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Water Damage Standards
Restoration Standards are Changing
By James (Lee) Senter | Other articles by James (Lee) Senter
Standards Are Changing There are Implications for Condominiums
One of the last things any condominium manager, board member or resident wants to hear is that there is a water damage occurring in their building.
Water can move quickly, especially when the force of gravity assists the water to find its way down through the building. The water can find its way down through a building very, very quickly. A simple small leak, left unattended for even a few minutes can affect three or four other units and the common areas.
Over the past couple of decades, condominium corporations have used preferred vendors for water damage who are on a list of vetted vendors of the property management company or their insurance company or broker. These vendors were often chosen because of pre-existing relationships with managers. Unfortunately, and all too frequently, the vendors performing water damage mitigation services are chosen because of who they know, not what they know. This often results in a building's cleaning company or general contractor performing mitigation services. These vendors have limited or no knowledge or training on how to dry a water damaged building.
The insurance industry has been getting very tough on condominium corporations. Premiums are skyrocketing. Deductibles have risen to historic highs for buildings, even for buildings with good claim histories. The main reason for higher premiums and deductibles are the large number of recent insurance claims. The cost of the claims are going higher and higher every year. The principal reason the cost of claims are skyrocketing are: over land flooding that evolve into humongous elevator repair invoices and the automatic tear out of wet building materials instead of implementing a process of something called in-place drying.
The standard for water damage remediation is a document called the ANSIIICRC s500-2015 Standard for Professional Water Damage Restoration. The latest revision of this standard will be released in March or April 2021. There have been draft copies of the standard released for public review. The draft copies seem to indicate a paradigm shift occurring in this industry.
To try and put this into context, water damage incidents are divided into classes and categories of water loss. The category of water loss refers to where the water of loss originated from. Was it a clean water loss (CAT 1)? A dirty water loss (CAT 2)? A grossly unsanitary water loss with disease causing pathogens (sewage, CAT 3)? There are different protocols for each type of loss. The class of water loss refers to the amount of humidity the contractor will be dealing with and how much of an area is actually wet. Wet building materials that are not dried thoroughly and rapidly can easily support mould growth in a very short period of time.
The S500-2015 standard outlines procedures and criteria for the evaluation of a water loss and the drying goals for the restorer to aim for. There was no actual procedures for "in-place drying", but there was criteria for determining drying goals.
The new standard has removed the criteria on how to determine a drying goal for the various materials found in a building. As a matter of fact, the new standard is going to use terminology that refers to a written "drying plan" to be created within the job scope or work plan. Going further the new standard will refer to drying goals being determined by the water damage restoration company.
Now this sounds pretty simple and logical. And it is if you are using a restoration company that employs and certifies their technicians in water damage remediation, applied structural drying, and health and safety. But if the condominium corporation insists on using their in house cleaning company or handyman, the likelihood of receiving knowledgeable guidance for in-place drying is going to be much more limited. Afterall, the criteria is supposed to now be set by the professional restorer based on the standard, their training and experience.
Hopefully this does not result in even more unnecessary ripping out of carpet, hard surface flooring and drywall that could have been dried in place quite easily.
Even more importantly will be the issue of insurance companies not paying for unnecessary demolition of building materials that could easily have been dried in place.
So what can a condominium corporation do to be ready for these changes? Identify the restoration company you would call in your emergency response plan. Speak to your chosen vendor and ensure that their employees have the requisite certifications, qualifications and equipment to be able to mitigate your loss without tearing everything out. If you are considering filing a claim with your insurance provider, inform them asap.
Last but not least, remember the key to success for in-place drying of CAT 1 and CAT 2 water losses is the quickness in removing the water and installing drying equipment. In-place drying should not be employed in any CAT 3 water loss. Any absorbent building materials that have soaked up sewer water shall be torn out and all surfaces shall be cleaned and sanitized immediately.