Flooding & Water Damage Health Healthy Home Mold

Why I Should Have Had A Mold Inspection

By Joan S.

For years, we battled a leaky roof. We patched it, but it still leaked. Water would soak the ice-roof-leakceilings and pour into the house during a big storm.  Buckets and towels became our best friend.

During the winter, ice dams were another problem; we could not seem to prevent leaks. Eventually, mold set in. Everyone in the family has allergies, and we could tell that mold was causing a problem as our asthma and conditions got worse.

cimney leak moldTo add to our headaches, we had a leak somewhere in the chimney that plagued us for years. Nobody could seem to solve this problem, so water would come in through the chimney flashing and soak the living room wall as well.

We finally wound up replacing the roof, had the chimney redone, and hired a contractor to fix the visibly damaged walls and ceilings. This is where we made our big mistake. We did not have a mold inspection or mold removal or remediation plan.

mold testing new yorkThe contractors fixed the ugly parts, not realizing that there was mold in places they could not see. Thousand and thousands of dollars later, mold suddenly started reappearing on our new walls and ceilings.  Our breathing and allergy problems continued. We decided to get a mold inspection this time, and were able to pinpoint where the problems were. We had to shell out a ton of money yet again for a contractor to come back and do the work properly.

If we had just invested in a mold inspection the first time, we would have saved about $15,000 and a ton of aggravation. Lesson learned!

Flooding & Water Damage Health Mold Mold Testing

Ice Dams, Icicles and Roof Leaks: Mold Matters

In part two of this series, we answer some of your questions about long terms damage to your home and health concerns. Ice dams wreak havoc with roofs, and then the mold that follows wreaks havoc with your health. I don’t see anything wrong, so my roof isn’t leaking, right?

A certified microbial investigator can check behind walls without damaging them to see if mold has developed.

We wish this was true, but it’s not. Ice dams can cause seepage in places the naked eye can’t see, whether behind walls or under floors – wherever the water finds a path to travel. The slightest leak can cause mold to grow, which can have detrimental consequences, both to your home and 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 an independent contractor to test for mold. A certified microbial investigator can use a moisture meter to test for mold and moisture behind walls, as well as take air samples to see if there is a problem. If you decide to wait and see, be diligent about checking attics, basements, and other less frequented places in your home for visible mold or musty odors, which are tell tale signs of hidden mold. At that point, you need to have your home tested by an independent mold inspector – one that does only testing, and not remediation, as this is a conflict of interest.


What should I do about the icicles and chunks of ice in my gutters? (Helpful hint: Put away the chainsaw)

ice dams
Chainsaws are good for ice sculpting, but terrible for ridding your roof of ice dams.

This is a real Catch 22 for many people. Your first instinct is to get the ice out through brut force, but that is easier said than done. Not only is it dangerous to get up on a ladder that is set on snow and ice, but also swinging an axe, crowbar, or chainsaw on an unstable ladder can cause you bodily harm, let alone mess up your roof and shingles. We’ve heard it all – from blowtorches to steam cleaners, pantyhose to heating pads. We give you credit for creativity, but to be safe and not cause further damage to your roof, remove the snow from the bottom portion of your roof with a broom or roof rake. This will help additional snow from melting into the existing ice dams, and will lessen the weight of the melting snow on your roof and gutters.

Can damage from ice dams affect anywhere in my home or just my attic?

roof collapseDepending on how and where your ice dams form, the water can go anywhere. We just had a call from a family in Connecticut that discovered water pouring into the basement. The cause turned out to be one ice dam that grew so large, that water traveled to the deck, pooled, then leaked into the basement. If ice dams travel down your downspouts, water may be pooling near your foundation with nowhere to escape.


What is the most common mistake made in dealing with ice dams?           

rood damageMany people make the mistake of cosmetically repairing water damage without checking to see if water leaks have caused mold to grow.  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, for that would be a conflict of interest. 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.

For more information, visit



Will homeowners insurance cover damage from ice dams?

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.


How can I prevent ice dams in the future?

ice dam protection

There are a number of options to help you prevent future ice dams, depending on your situation and construction of your home or business. Here are a few tips:

Ensure adequate ventilation.
In order to make sure that your attic and roof is properly ventilated, they need to be vented both at the eaves/soffits and at the peak. You need to have a space for cold air to flow above the insulation to keep the roof cold and prevent the snow from melting. If you have a finished attic, it is a little more complicated, but it can be done. House Logic shares some additional tips here.

Properly insulate your home.
prevent mold roof leak

Proper insulation of the attic is another solution, as is a tight vapor barrier to prevent moisture from passing from the living areas into and through the insulation. If air from your home finds its way to the underside of the roof sheathing, the heated air raises the temperature of the roof, causing snow to melt, then refreezes when the temperature drops again. Another important thing: make sure you have enough insulation. Under-insulated homes are more likely to be victims of ice dams. To find out how much insulation your home should have (based on location and age), refer to this chart on the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association webpage.

Protect your gutters.
Whether it’s a snow and ice shield or electric gutters, there are several products that will prevent water roof leak moldfrom working its way into the home. A snow and ice shield consists of a membrane that seals the roof, forming a continuous barrier to water.

If you are experiencing damage from ice dams and melting snow, call us to discuss your options and figure out a plan to keep your home and family safe at (800) 392-6468.

Missed the last post? To read Part One of this series, click here.

Flooding & Water Damage Health Healthy Home Mold

Ice Dams, Icicles and Roof Leaks: Part 1 – The Big Melt

The big melt is starting, and we have been getting inquiries round the clock with great questions about the melting snow and ice on our roofs wreaking havoc on our homes, creating more drips inside than your toddler eating ice cream. In this two-part blog, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions.  Here’s what you need to know.

What is an ice dam and why should I care?

The icicles hanging from the eaves may look pretty, but they spell big trouble.  During the day, sun melts the ice dam mold damagesnow. When the temperature drops at night, the water refreezes to form ice dams, which prevent melting snow from draining off the roof. Since the water has nowhere to go, it can leak into your home or office, causing damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and floors. Once that happens, mold is sure to follow. A new mold colony can be established in less than 24 hours. When inhaled, mold spores can cause chronic allergies, headaches, fatigue, skin rashes, throat and eye irritations, wheezing, and many respiratory problems including asthma – especially in children. The bottom line: ice dams can cause structural damage as well as health issues.

How can ice dams damage my home?

connecticut mold testDamage from ice dams – outdoors and indoors, doesn’t occur all at once. Outside, ice dams can rip off gutters and downspouts, loosen shingles, and damage roofs. Inside, the damage can be much worse. Water leaking into your home can destroy walls, ceilings, wallboard, floors, insulation, and more. Once wet, insulation will lose its ability to insulate well, and you will lose heat. Luckily, that damage usually can be seen easily. What you may not be able to see is mold infestation behind your walls.

Water is leaking into my home – what should I do?

The most important thing is to act fast. You can call your insurance company, but don’t wait for them to mold testing new jerseyrespond before you take action. Here are the first steps:

  • Take pictures of the damage, and remove the water immediately. Don’t wait for your insurance company to call you back. Waiting — even for a few hours — could accentuate your water and mold damage;
  • Mop, vacuum, or pump water out of the affected area as soon as possible. Remove wet items and materials from the area;
  • mold test new yorkIf you have an ice dam, try to create a channel for the water caused by melting snow to drain off your roof. One recommendation from This Old House is to fill the leg of discarded pair of panty hose with a calcium chloride ice melter. Lay the hose onto the roof so it crosses the ice dam and overhangs the gutter. The calcium chloride will eventually melt through the snow and ice and create a channel for water to flow down into the gutters or off the roof.
  • Dry out residual moisture that is left in the concrete, wood, and other materials. You can use a dehumidifier, fans or ventilation. Unplug electrical devices and water damage new yorkturn off the circuit breakers in the wet area, if possible;
  • If a material cannot be dried within 24 hours, it should be tossed. 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;
  • Have your home tested for mold.

If you are experiencing any water leakage or flooding, please call us at (800) 392-6468. We are happy to answer any of your questions.

Want more? Click here to read Part Two of this series.




Health Lead

Angry? Restless? The cause may surprise you…

lead=poisoning-new-yorkThis may be hard to believe, but bad drivers, holiday returns, and annoying co-workers that get on your last nerve may not be the final straw in pushing you over the edge – it may be that you have lead poisoning.

Adults often downplay the harmful effect of exposing children to lead in the home, especially those adults who grew up in a home or apartment built before 1978, the year lead paint was banned from residential use in the United States. They say: “Look at me. I’m fine. And I grew up when paint always contained lead.”

lead-testingWe hope they are fine, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of lead poisoning often occur with no obvious symptoms, which means lead poisoning frequently goes unrecognized and undiagnosed.

Researchers say that lead, when ingested, attacks every system in the body, with the brain and nervous system the most susceptible. lead-poisoningThe child suffers from loss of IQ, learning disabilities, ADD, ADHA, tendency toward violence, hearing loss, slowed growth, poor muscle coordination, decreased muscle and bone growth, speech and language problems. So consider the kids who grew up in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, who not only lived in a leaded paint world but breathed in fumes from leaded gas.

lead-testAsk yourself: Do you know any adults who can’t sit still or have problems focusing? Do any of your friends or co-workers anger easily? Remember, lead poisoning often is unrecognized and undiagnosed. According to Sherlita Amler, M.D., Commissioner of Health for Westchester County, N.Y.: “The affects of lead poisoning are irreparable and irreversible.” The damage lead poisoning does early in life stays with you forever.

So if people tell you, “Lead paint didn’t hurt me,” look them in the eye and ask them, “Are you sure?


Health Mold

Sneezing? It Could Be Your Christmas Tree!

new york mold testingAh, the delightful scent of a piney Christmas tree, filling your home with love, light, good cheer – and mold spores! Yes, trees decay and release mold spores into the air. And right about now, when the tree has been in your home at least a week, is when the sneezing and wheezing begins.

Connecticut researchers have discovered that the mold count mold allergy new jerseyfrom a live Christmas tree rose to five times the normal level two weeks after the tree was brought indoors. According to Philip Hemmers, MD, an allergist and immunologist with St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, Conn., the high levels of the mold correlate with allergic rhinitis and an increased rate of asthma symptoms and asthma-related hospitalizations in other studies. Dr. Hemmers’ advice: If you don’t feel well during the holidays, your evergreen Christmas tree could be the culprit.

He recommends people with mold sensitivity keep a live Christmas tree in their home for only four to seven days. Signs of mold sensitivity can include chronic allergies, headaches, mold allergy treatmentfatigue, skin rashes, throat and eye irritations, wheezing, and many respiratory problems including asthma.

If tossing the tree so quickly isn’t for you, another option is over the counter allergy medicine. It works wonders for many people, letting you enjoy your fresh tree until after the New Year.

Once the tree is discarded, vacuum and dust well. To be sure you’ve removed any mold spores, and to see if mold is growing even in places you can’t see, call an environmental testing company. “Getting your home tested for mold now can save you big headaches allergy connecticutlater,” says Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator. “Most people wait months, long after a mold infestation has taken root, before they deal with the problem. Once this happens, repairs are often extensive and very expensive. I’ve seen people who had to leave their homes for extended periods while these problems were being remedied.”

Weitz is a principal at RTK Environmental Group, the Northeast’s leading environmental testing company. For more information or to schedule an appointment to have your home tested for mold, click here.

Flooding & Water Damage Health Soil and Water Video

Testing on soil covered by Superstorm Sandy floodwater reveals contaminants – Part 2

In part two of this incredible investigation, RTK helps News 12 New Jersey uncover contaminants in some NJ soil post-Superstorm Sandy.

If you think you may have contaminated soil from Superstorm Sandy flooding, feel free to contact us at (800) 392-6468 to discuss, or click here.

Flooding & Water Damage Health Mold

Experts Warn of Bad Allergy Season Ahead Due to Superstorm Sandy

allergies moldIt’s been nearly six months, and Superstorm Sandy still won’t give us a break. Even as spring arrives, allergies from mold created when homes and were flooded last year are turning into a big problem all across the tri-state area.

Dr. Philip Perlman of St. Francis Hospital on Long Island explained to WCBS 880 how the extra allergen could affect people. “Now that houses are dried out, [people are not free from the effects of mold as] allergy season northeastthe mold is growing behind the walls and they’re not realizing it’s there… Now they’re realizing something else is going on – sneezy, stuffy feeling and watery eyes,” Perlman told WCBS-AM.

Experts, including allergy specialist Dr. Clifford Bassett, clinical assistant professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine, say the problem will be compounded now that trees are bursting with pollen. “We’re expecting to see a very robust allergy season because of a lot of precipitation during late winter and the warmer temperatures we’re seeing now,” said Bassett.

So what can you do? Aside from the regular regimen of allergy medications and nasal mold allergy new jerseysprays, become informed. Knowing fact from fiction can make the difference between misery and relief for millions of spring allergy sufferers, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Most important: have your home tested for mold, especially if you indoor allergiessuffered damage from Superstorm Sandy. If you are living in an environment that contains allergens both inside and outside, you will suffer round the clock. If an independent inspector finds that you have mold, hire a reputable contractor that does only remediation work not a combination of testing and remediation, as that’s a conflict of interest.  Then you will breathe a lot easier!

Contact RTK at (800) 392-6468 to schedule an appointment or click here.


Flooding & Water Damage Health Mold

Are You Buying a Used Car or a Moldy Mess?

Super-storm Sandy soaked more than our homes and businesses. According to the National Association of Automobile Dealers, flooding may have damaged as many as 250,000 cars. Here’s the problem – many of these water-damaged cars now contain mold, a major health hazard. If they wind up on used car lots, it could mean health problems for unsuspecting consumers.

After a car has been cleaned and dried out, it may be hard to tell that the vehicle was ever flooded. If you’re lucky, you’ll detect a musty odor, meaning there might be hidden mold. But the danger goes beyond the possible health issues mold can cause. As NBC News reports, floodwater can also damage a car’s engine, electronics, fuel system, airbags and brakes.

If you are going to buy a used car, here are some helpful tips:

  • Check for water in the headlights, taillights, and spare tire well in the trunk;
  • Look for mud in the seat belt tracks and under the dashboard;
  • Inspect the vehicle’s undercarriage for mud, corrosion, or rust;
  • If you smell a musty odor, there is probably mold in the seats and carpeting;
  • Watch for signs of rust or corrosion around screws, wires, and other metal parts.

People with allergies, underlying health conditions, and young children are more susceptible to health complications from mold, so if you really want to be safe, a certified microbial investigator can test the car to determine if mold is present in the vehicle. The Associated Press suggests also that you have a qualified mechanic check things out, and that you run the car’s vehicle identification number though a company such as Carfax  to see if it has been reported as damaged or totaled.



Asbestos Flooding & Water Damage Health Indoor Air Quality & Radon Lead Mold Mold Testing Soil and Water Testing vs. Remediation

Hurricane Sandy Information Center: RTK Environmental Group

Are you among the nearly 50 million people cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy? If you live near the coast in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, you’ve likely experienced the most significant water damage and indoor mold contamination in the region.

Here are the first steps you should take in addressing water damage and mold contamination:

 Get a proper plan together by calling RTK:

Improper demolition or renovation can not only cost you thousands more in unnecessary repairs, it can also send a host of toxins into parts of your home that were not affected, including mold spores, lead dust, and asbestos.



An independent environmental inspection from RTK will pinpoint exactly what needs to be removed, what’s salvageable, and which environmental hazards are present.

Why is “independent” important?

Because we do tests only and do not perform repairs and remediation, there is no conflict of interest when you hire RTK. RTK has been trusted and recommended for nearly 20 years.


Have damage, but haven’t done anything yet? Here’s what you need to do first.

¨ Inspect the damage. Be sure to take photos and video of everything for insurance purposes.

¨ Contact FEMA and your insurance company 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.

¨ Call 1-800-392-6468 and have RTK, an independent testing company, pinpoint the extent of the repairs needed, and identify any health hazards like mold, lead, asbestos, and bacteria from sewage.

¨ Check for roof and window damage, which may have caused leaks and mold.

Now that you have your independent environmental test report in hand from RTK, decide whether to hire a remediation firm or do the work yourself.

We’re happy to refer you to the area’s most reputable remediation contractors. Remember: Beware of any contractor who both tests for environmental hazards and performs the repairs. It’s a conflict of interest.


