We all at some point have likely been victims of water incidents, whether directly (happened to us) or indirectly (happened to our friends or family), The damage and stress is really disheartening. Even mere incidents of an overflowing washing machine filling up a whole room can be annoying. Water incidents occur at varying levels, ranging from a full-fledged storm, hurricane or flood to a burst water pipe in the kitchen, toilet or sewer, or even a leaking roof. The effects of a water incident are referred to as water damage.
The process of controlling or preventing further water damage is known as water mitigation. According to the Federal Emergency Maintenance Agency (FEMA), mitigation is “the effort to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters”. Hence, water mitigation is the process of taking strict measures or actions to lessen the impact of damage caused by water. Water mitigation, depending on the class or category, is carried out by water mitigation companies.
Types of Water Damage
- Category 1: referred to as “clean water” because it does not pose a threat to people. This is water that overflows from a bathtub, sink, or other broken water supply line.
- Category 2: referred to as “gray water”. This contains a significant degree of physical, chemical or biological contaminants, thereby causing disease or sickness when coming into contact with it. Examples include water from toilet bowls (just urine, not feces), sump pumps, and water discharge from washing machines or dishwashers.
- Category 3: this water contains harmful bacteria and fungi and is known as “black water”. This includes water from sewage, rivers, and toilet backflows that originate from beyond the toilet trap. It is considered unsanitary and gross.
In the case of a water incident, no matter the category, a water mitigation company should be called immediately. This is due to the fact that any further delay can lead to the growth of mold on different surfaces, the softening or decaying of wood, the spread of bacteria or disease from contaminated water, or the destruction of rugs and electrical appliances.
What to Do When You Find Water Damage
If left unattended, water damage can pervade every corner of the house. Before the arrival of a water mitigation company, a homeowner can take the following steps to reduce the effect of water damage, such as:
- Closing the main water source to the area of the overflow or flood.
- Staying away from electrical appliances to prevent shock or injuries, and if safe to do so, turning off the electric breaker.
- Removing items that can stain wet carpet or rugs, such as newspapers, plants, shoes, etc.
What Affects the Cost of Water Mitigation
Generally, there is no fixed cost involved in hiring water mitigation companies. The costs depend on the company and different factors, such as:
Type of Water
According to Fixr, cost estimates for water mitigation depend on the type of water. They explain: “Clean water is the least expensive, costing around $3.75 per sq ft to dry out, while gray water removal is around $4.50 per sq ft, and black water, which is the most expensive, costs around $7 per sq.ft.”
Size of Affected Area
The size of the affected area also determines how expensive the cost of mitigation is. The larger the surface area, the more expensive the cost to mitigate. A basement full of water halfway up to the ceiling would cost almost $3500 to clean up, while a kitchen half filled would cost less to restore because the surface area is not as large as a basement full of water.
Time Since Damage Occurred
The length of time surface areas such as wood, ceilings, rugs, carpets and walls have been exposed to water will determine if the material will still be usable. For instance, if a kitchen has been waterlogged for 72 hours, the cabinets, shelves, wall paint and even ceiling wood might require replacement, thereby adding to the cost of water mitigation.
Level of Accessibility
Water damage in a confined area will always be difficult to clean. This is because it requires highly sophisticated equipment to access the area. A waterlogged living room is more easily accessible than an attic. In some extreme circumstances, walls, floors or ceilings might have to be cut open to access the area. The use of special equipment and the expertise of technicians add to the cost of water mitigation.
Bacteria or Fungi Growth
Certain types of water, as well as a prolonged length of time before removal, can cause the growth of fungi or bacteria. In situations where this occurs, adequate caution will have to be taken to prevent further spread to other surfaces. Hence, the process of extracting the water will require highly sophisticated equipment to disinfect the waterlogged area. Also, cabinets, wall studs, carpets, rugs and drywall might need to be removed to thoroughly disinfect the area to prevent the further spread of any bacteria or fungi.
The Water Mitigation Process
Upon arrival of the water mitigation company, they first locate the source of the water and stop its flow. They then inspect the type or category of water and the level of the damage caused by the water. They also inquire about the length of time the water has been sitting to determine if measures like the use of drying equipment to ensure zero moisture content or the use of dehumidifiers to stop the growth of bacteria or fungi will be needed to prevent further damage.
They then proceed to the removal stage, where high quality equipment is used to remove water from all the rooms where water has been found. The size of the room, the total amount of water and the category of water found determine how long the process will take. The drying stage is next. This entails the safe and total drying of every item in the room. The water mitigation company makes use of different air movers, which aid in the flow of air required for drying the room.
The monitoring stage involves the periodic monitoring of the drying process. They ensure that the dehumidifier is generating the right level of air (hot or warm air and not cold air) for the room. They also monitor the moisture content on surface areas to determine whether they still need to disinfect surface areas to prevent the growth of mold or mildew and to prevent a bad odor.
The restoration process is the final stage, where the company restores the house to as close to its original state as possible. This involves the water mitigation company giving a satisfactory report that the house has been successfully restored or that it will need to undergo certain repairs to bring it back to its initial state.