With autumn in full swing, take advantage of the crisp days and sunshine to prepare your home for winter. Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, complete these tasks and you won’t spend a fortune on home repairs this winter.
Clean your gutters.
It’s a hassle, but you should clean your gutters before the temperature drops to help prevent ice dams, which form when melted snow pools and refreezes at roof edges and eaves. This ridge of ice then prevents water caused by melting snow from draining from the roof. Since it has nowhere to go, the water can leak into your home and damage walls, ceilings, and insulation. Water damage will soon be followed by mold. No matter what the season, gutters filled with heavy leaves can pull away from your house and cause leaks that damage your home and lead to mold growth. Also be sure your downspouts are angled away from your home to prevent leaks in the basement.
Check your roof for leaks.
You certainly don’t want to start your winter with a leaky roof. Check your ceilings for water spots, mold, or stains. If you spot them, before you call in a roofer, have a mold inspector test your home for mold. That way you’ll know exactly what needs to be replaced so the mold doesn’t come back. You may have small stains or dark spots now, but once the heavy snow sets in, the problem could get much worse, and you could wind up with a full blown mold infestation. You should also check your attic for moisture, as mold can easily grow there if it is not properly ventilated.
Clean your HVAC units, fireplace, furnace, and wood-burning stove.
Indoor air quality suffers in the winter because your home is closed up most of the time. Toxic fumes, including carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), can be emitted from fireplace and wood burning stove smoke and may back up into the house, which can cause serious health issues. Mold and dust can also build up in HVAC units over the summer months, then spread throughout your home when the heat is turned on. To make sure your indoor air quality is at an acceptable level, schedule a test from an environmental inspector like RTK Environmental Group. They will test for VOCs, mold, particulate matter, and other chemicals. For additional tips on indoor air quality, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site.
Storm Cleanup: After a Storm, Don’t let Mold or Toxins Take up Residence in Your Home
As massive cleanup efforts and power restoration continue throughout the region after a lightning-fast-moving storm, homeowners should be aware of the potential that flooding and water damage are causing.
Storms can bring on drenching rains, flooding (both indoors and outdoors), and high winds causing leaks and other issues that contribute to mold growth and poor indoor air quality. Problem is, we often don’t realize the extent of the damage until days or weeks after the storm, and a musty order usually signals the problem. That’s when you know that mold growth has really kicked in. The problem with mold is that it can cause structural damage, poor indoor air quality, and health issues.
Look for these signs of mold after a storm.
If you see mold, then you clearly have a mold issue. If you see water stains, you probably have a mold issue as well. The question then becomes how big is the problem? Because mold is often hidden, growing on the back sides of walls and sheetrock, and under carpets and floorboards, the only way to be sure is to have a mold inspection performed by a certified professional.
Mold Creates a Musty Odor
But what about the mold you cannot see? Musty odors usually point to mold, and mold causes poor indoor air quality. RTK can test to see where the odor is coming from so that you can remediate with confidence, and don’t miss any hidden sources or spots. Summer months are particularly prone to mold growth as high humidity and heat accelerate the proliferation of this fungus.
Health Symptoms from Mold and Poor IAQ
If you are having physical symptoms such as itchy eyes, cough or wheezing that occur in one location of the premises that clear up when you are elsewhere, it’s a sure bet that the location is harboring mold. If you have any of the following unexplained symptoms, they may be caused by MOLD EXPOSURE and poor indoor air quality. In that case, you should have a mold and indoor air quality test.
Runny or stuffy nose
Itchy eyes, nose and throat
Cough and postnasal drip
Structural Damage Can Cause Mold
If a storm caused a leak from your foundation walls or your roof into your basement, mold is sure to follow. A mold colony can grow within 24 – 48 hours. So, it’s important to test for mold because when the next storm hits, the structural issue that allowed water intrusion will likely occur again if it is not repaired. Mold can eat away at wood structure, floorboards, and sheetrock, leaving them susceptible to decay.
