Commercial Restoration project depicting fallen ceiling tiles and exposed wiring

Commercial Restoration And It’s Unique Challenges

Unexpected calamities can strike without warning, affecting not just tangible assets but also the very essence of a business – its operations, reputation, and customer trust. Whether it’s water intrusion, fire damage, or the aftermath of an earthquake, the need for prompt and effective restoration and dehumidification becomes paramount. This guide provides a holistic view of the nuances of restoring a commercial property and ensuring its safety.

The Significance of Commercial Restoration

Understanding the importance of commercial restoration and dehumidification is the first step in disaster management. Water intrusion, for instance, can arise from various sources, including large-scale events like hurricanes, routine incidents such as plumbing mishaps, and maintenance activities. Regardless of the cause, the ripple effect on businesses can be profound, affecting revenues, reputation, and the ability to continue operating the business.

Addressing Water Damage: The Silent Culprit

Unlike other forms of damage that manifest immediately, water damage can be deceptive. It often begins unnoticed, seeping into the nooks and crannies of a building. Over time, this moisture accumulation can weaken structural elements, making them susceptible to decay and degradation. The longer the water remains, the more extensive the damage becomes, leading to costly repairs and potential operational disruptions.

Water Damage Infographic

Key Steps in Addressing Water Damage:

Initial Assessment: The initial assessment serves as the blueprint for the entire water damage restoration process. It provides a clear picture of the extent of the damage, the potential risks involved, and the best course of action to restore the property to its pre-damage state. Professionals trace the water from its origin, determining the extent of the damage. Specialized tools, like thermo-hygrometers and thermal imaging cameras, aid in detecting moisture and assessing damaged materials.

Water Extraction: Using high-capacity pumps and equipment, standing water is removed, accelerating the drying phase. High-capacity pumps are designed to handle large volumes of water, making them ideal for situations where significant flooding has occurred.

Dehumidification: Heavy-duty dehumidifiers extract residual moisture from the air, preventing mold growth and maintaining indoor air quality. Different types of dehumidifiers, such as Conventional Refrigerant, Low Grain Refrigerant (LGRs), and Desiccant Dehumidifiers, cater to varying needs.

Air Movement: Commercial air movers circulate dry air across damp surfaces, promoting evaporation. These machines are capable of producing high-velocity airflow, ensuring that the air penetrates even hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. Unlike standard fans that disperse air in a broad pattern, air movers can be angled to direct airflow precisely where it’s needed, ensuring targeted drying. Given the diverse environments they’re used in, commercial air movers are often designed to be stackable and portable, allowing professionals to deploy multiple units in a space-constrained setting.

Monitoring: Continuous monitoring ensures the drying process remains on track, with adjustments made based on ongoing observations. If certain areas are drying faster than others, air movers or dehumidifiers might be relocated to address wetter zones more effectively. In some cases, the initial equipment might prove insufficient. Monitoring can dictate the need for additional air movers, heaters, or dehumidifiers.

Moisture meter used in commercial restoration
Moisture Meter in use to continuously monitor moisture in the subfloor.

Structural Drying: Modern construction materials are assessed for prolonged moisture exposure, ensuring the building’s structural integrity remains uncompromised. Post-drying, it’s essential to test the structural components for strength and stability. This ensures that the materials have regained their original integrity and are safe for continued use. To prevent future moisture issues, affected areas might be sealed or waterproofed. This provides an added layer of protection against potential water intrusions.

Cleaning & Restoration: Affected areas undergo thorough cleaning, sanitization, and restoration, eliminating potential health hazards and restoring the property to its original state. Sanitization also addresses indoor air quality. Air scrubbers and purifiers may be used to capture and remove airborne contaminants, ensuring the air inside the property is clean and safe to breathe. A comprehensive inspection is conducted post-restoration to ensure all areas have been addressed, and the property meets safety and quality standards.

Combatting Fire Damage: The Devastating Blaze

Fire poses a significant threat to businesses, and its impact can be extensive and multifaceted. The costs and consequences of fire damage can vary depending on the business type and the severity of the fire. For example, warehouse fires may incur an average property damage cost of $128,099, while damages to office properties may average around $33,532. These costs include repairing structural damage, replacing equipment and machinery, and the loss of inventory and equipment, which can range from minor product losses to millions of dollars worth of assets in cases like major fires in manufacturing facilities​​.

