Feature story in April 2009 Claims Magazine
Recently, the insurance community and even some restoration firms have been making claims that competent restorative drying services guarantees that structures will be dried within a time frame of 3 (three) days. Those with a background in restorative drying use this “guarantee” of three day drying times in an effort to attract new adjusters to their client list. Additionally, those with a background in insurance damage repair make the claim that one of the ways one can “spot a problem contractor” is when they receive an invoice for drying services that exceed 3 days in drying, even calling such firms as employing “smoke and mirrors”!
Are expectations of this sort problematic? Let’s review.
Restoration firms and Certification bodies (IICRC, ASCR – now called RIA) do NOT publish anywhere that the drying of structures is accomplished in any specific time frame! Some from the insurance community have claimed that the IICRC S-500 actually publishes that “a simple fresh-water loss of one or two rooms that was found within 24 hours and has limited damage to walls typically can be dried in three days.” I would challenge such an individual to produce any such a reference. In fact, there fails to be any reference to “3 day drying” (or derivative) anywhere in the IICRC S-500, 2006. The closest thing I could find to any reference to drying a structure within a specific time frame was the following comment:
“Currently, among the IICRC’s 38,000 registered technicians, approximately 24,000 are IICRC-certified as Water Restoration Technicians (WRT), with approximately 4500 of those being certified in Applied Structural Drying (ASD). This number is growing daily. ASD is primarily a hands-on course in which demonstration houses representative of standard residential construction are flooded, extracted, monitored and dried throughout the three-day course – although three-day drying cannot be guaranteed.“
IICRC S-500, 2006; Page 312, Appendix D: IICRC Technical Advisory on “In-Place” Drying
If smoke and mirrors are employed anywhere, it comes from the individuals that claim of industry Standards making such claims of non existent language! While some adjusters may spew defamatory comments and titles of the contractor failing to be “in possession of the technology, equipment or training needed to do the job properly”, or of being “unscrupulous” and threaten to “adjust their bills” based on their wishful non-existent quotations, the fact remains that they are hard pressed to substantiate their comments. It is a shame that individuals would actually publish such erroneous material that may result in serious conflicts between contractor and adjuster rather than assist in fair and scientifically sound practice.
However, it is not just individuals within the insurance community that may be in error. The restoration community has also attempted to exploit such concepts. While discussing the benefits of the IICRC Applied Structural Drying (ASD) training, comments of this sort are being made:
“An example of the industry’s growth and sophistication in the field of drying can be found through new job guarantees that rely on using advanced psychrometry. A guarantee of drying time in just three days can be achieved through balance among four areas:… For homeowners and insurance companies, ASD training programs offer an alternative to conventional drying methods that may take five to seven days to dry the same types of losses.”
As an IICRC instructor of the Applied Structural Drying course for several years, I can assure you that such “three-day” guarantees are never made in the curriculum and is not implied or included in any exam questions. As an IICRC course, the ASD program is founded on the S-500 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration. This Standard and Reference Guide makes NO such representation. For a restorer to make such a claim is completely deceiving to the public and the insurance community. Such expectations fail to reflect any credible science whatsoever.
As an ASCR Certified Restorer (CR #250) and Water Loss Specialist (WLS #23), I will assure you that these training programs do not make such claims of guaranteed drying times either. It is incumbent upon these Three-Day Drying Dreamers to produce such a quote from these organizations in support of their comments.
Why have they failed to quote from these standards in support of their position?
The reason is because the statements do not exist!
A Serious Situation
It is unclear where such a concept of 3 day drying has come from. While it is completely within the rights for restoration contractors to offer a cap in their drying charges as a marketing effort, it is completely inappropriate to guarantee an industry standard of materials being dried to a pre loss condition within 3 days. The current industry standards make NO such representation and it is a disservice to the public, the insurance community and the restoration industry to make such a claim.
It is a lie.
When the insurance community and the restoration community becomes disillusioned into believing that all projects must be arbitrarily returned to a pre loss moisture content within 72 hours, the trend will be to simply remove the equipment from the project because the judgment of their competence requires that all structural materials in a residence are safely dryable in 72 hours. Absurd conclusions of this sort encourage incompetence as they are not built upon science – but rather delusional expectations from those that wish to manipulate the expenses related to the performance of a competent and attentive restorative drying professional.
