DIY Water Damage Repair in a Rental Property

From little leaks to overflows and floods, water damage instills terror in landlords and property flippers alike. Once you turn off the water and the electricity, it can be hard not to look around in a complete panic. Even a small leak can be bad because the damage has time to spread slowly.

The good news is, there are some situations where you can repair water damage yourself. This saves money that can be put into other projects on your worksite, or right back in your pocket! You want to know what to do when faced with water damage, so you know when you can do it yourself and when to call in for back-up. Below, we’ve listed ten tips to help you manage water damage in your rental or your latest flip:

How Dirty is the Water?

When it comes to property damage, there are three kinds of water to get familiar with: “clean” water, gray water and black water.

  • Clean water comes from rainwater or leaky pipes. It’s not terribly contaminated, so you can clean it with confidence.
  • Gray water refers to water that is slightly dirty. It may come from appliances such as dishwashers, clean toilet bowls, or washing machines. With a bit of protective gear, you can also clean up this type of water without worries.
  • Black water contains raw sewage or heavy flooding from rivers or storm damage.  If water is heavily contaminated with waste or bacteria, it’s best to call in the experts.

How Moldy is the Area?

Mold and mildew are some of the greatest concerns with water damage. In a wet environment, mold spores can grow in as little as 24 hours.

  • For long-growing mold, like mold caused by condensation or mildew in a long-abandoned property, you need to be very careful. Some molds are toxic to humans.
  • For small mold issues, simply cut the material out, put it in a bag, and dispose of it ASAP.
  • For severe mold, get out of the area. You need to shut down airflow using plastic sheets (to avoid spore contamination) and call in experts.

Dry it Out

You want to get rid of all the moisture as soon as you can before it causes damage to the area. For small areas, get air circulating with some fans. Larger projects may need extra help—you may want to rent a large dehumidifier to dry out carpet, wood and other materials.

Are There Any Porous Materials?

Spongy materials, such as fabric, insulation, and carpet, may need to be thrown away if they were soaked in water. Water permanently damages the majority of porous materials by causing them to shrink or warp. Raw cement, wood, and drywall are also porous, so take great care in drying these materials out.

Clean, Clean, Clean!

Once the damaged objects have been removed, it’s time to clean and disinfect. You don’t need anything fancy—some rubber gloves, a bucket and bleach solution will get the job done. Spray and lightly wipe down areas affected by water to ensure that mold spores aren’t hiding out.

Deal with Ceiling Damage First

When a ceiling is exposed to water damage, it starts to sag or collapse. Removing ceiling panels should be the first part of a water damage repair job. You want to find where the actual leak is coming from: remember, the real cause could be damage to the roof.

Replace Damaged Wood and Drywall

It’s common sense that wood and drywall need to be replaced when it’s rotting, disintegrating or moldy. Severely warped wood (especially flooring) should be replaced as well. Pull off any damaged boards you plan to keep and sanitize beneath them before putting them back. If the wood is a structural component of the building, make sure its strong enough to give the support it needs.

Time To Install New, Sealed Floors

When a floor is damaged by water, think of it as an opportunity to install new, waterproof flooring. This is important in areas that are susceptible to water damage. Look for ceramic tile, high-end vinyl and certain engineered wood materials that can protect floors against future water damage.

The Fun Part: Caulk and Paint

After the underlying materials have been replaced, match paints and stains to the original color. Or, you can take this opportunity to update the color of the whole area. This is the “fun part” because everything is almost back to normal. It’s good to seal and caulk the new materials, so you can lessen future water problems.

Check Your Insurance

If there’s significant water damage, check your insurance to see what amount of water damage repair is covered. Remember, problems like a sudden pipe burst or storm damage are more likely to be covered than a slow leak.

While some problems require the help of professionals, the truth is that there’s a lot of water damage problems you can solve on your own. When you remove damaged materials, sanitize the area and replace with similar or better materials, you can save yourself thousands of dollars on your project.