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February 8, 2024

Your quick guide to 5 common questions in restorative drying

Expert insights on restorative drying with Ken Larsen

Water damage restoration can be tricky. Ken Larsen, a restoration expert with experience since 1978, simplifies restorative drying techniques into clear, actionable advice. This guide, packed with insights, will sharpen your skills in tackling water damage claims head-on, whether you're a newbie or a seasoned pro.

Ken Larsen

Question #1: Tile drying strategies: is it about the tile or the mortar?

Ken: When categorizing water loss – 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’re usually using a notched trowel. If the tiles aren't set firmly into the mortar, the hollow cavities remain and can trap ‌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.

More tips for tackling tile drying challenges in water damage restoration:
  • Use an audio analyzer app to detect and document hollow cavities under tiles.
  • Remove tiles in Category 2 and 3 scenarios to clean any underlying contamination.
  • In Category 1 situations, consider vacuum panels for drying, but make sure they're effective.
  • Immediately set up air filtration devices for negative air configurations in Category 2 and 3 losses.
  • For more accurate moisture readings, explore using the Trax MEX5 moisture meter.

restorative drying questions

Question #2: Drying chamber vs stabilization chamber: what's the difference?

Ken: The chamber doesn’t need to be different — but the strategies aren't 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 next 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’re just an equipment delivery service without a plan. Don’t be that guy.”

Drying vs. stabilization: Impact on restoration projects

Understanding the difference between drying and stabilization can make a big difference in your projects.

  • Stabilization prevents secondary damage like mold growth, focusing on moisture removal from the air.
  • Improper stabilization can lead to costly secondary damage, including mold.
  • Drying uses air movement and dehumidification to create vapor pressure differentials, crucial for effective water damage restoration.
  • In Category 2 or 3 water losses, cleaning surfaces and materials is essential before drying.

Question #3: When insurance terms matter: using 'water damage' instead of 'visible growth' or 'mold'

Ken: The communications provided to the insurer can spoil your client’s claim if you aren't careful. Be careful with the expressions you use when communicating. An expression I've 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.

Deeper dive into mold remediation tips

Ken's insights on navigating insurance communication are just the start. When handling water damage insurance claims, there's more to consider regarding mold.

  • Removing mold is key: Just killing mold isn't enough; it needs containment. The real focus should be on physically removing it from the affected area.
  • Always conduct a hazard assessment. If you find mold during a water loss, you may need a separate agreement and authorization for mold remediation.
  • Deciding how to handle mold treatment depends on the situation and your contract obligations for water mitigation. Context is important.
  • If you find mold during a water damage, isolate the area until you can confirm it is mold.
  • Some contractors use bacteria to remove mold-contaminated materials. This is because insurance policies are less strict about bacteria than they are about mold.
  • Try to avoid focusing on mold unless it's essential. Many insurance policies have exclusions or limits for mold, so tread carefully.


Question #4: Is there such a thing as category 4 water damage?

Ken: Kind of! But it's actually called, “Regulated, hazardous materials, and mold.” Some substances, like asbestos, lead, and mold, are regulated and require a license for handling or removal in certain areas. The scenario doesn't fit into Category 1-3 water loss because the law doesn't regulate Cat 1-3.

Exploring water categories in restoration

The world of water damage restoration is always evolving, especially in categorizing water. Here’s a quick rundown of some key updates and techniques:

  • Industry standards for water categorization need better language and clarification.
  • The S500 water damage standard is being revised, with expected improvements in water category definitions.
  • The same section in the S500 covers and treats Category 2 and 3 water damage similarly.
  • Absorbed category 2 water in sheetrock makes it non-restorable, and it needs replacement.
  • To test air flow under tile, use a smoke pencil or incense stick, and a thermohygrometer to measure humidity.
  • For category 2 and 3 water damage, remove ceramic tile if there is excess moisture. Tap the tile to check for hollow spaces before removing.

water categorization

Question #5: How to prove toilet overflow damage to an insurance adjuster

Ken: It’s unlikely the homeowner accessed all the areas a quality restorer would access – right? The water could have gone under the sink, toilet, or bathtub. It could have also gone into the adjacent room or basement, or behind the baseboards. Think about it.

A skilled Indoor Environmental Professional (IEP) can determine the water category by sampling surfaces that have not been cleaned or disinfected.

Knowledge and tools needed for professional water damage restoration

These simple, yet impactful strategies can be your edge in the field. Use them wisely to navigate challenges and enhance your skills, setting you up for success now and in the future.

Water Damage Restoration Bootcamp

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