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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.

power outage damage“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.”

storm damageAny 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

Lead paint hazardAfter 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 both tests for 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

mold remediationNever 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 Angi.

Mistake 5: Not Testing Before and After You Rebuild

mold testing nycIf 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

roof leakIf 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.

For more information, please visit our site at www.rtkenvironmental.comor call 800.392.6468 to set up an inspection.


Viruses are diverse and have a variety of surface survival rates. Viruses can live on surfaces for hours — or even weeks. (CDC)

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