When Meter Accuracy Means Payment, Calibration is Key
Water damage can be an overwhelming experience for a building owner and a complicated process working with an insurer. Navigating the minefield of payment with third-party administrators (TPAs) is often a challenging process on its own, outside of the actual job, with factors like equipment and moisture mapping readings affecting payment outcomes. Confirming the proper operation of equipment is essential, and meter calibration is critical in ensuring fair and uncontested payment for restorers.
Meter calibration helps contractors fulfill the requirements of the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) S500 standard 10.9, which stipulates that “once the project has been controlled and the correction of the damage has begun, the restorer should continue gathering information through ongoing inspections and monitoring.”
The standard further requires that restorers “record and monitor relevant moisture measurements daily, preferably at the same time of day, until drying goals have been achieved and documented,” and this is where meter calibration comes in. Whether you visit the site in person at the same time every day or employ a remote monitoring service that automatically checks the meters for you, you’ll need to calibrate and place meters as demanded by the condition and variety of materials at the site.
With this standard in mind, R. David Sweet, Consulting COO at MIT Consulting / Mitigation Information Technologies outlines his recommended process of meter calibration for a water damage restoration job.
1. Select the appropriate meters for the job. Each type of meter sensor technology has specific applications where it shines, as well as certain limitations in the accuracy and depth of materials actually being surveyed. Both knowing your meters and their best applications and understanding what your readings really mean are critical to the processing of your project. Non-penetrating meters use one of two types of sensor technology—either impedance or radio frequency (RF). Penetrating meters, on the other hand, almost exclusively measure impedance. Each of these three meter sensor technology options requires a different type of calibration block.
2. Select calibration blocks suited to each meter. Read the product information for any calibration block you’re considering purchasing to ascertain what types of meters each block is compatible with.
3. Be prepared to stay prepared. “I recommend to my clients that they mount their calibration blocks in their cars so they’re always prepared,” Sweet said. Sweet also teaches a Site SOP course wherein the calibration readings of the sensors being used are done upon arrival at the project and again at the departure. The entire calibration process needs to be photographed in order to maintain required records, so you should keep your phone charged or a dedicated digital camera at the ready.
4. Take a photo upon arrival. Get an image of the building site, including mailbox, in your photograph. This will provide you with a record of the time of your arrival at that location.
5. Calibrate each meter. By using a block like those made by Tramex, Protimeter, Delmhorst, and others, you can calibrate your meters quickly and accurately. You just need to ensure your blocks and meters match. “Some meters require particular blocks. Some meters have variable settings,” said Sweet. As you calibrate the meters, Sweet said, you should take a picture of each one on the correct calibration block, then take a picture of the meter’s serial number.
6. Place the meters. Meter placement is a step-by-step process unto itself, and it all depends on the types of material present. As just one example, Sweet points out that plywood, old growth wood, and new wood all absorb water differently, and a meter placed on one will not accurately reflect the moisture levels in all three. There are various other factors in meter placement as well, and you will need to consider each factor for every job you undertake. Again, get out your camera and take photographs of each meter as placed.
7. Monitor the meters. You can either return to the site at the same time each day with the same meter or, alternatively, leverage a remote monitoring system to collect daily readings. If returning to the site each day, take pictures of the meters as well as pictures upon arrival and departure every time.
8. Take a photo upon departure. As referenced in steps 3 and 4, prior to leaving, snap another round of pictures of the meter calibrations and the building site, including mailbox, to record your time of departure.
When the Job is Done
By following the above steps, you are not only covering yourself and your company for insurance purposes but are providing your clients with the best quality work possible, allowing reconstruction to move forward safely with the assurance that the materials have truly reached a state of complete dryness.
In addition to following the full meter calibration process on every job, Sweet said, it’s important to be certain that every restoration technician on your team is fully trained for the kind of meter they’re using. This prepares them for any questioning that may arrive in the event of an insurance dispute, and it also allows them to do the best work possible, resulting in quality restoration work and high levels of client satisfaction.
New for 2022
In December 2021, RIA distributed a call for nominations for a new RIA Pricing Advocate, which signaled the launching of a new initiative toward improving the restoration ecosystem by sharing information about estimating and pricing. This advocate position will help ensure that there is a continuous dialogue happening between the various estimating and pricing platforms in the restoration industry.
The Advocacy and Government Affairs (AGA) Committee of the Restoration Industry Association (RIA) continues to advocate for and unify the professional restoration industry.
RIA’s most recent advocacy activities include:
- “Deviation from Standardized Price Lists”: A peer-reviewed pricing position statement for restoration contractors
- New Peer-Reviewed Pricing Position Statement: This addresses the issue of insurance carriers and their partners attempting to apply “new construction” pricing to property damage restoration projects
- RIA Assignment of Benefits 50-State Reference Guide: Free to RIA members, this is a guide to help restorers navigate the claims process and serves as a training tool for restoration personnel
- “Face the Advocate”: This session, presented at the 2021 Convention, featured Ed Cross’s interview with Jonathan Miko of Alacrity Solutions and Kevin Reilley of Westhill to discuss concerns of contractors working with TPAs
- Xactimate Industry Trend Reports Video: The AGA Committee shared an insightful video from Ben Justesen, President of JRCC and Chair of the AGA Pricing Task Force, on how to access Xactimate Industry Trend Reports
- “The State of the Restoration Industry”: This virtual event featured Mike Fulton, President of Xactware, discussing pricing estimates and updates on Xactimate tools
- RIA Town Hall Industry Briefing, July 2021: This meeting provided key updates to AGA issues, including carriers denying third-party testing for contaminated losses, contractors getting paid, and assignment of benefits