WATER DAMAGE RESTORATION BASICS

By Dan Savage

Water can be both a blessing and a curse; it’s a blessing when we are thirsty and are looking for a nice big glass of cold water to quench our thirst or a nice long hot shower after a terrible day. The curse begins when water intrudes into our home, and what should be dry is now becomes wet! Water intrusion and the damage that follows is progressive in nature, what is damp today is likely to cause swelling or distortion to building materials. If it remains wet tomorrow, the excess moisture could bring odor and microbial growth and if the elevated humidity remains; mold problems will likely take root … literally!
That’s right; swelling, warping, odor, bacterial growth, then mold and IAQ problems! What’s a property owner to do? Water intrusion doesn’t have to result in mold remediation crews removing damaged building materials. Water damage is not exactly a slippery slope … unless you allow the problem to grow by inaction, then it can be a quick slide down!
Whether it comes from internal plumbing, the sky or the ground, preventing water damage to your home is impossible, if it hasn’t happened yet, it will! Although not desirable, most building materials are restorable after getting wet, even when saturated. The critical factors in water damage restoration are humidity and time, as they will determine the extent of the damage. The good news is these factors are easily controllable, although sadly, this fact is often overlooked.
How can this be, how can these critical factors be overlooked in water damage restoration? I would assert that these factors are knowingly set aside as a result of cost savings efforts, sometimes by property owners; “it should dry out at some point” and other times by your insurance carrier’s willingness to cut corners to save their money.

10 Things You Should Know About Water Damage

  • Building materials- If “it” is designed to be dry, then “it” needs to be dry!
  • Bacteria will quickly amplify in standing water…
  • Porous building materials and room contents will “wick” and absorb moisture.
  • Mold spores can germinate in as little as 24-48 hrs.
  • Most building materials are not replaced because they got wet; they are replaced because they remained wet far too long.
  • Prolonged high humidity will change and complicate your indoor air quality
  • Water damage is progressive in nature.
  • Continued high humidity will cause damage to peripheral surfaces that are “not initially wet or damaged!”
  • Excess moisture will develop microbial odors
  • Trapped moisture will lead to mold growth!

QUESTION THE AUTHORITY
Whether you are insured or are paying out of pocket, your goal should be 100% restoration of your property. Short of that, you risk a more significant environmental problem. You should have a professional water restoration company evaluate your problem, then offer solutions to
correct the situation. Have them explain in detail what they see as damage
and their plan to fix it. Ask for an itemized or ballpark estimate of the cost
associated with the restoration of your property.
You may encounter several insurance company roadblocks to achieving
your goals and peace of mind. One problem may be your insurance
company’s contracted vendor who comes out to address the issue; if they
lack training or experience, your water damage situation may become more
complicated. Typically, franchised restoration companies are known to be
limited in knowledge, experience and other professional aspects of water
restoration; you won’t want them learning on your property.
If you use your insurance company’s “guy,” realize that you may be left
out of the decision-making process. Coordination of the project quickly
changes to your insurance company’s representative and their vendor
contractor, leaving you out of the loop. The good news is most vendor contractors will do everything possible to keep their clients happy … the bad news is you are not their client! As a “preferred” vendor, their client is the insurance company which provides them with restoration work; you and your claim become just another job.

RUN THE OTHER WAY!
Question Anyone That Says:

“Let’s let it dry on its own and see how it does” … Mold can germinate in as little as 24-48 hrs.
“I think everything is dry” …. Don’t let anyone guess whether the drying is complete.
“I’m trying to keep costs down” … Unless you, as the property owner are the one dictating frugality, cutting corners to keep cost down should be secondary to solving the problem.
“you can trust me I’m certified” … There are many options for certification, passing a test may earn a certificate, which alone doesn’t make anyone professional.
“we don’t have to use meters to monitor drying.” … Water restoration professionals will have “tools” to monitor drying.
“air scrubbers are not needed on a water restoration project.” … Every structure will have pre-existing dust, allergens, mold, etc.; the drying equipment will stir the air and may temporarily complicate indoor air quality.
“we only do what your insurance company tells us to do” … A true professional will recommend solutions based on training and experience, independent of the insurance company.
“I can’t give you my estimate, it’s intended for your insurance company” … You should know what repairs are planned for your property, and their overall costs.
“I’ve got something that will kill the mold in your home” … hazardous products in the hands of untrained individuals can lead to a dangerous situation.

