Flooding & Water Damage Mold

We are still not out of the water!

Homes in record numbers were flooded, some for the first time, by tropical storms Irene and Lee. So, weeks later, you may be wondering, Why do I smell mold?

We have some answers and tips for you:

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.

What to do?
1. 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.
2. If you can see the mold on hard surfaces, clean it off with detergent and water. Be sure to dry the surface completely.
3. If the problem is too large, a commercial cleaning company is your only solution.

Where, oh where, is that mold?
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.

Am I safer not living in a floodplain?
We all regard coastal areas as being in the danger zone, but look at what happened inland when Irene and Lee struck. The persistently heavy rains caused massive flooding. So, living outside coastal areas won’t necessarily protect you against floods.

Am I covered?
Standard insurance policies do not cover flooding. Only having flood insurance can help.

Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Mold and Fabric

We’re halfway through October, and almost half of the days it has rained. What’s the significance of that? All the extra moisture is fodder for mold growth. The only way to determine whether mold is lurking in your home is to hire a professional mold inspection company, which will also target the root cause of the problem to prevent further infestation.

Next, it’s time to get busy: throw out anything that smells moldy. If the item is washable, there are steps you can take to remove the mold. But remember: The longer mold stays on a fabric, the worse it will smell and the more time it has to weaken and eventually cause rot.

To remove new mold from washable fabrics, add ¾ cup of white vinegar to your wash load. It may take a few washings with vinegar before all traces of the smell disappears. Once the smell is gone, wash your clothes with detergent.

Old mold growth:
If the mold is old and flakey, take the items outside (to avoid mold spores from spreading indoors), and one by one, brush off any loose mold growth. Be sure to wear a protective face mask and gloves. After brushing, leave the items outside in the sun to dry. The heat and light will help kill any remaining mold spores on the clothing. Then, wash the garment in vinegar, followed by a detergent wash.

If a mold stain persists, sponge the contaminated area with chlorine bleach (2 tablespoons bleach to a quart of water), obviously not a good solution for colored fabrics. For those, mix lemon juice and salt and leave on the mold spots for 10 minutes. After either process, rinse fabric well. Then launder as usual, and fully dry the fabrics to keep the mold from returning.

Flooding & Water Damage Mold Testing vs. Remediation

Mold Testing: 1, 2, 3!

Recently, life has seemed even unfair – especially for those whose basements were flooded either by tropical storm Irene or Lee. Many had to discard whatever got wet — papers, pictures, furniture, rugs — and then had to call in remediators to dry out their basements.

But that didn’t necessarily solve the problem. For many, the damp musty odor was back. And that usually means mold is lurking somewhere.

The bottom line is it’s not enough to simply dry out your basements and get rid of wet and moldy things. Mold can invade places you cannot see. The only way to find hidden mold — the mold behind your walls and in your ceilings — is to test. And not with do-it-yourself kits. They are not up to the job.

Professional testing will:
• discover exactly where and why excess moisture is entering your home;
• include air monitoring, surface sampling and bulk sampling to compare the results with normal mold levels;
• identify all affected areas and measure the amount of mold;
• recommend safe and cost effective ways to eliminate the moisture and resolve the mold problem. Testing companies like RTK Environmental do not perform remediation, so there is never a conflict of interest;
• determine if the health of your family is at risk.

Before remediation, testing identifies where the mold lurks; after remediation, testing is the homeowner’s guarantee that all mold is gone.

While there is cost involved in hiring professionals to properly test for mold, in the long run, it can save homeowners thousands of dollars, not to mention peace of mind knowing a mold problem is resolved.

Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Mold: Good, bad and ugly

You don’t have to be a meteorologist to know that the past few weeks, rivers in the Northeast neared levels they haven’t reached in decades. It’s become almost commonplace to see streets flooded and trees down because of water-logged soil.

Rising water tables have also played havoc with our basements and personal property. Water in your house causes immediate problems, but just when you think the danger is gone, toxic mold starts invading your home. Sometimes you see or smell it – and sometimes you don’t. Life can be so unfair!

Here are some answers to the questions our customers frequently ask:

Is all mold bad?

Not at all. Outside, mold plays an important role in our environment, breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen trees and leaves. We’ll soon see the good mold on fallen leaves.

Indoor mold is also normal, but this is where the problems can start. Mold latches on to moist surfaces, starts growing, and begins causing all sorts of health issues such as allergic reactions that mimic hay-fever symptoms – sneezing, runny, itchy eyes, red nose and skin rashes. Mold can also cause asthma attacks and can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs.

Can mold damage my home?

Mold can destroy the things it grows on – including your home’s walls, floors and furnishings. The key is to control moisture in your home and eliminate mold growth before it takes over.

What can I do to prevent mold?

The most important thing you can do is to control moisture levels in your home. If water enters your home, take immediate steps to get rid of it. Use vacuums and fans to rid surfaces of any residual moisture.

Do this within 24 hours, as toxic mold can invade your home in less than a day.

Once an area is dry, test for mold. Since do-it-yourself home tests are often inaccurate, your best bet is to call in a certified microbial mold inspector.

The Environmental Protection Agency offers a free download, Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home. Check it out at

Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Irene Left A Mess – Now What?

Even before Hurricane Irene hit, the Northeast experienced a record rainfall this August. Irene just added more problems to our already damp or flooded basements and high water tables. Now what? First off,  let’s not forget about mold, which can get a jumpstart anywhere water has seeped into your home. Within 24 hours, toxic mold can become a problem. You might not see it immediately, but within a few weeks, mold’s smell will tell you it has taken hold.  And that’s when the real problems begin, since mold can 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.

There are immediate steps homeowners should take as soon as water enters their houses:

  • 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 the problem.
  • Mop, vacuum, or pump water out of the affected area as soon as possible. Remove wet items and materials.
  • Dry out residual moisture that is left in concrete, wood, and other materials. You can use a dehumidifier or ventilation. If basement or attic windows open, mount fans in the openings. Unplug electrical devices and turn off the circuit breakers in the wet area, if possible.
  • Anything that is not wet, bring to higher ground.
  • Some items, once wet, should be thrown away immediately, including cosmetics, medical supplies, stuffed animals, and baby toys.
  • Toss out materials that can’t be dried within 24 hours, such as mattresses, pillows, carpets, upholstered furniture, and items containing paper, including wallboard.
  • Put aluminum foil under the legs of furniture to avoid staining damp floors. Wooden clothespins can keep upholstered furniture skirting off damp floors.
  • Once the area is dry, bring in dehumidifiers and large fans to remove any excess moisture.
  • Have your home tested for mold by an accredited inspection company.

Mold in foreclosed homes: Great deal or deal-breaker?

As the number of foreclosed homes rises, the deals are plenty – but so are the potential problems. One of the fastest growing issues with foreclosed and bank-owned homes is mold.

When homes are occupied, a cycle of ventilation occurs and moisture gets sucked out, often times driven by heating and air conditioning. When homes are abandoned, however, the electricity is shut off so there is no circulation of air and no sump pump to push standing water out of the basement, which can cause major mold problems. The infestation of mold in bank-owned, vacant houses is growing throughout the country. Water leaks and flood problems go untreated, and can lead to mold issues within days.

If you can see mold or smell a musty odor in a home, you can be sure that there is a lot more mold that you cannot see hiding – especially behind the walls and under the floor boards and carpets. Because of this, any mold damage might require expensive remediation efforts to once again make the home habitable.

Since buyers purchase these homes in an as-is condition, they need to be aware of the potential problems and added-costs a mold infestation brings with it. Many bank-owned properties will not have documented histories about past conditions or treatments. Even if you make an offer on a house right away, banks often take months to process the paperwork and by then it’s too late and a small mold problem is now a full-house infestation that can cost thousands of dollars to fix. Once a residence is severely infested with mold, often times the floors and walls must be completely torn out to correct the problems.

Exposure to mold, especially toxic mold, can cause a variety of health problems. People suffering from asthma or allergies, including small children, infants, the elderly, and people with acute health problems are more susceptible to health problems related to mold infestation.

The safest way to proceed with a foreclosed home is to have a mold inspection done by a certified professional. They can tell you exactly what it will cost you to fix the problem, and then you can weigh your options and figure out if the house is still a good deal.


Flooding & Water Damage Mold

There’s Water in My Basement – Now What?

Torrential rains cause many of our basements to flood. This can lead to problems, big time. Damp and wet areas lead to mold, which can blossom within 24 hours, so drying out the affected areas as soon as possible is very important. Here’s what you can do right away:

  • 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 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 within the time frame or are unsure as to whether you already have a mold problem, the safest thing to do is to call in a professional and have a mold test done.

Mold Testing vs. Remediation

Do It Yourself Mold Kits Just Don’t Get The Job Done

Many do-it-yourselfers think that using an at-home mold testing kit will let them know whether they have to worry about that musty odor in the basement or discolored area after a leak. They are wrong. These kits generally contain a fungal growth medium in a Petri dish or some other type of container. The object is to expose this medium to viable spores, which then grow to form mold colonies. Unfortunately, the kits are unreliable and cause many DIYers to make bad decisions.

Here are some of the major flaws and challenges of home mold testing kits:

  • Home mold test kits that use ‘settle plate applications’ (set the dish out for 24 – 48 hours and spores are supposed to fall into the dish) generally do not measure airborne particles accurately. Spores vary in size, shape, and weight, so they grow at different rates. Also, every environment contains some amount of mold, and it’s difficult to determine whether the mold spores you collect are from a dangerous indoor colony or just part of the outside environment.
  • DIY mold kits cannot reach areas that are not visible to the eye. You may have mold behind your walls, which is the most dangerous place for it to be. It can spread quickly and infest a whole house before you realize the mold is there.
  • Even though you may be able to grow mold, you likely won’t be able to identify what type it is. There are over 100,000 different types of mold, and some are much more dangerous than others. If you don’t know what you are dealing with, your health could be at risk.
  • False negatives and false positives are a common problem with do-it-yourself mold test kits.

Same problem as above. Your HVAC system circulates air and spores are most likely in this air. Unless you have advanced filtering (i.e. HEPA-rated), you should expect to have mold spores being circulated as well. Even with advanced filtering, most HVAC systems suffer from filter by-pass problems, cabinet and duct leakage, etc. Like the settle plate test, if a gazillion colonies form, you may have an HVAC problem, but then again, maybe not. There are certain locations within an HVAC system where mold growth can be a problem. Remember, the main factors that are needed for mold growth are food and moisture so those are the areas to focus on. Mold won’t arbitrarily grow in your ductwork unless there is a significant problem.

Tip: Have the HVAC system inspected by someone who knows where the problem areas are located.

The bottom line is if you think you may have mold, contact a professional.  Your decision can make all the difference between potential health problems for you and your family, and a very messy and expensive cleanup, or a job handled professionally, properly and quickly.




Don’t Be Duped – All Black Mold is Not Toxic Mold!

The black mold in your basement or attic may look frightening, but it may just be unsightly, and not necessarily toxic mold. All black mold is not toxic mold.

black moldThat’s why it is so important to have mold testing done. It will determine what type you actually have so that you can take the proper course of action to remove it through mold remediation.

There are over 100,000 different types of mold.  Most cause upper respiratory tract symptoms, coughing, and wheezing in otherwise healthy people. Those with immune suppression or underlying lung disease are more susceptible to fungal infections caused by mold. However, if you have been exposed to toxic mold, however, such as Stachybotrys, Acremonium, Memnoniella or Chaetomium, you could suffer from a myriad of serious symptoms and illnesses such as:

  • chronic bronchitis
  • learning disabilities
  • mental deficiencies
  • heart problems
  • cancer
  • multiple sclerosis
  • chronic fatigue
  • lupus
  • fibromyalgia
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • multiple chemical sensitivity
  • bleeding lungs

how does mold growIn order to grow, toxic mold, like other molds, starts out when water soaks wood, paper, and cotton products or other products, usually as a result of water damage, excessive humidity, water leaks, condensation, water infiltration, or flooding. Constant moisture is required for its growth. When wet, toxic mold may appear slimy with white edges.

While toxic mold can bring on the most serious health problems, all mold can cause health issues in healthy people – especially those who suffer allergies. So the best course of action is to have it checked out by a professional to determine the severity of your problem through mold testing, then devise a mold remediation plan that suits your needs.