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5 common restorative drying questions with industry expert Ken Larsen

ken-larson-roundKen Larsen CR, WLS, FLS, CLS, CMP, CSDS, Senior Consultant to the IDSO family of companies: DryStandard Software, REP, DSi, RTPE and RLI

Ken Larsen has been in the restoration industry since 1978, distinguishing himself as a thought leader and top trainer in restorative drying sciences.

We have received so many great questions about water damage restoration that we enlisted an expert to help us answer them to help other restorers who might be wondering the same thing!

Question #1: “When drying, how do you go about dealing with tile? Is it more of dealing with drying the tile? or the mortar it sits on?”

Ken: When categorizing water – one of the things I check is for the presence of hollow cavities between the tile and the plywood / concrete base. When they set the tile, they are usually using a notched trowel. If the tiles are not set firmly into the mortar, the hollow cavities remain and can trap the contaminated water.

I check for both these hollow cavities and elevated moisture readings with my non-invasive moisture meters to establish the need to remove the tiles so as to clean, apply disinfectant and Post Remediation Verification (PRV) the affected area following the mitigator’s decontamination efforts.

Question #2: “Is there a difference between a drying chamber and a chamber used for "stabilization" while waiting for adjuster approval, asbestos test results, etc.?”

Ken: Interesting question. The chamber doesn’t need to be different – but the strategies are not even close to similar. Remember: drying is an engineered strategy with the intention of producing a responsible (not “the largest”) delta vapor pressure between the wet hygroscopic materials and the atmosphere adjacent to the material.

Stabilization is to produce an atmosphere that represents a “normal, healthy, safe, comfortable” living condition. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) says that’s between 60°F and 80°F / 30% to 55% relative humidity.

“If you aren’t keeping these two strategies distinctly different – then you are just an equipment delivery service without a plan. Don’t be that guy.

Question #3: “What if you use the term water damage instead of visible growth or mold? What if the insurance asks you to specify?”

Ken: The communications provided to the insurer have the ability to spoil your client’s claim if you are not careful. Be very careful with the expressions you use when communicating. An expression I have found to be useful in reply to such insurance company inquiries is:

“I’m sorry [name], but I’m not qualified to answer that question – but I know someone who is.”

Then refer to a few individuals who ARE qualified to answer their specific questions. Hygienists, RTPEs, lawyers, doctors and health professionals, etc.

Question #4: “Is there a category 4 water type?”

Ken: Kind of! But it's actually called, “Regulated, hazardous materials, and mold.” It’s an undesirable substance that is regulated in its handling or removal; like asbestos and lead… and in some jurisdictions, even mold requires a license to remove. That scenario doesn’t fall into Category 1- 3, since Cat 1 – 3 is not regulated by law.

Question #5: If a homeowner cleans up a toilet overflow that has fecal matter in it. How do you test or prove to adjuster?

Ken: Good question! It’s unlikely the homeowner accessed all the areas a quality restorer would access – right? For instance, the water might have flowed under the vanity… under the toilet itself… under the tub possibly… into the next room or the basement… or behind the baseboards/cove base. Think about it.

As long as they haven’t cleaned / applied a disinfectant to the surfaces, a good Indoor Environmental Professional (IEP) will know how to sample these areas and establish the category of water.

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Hear from Ken and 13 other industry experts on the toughest issues the restoration industry is facing and how to conquer them.