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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

Where Does the Water Go After a Leak Inside an Apartment Building?

4/11/2020 (Permalink)

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Landlords Need Help Tracing All Migration of Water After a Plumbing Leak in Queens--SERVPRO Has the Training and Tools Needed

Perhaps one of the most mysterious things a property owner must puzzle out is where water travels after a leak in one or more rentals, especially in a large and complex space. Multi-unit housing is not an unexpected location for such detective work, as every apartment is typically plumbed separately, yet shares walls, ceilings, and floors with other living spaces. It is inadequate for a landlord to respond only to the complaint of one tenant when it is very likely that the water from the leak eventually spreads throughout the building.

Is It Easy to Follow the Migration of Water from Space to Space?

When working on water removal in a Queens rental building, how do we find all of the moisture? Water is often characterized as moving along the path of least resistance. The truism does not always hold up to scrutiny, as a number of other factors weigh in. For example, if water runs along the outside of a pipe, think condensation on a cold water supply pipe parallel to the floor in a warm, damp basement, some water will drip in a line along the expanse of the pipe to the floor. Instead of just one wet spot below the pipe, there will be many damp areas, tracing on the floor over the length of the pipe. If, on the other hand, the cold pipe is perpendicular to the floor, the condensation will tend to run down that pipe, depositing in a circle around the bottom. Other examples can result in even more varied answers. Apparently, “least resistance” is not a straightforward concept.

How Do Trained Technicians Follow the Water?

Since water follows pathways not quite as straightforward as folklore might think, SERVPRO must find more reliable ways to discover where water migrates and hides. Our technicians master basic moisture detection strategies during the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification (IICRC) training. We use detectors with and without prongs to locate the presence of moisture, helping us trace the outline of a water incursion. For added data, we also employ moisture meters to determine levels of water absorbed by permeable materials. The moisture levels become baselines for our Applied Structural Drying (ASD) technicians when we move on to determining drying goals after we remove all standing water.

What About Infrared Imaging?

We also pursue advanced training from the IICRC in Building Moisture Thermography. This higher-level course teaches technicians to use the elements of infrared radiation, thermodynamics, and psychrometry, the science of drying, in an interdisciplinary approach. Developing competence in how these elements work together supports our ability to locate hidden water and moisture when inspecting and restoring building envelopes. Interpretation of the temperature fluctuations is an art, as well as a science and, it helps when tracking down where the water might have moved.

Why Does It Matter? Doesn’t the Water Just Dry Up Inside the Building?

One of the concerning factors to consider is the possibility of mold growth if all water is not removed from every space within an apartment building. Mold spores need only a small amount of moisture to “germinate” and begin their growth curve. Only oxygen, water, and an organic surface upon which to multiply are necessities for molds. No light is required so that mold colonies can breed in between walls, above ceilings, and in any building cavity. Because of the potential of mold damage when wood framing, drywall, ceiling tiles, and other building materials are just slightly wet, landlords must find and make arrangements to remove all water after a leak.

How Do Professionals Get Water Out of Confined Spaces?

Portable extractors can be brought far inside the units of even a large apartment building. The mobile units are much more flexible in uses, fitting in tight spaces much easier than the large yet more powerful truck-mounted variety. The equipment can be carried like a backpack, capable of extracting up to 12 gallons of water before needing to be drained to begin a fresh attempt to remove all the water practical. If the extractor cannot reach moisture, even with extenders, we have to consider some controlled demolition techniques. Options can include:

  • Drilling holes in drywall
  • Cutting out or removing sections of drywall or paneling
  • Taking down ceiling tiles to gain access to a building cavity

SERVPRO of Long Island City has a team of inquisitive managers and technicians ready to put their training and experience to the test when on the lookout for hidden water in a multiple-family residence. Call (718) 440-6994 to explore your options, minimizing disruption of your tenants’ right of quiet enjoyment of their apartments.

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