Do’s & Don’ts of Water Damage

Seattle Water Damage Best Practices

Bales Restoration is pleased to provide you with this consumer information about water damage mitigation and how to choose a water damage mitigation company. For a list of helpful hints of the do’s & don’ts of water damage, please read to the bottom of this page.

Water Damage Insurance

Under the law, it is your right to determine what company will perform work in your home or business. Some insurance carriers have “preferred contractors” that they recommend, who have agreements with the insurance companies to handle water losses in a certain manner, and at pre-determined prices. You should be aware that these companies might rely on these referrals from the insurance carriers for their company’s livelihood. This could create a conflict of interest. These companies might not hold the protection of your health and property as their top priority. Bales works for you; protecting your interest, not just the insurance company’s, even if they do recommend Bales.

Water damage mitigation is something that must be dealt with quickly and effectively. Most insurance policies not only cover the cost of water damage mitigation, but also require the policyholder to take the necessary steps to prevent further loss and damage. Preventing the presence of mold is one of many concerns for those who have suffered from a water damage event, but it should not be the only, or primary concern. In fact, people have so many misconceptions about water damage and the potential for mold growth, that we decided to offer this consumer education message. When you need to select a water damage mitigation company, you can make an informed intelligent decision.

Here are the steps you can take immediately following a water damage event to help minimize secondary damage, as well as precautions that should be taken during water damage mitigation to protect your health and safety. We’ve also listed seven questions you should ask a water damage mitigation company before inviting them into your home.

Water damage mitigation is a specialized field requiring special protective measures, specialized equipment and testing capabilities, as well as certain engineering controls to protect you and your property. Most restoration contractors know how to perform simple drying and site clean up. Experienced companies, such as Bales Restoration, know how to provide restoration services that protect not only the structure, but also you and your family’s health.

Prevent Further Water Damage Problems Down The Road

Hire A Certified Water Restoration Specialist

Water damage can be the starting point for many serious problems that can affect a building, damage personal property and present serious health risks to occupants. To restore property and protect health, a professional restoration contractor must carefully manage the project. They must be knowledgeable in several disciplines, including stopping bacteria from spreading, preventing mold growth, preventing secondary damage, and saving the structure and its many contents. Additionally, they must be able to communicate with the water damage victims and insurance company representatives with confidence and authority. Water damaged structures can be the perfect breeding place for mold, while poor indoor ventilation can cause molds to thrive. Wet building materials and humid indoor air are mold’s best friends.

Sometimes a less-experienced restorer will compound problems during water damage by not understanding the proper steps and precautions that must be taken and how critical the passing of time is. The EPA says, “Stop the water leak quickly and begin restoration during the first 24 hours. It is important to start drying water damaged areas and items within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.”

Mold Growth

While mold requires high humidity and/or wet surfaces in order to grow, it also requires a food source. Indoors, many molds grow on leather, paper and many building materials. Molds can also grow and thrive on bio-film, such as cooking grease.

The most effective way to prevent mold growth on water damage is to begin the drying process quickly. Restoration companies that are aware of possible mold growth problems usually know how to dry structural materials by lowering the indoor humidity, judiciously move air and in some cases heat the affected area. This is usually an effective way to dry a building, resulting in minimized material removal and reduced mold growth.

Knowing how to determine exactly what is wet during a water loss is a critical part of the job. If areas of moisture are overlooked, molds and bacteria can grow. To protect your property and health, all of the excess moisture must be found and removed. Along with moisture sensors, Bales technicians use infrared technology that is capable of “reading” wallboard, masonry and wood to find hidden moisture that is often difficult to detect.

Sometimes water flows unseen down the inside of wall cavities. Other times standing water will wick up a wall. Unless water stains appear, this moisture could go undetected until molds and odor problems occur. This is one of the reasons a professional is equipped with the proper instruments to detect and locate wet areas before the drying process begins. Today’s restoration is more than drying wet carpets.

Types Of Water Damage

There are different types of water damage. The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration (IICRC) have developed the industry standard for water damage mitigation. The IICRC S-500 document categorizes the three types of water damage as Clean Water Damage, Gray Water Damage, and Black Water Damage.

Clean Water Damage (Category 1)

Clean water damage is that in which the source of the water is from a clean water source, such as a plumbing supply line, or that wet structure has not “become” contaminated.

Gray Water Damage (Category 2)

Gray water damage is that in which the source of the water may contain chemicals or other contaminants that could cause discomfort or sickness to the occupants. Some examples of this would be an appliance discharge, a broken waterbed or fish tank, or overflows from toilet bowls. Clean water damage can become gray water damage if left too long before appropriate drying efforts are implemented.

Black Water Damage (Category 3)

Black water contains pathogenic agents and is grossly unsanitary. Examples include toilet backflow that originates from beyond the toilet trap, flooding from seawater, ground surface water, or rising water from rivers and streams. Gray water that is not removed promptly is appropriately re-classified as black water damage.

When a sewage backup affects a structure, a unique set of restoration techniques must be implemented to safely handle the situation. Federal, state and local government agencies agree that the best protocol for restoration is to follow the published standards and guidelines developed by the IICRC.

During sewage backups or other black water damages, large amounts of bacteria can enter the interior environment and pose potentially serious health risks to the occupants. In fact, the bacteria introduced to the structure could stay active for up to one month or longer if left untreated. Advanced restoration methods should be implemented to rid the structure of all traces of sewage and make the structure clean and safe for occupancy.

