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The Complete Guide to Water Damage Restoration after Water Damage

Water damage is never an easy thing to handle. The effects can be devastating and costly, whether from a busted pipe, a leaky roof, or an overflowing toilet. But with the right knowledge and proper preparation, you can get your home back in shape with minimal disruption.

How Bad is it?

The first thing you must identify is – just how bad it is. The first step of the restoration process is to identify the source of the water leak or water intrusion. Sometimes the source is obvious such as a broken pipe leaking water or a backed-up toilet overflowing. In other cases, the source can be harder to identify, such as a slow leak from an undetectable area of your roof that slowly makes its way through the wall and onto the floor below.

Identify & Deal with the source

First and foremost, you need to stop unintended water intrusion. You can shut off the water at the main or a local valve if you can identify it. This will prevent additional water from entering your home or business premises and causing further damage.

If the source is more hidden, it might take some specialized tools to help identify it. Professionals can use tools such as moisture meters and thermal cameras to zero in on the source of the water. Even then, sometimes, it takes some minor demolition to locate the original source of water intrusion.

Repairing the source of water damage

In order to proceed, the source of the water damage needs to be fixed. This can take place at almost any time with the water being shut off. But living or working on a property without water is usually impractical. So fixing the water intrusion is usually one of the first steps.

Because of the various situations, this portion of the process is a little nuanced. Sometimes it makes more sense to leave the water shut off and complete repairs after the area has been dried. So be aware this step can happen at different points in the process based on the situation.

Understanding the different types of water damage

When it comes to water damage restoration, not all water is the same. Water damage can come from different sources and cause varying levels of destruction. For example, “clean” water from a broken pipe or plumbing issue will cause less damage than “black” water from a septic system or stormwater.

Category 1

Category 1 (Clean) water is defined as water from a sanitary source. This is water that does not pose a substantial risk. Examples of category 1 sources are broken water supply lines, overflowing sinks with no contaminants, and melting snow or ice.

Category 2

A category 2 water loss is when water contains contamination and has the potential to cause sickness if contacted or consumed by humans. Category 2 water may contain amounts of microorganisms, nutrients conducive to their growth, and both organic and inorganic matter that could be hazardous. Examples may include a washing machine or dishwasher overflows, toilet bowl water with urine, and broken aquariums.

Category 3

Category 3 water loss involves water that can contain hazardous pathogens, toxins, and other agents such as silt, pesticides, organic matter, heavy metals, regulated materials, or toxic organic substances. This is likely to cause harm if not handled with appropriate safety measures.

Understanding the extent of the damage

Once the source of water intrusion has been identified, it’s essential to understand how far the damage has spread and what materials have been affected. This step involves visual inspection, moisture testing with a moisture meter, and possibly thermal imaging cameras to detect hidden pockets of moisture.

Class 1

Class 1 water damages usually only impact a small portion of the room or space and might involve bigger spaces that have taken up minimal moisture. This is because these losses are characterized by the least amount of water absorption as well as evaporation. (A minor amount of water)

Class 2

A class 2 water loss affects at least an entire room of carpet and cushion. Water has gone up the walls less than 24 inches. There is moisture remaining in structural materials like plywood, particle board, structural wood, VCT, and concrete. (A large amount of water).

Class 3

A class 3 water loss involves significant amounts of water. Usually, there is saturation in large areas and can include overhead. Class 3’s ceilings, walls, carpet, insulation, and subfloor are saturated in the entire region. (Greatest amount of water).

Class 4

Class 4 water losses consist of materials with minimal permeance porosity, including hardwood flooring, plaster walls and ceilings, brick structures, concrete foundations and pathways, lightweight cellular concretes (LWC), as well as natural stone. In instances like these, sections of intense dampness necessitate a very small level of specific humidity. Class 4 losses typically demand extended drying times and unique techniques for a successful resolution.

A Water Damage Restoration Company

An expert provider of water damage restoration services can help identify both the category and the class of water loss. The water restoration company will also have extensive experience and proper equipment to manage the water damage restoration process. They will be able to assess the damage and identify the best plan of action for restoring your property to its pre-loss condition.

