How To Do Water Damage Restoration: Comprehensive Guide

Water damage can happen suddenly and cause extensive destruction to a home or business. As soon as water damage is discovered, it is crucial to act quickly to minimize further damage and health risks. In this post, we will walk through the key steps involved in water damage restoration, from initial assessment and securing the site, to extracting water, drying out the structure, sanitizing and deodorizing, to finishing repairs and reconstruction.

Safety Equipment for Water Damage Restoration

When performing water extraction and restoration work, using appropriate safety gear and equipment is vital to prevent illness and injury onsite. We outline the basic personal protective equipment, respiratory equipment, and electrical safety equipment that must be properly utilized throughout the restoration process per OSHA regulations.

Personal Protective Equipment

Several forms of PPE help shield restoration technicians directly handling contaminated materials from biological hazards and unsafe debris:

  • Gloves (rubber, nitrile)—protect hands from contaminated water
  • Goggles—guard eyes from splashes
  • Boots—provide traction on slippery surfaces
  • Hard hat—wearing in unstable structures
  • Body suit— prevents skin contact with polluted materials

Additional waterproof outer layers, knee pads, face shields, and steel toe boots should be worn when actively cutting into walls or operating pumping equipment as well.

Respiratory Protection

Masks and respirators safeguard the lungs from airborne mold spores and dangerous dust particles. Proper form fitting is essential for adequate protection.

  • N95 disposable respirator—filters 95% of particles
  • Half or full-face respirator—higher filtration efficiency
  • Powered air purifying respirator (PAPR)— powered filter

Grade filter cartridges based on contamination types and always conduct fit testing when switching reusable respirator models.

Electrical Safety

As moisture conducting materials surround all restoration job sites, electric shock risks climb requiring these safety steps:

  • Use ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs)—shut off power instantly if a current leak is detected
  • Inspect condition of all extension cords and power tools before use
  • Turn off electricity to the area at mains when water exposure is detected
  • Never use electrical equipment in standing water—have certified electricians handle

Testing sites with a voltmeter and observing the three-foot clearance rule around power lines reduces the chances of electrocution accidents onsite.

Water Extraction and Drying Equipment

Having an arsenal of water removal and drying tools enables rapid moisture elimination from flooded structures to prevent further material destruction and mold growth. We outline the core equipment applied across most water damage restoration projects.

Water Extraction Tools

High-volume water extraction is vital to rapidly reduce moisture enabling drying.

  • Submersible pumps—large volume removal of standing water
  • Wet vacuums— extract both liquids and loose sediments
  • Air movers— facilitate evaporation across damp surfaces
  • Dehumidifiers—reduce humidity inhibiting microbe growth
  • Ductwork—funnel air flow into confined spaces

Monitoring extraction throughput frequently maximizes drying efficiency. Separators can also filter out microparticles if sewage contamination occurred.

Drying Equipment

Strategically applying the following commercial drying systems forces ambient and internal moisture migration to accelerate structure drying:

  • Air scrubbers—filter airborne mold spores and odors
  • Desiccant dehumidifiers—achieve lower site humidity
  • Refrigerant dehumidifiers—lower humidity without adding heat
  • Thermo-hygrometers—gauge temperature and humidity
  • Moisture meters—test porous materials for dryness
  • Infrared cameras—scan for hidden moisture pockets

Drying times vary based on factors like water type, ambient conditions, and materials affected. Equipment should run continuously with readings tracked until moisture goals are achieved.

Safety Accessories

To prevent equipment damage and electrical hazards, shutdown systems if flooding recurs.

  • Water leak sensors—trigger automatic equipment shutdown
  • Ground fault interrupters—prevent electric shock
  • Backup generators—ensure continuous drying

Testing electrical gear condition before deployment and refraining from operating anything while standing in water reduces restoration crew risks as well.

How To Do Water Damage Restoration

Assessing the Water Damage

The first step when dealing with water damage is conducting a thorough assessment to understand the extent of the issue. This involves identifying all affected areas and the water contamination levels, which then allows creating an appropriate response plan.

