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4 Pro Tips for Wall Cavity Drying

by Jocelyn Hare; e-published in R&R Magazine

There are multiple ways to dry affected walls, each with different benefits depending on the severity of the loss. It is often recommended to start with the drying process that requires the least amount of demolition. When you remove affected materials that could be dried, you decrease the amount of drying equipment needed. Drying walls allows you to minimize your labor costs while maximizing the amount of drying equipment on a job.

1.  A common step to drying affected walls is to remove affected baseboard. By detaching baseboard from wet walls, capillary action (stage 2 of the drying process) can occur. While baseboards may impede the dry-time of wet walls, this is also the case with wall coverings such as calcimine (often referred to as “cal-cote”), gloss and semi-gloss paints, and wallpaper. Once the baseboard is removed, and nearby flooring is dry, bound moisture in the walls may “wick” out through the bottom of the walls. Contractors often leave a small gap between the wall material and the subfloor.

Pro Tip#1: To reduce secondary damage to affected walls, carefully score the top of the baseboard to disconnect it from the wall or wall covering.

2.  When materials become wet, the moisture becomes bound within the materials, including the inside of wall cavities. To dry materials that contain bound water, the drying process goes through the third and final stage of drying, “vapor diffusion”. The best way to allow airflow to access the affected wall cavities is through wall cavity drying. By removing the baseboard and creating one 5/8” hole every 14-16 inches (or in between each stud bay), the decrease in vapor pressure will allow moisture trapped inside the materials to turn into vapor and evaporate into the drying chamber. Wall cavity drying can help reduce the overall dry-time of affected materials.

Pro Tip #2: Use an aerator, like the one created for restorers by Restoration Tools, to create the holes for wall cavity drying. It is 15 times faster than the current method and leaves no debris to clean up.

Pro Tip #3: The process of creating holes for wall cavity drying can typically be added to estimates. (ex: Xactimate users, use WTR WALLH)

3.  In some cases, the process of wall cavity drying may require the use of specialty drying equipment. Unlike typical wall cavity drying, where the vapor evaporates into the drying chamber through the cavity hole, the injected airflow helps to inject drier air from the chamber into the cavities.

wall cavity drying
Aerator being used to make holes for wall cavity drying.

Pro Tip #4: Using injected-air drying systems can be advantageous in drying hard-to-reach spaces or sensitive areas such as server/computer rooms.

As with any water loss, it is necessary to utilize proper drying equipment sized and placed to allow for optimum drying. Follow local and industry guidelines in determining salvageable materials and the best drying process for each water loss.

Be sure to follow the EPA’s lead RRP procedures when doing demolition in a building built before 1978. Older buildings may have lead paint or asbestos, and it is imperative that safe abatement procedures are followed. 

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Techniques for Effective Wall Cavity Drying

General Guidelines for Wall Cavity Drying

by Jocelyn Hare; e-published in R&R Magazine

Wall cavity drying. It’s a simple concept, but what does it do for the drying process and why is it so important?

We know the drying process consists of three stages:

  1. Removal of surface water through evaporation – using airflow of warmer drier air to evaporate moisture as it wicks from the material pores.
  2. Removal of free water through capillary action – as long as surface tension is decreased and the material pores are still wet, water will continue to be pulled from the affected materials and then evaporate. Baseboard is a common inhibitor to the capillary action, so it is commonly detached.
  3. Removal of bound water through vapor diffusion – capillary action can no longer continue, forcing the moisture to turn into vapor and evaporates from inside the pores. The third stage of the drying process is the most difficult to achieve in materials that do not have full airflow on all sides of the affected materials.

Wall cavity drying is especially useful for the second and third stages (drying through capillary action and vapor diffusion). Let’s take wet walls of drywall as an example. After removing the baseboard, which blocks air flow, technicians may create ⅝” holes along the perimeter of the affected walls. Through a combination of the pressure exerted, the volume of the space, and the latent energy, water is taken from its physical state and turned into a gas, or vapor. This process can also take place in ceiling and cabinet cavities.

