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Environment Flooding & Water Damage Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold Mold Testing

Summer Mold Hotspots: What to Look For

Summer Mold Hotspots: What to Look For

As summer rolls in, so does the potential for mold growth in our homes and workplaces. Mold thrives in warm, humid conditions, making the hot, sticky months of summer a prime time for it to flourish. Whether you’re heading to your summer home or just trying to keep your primary residence mold-free, it’s essential to know the common hotspots for mold and the signs to watch out for.

Top Summer Mold Hotspots

Kitchens and Bathrooms

These areas are constantly exposed to moisture from cooking, washing dishes, and taking showers. Common mold-prone spots include behind sinks, under dishwashers, around toilets, and in shower stalls. Don’t forget to check less obvious places like behind the refrigerator and under the microwave where condensation can build up.

Basements and Crawl Spaces

Basements and crawl spaces are notorious for dampness. Moisture seepage, flooding, or poor ventilation can create ideal conditions for mold growth. Look for signs of mold on walls, floors, and insulation materials.

Attics and Roofs

Poor ventilation and roof leaks can lead to mold growth in attics. Inspect the insulation and wood beams for any signs of mold, especially if there have been roof leaks or ventilation issues.

Air Conditioners

While air conditioners help keep your home cool, they can also harbor mold if not properly maintained. Check the condensate drain and evaporator coils regularly to ensure they are clean and free of mold.

Laundry Rooms

Laundry rooms often have high humidity levels due to washing machines and dryers. Mold can grow inside washing machines, particularly front loaders, if they are not regularly cleaned and dried. Also, inspect the area around the machines and under any laundry sinks.

Flooring and Carpeting

Moisture can get trapped under carpeting and wood floors, especially in basements. Check for any musty odors or discoloration in these areas, as they can indicate hidden mold.

Signs of Mold

  • Visible Mold

The most obvious sign is seeing mold itself. Mold can appear in various colors, including black, green, white, yellow – even pink. It often grows in clusters and can have a fuzzy texture.

  • Musty Odors

A persistent musty smell is a strong indicator of mold, even if you can’t see it. This smell is caused by microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs) released by mold.

  • Health Symptoms

Unexplained health issues like itchy eyes, coughing, sneezing, or respiratory problems that improve when you leave the house can indicate mold. Mold exposure can exacerbate allergies and asthma.

Keeping an eye on these hot spots and recognizing the signs of mold early can help you maintain a healthy, mold-free home this summer. If you suspect a mold problem, it’s best to have a professional inspection to identify and address the issue promptly.

For more information on mold testing and remediation, visit RTK Environmental Group.

 

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Flooding & Water Damage Mold Mold Testing

Combatting Water Leaks and Preventing Mold in NYC Apartments

Combatting Water Leaks and Preventing Mold in NYC Apartments

New York City living comes with its charm and challenges, with water leaks topping the list of potential issues that can lead to costly repairs and health risks. From terraces leaking to malfunctioning washing machines, these issues, if unaddressed, are a leading cause of mold growth. RTK Environmental reports that approximately 30% of all residential structures have some form of moisture problem, which can escalate into mold.

“The main issue in apartment buildings is that water travels downward but also laterally,” says Robert Weitz, founder of RTK Environmental. “It will travel through floors and walls to ceilings and walls below, as well as from one dwelling to another on the same floor. When that happens, you are at risk of developing a mold problem,” he explains.

Common Sources of Leaks in NYC Apartments

Terraces:

Leaves and all kinds of debris clog drains. When that happens, water has nowhere to go but into a nearby apartment. Water will travel to the weakest point of entry, which could be just about anywhere. If you have a terrace, be sure to keep your drains clean. Over 50% of terrace-related claims are due to clogged and inadequate drainage systems.