We visually inspect all rooms and spaces, looking for signs of water intrusion on walls, floors, and furnishings. We may use moisture meters to test materials and get accurate readings on saturation levels. Thermo-hygrometers help establish temperature and humidity of the environment. From this inspection, we determine:

  • Source of water: Where is it coming from? Is the leak ongoing or was it a one-time event? This establishes if the water source needs to be addressed before restoration can begin.
  • Type of water: Clean or gray water from appliance leaks may have less health hazards than sewage backups or flood waters. However, all water can cause moisture issues over time.
  • Scope of damage: How many rooms or square feet are impacted? Tracking the entire spread is necessary for response plans.
  • Materials affected: Knowing which building materials have been compromised by water helps determine restoration processes. Water causes different levels of damage based on material porosity.

Properly assessing the situation prepares us for the next stages of water extraction and drying out the space.

Extracting Standing Water

With assessment complete, we focus on removing any standing water if a leak is still occurring and extracting absorbed moisture from flooded materials. To accomplish this:

  • We ensure electricity and gas are turned off in affected areas during water removal to prevent fire hazards.
  • Use industrial wet vacuums to extract standing water and capture it in tanks for disposal. Professional equipment ensures thorough water removal.
  • Absorbent materials like towels can help extract moisture from surfaces and materials. Though less effective than vacuum extraction, it’s useful for confined spaces a vacuum won’t fit.
  • Dehumidifiers and air movers help dry out damp environments, reducing humidity levels to prevent mold growth. We strategically place these devices around affected areas.
  • Structural materials like drywall or insulation saturated by flood waters may need to be completely removed and replaced to properly dry out the space.

Thorough water removal prevents secondary moisture damage and limits mold outbreaks.

Drying Out the Affected Materials

Once all standing water has been extracted, the restoration process focuses on facilitating rapid drying to stabilize moisture levels. To accomplish this, we take the following approaches:

  • Run commercial dehumidifiers and moisture traps continuously until materials are completely dry. Tracking humidity daily provides crucial data.
  • Circulate air movement using blowers, fans, and open windows to evaporate additional moisture. Stale air prolongs drying.
  • Gently wash water contaminated walls and floors with antimicrobial solutions to prevent bacteria and mold issues.
  • We remove and dispose of any porous materials like drywall, insulation, carpets, etc that do not quickly dry, replacing them with new construction materials once the underlying structure is stable.
  • Checking moisture levels of wood structural elements like studs using moisture meters. We allow wood to fully air dry as replacing it poses challenges.
  • Heat is also used judiciously in some cases to hasten drying while monitoring humidity carefully. Infrared thermometers help gauge surface temperatures.

This comprehensive drying process minimizes the potential for long-term moisture issues or mold outbreaks.

Sanitizing Affected Areas

Once drying is completed, we shift focus to sanitizing affected areas thoroughly, eliminating contaminants left from flood waters. Our sanitization process involves:

  • HEPA Vacuuming: Using professional HEPA filter vacuums designed to trap bacteria and mold spores found in water damaged materials and dusty debris from reconstruction.
  • Antimicrobial washing: Surfaces like floors and walls are washed down with strong antimicrobial cleaners proven to kill dangerous organisms like E.coli or Salmonella that flood waters may contain.
  • Fogging: Commercial sanitizing fog machines are used to thoroughly infuse areas with disinfectant solutions, penetrating even hidden structural cavities.
  • Ozone treatment: Ozone generators help remove stubborn odors that often linger even in dried areas by oxidizing the chemical particulates causing smells.

This intense sanitization regimen ensures flood contaminated spaces are restored to safe living or workspace environments.

Reconstruction & Preventative Measures

With drying and sanitization complete, containing the area and necessary demolition, the physical space is ready for necessary repairs and replacements. We coordinate with general contractors on reconstruction needs, which may involve:

  • Structural repairs: Any compromised structural elements like wall studs or floor/ceiling joists must be reinforced or replaced before non-structural materials.
  • HVAC systems: Air handlers, ductwork and vents affected by moisture are repaired or replaced to maintain indoor air quality.
  • Electrical: We bring in licensed electricians and plumbers for complex system repairs or replacements where needed.
  • Material replacement: From drywall to carpeting and furnishings, we replace all porous materials that sustained water damage.

Once reconstruction is complete, we also advise preventative measures to clients like installing water sensors that trigger alarms upon leak detection. This facilitates rapid response if leaks occur in the future, minimizing overall damage. We may also make drainage recommendations or adjustments to landscape sprinklers if an outdoor water source caused flooding.

