Believe it or not, the material or surface that covers an artifact, structure or floor can make a vast difference in the water restoration process. 

One key element in this regard is porosity. Porosity can determine whether or not an item or artifact can be deemed as salvageable and can significantly slow down, or speed up, the remediation process. 

In light of this, it is important that a remediation technician take note of the materials that have come in contact with water in order to devise a plan that will effectively restore the water-impacted environment back to its original state. 

What Is Porosity?

Webster’s dictionary defines porosity as: “the ratio of the volume of interstices of a material to the volume of its mass”. 

Simply put, porosity can be referred to as the amount of empty spaces within a specified material that can be permeated by liquid. 

For example, a sponge is more porous than a brick would be, though water can penetrate both. Glass and metal, on the other hand, are considered non-porous materials, and cannot be penetrated by water. 

What Role Does Porosity Play in Remediation?

The role that porosity plays in remediation efforts is extremely important. Whether or not a material or surface is porous is indicative of how it will be treated, whether or not it can be salvaged and what will need to be done to ensure that the affected surface or material can safely remain in use.

As such, a remedial technician will determine what materials within an affected structure have been impacted by water and how it should be handled, based on the type of water that has infiltrated the building. 

Thus, determining and addressing both porous and non-porous materials correctly is crucial in the drying and treating process.

What Types of Porosity Are There?

There are three levels of porosity that remediators come in contact with: high porosity, low porosity and non-porous surfaces. 

High-Porosity: Highly porous surfaces or materials that have been affected by water are of great concern to remediators. Depending on the type of water and the extent to which the material or surface in question has been soaked, items affected may be deemed salvageable or unsalvageable by a technician. There are many other factors that contribute to this determination as well, and clients will need to defer to the best judgement of their remediator as to whether or not a highly porous item or material can be safely kept. 

Examples of highly porous materials include:

  • Carpet
  • Carpet Padding
  • Fabrics

Low-Porosity: Materials lower in porosity are often difficult to permeate, and don’t tend to be as readily affected by water as their highly porous counterparts. Having said that, these materials and surfaces can, in fact, be penetrated, especially when impacted by large volumes of water for extended periods of time. As such, surfaces and materials affected will either be done away with, kept or treated, depending on the level to which they’ve been impacted.

Bear in mind that low porosity materials will require extensive, unique, and, at times, time-consuming means of drying to ensure the overall safety of the materials and surfaces jeopardized. 

Examples of low porosity materials and surfaces include: 

  • Wood
  • Brick
  • Stone
  • Concrete

Non-Porous: Non-porous surfaces don’t have void spaces, making them impermeable by fluids. These surfaces are often simply cleaned and treated for safety. 

Examples of non-porous surfaces would be:

  • Glass
  • Metal
  • Plastics

Commonly Affected Materials and Remediation Protocol

The following are a few of the most common surfaces and materials encountered by remediation professionals, and how they are handled within various scenarios. 

Carpet and Padding: Carpet and padding is one of the most common surface materials that remediators face, and is also one of the most well-defined in terms of treatment. 

Once a carpet and its padding has been affected by water, the remediator typically has three options: 

1. The carpet and padding are dried in place.

2. The padding is discarded, but the carpet surface is kept, treated and set back in place.

3. Both the carpet and padding are discarded. 

The determination as to which method is employed is usually dependent upon the category of loss, or the type of water that has affected the materials. Other considerations may also be involved, as deemed necessary by your technician.

All in all, if your carpet or padding comes in contact with Category 3, or highly unsanitary water, then both the carpet and the padding will have to be replaced, with little exception. 

Oriental Rugs: Oriental rugs, along with other highly valuable porous materials, are one of the exceptions to the Category 3 rule. While you technically should discard these types of material after it has been in contact with contaminated water, there are instances in which a remediator may consider treating the item with antimicrobial chemicals to assist in controlling the growth of bacteria and fungi. 

Even then, the expectation is that a third-party inspector comes in to ensure that the item has been properly sanitized and is safe. This can be an expensive process, so clients must personally consider whether or not keeping the porous item affected is worth the money, time and effort.

Hardwood Flooring: As a low-porosity surface, hardwood flooring will require specialized drying procedures and techniques to get the job done effectively. In addition, the restoration of waterlogged hardwood flooring is unique in that proper restoration, if the flooring can be restored at all, is highly dependent upon the type of material it consists of.

While most hardwood is generally composed of wood of some type, the amount of natural wood present within floorboards makes all the difference. Floorboards that retain the highest amounts of natural wood have increased chances of surviving a major water loss event.

In addition, the amount of time that the hardwood floor sat logged with water is also crucial when determining whether or not hardwood flooring can be restored back to its original state. Ultimately, it will be up to the restorer to use his or her best judgment when determining whether or not hardwood flooring should be replaced.

Cement: Not often affected by water, this low porosity floor type is often thoroughly dried mainly to avoid secondary damages, as other structures and materials that come into contact with affected cement may absorb its moisture. 

Vinyl: If vinyl becomes affected by water, it usually has to be replaced. This is because the surface can act as a vapor barrier, making it virtually impossible to dry the foundational subflooring, beneath. 

Various Non-Porous Surfaces: For non-porous surfaces affected by a water loss event, the normal course of action is to thoroughly clean and sanitize their external facets, to ensure the safety of all surfaces throughout the structure. 

Porosity Is Key in the Restoration Process

To summarize, the porosity of a material, or lack thereof, makes all the difference in how that item or surface is treated. From high porosity to low, clients will want to defer to the expertise of a professional remediation expert for determinations as to what extent the materials and surfaces in their home or business have been negatively impacted by water.