Three days of drying

by / Sunday, 20 April 2014 / Published in Blog

Restoration Specialists 1-888-dry-1-out 1-888-379-1688 Recently, the insurance community — and even some restoration firms — have asserted that a competent restorative drying service should guarantee that structures will be dried within a three-day timeframe. Those with a background in restorative drying use this “guarantee” in an effort to attract new adjusters to their client lists. Additionally, those with a background in insurance damage repair say that one of the ways to spot a problem contractor is when an invoice for drying services denotes drying time that exceeds this three-day guideline. But are expectations of this sort problematic?

Perpetuating a Myth

Restoration association and certification bodies — such as the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification (IICRC) and the Restoration Industry Association (RIA) — do not publish guidelines stipulating that the drying of structures should be accomplished within a specific timeframe. It’s true that some individuals have claimed that the IICRC S-500 states that “a simple fresh-water loss of one or two rooms that was found within 24 hours and has limited damage to walls typically can be dried in three days.” However, I would challenge any individual to produce such a reference. In fact, there is no allusion to “three-day drying” (or a derivative) anywhere in the IICRC S-500, v3-2006, v2-1999, or v1-1994. The verbiage listed below is the closest reference to a defined drying period currently available:

“Currently, among the IICRC’s 38,000 registered technicians, approximately 24,000 are IICRC-certified as Water Restoration Technicians (WRT), with approximately 4,500 of those being certified in Applied Structural Drying (ASD). This number is growing daily. ASD is primarily a hands-on course in which demonstration houses representative of standard residential construction are flooded, extracted, monitored, and dried throughout the three-day course — although three-day drying cannot be guaranteed.”

If smoke and mirrors are employed anywhere, then it is by the individuals suggesting that industry standards make such claims when the language simply does not exist. It is vexing that these individuals issue defamatory comments regarding the contractor’s supposed failure to be in possession of the technology, equipment, or training needed to do the job properly. They may even accuse contractors of being unscrupulous, and advise adjusters to alter the contractor’s invoices based on wishful, non-existent quotations. The fact remains that these skeptics are hard pressed to substantiate their comments. Moreover, publishing erroneous material can lead to serious conflicts between contractors and adjusters rather than assist in fair and scientifically sound practices.

However, individuals with insurance adjusting backgrounds are not alone in attempting to circulate such concepts. The restoration community has played a role, as well. While discussing the benefits of the IICRC ASD training, one restorer made the following statement:

“An example of the industry’s growth and sophistication in the field of drying can be found through new job guarantees that rely on using advanced psychrometry. A guarantee of drying time in just three days can be achieved through balance among four areas …. For homeowners and insurance companies, ASD training programs offer an alternative to conventional drying methods that may take five-to-seven days to dry the same types of losses.”

As an IICRC instructor of the ASD course for several years, I can assure you that “three-day” guarantees are never made in the curriculum. They are neither implied nor included in any exam questions. As an IICRC course, the ASD program is predicated on the S-500 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration. This reference guide makes no such representation. Thus, if a restorer makes such a claim, then the public and insurance sector should not lend any credence to it because it is not based on any science whatsoever.

As an ASCR Certified Restorer (CR #250) and Water Loss Specialist (WLS #23), I can also assure you that these training programs — and the associations that sponsor these formal training programs — do not make such claims of guaranteed drying times, either. It is incumbent upon these three-day drying dreamers to produce such a quote from these organizations in support of their comments.

A Serious Situation

The origin of the concept of three-day drying remains unclear. While it is within the rights of restoration contractors to offer a cap in drying charges as a component of their marketing strategies, it is inappropriate to portray an industry standard of materials being dried to a pre-loss condition within three days. Because the current standards make no such representation, it is a disservice to the public, the insurance community, and the restoration industry to make such a claim.

When the insurance and restoration communities become disillusioned enough to believe that all projects can be arbitrarily returned to a pre-loss moisture content within 72 hours, then the trend will be to simply remove the equipment from the project on the third day. After all, the judgment of a restorer’s competence requires that all structural materials in a residence are safely dryable in 72 hours. Conclusions of this sort encourage incompetence, as they are built on inappropriate expectations from those desiring to manipulate the expenses related to the performance of a competent and attentive restorative drying professional.

Consider the consequences of this industry trend to limit restorative drying effort to a certain time span. Less attention will be given to the results of the drying effort, with more focus on the time the equipment was left on-site. Restoration professionals may potentially place the results of their drying strategies as secondary to the potential accusation of being unscrupulous or incompetent in their practices since they left their equipment on the jobsite longer than three days. Of course, the impact of leaving materials unacceptably wet in the insured’s property is potentially devastating. However, if the market starts to believe that competency is based on removing all equipment by the third day, then why wouldn’t the restorer simply remove the equipment from the project regardless of the actual conditions within the structure?

Such an approach to the evaluation of a restorer’s drying strategy reeks of illogical reasoning. It reminds me of a movie in which one entrepreneur decides to produce a fitness video training seminar called “Six Minute Abs” in order to compete with the competition that produced “Seven Minute Abs.” The whole concept is self-destructive because you know there will be someone out there that will put out a “Five Minute Abs” DVD. Most consumers would recognize each of these offerings as a scam effort.

The Competent Restorer

It would be impossible to describe how to determine competent drying strategies in a few sentences. However, the truly competent restorer should be able to answer the following questions comprehensively:

  • What materials were affected by the water, and how were they tested?
  • Where is the test site located within the structure?
  • What would the expected moisture content be in that geographic area during that season? What support exists for this conclusion?
  • How close to a dry standard should a material be for one to consider it dry enough?
  • Following the drying strategy, will there be enough moisture present in the materials to support mold growth?
  • At any given time in the drying process, what was the influence of the drying chamber produced by the restorer on the hygroscopic (both the wet and non-affected) materials at any given time?
  • How did the contractor make the decision to add or remove equipment from the project in the drying strategy? What was the impact of these decisions on the drying forces exerted on the affected materials?
  • What kind of meter was used on each inspection site? Was the meter designed for such a usage?
  • What documentation does the restorer have that verifies the meters were functioning correctly and accurately?
  • According to the meter manufacturer’s owner’s manual, were the correct mathematics used to calculate the actual moisture content in the material?
  • If more than one type of test or meter reading is collected on an inspection site, are they in agreement or do they conflict? What does this mean?
  • Does the inspection site meet the criteria for being considered completed, and when was this determined?
  • How does this inspection site compare to others found on the project?
  • Competence is not solely determined by the time required to dry the structure. It is determined through criteria that demonstrate an attentiveness to the task that the restorer was hired to complete. Restorers are hired to mitigate the loss and dry the structure to acceptable pre-loss moisture content. More importantly, the competent restorer can prove results. The ability to answer the questions previously posed reflect more competency than an invoice that merely charges for three days of drying.

    Certainly there are some drying projects that can be successfully finished in this allotment. However, if a project requires four, five, or six days (or possibly even more) to complete and the contractor answers the questions with quality documentation and conclusive science, then this restoration professional is a true asset to your list of qualified drying contractors. In fact, the responsible contractor who reports four or more days to dry a structure may carry more legitimacy than the one who always provides an invoice within the arbitrary three-day drying cap and yet cannot answer all of the above questions.