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Mold Video

Video: The Importance of Cleaning Your Gutters Each Fall

 

The Importance of Cleaning Your Gutters Each Fall

Ever wonder why you may get ice dams in the winter, which lead to leaks, flooding and mold?

Probably because you didn’t take the time to properly clean your gutters and downspouts from leaves and debris in the fall.

Robert Weitz, certified microbial investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group, explains what you can do now to prevent ice dams and mold later.

 

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Flooding & Water Damage Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold

Fall Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Winter

Fall Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Winter

With autumn in full swing, take advantage of the crisp days and sunshine to prepare your home for winter. Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, complete these tasks and you won’t spend a fortune on home repairs this winter.


gutters mold
Clean your gutters.

It’s a hassle, but you should clean your gutters before the temperature drops to help prevent ice dams, which form when melted snow pools and refreezes at roof edges and eaves. This ridge of ice then prevents water caused by melting snow from draining from the roof. Since it has nowhere to go, the water can leak into your home and damage walls, ceilings, and insulation. Water damage will soon be followed by mold. No matter what the season, gutters filled with heavy leaves can pull away from your house and cause leaks that damage your home and lead to mold growth. Also be sure your downspouts are angled away from your home to prevent leaks in the basement.

Check your roof for leaks.

You certainly don’t want to start your winter with a leaky roof. Check your ceilings for water spots, mold, or stains. If you spot them, before you call in a roofer, have a mold inspector test your home for mold. That way you’ll know exactly what needs to be replaced so the mold doesn’t come back. You may have small stains or dark spots now, but once the heavy snow sets in, the problem could get much worse, and you could wind up with a full blown mold infestation. You should also check your attic for moisture, as mold can easily grow there if it is not properly ventilated.

Clean your HVAC units, fireplace, furnace, and wood-burning stove.

Indoor air quality suffers in the winter because your home is closed up most of the time. Toxic fumes, including carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), can be emitted from fireplace and wood burning stove smoke and may back up into the house, which can cause serious health issues. Mold and dust can also build up in HVAC units over the summer months, then spread throughout your home when the heat is turned on. To make sure your indoor air quality is at an acceptable level, schedule a test from an environmental inspector like RTK Environmental Group. They will test for VOCs, mold, particulate matter, and other chemicals. For additional tips on indoor air quality, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site.

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Healthy Home Mold

What is an Ice Dam? A Visual Overview

roof ice dam

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Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Top 7 Questions on Ice Dams Answered

Top 7 Questions on Ice Dams Answered

The icicles are beautiful to behold, but there’s a dark side. If you see them hanging from your gutters, you may be in for some trouble. Here’s why:

When you see icicles, it means you have ice dams, and ice dams wreak havoc with roofs. They prevent melting snow from draining, and that means the water has no place to go – except into the tiny little crevices and cracks beneath the roof. And that means the water can seep into your interior walls, attic, and underneath the roof shingles. Dampness can cause mold growth within 24-48 hours, and mold can wreak havoc with your health, causing asthma, headaches, fatigue and more.

1. Water is leaking into my house – What should I do?

icicle roof leak

Act quickly and don’t panic. Report the problem to your insurance company, but don’t wait for their response. You’ll need to take these steps right away:

  • Take pictures or video of the damage, and start to remove the water immediately. Don’t wait for your insurance company to get back to you, because waiting — even for a few hours — could mean more water and mold growth;
  • Wet/dry vacuum, mop, or pump water out of the affected area as quickly as possible. Remove wet items;
  • If you are using towels to catch the water, be sure to change them every few hours so that mold doesn’t start to grow;
  • Outside, pull off snow from above the ice dam with a long-handled aluminum roof rake, while you stand safely on the ground. According to This Old House, this action will help prevent the melting snow from forming new ice dams;
  • Dry out residual moisture that is left in the wood, concrete, and other affected materials inside your home. To do this, you can use a dehumidifiers or plain ventilation;
  • Unplug electrical devices and turn off the circuit breakers in the wet area, if possible;
  • If a material cannot be dried within 24 hours, it should be thrown away. Unfortunately, this includes carpeting, mattresses, pillows, upholstered furniture, and items containing paper, including wallboard;
  • Have your home tested for mold.