Toilets and Plumbing Pipes:

Pipe breaks are an apartment building’s nightmare. Hundreds, or even thousands of gallons of water can cascade through the halls and stairwells, not to mention walls, floors, and ceilings. One pipe break or plumbing leak can affect dozens of apartments and common areas. Fast action is needed to remove drywall and dry structure and remaining floors as quickly as possible. It’s recommended to treat water like a fire – quick action helps prevent further damage.

Washing Machines:

An estimated 10% of water damage claims are linked to washing machine hose leaks, which are often preventable with routine checks and timely replacements. In many buildings, there is a common laundry room in the basement–all well and good. But, what’s also common, are storage areas in the basement that contain boxes and other items comprised of cellulose, which mold loves to grow on. The humidity and any leaks created from the laundry can cause mold growth in any basement.

HVAC Systems:

HVAC systems often cause mold outbreaks in buildings, especially during the summer months, when the air conditioning systems create condensation. Where there’s moisture, there’s mold. And since mold spores can travel throughout the building through the HVAC system, you can expect that mold colonies are sure to develop.

Steam Pipes:

In older buildings especially, steam pipes and old radiators typically leak inside the walls or ceilings, which go unnoticed. The steam leaks are usually hidden, so damage and mold growth can go unnoticed for weeks or even months. But a musty odor signals that there is mold in the vicinity.

 

The Mold Menace

Mold thrives in moist environments, and even a minor leak can lead to a significant mold issue within 24-48 hours. If you suspect you have mold in your apartment, the smart thing to do is have it tested. If you do notice an odor or staining, call in an independent professional who has the technology to detect water behind walls, in ceilings and under floorboards. They can ascertain where the mold is and what needs to be done to remove it.

Conflict of Interest

It is important to get two different companies to do the testing and remediation. Why? When the same company does both, it is a clear conflict of interest, and could cost you extra for repairs that are unnecessary. A competent, independent testing company will tell you exactly where the problem is and provide you with a blueprint for remediation. The remediation company will then do only the necessary work, minimizing disruption and cost. In New York State, it is illegal for the same company to do both testing and remediation on the same job.

Who Covers the Cost?

Insurance often covers the cost for mold testing and remediation, especially as it relates to issues with an apartment building. If you rent and are concerned about possible mold, speak with your landlord or the building management. Apartment owners must be more diligent and fast when it comes to identifying mold growth.  The most important thing is to take care of the potential problem quickly. Live well! Be healthy!

Leaks and moisture issues are a significant concern for NYC apartment dwellers, but with the right approach, they can be managed effectively. Taking proactive steps to monitor and address these issues will help maintain a healthy and safe living environment.  Don’t let a small leak lead to a big problem. Contact RTK Environmental today for an expert assessment and state-of-the-art solutions to protect your apartment from leaks and mold.

 

 

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Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Hurricane Preparation: What You Need to Know Before and After the Storm

Hurricane Preparation: What You Need to Know Before and After the Storm

Hurricane season is underway. If you are prepared, you may be able to minimize and even avoid flooding and damage to your home. Follow these expert tips on the dos and don’ts of Hurricane preparation.

DO:

Be sure your gutters and downspouts are free from leaves and debris

It is important to make sure your gutters and outside drains are clean before the storm. Remove any debris from gutters and downspouts, and be sure that they 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 you have extensions on your downspouts to direct water away from the foundation, be sure to secure them in place with rocks or stakes. With hundred mile per hour winds, they may blow off.

Prepare your basement

If you think you may have flooding, there are several things you can do in advance to prepare. Check basement floor drains to be sure they are not covered. Remove anything from the floor that you do not want to get wet. If you have boxes or any other cellulose materials on the floor, place them on tables or crates to alleviate direct contact with water. Remove items from places water may get in, like below windows.

