40% of homeowners in the United States say that they have experienced water damage at some point. This represents American homes of all ages, climates, and values. Water mitigation is, therefore, an important process to know about. Water mitigation is the process of rebuilding your home in the aftermath of water damage.
For information on cleanup costs, go to our page on the Average Cost of Water Damage Restoration.
This guide will walk you through all of the key questions about water mitigation. Knowing about it – and what it involves – can save you money, time, and stress when disaster strikes.
WHAT IS WATER MITIGATION?
According to FEMA, mitigation is the process of reducing the damage to, and loss of, property due to the impact of a disaster. In the case of water mitigation, it refers to the ‘clean up’ process that happens after a natural disaster that causes excess water (most likely flooding into the basement or other areas).
Water mitigation is the ‘second phase’ of disaster management – namely the rebuilding and the prevention of additional damage, which follows on from the initial stage of preventing loss of life.
What is involved in water mitigation?
The process of water mitigation involves a range of different activities. Since it involves reducing the loss of property due to damage, mitigation can be anything that addresses damage. Most generally, however, it involves the following:
To this, we can add things like:
Replacing any items that are irreparably damaged
Coordinating with insurance companies to cover any losses
Organizing contractors to undertake the work
On top of these may also be efforts to prevent further water damage (such as constructing adequate drainage, installing a flood wall, and so on).
Not a one-size-fits-all approach
What this shows is that water mitigation is non-uniform. If your home has been flooded by excess rain, your water mitigation experience will be different than if your home has been damaged by a hurricane.
This means that your water mitigation plan will need to be responsive to the specific damage. The good news is that part of water mitigation may actually be prevention, so as well as thinking about restoring your property to how it was before the damage, you should be actively thinking about how to prevent the damage from happening again.
WHAT ARE THE STAGES OF THE PROCESS?
As mentioned above, the individual plan of water mitigation will vary based on the specific nature of the damage, as well as your own property. However, there are certain stages of the process that will be universal. You can use this as a checklist when planning out your own water mitigation.
ASSESS THE SITUATION
The first stage is to take stock of the situation and determine the extent of the damage. It is very important at this stage to also think about safety. If the structure of your home has been damaged, or if water has caused damage to electrical fitting, then it may not be safe to begin the process without expert help.
However, once you are sure that it is safe, you should make a thorough assessment of the damage done. This will allow you to make a detailed plan (usually in conjunction with your insurance company and contractors) to repair the damage.
REMOVE WATER AND MOISTURE
Naturally, the rebuilding process can’t begin until the water has been fully removed. This involves removing any standing water – usually with the use of pumps and other water restoration equipment.
Once you have done this, you will also need to remove water that has absorbed into surfaces. Dehumidifiers and air movers are the best means of doing so. You will need to make sure that moisture is fully removed so as to prevent further damage and to prevent mold from spreading.
Flooding that comes from natural bodies of water (i.e. flooded rivers) is classified as a biohazard, as it may contain things like sewage.
Therefore, you will need to fully sanitize any surfaces that have come into contact with the water. This will almost certainly involve a professional cleanup crew or biohazard cleaning specialists.
RESTORE THE STRUCTURE OF THE BUILDING
When you are confident that the structure is sanitized, you can begin the process of restoring the structure of the property. The priority should obviously be the framework of the property (walls, ceilings, and floors).
However, you should also begin to clean or replace fixtures and fittings such as carpets, furniture, and appliances.
WATER DAMAGE RESTORATION
Put simply, the difference between water mitigation and water restoration is that the former is structural repairs, the latter is based on cleaning up. The two dovetail with one another so that a water mitigation crew may also offer water damage restoration since – as mentioned above – a lack of cleanup can lead to structural damage.
WHAT COMES FIRST, MITIGATION OR RESTORATION?
Water mitigation is always the first step of the process. This helps to shore up the immediate danger to the property and is then followed by water restoration services. After this, there may be further need for water mitigation (and further water restoration). However, the first step of the process is always water mitigation.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF
Water mitigation’s ultimate purpose is to ensure that there is no further damage to the property. Things like repairing or replacing damaged property are secondary to the overall goal of making sure a property is sound and secure.
IS IT A PERMANENT SOLUTION?
Water mitigation is a temporary solution since it is focused on preventing immediate further deterioration. Once the danger has passed, you will need to look at long-term solutions that not only prevent further damage but also prevent flooding from taking place in the first place.
This can involve a variety of tactics, such as changing the slope of your landscaping, installing basement drainage, or more drastic solutions such as building a wall to prevent flood water.
However, the key point is that neither water mitigation nor water restoration is designed to provide long-term solutions to problems. The goal in both cases is to set the clock back to the day before the damage happened – what you do with that time is up to you.
Because water mitigation often happens after a traumatic experience, such as a flood or natural disaster, your instinct can be to make some of the common logical mistakes of water mitigation.
Some of these are outlined below:
The key determinant of this is whether insurance will cover the damage caused by the water. If so, it will almost certainly be better to replace than to restore. However, if you don’t have flood damage (which is often not covered in a standard homeowners’ policy) then you will need to pay out of pocket.
In most cases, a professional water restoration company may be able to salvage a large number of your furniture, fixtures, and fittings, which will be cheaper than replacing everything. A restoration specialist will also be able to advise on what is better to replace.
The short answer to this is, yes, carpets and walls will dry on their own. However, the time it takes for them to do so often makes damage far worse. In many cases, if left unchecked, the surface of a carpet or a wall will dry, but there will be water underneath. This will cause both to experience structural damage (rotting in the case of a carpet).
This will lead to mold, odor problems, and further damage to your property. It is definitely preferable to dry your property professionally and thoroughly.
Again, you absolutely can do the cleanup yourself, and it will save you money in the short term. The CDC recommends that you hire a professional team to clean up for you, owing to the difficulties or dangers of doing it yourself. However, the temptation may be to do it yourself, particularly when faced with a quote for professional work.
This is very much a false economy. Doing the work yourself may not root out all of the damage (particularly when it comes to sterilizing the space), meaning you will still need to hire professionals. After all, if you want to return your home to its pre-damaged condition, you’ll want to consider paying for the peace of mind.
Studies show that 93% of water damage can be prevented due to successful water mitigation.
That is to say that most of the damage that happens to a property as a result of water isn’t from the initial damage, but from the long-term impacts of inadequately cleaned-up water.