Why isn’t my contractor removing wet drywall?
Water damage is the leading cause of property damage in Canada, accounting for 45%-50% of all insurance claims filed. From frozen water pipes and roof leaks, to groundwater infiltration and sump pump failure, there are no lack of sources for water to enter your home.
A question we are often asked is how come you are drying the wet walls and not replacing them? I visited my neighbor’s house after they had a flood a few years ago, and their entire basement was demolished down to the studs.
The two approaches outlined above are referred to as “drying in place” and “replacement”, with each one having a specific purpose and application in the restoration contractor’s toolbox.
The decision on which approach to take is primarily based on the standard of care developed by the IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification) S500 and S520. This standard of care requires the water restoration technician to determine the source of the water, how clean or contaminated it is, how long the building materials have been wet, and what type of materials are wet.
As with technology, the restoration industry is continually innovating and improving the way we do business to provide both a better experience and a higher level of service for our community.
The old approach to clean water losses involved complete removal and replacement of wet materials. To this day some contractors will continue to follow this approach either due to lack of knowledge, or worse to pad their bottom line and create work for their drywallers and painters. Although full replacement achieves the same result which is a dry, mold free home, it should be noted that this methodology carries many hidden disadvantages for the homeowner which include:
- Time to restore the property can be extended by several weeks or months as materials are ordered and multiple trades are scheduled.
- The homeowner has to provide access for multiple tradespersons entering and working in their home at various days and times, often requiring the homeowner to be present.
- Some tradespersons may not always clean up after themselves, leaving the homeowner to mop the floors after each visit.
- As more people come and go, there is a greater risk of secondary accidental damage to your home (for example a drywaller scratching your door), and proving this was the contractor may be difficult.
- Most insurance policies will not repaint your entire room if only one wall is affected, meaning there is a possibility that your walls will not match if only one has been replaced. If the wall is dried in place we can usually save the existing paint covering.
- Overall cost of the insurance claim can be driven 200%-300% higher, and on some policies with limits the homeowner may have to pay several thousand dollars in addition to their deductible, for work which could have been avoided.
- Asbestos may be encountered when removing drywall in older homes, and if the contractor is not experienced this may put your family at risk. (visit WorkSafeBC’s website and conduct a search for violations by demolition contractors).
- Environmental impact and carbon footprint of unnecessarily discarding building materials in good condition.
The new approach to clean water losses involves placing modern air movers and powerful dehumidifiers in the affected areas to remove moisture from the building materials and avoid demolition. For contaminated water losses we must remove drywall because the contaminants (viruses, bacteria, protozoa) are absorbed into it, whereas on clean water losses we can save the drywall by drying it in place.
Most modern homes in Canada are constructed with wood framing, drywall, and latex paint. Each of these building materials are porous, meaning they can gain and lose moisture. By lowering the humidity and raising the temperature of the surrounding air, we can “pull” water from wet materials similar to a clothes dryer. This process typically takes between 2 to 4 days and is the least disruptive to the homeowner. Lastly, similar to a wet towel the materials will return to their original shape once dried.
Throughout the drying process your certified water restoration technician will visit your home every 24 hours and take moisture readings to confirm the drying is progressing according to plan. While one site, the technician will adjust the equipment to ensure it is used as efficiently as possible to reduce the overall duration of the work. Once all materials are confirmed dry, the equipment is removed and you can use the space again, typically within 4 days of the initial call.
One of the downsides to drying in place is the noise of the equipment running 24 hours a day, however it is not louder than the hammers and power tools used to demolish your home, and it also does not generate dust which can spread across your house when managed incorrectly.
The methods we use to restore a property after water damage are not the same as they were 20 years ago. As restoration professionals we at WINMAR® Kootenay are committed to placing the needs of our community ahead of our needs of creating work for ourselves.
As a homeowner you have the right to ask your contractor and adjuster if your home can be dried in place. If they say no, we recommend asking them to show you the clause in the IICRC Standard of Care which explains why the materials must be removed. If they cannot do this, then your contractor is not up to date on the modern approaches to property restoration and you should find another contractor who is educated, certified, and most importantly able to put your needs ahead of theirs.