When composing the title for this month’s article I tried to come up with a tricky acronym for performing additional investigation when trying to determine category of water loss, such as the popular CSI or NCIS, but just couldn’t make it work… So I settled on SII. That is S ii, not S Roman numeral II, standing for Selective Invasive Investigation. What I mean by that is many times when the lead technician is trying to determine category 1, 2 or 3 and the exact date/time of the loss is unknown we need to investigate further.
I call it “Selective” because we only want to open up the walls, ceilings, floors or cabinets, if we absolutely have to, during our initial investigation, but we certainly want to be thorough in our investigation if we think the affected materials may have been wet over 48 hours. The key is obtaining photos of the wettest areas where mold would be most likely to grow to show why we determined the water loss to be category 2 vs. category 3.
I would encourage everyone if you are not certain if it is category 1, 2 or 3 to go to wherever there are wet materials that would most likely support and grow mold to perform a little more invasive investigation to help us make that determination. Be sure to alert the CodeBlue Water Mitigation Specialist and obtain their agreement, but they will have seen this article, as well, so we should all be on the same page. For example, if it is a toilet supply line leak and we are not quite sure if it has been over 2-3 or more days wet, go to where it has been the wettest the longest, which is probably behind the toilet, take a close-up photo of that area, then pull off the baseboard and take a photo of the back of the base and finally cut out a 2” x 6” piece of drywall (below baseboard line) and take a photo of the front and back of that. If there is not any visible potential microbial growth than it is probably safe to leave the water loss classified as a category 2, if there are no musty odors or other indicators of filth or contamination. Remember, don’t forget about potential asbestos containing materials in structures built prior to 1981 before performing any demolition or removing of materials.
If the water loss originated under the kitchen sink, then take close-up photos in every affected cabinet and under the cabinet after pulling off the toe kick. If the water travelled through the floor and went into the ceiling below, you may have to use your infrared camera and moisture meters to identify the wettest areas right under the origin of loss and cut open the ceiling to take readings, photos and look for visible mold growth. Make sure to make the insured aware of our reasons for investigating before disturbing material that will need to be replaced with new.
Finally, don’t forget that many structures with previous or ongoing moisture issues unrelated to this water loss might have visible microbial growth behind baseboards or under cabinets.. You will have to work together with the CodeBlue Water Mitigation Specialist to piece the puzzle together as you gather evidence (photos, photos, photos!). We need to ask lots of questions, like has there been any other water intrusions or wetting events in the past in those wet areas? When? Where? What was done to mitigate it? Is there normally high humidity in those areas? If we feel strongly that the water loss is a clean water loss and we find visible potential microbial growth, we can be confident that it is most likely pre-existing and we need to let the CodeBlue WMS and adjuster know. Remember, it typically takes 5-6 days in optimum growing conditions for mold to become visible, so if the mold originated from this water loss, it would automatically be a category 3 water loss. Be thorough, be detailed and gather facts and evidence by providing good photos with clear descriptions.
The best thing you can do to prevent future allegations that you caused mold is to take good photos with clear descriptions of all final moisture content readings proving you left the affected materials that were saved in pre-loss conditions that will not support mold growth from that water loss occurrence.