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Should Flood Damaged Carpet Be Restored

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Understanding the Risk of Keeping Flood Damaged Carpet

Has your carpet recently become damaged from flooding? More than 51% of homes in the US have carpet and if they get wet they can often become highly unsanitary. If you recently had water from a floor drain, sink overflow or plumbing issue reach your carpet, you might contemplate on what steps to take to restore it. That is the purpose of this article, to give industry advice to help answer the question, should flood damaged carpet be restored or replaced?

Understanding the 3 different Types of Water

Before you consider restoring flood damaged carpet it is critical to first learn, what type of water has reached it. There are times when carpet can be restored, saving you money on replacement. There are other times when carpet must be replaced because of permanent damage and potential health risks. Lets turn our attention to the prospect of restoring flood damaged carpet, by understanding the 3 types of water that gain access to floor coverings. 

  1. Type 1. Fresh water that comes from plumbing lines. This is water we drink, bath and clean with. We pay for it and is considered a part of our home. It gains access to carpets when water pipes break, sinks and tubs overflow and appliances malfunction. 
  2. Type 2. Ground water from around our homes. This water has molds and microorganisms that can bring an eco-system into the home and rapidly fuel the growth of mold. This water infiltrates properties when sump pumps fail and foundations acquire cracks allowing water to seep in.
  3. Type 3. Water that originates from grossly unsanitary sources with potentially pathogenic (causing illness) organisms. Sewage backups, water from lakes and streams and toilet overflows all are considered type 3 water. This type of water destroys carpet and requires sewer backup restoration of all affected surfaces and materials.

Understanding these 3 types of water and their potential for destruction, allows us to intelligently move forward. Any time carpet is affected by type 3 water, it must be completely discarded along with the pad and tack-less strip. This flooring is replete with germs, bacteria, e-coli and potentially 81 viruses. When questioning, should water damaged carpet be restored or replaced? The answer is always replace, when type 3 water is present.

“No you can’t disinfect, seal or cover the dangers, removal is the only safe option”.

How Long Carpet Remains Wet Matters

Carpet that has just become wet is different than carpet that has languished in water for 2 days. Time carpet remains wet becomes a factor when determining if flood damaged carpet can be restored or not. Each hour a carpet remains wet increases the amount of contamination, making bad go to worse quickly. 


Once type 1 water reaches carpet, it becomes type 2 in 72 hours. That is the standard to apply to any type of wet carpet condition, 72 hours. In 72 hours or 3 days the water type automatically transitions to the next type. For instance: water damaged carpet from type 1 water is in a state of potential restoration for 144 hours or 6 days. Anything beyond this times makes flood damaged carpet, type 3 and must be replaced.

Carpet wet from type 2 water will become a type 3 water condition in 3 days. All wet carpet from a water source considered type 3, is contaminated beyond the scope of saving. This state of damage makes the flooring materials dangerous to the indoor environment. The carpet will always off gas mycotoxins and potentially other hazards such as mold spores. Removal and replacement is the only option. Along with the removal of damaged carpet, you must also remove any pad and tack-less strip. 


When you need to Replace Flood Damaged Carpet 

If you were gone several days and came home to a flooded basement or wet main floor, you will not know how long carpet has been wet. There are several sings that identify carpets are beyond restoration and need to be removed as soon as possible. If you notice any one of these, replacement is the only safe option.

♣ WHEN WATER FOOTPRINT IS LARGE: Obviously, the more water that has saturated the carpet, carpet pad, flooring and subflooring, makes a difference. Finding a small area of flood damaged carpet by a slow sink leak is not nearly as troubling as finding entire rooms under water. In cases where entire rooms are wet and water is everywhere, you have grand scale flood damage. In these situations saving the carpet is difficult, and if you are not sure how long the mess has been there, replacement is the safest option. If the conditions are bad such as a completely flooded basement, you may consider getting professional help for water damage, so you don’t get mold. 

