Flooded Floors

Flood Restoration - Water Damage Repair

In August 2015, Tampa suffered extreme flooding due to seemingly relentless rain.  South Tampa, Pinellas County, Riverview, and other parts of Tampa Bay are prone to flooding.  At all times, we are all vulnerable to water damage from other sources.  This posting is dedicated to assist our clients (and others) with basic guidance in how to respond to a flood or moisture damage.

Water's elusive nature in a liquid form and water's invisible ability to saturate the air in a vapor form makes flood recovery very complicated.  This article gives an overview of the restoration process with a breakdown between the two types of water damage:  primary and secondary damage.

Restoration of Primary Damage

The primary damage is the obvious part that creates the initial alarm.  Ground saturation leads to leaks into the building.  A pipe breaks.  Water runs from the kitchen to the dining room, etc.  In the process, items under the sink become soaked.  The wood in the study is submerged, and the carpet in the dining room starts to float three inches off the slab.  The items and surfaces that get wet with the initial flood are the primary damage.

The early moments after the flood are some of the most critical.  Give attention to safety first.

ELECTRICITY:  You may need to turn off the power at the electrical panel and operate off of flashlights until electrical shock is not a risk.  Electrical equipment should be approached with extreme caution.  (Thankfully, a breaker should trip if there is an unsafe flux.) CONTAMINATION:  If the water was contaminated, avoid direct contact by using rubber shoes, gloves, etc.  (Contaminated water is called gray water or black water depending on the water's impurities.)

Next, find the source of the leak, and shut it off.  You may need to shut off the water at the main exterior valve.  Then, if you will be making an insurance claim, call your insurance agent to get an adjuster out immediately if possible.  Likewise, if beyond your own response abilities, call a qualified restoration company to extract the water.  (A common carpet cleaning company can extract water, but may not have the expertise to deal with water migration into the various surfaces nor possess the drying equipment.)

If water is still expanding, focus on extracting or mopping the water.  (Everyone should own a wet-dry vacuum for such emergencies.)  If the water migration has settled, take a few minutes to capture evidence of the damage via pictures and videos.  Evidence may become important if a claim must be filed.  All furniture and colored rugs should be immediately removed from the affected areas.  Many types of wood and metal furniture pieces may not only suffer water damaged, but can also create permanent stains in the flooring surfaces.  If you called a flood restoration company, start removing all smaller items from the affected area prior to their arrival.

Stretch-in carpet over cushion can be pulled back if necessary or use a method of surface drying whereby it's possible to extract from the carpet's surface to below the cushion.  If you are opening carpet seams, carefully cut directly on the existing seams.

Remove from your structure any saturated materials which you are certain that you will not retain.  For example, remove wet, 20-year old carpet that is unworthy of repair efforts.  Saturated carpet will elevate your relative humidity and slow the overall drying process.  Water under a laminate floor will almost always ruin the laminate, so the laminate should be removed.  In some rare cases, if the response is fast enough, the pieces of laminate may be saved by individually drying the face, bottom, and edges of each piece.  The underlayment under the laminate should be discarded.

Emergency responses cost a great deal both in initial labor and in rental equipment.  Your flood restoration company should generally follow the pricing of The Bluebook of Cleaning Reconstruction & Repair Costs for residential and light commercial cost guide.

Restoration of Secondary Damage

The secondary damage is the damage that occurs in the days or weeks which follow.  After the emergency extraction is done, a large amount of moisture will likely still remain in the walls, floor surfaces, and other items.  A qualified flood restoration company can give you the ambient temperature and Rh reading with a digital meter.  Moisture can be measured in various surfaces using a non-penetrating, moisture detection tool and thermal imaging equipment.  The absences of these tools is arguably the greatest disadvantage of the do-it-yourselfer.

Floods on the upper floors of multistory buildings pose special challenges.  Make sure that the air ducts are checked for damage.  Moisture trapped in the walls or ceiling cavities are commonly of higher risk than that of moisture in the flooring.  The reason is that drywall typically release moisture more slowly than carpet.  Furthermore, interior wall cavities are dark and are prime to develop mold.

Walls with wallpaper or heavy coats of paint will inhibit drying.  Your extraction technician can remove the wallpaper or perforate your walls (with your permission).  The thousands of pin holes allow moisture to escape.

We strongly recommend that you remove items from the affected areas (or, possibly out of the building) if the relative humidity (Rh) is heavy.  Paintings, pictures, posters, books, etc. will began to absorb the moisture in the air which can cause irreparable damage.  The moisture will slowly begin to travel up the walls.  Moisture can travel a few inches high or several feet high.

The baseboards, wood floors, and other wood surfaces will also begin to absorb the water which will cause the wood to bend.  Picture frames will split at the joints; baseboards and quarter-round molding will pull off away from the walls; and, wood floors will begin to cup, crown, delaminate, or discolor.  Eventually, virtually all surfaces trapping moisture will grow mold or mildew if the temperature is warm enough and the moisture remains at threatening levels.  Moisture residue will also create a souring smell throughout the affected spaces.

Objectives and Tactics

The solution to these problems is ample drying equipment, a safe temperature, chemicals, and repairs.  You'll need air handlers (a.k.a., blowers) to circulate the air.  Turn on all ceiling fans.  Reduce your rental charges by borrowing extra fans from friends.  Maximize air movement against every vertical or horizontal surface retaining moisture.  The goal is to blow moist air away from the evaporating surfaces with a constant replacement of dry air.  Dehumidifiers are designed to dry the air.  Set your temperature to about 78 degrees F.  (Warm air will absorb or hold more moisture than cold air.)  Your chief objective after the water extraction is to create very dry air.  Dry air will absorb moisture from or draw moisture out of other hydroscopic materials.  (Saturated air will not absorb moisture.)

A professional response technician will make the various determinations for the equipment and chemicals needed after the emergency extraction or an on-site inspection.  The drying process should be faithfully monitored until the all surfaces are safe again.

Responses Commonly Needed

  • Carpet cushion often needs to be replaced.
  • Carpet may have to be reinstalled and cleaned.
  • Hardwood will have to be replaced or resurfaced.
  • Laminate will have to be replaced.
  • Vinyl may or may not have to be replaced depending on whether mildew develops under the wear layer.
  • Stone and ceramic tiles are usually unaffected.
  • Glued flooring (luxury vinyl, VCT, rubber, or direct-glued carpet) may suffer adhesive failure which requires replacement or regluing.
  • Baseboards and quarter-round molding may have to be reattached or caulked.
  • An application of mildewcide or an anti-microbial should be applied to prevent the growth of mold or mildew and the souring smell and to kill bacteria, germs, and viruses (if the water was contaminated).

Putting It All Back Together

Of course, we are frequently requested to restore or replace the various flooring surfaces once the building is dry.  Our extensive training in psychrometry and experience at complicated repairs give us a strong knowledge base.

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