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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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Flooding & Water Damage Healthy Home Mold

The Health Hazards of Basement Offices

The Health Hazards of Basement Offices

With the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been a rise of professionals working from home. But if you set up offices in your basement, you could be soon wheezing and coughing. And the problem never seems to go away.

basement office moldThat’s because these barons of the basement are probably subjected to long-term mold exposure, since basements are often moist, and moisture and mold go hand-in-hand.

Mold is not just ugly looking, it’s increasingly recognized as a serious health hazard,” says Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group, the leading environmental testing firm in the Northeast. Mold 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.

Mold can get a jump start anywhere you’ve got leaky pipes, drippy appliances, or water creeping into the house via the roof, gutters, siding or foundation. To survive, mold simply requires two elements: a source of moisture and a source of food. Mold spores will adhere themselves to porous materials like paper, carpeting, and sheetrock, all things commonly found in home offices.

basement mold If you think you can simply throw away paper files contaminated with mold, think again. Some mold spores have been known to sporulate or “throw themselves” toward moisture sources. Once airborne, the microscopic mold spores can easily float and be carried by the gentlest air currents.  Additionally, there may be mold hidden behind walls, in air ducts, under floorboards, and places you’d never think of. It can be detected only through proper testing.

That’s why it is prudent for people who work at home to call in experts to detect mold problems and pinpoint the infestation’s possible causes.

For more information or to schedule a mold test, call RTK Environmental at 800.392.6468.

 

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Healthy Home Mold

The Bathroom Fan – Why It’s So Important

The Bathroom Fan – Why It’s So Important

You might think that your bathroom exhaust fan is only good for one thing, but it’s utility goes well beyond venting unpleasant odors. It’s a key weapon in the battle against mold and mildew. We recommend keeping your exhaust fan on after a shower or bath for an extra 30 minutes to draw the excess moisture out of the air and prevent future mold and mildew problems. A timer on your fan is a great way to do this.

dirty bathroom fanSome people think exhaust fans waste money by sucking out heat and air conditioning, but actually, fans are designed to work with a home’s central forced-air heating and ventilation system – not against them. A recent RTK client found out the hard way that using an exhaust fan properly would save you money in the long run.

“We were called in to inspect a bathroom for mold after a woman felt her toilet ‘moving up and down,’” explains Tom Taylor, an Environmental Consultant at RTK Environmental. “Turns out, the family turned off the bathroom fan right after they got out of the shower, so the bathroom stayed damp. Mold started growing in the shower and spread through the walls and floors. The mold infestation was so bad that the whole bathroom had to be ripped out.” Tom adds: “The few cents they thought they were saving by not losing air conditioning and heat cost them more than $10,000 in repairs.”

Another important tip: clean your bathroom fan every 3 months. This will ensure the maximum amount of air (and moisture) is being pulled out of the bathroom.

When purchasing a bathroom fan, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is the the right size to remove enough moisture from the room? Don’t purchase a fan based on noise, but rather how much air it removes from the room.
  • Is the fan directed to the exterior or to the attic interior? If it’s directed to your attic, you still may be growing mold – just in a different place.
  • Is the exhaust fan wired to a timer switch or light switch? If it’s not on a timer, it should be, as you should keep your fan on for at least 30 minutes after a shower or bath.

So the next time you think you are saving energy and a few pennies, remember that exhaust fans are your friends.

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Health Mold

Mold and Infants: How It Can Affect Their Health

Mold and Infants: How It Can Affect Their Health

Infants who live in homes with mold are three times more likely to develop asthma by age 7. Horrid news, especially since most homes in the Northeast contain some type of mold.

infant asthmaThe alarming statistic about infants comes from a study conducted at the University of Cincinnati published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Researchers analyzed seven years of data gathered on 176 children enrolled in the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study (CCAAPS).

Eighteen percent of children in CCAAPS were asthmatic by age 7, a staggering statistic since current estimates say only 9 percent of school-age children in the United States will develop asthma.

