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DIY Water Damage Restoration: What You Should Know

Updated: Jun 16

Let's face it. As contractors, we know many prospective clients are planning to perform this type of work on their own and just want an opinion. Evaluating job sites knowing the client is likely not going to hire you for the service is just part of the job.

There are many reasons why you might want to tackle a project like this on your own. Maybe your insurance deductible is sky-high and your contractor's estimate is less than or near that amount. We've seen insurance deductibles as high as $5,000. If you have a small to medium-sized project, you may consider performing your own water damage mitigation.

It's also possible that your water damage loss is not covered by your homeowner's insurance. Situations like natural flooding (acts of god) are generally not covered by your homeowner's insurance policy unless you have specifically requested this special coverage. This coverage typically requires a request from your insurance agent and is acquired for a premium cost. If you are looking for additional flood insurance you can visit this, link.

A flooded basement. What a mess.
A flooded basement. What a mess.

In the Greater Seattle area, basement floods due to heavy rainfall are too common. These types of losses are not only devastating but are typically not insured.

Whatever the case may be, be sure to understand the potential risks of tackling a project like this on your own.

Here is some helpful information to consider before deciding to take on a water damage restoration project on your own.

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Water Damage 101- The Basics

Once a water damage incident occurs, the clock begins ticking on you or a restorer to take action. Waiting too long and allowing water to dwell in building materials will eventually lead to mold growth, sometimes within a matter of days.

For instance, in a hypothetical scenario you are working on dinner in the kitchen. As you chop tomatoes you hear dripping on your hardwood flooring. You look up to see water dripping out of the can lights. Your confusion suddenly becomes a reminder that you had left the tub filling upstairs for your child's bath. Your stomach turns inside out and you quickly make your way upstairs to find the hallway carpet is absolutely soaking wet.

You quickly step on the squishy carpet, and almost slip on the vinyl flooring in the bathroom as you manage to shut the water off.

Now that you've had time to collect yourself, you need to take action.

If you were to call a professional water damage restoration company like DK Environmental, this is what the process would look like once our team arrived at your home or business.

Water Extraction

This is by far the most crucial step in water damage restoration. You need to remove as much bulk water as mechanically possible. Bulk water is the "dumb water" or water that can be seen.

Our team would use either a truck-mounted industrial water extraction unit or a portable device depending on the accessibility of your home. Typically, with a clean water source such as this one, the carpeting, and padding can generally be salvaged as long as the water has been removed from both in an effective manner. DK Environmental technicians have access to weighted extraction tools specifically designed to compress and squeeze bulk water out of the carpet and pad. I am sorry to inform you that a rug doctor, although great for cleaning carpets, is just not going to cut it. Using a device such as a rug doctor will not effectively remove the water and can potentially lead to a musty-smelling carpet. These machines are designed to clean the top layer of the carpet and not for deep water extraction.

Our technicians will also spray an anti-microbial on the affected carpet.

Carpeting and padding are often referred to as "the filters of life" by contractors in our industry.

There is so much dead hair, skin, and other substances in the carpet that when combined with excess moisture will immediately begin to cause microbial activity.

Once the water has been removed to the extent mechanically possible, we are ready to move on to the next step.

Evaluation of Affected Materials

The next step is to evaluate all the building materials possibly affected by water. Our technicians have specialized equipment they use in order to detect water that has soaked deep into the material.

They use a combination of hand-held devices and thermal imaging cameras. Depending on the material affected, the technician will decide if it can or cannot be salvaged. Items like carpet, padding, and drywall can generally be salvaged if caught quickly enough.

Baseboards can be salvaged depending on the material and quality. Baseboards made of MDF, or Medium Density Fiberboard (the common white base you see in many houses), can quickly blow up and expand as they take in water so quickly. Think of when you have seen a cardboard box sitting in a puddle. Baseboards made of solid wood will generally be salvageable.

