Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Make It a System

September 18, 2007
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I once attended the lecture by terrific motivational speaker and sales trainer Roy Chitwood. The recurring theme throughout his talk was, “Make it a procedure and it ceases to be a problem.”

I suppose that Roy’s statement could be modified slightly when it comes to water restoration systems: “Make it a system and it ceases to be a problem.”

As an expert witness in water-restoration litigation, and as the technical advisor for several non-profit organizations, I receive phone calls and e-mails daily from consumers, insurance professionals, restorers and remediators asking me about all sorts of restoration or remediation procedures – basically, whether or not they were performed properly. While I’m hardly in position to make judgment calls on situations that I haven’t seen firsthand, usually I can come up with a list of steps that should be performed by industry professionals, which callers can evaluate in their individual situations. I must say that I am appalled when I hear about essential procedures that are completely skipped or ignored by untrained or uncaring restorers.

Of course, I rely heavily upon industry standards, typically citing the IICRC S500 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration. Any restorer who doesn’t have a copy of that critical document is simply asking for trouble (and considerable liability).

Make It a System And It Ceases to be a Problem

For example, in Category 1 water-loss situations, a basic system for restoration might include:
  1. Respond quickly.
  2. Obtain proper authorization.
  3. Identify and eliminate, as possible, health and safety hazards.
  4. Relocate or protect contents.
  5. Ensure source elimination and determine the Category (1-3) of water and Class (1-4) of loss.
  6. Remove (extract) the excess water to confine the damage (mitigate the loss).
  7. Inspect and evaluate the extent of wetting, materials affected, apparent and potential damage.
  8. Formulate a drying plan.
  9. Remove unsalvable materials based on actual damage, or the need to expose pockets of saturation (e.g., non-porous sheet vinyl, laminate).
  10. Make initial atmospheric moisture measurements and determine the drying system (open vs. closed).
  11. Promote evaporation using IICRC S500 initial air mover formula.
  12. If a closed system is selected, calculate IICRC S500 initial dehumidifier capacity requirement.
  13. Consider the need for heat application; “sandwich” drying of wood or ceramic floor/subfloor; other structural components.
  14. Consider ventilation, or the building’s HVAC system to control excess heat buildup.
  15. Consider the need for AFD use when occupants are extremely allergic or respiratory impaired.
  16. Create a moisture map, daily humidity record, and materials MC record.
  17. Monitor the job daily to ensure equipment operation; reposition equipment; update the moisture map, atmospheric and MC data records; add or remove equipment based on drying progress.
  18. Communicate with materially interested parties about drying progress.
  19. Verify that drying goals have been met with written documentation.
  20. Final clean salvable components, such as carpet or other floor coverings.
  21. Replace or reconstruct (subcontract) as required.
  22. Obtain a completion certificate; complete paperwork and bill.
Similarly, a system for Category 3 water losses might reasonably include:
  1. Respond rapidly; obtain proper authorization.
  2. Provide proper PPE for all workers.
  3. Identify and eliminate, as possible, obvious safety hazards.
  4. Contain the damaged area to prevent cross contamination; avoid tracking out contamination.
  5. Establish managed airflow using a HEPA-filtered AFD(s).
  6. Inspect and evaluate extent of wetting, materials affected, accessibility and salvability.
  7. Remove, contain, and properly transport and dispose of unsalvable materials (e.g., carpet, cushion, drywall, insulation; saturated contents or inventories).
  8. Open pockets of saturation, e.g., remove flooring, base molding, drywall and insulation to expose wall or floor cavities.
  9. Contain, remove, and properly transport and dispose of flooring covering materials (e.g., carpet, sheet vinyl, laminate, strip wood).
  10. Physically remove solid debris, and pump or extract excess water; dispose properly.
  11. Pressure clean (low-pressure flooding and flushing) salvable exposed flooring or structural components immediately. Contain and collect (wet vacuum) cleaning solutions.
  12. Pour or spray on an appropriate disinfectant in a saturation application; extract the excess.
  13. Inject dehumidified air and allow salvable materials to dry while under proper containment.
  14. Create a moisture map, daily humidity record, and materials MC record.
  15. Monitor the job daily to ensure proper containment and equipment operation; update the moisture map, atmospheric and MC data records.
  16. Communicate with materially interested parties about drying progress.
  17. Verify drying goals with proper written documentation.
  18. Have an independent IEP sample and interpret the effectiveness of the remediation procedure before removing containment and managed airflow or finalizing.
  19. Replace, reconstruct and reinstall as appropriate.
  20. Obtain a completion certificate; complete paperwork and bill.


Obviously, these summarized procedures are necessarily abbreviated. There may be modifications to make in individual circumstances. But I am constantly amazed at how so-called professional restorers blissfully skip essential steps in Category 3 restoration procedures, such as using PPE; establishing containment and managed airflow; exposing pockets of saturation; thorough cleaning and disinfecting; daily monitoring; proper record keeping and verifying completion using an independent IEP. Then, when litigation becomes a reality, they whine about clients or insurance adjusters who wouldn’t allow or won’t pay for reasonable and prudent procedures that conform to industry standards.

I can hear the judge now: “Who’s the professional here, son?” and, “How does a professional put a price on human safety and health?”

As we all know, you can’t put a price on occupant safety and health; so unless there are extreme extenuating circumstances, systematic and conservative remediation procedures are essential to avoid health risks for workers and occupants, and to control liability. If any materially interested party insists on skipping or compromising essential components of the system, refer to the IICRC S500 Reference Guide chapter titled, “Limitations, Complexities, Complications and Conflicts.”

Remember, an ounce of remediation is worth a pound of litigation; make it a system so it ceases to be a problem.

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