2. I don’t see any water, so my roof isn’t leaking, right?

Not necessarily. Ice dams can cause seepage in areas the naked eye can’t see, including Ice Dam preventionbehind walls and under floor boards or carpets – wherever the water finds a path to travel. Mold can grow from even a very small leak, which can have detrimental consequences to your home, and ultimately, to your 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 a certified microbial investigator, who can use a moisture meter to check for wet and damp areas behind walls, as well as take air samples to see if there is a mold problem. If you decide to wait, be diligent about checking attics, basements, and other less trafficked areas in your home for musty odors or visible mold, which are telltale signs of hidden mold. If there’s mold, you should have your home tested for other infestation (often unseen) by an independent mold inspector – one that does only testing, and not remediation, as this would be a conflict of interest.

3. What should I do about the icicles and chunks of ice in my gutters? ice removal

This is a tough one, because a lot can go wrong. The first instinct is to just get the ice out, but that is easier said than done. Getting up on a ladder that is set on snow and ice is dangerous in itself, but add to that a swinging axe, ice pick, or chainsaw, and you could be in trouble. Not only will you mess up your roof and shingles, you can cause yourself bodily harm. If you go online, you may discover some “creative” ideas to remove ice dams, but you should stay away from blowtorches, steam cleaners, heating pads, salt, boiling water, and hot bacon grease. To be safe and not cause further damage to you or your roof, remove the snow from the bottom portion of your roof, closest to you, with a roof rake or long-handled broom. Tip: Don’t stand on your roof to do this! You could slip and fall off, or worse, the roof could collapse right under you from the strain of your weight coupled with the weight of the snow and ice. Stand on the ground to remove roof snow. Just be sure to watch for falling icicles.

4. Can damage from ice dams go further than my attic?

Depending on how and where your ice dams form, the water can go anywhere. We’ve even seen water pouring into the basement. How? The ice dam grew so large that water traveled to a deck attached to the house, pooled, and then headed into the basement. If ice dams travel down your downspouts or the icicles get so large that they are nearing the ground, water may be pooling near your foundation with nowhere to escape.

5. What is the most common mistake made in dealing with ice dams? ice dams roof

It happens all too often: people do cosmetic repairs without making sure the area is completely dry and checking for mold growth. Then, when the weather warms up, they discover they have a full-blown mold infestation. 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, to get honest and accurate results. 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.

6. 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.

7. How can I prevent ice dams in the future?

There are a number of ways to prevent future ice dams, depending on your situation and how your home or place of business is constructed. Here are a few tips:

  1. Properly insulate.
    Proper insulation of the attic is one solution, as is a tight vapor barrier to prevent ice dam roof 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 refreeze when the temperature drops again. Important: make sure you have enough insulation. An insufficiently insulated home is more likely to suffer damage caused by 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.
  2. Protect your gutters.
    Whether it’s a snow and ice shield or electrified gutters, there are several ice dam removalproducts that will prevent water from working its way into the home. (A snow and ice shield consists of a membrane that seals the roof under the shingles, forming a continuous barrier to water.)
  3. Ensure adequate ventilation.
    In order to make sure that your attic and roof are properly ventilated, there should be venting at both the eaves and soffits and/or at the gable ends of the attic. 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.

If you are experiencing damage from ice dams and melting snow, call RTK Environmental today at (800) 392-6468 to discuss your options and figure out a plan to keep your home and family safe.

Categories
Flooding & Water Damage

Ice Dams: Icicles Can Mean Big Trouble

Winter weather has been pummeling the northeast. With more snow and ice in the forecast, it’s time to take a hard look at the problems these cold-weather plagues cause to homes and other buildings.

roof ice damagePretty icicles hanging from the gutter? Danger ahead! Icicles hanging from gutters and eaves are the first signs of ice dams. Ice dams can cause leaks, and those can lead to structural damage and mold infestation.

“When melted snow refreezes at roof edges and eaves, it forms an ice dam, which is a ridge of ice that prevents the melting snow from draining off the roof,” said Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and founder of RTK Environmental Group. “When the water has nowhere to go, it is forced back up under the shingles, and often into the ceilings or walls inside the home. And then the trouble begins.”

ice guttersIn addition to roof and water damage, ice dams can cause mold and mildew to form in attics, ceilings, insulation, and on wall surfaces, he explains. “The leak itself is certainly a headache, but it’s the mold that follows after the leak that will cause the most damage to your home, and possibly your health,” he warns.

