A Complete Guide to Water Restoration (and Our Step-By-Step Process)

One of the biggest concerns for business owners, property managers, or facility team members is water damage. Whether the water damage results from a natural flood, burst pipe, overflowed appliance or any other issue, its effects can be extensive. The water mitigation process requires precise action to ensure total restoration and safety. If your building has water damage, it’s vital to understand the best course of action.

When you come across indoor flooding, you may not know what to do next — the damage can be overwhelming. A quick reaction will help you minimize the damage and get back to normal as fast as possible. Use this step-by-step guide to help you with water damage repair.

Water Damage Categories

First, understand water damage categories and classifications, which indicate levels of destruction and danger. Water damage categories help building owners and restoration professionals determine the risks involved with floods. Water damage can come from many different sources, some of which are more hazardous than others.

Depending on its origin, water damage can fit into one of three categories. These categories have to do with the level of danger involved with the water damage. Keep in mind, water can fit a more harmful category if left sitting for too long. Microorganisms and mold spores can reproduce at a rapid pace in standing water. If any water damage is present, it’s vital to remove it as soon as possible. Here are more details about the three water damage categories.

Category One

You can consider water damage category one if the water originates from a sanitary source. The water does not pose a health hazard if inhaled or ingested. Category one water can come from:

  • Sprinklers
  • Rain
  • Melted ice
  • Uncontaminated pipes or containers

Category Two

Category two water, also known as gray water damage, is more serious. For water to fit category two, it has to have some level of contamination and pose a health risk. If ingested, it could cause sickness. It has an unsafe level of chemical or biological matter. Category two water might include:

  • Diluted wastewater
  • Detergents
  • Ruptured storage tanks

Category Three

The most dangerous of any water damage fits into this designation. Category three damage, or black water damage, has significant amounts of harmful pathogens and toxins. Sources for category three water damage include:

  • Sewer backups
  • River or stream brackish water
  • Flooding seawater
  • Water that has picked up pesticides or other chemicals

Before a professional water mitigation service can begin the water damage removal process, they’ll determine what category the damage fits. Category two or three water damage requires personal protective equipment to clean up. Stay clear of any flooding if its category is not yet determined.

Water Damage Classes

Water damage can also fit into four distinct classifications. The classifications distinguish between the amount of water present, what materials it has affected and how difficult it will be to remove. The classification numbers are in ascending order — class one damage is the least dangerous while class four damage is the most severe.

Class One

Class one damage is the least severe. It involves a minimal amount of water leakage onto low-porosity materials. Porous materials allow more water absorption, so water damage on low porosity materials is ideal. An example of class one water damage might include an overflowed toilet on a tile floor. Once you’ve removed the bulk of the water, drying will be easy.

Class Two

Class two damage entails a more significant amount of water on medium to high-porosity surfaces. You’ll have to remove a greater quantity of water, and it will take longer to dry. This damage might result from a broken pipe, causing water to seep into a gypsum board wall.

Class Three

If a large amount of water affects a high-porosity material, this is class three. A lot of water removal and evaporation will be necessary for the water damage extraction process. A storm leak covering a carpeted floor might fit into class three damage.

Class Four

This classification involves a great deal of water trapped in confined spaces and affecting porous materials. Cleaning up class four water requires special water damage restoration equipment. An example of class four water damage might include stormwater seeping into wall and floor systems. That damage requires extensive structural drying and dehumidifying.

Water Damage Causes

Potential water damage causes vary. It can come from natural or human-made sources. Regardless of the water’s origin, it can cause a great deal of damage and require extensive repairs. Some of the most common sources of water damage include the following:

Severe Weather

Severe weather or a natural disaster can cause serious water damage. Thunderstorms, hurricanes and rainstorms can result in mass amounts of water accumulation. After severe weather, water damage is likely widespread, affecting multiple homes, businesses and other buildings. Severe weather can also cause roof and structural damage, but flooding in itself can be extensive.

Damaged or Clogged Gutters

A reliable gutter system is necessary for dispelling rainwater. Gutters accumulate debris over time, so it’s critical to inspect and clean them regularly. If your building’s gutters are clogged or faulty, this can result in flooding. Faulty gutters can cause damage to ceilings, walls and floors.

Supply Line Leaks

Water-using appliances have supply lines. These supply lines can wear thin under constant pressure, which can result in a rupture. If this happens, you’ll have to turn off the water source as fast as possible. Within a few minutes, a water supply line leak can flood an entire room.

Clogged Drains

Kitchen and bathroom drains can clog, creating one of the most common causes of indoor flooding. Clogs can develop from hair, grease, dirt or foreign objects. In many cases, the water damage from a clogged train will have category three danger levels.

