Drying Water-Damaged Walls

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Drying Water-Damaged Walls
VOL. 9 NO. 4
Drying Water-Damaged Walls
When water damage occurs in a home, not only are
the floors affected, but often the walls are as well.
Sometimes the damage is obvious, but in many
cases it is hidden and may be missed by those not
specifically trained in water damage restoration.
For the restoration professional, the first step is to
determine the extent of the water damage. Water that
enters a room from ground level will cover the floor
and floor covering, and will then begin to wick up
the wall (move vertically) because of capillary action
in porous materials. The extent of this wicking will
depend on the construction of the wall, the amount of
the water, and its height on the wall material.
Drywall is an absorbent material made of a gypsum
core and a cardboard-like paper on both sides.
Drywall can wick water up to thirty inches! The water
will be present on both sides of the wall and often, it
is higher on the inside due to restricted evaporation
on that side of the drywall. While water damage is
sometimes visible, at other times, the wall does not
show signs of this moisture.
A restoration professional has a full range of
professional metering equipment to help evaluate
damage. One choice is a non-invasive moisture meter.
This meter uses radio waves to test for the presence
of water without putting holes in the wall. Another
professional instrument is an infrared imaging device
or camera. Since the evaporation from wet walls
makes them cooler than dry walls, the IR camera can
identify the presence of water in walls — with no
holes or other invasion of the wall material.
Once wet walls are identified, drying equipment is
used to dry them. If there is no insulation present, the
walls can usually be dried without holes and without
removing the baseboard. The restoration professional
places High Capacity Air Movers along the wall
every ten to fourteen linear feet. These air movers
remove the water molecules from the surface of the
wall, allowing further evaporation (drying) to occur
as quickly as possible. As the moisture from the wall
evaporates into the air, capillary action draws more
moisture to the surface where it evaporates.
The restoration professional will also install a Low
Grain Refrigerant dehumidifier in the structure — one
or more as needed. This state-of-the-science drying
equipment reduces the humidity levels to facilitate
drying and help prevent the occurrence of mold.
When appropriate, the restoration professional will
install an inner-wall drying system by putting small
holes above the sill plate and forcing air into the wall
cavity. Studies have shown that this is the best and
fastest way to dry walls with water damage.
If there is a moisture barrier on the outside or inside
the wall, the drying procedure changes. Moisture
barriers are coatings or materials that inhibit the
movement of moisture from the wall material. Most
latex paints are permeable and do not constitute a
barrier. Glossy paints may create a barrier. Enamel
paint or vinyl wall coverings create a complete
barrier. They will need to be perforated or removed to
allow the moisture to escape and the walls to dry. If
there is plastic or foil on the inside of the wall, then
the wall will need to be removed since drying will not
occur properly and mold will almost certainly develop
in such situations.
Insulation in the wall will also affect drying. If there
is fiberglass insulation with paper backing, then an
inner-wall drying system can be used, as described
above. If the insulation is foil-backed fiberglass,
blown-in cellulose, or a Styrofoam material, then it
cannot be dried successfully. In those cases, removing
the damaged portion of the wall along with the
insulation is necessary to allow rapid drying and to
prevent the development of mold.
Regardless of the procedures used by the restoration
professional, it is important that the customer
recognize that the equipment must operate, without
stopping, throughout the drying process.
as needed. Part of the daily monitoring includes
moisture measurements to determine when the
materials are successfully dried. Material dryness is
measured against similar unaffected materials in that
structure. When the levels are the same, the drying is
finished and the equipment removed.
A restoration professional, such as PuroClean,
understands and uses the principles and procedures of
the science of drying to dry walls and other items as
quickly and thoroughly as possible, preventing further
damage and the development of mold.
Regardless of the circumstances — if water damage
occurs from storms, floods, or other sources, call your
local PuroClean office, the Paramedics of Property
Damage™. For all water damage, or damage from
fire or smoke, these professionals are standing by.
They will mitigate the loss to prevent further damage
and will then provide restoration services to return
the property to a pre-loss condition as quickly as
possible. All PuroClean offices have well-trained
professional technicians who provide the latest stateof-the-science services to all property damaged from
water, fire, smoke, mold, and other disasters.
A restoration professional will monitor the drying
system at least once each day to insure the equipment
is operating correctly and to make adjustments
written by
Will Southcombe
Director of Technical Services,
PuroClean Headquarters
Master of Arts,
Master of Business Management,
Water Restoration Technician,
Applied Structural Drying,
Certified Microbial Remediator
Copyright © 2003-2009. All rights reserved in all countries.
Reproduction of the material is prohibited without prior permission.

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