A mold colony can be established in less than 24 hours. When inhaled, mold spores can cause chronic headaches, allergies, fatigue, skin rashes, wheezing, throat and eye irritations, and many respiratory problems including asthma – especially in children.

 

 

So what can you do if you see ice dams forming?

  • Remove the snow from the bottom portion of your roof with a broom or roof 176767140rake. This will help prevent new ice dams from forming when the snow and ice melt;
  • Don’t try to chip away the ice inside the gutter, as this can cause further damage;
  • Turn down the heat inside your home. Make sure your attic is well insulated and ventilated to minimize the amount of heat rising from the house. A colder attic will reduce melting and cause refreezing on your roof;
  • If ice dams are a chronic problem, you may want to consider a roof or gutter heating system;
  • If ice dams are severe and have started pushing water back into your home, call in a professional roofer. He can cut channels into the ice so water drips down and over it, and can strategically place ice-melting agents to assist;

146965478If you’ve had a leak or water intrusion, test your home for mold. It’s best to select an independent testing company, like RTK Environmental Group. They can conduct air monitoring and surface sampling tests; identify affected areas and measure the amount of mold; and determine if the health of your family is at risk.

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Flooding & Water Damage Health Healthy Home Mold

Why I Should Have Had A Mold Inspection

By Joan S.

For years, we battled a leaky roof. We patched it, but it still leaked. Water would soak the ice-roof-leakceilings and pour into the house during a big storm.  Buckets and towels became our best friend.

During the winter, ice dams were another problem; we could not seem to prevent leaks. Eventually, mold set in. Everyone in the family has allergies, and we could tell that mold was causing a problem as our asthma and conditions got worse.

cimney leak moldTo add to our headaches, we had a leak somewhere in the chimney that plagued us for years. Nobody could seem to solve this problem, so water would come in through the chimney flashing and soak the living room wall as well.

We finally wound up replacing the roof, had the chimney redone, and hired a contractor to fix the visibly damaged walls and ceilings. This is where we made our big mistake. We did not have a mold inspection or mold removal or remediation plan.

mold testing new yorkThe contractors fixed the ugly parts, not realizing that there was mold in places they could not see. Thousand and thousands of dollars later, mold suddenly started reappearing on our new walls and ceilings.  Our breathing and allergy problems continued. We decided to get a mold inspection this time, and were able to pinpoint where the problems were. We had to shell out a ton of money yet again for a contractor to come back and do the work properly.

If we had just invested in a mold inspection the first time, we would have saved about $15,000 and a ton of aggravation. Lesson learned!

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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.

Categories
Flooding & Water Damage Health Healthy Home Mold

Ice Dams, Icicles and Roof Leaks: Part 1 – The Big Melt

The big melt is starting, and we have been getting inquiries round the clock with great questions about the melting snow and ice on our roofs wreaking havoc on our homes, creating more drips inside than your toddler eating ice cream. In this two-part blog, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions.  Here’s what you need to know.

What is an ice dam and why should I care?

The icicles hanging from the eaves may look pretty, but they spell big trouble.  During the day, sun melts the ice dam mold damagesnow. When the temperature drops at night, the water refreezes to form ice dams, which prevent melting snow from draining off the roof. Since the water has nowhere to go, it can leak into your home or office, causing damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and floors. Once that happens, mold is sure to follow. A new mold colony can be established in less than 24 hours. When inhaled, mold spores can cause chronic allergies, headaches, fatigue, skin rashes, throat and eye irritations, wheezing, and many respiratory problems including asthma – especially in children. The bottom line: ice dams can cause structural damage as well as health issues.

How can ice dams damage my home?

connecticut mold testDamage from ice dams – outdoors and indoors, doesn’t occur all at once. Outside, ice dams can rip off gutters and downspouts, loosen shingles, and damage roofs. Inside, the damage can be much worse. Water leaking into your home can destroy walls, ceilings, wallboard, floors, insulation, and more. Once wet, insulation will lose its ability to insulate well, and you will lose heat. Luckily, that damage usually can be seen easily. What you may not be able to see is mold infestation behind your walls.

