After experiencing a water disaster, many homeowners and property managers ask if their carpet and pad can be salvaged. Restoring water damaged carpet and pad depends on factors such as their age, quality and the type of installation used. However, the most important factor when deciding whether or not carpet and padding can be salvaged is the type of floodwater that caused the damage.
There are three floodwater categories that determine whether the carpet and padding can be restored to their pre-disaster condition:
Category 1 (clean water) damages originates from a sanitary source and poses no substantial risk from dermal, ingestion, or inhalation exposure. Category 1 damage can degrade into Category 2 or 3 if it sits too long.
Category 2 (grey water) damage contains significant contamination and has potential to cause discomfort or sickness of contacted or consumed by humans. It involves damage from “grey water”, such as washing machine or dishwasher containing detergents. It may also involve water containing urine from toilet overflows.
Category 3 (black water) involves grossly contaminated water. Category 3 water comes from sewage, river flooding and standing water that has begun growing bacteria and other microbes.
According to IICRC, if the disaster was caused by a clean supply line, like one running to a washing machine or sink, then the moisture can typically be handled without safety equipment, though after 24 hours, it may no longer be safe to deal with in this way. If, however, the moisture is the result of a flood or sewage backflow, then no one in the household should try to remove the moisture, or touch it in any way. Floods and sewage backflows are filled with all kinds of bacteria, viruses and fungi, including deadly diseases like cholera and hepatitis. Also, floods can wash in dangerous wildlife, like snakes and spiders, or hazardous debris like glass, metal, or wood splinters. These dangers are typically impossible to spot until they strike, so for the safety of everyone involved, it is best to just bring in professionals right away.
Since every water damage situation is different, it’s impossible to tell if or when a carpet or pad can be salvaged until a professional restoration company inspects the situation.
The second part of water damage, beside categories, are classes. Classes of water loss are determined by the level of saturation, and are used to determine dehumidification and drying equipment needed. There are four classes: class 1 being the least amount of water, absorption and evaporation, affecting part of a room or area; class 2 being a large amount of water, absorption and evaporation, or those that affect at least an entire room; class 3 referring to areas that are entirely saturated, and water may have come from overhead, affecting ceilings, walls, carpet, cushion and subfloor; and class 4 refers to specialty drying situations, with wet materials with very low permeance/porosity, such as hardwood, plaster and concrete, requiring longer drying times and special methods.
Water loss pertains to much more than just carpets. While carpets most easily take in water, they also most easily release water.
The carpet can be dry in one day, but the walls could take three days. What the focus should be on is the walls. If water is in the carpet, it will start soaking up into the drywall at about an inch per hour.
Mold becomes a huge structural concern once the walls are involved. Other factors that determine loss are time, temperature and humidity. Damage is minimized by immediate action, which is why restoration is a 24-7, emergency services-type job.
If the carpet was wet for longer than 72 hours, you should consider replacing it – particularly if it has padding underneath. You don’t HAVE to replace it, but after 72 hours, the conditions for mold growth are greatly enhanced, and it will require a very thorough cleaning.
If your carpet remains wet for too long, it can become delaminated and split into two pieces. You’ll want to dry your carpet as quickly as possible to prevent this, and walk on the wet area(s) as little as possible.
If you have padding under your carpet that was affected by water, it should probably be replaced. Carpet padding is very hard to dry and clean.
If you just need to replace the carpet padding, you can usually remove and replace it without having to replace your carpet. You’d just need to lift your carpet, roll it up to move it out of the way, replace the padding, and then re-lay the carpet.
If you don’t have any experience with removing/replacing carpet, it’s likely best to have a professional do this for you. If you damage the carpet in the process of pulling it up, you’ll end up having to replace it along with the padding. Sometimes it’s not possible to pull up the carpet without damaging it.