Restorative Drying Part 2

March 3, 2011

Last time we left off asking these questions for the process of restorative structural drying;

1. What is wet?

2. How wet is it?

3. Is it drying? and

4. Is it dry?

The first question, "what is wet?" is not as simple as it sounds. The answer to this question rarely stops at what we can see or feel. For example, we may be able to see that the carpet is wet, but we also need to know if the sub-floor beneath the carpet is wet. We may be able to see that the drywall is wet, but we also need to know if the insulation is wet. Some things we can see, like the bubbled drywall tape or the obvious water staining on the ceiling. But some things we can't see. In addition to the obvious areas like walls, ceilings and floors, a restorative drying specialist will also evaluate adjacent and hidden areas for water migration and saturation. Such areas might include the interior of wall cavities, the areas under cabinets or fixtures and the HVAC system. Here a technician looks for water inside the ducting by lifting a floor register cover.

In addition to inspecting adjacent and hidden areas that may be affected, a restorative drying specialist follows another general rule of moisture inspection, which is to start at the source of the water and examine everything in its downward path to the lowest level of the building, including basements and crawlspaces. Special attention is given to structural materials that readily absorb or attract moisture, like carpet and drywall. These "water-loving" materials are called "hygroscopic" materials. Since basements and crawlspaces are often poorly ventilated, it is extremely important to include these areas in the drying strategy, as they will take much longer to dry naturally, or may not ever dry completely on their own. If wet structural materials or contents remain undetected and are not targeted and monitored during the drying process, there is a risk of mold growth or other secondary damage.

Just like a doctor can sometimes look at a patient and see exactly what is wrong, a restorative drying specialist can see obvious wet areas. But just knowing "what is wet?" is not enough. That is a "Qualitative" yes or no question. We need to answer the second question, "how wet is it?" (a "Quantitative question). And for that, obviously, we're going to need some special tools.

Just like a doctor uses a stethoscope to listen to your heart or a pressure cuff and monitor to take your blood pressure . . . a restorative drying specialist uses special tools and meters to determine the extent to which water or moisture has affected different structural materials and contents. These measurements and readings provide the answer to the second fundamental question, "how wet is it?" They enable the restorative drying specialist to thoroughly assess the water damage problem and determine the proper course of action. Without the quantification provided by these tools and instruments, a restorative drying specialist cannot make proper decisions, measure drying progress or verify that the job is complete.

The third fundamental question, "is it drying?" is a key component of the restoration. Progress is the key. If drying progress can be measured over time, we know that the material is capable of being dried. Precise measurements, documentation and analysis either confirm that the drying methods being used are effective, or prompt the restorative drying specialist to make adjustments to the drying strategy.

So, Measurement and Documentation are the two systems we use to answer the 4 Fundamental Questions during the drying process and to communicate that information to you, the homeowner or the insurance claim representative.

And finally, just like a doctor keeps a meticulous medical chart for each patient, a restorative drying specialist keeps careful documentation of each step in the structural drying process. The consistent measurement and documentation of moisture levels at regular intervals throughout the job provides confirmation that the restorative structural drying process was successful and creates a permanent record of the job. This permanent record becomes extremely important if the results of the drying are ever questioned or if litigation ensues.

That brings us to the fourth and final fundamental question – "is it dry?" There is considerable debate in this industry over how long it takes to complete a drying job. Some say it takes three days, some say five days, some say a week. Many jobs can be completed in three days. However, some buildings simply take longer than three days to dry.

Imagine this — you're sitting in your doctor's office with a really sore throat. He's stuck that long Q-tip thing down your throat and the lab results have come back – you have strep throat. Now he's writing you a prescription for an antibiotic. Of course, all you really want to know is "when will I stop feeling like I swallowed razor blades?", translated "when will this infection be cured?"

And what does he tell you? "You may feel better in a couple days . . . or it may take a week." He gives you 10 days worth of the antibiotic and tells you to take it until it's gone. Why? Because he doesn't know how many days it will take. There's no way for him to know. Every patient is different. Every infection is different.

It's the same way with drying a water-damaged structure. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula of days or hours per square foot that can guarantee success or predict when structural drying will be complete. And just knowing that "it feels dry" is not enough. The fourth fundamental question, "is it dry?" is only confirmed through the use of moisture detection tools and meters.

Simply put, "it's dry when the measurements confirm it's dry."

Here, a restorative drying specialist checks for moisture at the bottom of a wall with a non-penetrating moisture meter. Every area that was marked as "wet" during the initial inspection phase is carefully evaluated and should indicate acceptable moisture levels before the restorative structural drying process is considered complete. We will talk more about acceptable moisture levels for different types of structural materials later.

Rather than giving you a written test at the end of the blog, we will have a periodic test and review of key concepts throughout to reinforce the material.

Here is our first one:

1.) What are the four Basic Steps in Water Damage Restoration?

Answer – Evaluation, Diagnosis, Restoration, Completion.

2) What are the 4 Fundamental Questions that we ask during the drying process?

Answer – What is wet?; How wet is it?; Is it drying?; Is it dry?

3) What are the two systems that enable us to answer those four questions and communicate the needed information to you, the insurance claim representative?

Answer – Measurement and Documentation

Now that we've looked at the four fundamental questions that will guide the restorative drying process, we're ready to examine the first basic step: evaluation. Check Back for our next Blog post on Restorative Drying