Water is leaking into my home – what should I do?

The most important thing is to act fast. You can call your insurance company, but don’t wait for them to mold testing new jerseyrespond before you take action. Here are the first steps:

  • 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 your water and mold damage;
  • Mop, vacuum, or pump water out of the affected area as soon as possible. Remove wet items and materials from the area;
  • mold test new yorkIf you have an ice dam, try to create a channel for the water caused by melting snow to drain off your roof. One recommendation from This Old House is to fill the leg of discarded pair of panty hose with a calcium chloride ice melter. Lay the hose onto the roof so it crosses the ice dam and overhangs the gutter. The calcium chloride will eventually melt through the snow and ice and create a channel for water to flow down into the gutters or off the roof.
  • Dry out residual moisture that is left in the concrete, wood, and other materials. You can use a dehumidifier, fans or ventilation. Unplug electrical devices and water damage new yorkturn off the circuit breakers in the wet area, if possible;
  • If a material cannot be dried within 24 hours, it should be tossed. 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;
  • Have your home tested for mold.

If you are experiencing any water leakage or flooding, please call us at (800) 392-6468. We are happy to answer any of your questions.

Want more? Click here to read Part Two of this series.

 

 

 

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Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Winter Weather Causes Dangerous Ice Dams – Protect Your Roof from Leaks Now

ice dam

Sparkling snow and ice may be beautiful to look at, but when they invade your gutters and forms ice dams that cause leaks into your home, it’s not pretty at all. Sure, we appreciate the warm-up during the day that melts the winter snow and ice, but when the temperature drops at night, the water refreezes to form ice dams, which can cause major damage to your home.

frozen gutter leak“Ice dams form when melted snow refreezes at roof edges and eaves, and this ridge of ice prevents melting snow from draining off the roof. Since it has nowhere to go, it can leak into your home, causing damage to walls, ceilings, and insulation,” said certified microbial investigator Robert Weitz. “You may think the leak itself is the worst part, but it’s the mold that comes after the leak that will cause the most damage to your home, and possibly your health,” he explained.

Once water gets into your home, it doesn’t take long for mold to take hold – a new colony can be established in less than 24 hours. When inhaled, mold spores can cause chronic allergies, headaches, fatigue, skin rashes, throat and eye irritations, wheezing, and many respiratory problems including asthma – especially in children.

Many people make the mistake of cosmetically repairing water damage without checking ice roof leakto see if mold has spread. That’s why when there’s water damage, it’s important to test for mold. To avoid potential conflicts of interest, don’t rely on your contractor to look for mold. Hire an independent mold inspector, instead.

Of course the best way to avoid mold is to take action if you see ice dams forming. Here’s what to do:

• Remove the snow from the bottom portion of your roof with a broom or roof rake;

• Don’t try to chip away the ice – this can cause further damage to your roof and shingles;

ice-dams-new-york

• Make sure your attic is well insulated and ventilated to minimize the amount of heat rising from the house. A colder attic will reduce melting and refreezing on your roof.

If despite your best efforts water seeps in, take these important steps:

• 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 your water and mold damage;

• Mop, vacuum, or pump water out of the affected area as soon as possible. Remove wet ice-dam-wateritems and materials from the area;

• Dry out residual moisture that is left in the concrete, wood, and other materials. You can use a dehumidifier, fans or ventilation. Unplug electrical devices and turn off the circuit breakers in the wet area, if possible;

• If a material cannot be dried within 24 hours, it should be tossed. 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;

winter-lead-mold

• Have your home tested for mold.

If you have water damage this winter, an independent testing company can conduct air monitoring and surface sampling tests; identify affected areas and measure the amount of mold; and determine if the health of your family is at risk. For more information, visit www.RTKEnvironmental.com.

Categories
Healthy Home Video

Home Maintenance Tips from RTK’s Robert Weitz

By taking a few preventative steps on home maintenance, you can save big money in the end. Robert offers some “Weitz Advice” on ABC in Baltimore. For more information on how we can help you, please call us at (800) 392-6468.