♣ STRONG PUNGENT SMELL: If the first thing you noticed when you walked into your home is an offensive odor, the carpet is shot. The question is not, can it be steam cleaned and deodorized? The smell is letting you know the contamination level is high and microbes have amplified. Elevated organisms are fuel for mold growth which is invisible to the naked eye. Fetid smells are informing you of a health risk that posses a danger to occupants in the home.

♣ SEAMS HAVE BEGUN TO SPLIT OPEN: Once a carpet gets wet, there is a limited window of opportunity for restoring wet carpet. When seams begin to split open the wet carpet is in a state of loss that makes replacement the best option. Only days of languishing in moisture can cause seems to split and there is likely more damage beneath the surface. 

♣ IF TACK-LESS STRIP SHOWS SUSPICIOUS SIGNS: Many carpet installations secure the carpet using tack-less strip. These are 1″ strips of wood with angled sharp pins that are needed to hold the carpet in place. They are laid against the walls around the room and need to be inspected after flood damage.

Using a pair of pliers, pinch the carpet tuffs in a corner and lift the carpet from off the tack-less strip. Once you expose the tack-less strip, look for suspicious stains, mold growth as well as rust on the sharp pins. If anything unusual is noticed, the flood damaged carpet is needing to be removed. These signs all indicate the materials are beyond the scope of restoration.

♣ WHEN SINGS OF DELAMINATION ARE PRESENT: While you have the carpet lifted from the tack-less strip examine the carpet for damage. Carpet that has languished soaking wet for multiple days begins to delaminate from its backing. This is easy to detect by simply attempting to peel the secondary backing of the carpet from the carpet itself. If the backing easily peels from the carpet, the glues have become permanently compromised by water. Additional hidden damage is more than likely present as well, making replacement the best option.

♣ NOTICABLE WATER STAINING ON CARPET: Water staining can be permanent making restoration very difficult. This is especially true when carpets are damaged by water from a burst water heater. The belief is the water is clear, as it is used for cleaning and bathing, so no staining will occur. The problem is that water heaters have rust at the bottom that will migrate with the water as it reaches carpet. While faint staining may be unnoticed to the naked eye, in time the rust color will become more obvious. Water damage restoration professionals will always recommend replacement when insurance coverage exist. 

♣ WHEN CARPET IS OLD: The age of a carpet should be considered when it becomes wet. Over time gradual aging begins to compromise integrity and appearance. Older carpets no matter what you do to restore them can still look old and worn out. It is better and more cost efficient to invest the money needed to restore an old carpet, into purchasing a new one.

In each one of these conditions listed above there is ample evidence deeming replacement as the best option. If for any reason you may be wondering, can wet carpet pad be restored after flood damage, the answer is NO! The fragility of pad makes it a material always best to remove and replace whenever you have flood damaged carpet. This secondary layer remains wet typically longer than carpet, due to the inability of air movement access. Germs, smell and even insects will amplify quickly, making replacement a must.

What are the Risks of Flood Damaged Carpets?

When water migrates from one place in a home to another it collects many contaminates. Dirt’s, chemicals, insects and organisms can create a breeding grounds for mold growth, mildew and offensive odors. Occupants living in these conditions are often exposed to harmful indoor air issues, that can case a wide range of health related issues. According to the CDC (centers for disease control) being exposed to air that has elevated molds and bacteria can be harmful to humans.

As discussed earlier in this post, the amount of time carpet remains wet matters. Extended duration means the greater chance for potential health risk, related to mold growth. Short term exposure to low levels of mold and indoor contaminates are typically runny nose, itchy eyes and sore throat. Long-term exposure only increases health irritations, making the consideration of restoring wet carpet less appealing.

Should water damaged carpet be restored when occupants have asthma? In a perfect world where finances didn’t matter, NO WAY! Why settle for a compromised floor covering that may pose health risks? However, most have limited resources, so in some instances restoring a wet carpet can be an acceptable option.

Removing Badly Water Damaged Carpet Prevents Mold Growth

The top priority for any professional property recovery company is to eliminate all possibilities for mold growth. For this reason they follow the IICRC S-500 publication that gives instructions on how to mitigate wet carpet. If the carpet qualifies as having any of the damages listed above, removal is required.

