Making it Rain | Part 2: Competent, Standards-Based Water Damage and Mold Remediation Practices

mold technician

A Note from the Editor: This is the second of a 3-part series by someone long-considered a structural drying expert. In part 1, R. David Sweet unveiled an issue plaguing the restoration industry: a lack of thorough structural drying, and how remaining vapor is creating additional hidden structural damage that is never found or addressed as experienced in his own daily business.


Whether you work in the field as a technician, or you are running a company behind a desk, it’s important everyone in the restoration industry know the standards. The goal of this article is to provide some basic information on the S500 Standard‘s requirements, pertinent facts as they apply to our project discussion, and give insight you can apply in your own projects.

An IICRC standard water loss should include the following steps:

 

IDENTIFY THE SOURCE OF LOSS

This is a policy coverage requirement. The primary questions to be answered are: Is it a clean water source? If so, did it remain clean, or contact contaminants due to Category 2 or 3 elements along its exposure path?

 

IDENTIFY THE CATEGORY/HAZARDS PRESENT ON THE LOSS

In my opinion, this step is pivotal to the success of a project, and also greatly overlooked by a lot of professional restorers.

Federal, state, local statutes, and regulations, along with best practices should dictate the way we protect our workers and occupants, identify contaminants, and determine the salvageability of materials. They should set the conditions for the work based upon identifying ALL HAZARDS PRESENT ON THE PROJECT.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) 1910.132(d)(1) states – “The employer shall assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present, or are likely to be present, which necessitate the use of personal protective equipment (aka “PPE”) …” (United States Department of Labor, 1910.132).

This clearly requires any responsible contractor to discover the full impact of any hazard created by the water (or any other hazard) or distributed contaminant on the remainder of the structure through exposure paths, even if they are only “likely” present.

Based upon this, I see no excuse but to sample comprehensively. On top of what we discover that may affect our building materials, we should consider:

  • What could/did the water or water vapor carry with it throughout the structure, both areas seen and unseen?
  • Where did the Category 3  affected  water, water vapor and/or affected materials impact the remainder of the structure?
  • What contaminants are “likely” to be present? Consider things like mold, Category 3 elements, mercury, asbestos, lead, formaldehyde, silica, and a slew of bacterial components like Coli, salmonella, streptococcus, and so much more.

As you may be surmising, the categorization of a loss could potentially require skills a contractor may not possess.

Sometimes, categorizing a loss could even create a conflict of interest with other entities involved. This possibility is considered in the IICRC Standards of Care and directs you (the restorer) to engage the necessary professional(s) whether inside or outside of your company. See the ANSI/ IICRC S500 (2021) 12.1 Introduction section.

Since an inspection is needed, the restorer should find a (C)IH and/or RTPE. I feel these are critical elements of your operation and resources you MUST have to do your projects responsibly.

In the event an inspection confirms a Category 1 environment (with no known hazards), the project should move forward. If not, stabilization of the environmental conditions will be required while the demolition, cleaning, and remediation activities are completed per the IICRC.

 

ANSI/IICRC S500 (2021) 12.1 Introduction 1.2.3

Mitigate Further Damage

“Restorers should attempt  to  control  the  spread of contaminants and moisture to minimize further

damage from occurring to the structure, systems, and contents. When contaminants are present restorers should remediate first, and then dry the structure, systems, and contents.”

In my experience, proper assessments clearly reveal the majority of water damage losses are not Category 1, but 2 or more commonly 3.

While a solid work/drying plan should economically manage the risks associated with the project, the more hazards discovered, the more complicated and economically challenging projects can become. I’d like to emphasize that controlling costs must be tempered with possibly creating future illnesses, diseases, and damages to the environment and inhabitants.

Identifying the category and all hazards present on the project can drastically affect the outcome of the project.

 

IDENTIFY THE CLASS OF THE LOSS

There are two things to consider when identifying the loss class:

  1. Does it include materials or assemblies that may require significantly higher levels of dehumidification/ vapor pressure? If present, more aggressive vapor pressure gradients may be required, and their necessity must be made clear to all involved
  2. Identification of specialty/low evaporation materials is necessary to establish the true scope of loss and expose a drying environment. This may challenge the expectation of the amount of equipment installed (dehumidification capacity) and the length of equipment installation required to return ALL assemblies and materials to pre-loss condition or achieve the drying

 

FIND ALL THE WATER AFFECTING THE STRUCTURE

The restorer needs to discover the full impact of the water on the structure and its materials, by direct water contact and by water vapor. We must assess the boundaries of both in three dimensions (L, W and H) as we map: Where did the liquid phase water go? Where did the vapor phase water go? From my experience, it is likely much farther than you would first surmise.

 

MAP IT OUT

Once all the affected areas are revealed through investigation, the standard directs us to create, at a minimum, mapped locations of moisture monitoring and hazard sampling points and equipment locations.

These documents become the backbone of all our project site documentation going forward. These anchoring documents create not only accountability for what you did, but also context for WHY you did it. There is nothing like a moisture map, thermal images, and elevated bacterial sampling on the same floorplan to cement why you treated a room as a Category 3. All MIP’s need the data, and if push comes to shove, juries are moved by it.

Nothing establishes your trustworthiness as a professional as well as proper documentation.

