The investigation of mold and water intrusion claims follows a protocol similar to fire investigations. Cissell Investigative Engineering LLC (CIE) examines the patterns, whether it is water stains, moisture readings, humidity, efflorescence, mold patterns, mold colony size or decay. The purpose is to determine the origin which in turn help limit the potential sources of moisture. Failure to identify the source of the moisture will lead to continued problems with mold contamination. We are often called to a claim where a problem occurs for the second time.
CIE engineers trace and interpret the patterns to determine potential causes. Non-destructive testing and thermal imaging allow our engineers to quickly assess the origin of the problem. Common causes:
- Poor Ventilation
- Insulation problems
- Plumbing failures
- Appliance failure
- Roofing, window and flashing problems
- Construction defects
- Soil Moisture, Downspouts, groundwater
Accidental Discharge – Water and Steam
Most of the time the origin of the damage is apparent. Determination of the cause is where engineering expertise helps. Damage to insured property caused by accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam from within a plumbing, heating, air-conditioning or automatic fire protective sprinkler system or household appliance is covered. Coverage includes the cost of tearing out and replacing any part of the building on the residence premises necessary to repair the system or appliance from which the water or steam escaped. We often can find alternatives to replacing the failed component with an equally acceptable alternative but at far less cost.
Damage caused by continuous or repeated seepage or leakage are often not covered; the cause must be sudden and unforeseen. Damage caused by freezing is not covered under this peril. Further, this type of loss is not covered if the dwelling has been vacant for more than 30 days immediately before the loss. A dwelling being constructed is not considered vacant.
A case we were called in on involved a basement that flooded and went undiscovered until a water company person found water flowing out a basement window, about 7 feet off the floor. Cissell Investigative Engineering LLC was able to pinpoint the day of the freeze-up, the day of the thaw and estimated day that the furnace was drowned – 120 days before it was discovered! Conclusion – vacant house, lack of heat
Another case appeared to be a basement seepage problem, however, we discovered some slight staining around the discharge end of the hot water heater relief valve. Testing showed the valve to intermittently fail on temperature, had the claim been denied because of seepage, repairs may have been made and the valve would have taken out the finished area again.
Washing machines commonly fail and when the machine is fairly new, subrogation potential is high. The two most common problems found are the level controller and the water supply valves. Subrogation investigations require ruling out other potential causes. It is also important to minimize the movement of the machine. We perform and document a couple of tests prior to securing the evidence.
Most flood events are excluded, however, investigations are often needed to determine a flood was caused by surface water flow (rising water versus falling water). Claims often arise from third party claimants after a new construction project occurs. Floods also cause a rise in the groundwater level, often days after a storm event. Piping connected to the storm drainage system can become inundated by storm surges and backflow into an insured premises. New planning and zoning regulations requires that much of the storm water be detained in underground seepage structures, causing temporary rises in groundwater and potential seepage.
Cissell Investigative Engineering LLC engineers recognize the problems during the first investigation and have been instrumental in not only determining the cause but offering solutions to prevent reoccurrence. Builders are not accustomed to the potential effects of building infiltration structures next to a foundation, we have observed underground electric conduits spouting like a fountain next to an electrical meter. Our seasoned engineers are trained to recognize the source of the water, follow the patterns to the sources and determine the cause.