Insurance carriers could dramatically improve cycle time, profitability and improve customer service if they abandon misinformation about restorative drying. It has been nine years since one of the world’s leading restoration minds wrote the article “The three-day drying myth.”
By the end of this series you will have the knowledge to make informed decisions, understand that risks you are exposed to and have a true solution that can be applied to the industry to improve your true KPIs– customer service, profitability and reduce liability.
In November, I was talking with the VP of Claims for a leading restoration company and the discussion came to the fact some of their top restorers were drying structures in seven and 10 days but were not getting paid due to their “incompetence”. As we discussed the situation the VP said: “Why take seven to 10 days when three to four days is what a competent restorer can do? I am wrong?” And that led us to a 15-minute conversation – or soap box – on why I thought the restorer taking seven to 10 days was the restorer I would use.
I realized that a good friend of mine, Ken Larsen, had written “The Three-Day Drying Myth” for Property Casualty 360 back in April 2009. Ken’s article was a rebuttal to another article that stated inferior contractors would take more than three days to dry. The reality is that there was no technical or scientific data to support the claim, or to the contrary.
I asked Ken to revisit this article with me, nine years on, to write this series from a competent restorer’s perspective using both science and profitability considerations for the contractor and restorer. By the end you will see how science favours restorative drying, why carriers have been exposed to massive liability and how you can reduce that liability going forward.
The 2009 myth discussed
In the 1990s and early 2000s restorative drying science was in its infancy, but was evolving as some thought leaders in the industry began taking a more scientific approach. Restorers were rapidly moving from being carpet cleaners to restorationspecialists, and in the process they were learning what worked and what did not work. These restorers also developed the technology that is still used today.
In the 2000s this early science was harnessed and restorers began teach the techniques for the proper use of the equipment that would lead to less tear-out and allow them to dry structural materials in place. The term Applied Structural Drying (ASD) became known in the industry as a drying course. The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) stated in its IICRC S500 V3-2006 standard, “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.”
Everyone was going to these classes, from contractors to adjusters to property managers. The fact a restorer could reduce the cost of rebuilding a structure substantially impacted the bottom line of the final customer, reduced cycle time and decreased rebuild costs.
The issue with these classes was that they consisted of a three-day class. The perception was that structures could be dried in three days. The reality is that many of these structures remained wet for three to four days after the class ended.
Some contractors and adjusters believe contractors are in possession of technology, equipment and training can dry structures in three days. In 2009 Ken wrote: “They (insurers) 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 sceptics are hard pressed to substantiate their comments. Moreover, publishing erroneous materials can lead to serious conflicts between contractors and adjusters rather than assist in fair and scientifically sound practices.”
Where is the science today?
In 2018, the science has evolved, the equipment has evolved, and restorative techniques have dramatically improved. But with all this improvement and knowledge one thing is true – three-day drying is not the norm. There has been plenty of research by the restoration and building science community to substantiate the fact that not all materials can be dried in a specified, arbitrary time of three days. As a matter of fact, many structural materials will dry in varying degrees, depending on saturation time, atmospheric conditions and the material’s location in the building composition.
What is interesting is that Ken had the foresight to see that the issue with arbitrarily applying a window for drying to 72 hours or three days was that the pricing pressure would have contractors remove their equipment prematurely. His observation was that less time would be spent focused on restorative drying goals and more time focused on monitoring how much equipment was left onsite and for how long. For the most part, today’s reviewers do not look at the goal of the drying project; they look at the costs of the job. The measurable cost of the job is more important than the successful drying of a project. But are you actually saving money?
Nobody I have talked to could pinpoint where the three-day drying standard entered the industry. But the fact is three-day drying was incorrect in 2009, and three-day drying is incorrect in 2018. Based on the science we know today it is not just incorrect, but it is potentially dangerous, and the liability of applying this standard has dramatically increased to both the contractor and the carrier. Today, the indoor environmental profession knows more about the effects of contaminated indoor environments and the effects of mould on occupants and highly sensitized individuals. If carriers do not address properly drying a structure, it dramatically increases the potential for litigation and there is no limit on that liability.
You should be aware of your use of terms like ‘stabilization services’ and ‘restorative drying’. Today we see many carrier protocols that are drafted with the use of terms like “contractors cannot proceed with drying and are to only stabilize the site until an adjuster has provided a confirmation of coverage or until the adjuster has viewed the loss location.”
In the restoration world stabilization services and restorative drying are two very different stages of the drying process. But they are often misunderstood and misused terms.
Stabilization services are used during the investigation stage of the claim before coverage has been determined or before the hazard assessment is completed. Most commonly, stabilization services are used while determining coverage issues, determining the cause of loss, determining the responsible party, or waiting for testing results of hazardous materials such as lead, asbestos and now silica. The process gets even more complicated when more than one of these is involved.
The only goal of stabilization is to prevent secondary damages from high humidity, to prevent cross-contamination to unaffected areas and to allow the restorer to secure the jobsite. In water damage, stabilization services are the deployment of dehumidifiers and other tools to allow the insurer time to perform an investigation. However, stabilization is not restorative drying, and if left in stabilization for too long, there is a high probability that the site will degrade, not only in the category of water but can also result in mould growth.
It is also considered stabilization during a Category 3 water loss where multiple days are spent removing contents, conducting hazardous material testing and removing structural materials that are affected by the Category 3 water. Only after the Category 3 water has been removed, are materials removed or cleaned.
The three-step bio-wash is a process of applying heavy amounts of hot water to the site to remove the contaminants, the water is extracted and this process is applied multiple times in order to get the site materials free of contaminants. Then anti-microbial applications are put down. Now you are ready for restorative drying.
Restorative drying is properly managing the jobsite’s humidity, air flow, temperature and time on site to effectively dry. In order to achieve the proper atmospheric conditions the restorer must deploy proper dehumidification levels, proper air flow and understand the effects of the temperatures of both the atmosphere and structure to effectively dry the materials in question. Time is always the unknown, as different materials and different structural construction can impact the drying plan.
There is no doubt that during the drying process the restorer should be providing an update to the client on how the drying is proceeding and what challenges are faced on the jobsite. When the challenges are going to increase the costs or delay the job this information should be conveyed in order to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Restoration is not as simple as putting equipment into the jobsite and walking away. This mentality is dangerous and does both the customer and the profitability of your business a disservice. In the next article we are going to explain the IICRC’s S500 standard and how the different calculations insurers rely on are commonly misunderstood by most in the industry.
Kris Rzesnoski is vice-president business development with Encircle.