After the Flood: Warning Signs of Mold & What You Can Do
When storms soak an area with inches of rain in a short time frame, flooding is inevitable. 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 are warning signs that mold may be a growing problem post-flooding, and advice to help you deal with it:
What’s that smell?
Although mold begins growing within 24 hours after water enters your home, it takes a while before you can actually detect the musty odor that means mold. So, over the next few weeks, be sure to keep your senses on alert for a musty smell developing in your home or business.
Why can I smell mold and mildew, but can’t see it?
Mold plays hide-and-seek, which is why testing is so important. Typical hiding places include:
• the back side of dry wall, wall paper or paneling;
• the top side of ceiling tiles;
• the underside of carpets and pads;
• around pipes – inside and outside your walls;
• the surface of walls behind furniture;
• inside ductwork;
• in roof materials.
What should I do about that musty smell?
It’s important to test for mold to determine where it lurks, as well as its root cause. Do-it-yourself testing kits can be unreliable. Qualified, trained mold inspection services are much more thorough and, therefore, offer the best protection. If you can see the mold on hard surfaces, clean it off with detergent and water. Be sure to dry the surface completely. If the problem is too large, a commercial cleaning or remediation company is your best solution, depending on the location.
Who should test for mold and when?
Consumers should have a certified professional test for mold, but they should not perform remediation services so as to avoid any conflict of interest. A certified microbial investigator 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.
What is the health impact of mold?
Mold 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. Read more in depth about the health risks of mold.
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.
Some 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.
Mold Testing: Do-It-Yourself Kits vs. Professional Testing
Is it ok to use a do-it-yourself mold testing kit? Are home testing kits for mold reliable? Will a home testing kit ensure the health of my family? We get questions like these all the time. The answer is simple – no.
There are offers for home mold testing kits everywhere, from your hardware store to the internet. Each guarantees you will be able to determine if there is mold in your home. But before you invest in one of these kits, there are some important facts to keep in mind.
Mold is everywhere, and actually plays an important part in our ecological system. For example, if it weren’t for mold, fallen leaves would not break down, with the result being mountainous piles of leaves everywhere.
Home mold kits are basically science experiments that tell you if your home has mold. All homes have some level of mold. What you need to know is:
– The type of mold present in your home;
– Where the mold is located;
– The source of the moisture in your home; and
– What can be done to rid your home of mold.
DIY-mold testing kits do not reveal this information. You need a professional mold test, conducted by a certified microbial investigator (CMI), to accurately report these important facts.
How DIY Mold Testing Kits Work
Home mold testing kits use “settle plate applications.” You set the provided dish out for a specific period of time, usually 24 to 48 hours, and the spores are supposed to fall into the dish. Unfortunately, false negatives and false positives are common with home mold tests. Additionally, even if the test discovers you have mold, it does not identify the type of mold, and whether it is toxic or not. To find out this important information, you have to send the dish of collected samples back to the company who distributes the testing kit, of course at an additional cost.
The results come back, and in most cases, they are unreadable. Instead of saying you have black mold or that you need black mold remediation, it will, for example, give the scientific term, “stachybotrys.” It’s up to you to find out what type of mold this is, and whether you need mold removal or remediation.
Where is the Mold?
Sometimes you can see mold growing. In most cases, you cannot. It’s hiding behind your walls, in your ceiling, or under your carpets. Home test kits will not tell you where it is, so without your knowledge, mold is still spreading out of sight.
CMI’s Tool Kit
A CMI’s report is accurate and precise. The investigators test for mold with sophisticated tools, including infra-red equipment, borescopes (to view inaccessible areas), moisture meters and hygrometers (to measure moisture content).
Professional Mold Testing
It’s important to hire a professional environmental testing company that only conducts testing, not mold remediation or mold removal, so you are assured of an accurate and unbiased assessment. A CMI’s inspection will:
Discover where and why excess moisture is entering your property;
Conduct air monitoring, air sampling and bulk sampling to compare the results with normal background mold levels;
Send all samples to independent laboratories accredited by the American Industrial Hygiene Association;
Identify the affected areas and measure the amount and types of mold present;
Determine if the health of your family is at risk and if professional mold remediation is necessary;
If mold removal or mold remediation is required, once it is completed, the CMI will return to your home to conduct a final mold testing. This is the only way to make certain all your mold is gone.