Malfunctioning Sprinklers

Sprinkler systems are useful for fire safety, but they result in a lot of water buildup. Sometimes, sprinklers will malfunction, turning on when there’s no risk of fire. This failure can cause a great deal of damage — since the water falls from above, electronics and appliances are often affected. You might consider updating your sprinklers or having them inspected from time to time.

Leaking Appliances

Another potential cause of water damage is a leaking appliance. Water heaters are common culprits following pressure buildups in the tank. Make sure your water heater and any other water-using appliances are well-maintained and inspected on a routine basis. You might catch an issue before it turns into serious flooding.

What to Do When You Discover Water Damage

Coming across water damage in your building can be overwhelming. It’s essential to follow all necessary procedures, which can help you limit the damage and ensure your safety. If you discover water damage, follow these steps:

1. Determine if It’s Safe to Stay in the Building

Safety is the number one concern when it comes to water damage. Always proceed with caution. Flooded water can cause several potential safety hazards, especially if the cause is a natural disaster. The water may have weakened or destroyed structural supports, which can make a building unsafe to enter. Waterlogging can cause heavy strains. In extreme cases, a building might be at risk of collapsing. It’s vital to make sure the building is safe to be in before entering.

Before you enter the building, look at it from the outside for swaying, bulging or sagging roof lines. Check the walls to make sure they’re straight. Look for cracks in the building’s exterior, at the corners and near doors and windows. If any structural damage signs are present on the exterior, remain outside of the building and contact a professional.

Once inside, keep an eye out for structural damage signs. Check the walls for any new cracks, which can result from waterlogging. Look for sagging ceilings, wet insulation and loose rafters. Note that water can also cause dangerous electricity transfers or have contaminants that threaten human health. Always wear protective gear if you’re entering a flood-damaged building. Make sure the building is safe to be in before surveying the damage.

Be careful as you move through the building — remember, moving water can carry debris with it. Wear sturdy, protective shoes to avoid stepping on anything hazardous. Also wear a mask in case of any mold spores in the air.

2. Turn off Electricity and Be Wary of Hazards

Once you notice flooding, shut off the power supply. Electricity and water are a dangerous combination. To shut off the building’s electricity, you’ll have to use the electrical panel and flip the main circuit breakers to the off position. If the electrical panel is located inside and the building is unsafe to enter, you’ll have to contact a professional for assistance.

3. Shut off the Water Valve

You’ll also need to shut off the water valve, especially if the water is coming from an internal source like an overflowing appliance. You can often find the water shutoff valve in the building’s basement or outside, directed toward the local water supply. In most cases, it will be on the side facing the street. If it has a knob or lever, you’ll have to turn it clockwise to shut it off.

4. Determine What Kind of Water It Is

Once you’ve turned off the electricity and water supply, take a closer look at the water. Trace its source and determine if it fits into category one, two or three. If the water is derived from an overflowing toilet, brackish stream overflow or another dangerous source, steer clear.

If possible, determine how extensive the damage is and which classification it might fit. If you notice a great deal of standing water over porous materials, you may have class four damage on your hands. With a somewhat small amount of water over non-porous materials, you might only face class one damage. Keep in mind, water damage might be more extensive than you can see, seeping between walls and under floorboards. After flooding, seek a professional inspection to ensure there’s no structural damage to consider.

5. Take Photographs

Be sure to take plenty of photographs as you survey the damage. You’ll need evidence for an insurance claim, so remember to document flood damage before making repairs. The more photographic evidence you can provide, the stronger your claim will be. Take photographs of the water itself and any damage you find, both inside and outside of the building. Photograph the walls, drainage vents, ceilings, floorboards and any other affected areas.

If you know a natural disaster is on its way, you might want to take photographs before evacuating. Having a comparable before and after might make your insurance case even stronger. It will be impossible to allege any damage was preexisting.

6. Provide Ventilation

Ventilation is a key part of the drying process, which you can get started on your own. If water damage is minimal, natural drying can make a huge difference. Provide as much ventilation as possible — open any windows and doors near the affected area, as long as you’re not expecting rain or severe weather. If it’s safe to have electricity running, use fans, as well.

7. Call a Professional Restoration Company

When faced with commercial water damage, even if it seems minimal, it’s essential to contact a professional restoration company. Even category one water can become dangerous if left sitting. Untreated moisture can result in bacteria, mold and mildew growth or worsening structural damage. A professional company like Unlimited Restoration will take all the necessary steps to ensure your building is safe, sound and water damage-free.

Our Water Damage Restoration Process

Water remediation can be a complex process, depending on the damage’s severity. Unlimited Restoration will take the following steps to remove the water, prevent further damage and repair your building:

1. Inspect the Situation

The first step is inspection. Assessing the situation reveals the water’s source and the level of danger present. Entering the building may not be safe due to structural damage. Exposure to the water might also be unsafe, depending on its source and categorization. Category three black water poses a serious health and safety hazard, and extensive protective gear is necessary to clean it.

