Water damage is one of the most problematic and widely experienced forms of disaster damage in the country. Its causes are numbered and varied, including natural flooding, burst or leaky pipes, fire hose damage, and plain old humidity. Water damage is such a problem because it affects most every aspect of your home; it rots the wood, rusts the steel, de-laminates plywood, and, most frustratingly, ruins precious documents. To lose appliances or furniture is one thing. Those can be replaced. But when a flood or some other disaster damages family photo albums, antique books, or business documents, water damage goes from irritating to downright tragic.
To better protect yourself from water damage it’s important to know exactly what it is and how it occurs. There are three typical classifications of water damage. The first classification is Clean Water. As the name suggest, this type of water damage does not pose a health risk to humans and is more annoying than anything else. An overflowing sink or tub or leaky appliance are examples of Clean Water.
Grey Water is the next classification and refers to water that contains degrees of chemical, biological or physical contaminants. This type of water can lead to sickness in humans and animals if consumed or exposed. Toilet bowls, dishwashers and washing machine leaks are the most common kinds of Grey Water.
The last classification of water damage is Black Water. This classification of water, as you probably guessed, contains highly unsanitary agents such as bacteria and fungus and can lead to severe illness. This classification is most rare and comes mainly from sewage, seawater, and contaminated river or stream water.
Any classification of water can cause severe damage. However, water damage restoration techniques, especially for business records and documents, vary greatly depending on the water’s classification. It is important for you to know what classification of water you’re dealing with before you attempt any restoration projects. If you suspect the water to be of either Grey or Black classification, contact your local fire department, water bureau, or environmental protection agency to have the water decontaminated.
One of the most effective and popular forms of water damage restoration is desiccant dehumidification. This restoration process removes moisture from the air quickly and safely, effectively salvaging important documents and helping prevent mold growth. This process works by dehumidifying the air surrounding the damaged documents or personal effect, allowing the water molecules trapped in the damaged items to escape into the air. Desiccant dehumidification is a great restoration option, especially for businesses, as it allows documents to be accessible during the recovery process. This helps businesses get back on their feet after a disaster, quicker.
Another effective form of document restoration is freeze-drying. This process is best for books, binders, or any bound printed matter. Freeze-drying restoration works on a similar premise as dehumidification but in a contained chamber and at much lower temperature. Some freeze-drying processes can lead to warping, so it is important to choose a recovery service that offers even pressure distribution inside the chamber. When shopping for a disaster recovery service or company, keep an eye out for vacuum freeze-drying; this is the best restoration option available today. If your recovery service doesn’t offer vacuum freeze-drying you might want to consider looking elsewhere.
The most important thing to remember after incurring water damage is to act fast. Time is not on your side after a water disaster. The longer you wait to start the restoration process the greater the chance the process won’t be as effective as you’d like. You also risk incurring a great deal of mold damage by waiting too long. Because time is such a key factor after a water-related disaster, it is a good idea to have an emergency plan already in place before disaster strikes. Some document recovery and water damage restoration companies can even install air dry distribution areas on-site, a great idea for businesses that deal with a lot of important hard copy information.
No company or agency can take away the frustration and stress caused by a water disaster. However, not all need be lost. Water damage has the potential to ruin an entire business or home, but fast-acting, properly equipped damage recovery teams can bring your documents and personal effects back to near their pre-disaster state.
~Ben Anton, 2008