Getting Ed-Ucated: Selective Investigation
When we're not sure how long materials have been wet, and we're trying to determine the category of water, it may be beneficial to perform a "Selective Investigation" to look for signs that might indicate how long materials have been in contact with water.
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, we want to be thorough with our examination. If we think the affected materials may have been wet for over 48 hours, we need to be sure we don't have fungi growing behind or below the affected materials. The key is to obtain photos of the wettest areas where mold would most likely grow to justify classifying it as a category 2 or 3.
If the category hasn't been determined after confirming the origin of loss, we ask the lead tech to go to where wet materials could support mold growth and perform a minor invasive investigation to help make a determination. For example, if the source of loss is a toilet supply line leak and we're not sure how long materials have been wet, we ask the tech to go to where it has been the wettest the longest. That's probably behind the toilet. We request a close-up photo of that area, then pull off the baseboard, take a picture of the back of it, and the drywall surface behind the base. Finally, we request them to cut out a 2 ½" x 12" piece of drywall (below baseboard line) and take a photo of the back of the drywall paper that was inside the wall cavity. If there is no visible potential microbial growth, then it should be safe to leave the water loss classified as a category 2 as long as there are no musty odors or other filth or contamination indicators.
Generally, drywall paper (front & back) and the back of base trim are excellent materials to check for mold growth!
If the water loss originated under the kitchen sink, the technician should take close-up photos of every affected cabinet after pulling off the toe kick and identify how much staining or mold there is on the surface. If the water traveled through the floor and entered into the room below, the lead tech should use their infrared camera and moisture meters to identify the wettest areas under the origin of loss. They can cut open the ceiling (1'x 1' inspection port) to take readings, photos and look for visible mold growth.
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. CodeBlue and the lead technician will work together to piece the puzzle together as evidence is gathered.
We ask a lot of questions, like have there been other water intrusions in the affected areas? When? Where? What was done to mitigate it? Is it a high humidity area? If we're confident that it's a clean water loss and we find visible microbial growth, we can also be confident that it's most likely pre-existing, and we need to let the 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, the materials may have been wet for a week or longer, depending upon the amount of visible mold. In that case, the water loss could be a Category 3 due to time.
Remember: Category 3 water is "grossly contaminated." We need some proof of microorganism risk to human health to validate demolition authorization. To find evidence, we might have to open things up a bit and take good photos.