Water Leak Restoration

The Complete Guide to Water Damage Restoration

What to do after a water emergency on your property.

Water is our friend … until it’s not. Flooding can happen anywhere, regardless of where in the world or how high up your property is located. It can be the result of weather, a natural disaster or the failure of man-made pipes or containment systems. Water can invade from outside the building envelope or from within, often leaking down from the floors above. 

In the event of water damage, a team of trusted professionals is needed to mitigate the damage and often return the property to something resembling its original state. This process is highly regulated to maintain the safety of repair crews and that of residents after the cleanup is done. These standards are set and overseen by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which also provides accreditation to industry professionals.

Water Damage Restoration

Water intrusion is separated into three categories, depending on the amount of contamination present in the water. 

CATEGORY 1 — “Fresh” Water

Freshwater is the cleanest form, usually coming from a sanitary source of potable water, such as the public water supply or a natural source of freshwater. If addressed quickly, it poses no threat to people or animals should they ingest it, inhale the fine spray or come into skin contact with it.

CATEGORY 2 — “Gray” Water

Gray water is not suitable for human contact, as it contains substantial contamination. With a noticeable level of biological or chemical contaminants, it would likely pose a threat to the health of anyone coming into contact with it, even if it’s only skin contact and is definitely not suitable for consumption. 

CATEGORY 3 — “Black” Water

Blackwater has been severely contaminated and is assumed to contain harmful virulent pathogenic and toxic agents. The most common form of this is raw sewage released when a public sewer line is compromised or from industrial or agricultural run-off. It can be deadly to people and animals, as well as render property no longer inhabitable. Quick restoration and remediation can often save a property, but this needs to begin soon after exposure. 

The boundaries between these categories can be crossed; that is, if a Category 1 situation is left untreated for too long, it can develop into a more severe form of contamination, becoming a breeding ground for serious pathogens and permeating deeper into the host structure with time.

Water Damage Classes

The severity of water intrusion can be divided into four classifications:


This is where a reasonably small amount of clean water is spilled onto a non-permeable surface, such as concrete, tile, etc. It requires some simple mopping up, and it poses no significant threat to anyone’s health. 


This is where a significant amount of water has been discharged in an area where the surfaces are more porous and have absorbed a large quantity of moisture. Here, there is a threat of wet surfaces becoming toxic, and there is a lot more water to remove. Professional mitigation is needed in this class and higher. 


This is where a lot of water has been dispersed onto highly absorbent surfaces. It is typical of living quarters being intruded upon during a high-water event like a tropical storm. It will take significant time to dry this area, and it would likely be deemed appropriate to remove portions of the structure, wet surfaces and material.


This is the most severe scenario where water has intruded into homes, carpeting, drywall, and any furnishings or inventory present. It poses the greatest challenge to restoration, if that’s even possible or practical at all. Vast flooding from overrun rivers, hurricanes or landslides typically generates this kind of damage, and recovery can be slow, expensive and result in entire structures needing to be leveled.

Property Restoration

The first step in restoration efforts is to classify the situation by type and severity. While a Class 1 Fresh Water spill might result from a potable water pipe leak in an office and be fairly simple to resolve, a Class 4 Black Water scenario following a devastating weather event will certainly challenge even a professional team. After-incident mitigation begins with assessing the situation and selecting the proper process and equipment for the task at hand.

A proper restoration job does not end at rehabilitating real estate. Still, it should also diagnose the underlying causes that resulted in the incident or what made the structure more vulnerable to this kind of damage. The property needs to be made safe for future use. 

Water damage usually entails the removal of saturated materials, such as drywall, flooring and furniture. The threat to health posed by mold and mildew needs to be taken seriously, and substantial cleaning, disinfecting and deodorizing is a must.

Fast response time is critical. Every hour that intruding water is allowed to stand means greater damage to the structure and possessions. Mold, mildew and water-borne disease can threaten cleanup crews, residents and entire neighborhoods. It will likely take extended periods of dehumidification with industrial-grade dehumidifiers and dryers, and thorough inspections may reveal that walls and pipes need to be replaced. In a commercial or industrial environment, it may be necessary to discard inventory that has been subject to contamination.

