Restorative Drying Part 3

March 20, 2011

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

Just like the first part of your visit to a doctor is to gather or update your medical history, the first step of the restorative structural drying process is to conduct a thorough evaluation of the water-damaged property.

The evaluation includes gathering information from the insured, conducting a visual inspection of damaged and adjacent areas and using a digital camera to document (source, flow, damaged items, unusual circumstances) visual observations. Moisture detection tools may also be used at this time to make a preliminary determination of the scope of the job. All the information gathered during the evaluation, including pre-existing conditions, will be carefully documented in writing.

A common pre-existing condition is carpet delamination, which is the separation of the primary and secondary backing of the carpet. This happens when carpet is wet for a prolonged period of time, which softens and weakens the adhesive that holds the backing materials together. The longer a carpet is wet, the weaker the adhesive becomes. Delamination may have happened during a previous water damage, or if the current water damage was not reported and addressed promptly.

Other pre-existing conditions that may be discovered during the inspection are: damage to structural materials from pre-existing leaks, stains on carpet or flooring, furniture damage (including nicks, scratches, water rings, worn or peeling finish and stains on upholstered furniture), damage caused by pets and mold growth that is not related to the current water damage. Any suspected pre-existing conditions discovered during the inspection will be photographed and documented in writing. If the policyholder is present, the restorative drying specialist will point out the pre-existing conditions. Information about pre-existing conditions will also be communicated to the claims representative. A restorative drying specialist will not attempt to interpret insurance policy coverage and will advise the insured to direct all questions about coverage to the claims representative.

The more time that passes between the occurrence of the damage and the evaluation by a restorative drying professional, the more difficult it becomes to assess and advise the adjuster of pre-existing conditions. That is just one of the many reasons that prompt response by a restorative drying professional to a water loss is so important.

This picture shows pre-existing damage to the backing of a carpet.

The pet urine damage is also evident on the sub-floor.

In addition to a visual inspection, the evaluation process may also include the use of moisture detection tools, which allow the restorative drying specialist to make a preliminary determination of the scope of the damage.

Moisture detection tools fall into two distinct categories: moisture sensors and moisture meters. Moisture sensors provide qualitative, yes or no information – they answer the question "what is wet?" Moisture meters provide quantitative information – they answer the question "how wet is it?" by measuring the actual degree of water saturation.

The moisture sensor is used to determine the initial boundaries of horizontal water migration. However, it is the least accurate of the moisture detection tools and has several additional limitations. It is only designed to be used on carpet and pad. We are going to learn more about moisture content later and you will see why the moisture sensor does not tell us everything we need to know. Because it does not provide quantitative or numerical information, the moisture sensor does not tell us whether we are making progress in drying a structure.

Unlike moisture sensors, moisture meters provide quantitative measurement of the moisture in the air or in structural materials.The moisture meter used for measuring the moisture content of the air is called a thermo-hygrometer. It measures the temperature of the air, just like a thermometer. But it also measures how much moisture is in the air, compared to how much moisture the air could hold at that temperature when it is completely saturated. That number is expressed as a percentage and we call that "relative humidity." (have class look in Glossary to define" relative humidity.")

The percentage of moisture is relative to the temperature. We're going to learn more about relative humidity later. The thermo-hygrometer is very intricately calibrated to be highly precise and accurate. Precision is extremely important because even slight variations can affect structural drying decisions.

As we get into this presentation, you're going to learn that restorative structural drying is really all about balancing and managing evaporation and dehumidification. That's called psychrometrics and we're going to come back to that later in this blog.

We use a thermo-hygrometer to take indoor and outdoor temperature and relative humidity readings. These readings are taken regularly throughout the structural drying project and are carefully documented on a monitoring chart. Why take outside readings? We will answer that later…

In addition to the thermo-hygrometer, which measures the moisture content of the air, there are two types of moisture meters commonly used in our industry to measure the moisture content of structural materials. The two categories of meters are penetrating meters and non-penetrating meters. Penetrating and non-penetrating moisture meters are similar to the two basic types of medical tests. A penetrating meter is like an invasive medical test, such as a blood test, a biopsy or a scope. A non-penetrating meter is like a non-invasive test, such as a blood pressure reading, an x-ray or a CAT scan.

Both types of meters, penetrating and non-penetrating, are designed to measure the percentage or weight of moisture in structural materials, as compared to the weight of that material when completely dry.

Here are Penetrating Meters.

And this is a Non-Penetrating Meter.

A penetrating moisture meter is used on porous surfaces like drywall and wood. With a penetrating moisture meter, a restorative drying specialist can monitor the drying progress of structural materials with great accuracy by taking and comparing regular readings.

A non-penetrating moisture meter is used to measure the moisture content of structural materials when it is not possible or desirable to penetrate them with the prongs of a penetrating moisture meter. The meter is simply held against the surface of the material. Both penetrating and non-penetrating moisture meters are calibrated based on wood materials. For example, structural wood with a moisture content of 10% indicates that 100 pounds of that wood contains 10 pounds of water. It is not as important that we know the actual moisture content of these materials, as it is that we measure drying progress. The moisture meters commonly used in our industry are calibrated to measure percentage moisture content in wood materials.

Throughout the restorative structural drying process, information is gathered and recorded in the job file. A restorative drying professional will make every effort to communicate this information to the claims representative during the course of the job. This information will also be found in the uploaded job file – which includes a Sketch, digital photos, opening statement and the daily monitoring chart.

With the information gathered during a thorough evaluation, a restorative drying specialist is ready to make a diagnosis of the water damage situation, which will determine the scope and strategy of the drying and restoration process. The diagnosis is the second basic step of the restorative structural drying process. Join us next time when we explore the Diagnosis step.