Until recently, floor coverings were usually wool, very expensive, and may or may not have had a fitted felt pad underneath to support them. Most had a backing of some kind, usually jute, and were tacked over a wood floor or concrete slab. When saturated by flooding, they were rolled-up and removed to a “Cleaning Specialist” for intense lathering, scrubbing and rinsing to remove any and all contaminants. After this, the carpet was dried on a special rack. Despite efforts to keep them from shrinking, the vigorous washing and drying process usually resulted in a major size change from the original—rendering it useless. The felt padding was simply discarded.
While the cleaning was taking place, all the windows in the home were opened to let the “fresh air” dry the affected rooms. However, unless you lived in an area with single digit humidity, your floors warped, and mold and dry rot developed in the walls and other poorly ventilated areas. Water damage was a true disaster.
In the 1950s new synthetic carpets appeared and were installed in just about every room of the house. They still had jute backings, however, and therefore all the same problems still applied. The big advance came with the new padding. They were fabricated of sponge and rubber or urethane.
In spite of the above progress, carpets and pads were still being removed for drying. Since they were unmanageably heavy when wet, carpets were often cut in order to be transported efficiently. The entire restoration process now included drying the floors, walls and any other dampness, but the process was slow and often disrupted the flood victim’s life for weeks.
Reinstallation was a nightmare. Cut carpet sections may or may not have dried at the same rate, meaning the pieces of the “puzzle” may or may not fit together again. Fresh padding would have to be purchased, as well as any other affected materials that sustained damage. The job was complicated and costly with few reliable people available to complete the work.
By the 1960s, in-home steam cleaning became commonplace, but the process usually added even more moisture to an already saturated carpet. The “Cleaned” carpets were still very hard to dry, and shrinking remained a problem. Also, sub-surfaces did not always dry thoroughly, so mold and mildew set in with their accompanying odors and permeating stench. Because of this, insurance companies routinely replaced wet carpets and padding and much salvageable and expensive material was thrown away.
The 1970s saw the dawn of true on-site flood restoration work. Extractors, compression rollers, air-movers and dehumidifiers all became standard drying equipment. By the late 1980s, most any large, permanent structure could be restored with a minimum of disruption.
Today, water damage is a job for professional restorers who can minimize damage to your home by prompt thorough action that will bring your contents and structure as close to pre-loss condition as possible. With modern techniques, it is possible to restore water damaged materials, and sometimes, even improve their condition because the professional restorer will leave your home freshly cleaned and dry.