A Note from the Editor: This is the first of a 3-part series by someone long-considered a structural drying expert. R. David Sweet has been an independent adjuster, owned and run his own restoration company for more than two decades, has a number of IICRC and other designations and certifications, is a Registered Third Party Evaluator, and more. This series breaks down his capstone project created to earn his Certified Mold Professional designation through the RIA. It has been read and vetted by a number of industry peers, and carefully walks through the difficult truth that many structures are not being totally dried by contractors. In part 2 in the November issue, Mr. Sweet will dive into industry standards for water damage and mold remediation, and covers the drying process step-by-step.
As an IH, Registered Third Party Evaluator (RTPE) and through my expert engagements, I have had the opportunity to review and offer an expert opinion on hundreds drying projects throughout the United States. These projects occurred in a variety of structure types, over all four seasons, and in all kinds of climates. Over time, I started seeing an interesting commonality develop in many of these projects. As we begin, I need to make clear the fact that almost without exception, individual restorers, and the collective industry, desire to do the right thing both professionally and for the benefit of their clients.
However, I find my evaluations (which are the impetus of this paper’s subject) bring to light the very uncomfortable truth – while we intend and attempt to offer clean, safe structures, there is a vast gap between our intended goals and values, and the delivered work product.
That said, personally knowing these men and women, I believe the issue is not intent nor the desire for excellence, but instead a deficiency in the breadth and quality of the education available to them. These individuals and companies are proactively up to date with what is being
offered educationally, and yet, projects fail. And, if our best and brightest are faltering, what does that say of the remainder of industry as a whole? If our leaders are struggling to create successful outcomes, what type of work product will become our baseline as professionally competent work – and is it really?
As an educator, I must reluctantly first point my finger toward myself. Am I providing education that produces broadly competent professionals? On project after project, the end work product is sub-standard. Clearly our education is insufficient.
Our Foundational Issue: Knowing the “Why”
It is not that we cannot meter wet environments and set equipment to dry structures. We are good at doing what we are told (sometimes) and following formulas. The issue is that we engage the project without completely understanding why we should do one thing or another. Our choices are not thoroughly reasoned so we can produce a consistent and predictable result. We lack the understanding of how structural materials respond to our actions and the environments they produce. We do not create drying strategies with purpose, but instead based on formulas. We should be designing drying plans with drying forces intentionally exerting specific effects on the structure, its contents, and occupants as a system. Measurable effects. But often we fail to track, confirm, manage and/or document the result of our chosen approach on the environment and materials. In the absence of the ongoing data, one cannot really know what happened let alone correlate intended effects to actual results to create an informed expectation, our evidentially supported why.
Much of our issue in making this causal link is due to incomplete and/or delayed ongoing documentation, which leaves a contractor without the knowledge to manage and support their successful (or unsuccessful) actions. It practically leaves a contractor unable to refute an allegation of a failed project, or perhaps more importantly, support a successful effort.
The lack of comprehensive documentation also has another unintended consequence: the contractor has no way to know what else they may have unknowingly done by creating the environments they produced. If they did know, they might yet have the opportunity to recover from a misstep and deliver a successful project. Because we (as an industry) lack this timely data, the restorer often produces unintended, undocumented, and very unpleasant results. While the damages, such as microbial growth, are the result of a lack of understanding and are innocently produced, they are still potentially devastating to the structure, occupants, carrier (due to an increased indemnity payment), and contractor (due to subrogation from carriers and construction defect claims from carriers/insureds) alike.