Why It’s Important to Check For Mold in May
Here’s How Mold Spores Can Affect Allergies, Health, and Home
April showers may very well bring May flowers, but spring’s warmer temperatures and wet weather can certainly dampen one’s health.
Here’s How Mold Spores Can Affect Allergies, Health, and Home
April showers may very well bring May flowers, but spring’s warmer temperatures and wet weather can certainly dampen one’s health.
The icicles are beautiful to behold, but there’s a dark side. If you see them hanging from your gutters, you may be in for some trouble. Here’s why:
When you see icicles, it means you have ice dams, and ice dams wreak havoc with roofs. They prevent melting snow from draining, and that means the water has no place to go – except into the tiny little crevices and cracks beneath the roof. And that means the water can seep into your interior walls, attic, and underneath the roof shingles. Dampness can cause mold growth within 24-48 hours, and mold can wreak havoc with your health, causing asthma, headaches, fatigue and more.
Act quickly and don’t panic. Report the problem to your insurance company, but don’t wait for their response. You’ll need to take these steps right away:
Not necessarily. Ice dams can cause seepage in areas the naked eye can’t see, including behind walls and under floor boards or carpets – wherever the water finds a path to travel. Mold can grow from even a very small leak, which can have detrimental consequences to your home, and ultimately, to your health. If you think the ice dams on the eaves of your house or gutters are causing indoor leaks, the safest thing to do is hire a certified microbial investigator, who can use a moisture meter to check for wet and damp areas behind walls, as well as take air samples to see if there is a mold problem. If you decide to wait, be diligent about checking attics, basements, and other less trafficked areas in your home for musty odors or visible mold, which are telltale signs of hidden mold. If there’s mold, you should have your home tested for other infestation (often unseen) by an independent mold inspector – one that does only testing, and not remediation, as this would be a conflict of interest.
This is a tough one, because a lot can go wrong. The first instinct is to just get the ice out, but that is easier said than done. Getting up on a ladder that is set on snow and ice is dangerous in itself, but add to that a swinging axe, ice pick, or chainsaw, and you could be in trouble. Not only will you mess up your roof and shingles, you can cause yourself bodily harm. If you go online, you may discover some “creative” ideas to remove ice dams, but you should stay away from blowtorches, steam cleaners, heating pads, salt, boiling water, and hot bacon grease. To be safe and not cause further damage to you or your roof, remove the snow from the bottom portion of your roof, closest to you, with a roof rake or long-handled broom. Tip: Don’t stand on your roof to do this! You could slip and fall off, or worse, the roof could collapse right under you from the strain of your weight coupled with the weight of the snow and ice. Stand on the ground to remove roof snow. Just be sure to watch for falling icicles.
Depending on how and where your ice dams form, the water can go anywhere. We’ve even seen water pouring into the basement. How? The ice dam grew so large that water traveled to a deck attached to the house, pooled, and then headed into the basement. If ice dams travel down your downspouts or the icicles get so large that they are nearing the ground, water may be pooling near your foundation with nowhere to escape.
It happens all too often: people do cosmetic repairs without making sure the area is completely dry and checking for mold growth. Then, when the weather warms up, they discover they have a full-blown mold infestation. That’s why when there’s water damage, it’s important to test for mold. Hire an independent mold inspector, one who does not do remediation, to get honest and accurate results. An independent testing company can conduct air monitoring and surface sampling tests; identify affected areas and measure the amount of mold – even if it cannot be seen by the naked eye.
According to the National Association of Realtors®, most homeowners insurance policies cover conditions such as damage caused by ice dams, when water can’t drain into the gutters and instead seeps into the house. But, if the water from an ice dam enters the home from the ground, homeowners insurance generally won’t cover mold remediation. You would need flood insurance for that.
There are a number of ways to prevent future ice dams, depending on your situation and how your home or place of business is constructed. Here are a few tips:
If you are experiencing damage from ice dams and melting snow, call RTK Environmental today at (800) 392-6468 to discuss your options and figure out a plan to keep your home and family safe.
The more temperatures slip into the teens and even lower, the greater the chances that pipes will freeze. And when they freeze, they can burst. And that can lead to a whole rash of problems: flooding, structural damage, and mold. And mold can lead to health problems.
“Pipes freeze for three main reasons – quick drops in temperature, poor insulation, and thermostats set at too low a temperature,” says Robert Weitz, founder of RTK Environmental Group, a leading independent environmental testing company serving the northeast for over 20 years. “Pipes often burst when they thaw, so you may be in for an unpleasant surprise,” Weitz continues.
It’s not unheard of for a remediation company to fix the main water issue quickly, but not allow ample time for floors, ceilings, and wallboard to dry before finishing the job. When that happens, moisture is sealed into these areas, creating a perfect environment for mold to grow behind the walls and under floors. That’s why testing is so important.
First, it will ensure that you are living in a safe, healthy environment.
Second, an independent environmental testing company will provide you with a detailed report that documents that your home is mold-free. This documentation will be important for possible future insurance claims. If your home floods again and mold returns, your insurance company may question whether the mold was caused by the new event or the previous one. 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.
“The most important thing you can do if a pipe bursts is to have your home or office properly tested for mold and professionally remediated,” Weitz states. “To make sure you are not taken advantage of, hire an independent mold inspection firm that does not perform remediation, as they don’t stand to make additional money on a repair,” he says. To that point, a law was passed in New York in 2016 making it illegal for the same company to perform mold testing and remediation on the same job.
If you have questions or would like to book a test, call RTK at (800) 392-6468.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more information on mold, click here.