Looking at this flooded basement today I had to ask myself, “how could anyone believe they could do the water cleanup themselves?” This present customer said he considered an attempt himself but, figured a professional water restorer would probably do better. Probably!  I am looking at more than just carpet needing water removal service. I am literally beholding a water damage apocalypse the likes of which would make most mortals bristle with fear.

The water that has migrated as a slithering venomous ophidian is from a backed up sewer drain and has affected every room of the basement. Most would grimace at the sight of all the human feces and used toilet paper remnants that are everywhere having collected as chunks at the base of the walls. Oh! Did I mention the nauseating smell that could make the eyes of a mace resistant super villain tear up like a child watching that scene in Bambi when the mother gets taken out? Probably not, but I just did for the record.

Let me continue. This finished basement has dry wall, base moldings and countless personnel items all contaminated by the pungent sewer water and to make matters worse; it’s been like this for days. That is often the case in the water cleanup business; you are called out to properties where occupants gone for days eventually return home to the unexpected.

Superficial and Professional Water Cleanup Perspectives

The circumstances I have just described are from the perspective of an ordinary individual stumbling into a flooded basement and what they would easily notice with the naked eye. But let me add what my trained eye as an experienced restoration expert also sees.

Wood base moldings are badly stained, detaching from walls and showing mold growth. The cellulose materials that are replete throughout the water damaged environment such as paper and boxes are showing mold growth. And to make matters even worse the exterior walls that are wet 18” up with sewer water also have wet insulation behind them and they too show the presence of mold.

Lastly the smell is such that I know the air requires immediate air filtration and the occupants need to vacate the premises till some of the water cleanup process begins. Now you can appreciate why I said in my opening paragraph, “how could anyone believe they could do the water cleanup themselves?”

Step 1. Locate Water Cleanup Companies

Usually the search for a water restoration company begins with an engagement by means of a computer or mobile device. The frenzied property owner might type into a google search bar the words, “water cleanup near me” and eagerly see what comes up. After sifting through the crop of water cleanup companies they will eventually feel comfortable enough to call one.

This is how today’s customer discovered Action Extraction of Macomb and why I am presently in this highly contaminated basement requiring intense and inordinate water cleanup service. Along with the feeling of angst I feel for the customer for their loss of property and myriad of personnel belongings, I am also feeling a modicum of pride. The first thing this customer said to me once I arrived was, “I was impressed with your many 5-star reviews and that’s why I decided to call.”

Reputable water cleanup companies and for that matter any good service company is not difficult to find today when so many reviews are plentiful online from previous customers. People tell of their experience to help alert you of the bad ones to avoid and encourage you of the good ones to consider. Action Extraction is abundantly thankful for each of our satisfied clients that found time to graciously recommend our services.

Step 2. Inviting Service Tech’s into Your Home.

We all have heard the wise adage; “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” The first impression of a professional water restorer should instill confidence that you made the right decision. They should be courteous, well groomed, uniformed and have an impressive vocabulary identifying them as a specialist in the area of water cleanup. With greeting those at your door there should be a business card presented to you with their company name on it.

When you look out at the restoration vehicle they arrived in it should be lettered with the company name, look presentable and be filled with the necessary tools to restore any water damage scenario imaginable. If they satisfy this beginning check list, then this is a great start. However, when being greeted by a potential water cleanup company, you never want your initial gut feeling to be that calling them may have been a mistake.

If this happens there is nothing immoral with letting them know you are not comfortable with them entering your home and politely ask them to leave. Better to mitigate the situation now while you can before service begins and legal matters take precedent.

Step 3. Get Free Evaluation of Your Property Damage

The water cleanup industry is inundated with many companies vying for your business and ethical ones realize competition means going beyond what is expected by offering a free professional evaluation of your property. This is normal and the water cleanup companies that don’t extend such complimentary service avoid like the plague. They have so much business they would never make you a priority or even care to earn your deepest trust or an online review.

As they make their way into your home they should show respect for your property by having their shoes covered with a booty of some sort to minimize traffic dirt as well as not bringing in contaminates from another project. That’s all you need is for someone careless walking all over your valued carpet and hard flooring in the same shoes that only moments earlier were walking in fetid sewer water.

