The insurance industry has historically been happy to support an approach to drying out buildings that makes no sense at all. Whenever a building gets soaked, whether by water from fire fighting or flooding from plumbing or from weather events, the priority is to get the building fabric dried out. To do this Loss Adjusters have often authorised the removal of huge amounts of saturated building fabric – plaster hacked off walls and ceilings and insulation removed from walls and floors.
In the case of plaster what goes back is often as wet, or wetter than, what was removed. This is often driven by contractors who have learned to play the insurance game.
However a more scientific approach is beginning to find its way into this soggy world.
Passing air from which the moisture has been removed using a desiccant dehumidifier will rapidly remove moisture from building fabric without any need to do anything more damaging than drilling holes to let the dry air into and out of cavities. Desiccant dehumidifiers work efficiently even in cold buildings whereas the performance of ordinary condensing dehumidifiers declines with temperature and their effectiveness in removing moisture from building fabric is limited and slow.
When it comes to damaged historic building fabric in heritage buildings it is of especial concern to limit the amount of material that is removed to landfill. Many of the buildings that we deal with are, in effect, antiques and should be treated with the care and attention that would be given to a piece of antique furniture of equivalent age and cultural value.
A careful and intelligent approach to water damaged buildings can save money, time and, in some cases, loss of historic significance. What’s not to like?
Chartered Building Surveyor