Published On: Thu, Feb 4th, 2016

Restoring buildings after floods

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With extreme weather causing more flooding across the United Kingdom in recent years, Richfords Fire & Flood is keen to promote ways of restoring buildings quickly so that occupants are not out of their homes for too long. Importance is also laid on keeping replacement costs down as these mean an upward pressure on claims costs. Experts achieve both of these aims by employing a scientific approach that relies on highly-trained technicians and the latest technology.

Complications arise for the unwary when dealing with a flooded property built from granite, brick, cob, timber or wattle & daub. These have unique problems when affected by extreme conditions. For example; granite walls allow little moisture to permeate whereas cob and timber soaks up water in a flooding incident. A stone-built house may have a great deal of heritage oak internal panelling that can deform and split if water damage isn’t treated properly. There are health implications too from rot, mould, fungal growth and even insect infestations.

Shallow flooding on stone floors can usually be dealt with very easily but complications occur when the owner is not fully aware of what lies beneath. In some cases, moisture can become trapped in small voids. The problems really escalate if the water rises above the level of the floor and seeps into panelling and other wall-finishes. Moreover, the damage becomes worse the longer it takes to begin remedial drying. 

Once freestanding water has been removed, a directed air-flow across the surface of wet materials is used to promote evaporation. This is combined with creating a movement of air to carry water vapour from the property. Extra heat is added to accelerate the evaporation and the vapour is then collected by a dehumidifier.

Selecting the correct technology requires specialist training as dryers come in many forms, from desiccant to refrigerant to trailer-mounted. The latter is a drying-unit designed to have a faster effect by providing a large volume of warm air. These all work at different ambient temperatures and use varying amounts of power.

Creating natural ventilation can help the drying process but it will not work on moisture trapped in voids. This is why more targeted techniques such as ‘Injection Drying’ are often employed where dry, warm air is forced into hidden spaces. Richfords Fire & Flood utilises a high pressure technique to dry out gaps under floating floors using powerful suction pumps and catch tanks to extract water. The process then replaces the suction with injection and passes the ambient air through a desiccant dehumidifier.

For all of these methods, continually keeping a close watch on moisture levels is critical. Leaving it to chance can end up in a structure being over-dried and can cause substantial damage. It is also necessary to keep an eye on the structural integrity too. Movement can occur in a building as surrounding land dries out.

The main lesson is: never be afraid to ask. It is better that you get the all clear from an organisation specialising in heritage buildings than to discover that you have illegally destroyed a rare feature of an ancient building – something that can never be replaced. So, if you are unsure, then do not just blunder on.

Tel: 01209 722 522

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