Consider the consequences of this industry trend to limit restorative drying efforts to a time frame! Less attention will be given to the results of the drying efforts, and more attention will be given to the time the equipment was left on site. Restoration professionals may potentially place the results of their drying strategy as secondary to the potential accusation of being “unscrupulous” or “incompetent” in their practice since they left their equipment on the jobsite longer than 3 days! What restoration professional wants that reputation?! Of course, the impact of leaving materials unacceptably wet in the insured’s property is potentially devastating. But if the world starts to believe that competency is based on removing all equipment by the third day because “all materials can be dried in 3 days” if they follow the industry Standards and the Applied Structural Drying (ASD) process – then why wouldn’t they simply remove the equipment from the project regardless of the actual conditions within the structure?
Such an approach to the evaluation of a restorer’s drying strategy reeks of illogical reasoning. It reminds me of a movie where one entrepreneur seeks to produce a fitness video training seminar called “Six Minute Abs” to compete with his competition that produced a video called “Seven Minute Abs”. The whole concept is self destructive because you know there will be someone out there that will make the next video called “Five Minute Abs”. Most consumers would recognize each of these videos as a scam effort. In the concluding words from one of the authors quoted above: If it walks, talks and acts like a duck – then it probably is a duck. The same is true of 3 day drying claims. If it walks talks and acts like a scam – it’s a scam!
One should recognize individuals that make unsubstantiated claims of 3-day-drying standards and industry training programs as spinners of propaganda with an agenda. Readers beware!
The TRULY Competent Restorer
While it is impossible to describe how to determine competent drying strategies in a few sentences at the conclusion of this article, it is obvious that it certainly is NOT done by observing an invoice with only 3 days of drying charges! However, the truly competent restorer should be able to answer the following questions comprehensively and mathematically:
- What materials were affected by the water and how were they tested?
- Where the test site is located in the structure. (include photo and thermal image if available)
- What would a person expect the moisture content to be in that geographic area in that season – and what support would they have for that conclusion?
- How close to Dry Standard does a material have to be in order to be considered ‘dry enough’?
- Following the drying strategy, will there be enough moisture present in the materials to support mold g rowth? How do they know?
- While many restoration professionals and even adjusters request verification that the dehumidifiers were actually removing moisture (grain depression), isn’t the more important question really: “At any given time in the drying process, what was the influence of the present environment on the hygroscopic (both the wet and non affected) materials?”
- With the above question answered, how did the contractor make the decision to add or remove equipment from the project in the drying strategy? What was the impact of these decisions in the drying forces exerted on the affected materials?
- What documentation does the restorer have that verifies the meters were functioning correctly and accurately?
- What kind of meter was used on each inspection site? And was the meter designed for such a usage?
- According to the meter manufacturer’s Owner’s Manual, were the corrective mathematics used to determine the actual moisture content in the material?
- If more than one type of test or meter is collected on an inspection site, are they in agreement, or do they conflict? What does this mean?
- Does the inspection site meet the criteria for being considered ‘done’ – and when was this determined?
- How does this inspection site compare to others found on the project?
Competence is not solely determined by “time to dry the structure”. It is determined through criteria that demonstrate an attentiveness to the task that they were hired to do. They are hired to dry the structure to acceptable pre loss moisture content and mitigate the loss. More importantly – the competent restorer can prove his results! The ability to answer the questions mentioned above reflect more competency than an invoice that merely charges for 3 days of drying.
If the project takes four… or five… or six days … or more… and the contractor answers the questions mentioned above with quality documentation and conclusive science, then this restoration professional is a true asset to your list of qualified drying contractors. Certainly, this contractor that took 6 or more days to dry a structure carries more legitimacy than the contractor that simply provides an invoice with a 3 day drying cap.
The consistent 3-day-drying contractor just may be your greatest, and most likely “problem contractor”!
About the author: Ken Larsen, CR, WLS, CSDS has been in the restoration industry since 1978. His certifications include the highest levels of accreditation within RIA (ASCR) as a Certified Restorer (CR) and Water Loss Specialist (WLS) and IICRC’s Master Textile Cleaner, Master Fire and Smoke Restorer and Master Water Restorer. Mr. Larsen’s career includes 18 years as an independent restoration contractor, an IICRC approved instructor in WRT, ASD and CDS, approved facilitator / instructor for the industry’s capstone educational certification Certified Restorer (CR), consultant to restorative drying during catastrophes and large loss drying coordination. Mr. Larsen presently serves as Senior Technical Advisor for the International Dry Standard Organization, makers of DryStandard(tm) Report software. You may contact Ken Larsen at firstname.lastname@example.org