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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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Asbestos Flooding & Water Damage Health Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Lead Mold Mold Testing Soil and Water Weitz Advice

Storm Cleanup: After a Storm, Don’t let Mold or Toxins Take up Residence in Your Home

Storm Cleanup: After a Storm, Don’t let Mold or Toxins Take up Residence in Your Home

As massive cleanup efforts and power restoration continue throughout the region after a lightning-fast-moving storm, homeowners should be aware of the potential that flooding and water damage are causing.

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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.

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Flooding & Water Damage Mold

7 Tips To Prevent Frozen Pipes

flooding-new york

The temperature hovering well below freezing, we have more to worry about than finding matching gloves and a scarf. To make it worse, combine subzero temperatures with strong winds, and you have the perfect scenario for frozen pipes. A burst pipe oftentimes causes major flooding in your home, which can lead to major problems, including mold.

Pipes freeze for three main reasons – quick drops in temperature, poor insulation, and thermostats set at too low a temperature. So what can you do to protect yourself from your pipes freezing?

 

 

Here are a few tips:

  • Insulate pipes in your home’s crawl spaces and attic, since exposed pipes are most Drip Tapsusceptible to freezing;
  • A trickle of water can prevent your pipes from freezing. Open your faucet and let it drip;
  • Seal spaces and openings that allow cold air inside near where pipes are located;
  • Don’t change the thermostat dramatically at night. Dropping it a degree or two is fine, but sudden drops in temperature can cause your pipes to freeze;
  • If you go away for the weekend, don’t turn the thermostat down too much to save money. If you do, you may return to a disastrous, wet, moldy mess;
  • Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls;
  • Disconnect garden hoses, turn off the water supply valve inside, and keep the faucets open outside.

If you open a faucet and no water comes out, don’t take any chances call in a plumber to see what the story is. If a water pipe bursts, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve and leave the faucet open. Try to dry out the area as quickly as possible. Damp and wet areas are prime locations for mold growth, which can blossom within 24 hours. Once the repairs are complete, have a certified microbial inspector come in to test the area and make sure there is no lingering mold.

For additional information on freezing and bursting pipes, you can visit the Red Cross website.

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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 www.RTKEnvironmental.com.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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Flooding & Water Damage Soil and Water Video

RTK Helps News 12 Investigate Sandy-Related Soil Contamination – Part 1

In October of 2012, Superstorm Sandy caused massive flooding in parts of New Jersey, and those floodwaters transported everything from sewage to petroleum products to toxic chemicals. Even when the water receded, a Kane In Your Corner investigation, with the help of RTK Environmental Group, finds some of the toxins were left behind.

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Flooding & Water Damage Healthy Home Soil and Water

Think Well Water Safe to Drink? Think again!

You may mistakenly believe that because your drinking water comes from a well, it’s purer and safer than water from reservoirs. A recent article in a Connecticut newspaper (Stamford Advocate) dispelled that notion, when it reported that unhealthy traces of arsenic were found in private wells in some southern Connecticut towns, and that the Connecticut Department of Public Health received numerous reports of pesticide and heavy metal contamination in residential drinking water across the state.

Common Contaminants & Health Effects

contaminated well water connecticutWell water can contain a host of contaminants, including coliform bacteria, lead, arsenic, E. coli, nitrates, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) radon, pesticides, and MtBE (a gasoline compound). Many of these contaminants cannot be identified by taste or odor, making it difficult for homeowners to know if the water quality of their well is acceptable. Contaminants can cause a wide variety of health problems, including skin problems; damage to the brain, kidneys, and neurological system; gastro-intestinal illness; hair loss; and immune deficiencies.

Wells in the Tri-State

Contaminated Tap WaterArsenic, radon, and heavy metals can seep into the water supply from rock, not just industrial pollution. Water in areas that have experienced flooding can also become contaminated. Can private wells be regulated by the EPA? The EPA regulates public water systems; it does not regulate private water wells. Yet, nearly 25% of private wells contain harmful contaminants, according to the U.S. Geological Survery Water Science School.  In the New York tri-state area, high levels of arsenic, radon, and heavy metals are a major issue.

Although the Connecticut state Department of Public Health does not require private well owners to test their water for known toxins, other communities are taking steps to protect us. Westchester County in New York implemented the Westchester County Private Well Water Testing Legislation, Local Law 7 – 2007, which requires that water test be conducted upon the signing of a contract of sale for any property served by a private well. New Jersey also has similar testing laws.

How Often Should I Test?contaminated tap water new york

At a minimum, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommends that you check your well every spring to make sure there are no mechanical problems, and have it tested once each year for total coliform bacteria, VOCs, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. Every few years you should test for additional contaminants.

Who Should Test My Well?

contaminated well water connecticutAn independent testing company that uses state-certified (licensed) laboratories will give you thorough, unbiased results. If they find a problem, they will help you determine what your next steps should be. For more information on water testing, click here. To set up a well water test in the tri-state area, call RTK at (800) 392-6468 or click here.

Depending on the contaminants, this may spell danger. So, if your drinking water comes from a private well, better to be safe than sorry; have your well tested to make sure you are not putting yourself, your family, or your employees in danger.