Restorative Drying Part 1

February 11, 2011

Most people outside the insurance and restoration industries believe that water damage is caused by severe storms, flash floods or hurricanes. Yet those of us in the industry know that most water damage claims result from other causes and that they are quite frequent. In fact, most of us will experience water damage in our own home at least once during our lifetime.

Common Causes of Water Damage:

  • Fire suppression (fire department)
  • Accidents and negligence
  • Faulty or damaged plumbing
  • Faulty or damaged construction
  • Defective appliances or fixtures
  • Natural causes – floods, hurricanes
  • Willful misconduct and vandalism

There are a variety of circumstances that can cause water damage in a home. In a fire loss situation, the fire department may introduce gallons of water to a structure to extinguish a fire causing additional damage. Accidents happen and even otherwise conscientious people sometimes don’t realize the potential consequences of carelessness. Would you believe that many hotels have actually begun to post signs on the sprinkler heads in guest rooms that say, “Do not hang clothing here”? Faulty, damaged or poorly maintained plumbing can produce a broken pipe or a toilet that overflows. A construction defect can result in a roof leak or a crack in the foundation that allows moisture to penetrate. Among the most common causes of water damage are broken washing machine hoses and ice maker supply lines. Natural disasters like severe storms, floods and hurricanes are obvious culprits. And in rare cases, an ill-considered prank or vandalism is to blame.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, water damage affects over a million homes every year, resulting in billions of dollars in insurance claims. All too often after a water damage, consumers turn to reconstruction rather than restorative drying firms largely due to a lack of information. Not using restorative drying probably cost the public millions of dollars each year. Compared with reconstruction, restorative drying will not only reduce the severity of a water damage claim, but will also reduce the time required to replace structural materials and contents, which will enable the claim to be closed more quickly.

Some restoration firms make the error of saying that they do water damage. At ServiceMaster Anytime, we don’t “do water damage,” we offer water damage restoration. So, you may be asking, “what exactly is restorative drying?” Well, obviously, the key word here is “restorative”. What do you think the word “restore” means? The dictionary says that “restore” means “to bring back to a former or original state or condition”. So the goal of restorative drying is to return a water damaged structure to the condition it was in prior to the water damage – in other words, pre-loss condition. And because the longer structural building materials remain wet, the worse the damage can become, we want to do this as quickly as possible, to prevent additional damage and expense.

Twenty years ago, the word “restoration” was really an overstatement of the service provided by most companies in this industry. What we really offered was a wet carpet service. We extracted the water, removed and replaced the carpet pad and dried and re-installed the carpet.

Today, we know that true restoration is much more than just drying wet carpet. It includes proper evaluation and drying of structural materials like flooring, sub-flooring, drywall and framing components. An increased understanding of the science and principles of drying, as well as the availability of better equipment, have enabled us to do more restoring and less reconstruction and replacement. Instead of automatically replacing materials, in most cases, we can cost-effectively dry them. Throughout this process, we must constantly evaluate the cost of restoration versus the cost of replacement for each component within the building – from carpet and pad to drywall, baseboards, wood floors, furnishings and other contents.

We’re going to examine the water damage restoration in four basic steps:

  • Evaluation
  • Diagnosis
  • Restoration
  • Completion

The analogy of a medical doctor is helpful to illustrate the four parts of the restorative structural drying process. As with a medical exam, proper restoration begins with knowing what is happening in the structure. Just as a doctor examines all the signs and symptoms of a patient before he or she makes a diagnosis, a restorative drying specialist performs a thorough evaluation of the water-damaged structure to determine the proper course of action. With a medical diagnosis as a foundation, a doctor then looks for the treatment option that will be the most effective, with the least disruption to the patient and the lowest possibility of side effects. In water damage language, we call the treatment “restoration” and we call the side effects “secondary damage”. After the medical treatment is performed or administered, a follow-up exam ensures that the treatment has been effective. Such issues as politely setting expectations for deductible collection (something we do at the beginning of services) and the communication with the customer when we show up at the door are our way of practicing good “bedside manners.”

The process of restorative structural drying is based on answering these fundamental questions:

1. What is wet?

2. How wet is it?

3. Is it drying? and

4. Is it dry?

Join us for the next post as we dive into the fundamental questions.

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