Can I Dry My Home Flood Myself?
My bathroom has flooded! Can I clean it up myself?
Flood waters in the home often originate from plumbing in bathrooms (a broken pipe, clogged toilet, leaky shower enclosure) or kitchen areas (leak under sinks, dishwasher overflows, drain backup). When this happens, It might be tempting to mop the water up and put a fan or two on the wet area until it appears to be dry. No big deal, right? No - this approach can lead to more problems down the road.
You should always contact a professional, such as those at SERVPRO of Waxahachie/Midlothian and SERVPRO of Ennis/Red Oak to assist in the cleanup of a residential flood - to protect your family's health and to prevent further damage to your home. The professional will assess the quality of the water that flooded your home and the class of the water loss.
There are several questions to ask when a flood has occurred. First, what is the source of the water and what contaminants have been introduced into the flood waters? This will determine the quality of the water and affect many decisions in the drying process. Next, how long has water stood in the area and to what extent have structures and contents become saturated? This will determine the class of the water loss and influence decisions about what can be dried and what will be disposed of. And finally, how will you know when the area is truly dry, not just visibly, but inside walls, under carpets and pads, and throughout materials in the area? This is imperative in preventing further damage through subsequent deterioration and possible mold growth.
This article is limited to the first question above. It explains the importance of understanding the three quality of flood waters and how that determination affects decisions about the drying and cleanup process.
Understanding Quality of Water
There are three categories of water that can result in a residential flood - for example, from a toilet.
Category 1 (clean water) originates from a sanitary source. It poses no health risk when it comes into contact with skin, is ingested, or is inhaled. In the toilet leak example, if the water comes from the pipe behind the toilet, before the water has entered the toilet tank, it is originally Category 1 water. It is important to note the cleanliness of Category 1 water can deteriorate to Category 2 or 3 when coming into contact with other materials in the environment.
Category 2 (grey water) contains significant contamination and has the potential to cause discomfort or sickness if contacted or consumed by humans.
Category 3 ( black water) is grossly contaminated and can contain pathogenic, toxigenic, or other harmful agents. Such water may carry silt, organic matter, pesticides, heavy metals, regulated materials, or toxic organic substances. In the toilet example, toilet backflows that originate from beyond the toilet trap, regardless of the visible content or color, is considered category three water.
The category determination will greatly impact the way in which you or a professional team will approach the drying and cleanup process.
Class of Water Loss
There are 4 classes of water loss, depending on the magnitude of damage.
Class 1 is when only low-porosity and low-permeability materials in the area are affected. This means materials like linoleum, wood floors and fixtures, and tile.
Class 2 is when the water has affected an entire room or area, or multiple rooms in the house. This includes structures and up to two feet of water seepage up any walls.
Class 3 is when virtually all of the area has been saturated with the overflowing water. Ceilings, insulation, structures, furniture, cushions, carpeting, and more are affected.
Class 4 is when low-porosity, low-permeability materials like concrete, stone, and hardwood are saturated. Since the water can get caught in hard-to-reach pockets, they evaporate more slowly and require special techniques to dry.
Category 1 Cleanup Process
If the water is Category 1, then the focus becomes on extracting the water from the flooded area and placing equipment (fans and dehumidifiers) in the area, and monitoring the moisture in the area, until it can be deemed completely dry. Little emphasis needs to be placed on placing barriers between the wet areas/objects and the persons doing the work of drying things out. However, it should be noted that even the cleanest flood waters should be approached with minimal protective wear, such as rubber gloves. Materials that were affected in the flood, such as wooden trim, drywall, cabinets, carpet or other flooring, and furniture, can be dried out and left in the home for continued use. As long as the items were not structurally damaged to a point which would deem them unsalvageable, there is no need to remove them from the home. That is, they do not pose a health risk.
Category 2 Cleanup Process
When a home flood involves Category 2 water, the persons entering the flooded area must first take precautions to protect themselves from contaminants while working in the area and handling affected materials. Protective equipment such as rubber boots that can be disinfected and rubber gloves will be worn at all times. They might also choose to wear a face mask and googles if the cleanup process is to the extent that moving contents and other actions might cause splashing of flood waters. In this case decisions will be made about materials and items in the affected area based on how porous they are, whether they were saturated with the flooded water, and whether they can be effectively disinfected and left in place after the drying process. For example, where a carpeted area is affected with category 2 water, the carpet can be cleaned, dried, and disinfected; however, the carpet pad beneath must be removed and disposed of. Other hard surfaces can be cleaned, dried, and disinfected, as well.
Category 3 Cleanup Process
Category 3 flood waters pose a high risk of causing illness in persons, so this type of flood requires extreme measures during the cleanup process. This type of flood can be caused by something as common as a clogged toilet over-flowing or a clogged shower drain allowing sewer water to backup into a home. In this case, professional will wear full personal protective equipment. Not only rubber boots that can be disinfected and rubber gloves, but a full disposable body suit that protects skin and clothing from contaminated waters and materials must be worn, as well as a respirator and protective eye googles. They will set up a decontamination area to be used when moving from the contaminated area into the uncontaminated areas of the home. I addition, any porous materials in the area must be removed and disposed of as they will have absorbed pollutants from the contaminated water. That means baseboards and drywall that were saturated with flood waters must be cut out and removed. Carpet and carpet pad must be removed and disposed of. Upholstered furniture that was affected must be disposed of. In other words, an item by item determination will be made as to whether household items can be effectively cleaned and disinfected or if they will be disposed of. Leaving Category 3 contaminated materials or items in the home can pose dangerous health risks to residents.
Leave the Cleanup to the Professionals
You can see why it is best practice to leave the cleanup process after a flood to the professionals, such as those at SERVPRO of Waxahachie, Midlothian, Ennis, Red Oak - serving all of Ellis County. Call us at 972-935-0827. We have the training and experience to determine the level of risk involved with flood waters. We have the trained personnel and professional equipment to quickly extract waters and get the drying process complete in the shortest amount of time, saving you money and reducing the risk of complications from an improperly dried home. We strive to truly make it "Like it never even happened."