Avoid Mold Removal Scams
Never hire a company that does both mold testing and mold remediation. Why? It is a clear conflict of interest. Often, unscrupulous companies will embellish a mold problem or offer testing on the cheap in hopes of making money on the remediation to follow. But at RTK, we only test for mold and do not remediate, so there is no conflict of interest. Once we have tested your premises, we provide you with a blueprint for mold removal, and you can hire the remediation company of your choice.
If you had flooding or a water intrusion from a storm and think you may have mold, call and schedule a test today at 800.392.6468.
With the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been a rise of professionals working from home. But if you set up offices in your basement, you could be soon wheezing and coughing. And the problem never seems to go away.
That’s because these barons of the basement are probably subjected to long-term mold exposure, since basements are often moist, and moisture and mold go hand-in-hand.
“Mold is not just ugly looking, it’s increasingly recognized as a serious health hazard,” says Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group, the leading environmental testing firm in the Northeast. Mold has been known to trigger allergies that cause headaches and coughing, as well as irritate the nose, skin, and eyes. For people with asthma, mold can make breathing particularly difficult.
Mold can get a jump start anywhere you’ve got leaky pipes, drippy appliances, or water creeping into the house via the roof, gutters, siding or foundation. To survive, mold simply requires two elements: a source of moisture and a source of food. Mold spores will adhere themselves to porous materials like paper, carpeting, and sheetrock, all things commonly found in home offices.
If you think you can simply throw away paper files contaminated with mold, think again. Some mold spores have been known to sporulate or “throw themselves” toward moisture sources. Once airborne, the microscopic mold spores can easily float and be carried by the gentlest air currents. Additionally, there may be mold hidden behind walls, in air ducts, under floorboards, and places you’d never think of. It can be detected only through proper testing.
That’s why it is prudent for people who work at home to call in experts to detect mold problems and pinpoint the infestation’s possible causes.
For more information or to schedule a mold test, call RTK Environmental at 800.392.6468.
Top Causes: Why Mold is so Common in Apartment Buildings
Living in an apartment building comes with perks. But with so many people living in one place, accidents can happen that lead to mold contamination. For example, a rooftop pool can spring a slow leak that trickles down many stories, causing a major indoor mold infestation. Or a toilet or bathtub overflow in one apartment, and the apartments below wind up with water damage, especially if the flood is not quickly contained. Wet walls, ceilings and floors attract mold. And mold can cause serious structural damage, as well as health issues and allergies.
“The main issue in apartment buildings is that water travels downward,” says Robert Weitz, founder of RTK Environmental. “It will travel down through the floors to the ceilings and walls below. When that happens, you are at risk of developing a mold problem,” he explains.
All mold needs to grow is moisture, warmth, and any organic surface (like drywall and floors). Under these conditions, mold begins to grow within 24 -48 hours. Not only is mold destructive, but it is also bad for your health.
We’ve compiled a list of the top causes of mold infestation in apartment buildings:
1. Defective Kitchen Appliances
Defective kitchen appliances are one of the most common causes of mold in apartment buildings. Slow leaks from ice makers, refrigerators, and dishwashers tend to go unnoticed because the water supply lines are usually hidden. By the time you realize there is an issue, usually manifested by an odor or a stain, it’s probably a big problem.
2. Burst Pipes & Defective Plumbing
Pipe breaks are an apartment building’s nightmare. Hundreds, or even thousands of gallons of water can cascade through the halls and stairwells, not to mention walls, floors, and ceilings. One pipe break or plumbing leak can affect dozens of apartments and common areas. Fast action is needed to remove drywall and dry structure and remaining floors as quickly as possible. It’s recommended to treat water like a fire – quick action helps prevent further damage.
3. Basement Laundry Areas
In many buildings, there is a common laundry room in the basement–all well and good. But, what’s also common, are storage areas in the basement that contain boxes and other items comprised of cellulose, which mold loves to grow on. The humidity created from the laundry can cause mold growth in any basement.
4. HVAC Systems
HVAC systems often cause mold outbreaks in buildings, especially during the summer months, when the air conditioning systems create condensation. Where there’s moisture, there’s mold. And since mold spores can travel throughout the building through the HVAC system, you can expect that mold colonies are sure to develop.