Step 4. Moisture Detection Equipment Present During the Evaluation.

The naked eye cannot peer into wet building materials and actually identify the presence of water. Dry wall could be at 20% moisture content and the naked eye wouldn’t know the difference between it and a section at 0%. Water cleanup is a science and the approach must be scientific unless you’re willing to settle for the results of a handy man that has received no formal training and has no certification in restoration.

The water cleanup industry actually has a technical name for what they do; it is called psychrometry. Psychrometrics as it is also called is a field of engineering concerned with the physical and thermodynamic properties of gas-vapor mixtures. Definitely a bit confusing and deeper than most restorers even grasp, but putting it in layman’s terms means the art and science of drying wet materials.

This begins with advanced moisture locating instruments that will detect the presence of water in materials that need drying service. This will also allow the restorer to know which materials are fine and need no drying attention. The technician must have these with him as you direct them to the water damaged spaces in your home.

Once they are brought to the damage site, they should be as natural as an English Springer Spaniel going after a bird. They need no instruction and they will not be influenced by false information they may have heard about your water cleanup project. If they were falsely told the water source was a broken water pipe but find evidence more plausibly suggesting a sewer backup, they should be able to clarify and convince with the evidence found.

There evaluation should be on bended knee as a penitent churchgoer, checking all dry wall, base molding and cabinetry in the area related to the water damage size footprint. The moisture detection instruments will give an empirical measurement of the moisture’s presence along with its percentage in each material tested.  The results of each material will determine the protocol for water cleanup and steps required to mitigate the property.

There should be two different moisture meters that are employed by the professional restorer to ascertain a comprehensive understanding of your water damage. Each has its own unique advantages and will give an accurate report of each material appraised. There are basic differences and each meter is designed for a different application.

Penetrating moisture meter

This meter has two sharp pins that when pressed into a materials will give a moisture reading of only the area it touches. If for example you touch it to a wood surface and it reads 15% moisture presence that accounts for only the superficial area you pressed into. The moisture content a bit deeper may show a much higher level of moisture requiring a meter that shoots a signal deeper into materials.

Penetrating meter for water cleanupThese particular meters are great for determining the water presence in base molding, wood flooring and carpet pad. They are useless for determining the moisture on the backside of drywall or level of moisture trapped in oak wood flooring or ceramic tile.

Unfortunately insurance adjusters will purposely use a penetrating moisture meter often to prove to you that your drywall, ceramic tile and sub floors are dry when in reality they are very wet. This meter is not designed for those materials and will give a false moisture measurement. This is exactly what an unscrupulous adjuster wants because if they can convince you there is no reason to perform additional drying service, they save the insurance company money.

Regrettably the intentional misuse of moisture detection devices is not just a scheme insurance adjusters can use to manipulate to their advantage, there exist those in the professional restoration industry as well.

If an unscrupulous restorer has attempted to dry wet materials in an allotted time that was quoted and still everything is just as wet as day one, they may purposely deceive you so they can pull out their drying equipment and get to the next job. Often this can be done by doing a switch-a-roo, to quote the urban dictionary.

Here’s how it is done. If when evaluating the progress of a drying protocol it is discovered to have failed, a crooked tech can use an incorrect meter to cajole you into thinking all is dry. They may place the pins of a penetrating moisture probe onto the surface of the oak wood flooring and show a reading of 7% explaining the target drying goal has been achieved. This may be true of the surface but will require a different moisture detection meter to actually reveal the moisture content in the core of a material. It could very well be higher than 20% which would leave you with an incomplete dry down and hidden dangers.

In these situations the professionals will be required to use an electronic device called a non-penetrating moisture meter. This meter is designed for giving accurate moisture content readings on hard wood flooring, ceramic tile, dry wall and wood sub floors.

Non-penetrating moisture meter

This device does not have sharp pins that puncture the surface of a material to determine moisture percentages, hence the name, “non-penetrating.” These scientific gadgets are a tremendous tool for getting results without injury to the material. They work by shooting electromagnetic signals through the use of sensor pads that are placed on the surface of a material. The readings are accurate up to 1.5” into the material and will give true core values on water presence.

