Water Damage: 9 Steps to Take Now

When you discover water damage in your facility, you need to move fast. The longer you wait, the more damage you’ll have to repair.

As quickly as possible, you need to: 
• Prevent the damage from getting worse
• Clean and repair the area
• Take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again

Here are nine steps you should take if you find water damage in your building.

1. Stop the flow of water

Depending on what caused the damage, there may still be water actively flowing into the area. Whether there’s an open valve, a leaking fixture, a burst pipe, or something else, you need to shut off the water to prevent the problem from getting worse or spreading to other areas. If you can’t tell which valve, fixture, pipe, or piece of equipment caused the water damage, you may need to shut off the flow from your water meter (hopefully you have submeters, so you don’t have to shut off your master water meter). 

2. Turn off the power and remove electrical equipment

If there’s standing water, you need to make sure there’s no electrical current running through it. Employees could be seriously injured or even killed if they try to clean up before shutting off the power. Turn off the breaker, and unplug and remove anything in the area that uses power. 

3. Document the damage

Obviously you want to repair and replace everything that was damaged as soon as possible. But you also don’t want to be on the hook for paying for it all. When you file an insurance claim, the more documentation and evidence you have, the smoother the process will go. So take pictures and/or video of everything that was damaged and the source of the water issue, and create a list of everything that will need to be repaired or replaced. 

4. File an insurance claim

Insurance claims take time to process. So the sooner you notify your insurance about the problem, the sooner you can recover the costs of any required repairs. If the repairs or cleaning will require a specialist, your insurance company may also have preferred contractors—and going through them may help you book appointments earlier.

5. Dry out the area

The longer you wait to remove moisture from the affected area, the more severe and/or widespread the damage will be. If there’s standing water, you need to remove it as soon as possible, whether that’s with a wet and dry vacuum, a pump, or simply buckets and towels. Once the standing water is gone, it’s time to remove all the moisture with air circulation. Open windows if you can, and set up fans. A dehumidifier can be helpful as well. 

6. Remove porous material

Some material will simply never be the same once it’s soaked in water. It could be warped out of shape, shrunk through the drying process, or contaminated by mildew. You’ll likely need to cut and remove any carpet, drywall, wood, or unsealed cement that’s absorbed water. This includes ceiling panels, flooring, walls, and furniture. If you’re removing any weight-bearing structures, be sure to provide adequate support before you just start ripping out posts and beams.

7. Disinfect the area

Even if you don’t see any mold, or you think you’ve removed it all, you don’t want to risk the possibility that mold spores will remain and fester. Use bleach or another mold-killing cleaner to disinfect anything that’s been sitting in water, as well as the nearby surfaces, paying particular attention to the surfaces closest to any material you had to remove. 

8. Replace damaged material

Once your disinfectant has had time to dry, it’s time to start replacing the material you had to remove. Again, make sure any weight-bearing materials have support before, during, and after the replacement process. As you install new walls, ceilings, and flooring, be sure you seal it to protect it in the future. And even though you’ve already disinfected the area, it would be a good idea to use mold-killing primer for any painting you need to do. 

9. Prevent future water damage

You can’t stop pipes, fixtures, and equipment from malfunctioning or wearing out. And you can’t prevent every human error like leaving a valve open. But you can get better visibility into your water infrastructure. 

Apana’s Water Efficiency as a Service can tell when you’re using more water than usual and sends you actionable alerts when there’s something abnormal. So whether your cooling tower is using more water due to scaling or your boiler is leaking, you’ll know about the problem (and where it is) before it has a chance to cause major water damage.