WATER RESTORATION TIPS
Key Point-Air scrubbers should be incorporated in every water restoration project, as they “clean” the air as it’s filtered, reducing the chance of airborne contamination, which may cause respiratory complications.
Key Point- Porous materials will absorb excess room moisture and can cause a “secondary damage” problem on surfaces not initially wet.
Key Point- To prevent mold from growing indoors, keep your indoor relative humidity below 60%.
Key Point- Trapped moisture will lead to mold problems and change indoor air quality.
Key Point- Thorough extraction is critical to efficient drying and will help promote a quicker drying process.
Key Point- Time will transform freshwater intrusions into contaminated water situations as bacterial levels multiply.
Key Point- Time is of the essence, some mold spores can germinate in as little as 24-48 hrs, “dry” days later will not mean mold free.
Key Point- Even a small amount of water damage can cause irreversible damage to the entire finished area of your living space.
Key Point- Different sources of water (fresh water, sump pump, sewage drain) should determine different paths to recovery.
Key Point- be wary of electrical hazards in deep water situations, do not walk into deep water areas.

11 THINGS TO CONSIDER FOR DIV
As property owners we always ask ourselves; “can I do it myself and save money”? Many times the answer is yes, even if the final results are less than 100%. Sometimes, we pay professionals, and the outcome may not be much better! Who will care as much as you do about your property?
As a professional, I would say there are many projects that we look at that the average homeowner can do themselves and others that challenge us. Take an objective look at your situation and evaluate your options, be fair to yourself and know your limits!
Considerations For DIY. ..
Yes, I can- I can rent equipment and save money!
Yes, I can- I understand the basic concepts of drying
Yes, I can- Extract water, place fans for air movement, use dehumidifiers to keep the air dry!
Yes, I can- You have been successful with much more significant projects
Yes, I can- I have a high insurance deductible!
Call a professional- Can I do a thorough job of extracting?
Call a professional- Can I rent professional equipment?
Call a professional- How will I know if my walls, subfloor, or structure cavities are wet?
Call a professional- How do I monitor the drying process?
Call a professional- If hardwood flooring is wet.
Call a professional- If ceilings or multi-levels of the structure are involved.

AVOIDING MOLD
Avoiding mold issues begins with an understanding that mold spores are already in your home or workspace. These seed-like mold spores blow in and out of your structure daily; they are part of a “normal” indoor environment. As water or moist air invades our living spaces, the excess moisture becomes the trigger for the mold spores to germinate. Quick and thorough
drying is imperative to maintain healthy indoor air quality.
Some may look at water restoration as expensive and try
to minimize the problem, cut corners to save money. One
such way is In-Place Drying/Top Down drying; this type of
drying is popular with janitorial companies, “franchised”
restoration and insurance companies. This drying is
dependent on equipment pulling moisture from wall
cavities, from the carpet, padding, and subfloor, through
and from other building materials by creating a low vapor
pressure. This drying can be very effective when properly
used; the problem with this slower drying method is the
“time” it takes to accomplish drying, remember mold can
begin to grow in a 24-48 hrs. time frame. So, if drying your structure is 4-5, or 6-8 day endeavor, what do you have?
This type of drying is embraced by insurance companies as it minimizes re-finishing and repair costs. But, in the hands of a less experienced or less qualified restoration company, this type of drying can be a disaster! If trapped moisture is dried inefficiently, mold may become an unwelcome intruder inside your home!

TIPS FOR AVOIDING MOLD
Damage from water intrusion is progressive, and time is not on your side!
Dry doesn’t mean mold free; most mold problems develop because of inefficient or slow drying.
Most building materials can be wet for a short time and then dried without any lasting problems.
Water damage will quickly develop a bacterial odor as the environment remains wet.
Water damage can turn into mold damage in as little as 24-48 hrs.
Hardwood flooring will naturally absorb and release ambient moisture throughout the year; water intrusion is a different situation!
Trapped moisture will eventually dry, but the longer the area was wet, the greater chance you have of mold developing.
Don’t keep wet boxes, as they may lead to odor and mold growth.
Wood has a natural resistance to mold growth, but if left in a “damp” environment long enough, hardwood flooring and subflooring materials can evolve into a mold problem.
Hardwood flooring can absorb moisture quickly, but it releases moisture at a very slow rate.

