Water can enter the home in a variety of ways, including foundation leaks, burst pipes, appliance valve failures or poor drainage around the home. Burst pipes, valve failures, and sewage backups are particularly troublesome, as they can produce several inches of water within hours.
When water pools in the home, it will quickly soak through anything it comes in contact with. If it contains contaminants, all organic materials, like textiles and wood, will likely need to be restored. This is because contaminated liquid is the perfect environment for hosting a variety of microbes, including deadly viruses and bacteria. Floods, for example, are typically infested with cholera, hepatitis and other serious diseases.
Mold is also a primary concern when water collects in the home. Mold left unchecked will spread quickly through the home by releasing spores into the air. This means that a mold colony can even reach parts of the house that seem dry. Short term exposure to mold is not typically a major concern, but regular inhalation of mold spores can cause a number of health complications, particularly in the young, old or immune compromised. These complications often include respiratory infections, nausea, agitation, malaise, fatigue, and even deadly neurotoxic complications.
In general, the longer the moisture is allowed to sit in the home, the more problems it will cause. This can result in additional expenses down the road.
The first thing professionals will do is remove any compromised materials. This typically includes carpeting, carpet padding, baseboards, insulation, clothing, upholstery, fragile woods like plywood or particle board and gypsum containing materials, like sheetrock walls and ceilings. Once the house is clear of any destroyed items and all standing liquid pumped out, the technicians will work to dry and disinfect the area. This process takes several days, requiring the use of air mover fans, dehumidifiers and, occasionally, heat injection fans.
While the home is drying out, technicians will perform a thorough inspection for mold and other microbes. If the technicians find anything, the microorganisms will be removed and properly treated with disinfectants if needed. When larger mold colonies are present, technicians will build a containment structure around the area and remove the contaminated materials physically.
Restoration companies should employ technicians trained by a respected organization like the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC). The IICRC offers several courses on restoration, including a structural drying course and a microbial remediation course. This training will prepare technicians for a variety of job situations and keep them safe when working around hazardous fluids.