5. Steam Pipes
In older buildings especially, steam pipes and old radiators typically spring leaks inside the walls or ceilings, which go unnoticed. The steam leaks are usually hidden, so damage and mold growth can go unnoticed for weeks or even months. But a musty odor signals that there is mold in the vicinity.
6. Terrace Drains
Leaves and all kinds of debris clog drains. When that happens water has nowhere to go but into a nearby apartment. Water will travel to the weakest point of entry, which could be just about anywhere. Without proper testing, it is difficult to determine. If you have a terrace, be sure to keep your drains clean.
7. Pointing & Building Exteriors
Pointing, or the concrete mortar around bricks and windows, commonly found in older apartment buildings, is another way water seeps through. Rainwater can enter laterally through compromised building materials, and get caught in the exterior walls. Mold then grows, and by the time you see something on your apartment wall, it usually means that there is a lot more on the other side of that wall.
8. Flat Roofs & Silos
A flat roof can often spell trouble. Many apartment buildings are built with flat roofs, which can deteriorate and sag. And, if they are not engineered properly they won’t shed water, as they should. Water then goes through the roof and into the apartments below. We have also seen water silos (water storage tanks) on a rooftop leak or burst, causing massive flooding in the apartments below.
What Can You Do About Mold in Your Apartment?
If you suspect you have mold in your apartment, the smart thing to do is have it tested. If you do notice an odor or staining, call in an independent professional who has the technology to detect water behind walls and under floorboards. They can ascertain where the mold is and what needs to be done to remove it.
Conflict of Interest
It is important to get two different companies to do the testing and remediation. Why? When the same company does both it is a clear conflict of interest, and could cost you extra for repairs that are unnecessary. An independent testing company will tell you exactly where the problem is, and provide you with a blueprint for remediation. The remediation company will then do only the work that is necessary, minimizing disruption and cost. In New York State, it is illegal for the same company to do both testing and remediation on the same job.
Who Covers the Cost?
Insurance often covers the cost for mold testing and remediation, especially as it relates to issues with an apartment building. If you rent and are concerned about possible mold, speak with your landlord or the building management. The most important thing is to take care of the potential problem quickly. Live well! Be healthy!
More heavy rain is causing problems for home and business owners throughout the Tri-State area. Flooded basements are everywhere.
With the torrential rains, flooding is rampant because the ground cannot handle the volume of water due to a high water table. The pools of water in your yard and close to your home’s foundation could indicate that water may be seeping into your basement. Once your basement gets wet, it becomes a prime area for mold growth, which can emerge within 24 – 48 hours, and even spread throughout your home.
Mold causes serious health issues, including asthma, allergies, headaches, fatigue, and coughing. Exposure to toxic black mold causes more severe health consequences, including chronic bronchitis, heart problems, learning disabilities, mental deficiencies, and multiple sclerosis. Here are steps you can take to prevent mold growth.
Top 4 tips to prevent mold growth in your flooded basement:
1. Make sure the drain in your basement floor is free from debris and the sump pump is working.
This will help the water drain properly. Also, make sure your sump pump is working, if you have one. Sometimes after the power goes out, your sump pump may need to be reset before it kicks on.
2. Remove anything from the floor that is wet.
Boxes, toys, carpeting, and any other cellulose materials are very susceptible to mold growth. Get them out of the water and to an area that they can dry out in. If they can’t be dried within 24 hours, they may become infested with mold and need to be discarded.
3. Pump or vacuum the water from the area quickly.
You can also mop it out. Remember, the soil outside is already saturated, so be careful not to pump out the area too fast. The water still has nowhere to go, and the pressure of the water on the outside of your home could damage your basement wall, or even collapse it.
4. Use fans, a dehumidifier, and ventilate the area well.
After the flooding has stopped and the bulk of the water has been removed, you need to dry the rest of the area with fans, including concrete floors, drywall, wood, and more. Then, use a dehumidifier, set to no higher than 50%, to combat residual moisture, which causes higher humidity, and provides an idea environment for mold to grow. Mold in your home can cause health issues and make asthma symptoms worse.
