During a residential Category 1 water intrusion, water flows under cabinets and wicks into the wall assembly behind them.
In a commercial Category 1 water intrusion, water flows across the floor into a metal framed, insulated wall assembly covered with gypsum board and ceramic tile.
In both projects the restorer is faced with a crossroad: dry in place or demo to open these assemblies. Traditionally, in the residential example we would see the restorer remove the cabinets, cut open the wall, and dry the assembly behind. In the commercial example, we would see most restorers remove the tile and dry the open assembly. This achieves the objective of getting the building dry, and on some projects will be the correct answer. Since this demo-heavy strategy is successful in drying the building, why consider another approach? I can think of at least two reasons.
Rising construction costs and limited availability of resources are strong motivation to look for more refined and creative approaches to drying. Due to elevated costs, drying more materials in place for longer periods of time has become a very cost-effective approach, while increasing profitability for mitigation contractors. Additionally, availability of materials and qualified labor is becoming more strained. It is reasonable to conclude that this trend will continue to intensify. Adjusting now will put professional restorers on a firm footing.
What adjustments can be made?
When considering the residential example of drying a wall assembly with cabinets on them, why consider drying those in place? One reason is the amount of time needed to order and receive cabinets. Unless you are ordering in-stock, flatpack cabinets, many cabinet manufacturers are 3-6 months out for fulfilling custom orders. Imagine the unexpected cost and inconvenience a family would experience if their kitchen was removed for that period of time. Consider drying cabinets in place when it is practical to do so.
As with drying any assembly, it is not the inability to dry the air or warm the water in the assembly that creates the challenge. The solution lies in getting airflow to the water and allowing resulting vapor to escape.
When drying cabinets, drill holes to inject airflow under the cabinets and then also into the wall assembly behind the cabinets. Setting screws so that they can reach the wet materials behind will ensures all areas are dried thoroughly.
In some cases, it may be necessary to completely remove the floor and back wall of cabinets that will ultimately be replaced to remove moldy materials prior to drying. If entire cabinets must be removed to address contamination issues, install temporary shoring under the countertops where cabinets must be removed and leave other cabinets in place. This allows the kitchen to be used after remediation and drying until new cabinets can be installed.
In a commercial setting, the interruption of business operations is usually the primary concern of the occupants and owners. The example given earlier of walls covered by tile on the one hand represents a drying challenge and on the other represents significant disruption and time for demo and repair. How can you mitigate the interruption, time, and cost? Get warm airflow to the water in assemblies to get them dry with minimal demo.
In the example given, getting airflow to the bottom of the wall assembly was the challenge to meet. PEX pipe was run from the top of the wall assembly to the bottom to deliver significant amounts of air to the wet insulation and gypsum from an air injection system. Ambient air conditions were increased to 85ºF. This combination provided the warm, dry air that was generated by dehumidification into the wall assembly where the water was located. The result? Complete drying of the wall assembly with minimal repairs needed.
Why consider limiting demolition? In addition to added convenience to customers, and saving money for insurers, drying with limited demolition is more profitable. Additionally, less demolition means fewer people needed to complete the work.
Is it accurate to say that limiting demolition is more profitable? In most cases the answer is yes. The additional profit is generated by reducing costly labor and increasing profitable equipment usage. Resist the temptation to look at the lower construction revenue and confuse it with lower profit.
How do you implement these changes? The first step is to recognize the importance of the change for your organization.
If you don’t feel that the change is necessary, you won’t be motivated to make it. Once you are convinced that reducing demo will increase profitability and reduce the use of your extremely valuable personnel, it’s time to implement practical change.
Clear guidance through written direction will help your production and estimating staff to understand exactly what the goal is. Simply saying ‘do less demo’, will have little or no effect on actual operations. Address specific assemblies that your company faces regularly and create step-by-step directions on how to handle them. Then track the implementation of that direction.
Education is also a critical component. Education should always be an investment. Unfortunately, it often is not. Whether you select online training or in person hands-on courses, select your training organization based on the quality of that academy, not the convenience of dates or locations. I can’t imagine that is the criteria you would use to select higher education for your children. It shouldn’t be the criteria for drying education for your staff.
Ask yourself, ‘has this academy created a system to teach your staff to dry more effectively, or are they simply filling a gap as a gateway to qualify people to take a certification exam?’ One way to know is to look at Google or Facebook reviews. If one training organization has a higher number of better Google reviews then another, that’s a good indication that your staff is going to receive more valuable training. Importantly, it is also a good indication that you will get a solid return on your investment.
Adapting drying methods to a project or customer is something that a professional restorer does every day. We also need to adapt to a changing work environment. Those changes require more tools in our drying toolbox. Doing less demo and using more equipment is a change that
just makes sense.