How To Clean After Water Damage

Once bulk water removal completes, cleaning affected materials using disinfectants and enhanced drying prepares the site for water damage repairs. We review appropriate sanitization methods based on surface type along with safety measures all restoration crews must adopt.

Porous Material Cleaning

Porous substances like drywall, carpeting, ceiling tiles, and furnished items directly absorb contaminated water requiring advanced cleaning techniques:


  • Cut out lower soaked portions and discard – Clean off surface mold growth with detergent
  • Scrub with anti-microbial chemicals if sewage exposure occurred
  • Sand down to eliminate mold roots when drying


  • Extract excess moisture with subfloor drying system
  • Apply antimicrobial foam shampoo to lift residues
  • Increase air circulation underneath to dry padding
  • Discard if extensive mold growth or sewage contamination occurred

Ceiling Tiles

  • Discard and replace tiles showing any swelling or mold
  • Clean minimally affected tiles with white vinegar solution
  • Dry tile boards thoroughly before reinstalling new tiles


  • Upholstered items exposed to unsanitary water should be discarded
  • Wood, metal items should be scrubbed and dried fully

Hard Surface Cleaning

Non-porous floors, countertops, walls and other water-exposed surfaces require thorough antimicrobial washing:

  • Vacuum up loose sediment
  • Scrub visible staining with detergent
  • Disinfect surface fully with antimicrobial wash
  • Allow to dry entirely before refinishing

Continue monitoring for hidden moisture behind walls that can delay drying. Repeat cleaning if condensation or smells return.

Safety First

Using personal protective equipment (PPE) prevents illness when handling contaminated water. Further safety measures include:

  • Isolate unsafe areas with plastic sheeting
  • Turn off electricity to prevent shocks
  • Check air quality for hazardous mold and chemical levels
  • Contain and dispose of discarded porous materials properly

Proper cleaning and disinfecting protects restoration technicians and allows for drying instrumentation to work most effectively.

How To Prevent Future Water Damage

While quality water damage restoration aims to conserve as much of the original structure as safely possible, taking preventative measures minimizes chances a similar catastrophe happens in the future. We outline common water damage causes and corresponding solutions property managers and owners can adopt.

Address Exterior Causes

Since water should never reach interior spaces, stopping it outside is priority one.

Landscaping and Drainage

  • Slope soil or pave concrete to encourage water runoff from structure
  • Extend downspouts further and clear debris around the perimeter
  • backfilling along basement walls

Roof and Facades

  • Inspect for pavement cracks, faulty materials
  • Improve sealing along flashing, joints, entry points


  • Repair leaks or dripping fixtures promptly
  • Maintain water pressure between 30-80 psi
  • Insulate pipes against exterior walls or spaces prone to freezing

Inspecting seals and weatherproofing routinely prevents destructive water seepage into wall cavities and foundation cracks over time.

Control Interior Humidity

While drier indoor air won’t stop serious flooding, managing internal moisture buildup can prevent mild condensation accumulations inside walls that enable mold growth when left unchecked.

  • Run A/C and/or dehumidifiers to maintain 40-60% indoor humidity
  • Continuously exhaust air from moisture-producing areas like bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms
  • Avoid air drying laundry inside living spaces
  • Vent appliances that produce steam like stovetops to the exterior
  • Use mold-inhibiting paints containing zinc or copper oxides

Monitoring indoor humidity ensures optimal air quality and material integrity long-term.

Be Prepared for Disaster Response

Even well-maintained structures can suffer sudden water damage through unpredictable events like major storms and plumbing failures. Implementing an emergency response plan ensures everyone reacts efficiently if catastrophe strikes to mitigate destruction.

  • Document property details like floor plans to simplify restoration processes
  • Create emergency contacts list (restoration contractor, insurance agent)
  • Turn off electrical and gas utilities immediately if structural stability compromised
  • Call water damage experts for large-scale flooding—don’t attempt do-it-yourself repairs

Staying vigilant to prevent water disasters combined with rapid, skilled response when they do enables structures to survive and thrive long-term.


Restoring water damaged buildings or residences involves multi-stage processes focused on structural drying, sanitization, and necessary material replacements. By following industry standard best practices using professional equipment and coordinating contracted repairs, we can methodically bring stability back to the environment and restore normal living or working conditions. Taking a careful, comprehensive approach makes all the difference in minimizing long-term issues after water disasters strike.

Want to escape from all the hassles of water damage restoration? Contact Southeast Water Restoration today!