If you are unable to take these steps quickly or are unsure as to whether you already have a mold problem, the best thing to do for the health of your family and your home is to call in a professional, like RTK, to conduct a mold test.
After the Flood: Warning Signs of Mold & What You Can Do
When storms soak an area with inches of rain in a short time frame, flooding is inevitable. If you had water in your home for at least two days, chances are some mold colonies are growing, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Here’s what you may not realize: mold may not be visible immediately, but its spores are growing.
Here are warning signs that mold may be a growing problem post-flooding, and advice to help you deal with it:
What’s that smell?
Although mold begins growing within 24 hours after water enters your home, it takes a while before you can actually detect the musty odor that means mold. So, over the next few weeks, be sure to keep your senses on alert for a musty smell developing in your home or business.
Why can I smell mold and mildew, but can’t see it?
Mold plays hide-and-seek, which is why testing is so important. Typical hiding places include:
• the back side of dry wall, wall paper or paneling;
• the top side of ceiling tiles;
• the underside of carpets and pads;
• around pipes – inside and outside your walls;
• the surface of walls behind furniture;
• inside ductwork;
• in roof materials.
What should I do about that musty smell?
It’s important to test for mold to determine where it lurks, as well as its root cause. Do-it-yourself testing kits can be unreliable. Qualified, trained mold inspection services are much more thorough and, therefore, offer the best protection. If you can see the mold on hard surfaces, clean it off with detergent and water. Be sure to dry the surface completely. If the problem is too large, a commercial cleaning or remediation company is your best solution, depending on the location.
Who should test for mold and when?
Consumers should have a certified professional test for mold, but they should not perform remediation services so as to avoid any conflict of interest. A certified microbial investigator will discover mold’s root causes and provide a detailed report with recommendations on how to remove the mold. You should test for mold before you hire a remediation company, and again after work is complete to make sure the mold has been properly removed and will not grow back and resurface a few months later.
What is the health impact of mold?
Mold can cause a host of health issues. It has been known to trigger allergies that cause headaches and coughing, as well as irritate the nose, skin, and eyes. For people with asthma, mold can make breathing particularly difficult. Read more in depth about the health risks of mold.
Hurricane Preparation: What You Need to Know Before and After the Storm
Hurricane season is underway. If you are prepared, you may be able to minimize and even avoid flooding and damage to your home. Follow these expert tips on the dos and don’ts of Hurricane preparation.
Be sure your gutters and downspouts are free from leaves and debris
It is important to make sure your gutters and outside drains are clean before the storm. Remove any debris from gutters and downspouts, and be sure that they are adequately angled away from the house, otherwise, water will collect at the edge of the house and leak into the foundation and basement. If you have extensions on your downspouts to direct water away from the foundation, be sure to secure them in place with rocks or stakes. With hundred mile per hour winds, they may blow off.
Prepare your basement
If you think you may have flooding, there are several things you can do in advance to prepare. Check basement floor drains to be sure they are not covered. Remove anything from the floor that you do not want to get wet. If you have boxes or any other cellulose materials on the floor, place them on tables or crates to alleviate direct contact with water. Remove items from places water may get in, like below windows.
Follow these steps if you get water in your home:
Take pictures of the damage, and remove the water immediately.
If you rent your home or apartment, be sure to alert your landlord and building superintendent as soon as possible so they can take the necessary steps. If you live in an apartment building and have leakage or flooding, water could travel through ceilings and walls to neighboring apartments and mold could affect an entire building in a short time.
Mop, vacuum, or pump water out of the affected area as soon as possible. Remove wet items and materials from the area.
Dry out residual moisture that is left in the concrete, wood, and other materials. You can use a dehumidifier or ventilation. If you have windows that open to the outside, mount fans in them. Unplug electrical devices and turn off the circuit breakers in the wet area, if possible.
Some items, once wet, should be thrown away immediately. This includes food, cosmetics, medical supplies, stuffed animals, and baby toys.
