Drying of wall structures at water damage sites

Leaking pipes and external moisture ingress are typical causes behind the need to dry wall structures. In every case, the type of wall material is crucial in deciding the choice of drying and repair method, with disassembly sometimes preferable to drying.

The wall has suffered water damage – what’s the advice?

When water damage is detected in a wall structure, the first action required is damage mapping. Calling Polygon will quickly alert our damage experts, and in urgent cases you can also reach us outside of working hours by calling the emergency number. It is also a good idea to report your water damage to your insurance company at the outset if the damage is sudden and unexpected.

If water damage occurs to a wall in a condominium, the damage management process will typically be actioned through a maintenance company or property manager.

Damage mapping involves determining the area involved, the likely cause and the extent of the damage, which is ascertained with the help of moisture measurements. Insurance companies will also need this information to be able to make decisions about any compensation. Further to the survey of the damage, an assessment will be made of the appropriate measures required to carry out the repair.

As an initial step, damaged areas beyond repair will be demolished according to the mapping report. In the case of timber-framed walls, water-affected structures are generally renovated, with the exception of log structures. As an organic material, wood can decay and is a favorable substrate for microbial growth. However, in the event of sudden damage, it is possible that drying the log wall is a workable solution, with drying ideally beginning immediately after the damage to avoid possible microbial damage.

If the wall structures have been wet for a long time it may also be necessary to carry out more detailed examinations to determine whether the structures have experienced microbial damage through analysis of material samples.

Drying the water damage in the wall

Prior to any necessary demolition, the damage area is protected, subdivided, and vacuumed. Once this work has been completed, the drying of the wall structures can be started, with the type of dryers selected on a site-by-site basis.

As with floor drying, stone walls can be dried using mains-operated hot plates or mats, which can be attached to the walls. Different sizes of heating plates can be chosen to suit the wall surface to be dried. Thermal mats are flexible in material and of standard size. Both hotplates and heat mats are suitable for tight spaces.

When using dehumidifiers, dry air can be directed to the desired location with a hose, with the exhaust hose from the dryer directing the moisture out. Condensate dryers and auxiliary fans are also suitable for drying concrete and brick walls.

In the case of exterior wall structures that consist of, for example, a load-bearing concrete wall and an intermediate insulation layer, damaged areas can be suction dried. Suction and replacement holes are drilled in the wall at certain intervals, through which drying takes place.

If, instead of a wooden frame, metal frames are used in the partitions, they will need to be replaced if they are rusted as a result of water damage. Often, there is also wool inside the metal frames, which should always be replaced when wet.

Drying of wall structures usually takes between two and four weeks, depending on the extent of water damage and the choice of dryers used.

Polygon also uses microwave drying technology, which is suitable for drying concrete and brick structures, and enables drying to be carried out rapidly. As a rule, the wall structures to be dried with microwave technology are thick, so the drying time is typically between three and seven days. Microwave drying is mainly used to dry small areas of damage measuring less than 5m2.

To dry thick wall structures, Polygon also employs rod dryers, which are placed in a hole drilled in the wall structure. Hundreds of square metres can be dried simultaneously using this method.

Other things to consider in the drying process of wall structures

Drying wall structures inevitably causes some level of disturbance, as the drying equipment requires space and generates heat and sound. If the damage area is large, it is often more sensible to move out during the drying and reconstruction phases.

In the case of more minor water damage, the area to be dried can be compartmentalized, in which case the drying is carried out in a so-called closed loop. Drying can also be staggered so that the drying equipment is not on at night, minimising disruption to those living in the property or apartment.

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