PROFESSIONAL WATER RESTORATION
From a client’s standpoint, what should professional restoration look like? Let’s set aside that a good start is a professionally answered phone and a reasonable time frame for a return call if a message is left. We will assume that a professional restoration business will have company “lettered” vehicles and provide well-trained, uniformed employees when responding.
Unless there is widespread, local flooding, you should expect professional help within 1-2 hrs. of your call, the faster the water is mitigated, the less likely the property owner is to have permanent damage. This professional response is expected whether it’s after-hours, weekends, or holidays. True water damage professionals provide a 24-hour emergency response, 365 days a year.

CLIENT RIGHTS FOR PROFESSIONAL WATER RESTORATION
Emergency response within 1-2 hrs. of a call. Emergency response is part of the water restoration profession, and restoration professionals respond when property owners are in need of their service!
Since mold spores can begin to germinate in 24-48 hrs., it will be important that your structure is dried as quickly and efficiently as possible.
An accurate initial inspection of all affected areas is critical when developing a drying plan. The water damage technician will need to have a full understanding of how the moisture got from point A to point B, and make sure that all those moisture paths are identified for drying.
Upon request; a client should be presented with at least a “ballpark” estimate of price and explanation of the restoration plan or goals.
Thorough extraction of all affected areas with specialized tools designed for water damage mitigation.
Only drying equipment designed and manufactured for the water restoration industry should be used or placed on job sites.
Daily monitoring of the drying process is the water restoration industry standard. Technicians should provide daily inspections and monitoring. This service should be performed with tools designed to identify moisture, thus giving property owners some assurance that the restorative drying plan is working, or is completed.
Air scrubbers or Air Filtration Devices (AFD) should be incorporated into every drying plan; as a means of protecting occupants within the structure from airborne microscopic contaminants.
The professional restorer must promote and protect the property owner’s interest, and actively advocate for and recommend professional restoration industry standards.
A client should be advised by the restorer if any third-party, including an insurance company’s representative, initiates or suggests minimizing the scope of the damage, cutting corners on repairs, compromising the quality of the job. Full, timely disclosure is expected by the restorer to the property owner before any “sub-standard” plan is enacted.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
Sewage Backflow
Sewage backflow water or water back-flowing from a drain line should be considered as highly contaminated, with the likelihood of disease carrying microorganisms within the water.
The sewage water will have microscopic contamination as a result of it originating from a drain, whether or not it has a distinct color, visible debris, and noticeable odor. This biohazard contamination is microscopic and cannot be seen without significant magnification.
Our typical protocol for sewage backflow consists of removing the contaminated physical water, initial decontamination by applying a disinfection/deodorizer to all the affected areas, removal of wet carpet and pad, demolition of saturated building materials, controlled pressure washing of all contaminated wall cavities. Next, we will apply the second round of decontamination to flooring and wall cavities, and then install drying equipment to begin the drying process. Once the structural drying has been completed, to ensure the wholesomeness is restored to your living space, a thorough and complete final cleaning and disinfection is recommended.

Pre-Existing Mold Contamination
In the optimal conditions, some indoor mold spores can begin to
germinate in as little as 24 – 48 hrs, pre-existing or established growth
may start to flourish with an influx of the new moisture. In the event pre­
existing mold contamination is discovered, we will inform our clients of the
situation as soon as we become aware of it. Once the mold contamination
has been identified, we will make an effort to avoid cross-contamination of
unaffected areas if possible. Our emphasis at this point will be to quickly
and thoroughly dry the building structure, reducing the overall humidity to mitigate further mold growth.
Drying environmentally contaminated structures is often a slower process and may require your written approval or waiver to continue.
If your structure has been identified as a potential mold problem and you would like to consult with one of our Certified Mold Remediation Specialists about remediation, please advise the water restoration technician.

