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Healthy Home Mold

Five Tips to Mold-Proof Your Summer Home This Winter

Before you shut the door to your summer home next week, be sure to take the necessary steps to winterize it so that you don’t open the door next spring to a moldy mess.

1. Get the outside ready. Turn off the water to outside faucets and drain hoses before storing them. You should also close the fireplace flues and dampers to avoid anything unwanted coming down the chimney. Finally, make sure your gutters are clean and downspouts are angled away from your home.

2. Turn off the main water supply. Pipes can freeze and burst during the winter if they are filled with water and the heat is off. So, turn off the main water supply and open all faucets and drain them of water. If you are in a very cold area, you may even want to drain the toilets and water heater. For more information on how to winterize a toilet, click here. To see how to drain a water heater, click here.

3. Set the thermostat. It may seem incongruous to turn on the heat as it is still warm outside, but in a few months when the temperature drops below freezing, a warm house will prevent your pipes from freezing and keep your home dry through the winter. Most experts recommend keeping the thermostat between 55° F and 58° F.

4. Clean out the refrigerator and freezer. Some people choose to empty them completely, and turn off the unit for the season. If you do this, be sure to prop the doors open to prevent mold growth inside. If you decide to leave the fridge on, do not leave anything in it that may spoil if the power goes out. This can be especially dangerous if you leave food in the freezer and lose power for an extended period of time. When the power goes back on, the food will refreeze, and you won’t know that it was defrosted and probably rotted.

5. Clean, clean, clean – and we mean everything! Remove all trash, clean the towels and linens, vacuum, and scrub. It may seem like a burden to clean before you leave, but those little crumbs in the carpet can attract critters and a little bit of mildew in the shower now turn out to be a whole lot of mold later. Make sure your towels and linens are completely dry before you store them.

If you want to be extra cautious, you may want to have a friend or neighbor stop in periodically throughout the season to make sure nothing is awry. Follow these steps and you’ll know that you won’t open the doors to an environmental disaster next season!

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Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Rain, Rain, Go Away – I Hope This Mold Isn’t Here to Stay!


Summer rains can be a welcome refresher. But when the rain gods are overly generous and the skies open up, so do the humidity the floodwaters in our basements. This leads to one thing – mold.

Rain plus heat equals mold. While it may not be mathematically sound, it is an equation you can count on. Humidity is mold’s best friend, and mold can grow on just about anything – but not without moisture.  Therefore, in order to prevent mold, it is crucial to control moisture.

You can start with a dehumidifier. During the summer months, the dehumidifier should be set to keep the moisture level at 50%. If you set it higher, you are defeating the purpose and allowing moisture to linger and mold to grow. Click here for more on humidifier settings.

Another preventative measure that is easy and very effective is managing the water runoff from your house. If the water pouring off your roof has nowhere to drain, it can and will find its way into your home.  Keep your gutters and downspouts debris-free. Also, make sure that your downspouts 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 water does creep in, address the problem immediately. If you suspect that mold has already made its way in, schedule a test with a certified microbial investigator. He can provide you with an assessment of the situation, and give you a plan to move forward and send the mold on it’s way.

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Health Mold

Container Gardens – Are You Growing Something Gross?

Summer is in full swing – and so are our flourishing gardens. But where you planted your herbs and vegetables can make all the difference between a healthy harvest and a moldy mess.

Mold may not harm your petunias, but if you plan to consume your fresh herbs or vegetables, you may have a problem. It is important to check your container gardens for signs of mold growth. Many molds and mold spores can be detrimental to human health.

The growth of mold usually starts on the stems of plants near the soil, where it is dark and damp, and then travels to the leaves. It can look fuzzy, slimy – even crumbly. The color can vary tremendously – black, green, brown, or even white.

The most likely culprit for mold growth in container gardens is over-watering. People are so concerned with making sure their plants are getting enough water that they don’t consider the possibility that the plants are getting too much. More sun can help counter this problem. Another mistake is not having proper drainage at the bottom of your container. If there are no holes for the excess water to drain through, it collects and rots the organic material inside the pot.

If over-watering is not the problem, there are natural methods for fighting mold, like garlic or cinnamon. Check out some additional tips here. A last measure would be a chemical spray, although this should be avoided at all costs if you are planning to eat what you grow.

Container gardens are a wonderful option for gardeners. Be sure to keep yours mold free! And in order to be confident in the soil in which your garden is planted, choose a food-grade potting soil or consider a soil assessment from a reputable environmental testing service provider.

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Health Mold

Summer Cold or Mold Allergy?

Summer cold or mold allergy?  While you may think you or your child just has a relentless cold, it may be something entirely different – an allergy to mold.  Mold allergies produce the same symptoms as the common cold; however, they won’t go away with homemade chicken noodle soup.

A mold allergy does not mean that you are allergic to mold, rather to the spores or seeds.  Often the symptoms for mold allergies reach their height in the summer, and then just never seem to go away – leading many to believe that they have a cold they can’t kick.

mold allergy symptomsMold thrives during the hot, damp summer months which is why we see more mold allergies during that time than any other.  A nasal reaction is usually one of the first signs of an allergy to mold.  The reaction could take the form of a runny nose, congestion, sneezing, or a postnasal drip.

If you feel as though a summer cold is hanging around a bit too long, make an appointment with an allergist to get tested for a mold allergy.  There are two types of tests that can be done: a skin prick test, or a blood test.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for a mold allergy, but there are ways to reduce the symptoms.  While simple over the counter drugs can relieve your pain, it is important to try and avoid mold whenever possible.  Have a certified microbial investigator come check for mold in your home, and if necessary, have it removed as quickly as possible.  Obviously you cannot avoid mold altogether, but removing it from your home is a huge leap in the right direction.

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Healthy Home Mold

Has Mold Moved Into Your Summer Home?

It’s vacation time, and when you put the key in the door of your beach house or mountain cabin, the last thing you want to smell is the musty odor of mold and mildew, but it happens to owners and renters alike. So what can you do if you walk into a moldy mess?

“The first thing to do is open the windows and get air flowing,” Robert Weitz, Certified Microbial Investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group says. Weitz said that this is a common problem because many vacation homes sit empty and closed up over the winter months, collecting moisture, as air conditioning or heat has been turned off for the season. “Mold is not picky – it only needs moisture and a food source, such as wood, ceiling tiles, carpet or sheet rock, to begin growing.”

Whether you hire a mold inspector or put up with it will probably depend on whether you are the owner or renter, how long you will be there, and whether you or your vacationers have allergy or breathing issues.

Short-Term Solutions:

–      Keep the windows open as much as possible if it’s dry out;

–      A dehumidifier can also help lessen the moisture in the air;

–      If you decide to turn on the A/C, change the filter first;

–      Wipe off any visible mold on walls, floors and tiles with a bleach/water mixture;

–      Allergy medication may help lessen symptoms;

–      Let the owner know that they have a mold problem;

 

The Best Solution:

–      Get an independent mold inspection to identify the source;

–      Pinpoint if the mold is toxic or not;

–      Have the mold properly remediated.

Remember, if you are the owner or plan to be there for an extended stay, mold could affect your health causing wheezing, asthma, and allergy symptoms. The home should be tested by a certified microbial investigator, who can then advise you as to the next steps depending on the outcome of the mold testing. Whatever the case, mold can become a big issue quickly, so don’t ignore it!

 

 

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Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Hurricane Irene – The Aftermath

Hurricane Irene is a distant memory, but her wrath still haunts many homeowners. Nine months since the storm raged (at a cost of $15.6 billion in damages), long-term effects are rearing their ugly heads. Concerns about toxic mold and contaminated water are creating a busy season for environmental inspectors.

“We are being called into homes this spring that look perfectly clean, yet when we test for mold we are getting mold spore counts that are off the charts,” says Robert Weitz, Certified Microbial Investigator. “When the flooding initially occurred, victims were quick to clean up the water, dry out their basements, and power wash and bleach the walls. But they didn’t realize that their walls were soaked through, and now mold is growing behind their wallboards, ceilings, and other hidden places.”

Irene also creates outside problems. Water contamination is a major environmental issue in the aftermath of any hurricane. The high water from flooded rivers, ocean swells and broken water mains creates a runoff that can pick up contaminants from buildings and homes. Water mixes with pollutants from dry cleaners, gas stations, dumps, factories, flooded basements, and cars creating a toxic mess that can then make its way into homes, playgrounds, and drinking wells—places that put people at a risk of serious health problems.

“Homeowners often think that since they acted fast and clean everything up, they are safe,” explains Weitz. But don’t worry — it’s not too late to act. If you suspect Hurricane Irene may have caused residual damage, notify your insurance company and have a professional inspector come in to test your home or business. It’s the only way you’ll know if you have a serious mold or water contamination problem. Put Irene in her place once and for all – the past!

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Mold Testing vs. Remediation Video

Crooked Mold Contractors? RTK Helps The Today Show Uncover the Truth

How RTK Environmental Helped NBC’s TODAY SHOW Film This Segment on Mold Contractors:

View TODAY Show Segment

NBC’s TODAY SHOW featured an important hidden camera investigation to determine if mold contractors (an industry mostly unregulated) were attempting to rip off unsuspecting homeowners.  In March, NBC contacted RTK to help them with their hidden camera investigation.

As an independent testing company with a pristine record, RTK was hired by NBC News (after a thorough vetting) to verify that the test homes used in the segment were mold-free.  Although the segment only aired for a few minutes, several hours of thorough testing were performed by RTK to assure (and to document for) producers that the homes in use were free of mold.  Filming actually occurred over a period of several days with multiple trips to each location.

 

The moral of the story is: If your contractor tells you that you have mold without an insisting on performing an independent test, you may be getting ripped off.  (Here’s our contact information if you need an independent mold test.)

Buyer beware: It is a conflict of interest for your mold contractor to test your home for mold. You’ll likely save in the long run by hiring an independent testing company to verify a mold condition and to provide your contractor a “blueprint” for the mold remediation process.

Be sure to look for RTK Environmental Group’s Robert Weitz in the video. We’re thrilled to have worked with NBC News on this important piece.

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Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Drought + Sudden Rainstorm = Flooding & Mold

The Northeast is about to switch from fire warnings to a flood watch. Our parched yards are going to meet some wet weather, and that can actually cause flooding, then mold to grow in your home if you are not prepared. Here’s why…

When a large amount of rain falls in a short amount of time on very dry soil, water cannot be absorbed at the same rate that the rain is falling. So it travels, as it needs to go somewhere. That ‘somewhere’ might be your basement. And if your basement floods, mold is not far behind.

Here are some tips to prepare your home for spring storms:

Tip 1: Be sure your gutters and downspouts are free from leaves and debris.

You probably haven’t thought about your gutters since last fall. But throughout the winter, leaves and organic debris collect there. When that happens, water (from rain) cannot be channeled away from your house. A flooded basement can result. So, make sure your gutters, downspouts, and outside drains are clear of debris.

Tip 2: Prepare your basement.

If you think you’re vulnerable to flooding, check your basement floor drains to be sure they are not blocked. Remove anything from the floor or next to windows that you do not want to get wet. If there are boxes or any other cellulose materials on the floor, place them on tables or crates to alleviate direct contact with water. Once wet, they can rot or turn moldy.

Tip 3: Anticipate leaks in advance, if you can.

Some of us already know where there are trouble spots in our homes. 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 leaks have stopped, remove the wet towels and buckets from the area immediately, or you risk mold growth, which can start in as little as 24 hours.

If you have concerns about mold growth in your home, have a certified mold inspector in to test and assess the damage and give you options as to how to fix it. Mold can cause serious health problems, including asthma, coughing, and wheezing in otherwise healthy people. When there’s a dry spell, we desperately need rain – just keep it outside of your home!

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Health Mold

Mold, Allergies, and Misery — Welcome to Spring

 


Experts and allergists across the country are predicting that spring of 2012 may be one of the worst allergy seasons in a decade. 
Researchers blame climate change. The mild winter and early spring has allergy sufferers running to the medicine cabinet for relief. But high pollen counts are not the only issue – mold spores are unusually abundant this time of year. Both indoor and outdoor mold can significantly affect allergy sufferers, and can even cause asthma in otherwise healthy individuals.

 What can you do to lessen the amount of mold in your home? Here are a few tips:

  • Clean out your gutters, even if you cleaned them in the fall. Leaves and debris collect all winter, then rot, creating a fertile place for mold to grow – right on the exterior of your home;
  • While you’re at it, remove organic debris from your yard – especially if it is decomposing. Dead branches and leaves are prime growth spots for mold;
  • Clean bathrooms, and especially bathtub and shower areas, window sills and shower curtains with a bleach or disinfectant mixture at least once a month to prevent mold growth;
  • Use an exhaust fan in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms to vent excess moisture;
  • Use a dehumidifier – especially in damp areas of your home. Keep the dehumidifier set at 50% humidity. Any more than that will encourage mold growth;
  • Try to keep your home dry and ventilated;
  • Keep your basement carpet-free to avoid moisture build up and mold growth;
  • Regularly check under sinks and plumbing for leaks. Mold can grow quickly in these areas;
  • Don’t put wet shoes or damp clothing in your closets.  Let them dry fully first to avoid mold growth.

If you are having problems with mold allergies, the best course of action is to have your home tested by a professional to identify the source of the mold and then devise a remediation plan. Then you can truly — breath easy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Tips for Tackling Basement Flooding

We did need the rain in the northeast – but not 2+ inches per hour! Unfortunately, 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 hours. Drying out the affected areas as soon as possible is very important. Here’s what you can do right away:

1. 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.

2. Remove all wet materials from the area.

3. 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.

4. Use a dehumidifier and ventilate the area well.

5. 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 and to conduct a mold test. To learn more about what you can do to prepare for future storms, click here.