Creative Drying Techniques for Problematic Areas

March 3, 2014

Even with advances in drying equipment over the last 10-15 years, drying certain areas of structures can still present challenges. Drying carpet, pad, solid wood baseboards and sheetrock is not generally a problem on a fresh-water loss. However, industry-standard drying techniques will not, in some scenarios, get the structure dry in a reasonable amount of time.

So how do you change what you are doing, think outside the box and still get the job dry with the least amount of destruction and build back cost as possible?

First, look at the cost of removing and replacing versus the cost of drying. Then if it’s cost-effective to dry the area, how do you go about doing that? Let’s examine a few scenarios and the solutions.

Scenario 1

A freshwater pipe leak occurred in an attic directly above a corner where two walls meet. The water ran down the corner and on part of the header to the door, but only on one side of the wall. The amount of lumber at the corner and framing at the door makes this a difficult area to dry. To make matters worse if any demolition is done, then a great deal of painting will need to be done to a large portion of the house due to the open floor plan. 

The decision was made to cut some plastic ducting in half and tape it to the wall with blue painters tape (staples were not used because they would have left holes to fill and a need to paint). Then the hot dry air off of the low-grain refrigerant (LGR) was blown directly on the wall. The air was blown in at the bottom of the wall and allowed to escape out the top of the plastic. Another approach could have been to blow dehumidified air into a heater and then blow that up the wall through the plastic.

Scenario 2

A freshwater leak occurred when a second-floor bathroom sink overflowed. A large amount of water flowed down a column on the first floor. The column and many of the downstairs rooms adjacent to it were faux painted.

Preserving the column’s faux paint was important, since repainting it – and the matching areas on the first floor – would have cost thousands of dollars. The approach was to wrap the column in plastic, hot dry air off the LGR was then pumped into the plastic. A small heater was also used inside the plastic to add more heat to the column. The air was allowed to escape out the top of the plastic. In this scenario, the plastic was only taped to the column at the top using painters tape first followed by duct tape and no staples were used.  This way the painters tape was pulled off of the column with no damage to the painted surface below.

Scenario 3

A freshwater, galvanized-pipe leak in the attic of a one story house sprayed from the low side of the living room ceiling up to the beam in the middle of the room.

Removing the wet insulation in the attic allowed the ceiling to dry, but the beam was a different story. The solution: The beam was wrapped in plastic, with staples used to keep the plastic up -- staining on the ceiling meant the ceiling was going to need to be repainted, and so putting a few staples on the beam was nothing that the painter couldn’t easily cover up. Also, the blue painters tape was put on the beam first, followed by a few staples, then the white duct tape was used (being careful to make sure it stayed on top of the painters tape) to help secure the plastic. An LGR was then used to pump hot dry air up to the beam and force it to dry out.

Three scenarios, one common theme

All three scenarios include locations with multiple pieces of lumber stacked side-by-side then wrapped in sheetrock. Each also includes areas most restorers remove the sheetrock from, exposing the lumber so it can dry. And each was more cost effective to dry in place rather than tear up and rebuild.

Using only LGR’s or desiccants, completely drying structures with little to no tear-out, documenting the progress of jobs in detail and being in daily contact with the adjuster can allow a restoration company to rise above its competition.

Serious restoration companies are increasingly drying difficult areas of structures rather than replacing them. Insurance companies are taking note as well. Today, many adjusters are going to the same classes as restorers, learning what can be done and they are looking for the drying contractors that can do non-rebuild projects.

As restorers, we sometimes miss opportunities to dry areas because it seems too difficult and the standard “put a fan on it” method won’t work quickly enough. But taking a creative approach to drying structures can set an organization apart from the competition.  

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