The interruption of business operations is another critical impact of fire damage. It may lead to temporary shutdowns or even extended closures, resulting in lost customers, sales, and additional costs for alternative operations. This disruption can vary in duration based on the fire’s severity and the speed of recovery. Loss of customers during this period can be a significant indirect cost, as they may turn to competitors, thereby affecting the long-term financial stability of the business. Reputational damage is another indirect cost, where negative publicity from a fire, especially in places supposed to be safe like schools or healthcare facilities, can lead to a decline in potential customers and revenue​​.

Addressing Fire Damage:

Restoration Approach: Post-fire, experts focus on clearing residual smoke odor, relocating salvageable items, and strategizing on rebuilding aspects. Items like upholstery, carpets, and clothing may require specialized cleaning techniques to remove soot and smoke residues. Materials that are too damaged to be restored, such as burnt drywall or charred beams, will need to be replaced. Once structural repairs are complete, aesthetic touches like repainting walls affected by smoke or refinishing surfaces are undertaken.

Reviving Electrical Systems: Post-disaster, the restoration of the electrical system, including circuit checks and breaker repairs, becomes pivotal. Electrical appliances exposed to water or fire may need thorough cleaning, drying, and testing before reuse. Some might require repairs, while others might need complete replacement.

Salvaging Essential Assets: Collaborating with a restoration team helps discern between salvageable assets and those beyond repair, ensuring thorough cleaning, drying, and deodorization.

Commercial Property Restoration After Fire Damage

Earthquake Preparedness and Restoration

In seismic zones, earthquakes can lead to severe structural damages. Adherence to safety protocols, such as FEMA guidelines, and post-quake actions by commercial restoration crews can mitigate the impact. The US Geological Survey provides extensive resources, including the “Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country Handbooks,” offering guidance for regions prone to earthquakes. These handbooks, along with FEMA’s online publications, detail actions to take before, during, and after an earthquake.

Business Continuity Amidst Restoration

Safety is paramount. Resuming business operations should only occur when experts confirm the absence of risks like airborne toxins or molds. This requires careful assessment of the affected areas and rigorous restoration efforts to ensure that the environment is safe for employees and customers. The goal is to balance the urgency of resuming operations with the need to ensure a safe and healthy workplace.

Professional restoration services play a vital role in this process. Their expertise and experience in dealing with commercial properties specifically ensure that the unique requirements of different industries are met and that the restoration strategies are tailored accordingly. These professionals not only address the immediate damage but also implement measures to prevent future incidents, contributing to the long-term resilience and sustainability of the business.

Adherence to Building Norms

Adherence to building norms during restoration is crucial for ensuring that the renovated structure complies with current standards and meets normal operating conditions. Building codes are essential in this process as they set the minimum requirements for design, construction, renovation, and maintenance of structures. These codes aim to mitigate potential hazards for occupants and promote the welfare of the community​​. The main areas covered by building codes include fire safety, proper egress, lighting, ventilation, plumbing, electricity, building materials, and structural integrity​​.

Most state and local jurisdictions adhere to the regulations set forth by the International Code Council (ICC), which updates its international code every three years to include specific requirements for various types of builds, such as commercial properties, residential dwellings, and existing structures undergoing changes​​. Following local codes is imperative for several reasons:

  1. Promotes Safety: Building codes help safeguard against natural disasters like fires and earthquakes and are important for indoor air quality, impacting occupants’ health and safety​​.
  2. Incorporates Past Learnings and Protects Future Generations: Updated codes incorporate lessons from past incidents to improve building resilience and set up future generations for success, emphasizing sustainability and health​​.
  3. Lowers Construction Costs and Decreases Energy Bills: Compliance with building codes can significantly reduce project costs and energy bills, providing long-term financial benefits​​.

Conclusion

Commercial restoration and dehumidification are intricate processes that require expertise, timing, and precision. For businesses, it’s about restoring trust, reputation, and continuity. While disasters are unpredictable, having a robust restoration strategy ensures a streamlined and efficient return to normalcy.

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