This is part 1 of 2 of one of the more serious cases of water intrusion that I have had to deal with in my career. The first part of the story covers a little bit of background leading up to the initial disaster. Part 2 will cover the remediation of the water damage in the condo’s to illustrate a firsthand account of handling water intrusion on a large commercial scale.
The background of the situation is rather simple... nine years ago (2003) Charleston, South Carolina experienced one of the largest real estate growths the city had ever seen. Being a destination city drew tourist to want to either move to Charleston or to have a vacation home located there. In the industry of multi-family building there were limited names to meet these ever growing needs. At the time demands were high and product was low. New companies that were leaders in the multi-family building industry entered in to the market for Charleston. With so many new projects, companies scrambled to gather as many employees, sub contractors, and materials as they could. When there is a massive push to expedite product and there is a lack of personal commitment to the final outcome there will always be oversight and room for error. That is exactly what took place as I entered into the picture with several condominium projects.
Moving ahead seven years, the room for error reared its ugly head. Over the course of seven years the condominiums that companies had been in a mad rush to complete were full of homeowners living enjoyable lives. My position with the company had been to cover the areas of quality control, homeowner liaison, and repairs from a remediation stand point. I started to notice that water intrusion was becoming consistent on several projects in areas that were associated with the exterior design and stucco application. Through due diligence and active involvement in a swift resolution, the builder determined that all stucco must be removed, sheathing repaired, window reinstallation, and a new water proofing application installed on four condo projects. During this process there was the ever growing battle of keeping homeowners happy, praying weather would cooperate, project funds from insurance claims to keep coming in, and that in the end the recladding of the stucco would address all of the concerns.
My main concern on each project was to ensure that my homeowner’s were informed, content, and kept on schedule. One project alone had one hundred and fifty condominiums. Whenever you remove any exterior portion of a building you are making it completely bare and susceptible to the elements of Mother Nature. I have always informed my homeowners that I work business hours, but in the case of an emergency I would rather be contacted at midnight than to have an absorbent amount of damage to address the following morning. Charleston is a typical beach town with regards to its weather, summer time rain storms come in fast and heavy. At roughly 9:30pm one night I received a phone call from a homeowner stating that when she walked into her bedroom, her carpet was completely saturated. In a panic mode she went to get her neighbors, only to discover that they had saturated carpet as well. Knowing that wet carpet has roughly a twenty- four hour time period before odor and mildew set in, I knew that with the recent rain storm that night I was going to have to move quickly.
As I drove up to the building that evening I had already placed a call into Service Masters to inform them that I would need water extracted that evening, as well as fans and dehumidifiers, and that the following morning carpet would need to be removed. Little did I know that I would not have just two condos affected, I had five. The location of these five condos was in an area on a courtyard where stucco had recently been removed. The building’s exposure allowed for water to pool up on the courtyard and simply flood the condos. The water damaged carpet, hardwoods, furniture, and sheetrock. It is amazing what damage water can do in a short period of time. Fortunately we were able to get everything taken care of in a speedy manner as I will elaborate on in part 2. In situations concerning water damage, quick action is a necessity. With water damage that is left unattended for 48 hours or more, the chance for mold problems to arise is astronomical. Even with a speedy clean up, I often recommend a mold inspection to ensure that all areas have been dried properly, and that no new problems have arisen.