The most important step in deciding whether or not to fix your water damage problem yourself is to correctly identify the full scope of damage caused by the water. Many people mistakenly think that simply “sucking” the water out of the carpet is sufficient for fixing a water damage problem. In reality the majority of problems caused by water are not readily visible on the surface. Water is absorbed into building materials such as wood and sheetrock at rates as high as one inch per hour. This moisture, although not visible, becomes a breeding ground for mold. Drying out the carpet only addresses half the problem, which means a small problem can turn into a very large problem without your even knowing.
The insurance industry recognizes 3 types of water damage losses. Professional drying equipment should be used in all three categories of a water loss. Without proper drying equipment the risk for mold and bacterial growth will increase substantially.
Originates from a sanitary water source and does not pose substantial risk to humans from dermal, ingestion, or inhalation exposure.
Example - If a culinary water line freezes and breaks or if someone forgets to turn off a sink and it overflows both would be categorized as a Category 1 loss. This water loss is not likely to make you sick unless it mixes with some other contaminant found inside the home, and is therefore the least damaging.
How To Fix The Problem - Carpets and pad typically don’t need to be removed. With proper drying equipment they can be dried in place. Sheetrock typically does not need to be removed unless it is structurally unsound (i.e. falling off the walls or ceilings). Any type of floor coverings such as vinyl, composite wood floors, or linoleum should be removed. The reason they have to be removed is if water is trapped underneath of them it is impossible to get the water out. This can cause the sub-floor to warp over time and will also facilitate mold growth.
Category 2 water can contain potentially unsafe levels of microorganisms or nutrients for microorganisms as well as other organic or inorganic matter. This type of loss posses an elevated for potential health risk.
Example - This type of loss would include a washing machine that breaks and has dirty water that spills onto the carpet or a toilet water that overflows containing urine.
How To Fix The Problem - Padding should typically be removed to accelerate the drying process so that mold and bacteria do not elevate to unhealthy levels. With proper drying equipment the carpet can be dried in place. Sheetrock does not need to be removed unless it is structurally unsound (i.e. falling off the walls or ceilings). Any type of floor coverings such as vinyl, composite wood floors, or linoleum should be removed due to the inability to remove water from underneath these surfaces once it is trapped. This can cause the sub-floor to warp over time and will also facilitate mold growth.
Category 3 losses are grossly contaminated and can contain pathogenic, toxic and/or other harmful agents. Such water may contain silt, organic matter, pesticides, heavy metals, or toxic organic substances. Category 3 losses have the potential to cause serious illness and/or death. Category 3 losses include all water that originates from a source beyond the Pea Trap regardless of color or content.
Example - Category 3 losses include sewage; toilet backflows that originate from beyond the trap regardless of visible content or color; all forms of flooding from seawater; surface water, rain water, or other weather related events.
How To Fix The Problem - Anything that has been touched by Category 3 water should be removed from the structure regardless of the appearance of the water. In other words the water might be clear or grey in color and contain no apparent fecal matter and still be very dangerous. Carpet, pad, sheetrock, furniture, toys, and all other items must be disposed of. All remaining materials should then be pressure washed, disinfected and dried.