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Water Damage Guide

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Water damage can wreak havoc on all kinds of spaces and materials. Some are replaceable, like drywall and wood, and some are not, like family photographs and keepsakes.

Water damage restoration is when teams of professionals come into your home to clean up and repair or replace the affected materials.

If you leave the water damaged room or area alone without working to restore the materials, then you are allowing the space to further deteriorate. After water damage occurs, you must take action quickly to reduce the harm done to your home.

If it is an emergency, you should call a professional for help.

Below is a guide on what causes water damage, signs that you have water damage, how it can affect different materials, and how specialists handle the water damage cleanup process.

Water Damage Specialists

Below is some information on what water damage service professionals consider when diagnosing an issue and what they are typically capable of handling.

Identifying the Problem

First things first: how do you categorize the type of liquid involved in the contamination.

This helps determine what safety precautions need to be taken before moving forward with the cleanup.

Professionals categorize the liquids in three groups: Category 1, Category 2, and Category 3.

Here is the breakdown of those categories:


Category 1

Liquids are from clean sources such as faucets and the tanks of toilets. This type of water is sanitary and safe to interact with.


Category 2

Liquids have some level of contamination that can cause health problems for people who drink it. This type is often called “grey water” and includes sources like dishwasher overflow and urine contaminated water.


Category 3

Liquids are extremely unsafe and unsanitary. This type of liquid includes sources like sewer backup and flooding from bodies of water.

After the level of danger posed by the water contamination is identified, then it is time to classify the extent of the damage done. The four classes are given the labels Class 1, Class 2, Class 3, and Class 4.

Here are the differences in those classifications:


Class 1

This describes the lowest level of damage, typically with only partial rooms affected. It also means that probably only materials with little porousness were exposed to the water and can be relatively easily restored.


Class 2

This is for more advanced damage, meaning a whole room and porous materials that cannot withstand water damage as well as harder surfaces are affected.


Class 3

Everything in the room is saturated including the walls, floor, and ceiling.


Class 4

This occurs when water has been sitting long enough to saturate materials that are not very porous such as wood and brick.

What Restoration Companies Do

A water damage restoration team will be able to cover the wide range of issues that arise when water damage occurs.

Here is a general checklist of things the team should be able to handle for you:


Removing excess water

Water damage cleanup professionals should be able to remove any flooding or pooling that has occurred in your home.


Drying materials

A team will bring in large fans and moisture removal machines to speed up the drying process of the affected room and materials.


Check for mold

Since excess water and mold go hand in hand, water damage service professionals have experience with mold detection and removal.


Plumbing problems

Plumbing systems are often responsible for water damage in a home, so fixing plumbing problem is typically a part of the job description for many water damage repair professionals.


Fixing bad smells

Another result of water damage is musty odors. Water damage restoration teams should have deodorizing agents for you to use in your basement until the problem clears up.



These water damage restoration teams are trained to repair and replace materials that do not survive water damage, such as patches of drywall and wood structures.

Water damage Causes

Learning about the potential causes of water damage can help people act proactively to avoid it, or as it is sometimes unavoidable, take steps to reduce the destruction it can cause.

Here are some common causes for water damage:

  • Leaking or burst pipes

  • Roof leaks

  • Flooding

  • Drainage issues

  • Appliance failure

  • High relative humidity

  • Accidents

Leaking or burst pipes

Pipes can break down and burst for many reasons including wearing down over time, getting knocked by a growing tree root, and standard home clogging and backup.

There is not often warning when a pipe bursts and starts leaking water into your home causing water damage.

Walking around to check any visible pipes for wear and tear or leaking in your home on a regular basis is recommended.

Of course, most of the pipes surrounding your home are not visible, which is why these situations often occur by complete surprise. There is a chance the water damage is under your house.


Flooding can occur from:

A significant pipe break.

Heavy rain or snow melt.

Sewer system problems.

Sump pump failure.

Cracks and sealing issues in foundation.

Flooding is most likely to happen in the basement of a home where water damage is most common.

When an area floods, it can affect a lot of materials very quickly, which is why you should act as quickly as possible.

Safety precautions need to be taken very seriously before trying to stop any flooding yourself as the water may have risen above electrical outlets, meaning entering the water could be fatal. The water itself could also be contaminated with unsafe biological agents.

Appliance failure

There are many appliances in homes that utilize water to function. Some of these include:

  • Washing machines

  • Dishwashers

  • Ice makers

  • Hot water tanks

  • Refrigerators

Just like anything, these appliances can fail or leak leaving you with water damaged floors and/or walls.

Monitor and maintain your appliances as they do break down over time. Sometimes water damage can be invisible when it first occurs, like when the refrigerator leaks under wood floorboards.

Things like a musty odor, which means mold growth, can be what leads you to discover the problem. So be sure to use all of your senses to stay on top of this issue.

