Extract Well to Speed Up Drying

September 2, 2009
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The most effective way to speed the drying process is to remove as much water while in its liquid state as possible during the extraction phase. Poor extraction will significantly slow your drying process.

Is your extraction slowing down your drying jobs? When you dry slower than your competition, what does that do to your bottom line?

Extraction and evaporation are the only ways water can be removed from a wet structure. During the extraction process, liquid water is vacuumed, mopped, squeegee-ed or otherwise removed from the structure.

Extraction takes some energy, but not nearly as much energy as evaporation.

Water removal by evaporation requires that liquid water in the structure or contents first be vaporized – an extremely energy-intensive process. During evaporation, the water is turned into vapor. It then enters a dehumidifier where it collects as condensation and is pumped out of the structure – also an extremely energy-intensive process.

The fact that evaporation wastes so much energy points out how important extraction really is.

The most important factor in extraction is not how much water is removed, but how much water is left behind. It is important to remember that every drop of water left behind will add time to the drying project.

If your technicians are leaving a lot of water behind, you will dry slower and cost more than your competition.

Carpet Extraction Methods

Most restoration companies focus extraction on carpeted areas because these areas absorb so much water. There is a two-step process for carpet and pad extraction:
  1. The primary goal of the initial extraction of the affected area is to stop migration of the water in the structure. This step is accomplished using a light wand attached to either a portable or a truck mounted extraction unit. If a light wand is the only tool available, any padding under the carpet should be removed and disposed of at the end of this step.
  2. The deep-extraction process is accomplished by using a sealed or weighted extraction tool attached to either a portable or truck mounted extraction unit. If a deep extraction tool is used, padding under the carpet can be saved, assuming it is a clean-water loss.

Saving More Carpet

Whenever carpet must be disengaged from the tackless strip, a knee kicker and awl must be used. The knee kicker is used to release the tension on the carpet and move it away from the tack strip. Then, the carpet awl pierces the carpet’s primary and secondary backings and is used to lift it up and away from the tackless strip.

This method of disengagement effectively reduces the possibility of delamination. Carpet is disengaged around the perimeter of the room, then rolled back in one direction to expose the underlay (cushion, pad) beneath. It is important to roll the carpet, as opposed to folding it.

Folding carpeting adds stress to the primary and secondary backings and can lead to delamination.

If the carpet is to be re-installed, technicians must avoid cutting carpet unless it is absolutely necessary. When carpet must be cut, it is cut along existing seams. This is done while the carpet is disengaged by peaking the two sides of the carpet along the seam, then cutting along the existing carpet seam using a hook blade knife (i.e., vinyl flooring knife).

This process makes reinstallation and re-seaming of the carpet much easier for the installer. It also increases the likelihood that the client will be happy with the installation after the job has been completed. Cuts must be as straight as possible and must not remove any carpet fibers.

Extraction Tools

All extraction tools rely upon the principle of airflow through the affected carpet and pad in order to remove water. Hoses, usually 2 or 2 ½ inches in diameter, are used to connect the vacuum equipment to an extraction tool.

Airflow through the tool and hose – ultimately returning to the vacuum equipment – removes water from the material and carries it to the vacuum’s waste tank. Restrictions in airflow through the tool, the material, or the hose will impede the extraction process. It is important to do everything possible to ensure that this airflow is not restricted.

Be sure that technicians have a variety of extraction tools available. At the very minimum, a carpet wand and a squeegee wand would be necessary. Providing water technicians with deep extraction tools provides the greatest flexibility to save as much of the structure as possible.

Vacuum Equipment

The vacuum equipment does the real heavy-duty work of the extraction process. While the extraction tool is actually in contact with the wet surface, the vacuum is what removes water from the environment.

Types of vacuums used in restoration range from truck-mounted machines powered by gasoline engines to portable, electric vacuums.

It is important to note that many small vacuums, such as shop-vacs, do not provide sufficient vacuum power to support water removal from carpet and underlay. Restorers must use equipment specifically designed for removing water from these materials.

Regardless of the type of vacuum equipment being used, several guidelines must be followed to increase extraction effectiveness:
  • If excessive contents are present in a room, minimize handling and speed the process by extracting the center of the room first. Move contents to the center of the room, blocking and protecting contents, and extract the outside perimeter.
  • The extraction hose must be the shortest length possible, as resistance increases with hose length.
  • The extraction hose must be the largest diameter approved for the tool and vacuum equipment (refer to manufacturer’s literature). On deep extraction tools, this diameter is 2 inches.
  • Loops and bends must be avoided.
  • ”Live” or “active” hose reels, while great for carpet cleaning, are not to be used for water extraction.

Standing Water and Submersible Pumps

One of the most valuable and time saving tools in restoration is the submersible pump. They are available in many different sizes and pumping capacities, so it is important to read the specifications for the pump being purchased.
  • Smaller pumps remove up to 600 gallons per hour, down to ¼ inch in depth.
  • Larger pumps will remove up to 2,400 gallons per hour, down to a depth of ¾ inch.
  • Gas-powered submersibles are also available that will remove 3,500 to 4,000 gallons of water per hour. However, the disposal hose is comparable in size to a fire hose – meaning disposal of water at the resulting flow rate can become an issue.
Standing water on the inside of a basement or crawlspace exerts pressure on the walls and/or foundation of the structure. If the water table of the surrounding ground has risen along with the interior water, equal pressure is pushing toward the inside of the structure.

This pressure is called hydrostatic pressure. Removing all of the interior water too quickly, while the pressure still exists outside, can result in structural failure of, or damage to, the walls.

During the extraction process the depth of water must be monitored to ensure that it is actually falling at the expected rate. If the water is not receding at the expected rate, it is possible that a high water table exists outside the structure, and water is entering due to hydrostatic pressure.

Pumping efforts must be halted entirely, until the water table recedes outside and/or a structural engineer or other appropriate expert has been consulted.


There are many tools and techniques available to extract in water damage restoration. With care and skill, a trained technician can use extraction to speed up every single drying job. This will save your customers money and time, and any company that saves time and money eventually wins.

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