Flooring can be tricky. Remember we mentioned you slipped on the vinyl sheeting? Unfortunately, vinyl sheeting is almost always going to be non-salvageable. Think of water going under a piece of plastic and blowing air over it to try to dry it out. In cases like this, the technicians will more often than not choose to remove the material. Furthermore, vinyl sheeting is typically installed over particle board. Particle board and water do not get along very well; it will begin to expand as it takes in water just like cardboard.

A water-damaged interlocking floor.
A water-damaged interlocking floor.

This same principle applies to interlocking laminate or vinyl plank floors. We have had instances where a customer will tell us they are confident they were able to dry up most of the water only to find the water is sitting underneath the floor.

A vapor barrier is usually installed underneath the interlocking floor further preventing the water from being able to escape. Since the space between the subfloor and laminate flooring is so small, water has the ability to shoot across into other rooms! Homeowners have been shocked to watch our technicians pull up the floor and the water keeps going further than they thought possible. This is due to capillary action. Fancy term, right? Our technicians are familiar with this term because they are IICRC certified.

Tile can be salvaged depending on the material it has been installed on. A concrete board backing will typically be ok. Tile in a basement on concrete is typically ok as well, as long as the water was not from a toilet backup (sewage). Tile installed over particle board will likely require removal.

Let's not forget interstitial spaces. What the heck is that? It's a fancy term we like to use in the industry for the spaces we cannot see, such as wall cavities, behind built-in shelving, under the staircase, etc.

Remember, there was water leaking from the can lights. That's how we found out about this whole mess. So we know there must be water inside the ceiling cavity or interstitial space. This is not too big a deal and can be dried out, especially in a clean water loss such as this one.

The question is whether or not the ceiling is insulated. Sometimes interior ceilings will be insulated for sound purposes. If you have an insulated ceiling, depending on the volume of water, it may need to be removed. If the volume of water is severe you may not be able to effectively move air to dry that space out with it packed full of insulation. Again, our technicians have the capability of making that determination.


We have now removed as much water as humanely possible and assessed the building materials for damage. We now need to document the damage for you and the insurance carrier. The perspective of most carriers is if it is not documented, it never happened. Our technicians ensure the entire loss is photo-documented, along with recordings of tool readings, and the purposed job plan. Essentially, we are collecting data to substantiate the loss.

Dehumidification and Equipment Setup

We now have to formulate our drying plan and set up our equipment.

Simply cranking up the furnace and using household fans is not an adequate drying plan. This can actually cause additional damage to the structure as it may cause a spike in relative humidity. High relative humidity can cause damage to other materials and speed mold growth. You don't want to walk into your home for it to feel hot and humid like a sauna.

DK Environmental technicians have access to industrial-powered air movers and dehumidification equipment. You shouldn't use one without the other. The air movers will dry the water off the surface, but the vapor will need somewhere to go. The dehumidifiers collect and control the humidity created by the air movers. The dehumidifiers will collect the excess moisture to keep the relative humidity at an acceptable level and avoid secondary damage.

The equipment can run non-stop for 3-4 days or longer depending on your situation. The drying progress of the affected materials is monitored every trip by DK technicians until dry readings are obtained at which point the equipment can be removed.

The process above depends on the category of water. For instance, a sewage loss, often referred to as a "Category 3" water loss, will generally involve the removal of all finish coverings or materials and drying of only the substructure, such as raw framing and subfloor.

You may also consider running a HEPA filtration device with your drying equipment. With all the dust and debris you will be kicking up with the

drying equipment, a HEPA filtration device will help to keep the airborne particulate to a minimum.


You might be thinking, "Wow, that was a ton of information." You are not wrong. Water damage restoration is a very complex process. The above scenario is a basic one. The process can become much more involved when materials such as hardwood flooring are involved. Should you decide to tackle something like this on your own, at least you now have a general understanding of the process.

If you would like professional help, please call us at DK Environmental. We service the Greater Seattle area, Snohomish County and Skagit County!


David Talamantes

DK Environmental


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