Here’s how the winners stacked up:

165 Hotel Rooms Restored Kowalski Construction 361 Votes
The Sand Fire: Tackling Smoke Damage at a Home & Winery DALLASWHITE 296 Votes
Quick Work Saves Printing Company Master Restoration 178 Votes


* Editors note: Nine case studies and more than 1,000 votes! Thank you to everyone who made the 2016 Case Study Contest such a raving success! You can still read all the entries on

We all know disaster response varies greatly depending on your service area. The Northeast deals with ice and cold in the winter, while the northwest deals with perpetually damp, rainy conditions year-round. Similarly, the southwest is typically dry but monsoon season can quickly create waves – literally.

It was during monsoon season in late summer of 2014 that Kowalski Construction in Phoenix, Ariz., got an emergency call late on a Saturday from a hotel with a major water problem.

“We don’t get a whole lot of rain here, but when it comes, it comes with a vengeance,” remarked Steve Kowalski, co-owner of the family-owned and operated restoration company. “We had a big storm that impacted a lot of different facilities and really stretched the resources here thin because there was so much widespread water damage.”

The Job

Initially, they were told about 125 guest rooms were flooded on four floors, plus the business center, meeting facility, and storage rooms and water was still coming in from the roof. To further complicate the late-night response, much of the hotel was full and the staff wanted the guests to be impacted as little as possible.

“Being it was a hotel, they were pretty full, and we had guests coming and going. They were trying to check just the sheer number of rooms that were impacted,” said fellow co-owner Jim Kowalski. The crews got to work in the most heavily-trafficked areas first, but as more and more individual guest rooms were checked, the scope of the project became clearer.

“We were several days into it before we really knew how many units we were dealing with,” Jim said. In all, 165 rooms needed to be restored. It was an around-the-clock response.

“We call this an all-hands on deck situation. We have a regular emergency service call process so not everyone is on call at the same time, but everyone in our company understands that at any time we could run into a situation like this,” Jim said.

Kowalski Construction handles a lot of emergency service work, so crews were ready. Jim and Steve estimated as many as 80 people were on site, working around the clock to get this hotel back up and running at full capacity.

The Challenges

The roof repair was not accomplished right away by the hotel. That meant as other storms came through, more and more water seeped into the already damp hotel.

“We just couldn’t get ahead of it there for a little bit,” Jim said. There were three more water intrusions before everything was properly corrected by the hotel.

A Busy Hotel

Jim and Steve also said the hotel did not have nearly enough vacant rooms to relocate all the affected guests, and closing simply wasn’t an option. Crews took great care to keep the lobby, common areas, and even the parking lot clean and ready for guests. Plus, there was not a service elevator – just two guest elevators, to move enough equipment to dry 165 hotel rooms and other spaces, while trying to disturb the guests as little as possible. 

Still, the Kowalski Construction team rose to the challenge. Crews removed windows from the building to speed up getting rid of damaged items and debris by tossing them to the ground to be loaded into a nearby dumpster.

As that was going on, all the affected textiles were packed up and taken off site to be cleaned, then stored.

To guard against thefts and keep everyone safe, Kowalski Construction also hired off-duty police officers to serve as security around the clock. Jim and Steve agreed a move like this builds credibility around the site because people realize it’s not only safe, it is secure as well. Kowalski Construction was able to convince the insurance company to cover this additional expense.

Equipment Required

Now, imagine the amount of equipment needed to dry a structure this size. Jim said they completely overwhelmed the hotel’s electrical system, and had to bring in a trailer-sized generator to power the worksite. They also chose to bring in three tractor trailer-mounted desiccant units to help with the drying process. In the Arizona heat, however, two continued to overheat which required two 10-ton portable A/C units be brought in to cool them down.

Curious what it took to refuel all this equipment? Kowalski Construction admits that in itself was a feat – bringing in 242 gallons of diesel a day, and some days needing to make additional trips for more.

Kowalski Construction’s full-blown in-house electrical department greatly helped with logistics.

Demo & Hazards

Crews were doing hazardous materials testing not even two days after the initial response to get needed demolition underway. Kowalski Construction was able to get a testing lab to open Sunday around midnight, and provide immediate results. Once clearance was set, demo started. And this remediation story grew another layer of complications – literally.

“We demoed the ceiling and found out there was another ceiling above that,” said Jim. That meant calling the testing company back out a second time. The air quality department also got involved to be sure the ongoing work was in compliance with the county’s air quality standards. Plus, the fire alarm system wasn’t working, so there had to be an around-the-clock fire watch and an inspection by the fire marshal. Kowalski Construction crews passed both inspections.
“We were concerned with that many people in the hotel and all the work and equipment we had, it just seemed like a situation that could have created a hazard for the workers, police officers, or guests. But we didn’t have a single theft or injury reported,” Jim said.

Successful Restoration

Jim said there was no leniency from the hotel chain itself on how the hotel performed, even under the stress of being 75 percent damaged by water. Amazingly, Kowalski Construction worked with such care and attention to detail, the hotel was able to hold on to its satisfactory scores that were critical to the business.
Crews quickly reacted to changing conditions, new storms, inspections, and other hurdles, fully restoring 165 guest rooms on four floors, the business center, 200-person meeting facility, and storage rooms without disrupting business.

The total cost for the emergency services and restoration was $976,209.

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1st Runner Up

The Sand Fire: Tackling Smoke Damage at a Home & Winery

Company: DALLASWHITE Property Restoration in Las Vegas, Nev.

The Job: “The Sand Fire”, wildfire erupted in Amador County, Calif., on July 25, 2014. The wildfire had raged on for five days eventually reaching the 209 acre; vineyard, orchard, winery and home. Astoundingly, the 2,000 plus firefighters were able to put out the blaze before it completely engulfed the client’s property.
Even though the owners felt blessed not to have lost everything, the wildfire had caused more than $1 million in damage to their property. The damage extended over 20 acres causing severe smoke and fire retardant damage to the home and winery.

2nd Runner Up

Quick Works Saves Printing Company

Company: Master Restoration in Clearwater, Fla.

The Job: Many businesses and homes saw pretty significant water damage during some localized flooding in September 2014. Interprint, a Clearwater printing company, was the victim of a pumping station failure resulting in approximately 6 inches of water throughout the entire property. They were referred to Master Restoration by their insurance agent.

This was water damage due to flooding, therefore special rules apply in regards to coverage. Typically, flood insurance will refuse to pay to run equipment prior to demolition of affected materials.