In light of the study, if expectant or new parents suspect there is mold in their homes, it would be prudent to have their home tested immediately. In addition, there are some actions we can all take to make our homes healthier places.

INDOORS

  • First and most important: Fix all leaks immediately.
  • Check all washing machine hoses and fittings for leaks and kinks.
  • Insulate basement and bathroom pipes that “sweat.”
  • Keep basement drains clean and unclogged.
  • children and moldBe sure window air conditioners have proper exterior drainage; keep filters clean.
  • Use exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms.
  • Keep humidity low in your home by running dehumidifiers in damp spaces.
  • If basement walls are finished with Sheetrock, install vents near floors and ceilings to allow air to flow.
  • In places where moisture is a problem, use easily washable area rugs rather than wall-to-wall carpeting.
  • Test your home for mold by calling in a certified mold inspector. Do-it-yourself mold kits are often inaccurate.

OUTDOORS:

  • Grade soil around the house to direct water away from the foundation.
  • Keep gutters and downspouts free of debris and ice.
  • Keep bushes and shrubs at least 12 inches from home siding.
  • Check roof shingles, vents and flashing for proper seal.
  • Check siding also – and point the lawn sprinkler away from the house.

 

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Health Mold

Black Mold – Does Mold Color Matter?

mold-resting-new-jerseyBlack Mold – Does Mold Color Matter?

Spring rains are a welcome refresher for our parched plants and lawns, but they also bring heat and humidity, the perfect environment for mold. If you had a leak or flood and your remediation company did not fully remove the mold, chances are the mold is still present and probably growing with a vengeance.

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Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Help! Black Mold is Creeping Up My Walls!

Q. I have black mold growing up the walls in my basement Can I remove mold myself? – Nancy K., White Plains, NY

A. First, it’s important to keep in mind that mold — in any form — can be harmful to your health.

So all of your mold must be removed. And there lies the problem: The mold growing on your walls is easy to see, but most of the mold growing in homes is hidden. The only way to pinpoint where it is lurking is with mold testing. (In our next blog post, we will discuss do-it-yourself mold testing kits vs. professional mold testing.) So yes, may be able to remove visible mold, but without professional testing, you won’t know how serious the problem really is.

You failed to mention whether your basement walls are cement or Sheetrock. If the mold is on Sheetrock, it is impossible to remove it. The moldy areas must be cut out, removed, and the walls must be replaced.

What you will need to assess and clean mold:

  • First, schedule a professional mold test to assess the situation. This will give you a blueprint of where the mold is, and whether you will be able to clean it yourself;
  • A mask or respirator to filter out the mold spores you’ll be disturbing;
  • Eye protection;
  • Rubber gloves;
  • Rags and a scrub brush;
  • Non-ammonia soap or detergent;
  • Large pail;
  • Bleach;
  • Fan and/or dehumidifier;
  • Work clothes, either old or white, since you will be using bleach;
  • Plastic garbage bag;
  • White vinegar.

Before removing black mold from a cement wall, dampen the moldy area well with a rag and plain water. This will keep the mold spores from disbursing through the air. Then scrub the area thoroughly with a scrub brush and non-ammonia soap or detergent to remove as much of the mold as possible.

Next comes the all-important bleach wash, which will remove any leftover mold, in addition to stopping future mold growth. In a pail, add 1½ cups bleach to 1 gallon of water. Wet the surface well with this mixture, letting it soak in for about 15 minutes. Scrub the area with the scrub brush. Then rinse well with clean, clear water. Repeat these two steps until all visible mold is gone. Next, use a fan and/or dehumidifier to dry the area well. If you leave any moisture behind, you are leaving your wall open to mold growth.

And finally, remove your work clothes in the basement, place them in a plastic bag, and head to your washing machine. The clothes will be coated with mold spores, and the last thing you want to do is track those spores throughout your house. Add ¾ cup white vinegar to your wash water to kill the mold on your clothes.

If you suspect you have mold in your home, call RTK Environmental Group at 800.392.6468 for information about mold testing or to schedule a test of your home.

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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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Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold

Even A Household Appliance Can Cause Mold

Dehumidifiers, bathroom exhaust fans, and kitchen range hoods can vastly improve the air you breathe indoors, but they also have a downside: if not maintained properly, they can become little mold-producing factories.

The September 2012 issue of Consumer Reports says that neglecting to thoroughly clean a bathroom fan or dehumidifier, for example, allows dirt to accumulate and this, plus a little moisture, creates the perfect environment in which mold can grow. Another place you are likely to find mold growth is in a front load washing machines.

humidifier moldCleaning dehumidifiers once a month is recommended.  Yet, according to the article, 60% of the dehumidifiers found in today’s households are not cleaned frequently enough and may be fostering mold growth. Bathroom exhaust fans are another source of mold but only 16% are cleaned every few months as recommended.

Failure to clean these appliances rigorously can also result in the growth of fungi and bacteria that cause lung inflammation.

Here are the recommended cleaning schedules for household appliances:

So, if you’re the culprit and neglected to clean household appliances regularly, check them carefully for mold. Mold can spread from these devices to other parts of your home, and that can be detrimental to your health – let alone your wallet.

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Mold Mold Testing Video

Video: Prevent and Remove Mold in Your Home

It is estimated that 70% of homes in the U.S. have mold behind the walls. This expert advice can help you find out if you have mold, teach you how to prevent it from invading your home, and guide you through the cleanup and removal process.

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Flooding & Water Damage Mold

How Frozen or Thawing Pipes Can Lead to Mold Infestation

While most of us might not know what a ‘polar vortex’ is, I can tell you that it’s making us downright cold! (Okay. A polar vortex sends blasts of arctic air our way, causing sub-normal temperatures.) We’re not the only ones suffering; the pipes in our homes and offices may be feeling the frost as well.

pipe burstBelow freezing temperatures can cause pipes to burst (when water freezes, it expands which can cause a pipe to burst), which can lead to flooding, and then mold infestation. There is also the possibility they will burst when they thaw, so you may be in for an unpleasant surprise if you weren’t aware it froze in the first place.

Pipes freeze for three main reasons: a drop in temperature to below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, poor insulation, proximity to exterior walls and unheated spaces, and thermostats set too low to stave off the cold. So what can you do to protect those pipes? Here are a few tips.

 

 

 

PREVENT FROZEN PIPES:

  • Insulate pipes in your home’s crawl spaces and attic, since exposed pipes are most prevent frozen pipessusceptible to freezing;
  • Seal spaces and openings that allow cold air indoors near where pipes are located;
  • A trickle of water can prevent your pipes from freezing. Open faucets that are vulnerable to freezing and let them drip slowly;
  • Don’t lower the thermostat dramatically at night or when you leave for the day. Dropping it a degree or two is fine, but sudden drops in temperature can cause your pipes to freeze;
  • Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to un-insulated pipes such as under sinks and near exterior walls;
  • Disconnect garden hoses, turn off the water supply valve inside, and keep the faucets open outside so any leftover water doesn’t freeze in the pipes.

IF A PIPE FREEZES OR BURSTS:

  • Open the faucet to release pressure, and then add heat from a portable hair dryer or heater to the pipe to try to thaw the blockage. (You can tell if the pipe is frozen if there is no running water or just a trickle, and there is frost on the pipe or the pipe is slightly bulged or fissured.) But never use a flame torch!
  • If water is trickling out, leave the faucet open as dripping water helps prevent a total blockage.
  • If the pipe remains frozen, call in a plumber immediately.
  • 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. Often times, remediation companies will come in right away and fix the main water issue, but do not allow ample time for floors, ceilings, and wall board to dry before finishing the job. Moisture is sealed into these areas,  creating a perfect environment for mold to grow behind the walls and floors.

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