No Time Wasted In Effort To Prevent Further Damage

        The day after the storm passed, all departments were called upon for manpower in order to inspect the entire property to assess the extent of the damage. Demolition and mitigation efforts got underway immediatly utilizing the resorts’ in-house maintenance staff, while bids were solicited from contractors licensed in the highly specialized field of storm recovery. This included moisture and mold mitigation for which contractors must be specially licensed due to the hazards involved. This was easier said than done. Hurricane Ian devasted a large swath of the state consisting of 26 of Florida’s 67 counties. These services were in understandably high demand. Thanks to the staff’s hard work, immediate action (making calls even before the storm passed), and some tough negotiation, we were to successfully contracted with reputable companies for all the necessary demolition and mitigation services and those efforts are now totally complete.
          The Villas were flooded with Category 3 Storm Water. This is the most hazardous kind- it means that the water was contaminated from unknown sources, including sewage. We now know that the sewer and storm lines under Kyngs Heath Road were overwhelmed by the storm so it is a near certainty that water from those lines entered the flooded units. The damaged sewer and storm lines are currently being repaired by Osceola County (Read Here). Pursuant to industry and health code standards, any porous material that is not part of the building’s structure (including wood cabinets, baseboards, drywall, carpet, upholstery, etc.) that comes into contact with Category 3 Storm Water must be discarded. Such materials cannot be dried and sanitized. They must be removed because potentially harmful pathogens cannot be fully eradicated from porous materials by drying and sanitizing.
          The first and most important step following the storm was immediate mitigation. We could not let the flood damage fester and get worse. Time was of the essence- each day that the interior of the units remained wet was another day for mold and dangerous pathogens to grow in their ideal conditions. We began by performing a ‘flood-cut’ to remove any obviously wet drywall and baseboards. Drywall can absorb moisture like a sponge and due to the height of flood water in the units, some of the flood cuts were extensive. By using our own maintenance staff and a construction crew that was already on property for planned renovations, we were able to do much of the mitigation demolition at typical labor prices rather than the inflated post-hurricane prices due to the overwhelming demand for such labor. During this initial mitigation demolition, we left the cabinetry in the kitchen and downstairs bath in place. We know the wood is porous, but it is not as absorbent as drywall which was the more immediate mold concern. Before removing the kitchen and bathroom cabinetry, we wanted to test it for moisture just in case it could be saved.


BELFOR Hired, Further Demolition Warranted

          Before removing expensive cabinets or solid wood furniture exposed to the flood waters, we wanted to have a moisture survey performed by a professional company to confirm whether this was necessary or not. The moisture survey also identified water in areas which may not have been obviously wet thus allowing us to take proper mitigation efforts in those areas as well. This survey also supports insurance claims for roof leaks or wind-driven rain by identifying every possible affected area of the unit- especially those not obvious to the untrained eye. The moisture survey is performed by a specially licensed contractor who uses equipment such as hydrometers, humidity detectors, and infrared cameras to detect moisture in building materials, behind walls, and above ceilings that may not be perceivable upon visual inspection. This service was subcontracted to BELFOR Property Restoration and WaterMD. BELFOR is one of the nation’s leading providers in property restoration services. Learn more about BELFOR Here.
          The moisture maps clearly revealed that water had penetrated underneath the toe-kick of the kitchen cabinets and first-floor bathroom vanities. The wood of the cabinets was soaked as was the drywall behind. Additionally, even though the water level was below 6 inches in most units, the moisture survey revealed that the water had wicked up the drywall to between 4 and 6 feet high (as if it was a sponge).


Dangerous Pathogens Found Requiring Removal

          To understand what types of mold and potentially hazardous pathogens may have been growing in the interiors of the units, we engaged with a specially licensed contractor to undertake a series of air quality and surface swabs of both the interior and exterior of select units. This testing, in conjunction with the moisture survey results, helped us determine how much mitigation demolition needed to be done to make the unit safe. You can read the Hygenist's Report Here. The report reveals significant levels of several dangerous pathogens and specifically names Stachybotrys, commonly referred to as Black Mold, which is known to be extremely hazardous to human respiratory function, especially to folks who exhibit sensitivity to airborne allergens. Control tests were performed on the exterior of the units and revealed no level of these pathogens on the exterior- only in the interior. The results of the mold and moisture testing have demonstrated that demolition and removal of all porous materials touched by the highly contaminated Category 3 Storm Water is required.


Team Moves Quickly To Prevent Further Damage

          After receiving the definitive results of the mold/fungi report, the preliminary results of the moisture survey, as well as preliminary assessments from several different property restoration companies, it became evident that a total demolition of the ground floor of all effected units was necessary for proper mitigation of the moisture and pathogens present prior to restoration/renovation.  Industry standard dictates removal of the drywall to a height 18 inches above any point with a moisture level which exceeds 10%. Our demolition contractors advised us that for practical purposes of reconstruction it is more efficient to remove the drywall up to the ceiling. This results in less cutting and fitting during drywall reinstallation and makes for a more efficient application of texture to the new drywall. This translates into significant labor savings during renovation over minimal cost for additional drywall materials which are relatively inexpensive.
          We received bids from several of the professional restoration companies had been working with for the demolition, but ultimately, we decided to use a combination of our own maintenance team and several smaller renovation contractors with which we have had an ongoing business relationship, in order to lower costs. In an amazing feat the full demolition of all flooded units was completed with 3 weeks of the storms passing, therefore saving the units from further damage from mold if they had sat wet for an extended period of time.


Capital Restoration Fast, Work Completed By Thanksgiving

          After demolition, the next step of the process was to thoroughly clean and sanitize the exposed structure to make sure all harmful pathogens are removed, killed, and conditions that allow for growth to be neutralized so that regrowth will not occur after reconstruction has taken place. This important work is both hazardous and requires highly specialized equipment. Commercial dehumidifiers are first used to dry out the structure itself including wall studs, floor plates, concrete block, the slab, and any grout or tile. Then the surfaces are scraped, brushed, and vacuumed with a HEPA filter vacuum. Finally, the surfaces are sanitized using antibacterial and fungicidal chemicals and may be encapsulated to prevent escape of any remaining mold spores that are growing under the surface of the construction materials. All this work must be carried out in full hazmat-style personal protective equipment with waste discarded in prescribed manner so as not to contaminate clean surfaces and the infrastructure of the unit(s) such as duct work.
          We undertook significant efforts to shop these services and receive as many bids as possible given predatory post-storm pricing. We worked with and received bids from several companies including RestoreMasters, Capital Restoration, BELFOR Property Restoration, BluSky Environmental, and BMSCat. We subcontracted these services through RestoreMasters to Capital Restoration, a company which specializes in flood and mold remediation that has been awarded several federal contracts, include those to restore flooded basements of federal buidling on the national mall in Washington, DC. Learn more about Capital Restoration Here. Due to extremely high post-storm demand for these services, this process was not easy, however this work was complete by Thanksgiving- again ensuring that units did not sit for an extended period of time with harmful mold and pathogens growing inside of them.

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