Additionally removing wet damaged carpet rules out any possibility of future mold growth. Mold can exist in wet carpet, even if it is not visible to the naked eye. The term, “incipient mold” means mold just beginning to exist, yet unseen. By knowing what signs to look for as described earlier, you can identify the condition of “just beginning to exist”, molds.  

Is Wet Carpet Susceptible to Mold Growth?

Carpets are typically made from synthetic polymers which makes them less likely a food source for mold than drywall. Wet drywall being a cellulose material anticipates mold growth rather quickly. All cellulose materials like drywall, paper and boxes act as a favored food source for mold growth. Removing wet drywall during flood cleanup is essential to keep property safe. 

What about flood damaged carpet, is it too, a threat for mold in the home? Under the right conditions it is, so proper remediation is essential. Here are several characteristics to look for.

Water Damaged Carpet Conditions that Invite Quick Mold Growth

  • DIRTY CARPETS: Although the synthetic composition of carpet allows it to be resistant to mold growth, the dirt in carpet makes it a source for mold growth. Dirt in carpet, lodged deep in it’s pad and lying on top of sub-floors means dirty carpets can cause quick mold growth in the home.
  • SEWAGE DAMAGED CARPET: The incalculable amounts of germs, molds, harsh chemicals and organic compounds in sewer water, makes it a mold making machine. Everything it touches becomes susceptible to instant contamination and mold growth loves this environment. Once a carpet becomes exposed to sewage it begins to invite mold growth. Trying to steam clean a sewer affected carpet will not succeed in making it safe for indoor use. Once cleaned it can start a mold flare up that introduces elevated toxic molds into the air.
  • CARPETS WET FOR SEVERAL DAYS: When a carpet is wet so is the sub-floor beneath. If it’s concrete there exist dirt’s that will allow for mold growth on carpet. If the carpet has padding beneath, it will be affected and so will any tack-less strip. These are all food sources for mold damage and the longer materials stay wet, the more mold you can get.
  • CARPETS WITH PET STAINS: Urine, feces and other pet accidents leave organic compounds in carpet that water activates. Alkaline salts present in urine inflate these compounds with moisture as soon as water reaches carpet, activating stronger smells. 
  • CARPETS PREVIOUSLY WATER DAMAGED: Although cats may have 9 lives, a carpet has but 1. If there was a previous flood condition that affected the carpet, its time to go shopping for a new carpet.

Restoring Flood Damaged Carpet

In order to repair a wet carpet you need to make sure it qualifies for restoration. This means you know the type of water involved and how long it has been there. If it meets the criteria for restoration, here are 5 steps to follow.

  1. REMOVE WATER FROM CAREPET: Using towels, squeegee or shop vac, remove as much water as possible. 
  2. REMOVE ALL WET PADDING: Wet padding should never be saved as it is like a sponge and very difficult to dry in a timely fashion. 
  3. APPLY SANITIZING AGENT: Eliminating the presence of germs is important to preserve indoor air quality. Consider using an anti-microbial solution which can be purchased at any hardware stores.
  4. PLACE A FAN ON WET AREA: Depending on the size of the area, you may need more than 1 fan to fully dry the wet carpet. Allow 3 days for drying as carpets are multi-layered and each layer needs to be dried.
  5. ASSIST DRYING WITH OPENING WINDOWS OR SMALL DEHUMIDIFIER: As water evaporates into the air it becomes water vapor, increasing relative humidity in the home. This will stagnate the drying at some point unless the humidity is controlled. If the outside weather allows, open a window to allow fresh air. If this is not an option, place a small dehumidifier in the area.

If you are not confident that a DIY approach will restore your flood damaged carpet, give us a call. Our professionals at Action Extraction provide free damage assessments of wet carpet using scientific moisture detection instruments. We can let you know if restoration is an option or replacement. When it comes to the health and safety of your family, it’s best not to take any chances. Our professionals know what to look for and can help you make the right decision.

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