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 Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (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 use of practical standards for water damage restoration. It does not attempt to teach comprehensive water damage restoration procedures; instead 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 harm's 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. Moisture content readings are taken daily after required drying equipment is set up. The daily moisture readings are taken so if there is a certain area that might be dry then equipment can be removed or moved to an area that might not be drying as fast, this is also a way of keeping the charges under control.
Note: These classification are not up to the 4th Edition IICRC S500 standards.
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.
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 or clean 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; and 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 or blackwater, 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.
Principles in drying
Structure and contents
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 storage of said contents. Other contents may simply be unsalvageable, or the cost of having them salvaged would exceed its current value.
After the water has been extracted and any non-salvageable materials have been removed, water damage professionals should place appropriate drying equipment in the affected areas. Industry standards state that drying vendors should return at regular time intervals, preferably every twenty-four hours, to monitor the equipment, temperature, humidity, and moisture content of the affected walls and contents.Normally, psychrometric conditions and moisture content measurements should be recorded at least daily. Relevant measurements normally include: temperature and relative humidity outside and in affected and unaffected areas, and at the dehumidifier outlets. Also, the moisture content of materials should be taken and recorded. Occasionally, restores may want to consider a second visit on the first after the drying equipment is set up and running. This would allow them to evaluate the performance of equipment, and to ensure that it is functioning correctly. Without monitoring and in process inspections, substantial secondary damage may occur if dehumidifiers malfunction or shut down as a result of blown circuit breakers, or if a balance drying system does not exist. 
Once temperature, humidity, and moisture content are deemed acceptable according to industry standards, drying equipment is removed and the drying process is complete. There are defining criteria and methods to be used for assessing water damage and establishing restoration procedures, but because of the unique circumstances of every water damage restoration project, it is impractical to issue blanket rules that apply to every situation. In extenuating circumstances, deviation from standard practices is appropriate.
Though the water seepage will stop once the source of water has been identified and plugged, the problem does not end there. It is essential to determine the appropriate water extraction method, which may range from the use of a wet-dry vac unit to more heavy duty equipment like submersible pumps. Once this has been completed, the process of drying and dehumidification should start. Oftentimes, affected surfaces and areas look dry once the water has been extracted and removed, but there remains hidden water and moisture. This would call for the use of drying and dehumidifying equipment. As such, carpets, walls, and flooring require removal, drying, cleaning, and disinfecting.
- "ANSI/IICRC S500 Water Damage Restoration". IICRC. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
- "The Basics Of Water Damage Restoration Training". IICRC. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
- "Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration (IICRC S500)". IICRC - Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification. 2012.
- "Water Damage Restoration Guideline" (PDF). NAU - The Northern Arizona University. 2012.
- IICRC S500, Third Edition. April 2006.
- "IICRC S500 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration". IICRC. Retrieved 4 March 2016.