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UK Winter Storms 2015/16 – Update 24 – The challenges of drying

04 th Mar 2016

Expert in this field

Most customers appreciate that their property has to be stripped out and fully dried before repairs can be carried out, and that this will take time. Those that have been flooded before remember the process well, but we’ve been taking the time to explain what we’re doing and why, to every customer, and at every stage.

As we reach the end of the drying phase in some of the flood zones, we’re taking a look at the challenges and issues our Sergon surveyors have to face.

The right drying programme

Sergon’s consultant surveyors, where appointed, often take responsibility for designing the drying regime for each property. We monitor the progress of each regime and then issue a certificate to confirm that the property is ready for repairs.

One of the main concerns we have to address is around contamination of the properties due to floodwater, particularly in the floor voids or cavity walls. We take a robust approach, making sure that decontamination is undertaken to all voids, opening up the cavities to check that there’s no contamination or residual dampness within the cavity or insulation.

Soft strip-out

We take a considered and analytical approach towards drying, strip-out and repair. Using the latest technology we’ve developed a new, ground breaking programme that only involves a soft strip-out – this means we only remove those materials that are damaged beyond re-use. Much of the fabric of the building – floors, plaster, architraves and doorframes – remains in place to dry out with the rest of the building, and the condition is reviewed at the end of the programme.

Apart from the huge cost saving benefits, this method also reduces the timescales for repairs, and it’s ‘greener’, providing a lower carbon footprint. The soft strip-out programme was used across many properties in the Somerset Levels a couple of years ago, with consistently good results.

However, customers’ and contractors’ expectations have to be managed. Many, particularly those who’ve been flooded before, might not appreciate the advantages of today’s ‘softstrip’ approach and the technology and expertise that’s behind it. We’re spending a good deal of time reassuring them of the process an the potential benefits.

Challenges

There are of course challenges across all the flood zones. Many properties are semi-detached or terraced and, in some cases, the drying of the house adjoining the customer’s, isn’t progressing as effectively. This means we have to carry out further target drying to the party wall, before we can begin repairs to the property.

This results in a delay in starting works and we’re making sure that we talk through these issues with the customer as soon as they arise.

There are also a significant number of older properties in all of the flood zones, and some don’t have an effective damp proof course. Historically, many have had a sand/cement render applied to internal walls to stop any dampness coming through. This creates difficulties in drying and establishing when the building is ready for repair, as without an effective damp proof course, the drying process will take longer than normal. We’ve issued clear technical guidance to our teams, to make sure that a consistent approach is taken to measuring the drying process and how to decide when the building is ready for repair.

Pre-existing issues

We have come across problems with older properties, where dampness has returned following repairs, but which doesn’t relate to the flood event. A property has to be dried to a condition where decoration can be undertaken without any expectation of damp returning. However, the skills of the surveyor are in identifying any inherent defects to the property, which means that dampness always was, and could continue to be, an issue.

We discuss these problems with the customer and suggest the best course of action, which may well involve carrying out some private works to put things right.

Whilst we’ve highlighted some of the issues we have to deal with in the drying phase, steady and consistent progress continues across all the flood zones. Many properties are now ready for repair and over the next few weeks, we’ll provide further updates on this stage of the reinstatement programme.

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