To begin, let’s try to define what we mean about the 3-Day Drying concept. Essentially, this is a mindset where some believe nearly all water damage restoration projects can be returned to pre-loss moisture content in 3-days or less. There are a ton of theories regarding the origin of this – some more plausible than others as you would imagine – and, at least to my knowledge, none fully confirmed. Is the origin important? I think not, but what is important, regardless of origin, is the fact that the myth is still something professional restorers are forced to contend with when dealing with entities who believe it is true.
I decided to revisit this topic because one of our teams recently experienced an interaction with an adjuster who either truly believes the myth or works for a carrier where belief in the myth has shaped the way they handle water damage claims. I’ll provide a bit of loss background first to help paint the picture, then I’ll share some of the interaction between our team and the adjuster as insight into how the situation was addressed.
The source of loss was a failed supply line to a bathroom sink on the first floor of the property. The first notice of loss stated: “Water pipe broke downstairs bathroom under the sink. Standing water about 6″ right now and needs water mitigation. Wooden floor possible damage on whole first floor. It is reaching all rooms.”
- Notice received at 5:55pm 1-28-2023 (Saturday)
- Mitigation team arrived on-site at 7:40pm 1-28-2023
- Initial report sent to adjuster, 8:40am, Monday, 1-30-2023
- Response from adjuster, 2:45pm, Monday, 1-30-2023, indicating no extended drying past 3-days was approved, and all equipment must be removed on 1-31-2023
Based on our technician’s initial report, the loss was as extensive as indicated. Approximately 1,000 square feet of glued down (over concrete substrate) laminate flooring was affected, as were walls at baseboard level and all hardwood kitchen cabinetry. The initial report to the adjuster indicated the extent of the damages, highlighting the damage to low evaporation (Class 4) materials, recommendation of flooring removal, and our estimation that drying would exceed 3-days (this particular carrier insists any drying over 3-days must be approved by the handling adjuster, and failure to receive that approval results in their right to only pay for the initial 3-days).
- Note from adjuster, 1-30-2023 at approx. 2:45pm: … “there is no authorization for the extension of the THREE days of dry-out. You should be completed in the evening hours of 01/31”
- Our team’s response, 1-30-2023 at 4:17pm: …”One more bit of clarification if you would please…
If I understand you correctly, what you are instructing is for our team to cease the drying of this structure to pre loss moisture content per the standard of care as defined by the current version of the ANSI IICRC S-500?
We ask for this clarification because we are confident all affected materials will not be returned to pre loss moisture content by the date you dictated, and the possibility of secondary damage from elevated moisture content and increased relative humidity exists.
This is a Class 4 water loss and the amount of affected materials, including significant water absorption into and under the hardwood flooring and hardwood cabinetry, in our professional opinion, will be problematic if abandoned and create a potential liability issue. It is our responsibility, as a professional restorer to inform you of the “so what” to prematurely stopping the drying process.”
- Adjuster’s response, 1-30-2023 at 5:27pm: …”Based on your recommendation, authorizing one more day of dry-out with no removal of flooring or cabinets. If need be, we will make that determination when our Field Adjuster does the inspection. Is one more day going to complete the dry-out?
Please upload progress photos and dry-out logs of areas that are still in need of dry-out.”
There’s a lot to unwind in this brief exchange to fully understand what’s happening on both sides of the fence. I want to highlight a few points:
- The adjuster is clearly operating under strict carrier guidelines regarding water damage mitigation exceeding 3-days. Having significant insight into this, I can tell you this particular carrier (and several others in Florida) have adopted the practice of requiring permission to exceed 3-days of drying as a measure to protect themselves from the supposed unscrupulous contractors who habitually charge for drying more than 3-days. Those contractors unaware of the carrier’s requirement to seek permission will only be paid for the first 3-days and nothing more. So, know the rules or be prepared to fight a battle you likely will not win.
- Know the standard and speak its language when presented with a situation where you are being directed outside of the standard’s left and right limits. Ensure you articulate your position to all Materially Interested Parties (MIP) – not only the entity dictating the restriction.
- As you can see from this example, maintain detailed notes and other pertinent documentation (photos, emails, texts, moisture content and psychometric readings, etc.) so you have a comprehensive record of what transpired on each job.
- Ensure your Work Contract includes language to protect you from liability in the event you choose to walk away from a project where a limitation or conflict cannot be resolved.
I’m positive many contractors have experienced the same situation highlighted in this example. Why am I revisiting this now? I think it is important to keep this topic in the forefront because many contractors in our industry are starting to embrace the concept and benefits of establishing a drying plan that focuses on as little materials removed as possible to mitigate the scope/cost of the loss. Drying materials in place, to the extent possible, should be the way ahead as it truly provides a win-win for all MIPs. This is an important part of this topic because the concept of drying materials in place (as opposed to just tearing out most affected materials), will most often increase drying times, but also typically decrease reconstruction costs and cause less disruption to the insured. This increase in drying time is in direct conflict with the existing 3-day drying myth.
The key to success, in my opinion, is education. When presented with a scenario where the 3-day drying becomes a potential limitation or conflict, educate MIPs about the benefits of a drying plan that limits controlled removal of materials and how extended drying times will not likely increase the total cost of the claim. Help them see past the initial water damage mitigation.
Until next month,
Nasty 7 out.