Click here or call 800.392.6468 to contact RTK Environmental Group and set up a mold inspection.
The wild storms that hit the tri-state area dumped massive amounts of rain into an already saturated 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:
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.
Remove all wet materials from the area.
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.
Use a dehumidifier and ventilate the area well.
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.
For years, we battled a leaky roof. We patched it, but it still leaked. Water would soak the ceilings 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.
To 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.
The 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!
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)
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?
Depending 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?
Many 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.
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?
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 Logicshares some additional tips here.
Properly insulate your home.
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 theNorth 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 from 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.
Wild weather is ripping across the nation, and the massive winter storm Boreas will be arriving in the tri-state area on the busiest travel day of the year – the day before Thanksgiving. In addition to 40-mph wind gusts, heavy, driving rains will soak the area at a rapid rate, according to The Weather Channel.
What does that mean for Turkey Day? Hopefully no flooding. Our parched yards (the soil is hard due to lack of rain and freezing temperatures) are going to meet some wet weather, and that can lead to flooding, and flooding, to mold growth. Here’s how…
When a large amount of rain falls in a short amount of time on very dry soil, water cannot be absorbed at the same rate that the rain is falling. So it travels, as it needs to go somewhere. That ‘somewhere’ might be your basement. And if your basement floods, mold is not far behind.
Here are some tips to prepare your home for winter storm Boreas:
Tip 1: Be sure your gutters and downspouts are free from leaves and debris.
Hopefully, you have already cleaned out your gutters. If not, now is the time to do it. With the abundant amounts of leaves that just fell, gutters can become clogged when heavy rains occur. When that happens, the water cannot be channeled away from your house. A flooded basement can result. So, make sure your gutters, downspouts, and outside drains are clear of debris.
Tip 2: Prepare your basement.
If you think you’re vulnerable to flooding, check your basement floor drains to be sure they are not blocked. Remove anything from the floor or next to windows that you do not want to get wet. If there are boxes or any other cellulose materials on the floor, place them on tables or crates to alleviate direct contact with water. Once wet, they can rot or turn moldy.
Tip 3: Anticipate leaks in advance, if you can.
Some of us already know where there are trouble spots in our homes. 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. Luckily, this should occur the day before Thanksgiving, leaving the holiday free for family, friends, feasting, and football. Most importantly, once the rain and leaks have stopped, remove the wet towels and buckets from the area immediately, or you risk mold growth, which can start in as little as 24 hours.
If you have concerns about mold growth in your home, have a certified mold inspector in to test and assess the damage and give you options as to how to fix it. Mold can cause serious health problems, including asthma, coughs and wheezing in otherwise healthy people. Let’s hope the only flooding this Thanksgiving is from an overabundance of gravy!
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.
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.
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.
Homeowners Risk Lower Resale Values and Insurance Claim Denials If They Don’t Have The Papers To Prove All The Mold Is Gone
As thousands of residents of New York and New Jersey are struggling to rebuild their devastated homes after Superstorm Sandy, another problem looms on the horizon. Hasty repairs could come back to haunt them. “You need to be sure your home is free from mold beforeandafter you repair it,” warns Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and principal at RTK Environmental Group. ”You have to document that your home is mold-free after it’s been repaired or it will hurt your resale value and jeopardize future insurance claims.”
Sandy’s widespread damage means that future home buyers will be asking tough questions about whether your home was flooded or struck by falling trees. You’ll want to be able to prove that your home was properly repaired afterwards. Otherwise, it may scare off buyers and force you to accept a significantly lower sale price. There’s even the risk of a potential lawsuit from a new owner who claims you knowingly sold them a home with post-Sandy mold.
What’s more, 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 Sandy. Without proof your home was mold-free after repairs were made, you may be told that the damage can’t be counted toward a new claim or that you have or met your policy limit.
To protect yourself, you should take the following actions:
Test for mold prior to repairs so that it is removed, and test for mold after repairs are done.
Make sure your mold inspector provides you with a detailed written report on its methodology and findings.
Hire an independent testing company that does not do remediation to avoid any conflict of interest, and be sure the company uses certified microbial investigators.
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?
Mold 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.