Some material that cannot be dried within 24 – 48 hours, it should be disposed of. Unfortunately, this list includes mattresses, pillows, carpets, upholstered furniture, and items containing paper, including wallboard.
Put aluminum foil under the legs of furniture to avoid staining floors.
Be prepared for a power failure
Be prepared to power your sump pump by an alternative method if you have a power failure. Sump pumps only work if you have electricity. If you have a generator, make sure it is connected to the sump pump and fueled or charged. If you don’t have a generator, make sure you keep an eye on your basement for flooding.
Have your home tested for mold if you have flooding
If you are a victim of flooding and have concerns about mold growth in your home, have a certified mold inspector in to test and assess the damage and give you options on how to fix it. Mold can cause serious health problems, including asthma, upper respiratory tract symptoms, coughing, and wheezing in otherwise healthy people. Infants exposed to mold in their first year of life are three times more likely to develop asthma. Toxic mold can cause even more serious health problems. Call RTK at (800) 392-6468 for more information or to set up a test.
Protect yourself with proper documentation
An independent environmental testing company like RTK Environmental Group will provide you with a detailed report, documenting that your home is safe or is cleared to be rebuilt and has a safe environmental toxin level (mold, lead, asbestos, radon, bacteria, and other toxins). This documentation will be critical when you sell your home or for insurance claims. To ensure that your document will hold up in possible legal situations or in court, make sure the company that performs the testing is certified, licensed, insured, and does not perform remediation, which could result in a conflict of interest claim. Be prudent. Call RTK Environmental Group to perform the independent test.
Avoid future insurance hassles
If your home floods again and mold returns, your insurance company may question whether the mold was caused by the new event and not from the current storm. Without proof that your home was deemed mold-free after repairs were made, the insurance company might take the position that a new claim is not justified or that you have met your policy limit.
Do not wait for your insurance company to call you back
Take pictures and start removing the water immediately. Waiting even for a few hours could accentuate your water and mold damage.
Do not use a generator indoors
You may think it’s better to keep your generator indoors to avoid getting it wet, but this is extremely dangerous. If using a generator, be sure it is well ventilated and never use it indoors.
Do not leave your generator in the basement
Many people make the mistake of leaving their generator in the basement until the power goes out. By then, you may already have water in the basement, and the generator may be flooded and not work.
Do not wait for leaks to start
Some of us know that we have trouble spots in our home. Don’t wait until leaks start – prepare now. Anticipate them in advance, if you can. Check every window in the house to be sure they are closed tight. Place towels and buckets on the floor in the affected areas. If you know a window leaks, secure towels in that area before the rain begins. In heavy rains, you may need to change the towels and empty the buckets several times. Most importantly, once the rain and leaking has stopped, remove the wet towels and buckets from the area immediately, or you risk mold growth, which can grow in as little as 24 – 48 hours.
Do not wait until the last minute to buy supplies
We know that this is going to be an active hurricane season, so prepare now. Put together a hurricane kit. Have plenty of water, batteries, flashlights, candles, matches, dry and canned food, a can opener, a first aid kit, gasoline, a portable radio, and medications ready so when the time comes, you won’t be scrambling to get the necessities together.
Do not use the same company to test and then remediate
Some companies offer mold testing on the cheap and then conveniently offer their own remediation services to fix the problem. This is a clear conflict-of-interest, with the result that the problem is not often remediated – if it exists at all. The consumer may be paying thousands of dollars for bloated repair estimates or an improper and ineffective remediation. An independent test can save homeowners thousands! An independent, certified testing company like RTK Environmental does not do remediation, and therefore, offers consumers an unbiased opinion about any contamination. If asked, RTK will offer recommendations of reliable remediation companies.
A Mold Trifecta: Steady Rain, Soaked Soil, and Warm Weather
Homeowners should always be on the lookout for mold, but they should be extra vigilant due to monumental rainstorms and high humidity in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The combination of steady rains, soaked soil, and warm weather have invited mold to rear its ugly head again.
For some local residents, the damage left behind by recent storms will require major work. But as NBC New York’s Ken Buffa explains, rushing to make those repairs could have serious lasting consequences. Here’s the story: