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:
Lesson 1: When Rebuilding, Save Money and Protect Your Health by Avoiding These Seven Common Mistakes
As people are scrambling to clean up the heavy damage from the most recent Nor’easter and now Quinn, experts warn it is dangerous to rebuild too quickly. Their advice is to remember how hasty repairs after Superstorm Sandy created hazardous environmental conditions, and subsequently required costly re-dos.
“During Sandy, many homes and businesses were damaged by falling trees and massive flooding,” says Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and founder of RTK Environmental Group. “This led to panic. People started ripping out wet and damaged materials, causing even more damage than anyone could have imagined.”
Mr. Weitz explains that these hasty decisions actually created problems. ” What occurred was that toxic lead dust and asbestos fibers in homes built before 1980 were released into the air, and microscopic mold spores then spread and became trapped behind walls and floorboards that had not fully dried out yet, causing a secondary, hidden mold infestation.”
Any one of these issues could be considered a health hazard, but the combination of mold, lead, and asbestos is a trifecta of toxins that can cause all sorts of short- and long-term, chronic health issues. Now, Weitz urges property owners to proceed with caution before fixing the damage caused by the Bomb Cyclone. “The idea is to learn from the six most common mistakes made after Superstorm Sandy,” he cautions.
Mistake 1: There’s No Plan
If you’ve endured any kind of damage, you need a plan. Here are some steps to reverse that:
– Inspect the damage. Be sure to take photos and video of everything for insurance purposes;
– Contact your insurance company and FEMA to find out what benefits and help may be available to you;
– Throw away any wet materials, especially if time has passed. They are likely to have mold growth;
– Dry out the area completely. Use fans, vents, dehumidifiers, and open windows when possible;
– Check for wind and tree damage on the roof and windows, which can cause leaks and mold;
– Watch for ice dams, which can create leaks behind walls, in ceilings, and under floors
– If you lost power, check appliances that use water, such as refrigerators or washers, for leakage and mold – both inside them and around them.
Mistake 2: Going In Blind
After Sandy, the main goal was to fix quickly what was wrong, without considering the potential consequences. If you have damage, the right thing to do is to start with an environmental inspection to assess your current and future environmental risk. An independent examination will pinpoint exactly what needs to be removed, what’s salvageable, and which environmental hazards are present or could occur.
Mistake 3: Hiring the Wrong Contractor
Beware of any “one-stop-shop” contractor who bothtestsfor environmental hazards and performs the repairs. That’s a conflict of interest. Mold testing on the cheap and convenient offers to do the remediation services to fix the problem are a red flag. An independent, certified testing company does not do remediation, and therefore, offers consumers an unbiased opinion about any contamination. In 2016, after Hurricane Sandy, so many consumers were duped by contractors offering to both test and remediate, New York State passed a law that makes it is illegal for the same company to test and remediate mold on the same job. Mold inspectors and contractors must now also be certified by the state to ensure that professionals are properly trained to handle your mold problem.
Mistake 4: Pre-Paying for Services
Never pre-pay for work to “hold a timeslot” or give a large down payment before any work has started. After Sandy, many people lost tens of thousands of dollars when corrupt contractors took the money and ran. Better to take the time to check contractors and testing companies on verified sites like the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List.
Mistake 5: Not Testing Before and After You Rebuild
If you rebuild before the water-damaged area is completely dried out, you will be sealing mold into your walls. Mold can easily grow back and cause major damage. So, test before you rebuild and have a blueprint for removal. Afterwards, test to be sure the job was done correctly and the mold was cleaned up properly.
Mistake 6: Not Obtaining 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.
Mistake 7: Not Getting the Paperwork Done
If your home has water damage again and mold returns, your insurance company may question whether the mold was actually caused by the new event. Without independent proof that an inspector found your home to be mold-free after earlier repairs, the insurance company might take the position that a new claim is not justified or that you have met your policy limit.
“By taking some simple steps ahead of time, homeowners can save money and heartache, and protect their health,” says Weitz.
In the wake of recent frozen pipe breaks, ice dams, hurricanes, and storms, there has been a lot of information disseminated about mold. Unfortunately, much of it is incorrect, and could end up costing homeowners a lot of money. We’ve created a list of the top mold questions, from black mold to mold certification, as well as common misconceptions. Take this quiz and see whether you’ve been getting good advice or not on these frequently asked mold questions.