Follow these steps if you get water in your home:

  • Take pictures of the damage, and remove the water immediately.
  • If you rent your home or apartment, be sure to alert your landlord and building superintendent as soon as possible so they can take the necessary steps. If you live in an apartment building and have leakage or flooding, water could travel through ceilings and walls to neighboring apartments and mold could affect an entire building in a short time.
  • Mop, vacuum, or pump water out of the affected area as soon as possible. Remove wet items and materials from the area.
  • Dry out residual moisture that is left in the concrete, wood, and other materials. You can use a dehumidifier or ventilation. If you have windows that open to the outside, mount fans in them. Unplug electrical devices and turn off the circuit breakers in the wet area, if possible.
  • Some items, once wet, should be thrown away immediately. This includes food, cosmetics, medical supplies, stuffed animals, and baby toys.
  • Some material that cannot be dried within 24 – 48 hours, it should be disposed of. 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.

Be prepared for a power failure

Be prepared to power your sump pump by an alternative method if you have a power failure. Sump pumps only work if you have electricity. If you have a generator, make sure it is connected to the sump pump and fueled or charged. If you don’t have a generator, make sure you keep an eye on your basement for flooding.

Have your home tested for mold if you have flooding

If you are a victim of flooding and have concerns about mold growth in your home, have a certified mold inspector in to test and assess the damage and give you options on how to fix it. Mold can cause serious health problems, including asthma, upper respiratory tract symptoms, coughing, and wheezing in otherwise healthy people. Infants exposed to mold in their first year of life are three times more likely to develop asthma. Toxic mold can cause even more serious health problems. Call RTK at (800) 392-6468 for more information or to set up a test.

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.

Avoid 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 the current storm. 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.

 

DON’T:

Do not wait for your insurance company to call you back

Take pictures and start removing the water immediately. Waiting even for a few hours could accentuate your water and mold damage.

Do not use a generator indoors

You may think it’s better to keep your generator indoors to avoid getting it wet, but this is extremely dangerous. If using a generator, be sure it is well ventilated and never use it indoors.

Do not leave your generator in the basement

Many people make the mistake of leaving their generator in the basement until the power goes out. By then, you may already have water in the basement, and the generator may be flooded and not work.

Do not wait for leaks to start

Some of us know that we have trouble spots in our home. Don’t wait until leaks start – prepare now. Anticipate them in advance, if you can. Check every window in the house to be sure they are closed tight. 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 leaking has stopped, remove the wet towels and buckets from the area immediately, or you risk mold growth, which can grow in as little as 24 – 48 hours.

Do not wait until the last minute to buy supplies

We know that this is going to be an active hurricane season, so prepare now. Put together a hurricane kit. Have plenty of water, batteries, flashlights, candles, matches, dry and canned food, a can opener, a first aid kit, gasoline, a portable radio, and medications ready so when the time comes, you won’t be scrambling to get the necessities together.

Do not use the same company to test and then remediate

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 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.

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Flooding & Water Damage Mold Testing vs. Remediation

What’s Your Mold IQ?

 

Common Questions on Mold, Answered

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.

mold infestationAnswer: 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?

mold removalAnswer: 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  Warning Conflict of Interestremediation, according to an article from Angi 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?

rtk mold connecticutAnswer: 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.

If you’d like more information on mold, click here. If you’d like to schedule an appointment to have a mold inspection, please click here to contact RTK.

 

 

Categories
Flooding & Water Damage Mold

5 Tips for Tackling a Flooded Basement

The wild storms that hit the tri-state area dumped massive amounts of rain into an already floodingsaturated 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:

  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.water damage DC
  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 to conduct a mold test.

Categories
Mold

5 Tips to Survive a Basement Flood & Prevent Mold

You don’t have to be a meteorologist to know that this summer, rivers in the Northeast have had their fill, and then some. Unfortunately, road closures and downed trees because of waterlogged soil and flooding are not the only issues. The combination of steady rains and soaked soil have left many basements flooded. Combine that with the hot weather, and suddenly mold rears its ugly head.

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.

Get the water out quickly.
Get the water out quickly.

3. Dry out residual moisture that is left in the concrete, wood, and other materials. When the rain stops, 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.