INSURANCE VENDOR PROGRAMS
Some insurance companies have established a “Preferred vendor” network to do all of their repair work as a way of reducing their overall costs. It’s possible that you may feel pressure to stay within their cost-cutting network. Their effort to reduce their expenses leads the insurance companies to seek out less experienced and less qualified restoration contractors to fill their vendor programs.
Most vendor contractors will do everything possible to keep their clients happy … the problem being, you are not their client! As a
“preferred” vendor, their client is the insurance company they work for; after all, they provide the work for their company. You and your claim become just another job.
Your insurance company’s actions to save their money may directly conflict with the complete restoration of your property. What is at stake is your time, your hassle, and ultimately your dollars if your property is not entirely or correctly restored.
As an independent contractor, our approach is different; you are our client, we work for you! Yes, you are our client, and we work for you as your advocate. You will know and be a part of every decision, and if needed, we will help guide you throughout the entire restoration process.
Many times in a rush to get you to sign up for a vendor program, you may not feel like you have any options. Although it may not be expressed to you, you have a right to choose who does the work on your property.
You have a right to decide who does the restoration at your property!
Don’t assume that your insurance company will act in your best interest!
Be organized and document during the entire claims process; names, dates, actions, promises, commitments, etc.
Ask for “written” follow-up as documentation to conversations.
Don’t forget that you are the “Client” and you should be treated accordingly!
Ask about what is included in your coverage, don’t wait to be told!
Include your agent in any disputes; they should also be your advocate! Understand your insurance company’s claim process!
Be cordial when dealing with your adjuster, you don’t need friends, you need fairness!
Be your own “best” advocate!
In the insurance claims industry; “the squeaking wheel gets the grease!”

3RD PARTY ADJUSTING
Over the last several years, insurance companies have been farming their claims handling to outside companies to adjust claims. These 3rd party claims companies help them reduce their claims cost by cutting office space, salaried employees, etc. which unless you are a company adjuster, it’s not a concern for you, or is it? The problem with adjusting to save “the company” money is compounded by 3rd party adjusting; they have to “prove” their savings to their clients by cutting costs on claims. If they didn’t save dollars handling claims, they wouldn’t serve much of a purpose.
Also, 3rd party adjusting gives your insurance company a certain amount of deniability when there is a dispute handling a claim; after all, it’s not them saying no or rejecting your claim, it’s the “other” company. When illogical decisions are made without discretion or thought to keep a client happy, you are left out of the loop! Once again you are not the adjusting company’s client, you are just the job!
Some 3rd party claims companies will have arbitrary rules in place that more than likely were not disclosed when you signed on with your company! Realize when you have a dispute with the 3rd party claims company; they are just enforcing the rules provided by your insurance company. Many times with the proper amount of torque you will find a “company” adjuster that remembers that in fact, they can override the 3rd party company.

WHEN 3RD PARTY PROBLEMS ARISE
Ask to speak to the manager!
Ask for “your” insurance company’s adjuster
Remind “your” insurance agent that you are the client!
Look for your insurance company to provide relief and handle your claim correctly!
Your insurance company is still responsible for your customer experience and satisfaction!

FINAL THOUGHTS
The best way to avoid long-term damage and environmental problems is to quickly and efficiently identify the entire scope of water damage. Decide quickly if your project is doable for you or if you need to call a professional. If you hire a professional, ask questions; what’s wet? What’s the drying plan? How will you know when it’s all dry? How will they confirm the drying with you?
You may not be able to prevent water intrusions into your home or business, so when it happens, you need to be the catalyst to ensure the drying is efficient and complete!
The Takeaways?
Unless it’s minor, water damage continues to worsen with time.
Your insurance company may be more concerned with saving their money, than restoring your home 100%
Your adjuster’s job is not to make sure restoration work is done professionally, entirely, or correctly! Their job is not even to ensure that you’re completely satisfied; their job is to get the file closed quickly, in the most cost-effective manner as possible.
Be your own “best” advocate to ensure that the restoration work was performed correctly on your property.
Water damage transforms into mold damage quickly and can begin in as little as 24-48 hrs.
Insurance vendor programs are designed as a cost-cutting measure for insurance companies; they are not necessarily in the best interest of their insureds.
Seek professional restoration help when the scope of the damage is beyond your capabilities.
Water damage is progressive in nature, the problems and repair dollars increase with each passing day of inaction.
Water damage and sewage black-flows are different problems and should be handled accordingly.
When hiring a professional, you should be the client, not just the job!

At Chavez Restoration, we respond to water damage 24 hours a day, 365 days a year! Our water restoration technicians are trained to identify problems, mitigate damage, then quickly and efficiently put your life back on track! We pride ourselves on professionally restoring our client’s property while meeting their needs and exceeding their expectations. It is more than just our philosophy; this is a daily practice at Chavez Restoration.