A large part of my job at ServiceMaster is to communicate what we do as a company. It was all pretty confusing at first, but over the past year or so, as I have come to understand our company and industry more, I’ve become better at it. In a nutshell, we provide disaster restoration services to the Upper Cumberland area in middle Tennessee. We provide a service to make things better when bad things happen – water pipes bursting, grease fires getting out of control, roofs being torn off in tornadoes, trees falling on houses, and breaking things. We understand that taking care of the people involved is as important as taking care of the damage.
One of the most confusing things for me to understand was the water mitigation process. Common sense told me that we removed water from where it was not supposed to be. But how can you make a whole business out of that? Why are those blue snail-shaped fans we use better than a regular household fan? Why all of the fancy potions and weird equipment?
After working here for about a year and learning more about the process, I’ve come to the decision that maybe a wet carpet (and other types of water damage) shouldn’t be handled with a lot of towels, opening windows, and the ultimately weak wind power of ceiling and stand-up floor fans. I decided I’d share some of the knowledge I’ve gained to help demystify the basics of water mitigation. If you’d like to learn, read on!
Time is of the essence when it comes to making things right with water. If you’re like me and have been known to spill water on your desk, you know that water is happy to travel quickly and travel far, only stopped by anything willing to soak it up. Stuff like important paperwork.
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That’s why we are on call 24 hours a day for emergency water service. The longer someone waits, the farther and deeper the water travels, and the worse (and more expensive) the damage gets – especially if there is a broken water line and the water is not turned off…it just flows and flows and soaks everything in its path. A broken 5/8” hose from a washing machine can pump 14,000-17,000 gallons of water (at 10-12 gallons per minute) into a home. So, first thing folks – if you find yourself with a water problem, turn off the water source in your home!! Find your water shut-off valve before an emergency happens so you know where it is in a panicked moment.
What happens if you don’t get that water under wraps quickly? The carpet starts separating in awful places, the layer underneath your flooring gets soaked through, and your drywall can become damaged if it wicks water from the floor. If you’ve got wood flooring, those beautiful panels of wood start to warp and buckle. And the one I personally find the most disconcerting? Mold will start to grow in as little as 48 hours. And once mold gets going, it really gets going. Yuck.
Once we show up on the scene, the first thing we do is make sure the water is turned off and that everyone is okay. Next, we assess the damage to make sure we know the entire path the water has traveled – we do this with different types of moisture meters and moisture sensors. We’ll class and categorize the water by determining how much water there is and where it came from. If it’s dirty water (sewage, etc.) we need to take quick steps to sanitize so people (and animals) are safe.
After things are properly assessed, we move quickly to protect contents: moving things up and away from the water. We want to save everything we possibly can. Delay in moving things and setting them up on blocks can cause problems like having wet furniture stains migrate from the furniture to the carpet and consequently ruining it.
Water is then extracted with various hoses and vacuums (I won’t get overly technical in this article) and the proper amount of flooring and paneling is removed to set the drying equipment in place. Antimicrobial products are applied to prevent the “nasties” – mold and other harmful microorganisms – from growing and spreading. Measurements are taken and several techniques are used to promote the quickest drying conditions possible – a combination of optimal airflow, temperature, and humidity. I took a class on this, and the mathematical equations were a little bit mind-boggling. I had a whole new respect for the math skills of our water mitigation staff!
This is where the blue snail-shaped fans come into play. The teacher over at the ServiceMaster training center would be very upset with me if he heard me calling them that; over there they are called “air movers.” Whatever you choose to call them, when paired with dehumidifiers, they make a powerful drying combo. Drying conditions are logged and monitored daily until a safe level of dryness is reached. If it looks like things are not progressing along, equipment and technique are adjusted until it’s right.
After a final assessment to make sure all surfaces are dry and safe, we clean up our equipment and call in our contracting team to begin repairs if they are necessary.
And that’s it! A basic overview of what happens when we are called to take care of a watery mess. A good, reputable company will not take short-cuts that could do more damage in the long run, and they also are very conscientious about what should be salvaged and what should be replaced. Proper technique and knowledge are really important in being able to accurately know whether or not something needs to stay or go. A good water mitigation team has the best interests of the customer in mind.
I hope this article has been helpful and informative – as always, don’t hesitate to let us know if you have any questions.