¨ Clean anything that was flooded with disinfectant, as there are a number of contaminants, from sewage to bacteria, which reside in floodwater. A mixture of water and bleach works best. Make sure you wear gloves, goggles, and a proper fitting mask. Warning: Never mix ammonia and bleach – it creates a toxic vapor that can be deadly.

¨ Contain work areas before you start. To prevent further contamination, cover surfaces in that area and adjacent to it with plastic sheets in order to prevent further contamination from mold spores, lead dust, or asbestos. Also, seal ventilation ducts/grills in the work area and in the area adjacent to it with plastic sheeting. If the area is large, a mold remediation plan is highly recommended. Exhaust fans, HEPA devices, workspace isolation, and a decontamination room will be necessary.

¨ Only a professional should perform asbestos removal.

¨ Wear the proper protective gear. A respirator, such as an N, R or P-95 or 100, is recommended. Non-vented goggles, long gloves, and protective clothing are also suggested.

¨ Remove any wet drywall and insulation.

¨ Once wet drywall and insulation are removed, you must completely dry the area out before rebuilding to avoid mold contamination.

¨ Have an RTK certified microbial investigator test the area after you’ve completed the work to ensure that you haven’t missed anything during the repair process.

¨ Keep the RTK inspection report in a safe place so you have proof of proper repair should you decide to sell your home.

¨ Call RTK Environmental Group at 800.392.6486 if you have any questions. We’re happy to help.

Note: If you’ve gutted the damage and are ready to rebuild or have already rebuilt, here are some things to consider:

 Test Before and After You Rebuild

If you rebuild before the area is completely dried out, you will be sealing mold into your walls. The mold will grow back and cause major damage.

Test your home for mold BEFORE you rebuild to make sure that the mold has been properly removed. Test your home AFTER you rebuild to be sure the job was done correctly, and was cleaned up properly.


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.

Reselling Your Home

Sandy’s widespread damage means that future home buyers will be asking tough questions about whether your home was flooded or struck by falling trees. So, you’ll want to be able to prove via documentation that your home was properly repaired afterwards. Otherwise, doubtful purchasers might cause you to have to lower the sale price – and – you might run the risk of a potential lawsuit from the new owner who could claim that you knowingly sold them a home with post-Sandy environmental contamination like mold, lead, asbestos, and bacteria from sewage.

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 Sandy. 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.



Independent Testing Companies vs. One-Stop Shops

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 from RTK 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.

Why Choose RTK?

– Leading Independent Environmental Testing Company

– No Conflict of Interest Policy

– Accurate and Unbiased

– 20 Years’ Experience

– Certified Microbial Investigators

– Building and Construction Backgrounds

– In-Depth Report Returned in 2-4 Days

– State-of-the-Art Equipment and Technology

– Extensive, Multi-Room Testing to Ensure Accuracy

Helpful Resources:

OSHA Fact Sheet on Sandy Mold Hazards and Cleanup

Apply for Disaster Assistance

New York City Sandy Recovery Information

New York Sandy Recovery Information

New York Sandy Unemployment & Business Services

Connecticut Sandy Recovery Information

Health Healthy Home

The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Baby – A Healthy Home

You’ve registered for the best stroller, crib, and car seat available because nothing is too good for keeping your baby safe. While many families are creating their little one’s gift registry by adding clothes, diapers, and essentials for the nursery, there is an even more important way to prepare for your baby’s arrival – a Healthy Baby, Healthy Home Environmental Inspection.

This unique gift option from RTK provides tests for environmental hazards in your home, like toxic mold and poisonous lead dust. Because 80% of homes contain at least one environmental hazard, it is important for pregnant moms and new parents to make sure their home is safe to bring their new baby into.

mold testing dc asthma healthy homeAs parents, we often become fixated on safety – from installing the car seat to measuring the rails on the crib. But we often overlook our home’s indoor environment. Mold, lead, radon, asbestos, and contaminated water or soil affect your vulnerable newborn and can cause a lifetime of health issues – from autism-like symptoms and ADHD to asthma and cancer.

Whether you are looking for a special baby shower gift or adding to your own baby registry, RTK offers an array of packages to suit your family’s individual needs. You can add a Healthy Baby, Healthy Home Inspection to your baby shower registry through, or visit us directly at Healthy Baby Healthy  Home .