances and materials that could pose a threat and outline how they should be addressed. These procedures include bagging, transportation, and treating hazardous materials, along with what equipment should be used.

Category 1 water damage does not pose a major risk to workers since the water is by definition clean. The risks may come into play if the water is in a dangerous situation, such as when power lines or other sources of electricity are nearby.

There is an increased risk with category 2 water damage, since gray water is involved. Workers will most likely have to wear protective equipment like boots and gloves, along with coveralls. Workers should always be aware of the area around them and what might constitute a safety risk.

Since it’s the most dangerous, category 3 water damage should be treated with the utmost care. Sewage and contaminants can pose very serious health risks to workers. They may require full-body protection, and they may have to place contaminated materials into specially approved containers for removal and transportation.

Training and Education
Any workers who restore buildings after water damage should have the right training and education regarding not just restoration techniques, but health and safety as well. This includes any hazards in the surrounding environment that are possible when performing their tasks.

They must also be fully trained in OHSA rules and regulations pertaining to water damage restoration, as well as any local and state requirements. By attending IICRC WRT classes, workers will be fully versed in all of the standards of care and safety for the industry.

They should also receive complete training for any protective equipment that will be used on the job. This training should include the proper way to use the equipment, and how it should fit on the worker.

Common Water Damage Restoration Situations

Sometimes it helps to have an example situation to properly grasp the thinking involved and the process that follows. Here are some common scenarios that water damage restoration professionals encounter and what steps they take to repair the damage and to practice good safety habits.

First Example: A Hot Water Tank Bursts in a Commercial Complex

When hot water tanks age, they tend to burst. For this situation, we will assume that the damage occurred in a building occupied by a woodworking business. The area is steel-framed, and has a concrete floor that is not very porous. The hot water tank has ejected 200 gallons of fresh water in a mechanical room. The room has steel studs and wallboard made of gypsum. The majority of the water emptied into a drain in the floor, but approximately 70 gallons escaped the room and got into the workshop itself, which has sawdust all over the floor.

Here are the steps that were followed by workers in this situation:

  • The workers examined the area for unrelated safety hazards, such as electrical cords and appliances. The power supply to anything that might be in danger was cut off.
  • They tracked down the water shutoff valve and stopped the flow of water. A plumber was called in to remove the defective hot water tank and replace it.
  • They inspected the drain to make sure that it was not a blockage that caused the water to get into the shop.
  • Any material that was wet, such as the sawdust, was removed for disposal or to be dried out away from the shop.
  • Any water left on the floor was mopped up or sponged.
  • All doors and windows were opened to allow for adequate ventilation.
  • The shop was approximately 1000 square feet, so 2 air movers are used to help dry the floor. These air movers are ½ horsepower each, which is adequate to cover the whole shop.
  • A small dehumidifier that removes 14 pints or moisture every 24 hours, helps to keep the moisture levels down.
  • The only protective equipment used are gloves and rubber boots.

Second Example: A Sump-Pump Fails in a Commercial Restaurant

This situation would be classified in category 2, and in class 2. It is common for restaurants to have drainage in basements and crawl spaces. They often have sump-pumps installed since they have to dispose of so much grease, oil and organic waste. It goes into the drainage system, and then gets pumped into the sewer system. In this example, the sump-pump stopped working, but was not discovered for several days. By this time, six inches of water had accumulated on the crawl space, and mold was already starting to develop. Here are the steps followed in this situation:

  • The workers assessed the area for any potential hazards, such as electrical wires. Since it is a crawl space, they also accounted for things that might be a hazard overhead. They also made sure they had adequate access and proper lighting.
  • They cut off any other sources of water that might add to the flooding.
  • Anything that led outdoors was opened to allow for more ventilation.
  • They used two portable air movers to cover the area. This helped removed almost all of the standing water.
  • Since it was a small space, they only used a smaller capacity dehumidifier, but also one that could get the job done quickly. Since it was a restaurant, they could not reopen their doors until the problem was fixed. In this case, they used one that removed 150 pints of moisture per 24 hours.
  • An air scrubber was used to help mitigate mold and mildew.
  • After drying out the affected space and dehumidifying the area, they applied an antifungal agent to all surfaces.
  • The workers wore boots, gloves and coveralls. They also used eye protection and respirators with filters to protect against airborne pathogens.

Third Example: An Industrial Warehouse is Flooded With Sewage

This qualifies as a category 2 and class 4 scenario. During heavy rainfall, a river overflowed and blocked a sewage outfall pipe. This pipe was from a rural industrial warehouse. The water level rose high enough to breach its banks and flood the warehouse. Approximately one foot of water flowed into the 5000 square foot space. Not only that, but the area around the warehouse had been the site of many small oil spills, and the blocked sewer line sent brown water back into the building. The building had a steel frame, but the floor was very porous.

Here is how it was handled by the professionals.

  • They identified any hazards, such as electrical wires and appliances, and whether there were concerns with the structural integrity of the building from the water damage.
  • They used ditching methods and other techniques to stop the flow of water into the building. If that didn’t work, they would have had to wait until the water abated naturally.
  • They used pumps, mops, sponges, and other methods to remove the standing water.
  • Everything is open to allow for adequate ventilation.
  • They had to use several high-capacity air movers to help improve the airflow and dry out the area.
  • They used heat to help with the drying. This can be done with portable heaters or even the building’s HVAC system.
  • Using dehumidifiers always depends on the situation. They may not have been effective in this case because of how much airspace is involved.
  • Since there are dangerous pathogens involved from the sewage and oil spills, workers would have worn full protection that included respirators. Not only that, but any contaminated items from the building would have been removed and destroyed according to OHSA standards.

When it comes to water damage restoration, there is a lot to know and a lot to consider. When a situation involves flooding and possible contamination, it is a job best left to professionals.

Water damage restoration contractors and companies must have the proper training and tools to undertake the job safely and effectively. This also includes getting it done as economically as possible. They must be fully educated in not just the process of repairing water damage, but also in all health and safety measures.

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