Emergency Water Damage? Here’s What to Do Right Now

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: June 13, 2023

There are small plumbing problems that quickly become DIY headaches. There are also plumbing mishaps that present as full-blown water disasters.

Whether a water emergency starts with a leak or pours through the ceiling, being prepared makes a big difference.

Based on our years as Chicago’s leading restoration pros, we’ve developed this guide. 

It outlines everything you need to do now to stop emergency water damage from spreading.

Read on.

What Is Considered a Water Damage Emergency?

black mold in basement

A leak under the kitchen sink can usually be fixed with a little DIY pipe repair. If pipe components suddenly fail and water gushes across the floor, you’re dealing with a water damage emergency.

You know water damage is serious if it creates situations you can’t take care of by yourself. These are just a few examples of water damage emergencies.

How Do I Tackle Emergency Water Damage?

water damaged ceiling

Emergency water damage spreads quickly through walls, ceilings, and floors. From compromised electrical wiring to unhealthy fungal growth, it creates multiple hazards.

It’s important to address a water emergency at the house or your workplace as soon as possible.

Follow these seven steps for safely dealing with emergency water damage.

1. Shut Down the Main Water Supply

Locate and close the main shutoff valve on your home’s water supply. Relieve any remaining pressure in the plumbing system by opening all faucets.

Power Tip: Don’t open faucets that pour into leaking or ruptured drain lines.

2. Make Sure You Stay Safe

Before beginning emergency water cleanup, turn off the electricity to affected areas. 

If you have any concerns about doing it yourself, call a licensed electrician.

Once the electricity is off, suit up with heavy, non-slip boots and waterproof gloves. 

Mop up as much as you can, but plan on letting restoration professionals take care of the heavy work.

If you’re sure about your home’s electrical supply, start the drying process by setting up fans. 

Increase indoor air circulation by opening windows, closets and cabinets.

3. Contact Your Insurance Company

Call the company that carries your homeowners or business property insurance.

Give them as much information about the water emergency as possible. 

Ask if there are any steps you need to take to stay within policy requirements.

4. Call an Experienced Restoration Service

water damage signs

Cleaning up your property after a water emergency isn’t a DIY job. It’s a big project that requires special equipment operated by industry-certified technicians.

Contact a water damage restoration company near you that offers emergency water damage restoration. 

If you’re in the Chicago area, call ServiceMaster by Zaba: 773-647-1985

Power Tip: Your insurance agent can be a good source for connecting with restoration professionals.

5. Document All Water Damage

Take pictures of everything impacted by the water emergency. 

Document your losses with photos of damaged furniture and personal belongings. 

Include pictures of all water-damaged interiors, from walls to floors and ceilings.

Do an online search for items that can’t be salvaged, such as an office desk or a laptop. 

Take screenshots that give you a reference point for replacement costs.

Power Tip: Organize the documentation so that you can present it to your insurance adjuster during the inspection, or send it directly to the insurance company office.

6. Sort But Don’t Toss

Take an assessment of your water-damaged belongings. Don’t assume soaked items are a loss. Restoration technicians salvage and clean all types of content, including soft goods and electronics.

You also want the insurance adjuster to see the full extent of your damages. Don’t throw anything away. Leave everything in place until after the adjuster’s inspection.

7. Think About Moving Out Temporarily

The aftermath of a water emergency can make it hard to feel comfortable in your home. The damp environment elevates indoor humidity levels. It also breeds unhealthy mold that compromises indoor air quality.

Emergency water damage cleanup can take days and even weeks, so be patient, and consider temporarily relocating.

Power Tip: Many insurance policies cover temporary living accommodations after a water damage emergency.

How Do Restoration Professionals Deal with Emergency Water Damage? 

emergency water restoration chicago

Now that we’ve covered what to do in case of emergency water damage, let’s take a look at how restoration professionals handle the situation.

It always starts with an immediate response to your call.

For example, here at ServiceMaster by Zaba, our teams are on the scene in 90 minutes or less. We tackle the job right away with the following process.

  • Emergency Water Damage Inspection – First, we perform a property-wide inspection to determine the type of water emergency and the extent of damages.
  • Structural Stabilization – We identify and stabilize structural problems, such as water-damaged walls, buckled floors and collapsed ceilings. We also board up windows and tarp roofs.
  • Immediate Water Extraction – Our technicians remove standing water using powerful truck-mounted extraction systems. We address residual water with specialized vacuum equipment.
  • Water Damage Mitigation – Next, we focus on mitigation work that contains the emergency water damage. This phase includes material tear-out and debris removal.
  • Applied Structural Drying – Our centrifugal air movers, axial blowers and heavy-duty dehumidifiers speed up the structural drying process. We closely monitor progress with electromagnetic sensors.
  • Water Damage Remediation – All surfaces impacted by the water emergency are thoroughly cleaned, sanitized and prepped for final restoration.
  • Property-Wide Water Damage Restoration – During this last step, we rebuild walls, ceilings and floors. Your property is completely restored to its pre-water emergency condition.

Dealing With Emergency Water Damage in Chicago or Suburbs? We Can Help!

Facing a water emergency is always challenging. We know how overwhelming it can be because we help Chicagoland home and business owners deal with the aftermath every day.

We’re here for you too, 24/7.

You can always count on ServiceMaster by Zaba for water damage restoration services. With offices located in downtown Chicago, Skokie and Buffalo Grove, we’re just around the corner.

We’re ready for your call: (773) 647-1985.

Helpful Resources

Turning Off Utilities – City of Chicago

Mold and Allergies – EPA

Storm Flood Health Risks – CDC

How quickly does damage from a water emergency spread?

The damage from a water emergency begins to spread immediately. It quickly soaks into porous drywall, ceiling tiles and flooring. Mold breeds in water-damaged materials in as little as 24 hours.

What does the beginning of water damage look like?

Circular stains on ceilings and dark streaks on walls usually indicate moisture spreading through the materials. Bubbling paint, warped baseboards and musty odors are also early signs of water damage.

How do I know when I need help with emergency water damage?

Call in restoration professionals right away if the water damage compromised your property’s structural integrity, the emergency occurred more than 24 hours ago, or the damage involved a sewage backup or floodwaters.