The Importance of Drying Chambers

Restorers are running and gunning in to­day’s fast-paced market, answering calls and helping customers in their times of need. Meanwhile, adjusters and TPAs tend to measure how fast we respond, and how fast buttons are clicked, as opposed to the quality of the restoration process.

Despite the industry’s evolution, one thing hasn’t changed: the homeowner still needs you to deal with their problem.

Adjusters and TPAs assume you’ll be drying the building as quickly as possible by applying the skills and equipment that deliver maximum drying efficien­cy. In addition, as restorers, we take for granted our drying equipment can handle anything we throw at it. While it’s true that equipment has become technolog­ically advanced, and drying programs for technicians in the field are always improving, it’s still imperative restorers focus on the basic fundamentals of drying.

Have you ever placed a dehumidifier on a jobsite and thought, this equipment just won’t do the job? Probably not.

Rarely do we consider that the gear we drop onsite will do anything other than work. Today’s top equipment manufacturers design products that are so reliable we don’t even consider the possibility that they might fail.

While these pint-sized units are more reliable and able to do more work than they could in the past, they still cannot overcome a jobsite that has not been setup properly. Unfortunately, restorers often fail to create drying chambers to reduce the size of the area they need to tackle.

When restorers don’t reduce the size of the area down to only the wet and affected area, they are setting up their drying job to make equipment run harder, longer, and less efficiently, costing their company valuable time and money.

The problem restorers run into is that adjusters and TPAs can easily see the difference between the pros and those who are making mistakes, even if they don’t fully understand the science behind it. Think about it this way. When someone’s job is to review file after file, they will inevitably compare the time it takes to dry between different jobs, and notice things like chamber temperatures barely increasing, or humidity levels staying relatively flat. They may not fully understand the mechanics of what is happening, but with enough experience, it’s easy to spot trends. Reviewers can easily ascertain when an affected area was not properly contained, or when a drying chamber was not erected to drive an efficient drying strategy.

Perhaps you feel like your drying strategies will be judged for using poly to enclose the environment, or maybe you’ve had an adjuster tell you, “we don’t pay for containment.”

But the fact of the matter is, your customer de­serves to have their property dried properly, and you need to have the confidence and capabilities to deliver a proper drying effort.

If you ever feel pressure to take short cuts, or lack the confidence to put the containment in place, rest assured that it’s a normal practice, and expected, to focus all of your efforts on drying the wet and affect­ed materials and not the unaffected area. You deserve to dry your buildings correctly.

Four Scenarios & Discussion Points

Here are four challenges you may encounter on your quest to dry your projects correctly, and how to successfully rebuttal the objections you might receive along the way:

#1: “It’s not that much water. You don’t need all that containment.”
“While you are correct that this is a smaller water damage loss, there is still water trapped in materials that I have to remove. The only way I can remove the water is to build a drying chamber so that I am not drying the unaffected air and the unaffected mate­rials. I want to focus the energy of the equipment solely on the wet and affected materials. With all due respect, you’re paying me to dry faster by focusing the energy and effort only on the wet materials.”

#2: “You have too much equipment.”
“I have reduced the area to the smallest possible size. This means that by creating a drying chamber, I am maximizing the effectiveness of the equipment to work in the smallest possible area. I also sized my job using the IICRC S500 calculations for air mov­ers and dehumidifiers, which allowed me to start my drying job closer to the ideal starting point. I can assure you that the equipment I need will result in materials reaching our drying goals. We will make adjustments to the equipment as needed, but my goal is to dry the materials and not create sec­ondary damages like mold.”

#3: “Do you really need to control the temperature?”
“I have to raise the temperature in the drying cham­ber to create the right conditions for drying, and then I need to control that environment to get the most effective drying scenario out of my equipment. I am not paid to dry the air; I am paid to dry the materials, and this is the way I can raise the tem­perature of the wet materials without having to raise the temperature of the rest of the building. You can’t easily dry cold materials.”

#4: “What if your containment will damage the paint?”
“Depending on the quality of paint, there might be a risk of some collateral damage from the paint peel­ing, but the cost of not containing the water damage can have two negative results. The first being that if we don’t contain the water damage, we could fail to dry the building properly and increase the chances of growing mold. The second is that if we don’t contain the water damage to prevent mold, we will have to dramatically increase the amount of equipment we need to use. This would involve more power consump­tion, more disruption, and higher costs. I recommend that we lower the cost by building a drying chamber.”

As you can see, framing the discussion is everything!

Instead of taking a hard position one way or an­other, your in-depth knowledge enables you to pro­vide reasons why you are deciding to take a certain action or justify the actions you have already taken. It can help to outline alternative solutions that are usually more costly. It’s important to provide the adjuster or property manager with context of what their options are and allow them to understand the financial impact of those decisions. By having these con­versations, you allow others to get a full sense of the bigger picture and come to a logical decision.

Are there things you shouldn’t do? Yes. Don’t suggest or outline options that will likely fail to deliver a properly executed job. I have watched project managers say, “we could take this action, but it doesn’t follow the standard and probably won’t work.” If it probably won’t work, is it really an option? Don’t cloud the ad­juster’s decisions with the possi­bility of a cheaper alternative that isn’t going to get the job done. Stick to your guns.

There are very few adjusters who would want you to skip the step of building a drying chamber if it meant you would have to install and charge them for more equipment. Whatever the plan is, have the adjuster or property manager sign off on it so you can get paid with the least amount of friction.

Exiting the Drying Chamber Discussion

This is one of those situations that delivers a win-win-win for you, your customer, and the in­surance company. By minimizing the size of the area you need to dry, you are reducing the impact to the customer and building the drying conditions you need to reach your goals. By providing the insurance company with the most efficient drying process that can be installed in that structure, they will pay for the resources you are using. Finally, you get to use more of your equipment properly and are easily able to charge and justify your actions. When the insurer saves money, they earn more profits, and when your equipment is at work, you are earning higher margin profits.

In order to get the best per­formance out of your drying equipment, and continue getting it done in the field, drying cham­bers need to be a critical part of your strategy.

Kris Rzesnoski

Kris Rzesnoski, CR, WLS, is the vice president of business development at Encircle. Kris guides the technical development of Encircle’s solutions to ensure they exceed industry expectations. With over 15 of years of experience in the restoration industry, Kris is committed to driving Encircle’s delivery of intuitive, easy-to-use solutions that allow contractors to improve productivity and profitability. Kris sits on RIA’s Restoration Council, Canadian Education Committee and is the chairman of the Estimating Committee.

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