Remember, water from any source can become category three if left untouched long enough. If you’ve noticed long-standing water in a seldom-visited corner of your building, it could be as dangerous as water from a sewage backup. The longer water sits unnoticed, the more damage it’s likely to cause, as well. The inspection will reveal the water damage’s category and classification.

The inspection stage will also involve shutting off the water supply and electricity if the building owner has not done so already. This step will limit safety hazards and keep any more water from accumulating. Once the inspection is complete, the professionals will create a plan to remove the water from your building.

2. Remove Standing Water

After the initial inspection, the water removal can begin. First, any standing water has to go. Special equipment, like wet vacs and submersible pumps, will remove the bulk of the water. These pieces of equipment can eliminate thousands of gallons of standing water, which makes them necessary for any major flooding. For minimal water damage, wet vacs and pumps might not be necessary, and drying measures can begin right away.

3. Prevent Further Damage

Removing water as fast as possible will help prevent any further damage. Standing water can become more destructive as it sits, and the professionals will perform more detailed inspections once the bulk of the water is gone. They’ll determine if they need to remove any elements before the drying process can begin. They’ll also see if any structural elements have sustained serious damage and need replacing.

4. Begin the Drying Process

After standing water removal, the complete drying process begins. Many building materials are quite porous, including wood and drywall. Absorbed water can lead to warping, swelling, breaking and mold buildup, compromising your building’s structural integrity or causing health hazards. Professional drying is critical for addressing hard-to-see and hard-to-reach moisture. Dehumidification equipment is necessary for the drying stage.

The equipment for the drying process needs to be powerful. Industrial dehumidifying equipment can help restore swelling or warping building materials. Large-scale air movers work like fans, speeding up the evaporation process on walls, floor pads, carpets and other building materials.

5. Monitor Water Levels

During the drying process, constant monitoring of water levels is necessary. A few tools make for accurate monitoring, including hygrometers and specialized cameras. Hygrometers indicate humidity or moisture levels. The experts will use hygrometers to detect moisture saturation levels and make sure dehumidifiers are working. Infrared cameras might also be necessary — they can help discover invisible water buildup behind walls or under floorboards. Throughout the drying process, the professionals will continually monitor changing moisture levels.

6. Complete the Water Removal Process

Following the complete removal of water and moisture, cleaning and sanitization are often necessary. For safety reasons, sanitization is always a good idea after flooding. Water damage can also leave behind unpleasant smells, so deodorization might be necessary. Flood-related odors are often too significant to eliminate with air fresheners — professional air scrubbers might be needed. In the finishing stages of water damage repair, odor control and sanitization help make your building habitable again.

7. Repair Additional Damage

After water removal, you may have additional repairs to attend to. What your building requires depends on the damage, but fixes may include roof repair, drywall replacement, floor repair, carpet installation and repainting. These repairs will ensure your building’s integrity and usability, and professionals may recommend certain steps to take after the restoration process.

Post-Water Damage Restoration

Water damage can cause a lasting impact. Once all the water is gone, there are still a few steps you’ll need to take to make your building good as new. Use this water damage restoration checklist to make sure your building is safe again.

Sanitizing and Cleaning

Water can result in microbial and bacterial buildup, which often requires professional disinfectant treatment. Proper sanitizing and cleaning ensures the air in your building is safe to breathe and the structures are safe to touch. It’s important to remove any microbial growth, including mold or bacteria. Sanitizing and cleaning are always a necessary step after flood damage.


Remember, you’ll also need to address any serious damage. Some level of reconstruction might be necessary to restore your building to its original condition and avoid further damage. You may need to repair your building’s walls, floors, roof and other elements. You might also need to fix or replace your furniture, appliances and equipment.


Getting insurance involved can save you a great deal of money. The water damage insurance process can be lengthy, so start as soon as you can. It’s essential to know and be able to prove the source of the water, as your policy may only cover certain types of water damage. Take plenty of photos to strengthen your claim. If you’re not sure what kind of water damage your policy covers, speak with an agent before a disaster happens. This measure is especially critical if you live in a flood-prone area.

Contact Unlimited Restoration for Disaster Recovery

Water damage can be a serious problem for business owners and property managers — it can be highly destructive and dangerous, rendering entire buildings inhabitable. But the right reaction can make all the difference. When a disaster happens, it’s important to act fast. Rely on professional restoration services from Unlimited Restoration.

At Unlimited Restoration, we offer 24/7 emergency response services delivered with a sense of urgency. We maintain a quick turnaround for invoices so you can make your insurance claim as soon as possible. We’ll help you get back to business fast, all while offering a professional helping hand. For more information about our disaster recovery services, contact Unlimited Restoration today.


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