 

CREATE EQUIPMENT LOGS

While equipment logs are almost always cut short in one or more of the following elements, they should include location by room along with equipment descriptions, serial numbers, installation / deinstallation dates and associated project phase. If you need to review the history of your project without these, It can be an infuriating process – and make defending yourself harder if needed.

 

CREATE A DRYING PLAN

A required component of a work plan is a drying plan.

  1. There are many possible objectives to consider when engineering a good drying plan such as protecting the occupants and contractor’s team, as well as preventing further damage and cross-contamination.
    • Capture and control the humidity of the wetted
    • Calculate INITIAL dehumidifier capacity requirements:
  2. Whether creating a stabilization condition or a drying environment, we have to QUANTIFY not only how much capacity is required for THIS project, but also WHY.

The project must be managed daily according to the standards.

  1. Be prepared to be challenged consistently on the reasoning behind your actions.
  2. For calculating the air volume processed between the structure and drying chamber, begin with the IICRC Detailed Dehumidifier calculation, then adjust daily as necessary.
    • Engineering a drying plan with defined, written objectives. There is an emerging set of technologies that can assist you with this. I know of at least two thought leaders currently in the process of working on this issue.

Mr. Chuck Dewald of The Dewald School of Drying has an environmental calculator that lends a hand in, among other things, measuring ambient environments, determining equipment capacity requirements, heat control for optimal drying conditions atmospherically and a type of grading of performance of these project metrics. But producing environmental conditions is only half of the story. The other half is how well you maximize the vapor pressure differences between your ambient environment and the internal vapor pressure of your materials.

I would also like to highlight Mr. Ken Larsen of IDSO (International Dry Standard Organization). He has online tools and a reporting platform designed to measure vapor pressure differentials or delta vapor pressure gradients between the internal vapor pressure of materials and the atmospheric conditions (i.e., ambient conditions) you are producing in your drying environment.

For the first time that I’m aware of, we have a way to measure the affect of the condition(s) you are being paid to produce in a QUANTIFIABLE way. Imagine if vapor pressure gradients are determined and agreed to at the start of a project; it can produce a drying plan as well as daily metrics for adjustments which clearly display the success of the project at meeting those goals in a measurable way. I believe this is the future of our industry!

  • Manage dehumidifier capacity based upon the observed psychometric conditions produced by the equipment AND their direct effect on the wetted materials.
  • Size air mover capacity/appropriateness based upon the category of the loss, affected materials, and adjust things during the project for constant and falling rate phases of the So many people use far too much equipment once a fall rate phase has initiated, and file reviewers will look for it. Purchase an anemometer and document proper airflow.
  • Control atmospheric particulate distribution with air filtration devices (AFDs).

 

SET DRYING EQUIPMENT

Placement of equipment is directly linked to the drying plan and your desired objectives. Setting your equipment will become streamlined once you have a good plan in place. Please note equipment should be placed on a floorplan, and an equipment log by room should be maintained with dates installed and removed.

 

MONITOR THE SITE DAILY AND MAKE REQUIRED ADJUSTMENTS BASED UPON CONDITIONS

Using the principles described above, monitor and adjust the drying environment/equipment daily to:

  • Confirm/create appropriate temperatures, vapor pressure levels, and gradients for effective drying.
  • Adjust air movement as appropriate. Reduce once the falling rate drying phase has begun.
  • Remove affected materials and return structure and contents to category 1/condition 1.
  • Report all daily findings and your response actions/ changes to the project.

Again, please note that the S500 requires the site be stabilized while activities required to return the structure to category 1/condition 1 in the building and contents (unless they are packed out) are performed PRIOR to beginning drying efforts.

 

PROVIDE DAILY INSPECTION DATA

The S500 standard requires inspections be performed daily.

ANSI/IICRC S500 (2021) 10.9 Ongoing Inspections and Monitoring

“Once the project has been controlled and the correction of the damage has begun, the restorer should continue gathering information through ongoing inspections and monitoring. …Restorers should record and monitor relevant moisture measurements daily, preferably at the same time of day, until drying goals have been achieved and documented…”

 

FINAL INSPECTION AND DOCUMENTATION

Verify and document dry standard and a return to category 1/condition 1 in all materials and contents.

Supply all project documentation to the MIPs (“Materially Interested Parties”). This will include invoices, drying plans, equipment logs, and any other data generated by third parties (IEP reports, remote monitoring, engineering reports, RTPE Drying Plans). Your final report should be the direct result of how you followed the standards.

Much like the success of a building project is found in the quality of its foundation, our project’s ultimate success is largely determined in these Initial activities.

 

R. David Sweet

David SweetAfter a short period in the capital finance markets, David became an all-lines adjuster for 5 years and subsequently founded a full- service restoration firm. He has 20+ years of experience as a CEO, COO, expert witness, and consultant, and has become extremely proficient in mitigation and remediation processes. Seeing a great need for increased efficiency, fairness, and innovation in an ever-demanding industry, he set about solving the daily issues facing the average restoration contractor. He now is passionately pursuing sharing this knowledge to benefit his peers and have a positive effect on this complex industry. David’s vision of transparent fact-based, claims processing environments serves all parties – insured, carrier, and contractor.

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