Remove wet items immediately. Use a dehumidifier or fan to help dry out the area.
Remove wet items immediately. Use a dehumidifier or fan to help dry out the area.

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. To learn more about what you can do to prepare for future storms, click here.

Categories
Flooding & Water Damage

4 Top Tips for Pre-Storm Preparation

Hurricane season has begun, and Tropical Storm Andrea has already drenched us. With the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) predicting 13-20 named storms (7-11 being major hurricanes), we have a lot to prepare for.

Luckily, there are things homeowners can do to get ready for the storm and protect your home from developing a mold problem after flooding. They may not stop the gale-force winds, heavy rain, and some flooding, but following these tips can lessen the potential damage to your home.

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

moldy-gutterIt is important to make sure your gutters and outside drains are clean before the storm. Remove any debris from gutters and downspouts, and be sure that they 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 you have extensions on your downspouts to direct water away from the foundation, be sure to secure them in place with rocks or stakes. With gale-force winds, they may blow off.

 

Tip 2: Prepare your basement.

If youMold Testing think you may have flooding, there are several things you can do in advance to prepare. Check basement floor drains to be sure they are not covered. Remove anything from the floor that you do not want to get wet. If you have boxes or any other cellulose materials on the floor, place them on tables or crates to alleviate direct contact with water. Remove items from places water may get in, like below windows.

 

Tip 3: Be prepared to power your sump pump by an alternative method if you have a power failure.

Sump pumps only work if you have electricity. If you have a generator, make sure it is connected to the sump pump and fueled or charged. If you don’t have a generator, make sure you keep an eye on your basement for flooding. If using a generator, be sure it is well ventilated and DO NOT use indoors.

Tip 4: Anticipate leaks in advance, if you can.

Some of us know that we have trouble spots in our home. Don’t wait until leaks start – prepare now. Check every window in the house to be sure they are closed tight. 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 leaking has stopped, remove the wet towels and buckets from the area immediately, or you risk mold growth, which can grow in as little as 24 – 48 hours.

If you do have flooding in your basement or home, check out this helpful article for tips on what to do right away. And if you think you 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.

Categories
Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Post Sandy: Mold

When Hurricane Sandy swept through the Northeast, it flooded tens of thousands of homes.  If you had water in your home for at least two days, chances are some mold colonies are growing, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Here’s what you may not realize: mold may not be visible immediately, but its spores are growing.

Here’s what you need to know about mold:

What is the health impact of mold?

healthy risks of moldMold can cause a host of health issues. It has been known to 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. The Huffington Post recently discussed in depth the health risks of mold.

Who should test for mold and when?

Consumers should have a certified professional test for mold, but he should not perform remediation services so as to avoid any conflict of interest.  The professional (a certified microbial inspector) will discover mold’s root causes and provide a detailed report with recommendations on how to remove the mold.  You should test for mold before you hire a remediation company, and again after work is complete to make sure the mold has been properly removed and will not grow back and resurface a few months later.

How much it will cost? Who is going to pay for it?

Mold testing starts at a few hundred dollars, and removal costs can run the gamut, from $200 for smaller removal jobs up to $30,000 for homes that have been flooded, said the Huffington Post. Unfortunately, mold remediation is generally not covered by most home insurance policies, according to FOX Business. While flooding caused by an unforeseen pipe burst will generally be covered under most homeowner policies, mold claims arising from storm flooding must be handled under a separate rider to your policy, according to Marshall McKnight, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance. The costs vary according to the home’s location and the individual insurer, but $50,000 in protection will probably cost you an extra $47 a year, said Bill Wilson, a spokesperson for the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America.

But whatever you do, remember to hire an independent testing company that does not also do remediation. That way, you will be assured that you are not paying for something you might not need.

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Flooding & Water Damage Mold Video

Video: WCBS-TV Talks to RTK Environmental Group about Hurricane Sandy

Categories
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.