As a young water damage restorer and mold remediator in Clearwater, FL many years ago I had no idea what a crawl space was. The majority, of if not all, of the homes in my area were built slab on grade. My career focused not only on residential water losses and mold remediation, but also with what we call in the industry CAT. This is a term that means to respond to victims of catastrophic storm damage such as hurricanes and major flood events. This often led me to helping disaster victims on the Gulf Coast and Atlantic coastline to clean up and return their on slab properties to pre-loss condition. I also had the honor of helping victims restore their homes and businesses in the Chicago area, but these homes and business all had basements. I still hadn’t run into a single crawl space up to this point in my career.
Fast forward nine years and I have been hired to launch a brand new ServiceMaster location for a franchise owner. One day we got a call to respond to a water damage due to a broken water supply line in a home. My techs and I got to the home initiating a dry-out over the course of the next few days. One thing that seemed a bit odd was that the water damage was very localized for this type of pipe burst. My years of experience told me that the entire first floor should have been affected, but that was not the case. A few days later I wrote the mitigation invoice to submit to the insurance company for payment. Before I sent it I had the invoice reviewed by the owner for accuracy. Luckily, I had implemented a review process before invoice was sent out. The owner reviewed the line items room by room but then added, “I don’t see anything about the work done in the crawl space.” I still think about how blank-faced I must have looked and my lack of an immediate response noticed as well. Finally I asked him, “What is a crawl space?” He was baffled by my having no clue of what a crawl space was but explained. Immediately after I gathered some water damage techs and went back to the home to inspect this “crawl space” thing and boy, was I in for a surprise. There was water everywhere! It was dark, wet, infested with insects along with dead rodents, teeming with mold and fallen insulation – it was nothing short of a place not safe for a human to be in. If I was a snake I wouldn’t want to go into that crawl space!
I left the home haunted by what I had just experienced – then a light bulb went off in my head. The whole house wasn’t flooded as I expected it to be because the water ran down into the crawl space! Subsequently our techs dried and remediated the crawl space and that experience was behind me. Little did I know that day that I would fall in love with those creepy spaces that exists under millions of homes.
Moving forward a few more years, I have relocated to Delaware to help an independent company grow their small carpet cleaning business into a multimillion dollar full service restoration company. Over the years that followed I had many water damage and mold remediation techs return water damaged crawl spaces back into their original state using an open vented system. During those interventions we followed all the training provided by the IICRC’s S500 & S520 standards feeling that we cared for our customers according to industry standards. Oh, what little most of us in the disaster restoration industry really knew!
Now married to the women of my dreams and blessed with 3 spectacular children – first a son and then twins (boy and girl), my wife and I decided to control our future. We would start and run a small remediation business the way we believed it should run. In southern Delaware the vast majority of homes are built on crawl spaces and when we would get calls for mold remediation it was almost always in a crawl space. Being a new business my wife and I perform the remediations. We followed normal industry standards on remediations and returned them to LKQ (like kind and quality). That means open vented crawl spaces restored to how they were when the home was built.
One day I ran across a YouTube video with a gentleman explaining basement waterproofing and pointing out how so many people were making mistakes. This gentleman was extremely passionate about doing things the right way and educating people. I became hooked on his videos. He was solving major drainage issues that were leading to both mold growth and poor indoor air quality. The restoration industry didn’t address “waterproofing” and often crawl space issues were not being handled properly by the restoration industry. We were often fixing the side effects and yet not addressing the source/s of excessive moisture.
I have always focused on striving to be best in everything I do and doing the right thing. I felt that while I did a wonderful job of drying homes and cleaning up mold growth in crawl spaces, I was concerned that customers were not being offered long term solutions for their moisture and mold issues. Searching crawl space waterproofing on YouTube led me into crawl space encapsulation. I watched countless videos and spent many a late night looking at Facebook and Google images only to find what I considered to be sloppy workmanship. After deeper study I came to believe that the crawl space encapsulation industry didn’t seem to understand structural drying and proper mold remediation. They would seal up the crawl space and leave the mold growth. Some salesman would tell customers that the dehumidifier would “kill the mold”. This made me both angry and sick to my stomach. Clearly there was a disconnect between these two industries – one that could be resolved by a company being an expert in both.
And so the journey began for me and for my wife (who had to put up with my possibly insane drive) to turn two industries upside down when dealing with crawl spaces.
So many nights I obsessed over drainage, vapor paths, water entry points,vapor barrier construction, sump pump and dehumidifier specs. After trial and error and questionable information from some manufacturers and distributors of crawl space encapsulation and waterproofing products, I realized that we needed to create our own systems and processes. Not only to solve moisture and mold issues permanently, but to install jaw dropping quality systems. After many months of R&D we started producing what we thought were unparalleled crawl space encapsulations. We began sharing photos and videos on social media and the next thing we knew people were calling us asking us to train their company on how to produce our high quality systems. But then we started to get social media requests asking us to franchise our system. A common phrase that we would hear is that we were “…the gold standard by which all others should be measured”. Finally all that hard work was paying off. I have now been nicknamed by my peers as “Crawl Space Keefer” which I take a lot of pride being called these days. The goal of creating high quality crawl space encapsulations with high quality waterproofing system and top notch mold remediation was finally complete.
My wife and,I with the help of our amazing techs, have taken two industries by storm and now our dream has become reality. On March 1, 2019 as we launched HydroHero Franchise, LLC. – a franchise geared up to truly transform crawl spaces across the country!
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