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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 Mold Testing

After the Flood: Warning Signs of Mold & What You Can Do

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.

For more information on mold, click here.

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Flooding & Water Damage Mold

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

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

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

DO:

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

It is important to make sure your gutters and outside drains are clean before the storm. Remove any debris from gutters and downspouts, and be sure that they are adequately angled away from the house, otherwise, water will collect at the edge of the house and leak into the foundation and basement. If you have extensions on your downspouts to direct water away from the foundation, be sure to secure them in place with rocks or stakes. With hundred mile per hour winds, they may blow off.

Prepare your basement

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

Follow these steps if you get water in your home:

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

Be prepared for a power failure

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

Have your home tested for mold if you have flooding

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

Protect yourself with proper documentation

An independent environmental testing company like RTK Environmental Group will provide you with a detailed report, documenting that your home is safe or is cleared to be rebuilt and has a safe environmental toxin level (mold, lead, asbestos, radon, bacteria, and other toxins). This documentation will be critical when you sell your home or for insurance claims. To ensure that your document will hold up in possible legal situations or in court, make sure the company that performs the testing is certified, licensed, insured, and does not perform remediation, which could result in a conflict of interest claim. Be prudent. Call RTK Environmental Group to perform the independent test.

Avoid future insurance hassles

If your home floods again and mold returns, your insurance company may question whether the mold was caused by the new event and not from the current storm. Without proof that your home was deemed mold-free after repairs were made, the insurance company might take the position that a new claim is not justified or that you have met your policy limit.

 

DON’T:

Do not wait for your insurance company to call you back

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

Do not use a generator indoors

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

Do not leave your generator in the basement

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

Do not wait for leaks to start

Some of us know that we have trouble spots in our home. Don’t wait until leaks start – prepare now. Anticipate them in advance, if you can. Check every window in the house to be sure they are closed tight. Place towels and buckets on the floor in the affected areas. If you know a window leaks, secure towels in that area before the rain begins. In heavy rains, you may need to change the towels and empty the buckets several times. Most importantly, once the rain and leaking has stopped, remove the wet towels and buckets from the area immediately, or you risk mold growth, which can grow in as little as 24 – 48 hours.

Do not wait until the last minute to buy supplies

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

Do not use the same company to test and then remediate

Some companies offer mold testing on the cheap and then conveniently offer their own remediation services to fix the problem. This is a clear conflict-of-interest, with the result that the problem is not often remediated – if it exists at all. The consumer may be paying thousands of dollars for bloated repair estimates or an improper and ineffective remediation. An independent test can save homeowners thousands! An independent, certified testing company like RTK Environmental does not do remediation, and therefore, offers consumers an unbiased opinion about any contamination. If asked, RTK will offer recommendations of reliable remediation companies.

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Flooding & Water Damage Mold

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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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

4 Top Tips for Pre-Storm Preparation

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

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

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

moldy-gutterIt is important to make sure your gutters and outside drains are clean before the storm. Remove any debris from gutters and downspouts, and be sure that they are adequately angled away from the house. Otherwise, water will collect at the edge of the house and leak into the foundation and basement. If you have extensions on your downspouts to direct water away from the foundation, be sure to secure them in place with rocks or stakes. With gale-force winds, they may blow off.

 

Tip 2: Prepare your basement.

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

 

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

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

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

Some of us know that we have trouble spots in our home. Don’t wait until leaks start – prepare now. Check every window in the house to be sure they are closed tight. Place towels and buckets on the floor in the affected areas. If you know a window leaks, secure towels in that area before the rain begins. In heavy rains, you may need to change the towels and empty the buckets several times. Most importantly, once the rain and leaking has stopped, remove the wet towels and buckets from the area immediately, or you risk mold growth, which can grow in as little as 24 – 48 hours.

If you do have flooding in your basement or home, check out this helpful article for tips on what to do right away. And if you think you have a mold problem, the best thing to do for the health of your family and your home is to call in a professional to conduct a mold test.