Once mold is remediated, it’s gone and won’t come back.
Answer: Wrong. Mold can return to water damaged sites that were remediated too quickly, before the area was completely dry. In these cases, remediators sealed up the walls only to trap moisture inside a dark, warm area, where mold thrives. Don’t get caught in a trap. If you had water damage and had it repaired immediately or incorrectly, you may still find mold reappears, either because the home didn’t fully dry, treatment did not work, or unscrupulous contractors didn’t actually kill it. Trust only an independent, Certified Microbial Investigator to tell you where the mold is and when your home is dry enough to fix.
I only need to test before I remodel and not after, correct?
Answer: Incorrect. Testing after the remediation and renovation is done is just as important as testing before. You need to make sure the mold is gone and that the remediation was done properly to avoid a future problem.
Can you take care of a mold problem by yourself rather than hiring a professional?
Answer: Possibly. If the mold is visible and the area is small enough (less than a 3-ft.-x- 3-ft. square patch), you can probably clean the mold yourself. The EPA provides information on how to clean mold on your own. If the area is larger than that, you should have an independent testing company assess the area and provide a removal blueprint for a remediation company.
It’s cheaper and easier to hire a company that does both remediation and testing, right?
Answer: Wrong. Homeowners should hire two separate vendors for testing and remediation, according to an article from Angie’s List, which states “Hire one company to do the testing and another to remediate to eliminate any conflict of interest.” Companies that offer to test and then remediate may offer mold testing on the cheap, but they could plan to make up the difference through remediation services. They’ll tell you all the mold is gone, but you can never be sure if the problem was properly remediated – or if it existed at all. Many consumers end up paying thousands of dollars for bloated repair estimates or an improper and ineffective remediation. In New York State, a consumer protection law was passed in 2016 making it illegal for the same company to test and remediate on the same mold job.
Do mold companies and inspectors need to be certified?
Answer: Yes, although many are not. Be sure that your environmental testing company holds the Certified Microbial Investigator accreditation from the American Council for Accredited Certification. In New York, mold inspectors must also be trained, certified, and licensed by the state. Choose carefully. To find out if the individual or company you want to hire is certified, click here to search for them on the ACAC site.
Hurricanes and storms can be devastating. Inside Edition interviews RTK Environmental Group about what to do in the event that you have flooding and water damage during and after a hurricane, how to minimize mold growth, and what the proper steps are in testing and remediation. Additionally, there are several things to know about rebuilding, which you may not be aware of, like getting proper mold and environmental testing completed after remediation so that you have the proper paperwork for insurance companies and future real estate transactions.
You failed to mention whether your basement walls are cement or Sheetrock. If the mold is on Sheetrock, it is impossible to remove it. The moldy areas must be cut out, removed, and the walls must be replaced.
What you will need to assess and clean mold:
First, schedule a professional mold test to assess the situation. This will give you a blueprint of where the mold is, and whether you will be able to clean it yourself;
A mask or respirator to filter out the mold spores you’ll be disturbing;
Rags and a scrub brush;
Non-ammonia soap or detergent;
Fan and/or dehumidifier;
Work clothes, either old or white, since you will be using bleach;
Plastic garbage bag;
Before removing black mold from a cement wall, dampen the moldy area well with a rag and plain water. This will keep the mold spores from disbursing through the air. Then scrub the area thoroughly with a scrub brush and non-ammonia soap or detergent to remove as much of the mold as possible.
Next comes the all-important bleach wash, which will remove any leftover mold, in addition to stopping future mold growth. In a pail, add 1½ cups bleach to 1 gallon of water. Wet the surface well with this mixture, letting it soak in for about 15 minutes. Scrub the area with the scrub brush. Then rinse well with clean, clear water. Repeat these two steps until all visible mold is gone. Next, use a fan and/or dehumidifier to dry the area well. If you leave any moisture behind, you are leaving your wall open to mold growth.
And finally, remove your work clothes in the basement, place them in a plastic bag, and head to your washing machine. The clothes will be coated with mold spores, and the last thing you want to do is track those spores throughout your house. Add ¾ cup white vinegar to your wash water to kill the mold on your clothes.
If you suspect you have mold in your home, call RTK Environmental Group at 800.392.6468 for information about mold testing or to schedule a test of your home.
