Water Damage Restoration: What is it and Why is it Important

Learn how to perform water damage restoration with this guide

water damage restoration specialist using iAuditor to conduct a water damage inspection or assessment

Published 28 Apr 2022

What is Water Damage Restoration?

Water damage restoration is the process of returning the property’s condition to its original state before water intrusion. The process consists of inspection, extraction, dehumidification, sanitation, and reconstruction (if necessary). While water damage restoration usually does not require certification, it should ideally be performed by a water damage restoration specialist who is equipped with the right tools and knowledge to do so.

Knowing what caused the problem you’re supposed to fix is just the first step to solving it. For water damage restoration specialists, being familiar with the major causes of water damage can help them easily locate the source when inspecting a property.

What are the Major Causes of Water Damage?

The major causes of water damage include the following:

  • air conditioning unit condensation
  • natural disasters and rainy weather
  • rubber or PVC water supply lines 
  • broken household appliances
  • clogged drains and gutters
  • septic tank and sewer backups
  • burst or leaking pipes
  • old or faulty water heaters
  • damaged sprinkler systems
  • water overflow from toilets 
  • inoperative sump pumps
  • inefficient roof water drainage

Aside from knowing where to look, water damage restoration specialists should also know what to look for. Water damage can still be present in areas that don’t contain or seemingly haven’t been affected by any of the major causes listed above. Therefore, restoration specialists should be able to spot the signs of water damage right away.

What are the Signs of Water Damage?

The signs of water damage include the following:

  • swollen or warped materials
  • cracks on the ceiling or wall
  • peeling or bubbling paint
  • musty or damp odors
  • sagging or soft spots
  • structural damage
  • puddles of water
  • mold or mildew
  • water stains

Why is Water Damage Restoration Important?

One of the reasons why water damage restoration is important is that structural damage can also be a result of water damage—not just a cause. Water damage and structural damage are closely connected and the presence of one often indicates the presence of the other. Walls, ceilings, and even floors can collapse due to water damage.

Ignoring water damage or not responding to it quickly enough can also pose long-term health risks from mold, bacteria, and pests. Minimizing the importance of water damage restoration not only diminishes the skill, knowledge, and experience required to do such work, but also significantly endangers the lives of building occupants.

How Does Water Damage Restoration Work?

Specialists perform water damage restoration in 5 steps:

  1. Conduct a Water Damage Inspection

    A water damage inspection or water damage assessment is conducted by the specialist to identify the water source, the water contamination category, and the water damage class. 

    As discussed in a previous section, the water source is heavily related to the cause of water damage. However, in some cases, it may still be difficult to identify the water source, even while knowing the cause of water damage (e.g., flood water may seep into the property through multiple entry points). After identifying and stopping the flow of the water source, the specialist will identify the water contamination category:


    White Water

    Gray Water

    Black Water





    Contamination Level

    Little to None

    Has Contaminants


    Water Sources / Causes of Water Damage

    Bathtubs, Sinks, Pipes, Water Heaters

    Dishwashers and Washing Machines

    Sewage, Toilets, Flooding

    Identifying the water contamination category will help the specialist decide on the scope and type of decontamination needed later on. The third part of the inspection is the identification of the water damage class:


    Class 1

    Class 2

    Class 3

    Class 4

    Wet Porous Materials Percentage of Surface Area

    Less than 5%

    5% to 40%

    More than 40%

    More than 40%

    Low Evaporation Materials Moisture Absorption





    Wet porous materials include carpet, gypsum board, fiber-fill insulation, Concrete Masonry Unit (CMU) and textiles. Low evaporation materials include plaster, wood, concrete, and masonry. Identifying the water damage class is important because it indicates the extent of drying and dehumidification needed later on.

  2. Remove Standing Water via Extraction

    Especially crucial when a property has a flooded basement, removing the standing water (also known as stagnant water) is done through extraction. Extractors include industrial vacuums and submersible pumps. After all standing water is removed, surface water can be extracted through portable wet/dry vacuums. The specialist may also use a moisture meter or infrared thermal camera to uncover hidden pockets of saturation behind walls or underneath floorboards. Residual surface water may also still be present even after vacuuming.

  3. Dry and Dehumidify Affected Areas

    Similar to water extraction, the specialist will also use equipment such as heavy-duty fans (including air movers) and commercial-grade dehumidifiers to dry and dehumidify affected areas. Aside from using these tools, the specialist may also open windows and doors to increase air circulation. However, drying and dehumidification will generally take longer than water removal, especially if water damage is Class 3 or 4 and requires removing parts of walls and/or floors.

  4. Clean and Sanitize All Surfaces

    Before mold cleanup, the specialist needs to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as an N-95 mask, gloves, googles, rubber boots, and disposable clothing or protective overalls. Similar to both extraction and dehumidification, the specialist will also use equipment such as a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) vacuum, an air scrubber, and other types of negative air machines during sanitation. If water damage is Category 3, all surfaces will need to be cleaned with an antimicrobial solution.

  5. Repair and Reconstruct if Necessary

    In the final part of water damage restoration, the specialist will remove unsalvageable parts (e.g., drywall below the flood line, low to medium density trim boards, carpet padding). Carpets can be deep cleaned, though they will more than likely need to be replaced. In some cases, wooden trim boards may be reused and drywall can be repaired, if the water damage isn’t Class 4 or Category 3. However, reconstruction may also be necessary, especially if the cause of the water damage is a natural disaster.

iAuditor as Your Inspection Tool

iAuditor by SafetyCulture is a convenient inspection tool that water damage restoration specialists can use to document what’s happening on-site. Take and attach photos of water damage inspections and submit detailed reports to clients and insurance providers. iAuditor eliminates the entire hassle of printing out photos, stapling them to paper reports, typing up reports after an inspection, and sending completed reports through fax. 

With iAuditor, reports are automatically generated after completing a water damage inspection and can be sent via email or shareable web link. Perform water damage restoration quickly and efficiently using the iAuditor app on your mobile device, even while offline. Equip your team of specialists with the right tool to do the job well. Get started with iAuditor for free.

SafetyCulture Content Specialist

Zarina Gonzalez

Zarina is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. She enjoys discovering new ways for businesses to improve their safety, quality, and operations. She is working towards helping companies become more efficient and better equipped to thrive through change.

Zarina is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. She enjoys discovering new ways for businesses to improve their safety, quality, and operations. She is working towards helping companies become more efficient and better equipped to thrive through change.