A home or a business represents a major investment, and one of the worst things that can happen to an investment is damage. Damage is always unwelcome—and usually unexpected—because it means having to spend some significant finances to get things back in working order.
But some forms of damage are relatively minor and can be quickly addressed. A few shingles torn from a roof due to a storm or a drafty window that needs some new polyurethane sealant are pretty easy to repair, without incurring a major expense. But then some forms of damage are so extensive and so huge that they can require their own specific forms of insurance. Fire is one of those types of structural damage, and, unsurprisingly, certain kinds of water damage, too. Here, we're going to look at water damage, what it is, and what it can do to a building. And, more importantly, we're going to explain why you need to do something about it.
Harm in Many Forms
The biggest distinction between fire and water damage is the variety of issues they cause. Fire damage typically only comprises a building in two ways: burn and smoke damage. Anything that is subjected to a fire incurs these two types of damage to some degree, based on exposure.
Water damage, however, can come in a variety of different forms and have plenty of consequences for a home or business. For that reason, water damage restoration efforts aren’t simple and don’t come with only one standardized response to dealing with an issue.
Water damage can be significant or small; it can happen over a period of weeks or even years; or, it can happen in a matter of seconds or hours. It can affect a small area, or it can mean an entire room or section of a building must be restored, repaired, or rehabilitated. Water damage can happen through neglect, or it can be through circumstances that are completely beyond anyone’s control and are essentially referred to as acts of God. And, of course, it can also occur in many different forms.
Types of Water Damage
Water can damage a home in many different ways, depending on the amount of water and even where in the home the damage occurs. So the type of water that might happen to basement walls, for example, is not going to be the same type that comes from a leaky roof. We’re going to look at some of the more common ways that water can damage a home.
Depending on how much water penetrates into furniture—and remains there—furniture can become damaged to a minor degree or be beyond salvaging. Furniture that gets damp and remains that way can eventually fade in color. However, furniture that gets soaked with water and remains wet can lose its color, thus staining and bleeding onto the floor or the carpet surface if there is one in that room.
Depending on how serious it is, a carpet that is hit by water may only need to be dried out if the damage occurred in a small spot. If the water penetration is extensive, the carpet is going to feel damp, may lose its color, and, worst of all, it may become a breeding ground for mold. If a carpet becomes the site of a mold colony, usually there’s little choice but to get rid of it, due to the health hazard.
If you have any wood floors or furniture, they are unlike your fence or deck because they are not stained or treated for contact with water. If water gets into the wood, it weakens the structural integrity of the wood. Because wood is organic, it may also start to host microbes, fungi, and other possible contagions. But perhaps most visible of all, the wood will warp, deform, and lose its original shape as it gets ravaged by water damage.
Damage to Walls & Ceilings
If water penetrates into ceilings, it can completely destroy the look of the ceiling, especially if the ceiling is made of materials like plaster or drywall. “Bubbles” can form in the material so they may eventually burst, leaving ugly patches. Or, in minor cases, you may notice stains or discolorations those areas. This type of damage usually occurs from overflowing sinks, or tubs, or through leaky roofs.
Water damage to walls may also occur this way, though it’s most common in leaky basements, where owners have failed to accurately anticipate the water damage and have put drywall over a leaking foundation. The damage here is similar, with stains that can eventually lead to bubbles, ruptures, and patches and a ruined wall. And of course, in both the case of walls and ceilings, persistent dampness can also lead to the formation of mold and the need to replace structures entirely.
Water damage restoration can become not just important, but essential to the preservation of life. Not all water is alike, and different types of water damage actually carry different classes of danger to the occupants of a building. Water damage according to health hazard is divided into three categories.
This level is also known as “clean water” and is the least serious of all in terms of health. It means that the source of the water is coming from relatively safe venues, such as the treated water that comes from faucets and bathtubs.
Category 1 water damage usually means a burst water pipe, or an overflowing sink, tub, or other accident. So while the water is still as wet as ever, chemically, it’s still safe for humans. This water has been processed and comes from the city water supply, and so it is safe to drink.
This category is sometimes referred to as “grey water,” and, as the name implies, is not as safe as the water that comes from a tap or a bottle. In this case, some caution should be exercised, especially when it comes to consumption.
Category 2 water damage means that the water has been exposed to some type of contamination—even if it originally came from a water pipe—and is, to some degree, unsafe. The water from a laundry machine, for example, filled with detergent is definitely not safe to drink. The same goes for water that’s overflown from a used toilet. This water is usually safe to touch, though you may not want to, but it is not safe to ingest.
Category 3 is called “black water” and is the most dangerous of all, definitely requiring water restoration to clear out. This type of water undeniably has contagions in it, where sickness is guaranteed, and even death is possible.
Sewage back up contains black water, and of course, so does flooding, since this is often a dangerous combination of sewage water, groundwater, and river water. All of this is untreated, and so everything from salmonella to E. coli to hepatitis may be in the water. You should avoid all contact and make sure that pets also avoid exposure as the results can be perilous.
Another big health hazard that comes with the water, though it is not necessarily in the water, is mold. Mold requires dark, damp environments, and once walls, fabric, or even whole basements become flooded, mold has all it needs to invade your home.
The reason mold presents such as a health hazard is because it reproduces by sending spores into the air. Once you breathe in the spores, there’s always the chance of coming down with an illness as a result of that inhalation. Black mold, for example, is a relatively common consequence of flooding, but black mold can also cause some very serious respiratory illnesses, and in the worst cases, can even cause the lungs to bleed, eventually leading to death.
What to Do
For these and many more reasons, when you experience water damage in your structure, you should always get professionals experienced in water damage restoration to help with your recovery efforts. This process is not an easy or casual thing to achieve, especially if you’re dealing with severe flood damage.
Water restoration requires the right tools and knowledge to deal with each specific situation. Something as serious as flooding will require the removal of the water first. This step is followed by drying out the environment, checking for the presence of mold, and, if discovered, treating that as well. Once the water has been removed, and the structure is considered safe, that’s when the actual recovery process can begin.
Call the Professionals
Whether you’ve got a ceiling, part of a floor, or an entire basement to deal with, water restoration requires a lot of expertise and a careful touch to yield successful results. If you’ve got an issue with water damage that you’d like to see fixed, we can help! Just reach out to St. Louis Cleaning and Restoration for a free consultation. We can evaluate your site and tell you exactly what kind of water damage problem you have, and how best to recover from it safely.