The wild storms that hit the tri-state area dumped massive amounts of rain into an already saturated ground. This caused additional flooding of rivers and streams, road closures, and the collapse of many retaining walls because of waterlogged soil. It also left many basements flooded. If you don’t act fast, you could quickly develop a mold problem.
When the rain falls at such a rate, the ground cannot handle the volume and rather than being absorbed, water pools near our homes. This causes many of our basements to flood, which can lead to problems very quickly. Damp and wet areas are prime locations for mold growth, which can blossom within 24-48 hours. Drying out the affected areas as soon as possible is very important.
Here’s what you can do right away to prevent mold:
Mop, vacuum, or pump the water from the area. But be careful if the outside soil is saturated – If you pump out the area too fast, the pressure from the exterior water could damage your basement wall or possibly collapse it.
Remove all wet materials from the area.
Dry out residual moisture that is left in the concrete, wood, and other materials. If you have windows that open to the outside, mount fans in them.
Use a dehumidifier and ventilate the area well.
Remove carpeting and dry outside, if possible. If you can’t remove the carpeting, remove as much moisture as possible by using a wet vacuum. Then use fans to circulate air both over and preferably under the carpet. The carpet must be dried within 12 to 24 hours,
or it will become infested with mold and need to be discarded.
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 to conduct a mold test.
One Company Cannot Test and Remediate on the Same Job, Mold Inspectors & Contractors Must Attend Certification Classes & Be Licensed
The recent cold temperatures caused a host of pipe breaks. For many, these unfortunate burst pipes happened when they were on vacation during the winter recess. Unsuspecting consumers returned home to mold and water damage from frozen pipes that defrosted and ruptured while they were away. When hiring contractors and contacting your insurance company, make sure you know about the new law in New York that protects homeowners from mold remediation con games. The regulations can save you thousands of dollars in unnecessary repairs, as well as protect your health.
The law, which went into effect January 1, 2016, bars the contractor who assesses the home’s mold problem from also doing the cleanup. This necessary measure was taken
to avoid a scam in which a company exaggerates or lies about a mold problem in order to make large profits on remediating a very small problem. The law also requires NYS licensure and certification in order to conduct mold testing or remediation. This will prevent unskilled workers from improper handling of mold and from possible cross contamination that can lead to health issues.
The mold remediation scams come down to contractors who both remediate and test for mold in order to inflate their profits; the more mold they can identify, the more they can profit from remediation.According to the New York State Department of Labor, the law mandates that an assessment be performed to define the scope of mold remediation before the cleanup is carried out, a practice that RTK has employed for decades. of the new law will face civil penalties of $2,000 to $10,000.
If you had a pipe break and need an independent mold test from a NYS licensed mold inspector, please call us at (800) 392-6468.
The temperature hovering well below freezing, we have more to worry about than finding matching gloves and a scarf. To make it worse, combine subzero temperatures with strong winds, and you have the perfect scenario for frozen pipes. A burst pipe oftentimes causes major flooding in your home, which can lead to major problems, including mold.
Pipes freeze for three main reasons – quick drops in temperature, poor insulation, and thermostats set at too low a temperature. So what can you do to protect yourself from your pipes freezing?
Here are a few tips:
Insulate pipes in your home’s crawl spaces and attic, since exposed pipes are most susceptible to freezing;
A trickle of water can prevent your pipes from freezing. Open your faucet and let it drip;
Seal spaces and openings that allow cold air inside near where pipes are located;
Don’t change the thermostat dramatically at night. Dropping it a degree or two is fine, but sudden drops in temperature can cause your pipes to freeze;
If you go away for the weekend, don’t turn the thermostat down too much to save money. If you do, you may return to a disastrous, wet, moldy mess;
Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls;
Disconnect garden hoses, turn off the water supply valve inside, and keep the faucets open outside.
If you open a faucet and no water comes out, don’t take any chances call in a plumber to see what the story is. If a water pipe bursts, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve and leave the faucet open. Try to dry out the area as quickly as possible. Damp and wet areas are prime locations for mold growth, which can blossom within 24 hours. Once the repairs are complete, have a certified microbial inspector come in to test the area and make sure there is no lingering mold.
For additional information on freezing and bursting pipes, you can visit the Red Cross website.