A professional water restoration company can help you minimize further damage, remove standing water & moisture, clean up affected materials, perform odor control, and provide any necessary structural repairs. It’s essential to act quickly to prevent additional damage to building materials and prevent mold growth.


When selecting a water restoration company, ensure they have the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) certifications. This is an organization that sets standards for the cleaning and restoration industry. The IICRC requires ongoing education to maintain certifications. Companies with employees who hold active certifications are trained in the latest advancements in the restoration field, from technology to processes.


Finally, ensure the water restoration company is licensed and carries adequate insurance to protect you in case of any unexpected damages. This should include general liability, workman’s compensation, auto insurance, and any other policies that could potentially impact your property if something were to go wrong during the restoration process.


When selecting a water restoration company, also consider their experience. Look for companies that have been in business for several years and have a well-established reputation in the community. Also, inquire about any past projects or successful jobs they have worked on. And if they have relevant experience with the type of property and damage.


You want to ensure the water restoration company is dedicated and committed to completing the job quickly and efficiently. They should have a set time frame to complete the restoration process and follow through on this commitment.

It’s also essential that they can answer your questions promptly and provide timely updates on their progress.


The Restoration Process

The water restoration process is very challenging. You will need to deal with flooded areas quickly but safely. At the beginning of this water loss process, you must understand that you must approach the situation flexibly. It’s a complicated process with many variables.


The first step in the process is stabilizing the situation. This is the crucial step where you identify the water source. And also understand the class (extent) of water damage. Once you know the situation, you can take appropriate action to reduce and stop further damage.

During this stage, you will make plans for how to proceed. This is sometimes called scoping the job. To do this, measurements will be taken of the area to assess the severity of the damage.

You will also need to determine how many drying zones to set up, air movers, dehumidifiers, and other equipment you will need. It’s important to note that you don’t know all the details at this stage. You are most likely just building a starting point plan.

We will go into further details about what equipment you need further below. However, as a rule of thumb, you will need a drying chamber for each affected area. Each drying chamber will need one dehumidifier, five air movers, and an air scrubber if it is a category 3 water loss.

Once your opening plan is ready (this whole process should take less than 30 minutes to complete), you can proceed to the next step.

Bulk Water Removal

Bulk water removal is the process of removing the most significant volume of water as quickly as possible. There are many techniques and specialized equipment that can be involved.

You can employ a sump pump for large volumes of standing water that might occur from a burst pipe. These can move massive quantities of water rapidly.

After that, this process continues with a “Wet Vac.” Restoration companies have commercial versions called a water extraction vacuum. These have more capacity to store water and more powerful motors that can remove more moisture in the same conditions. You will want to extract all damp, porous materials, including carpets, padding, furniture, and wood.

Calling the insurance company

Around this point, you will usually call your insurance company to file the claim. The rule is that if you suspect the water damage restoration cost is three times your deductible, then it’s a good idea to file the claim. For example, filing a claim is a good idea if your deductible is $1500 and you suspect the cost will be $5000.



Content for a water mitigation company is any personal belongings that can easily be removed. You want to get rid of as much standing water as possible and dry any wet or damp materials like carpets, rugs, furniture, etc. Once the immediate concerns have been addressed and your belongings have been removed, it’s time to start drying out the area.

Keep or Throw out

One confusing topic that comes up during water damage restoration is whether to keep or throw away personal belongings. If the water event was a category 2, there is a slight chance that the items can be made safe. If the items were affected by category 3 water damage, they would need to be disposed of and replaced. However, if the water event is Category 1, most materials can be considered safe to keep.

The homeowners insurance will cover the replacement cost of your personal belongings.

Organizing and Securing the content

During the process of removing content, you need to be sure everything is documented and organized carefully. A reputable water damage restoration company can handle this process.

The process usually involves carefully packing and labeling the content, making sure everything is secure. Once that process is complete, you can determine which items need to be moved for storage or disposal.

To ensure that your personal belongings are properly handled, it’s essential to work with a professional water damage restoration company specializing in organizing and securing content.

Light cleaning and documenting with photos are good steps to take.

