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Do I Need a Water Damage Restoration Company, or Can I DIY?
Article by David Selter
The most important issues when dealing with water damage are preventing structural damage to your home, and preventing mold problems from developing. So, when you have water damage from a leaky pipe, frozen pipe water damage, an AC overflow, outside water entering your home, or other causes, getting the excess water removed as quickly as possible is critical. The longer the water remains, the further it spreads. Basically, the water will continue to spread out, run under the walls, seep into every crack and crevice, and even wick up wood framing and drywall. Of course, this can be very destructive for most types of flooring and your home’s structural material. So, rule number one is: Stop the source of the water and get the remaining water up ASAP by any means possible.
If the water shows signs of already having begun to soak into the flooring, affect the walls or the ceiling below, or seep under cabinets or appliances, you will need to begin actively drying those areas after removing what water you can. The most immediate thing you can do is to apply some air movement from any kind of fan you may have, including ceiling fans. Air movement will continually push the moisture from the evaporating water away from the wet surfaces and replace it with dryer air to increase the rate of evaporation.
Small open areas can be dried fairly quickly using air movement. But water also spreads into confined areas, such as behind walls and under flooring. It can also come in contact with porous materials like drywall that soak it up and hold it like a sponge. When this happens air movement alone will not be enough to dry it in a timely manner. You will need the very low moisture content of the air from dehumidifiers and high-volume air movers to deliver that air to the confined spaces. You will also have to consider removing some of the porous materials that have already been damaged beyond recovery. And you will need to monitor the drying with a moisture meter to ensure that it’s happening rapidly enough. The EPA warns that the first 24 to 48 hours are critical to the drying process to prevent the growth of mold and other microbials.
So, can you do your own water damage cleanup? That depends on how extensive it is and how much work you’re willing to do on your own. Some restoration companies will rent (and deliver) the equipment and moisture meters you need to do the job. And most equipment rental centers have a limited supply of drying equipment. However, knowing what you need and how to use it is another issue. In real life if you have a limited area affected and you get the water up fairly quickly you can dry it with fans and usually be fine. But if the water has spread to inaccessible areas you probably need the help of a company.
On a personal note, not too long ago I had water coming through my ceiling from an AC drain line that was improperly connected to the second-floor bathroom sink drain line. I got the water off of my downstairs wood floor pretty quickly and called a water damage company. They removed about six square feet of the ceiling drywall and tested all areas for moisture. Fortunately, the wood flooring moisture wasn’t extremely high, but the upstairs subflooring and framing were. With it opened up they were able to dry everything (including my wood floor) with their equipment in three days. It cost me about $1,500 and I’m glad I did it. That was two years ago, and I have had no signs of any water damaged material, mold issues, or odor of any kind since. If I had tried to dry it on my own without opening it up, I would have ended up with very costly and disruptive mold testing, removal and repair, not to mention gradually breathing in more and more mold spores as it festered in that ceiling. So whatever path you decide to take, do it sooner rather than later.