Do It Yourself Water Damage Restoration

Practically speaking, executing water damage restoration and mitigation by yourself is only practical for relatively minor occurrences, mostly Category 1 Fresh Water incidents. Even this type of event is probably best handled by professionals, but for the brave, here are some tips on approaching such a task.

  • First, if possible, shut off the supply of water that is intruding into your space.
  • Remove vulnerable items like furniture, decorations and electronics to a safe place.
  • Remove carpeting and other saturated material. Spread or hang it outdoors if weather permits and you wish to reuse this material after drying.
  • Open doors and windows (weather permitting) and any cabinets or closets to initiate air-drying.
  • Remove the majority of the water by mopping or blotting methods.
  • Remove ceiling material if it has been saturated by water from above, as it can fall and cause more damage or injury.
  • If your roof has been compromised, have it repaired as soon as possible.

If the damage is too extensive for a DIY approach or the water has been left in place for too long, it will be necessary to seek professional help. Trained professionals have the specialized knowledge, technical skills and industrial-grade equipment to address extensive cleanup and repair tasks and leave you with a dry, healthy environment.

How to Prevent Water Damage

The best tool for preventing catastrophic water damage is regular inspection and maintenance of anything prone to leakage. All plumbing points such as bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms and the areas immediately below them should be regularly inspected. Any watermarks on ceilings or walls could be a sign of minor leaks, which, if left unchecked, could lead to more severe water intrusion. In addition, check your roof’s integrity and stay on top of minor repairs using spare shingles or sealing compounds. 

Test sump pumps and septic systems for signs of leakage. Maintain the land around your property for good drainage and know the likelihood that your neighborhood sits on a flood plain, which may need to be researched at your municipal hall of records. Check any water pooling after a heavy rain, noting where it forms and how long it takes to drain away.

Before a water intrusion incident or flood, clean any wooden structures, disinfect them of mold, mildew or fungus, and seal them with an oil-based waterproofing compound or other sealant. Laminate flooring is especially susceptible to warping or discoloring, so wipe up any minor spills immediately and keep some spare boards handy to replace damaged sections.

Health and Safety 

The health and safety of anyone doing repair or mitigation work on a water intrusion site are of utmost priority. Be sure to take the appropriate precautions if you are attempting a DIY repair job. The professional crews will know how to ensure the safety of their own personnel, plus any property owners who enter the worksite. There are clear and firm regulations for such workers, set up by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA), including treatment methods, removal and packing of hazardous materials and the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to be used by workers and anyone who may be exposed to hazardous materials.

Category 1, in general, presents the lowest risk of hazard, as the water is potable and the damaged area is minor. However, care should be taken to disengage the power for the building or at least the work area, as the water may actually be in contact with electrical sources or equipment.

Category 2 involves Gray Water, so standard precautions such as boots and gloves that are waterproof and electrically insulating should be worn. Any situation of splashing or spraying this contaminated water should be avoided so that you aren’t inhaling toxic substances. 

Category 3 water damage involves the maximum contamination, so total-protection hazmat-grade outfits are the best choice. Disposal of contaminated materials needs to be done safely via biohazard containers and handled through a regulated disposal facility. This is part of why the cleanup of a Category 3 incident should be undertaken by professionals only.

Water Resto USA

It’s clear that the task of water damage mitigation and property restoration following a water intrusion incident is complex, difficult and delicate. Engaging professionals to expedite repairs is always the best idea. Professionals like the Trusted Response Team from Water Resto USA.

Water Resto USA specializes in restoring residential and commercial properties damaged by flooding, fire, smoke and mold, and they’re on-call 24/7/365 anywhere in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. With a 30-minute response time and a 100% satisfaction guarantee, let the highly-trained professionals from Water Resto USA handle any water emergency.

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