Getting Ed-Ucated: Drying Cabinets
September 10, 2020
The ANSI/IICRC S500-2015 reference guide states that when practical, restorers may dry cabinets in place by circulating air in the interstitial space (beneath & behind). Many cabinets (built-in or attached) are manufactured out of wood veneer, plastic laminated over MDF, or particleboard core. These materials are susceptible to damage from contact with water or extended contact with high humidity. Some cabinetry is constructed with plywood or even a solid wood core and is significantly more resistant to water damage.
It is critical the restorer inspect inside, behind, and underneath cabinets to identify what the core is made of, if they are wet, and if there is any visible mold or signs of long-term damage (staining, rot, etc.). Contractors should provide photos to document their condition and support technical recommendations. Even if the cabinets are dry, the contractor should provide photos of the dry readings to prove the cabinets were not affected, especially if they are in proximity to the water damage. Because most cabinets have water supply and drain lines inside them, they are prone to water damage from slow leaks hidden from view and notorious for long-term damage, continuous seepage, or rot. It is critical the restorer provide photos showing if they are affected or not and if there are any signs of long-term damage or mold! The S500 says that a complete inspection of the cabinets can require drilling holes in inconspicuous areas and evaluating levels of moisture and drying options.
When drying the cabinets in place, it's necessary to drill holes in the toe kicks or remove them to circulate air underneath. If they're on an interior wall, it may be required to cut holes through walls to access them from behind. Moisture content readings can be taken with long probes attached to the restorer's moisture meter and small holes drilled inside. The cabinets can be repaired with wood putty upon completion.
Depending on the condition of the cabinets (swelling or deterioration of particleboard or MDF), many cabinets can be dried in-place if affected with category 1, 2 or 3 water, per the S500 reference guide! The issue with cabinets affected with category 3 water is the degree of contamination and if they can be cleaned adequately in-place. If large amounts of mold are visible inside, beneath, or behind the cabinets or are affected with sewage, they will generally need to be detached and cleaned properly. It may be possible to save the cabinet faces, so it is important to take photos before and after detaching the cabinets to evaluate their condition.