Drying zones

The next step is to set up drying zones. This means you will identify the affected areas and separate them from unaffected ones. The goal is to create a drying chamber for the affected area with enough air flow and humidity control to dry out the structure quickly.


Once the drying chambers have been built, demolition can begin. This involves removing any drywall, flooring, or other materials that were exposed to water and have been deemed unsalvageable.


Walls are usually made of drywall. And if it is saturated, then it will need to be replaced. But even walls made of other materials will need to be removed or cut into. This is to allow access to water damage in the structure.


Floors need to be removed if the water soaks through to the subfloor. This is because standing water can cause more damage; removing it is much more effective than drying it. By removing flooring, you can assess and prevent further structural damage.


Insulation needs to be removed and replaced if it is damp. The insulation holds excess water quickly and will lead to mold growth. Insulation will also block access to the framing, subfloor, and other structural components needed in the drying process.


The cleaning process should involve using special equipment and products that are designed for water damage restoration. Professional restoration services also use specific detergents and tools to remove contaminants from the area.


Disinfecting is a critical step. This will help prevent the growth and spread of bacteria, mold, and other organisms. Special cleaning agents that are designed for water damage restoration need to be used, as the ones you would use for general cleaning will not be effective.

You will need an EPA-rated disinfectant. On the label, there is a process including the necessary dwell time that needs to be followed.

Inspecting for Structural Damage

The next step is to inspect the damaged areas for structural damage. The inspector will check the affected walls, floors, and other components of the structure to ensure that they are structurally sound before repairs can begin. If there is more damage than expected, reinforcements may be needed prior to reconstruction.

Installing commercial Equipment

The final step is to install the necessary commercial equipment, such as air movers and dehumidifiers. This will help dry out the structure quickly and efficiently. It’s vital that this is done correctly to avoid any further damage or delays in the restoration process.


Dehumidifiers remove moisture from the air. There are different types, but commercial-grade dehumidifiers are essential to the water damage restoration process. These are typically installed in the drying chamber and should be checked regularly to ensure they work correctly.

By lowering the moisture content of the air, moisture will be drawn out of the structural materials or other porous materials.

Air Movers (Blowers, Fans)

Air movers are used to creating air movement. This helps dry the structural materials and other porous items much faster. These can be placed in all of the affected areas, such as walls, floors, and furniture.

HEPA Filtration

HEPA filters are used to remove airborne contaminants such as dust, mold spores, and other allergens. This is an integral part of the restoration process because it helps create a safe environment for occupants after fixing the water damage.

Drying Process

Once the drying process has started, then the frequent inspection will need to be done to determine when the moisture levels reach equilibrium with the unaffected areas of your home or business.

Daily inspections and moisture mapping

Part of the water damage restoration process is the inspection, documentation and moisture mapping. Moisture meters and thermal cameras are used to detect moisture levels in the affected area. This helps determine which areas need more attention, what materials can be salvaged, and when the restoration process is complete.

These steps help ensure that your home or business is properly restored and safe from further water damage.

Different measuring techniques

Special equipment and products are used to measure moisture in materials and the air. Tools like moisture meters and thermal cameras help to find out how much moisture is in certain places.

Thermal Hygrometers measure moisture in the air. Comparing the moisture in your drying zones to the ambient air in your home can show that the dehumidifiers are performing well.

Penetrating probes can measure moisture content in thicker materials like wood subflooring. For example, if you have water damage in the walls of your home, this type of probe can help determine how far the moisture has penetrated.

Reaching equilibrium with the environment

Once the drying process has begun, frequent inspections are necessary to determine when the moisture levels have reached equilibrium with the unaffected areas of your home or business.

This is an important part of water damage restoration and helps ensure that your property is properly restored and safe from further damage.

By comparing the moisture content in affected zones to ambient air conditions in unaffected ones, you can be sure that dehumidifiers are working correctly. Ultimately, these steps help guarantee that your home or business is completely dry before repairs and reconstruction begin.

Removing equipment

Once the moisture levels have returned to normal, and the drying process is complete, all of the commercial equipment can be removed. This marks the end of the water damage restoration process, and your home or business will again be safe from further damage. It’s essential that all of the wet materials are correctly disposed of before repairs begin.