Moisture detection meter for water cleanup

These meters are an indispensable tool for knowing where hidden water may be trapped and how much of it is present. Without this information a drying protocol could never be devised and enacted, leaving property to the subjectivity of human error.

Can a dishonest insurance adjuster or a professional without conscience misuse this meter for means of deception and money making and/or savings? Unfortunately the answer is in the affirmative and is a resounding, absolutely!

Let take for instance an area of carpet in the basement that has saturated pad but the carpet feels dry to the touch. If the wet pad has a plastic sheath over it, a non-penetrating moisture meter will not give a reading of wetness. The meter electromagnetic signals will not detect the water often beneath the pad because there is too much air space from the dry carpet tuff to its dry base. In such a scenario one could be deceived into believing there is no water in the pad. Indeed if the penetrating moisture meter were to be firmly placed to puncture the plastic top layer of the pad it would sink into the watery cushion and clearly identify drying or removal is necessary.

Step 5. The Water Cleanup Procedure is Explained

At this point the experienced professional has done their meticulous evaluation using impressive cutting edge tools for identifying the damages. Now it’s time to hear their assessment and what they have discovered as this will determine the water cleanup method and cost for restoration.

Merely saying “it’s wet and needs to be dried up” does not cut the mustard so to speak. Up till this point they have been spot on and professional if they have covered all the bases as I have highlighted. Let’s hope they are equally thorough on giving the detailed explanation of their findings and their approach to the water cleanup process you have been patiently waiting for.

They should start out with what items are wet and give detailed instructions as to how they will go about mitigating your property, bringing it back to safe pre-flood condition. This will vary greatly because there are different types of water damage and based upon the nature of the one you are facing will determine the steps for recovery.

It would be impressive if they sited regularly from the IICRC S-500 publication for water cleanup as this is the Bible in the restoration industry. When you know the restorers are well versed in the standards of the industry this can really give you the sense of confidence in their capabilities. With such assurance may come as well the peace of mind most property owners hope to feel when hiring a professional.

Step 6. Before Signing the Work Authorization

At this stage things couldn’t go better, they arrived demonstrating professionalism, respected your property covering their shoes, have employed the tools of the trade to guide the assessment and you are ready to sign the necessary paperwork to hire them and get things started.

One last detail that can be the difference in seeing a licensed doctor and one that is not, credentials. You must ask to see several important documents to confirm your intuition that these are the ones.

Proof of Insurance

You should not entertain any service company doing business in your home unless they have seen an up-to-date proof of insurance policy with a limit of at least 1 million dollars. If they do not produce one tangibly or show one in a Dropbox folder ask them to contact their office and send one via email. Without proof of insurance you are placing you, your family and property at risk.

As a professional myself having been in the water cleanup business over 30 years I can tell you confidently, you are at great risk as I have personally witnessed unspeakable damage that professional restoration companies have done. Sometimes it is accidental, other times it is inexperience or worse, gross negligence. If this happens to you and your restoration company does not have insurance coverage for Murphy’s Law showing up, you will foot the bill.

What if they in haste remove drying equipment before all the moisture is eliminated and you get mold as a result of an incomplete dry down? You and not they are going to pay for the mold mitigation and if I am frank with you, this will cost a lot. How much is a lot? Infinitely more than you paid for the water cleanup service.

IICRC Certification in Water Cleanup

OK we are almost about to sign the work authorization to begin the water cleanup service, but there’s just one last requisite to cover if you want to place a check mark in each box on the due diligence checklist. Sure they made an impressive entrance, said all the right things and up till this point have passed each litmus test. But are they certified in water cleanup making them fully knowledgeable in each critical aspect of the project? Unless you physically see it, don’t presume as presumption is the Mother of all collapses. In business it is a healthy thing to make certain what otherwise might be taken for granted.

As with the request to see proof of insurance don’t be shy asking for this encouraging piece of paper either. The presence of this document will be all you need to have vetted the prospective restoration company thoroughly and while not a guarantee nothing will go wrong, you will have been careful. Sometimes this is all you need to stay clear of danger.

Good success in your water cleanup experience.