In a black water damage, care must be taken to not disturb the bacteria in the water and make it airborne. When bacteria is contained in the water and not sent airborne, it is not easily breathable by restoration workers or occupants. This means that doors and windows should usually remain closed during clean up. The typical fans and blowers used to dry a structure that has experienced a clean water damage (non-sewage) should not be used in the early stages of a sewage clean-up project.

Negative air machines, equipped with HEPA (high efficiency particulate air “filters”) should be utilized to remove bacteria and other contaminants from the air during restoration work. Standing water and bulk sewage must be extracted with self-contained vacuum equipment with proper waste holding tanks which must be disposed of properly. Hard surfaces that are impacted must be cleaned and sanitized. Soft structural materials such as carpeting, carpet pads, plaster wallboard should be removed and properly disposed of. Any material that absorbs substantial amounts of moisture and cannot be adequately cleaned should be removed. Once contaminated materials have been removed, a second application of sanitizers should be applied to all work surfaces.

As you can see, time is of the essence when dealing with a water damage event.

Steps that you can take to minimize the damages and protect your family:

  • Eliminate the source of water, if possible, or contact appropriate parties to eliminate the water source or to make necessary repairs. Keep any parts that are replaced for your insurance company to inspect.
  • If there is no risk of electrical shock, turn off circuit breakers supplying electricity to wet areas; unplug and remove any small electrical devices currently located on wet floor coverings or other wet surfaces.
  • Remove and secure small furniture items to minimize rust or other stains and expedite restoration.
  • Place aluminum foil under legs of wood furniture, especially antiques that might permanently stain carpet.
  • Hang draperies and pin up furniture skirts to prevent contact with wet floor coverings as well as minimize damage such as water marks, browning, dye transfer or migration.
  • Remove books, shoes, paper goods, fabrics, potted plants or other items that might stain the carpet (check especially under beds and in closets for these items).
  • Remove and secure breakables, moisture sensitive, or high-value items.
  • Make plans for restoration crews to remove large furniture items from effected areas. Don’t forget the china cabinet, entertainment center, waterbeds, or aquariums.
  • Be aware that time is a crucial factor, and delays in loss mitigation and restoration might result in adverse health and safety effects as well as additional damage to the structure and contents.


In Gray (Category 2) and Black (Category 3) Water Damage you should also:

  • Turn off the HVAC or air handling system, if safely accessible.
  • Protect yourself against contact with sewage or sewage-contaminated items.
  • Wear gloves, boots, goggles, protective clothing and a respirator if you absolutely have to perform any cleaning or handling of sewage-contaminated items.
  • Wash your hands after handling any sewage-contaminated items.
  • Contact your doctor if you have any adverse health effects.


Things that you should NOT do include:

  • Use your home vacuum (wet/dry vacuum) since electrical shock might occur, as well as damage the equipment itself.
  • Place newspaper on wet surfaces since some newspaper ink transfers easily.
  • Walk on wet surfaces any more than necessary in order to minimize safety hazards and to keep from spreading damage and possible contaminants.
  • Activate the HVAC system if it has been directly contacted by water, or if it might serve as a means of spreading contamination.
  • Adjust indoor air temperatures unless instructed by a qualified restoration technician.
  • Enter an area that has standing water because of the potential for electrical shock hazards.


In Gray (Category 2) or Black (Category 3) Water Damage DO NOT:

  • Consume any food that has been left out in a contaminated environment.
  • Use personal hygiene items that have been left out in a contaminated environment.
  • Turn on fans to dry things out.


DO NOT stay in the building if you:

  • Have respiratory problems, including allergies and asthma.
  • Are under the age of 2 or over the age of 60.
  • Have a weakened immune system caused by illness, medication or any other reason.


When selecting a water damage mitigation company for your project consider the following:

  • Is the company a member, and in good standing, with the Restoration Industry Association (RIA)?
  • Does the company employ individuals who hold advanced certifications to perform water damage mitigation by industry trade associations such as the Water Loss Institute or the IICRC?
  • How many years of experience does the company have in the field of water damage mitigation?
  • Can they provide proof that the company is properly licensed, bonded and insured as required by Washington State?
  • Does the company follow accepted standards for water damage mitigation such as those published by the IICRC?
  • Does the company have the necessary testing equipment and protocols to locate areas of damage not visible to the naked eye?
  • Does the company have the necessary drying equipment to ensure a complete and competent mitigation?

There is much more to water damage restoration than is often imagined. When water damage strikes, most persons are concerned with the wet carpets, which are usually a soggy mess. An experienced restoration contractor has many other concerns. They know anyone can rent or buy fans to dry a wet carpet. In fact, in recent years, carpet and carpet cushion have been designed and manufactured to better withstand water. Using special microscopic applications on carpet fiber, many carpets are made to slow mold growth.

Today, with the widespread use of drywall vs. plaster, engineered wood products vs. wood, and the use of vinyl wall-coverings, moisture can become trapped and provide the needed environment for mold growth. Appropriate management of these water problems is the key to reducing microbial growth to help to ensure the health of the building and its occupants.

If you currently have an emergency situation, call us at 800-492-2537 NOW and we will dispatch a crew to your location usually within the hour. Our emergency services line is answered 24 hours a day, 365 per year. We invite you to give us a call as our trained customer service staff, who are all certified mitigation specialists, would be happy to assist you with any questions or comments.

24 Hour Emergency Service – Direct Billing to Insurance

Contractor number: BalesRI001LA