Roof leaks

Roofs are fully exposed to all of the elements all of the time and they can eventually break down from this, especially in areas with frequent severe weather.

The damage from roof leaks can start in the attic but will eventually trickle down into more areas of the home, causing even more problems.

It is a good idea to have your roof inspected every year or two by professionals so you can stay on top of any repairs that are needed.

drainage issues

There are certain safeguards in a house that are designed to move water away from your home to protect it from water damage. Some of these include:

  • Gutters

  • Drains

  • Weeping tile systems

If any of these become blocked, then water overflow can occur. For example, gutters can clog up due to blockage from things like leaves, dirt, and sticks, which can then cause water to flow out of the gutters and down the sides of your home.

Building materials cannot withstand too much water and will eventually break down, leaving you with costly repairs. Frequently monitor gutters and drainage systems to make sure they are unobstructed.

high relative humidity

This is a common problem in rooms with a lot of moisture and not a lot of ventilation such as:

  • The basement

  • Attic

  • Crawl spaces

  • Bathrooms

When a room has high relative humidity, condensation can frequently form on walls, ceilings, and flooring which can lead to water damage over time.

Some ways to combat this are to bring in fans and dehumidifiers and to open windows frequently if possible. You should also consider waterproofing your basement.


Accidents are actually another common cause for water damage. Some examples of accidents that can lead to water damage issues include:

  • Leaving your freezer or refrigerator door open over a long weekend out of town and it leaks.

  • Forgetting that you left the bathtub water or sink running and it overflows.

  • A child attempting to flush a toy down the toilet and it clogs and overflows.

It is difficult to nail down a prevention plan for these types of incidents because they can always happen if you are just the slightest bit distracted.

Just try to remember to:

  • Double check appliances before leaving town.

  • Stay alert during all household tasks.

  • Keep an extra special eye on little ones.



of Water Damage

Since early detection is so important to reducing the harm done to your home, being able to identify the signs of water damage is key.

Below are some common signs that water damage may be affecting your home.



Any stains on the ceiling or on any walls indicate there may be some water infiltration into the room. These are typically yellow or brown in color.

If these areas are not inspected or fixed, the surface could start to deteriorate and you may have bigger problems on your hands.


crumbling wood

When water comes into a room along windows or from the ceiling, the wood in these areas like on the trim work can start to crumble. This should never happen on its own so if you see crumbling wood anywhere, act quickly to find the source of the water leaking into the room.


warped and wet floors

When wood floors start taking on water, the boards eventually warp and swell.

You can tell this visibly and also by feel when you step on them.

Any wet spots on the carpet could indicate a problem underneath.

If you come across a patch of water on your carpet that will not dry, then you should pull up the carpet to inspect the flooring underneath for water damage.


musty smells

Sometimes all visible signs of damage are hidden and the sense you have to rely on is your sense of smell.

If water has saturated a material for 24-48 hours it is possible for mold to begin growing on it, which exudes a musty odor.

Mold comes with additional health hazards, so once again you need to find it and remove it quickly.


leaking sounds

Another sense to utilize when searching for water damage in your home is your sense of hearing. This is particularly effective when it is raining.

If you pay attention to the normal sounds the rain makes on your roof and every so often quiet all other sounds to make sure the sound remains consistent.

If there is a leak somewhere transferring water to a new area, you will be able to hear the difference.


Bubbling Walls

Drywall is a porous material so it is easily manipulated by water. Once water is introduced and saturates the material, the drywall can start to bubble and swell. This is easy to detect on painted walls.

However, fresh paint can conceal the problem for a short period of time. As for walls under wallpaper, the wallpaper will start to curl as the water comes in and removes its stickiness.


puddles in the yard

Walk around your yard while it is raining or immediately after. If there are puddles forming near your home, you may have some drainage issues that can lead to water damage.

These issues could be due to:

The slope of the ground toward your house

Gutters that need downspout extenders to move the water further away

Clogged drains or sewers

Water Damaged Materials

Here is a quick reference guide for how certain household materials can be affected when they are saturated with too much water and become water damaged:






Tools the Pros Use

The right water damage restoration or cleaning team will come in with the best tools for the job at hand.

Here are some of the tools that may be used during the water damage cleanup:

Infrared Camera

These special cameras can take pictures that detect when moisture is present that the naked eye cannot see.

Hardwood Dryers

These are special microwave dryers to pull moisture from wood that water damage repair teams have access to.

Moisture Meter

This is a tool that measures the amount of moisture in an area. It can alert you to problem areas in your home that you did not previously know about.

Air Movers, Floor Fans, and Dehumidifiers

When water damage service professionals come in to treat water damage, they will bring in air movers, fans, and dehumidifiers to dry materials quickly.

Air Scrubbers

These machines are set up to remove contaminants from a given area. They pull air through several filters to help provide a clean and safe environment for the individuals working to clean the space.

No matter what the reason is for your water damage, the key to recovering your belongings is quick action and the right tools.