What is Water Mitigation? A Complete Guide [2024]

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: January 2, 2024

Heavy rains fill the basement with floodwater. Leaks behind the bathroom wall create mold growth that quickly spreads. A broken fire sprinkler system at work soaks offices, furniture, and equipment.

These are just a few examples of property disasters that need professional water mitigation, which is different from water restoration.

This guide covers everything you need to know about the mitigation process and how it differs from restoration.

What Is Water Mitigation?

Water mitigation is the first step in a process that addresses water damage. Mitigation prevents further damage from occurring and involves water removal, moisture control and structural drying.

Think of water mitigation as an emergency response that contains the initial impact. It minimizes secondary water damages such as buckled floors, crumbled drywall and widespread mold growth.

Water mitigation sets the stage for full service repairs and property-wide restoration.

What Is Water Restoration?

Water restoration is the process of restoring and repairing water-damaged homes. 

The ultimate goal of water restoration services is to restore the home to pre-flood conditions. 

This step always comes after water mitigation and involves the removal and replacement of water-damaged drywall, flooring, and other structural elements. 

Water Restoration vs Water Mitigation: What are the Differences?

The primary difference between water mitigation and water damage restoration is the goal: water mitigation prevents further water damage and helps keep property and people safe, while water damage restoration repairs the water damage and restores the home to its original condition. 

If property needs to be replaced, it happens during water damage restoration – not water mitigation. 

While water mitigation takes place during or immediately after the flood, water damage restoration is conducted after all the standing water has been removed. 

Now that we’ve covered water mitigation basics let’s take a look at how it’s different from water damage repair and restoration.

This comparison outlines both processes and the different steps involved in each.

How Does Water Mitigation Work?

water mitigation techniques

1. Locate the leak and stop the flooding

The first step in water mitigation is to stop the flow of water. 

As long as water is still leaking into the home, it’s causing more damage. 

With this in mind, water mitigation teams usually start by locating and turning off the home’s main water supply or bringing in a plumber to address the broken pipe or other cause of the leak. 

Once the water stops flowing, the team can start the mitigation process. 

2. Contact insurance

Once the team has stopped the flow of water, they’ll work with you to contact your insurance company and file a water damage claim. 

This is a critical step because, while homeowner’s insurance usually covers water mitigation, you may find that you need additional coverage for water that’s caused by natural flooding. 

Once you get in touch with your insurance company, you’ll have a better understanding of what your policy will and will not cover. 

3. Inspection and Assessment

Next, mitigation technicians inspect the property, assess the level and type of water damage and take care of any necessary emergency repairs and building board-up. 

During this process, the team will also determine which category of water is present in the building (more on this later).

4. Water Extraction and Drying

Next, the team will pump standing water away from the property using truck-mounted water extraction systems. Teams follow up with specialized vacuum equipment that removes residual water from porous surfaces.

Once the water has been removed, they’ll focus on drying the space via structural drying.

Structural drying involves a range of industrial-grade equipment such as wood floor and subfloor drying systems, high-volume air movers, heavy duty axial fans and desiccant dehumidifiers.

5. Property Stabilization

Once the space is dry, the team will stabilize the property by applying site-specific drying techniques that minimize secondary water damage. 

For example, the drying equipment can be focused on crumbling drywall or buckling floors. Addressing secondary water damage stabilizes the property and preps it for restoration.

6. Site Cleanup

As the drying phase progresses, water mitigation crews clear out debris, identify salvageable items and begin the cleanup process. 

This includes disinfecting all affected surfaces and materials and preparing the site for water damage restoration work. 

How Does Water Restoration Work?

Water restoration is a very different process.

water restoration techniques

1. Material Tear-Out

The water damage restoration process begins by tearing out damaged materials such as soaked drywall, buckled flooring and warped baseboards.

2. Repairs and Replacements

Materials that aren’t badly water-damaged are assessed to determine if they can be repaired or must be replaced.

3. Mold Removal

Water damage technicians locate and remove all mold in affected areas and confirm that interior humidity levels are stable and back to normal.

4. Complete Restoration

This final phase of work involves repairing, rebuilding and replacing interiors so that the property is restored to its original condition.

Are There Different Types of Water Mitigation?

sewage backup in chicago home
Sewage backup is category 3 water damage that needs to be handled by restoration professionals.

After a flood event, a water mitigation team will base their services on the class of water damage in your space.

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Class 1: This is the least severe type of water damage. It occurs when a small area of the surface is affected by water or moisture, which covers less than 5% of the total surface area. 
  • Class 2: This type of water damage is more significant, with more porous materials being affected by water or moisture. The impacted area covers 5% to 40% of the total surface area. 
  • Class 3: This is the most severe type of water damage. It usually involves large areas of the surface being affected by water or moisture, covering more than 40% of the total surface area. 
  • Class 4: This type of water damage is unique and usually involves materials that do not easily absorb water. These materials may have “deeply held or bound water” that requires longer drying times and specialized drying methods. Examples of such materials include concrete, hardwood, and plaster.

Common Misconceptions About Water Mitigation and Restoration

If you’re dealing with water damage in your home or business, you may be thinking about taking care of it yourself. Consider these misconceptions and risks before you take on the work.

Misconception 1: Replacements Are Cheaper

Don’t assume that replacing damaged belongings and furniture saves money. The cost of restoration is often much lower than what you’d pay for new items. A full-service restoration company knows how to identify and clean salvageable furnishings and items such as appliances, electronics and personal belongings.

contents restoration after water damage

Misconception 2: Air Drying Is Cost-Effective

Your property will eventually dry without mitigation. However, air drying isn’t cost-effective. Moisture that remains in floors and behind walls degrades materials and compromises their condition. It breeds unhealthy mold growth that spreads through the damp environment. The delayed cost of addressing these problems quickly increases.

Misconception 3: DIY Water Mitigation Is Doable

If you’re comfortable working with water extraction equipment, you can rent small systems from home improvement centers. If you’re dealing with Category 2 or 3 water, you need to suit up with OSHA-approved PPE gear. Structural drying is a crucial part of the process and requires additional equipment. Overall, it’s easier and safer to let industry-certified professionals take care of water mitigation.

Need Water Damage Mitigation at Your Chicago Home or Business? We Can Help

Whether you’re facing water damage at the house or work, it can seem overwhelming. By understanding the difference between mitigation and restoration, you know what to expect from the recovery process.

water mitigation vans in chicago il

Here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, we provide a full line of water damage mitigation services and expert water damage restoration.

We’re your one-stop shop for complete property recovery in Chicago and the suburbs, and we’re here for you 24/7. Just give us a call: 773-647-1985

How long does it take to dry out water damage?

The time it takes to dry your structure will depend on a few factors, including how severe the water damage was, what caused it, what kind of home you live in, and what material(s) were affected. The average drying time is about 3-5 days, although it can be shorter or longer depending on the considerations above. 

When you might need water mitigation?

You may need water mitigation services if you’ve experienced any of the following:
A storm that floods your basement or crawlspace. When this happens, the water can easily spread into the home. When it does, it can set the stage for termites, mold, and other issues. 
A roof leak that affects your home’s foundation. Water near the foundation affects the stability of your home, and can cause black mold to form in the attic. 
A burst water heater. When water fills your garage, it can damage or destroy your personal belongings and seep into your living space – causing even more damage.