Due to our friend gravity floors are often the most commonly affected element of a building when there’s water damage and since carpeting is the most common type of floor covering it stands to reason that water damaged carpets and water damaged carpet pad occurs more frequently than not when water damage comes knocking. More often than not, carpets are salvageable in a clean water loss situation; whereas carpet padding may or may not be salvageable based on certain other factors such as the material making up the subfloor. As an example over a concrete subfloor the carpet pad can be salvageable, but if the subfloor is wood then the water damage carpet pad should be removed in order to get air moment to the wood subfloor.
Carpet and carpet pad can be saved most times due to them being highly permeable allowing a high degree of evaporation. The first step would be to extract as much of the water from the carpet and pad as possible and then install the correct amount of dehumidification and air movement to allow optimal evaporation. The best type of water extraction is weighted extraction and is usually accomplished by use of a pump and ride-on or weighted extraction unit. The idea is to use weight to compress the water damage carpet and carpet pad to extract the most water. Weighted water extraction can extract up to 95% of the water from the carpet, pad and subfloor which drastically speeds up the drying time.
You never know what’s under the carpet and carpet pad (cushion or underlay) which is why it’s always a good thing to check. Sometimes there is hardwood flooring under the water damage carpet pad which would require the wet carpet and carpet pad to be removed and the carpet can be dried somewhere else. This will help prevent damage to the hardwood floor and allow the hardwood floor to dry too. Water damaged hardwood floors can be dried. Once the hardwood floor and carpet are dried, new carpet pad can be reinstalled over the hardwood floor and the dry carpet relayed. The same applies to subfloors made from other wood-based materials (particularly plywood) – the carpet and pad need to be removed so the subfloor can dry effectively.
Methods to dry water damaged carpets:
1. Floating the carpet: This process involves disengaging the carpet form the carpet tack strips, removing and discarding the wet unsalvageable carpet pad (which gets replaced once everything else is dry) then re-engaging the carpet with the tackstrips and floating the carpet on a layer of warm dry air to dry it out together with the subfloor with the use of one or more airmovers and dehumidified air. The carpet should be re-engaged to prevent flapping and possible carpet delamination.
2. Partial Floating: This process involves disengaging a small section of carpet and then without removing any carpet pad the carpet is floated using one or more air movers and dehumidified air. the idea is to trap the hot dry air between the carpet and carpet pad to dry it out. After this process, the carpet will need to be retrenched and reattached to the tack strip.
3. In-place or top-down drying: This process is the least destructive and still as effective in a clean water loss situation. It involves leaving the carpet and pad in place and drying out both by blowing hot dry air over the top of the carpet causing evaporation by removing the boundary layer through laminar airflow. This process could take up to a day longer, but when you’re using the same air movement and dehumidifiers to dry out water damaged drywall too then it actually saves quite a bit of money by not requiring carpet pad replacement or re-stretching of the carpet.
Note: if the category of water damage is two (grey water) then the carpet pad should always be removed and replaced once the water damaged carpet and subfloor are dry. The subfloor should also be sprayed with an antimicrobial to prevent bacterial amplification and microbial growth. Antimicrobials should be applied in sufficient quantities to saturate the subfloor. If the water damage is category three (black water damage) then the carpet and carpet pad is unsalvageable and both need to be thrown out. Antimicrobials needs to be applied to the subfloor and then dried as required.