So when should you use wall cavity drying methods? Here are some general guidelines:

  • to help achieve the standard drying time of 3-5 days
  • decrease demolition, such as “flood-cutting”. While gypsum board loses structural integrity when wet, the strength returns as it dries, allowing for salvageability.
  • Category 1 and Category 2 losses – be sure to consider all potential contaminants during inspection for proper safety and health of customers and technicians.
  • to dry rooms without direct air circulation (such as server/computer rooms)
  • to dry hard to reach spaces through the backside of an adjoining room
  • to dry under cabinets and vanities
  • in conjunction with specialty cavity drying systems and equipment

There isn’t a “one size fits all” method for water restoration, as each job and customer is unique. It is important to assess each situation so you can use the best tool for the job. After removing the baseboard, being sure to score it so as to not cause secondary damage, the most common method of creating holes for wall cavity drying is with a drill and vacuum. Did you know you can typically add this as a line item in your estimates? A fact of the restoration industry is the high margin profitability of equipment rental, and conversely, the low margins associated with labor intensive tasks.  When you remove affected materials that could have been dried, you decrease the amount of drying equipment needed. Drying wall cavities allows you to minimize your labor costs while maximizing the amount of drying equipment on a job.

A new tool has emerged in the market, called the Aerator, that speeds this process by 15 times. This innovative tool is designed and produced by Restoration Tools. The team has over 40 years of combined experience in the disaster restoration industry and is improving restoration one tool at a time. To learn more about the Aerator and Restoration Tools, visit restorationtools.com.

Be sure to follow the EPA’s Lead RRP procedures when doing demolition in a building built before 1978. Older buildings may have lead paint or asbestos, and it is imperative that safe abatement procedures are followed.

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Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Tool helps workers accomplish tasks in record time

Jocelyn Hare, Restoration Tools’ chief operations officer, displays a newly developed tool proving to be a game changer for the disaster restoration industry.

“Necessity is the mother of invention”. This proverb has been the driving force for Restoration Tools, a company that is developing industry-changing tools for disaster restoration. While the team was doing its work as members of a disaster restoration franchise, the realized the need in their industry for more innovative tools which allowed workers to complete tasks faster and more safely.

Product Development

With more than 40 years of combined experience in the disaster restoration industry, Restoration Tools partners are familiar with what it takes to run a restoration company. Designing and producing a new product was a totally new ballgame.

Inventing and manufacturing a product always presents unforeseen challenges. Identifying challenges, creating new solutions and overcoming roadblocks is part of the process of product development. Restoration Tools has a lot of ideas, and the initial impulse was to try to develop them all at once. With the guidance of NIU EIGERlab’s Center for Product Development, they decided to tackle one invention at a time.

After settling on their first product, The Aerator, they soon realized they had a multitude of decisions to make. In order to achieve the best results, and not damage their new product, they realized it must be paired with a custom mallet for best results.

With more than one product element to be managed, the team decided to offer a custom carrying bag so the equipment would not be lost or left behind on the job site.

Another caveat to their current innovation underway is offering customer coloring for larger-sized clients such as franchise owners, to provide brand consistency for the company.

The Restoration Tools team discovered that product development is a complex challenge and that when starting a new entity, you may need more time and capital than you initially forecasted.

“We’ve now participated in our first trade show and advertised in our first trade magazine,” said Jocelyn Hare, chief operations officer. “People see the need [for The Aerator], and we’re elated to share that partnerships are forming. In addition, we have reconsidered our sales model to work alongside distributors who will not only assist with sales, but will enhances our marketing efforts.”

Accelerated Growth

The Aerator is a powerful tool because it allows a project that would have taken a technician an hour to complete, to be handled in just five minutes. As such a game changer for the disaster restoration business, it’s already in high-demand.

“From our test marketing, we knew the product had legs, but surprisingly, not to this level. Currently, we’re handling the assembly internally, but we anticipate the need to expand more quickly than we originally thought,” Hare said.

Being an owner of a restoration company for the last 14 years, the process of drilling holes has always been a headache. When you hire technicians, it is inevitable that at some point, they drill a hole above the baseboard, which creates extra work and lost revenue. Not only does The Aerator totally eliminate that issue, but it also saves so much time and effort with the process and cleanup itself.

– Bill K

A local business owner recently bought two Aerators and is planning to purchase another three this month, due to increased productivity and rave reviews from employees.

The Aerator is just the beginning for Restoration Tools. “Now that we have experience creating our first product, we plan to move on with additional inventions quickly. We anticipate starting the R&D phase of our next product in late 2019,” Hare said.

NIU EIGERlab embraces startups and supports entrepreneurs like the Restoration Tools team along the pathway toward success. Programming and services are in place at two NIU EIGERlab locations to assist startups and existing businesses—entrepreneurs in all phases. To learn more about how NIU EIGERlab can help you develop your idea or grow your business, visit www.EIGERlab.org or call 815.753.2192.

By: Sherry Pritz Enderle; NIU EIGERlab