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Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Winter conditions can be ripe for mold growth

If you have to run (and empty) dehumidifiers to fight mold growth in your home all summer long, you probably enjoy having a break from your war on mold when winter comes. Well, we’re sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but winter weather can create mold problems, too. And these situations are often beyond your control.

frozen pipeWhen temperatures dip below freezing, inadequately insulted pipes can burst. If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you know you have to you clean up the water within 24 hours, otherwise mold will begin to multiply. But the water you see may only be the tip of the iceberg. A burst pipe is likely to spread water through the floors and walls, where it is invisible to the naked eye.

That’s why a company like RTK Environmental Group (the sponsor of this blog) tests not only for mold but also inspects your home for hidden leaks and moisture, which will lead to mold problems down the road. It uses scientific tools to spot hidden moisture in your walls and floorboards, and pinpoint the source.

So how does moisture lead to mold? Every home has airborne mold spores that are too tiny to see. Mold spores need only two elements to take root: moisture and food from a porous material such as carpeting, upholstered furniture, and Sheetrock. After a water pipe bursts, moisture encourages mold spores to form a mold colony. As the colony grows, it releases more mold spores into the air, where it can easily be carried by the gentlest air currents throughout your home.

There are home testing kits to detect mold, but they are often inaccurate, and cannot detect mold or moisture that is not visible to the naked eye. The Environmental Protection Agency suggests professional mold sampling to be sure your home or office has been adequately cleaned or remediated. For more information on how RTK approaches mold inspection, click here. If you’d like to find out if you might need a mold inspection, call 800.393.6468.

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Healthy Home Mold

Five Tips to Mold-Proof Your Summer Home This Winter

Before you shut the door to your summer home next week, be sure to take the necessary steps to winterize it so that you don’t open the door next spring to a moldy mess.

1. Get the outside ready. Turn off the water to outside faucets and drain hoses before storing them. You should also close the fireplace flues and dampers to avoid anything unwanted coming down the chimney. Finally, make sure your gutters are clean and downspouts are angled away from your home.

2. Turn off the main water supply. Pipes can freeze and burst during the winter if they are filled with water and the heat is off. So, turn off the main water supply and open all faucets and drain them of water. If you are in a very cold area, you may even want to drain the toilets and water heater. For more information on how to winterize a toilet, click here. To see how to drain a water heater, click here.

3. Set the thermostat. It may seem incongruous to turn on the heat as it is still warm outside, but in a few months when the temperature drops below freezing, a warm house will prevent your pipes from freezing and keep your home dry through the winter. Most experts recommend keeping the thermostat between 55° F and 58° F.

4. Clean out the refrigerator and freezer. Some people choose to empty them completely, and turn off the unit for the season. If you do this, be sure to prop the doors open to prevent mold growth inside. If you decide to leave the fridge on, do not leave anything in it that may spoil if the power goes out. This can be especially dangerous if you leave food in the freezer and lose power for an extended period of time. When the power goes back on, the food will refreeze, and you won’t know that it was defrosted and probably rotted.

5. Clean, clean, clean – and we mean everything! Remove all trash, clean the towels and linens, vacuum, and scrub. It may seem like a burden to clean before you leave, but those little crumbs in the carpet can attract critters and a little bit of mildew in the shower now turn out to be a whole lot of mold later. Make sure your towels and linens are completely dry before you store them.

If you want to be extra cautious, you may want to have a friend or neighbor stop in periodically throughout the season to make sure nothing is awry. Follow these steps and you’ll know that you won’t open the doors to an environmental disaster next season!

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Flooding & Water Damage

Tips for Tackling that Flooded Basement

We did need the rain in the northeast – but not 2+ inches per hour! Unfortunately, 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. 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 and to conduct a mold test. To learn more about what you can do to prepare for future storms, click here.