On average, more than one million buildings in the U.S. experience water damage each year, giving rise to billions of dollars in insurance claims. As a result, many insurance companies are starting to require more thorough and comprehensive documentation of building drydown procedures.
While there may be no traces of visible moisture left after a drydown procedure, high humidity that has crept into materials can lead to moisture and/or mold problems down the road.
Many water damage professionals today understand the ramifications of moisture that “hangs around” after a restoration project, and are getting smarter about the use of technology tools that can validate the drydown process.
“Modern drying and good documentation are more important today than ever,” said Ken Gehring, general manager of Therma-Stor, a Madison, WI-based company specializing in solutions for water damage restoration. “Top-notch contractors are taking documentation very seriously, so that if questions about liability come up in the future, they are able to prove that drydown was performed thoroughly and correctly.”
According to Gehring, portable data loggers are among the most useful high-tech tools for accurate drydown documentation.
A data logger is a pager-sized electronic device that can measure and record temperature and relative humidity (RH) on a 24/7 basis over extended periods of time. Most data loggers interface with a personal computer and utilize accompanying software to activate the logger and view/analyze the collected data. Some of the most advanced data logging software packages include tools for converting temperature and relative humidity data into Grains Per Pound data. Grains Per Pound is a standard measurement unit used by the restoration industry that indicates the amount of moisture contained within the air after drydown. Data loggers can help validate proper drydown procedures in water-damaged buildings. To get a sense for how data loggers might be used in a typical drydown application, consider the following scenario.
Water damage restoration services are needed at a manufacturing facility where a sprinkler-head failure has occurred. The insurance company is concerned about secondary damage to humidity-sensitive materials in the finished goods inventory area, since it could double or triple the amount of the loss.
At the site, drying equipment is set up, the finished goods area is isolated, and the amount of dehumidification required is calculated. Dehumidifiers are then placed into that area to protect the inventory. In order to show the effectiveness of the drying procedures and document the steps taken to protect the inventory items, data loggers are set out in each of the areas to monitor the humidity conditions. The loggers are set to record temperature and RH every 15 minutes. Data loggers are also used to monitor the performance of the dehumidifiers by determining the “grain depression” (the water removed) by comparing the grains per pound of the dehumidifier inlet and outlet conditions.
Several days later, when the drydown is complete, data collected by the loggers is offloaded onto a computer and analyzed. The graph for the primary damage area shows that, after the first 24 hours, RH dropped to 40% and continued downward to 25%, at which point it leveled out.
A second graph, which details conditions of the finished goods area, shows a descending curve to the same levels achieved in the primary damage area. The data clearly shows that the area has been protected from secondary damage, and helps protect all parties involved should questions of liability arise in the future.
Again, this is just one example of how data loggers can be used to document a drydown procedure. In reality, every application is unique and has its own individual set of requirements and challenges.
Overall, Therma-Stor’s Gehring feels the primary benefit of using data loggers for the water damage restoration professional really comes down to the efficiency with which pre-loss moisture conditions can be proved.
“Data can be recorded, analyzed, and documented with much greater ease and speed over the old chart recorders many in the industry used to rely on," he says. “You don’t have to worry so much about calibrating the instrument, changing charts, or interpreting the data.”
He adds, “It doesn’t hurt that data loggers are very small and can be placed in areas where they won’t be noticed or possibly even stolen.”