Here is the second part of the flood disaster I outlined in previous article. This part will focus more on the remediation process that had to take place. It was a timely process, and the family was definitely put through a lot as well. In the end though they rolled through great and were able to happily move back into their homes.
As I proceeded with getting the home owners moved into a hotel, I discovered that returning all five condos back to normal status would be a battle that was going to be more difficult than any other challenge I had experienced before. The interesting issue from a cosmetic stand point was that the hardwoods installed were floating hardwoods, which means the hardwoods are a tongue and grove application over a foam moisture barrier. Water is the worst for this type of installation because the water travels underneath the hardwoods and traps moisture into the concrete slab. The only way to fully dry the hardwoods is to remove and replace, unfortunately in this situation the hardwoods were discontinued so there was no way to remove the damaged sections only, all hardwoods had to be removed. Once I had all of the hardwoods and carpet removed I set up, I moved all furniture into storage units and then set up dehumidifiers as well as fans to assist with the drying.
One would think that with the condos essentially vacant at this point, the repairs would be easy; However, this was not the case. At any point, when I had water intrusion, no matter how large or small, I would also hire an environmental consultant to scan the damage with a thermal imaging camera as well as an electronic moisture reader. The thermal imaging camera allowed me to see the amount of the water that was trapped in the walls by the insulation. A thermal imaging camera detects any moisture in a "hot / cold" pattern. It gives you an insight as to where water is "hiding". If water is trapped between walls you must remove it otherwise you run the risk of mold growth. Mold will only stop growing if you remove its life source, water. In this situation the water had been absorbed into the insulation behind the sheetrock and was lacking any air flow to help dry out. In each condo I had to remove two feet of sheetrock on all exposed walls. On the exterior walls this meant having only a piece of sheathing to protect the interior of the condo, due to the fact that the stucco was removed on the outside.
Removal of sheetrock produces an immense amount of dust, all of which required the protection and shutting down the HVAC system in each condo. To fully understand the overview, I had five condos with exposure to the summer heat, no flooring, and no sheetrock up to two feet around 80% of the condo. Typically, the repair within itself would be manageable at this point as all moisture impact material was removed and the fans and dehumidifiers are in place to dry out the wood framing members within the condo. However, the summertime beach rain showers kept coming. The endless circle continued for two weeks. Waterproofing application could not be completed on the exterior of the building due to the rain, this in turn allowed water to re-enter the condos. For two weeks I had developed a routine of entering into the condos each day to reposition fans, gather moisture readings, spraying and wiping down any new growth with Simple Green, and over all emotional containment from the affected homeowners.
Finally, the weather cooperated and waterproofing was applied to the exterior of the building. Once the condos were safe from any water intrusion it was time to focus on a complete "dry out" of the framing members. The goal is always to have a moisture reading of 17 percent or lower. I will not accept anything over this as it puts the area at risk for mold growth once it is closed up. It took two full weeks to get even the smallest areas to dry out, and then I was able to start installing installation and sheetrock. In order to help alleviate any fears about the condo being subject to any air born mold spores I wiped down all the walls with a detergent as well as painted the walls with mildew inhibitor paint. Before any furnishings were moved back into the condo I had a cleaning crew perform a full on deep "new construction" clean, where every surface is wet wiped and disinfected. To promote a positive exit for the homeowners I had the HVAC duct system completely cleaned to remove any dust and mold spores that may have contaminated the system. Given that the homeowners were out of their condos for roughly one and a half months, and during that time they were able to see the damage that was taking place I felt it was best for the company's reputation to proceed with a mold air sample. I was confident that the results would provide relief to the owners as they would eventually be able to enter into their homes and feel safe again. I subsequently followed two major rain storms with a thermal imagining scan of the condo to ensure that the walls were dry.
While this is one of many incidences that I have experienced, it was one of the more complicated with regards to continuous water intrusion. I have been in condos where every single surface has black growth on it, and I have had to contain and remediate. While situations of full on growth are frustrating they tend to take place because no one is living in the home. Mold must have a food source and in order for growth to get out of hand, the food source of water has to be neglected and not able to dry. In those situations I find that the repairs are easier because no one is currently living with the growth and you can work swiftly and effectively to make the necessary repairs. The remediation of that involve a family or a homeowner that is living with the mold are the most difficult because you have to protect their safety while working swiftly to return their lives back to normal as quickly as possible.
Water damage is not one of those items that can be pushed down the list of "to do's". If not taken care of properly, it can and often will not only drain your bank account, but leave you or a family member in the hospital! I have heard stories from other adjuster's that have deal with a home owner renovating their home. Once a wall was taken out for the renovation, mold that had been growing in a contained environment for 2 years was now open to the family's air source. Think of a mold inspection like going to the doctors, a lot of the times we do not want to. Nobody wants to hear bad news, but you can not fix the problem if you are not aware that a problem exists.