Every efficient and successful project has a process of steps that go in a certain order. Knowing these steps can help you guide your customer from start to finish. Water restoration is definitely a project that benefits from your knowledge and ability to convey this to the customer.
Water is the enemy of most construction materials. The more hours water sits in any building, the more likely reconstruction is necessary. However, if fast action is taken, most materials can be saved. The key is how quickly the water is removed after it has entered the building.
There is no real rule of thumb. Each material has its own sensitivity to water. If the floor is concrete, then water could sit for days with relatively little problem. If the floor is carpet on a concrete floor, a day or even two may be fine. If it is carpet over a wooden sub-floor, then the sub-floor may need to be replaced after a day. Certainly, the most sensitive floor is finished solid wood floors. Just a few hours of water saturation, and the buckling can begin.
For our purposes, let us consider the first few hours of a busted pipe or hose, backed up commode, or diverted rainwater. The first step, of course, is to get the largest volume of water as possible out of the building. This is where you start by renting out sump pumps or bilge pumps. If the water is free of trash, the sump pump will start the water removal. The water in a basement from a rainwater or yard flooding could have debris in it. This is where you would use a trash pump that can handle solids.
After the bulk of the water is removed, rent the customer shop vacuums. Once you are at this stage, also rent them the blower fans and the dehumidifiers. As soon as they vacuum up the rest of the water, the blower fans and dehumidifiers need to be running.
If carpet is involved, rent a carpet cleaning machine. Carpet extractors work much better to remove water from the carpet and pads than shop vacuums. A dehumidifier by itself is a slow performer. Blower fans greatly increase the volume of moisture a dehumidifier will pull out of the air. Keeping a large inventory of blower fans is a must. They pay for themselves in just a few rentals.
After the dehumidifiers and fans have done their job, all materials should be completely dry. If not, keep them running. This is not the point to get impatient. After everything is “bone” dry, the customer can take the time to assess the damage. If a concrete basement is wet, the floor should be fine. Any interior walls should be looked at for sheetrock replacement and baseboards that may have warped. If it is an unfinished basement, there are often a lot of exposed wood studs. However, if carpet is involved, there is a decision to be made. Did the carpet pad stay wet too long? If it smells too moldy and mildewy, the customer can rip up the carpet and put down a new pad. Rent them your carpet stretchers and knee kickers, and they can put it back down if it’s in good shape.
Now comes the time to mention the four-letter word that gets bantered around like it is nuclear waste material — mold. Restoration companies have gladly let the over-emphasis on mold contamination be raised to the level of Chernobyl.
The children of the southeast United States managed to make it to adulthood with mold growing on the walls of their homes. It can be toxic for a small segment of the population overly sensitive to mold, but in this case, there is no need to panic.
Mold begins to grow within about 24 to 48 hours of the materials becoming wet. Mold is fungi like mushrooms; however, they are microscopic. Molds are necessary in nature to decay leaves and other organic matter. In your house, however, it is not such a good thing. So, we are back to time is of the essence. Jumping on water damage is still the key to a complete water restoration process.
However, there is an incredible weapon to defeat mold. Proper hospital grade EPA-approved disinfectants will kill mold on contact. In the rental industry, some cleaning chemical suppliers have this disinfectant for rental dealers to sell.
The proper disinfectant can also be found at most janitorial supply stores. They are relatively inexpensive because it usually only takes 2 oz. of disinfectant per gallon of water. Since there are 128 oz. in a gallon, each gallon of disinfectant will make 64 gal. of ready-to-use mold killing solution. The best one is a quaternary, neutral pH disinfectant. The neutral pH allows it to be sprayed on all surfaces that are water safe. This disinfectant is a mold/mildew stat — it kills mold and mildew on contact.
This secret weapon is what the water restoration companies use to their advantage. Everywhere you spray the disinfectant mixed with water, the mold dies. All exposed wood framing, ceilings and walls should be sprayed. On smooth surfaces, just spray and let air dry. There is no rinsing. There is no residual protection. However, not rinsing the disinfectant leaves it to continue to kill microscopic spores for at least a few minutes longer. If rinsing is necessary, it should not be done until later.
All carpet that has come in contact with the damaging water should be cleaned with the disinfectant at the same dilution of 2 oz. per gallon of water. This process will kill all the mold spores as well as nasty germs that may have been in the contaminated water.
The next step involves another secret weapon that already is available as inventory in most rental stores, although it typically is not rented for this purpose. After everything has been dried and disinfected, you should rent the customer an ozone generator. Everyone knows ozone gets rid of smoke and food odors, but ozone also removes mold and mildew odors. I hope you like that last sentence. It was well crafted to avoid any non-EPA approved claims. It has never been stated by the EPA that ozone kills airborne mold. So, you can only claim it gets rid of mold odors.
There are several suppliers in the rental industry that sell ozone generators used by the water restoration companies. These generators are about the size of a boot box. The theory is more units in more rooms works best as opposed to one large unit used in the center of the house.
The way these machines work is that ozone converts oxygen to ozone. Humans do not breath ozone. A good saying goes this way: All people, pets and plants must leave when you are operating an ozone generator. Every so often, I will get a call that a customer came back after running an ozone generator and there was a mouse dead in the room. It suffocated. So, one should treat ozone with the respect of any other tool.
Typically, a home or business owner would take on water damage only if it is a smaller part of the building and they can get to it quickly. It makes economic sense if they have a large deductible, or their insurance will not cover it. All said, if a homeowner or contractor can get to the water damage in less than a day, there is a good chance most items can be salvaged. DIY customers can save thousands doing the same thing experts do with the help of a rental store’s inventory and expertise.
Chuck Shipp is the owner of Shipp Cleaning Systems, Conyers, Ga. To learn more, visit shippcleaningsystems.com.