Water damage restoration
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Water damage restoration is the process of restoring a property back to pre-loss condition after sustaining any level of water damage. While there are currently no government regulations in the United States dictating procedures, two large certifying bodies, the IICRC and the RIA, do recommend standards of care. Most companies use the IICRC procedural standard, which is the S500. It is based on reliable restoration principles, research and practical experience with extensive consultation and information gathered from numerous sources. These include the scientific community, the international, national and regional trade associations serving the disaster restoration industry, chemical formulators and equipment manufacturers, cleaning and restoration schools, restoration service companies, the insurance industry, allied trades persons and others with specialized experience. The S500 water damage guide is subject to further revision as developments occur in technology, testing and processing procedures.
The IICRC S500 provides a specific set of practical standards for water damage restoration. It does not attempt to teach comprehensive water damage restoration procedures, rather it provides the foundation and basic principles of proper restoration practices. Prior to specifying the job scope and procedures, the S500 must be reviewed. This is important so that the individual circumstances of each restoration job is taken into account. Users of the S500 must be in pace with technology and follow all rules and regulations of a country whether it may be federal, state, provincial or local law. Federal, State and local laws might also determine who can do the water damage restoration assessment and who can authorize remediation procedures. In British Columbia (Canada) the Insurance Council of British Columbia has determined that an Insurance Adjuster working for an Insurer (to mitigate a loss or potential loss) can authorize restoration efforts on private property even though it may not be a covered peril; but, the Adjuster is not accountable for the outcome of any restoration effort, even if the Insured party was, or could be, knowingly placed in harms way. Each case of a water damage may be unique and common sense may require deviation from the S500.
Loss assessment and evaluation
A professional water damage restoration service will document the materials which were affected by the water damage and refer to industry standard pricing guides in order to determine the proper value of the residence's materials lost and their service.
Water damage services include the inspection of the affected area(s) with water sensing equipment such as probes and other infrared tools in order to determine the source of the damage, and possible extent of area affected. Restoration services would then be rendered to the residence in order to dry the structure, sanitize any affected or cross contaminated areas, and deodorize all affected areas and materials. After the labor is completed, water damage equipment including, but not limited to, air movers, air scrubbers, dehumidifiers, wood floor drying systems, and sub floor drying equipment is left in the residence. After a period of two to three days are the labor is completed, a reevaluation of the residence is taken to monitor the drying process, and any equipment not further needed is removed as to keep the charges under control. Water damage restoration was first used by a Philadelphia, PA company called flood support. They were the first company to use dehumidifiers for drying.
Water, under the IICRC's S-500 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration, has been broken off into three categories. These categories are based upon the level of contamination present, or presumed present, in the source water.
Category 1 is water from a clean or sanitary source. Previously known as clear water, this descriptor has since been removed to reduce confusion. These can include water from broken clean water supply lines; clean water from toilet tank or bowl; faucets; and bottled water. Although the source may be from a clean source, category 1 water can quickly degrade into category 2 or 3 depending upon such factors as time, temperature, and contact with contaminants.
Category 2 is water with some level of contaminants that could cause discomfort or illness if ingested. Previously known as grey water, this descriptor has since been removed to avoid confusion. Sources for category 2 water may include washing machine overflow; toilet overflow with some urine, but no feces; dishwasher overflow. Category 2 water can quickly degrade into category 3 depending upon such factors as time, temperature, and contact with contaminants.
Category 3 water is grossly unsanitary, and could cause severe illness or death if ingested. Previously known as black water, this descriptor has since been removed to avoid confusion. Sources for category 3 water include, but are not limited to, sewage; flooding from rivers or streams; Wind driven rain, water from beyond the toilet trap; water from the toilet bowl with feces; and standing water that has begun to support microbial growth.
Water damage is classified into one of the following classes: 
- Class 1 Water Damage - (least amount of water, absorption and evaporation): Water losses that affect only part of a room or area, or larger areas containing materials that have absorbed minimal moisture. Little or no wet carpet and/or cushion are present.
- Class 2 Water Damage - (large amount of water, absorption and evaporation): Water losses that affect at least an entire room or carpet and cushion(pad). Water has wicked up walls less than 24”. There is moisture remaining in structural materials (e.g., plywood, particleboard, structural wood, concrete).
- Class 3 Water Damage - (greatest amount of water, absorption and evaporation): Water wicked up over 24", or water may have come from overhead affecting ceilings, walls, insulation, carpet, cushion and sub-floor. The entire area are saturated.
- Class 4 Water Damage - (Specialty Drying Situations): These consist of wet materials with very low permeance/porosity (hardwood, plaster, brick, concrete, stone). Typically, there are deep pockets of saturation, which requires very low specific humidity.
Principles in drying
Structural and contents consideration
When working within a residence, it is often the case that those who are performing the water damage restoration must work with and around the contents of the home. This includes, but is not limited to, furniture, electronics, books, and any other materials that may have been affected by the water damage. The moving around of the said contents is often referred to "contents manipulation." Water damage restoration firms often bill content manipulation on a per hour basis.
Contents may also require treatment due to the effects of water damage. This may include, but is not limited to,sterilization, sanitization, deodorization, drying, and storing of said contents. Other contents may simply be unsalvageable or the cost of having it salvaged would exceed its current value. In these cases, the contents would be discarded.
It is important to be proactive in the monitoring process. Many questions have to be asked and answered: Is the drying equipment set up properly? Are the personnel qualified to adjust equipment placement and conduct new techniques? Are the machines in good working order and are they maintained properly? Perform a background check and ask for references prior to hiring a contractor to restore your dwelling back to its pre-loss state.
After the water has been extracted and any non-salvageable materials have been removed, water damage professionals should place drying equipment according to industry guidelines for capacity in the affected areas. Industry standards state that drying vendors should return to the residence at regular time intervals, preferably every twenty-four hours, to monitor the equipment, temperature, humidity, and moisture content of the affected walls, contents, or other affected materials. Should one area be dry and another affected area still wet, the firm will relocate or remove equipment accordingly.
Once the temperature, humidity, and moisture content is deemed acceptable and safe according to industry standards, the water damage restoration equipment would be removed and the water damage restoration process would be complete.
Some homeowners, property managers, building maintenance operators use their own personnel to perform water damage restoration to save on the growing costs, it is prescribed to hire a professional water damage restoration company to perform these services since there are defining criteria and methods to be used for assessing water damage and establishing restoration procedures. Because of the unique circumstances of every water damage restoration project, it is impractical to issue blanket rules intended to a situation. In extenuating circumstance, deviation from portions of the S500 may be appropriate. In performing a job, carelessness is never acceptable and common sense should always prevail.
- IICRC S500 standard for Professional Water Damage Restoration.