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Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Hurricane Irene – The Aftermath

Hurricane Irene is a distant memory, but her wrath still haunts many homeowners. Nine months since the storm raged (at a cost of $15.6 billion in damages), long-term effects are rearing their ugly heads. Concerns about toxic mold and contaminated water are creating a busy season for environmental inspectors.

“We are being called into homes this spring that look perfectly clean, yet when we test for mold we are getting mold spore counts that are off the charts,” says Robert Weitz, Certified Microbial Investigator. “When the flooding initially occurred, victims were quick to clean up the water, dry out their basements, and power wash and bleach the walls. But they didn’t realize that their walls were soaked through, and now mold is growing behind their wallboards, ceilings, and other hidden places.”

Irene also creates outside problems. Water contamination is a major environmental issue in the aftermath of any hurricane. The high water from flooded rivers, ocean swells and broken water mains creates a runoff that can pick up contaminants from buildings and homes. Water mixes with pollutants from dry cleaners, gas stations, dumps, factories, flooded basements, and cars creating a toxic mess that can then make its way into homes, playgrounds, and drinking wells—places that put people at a risk of serious health problems.

“Homeowners often think that since they acted fast and clean everything up, they are safe,” explains Weitz. But don’t worry — it’s not too late to act. If you suspect Hurricane Irene may have caused residual damage, notify your insurance company and have a professional inspector come in to test your home or business. It’s the only way you’ll know if you have a serious mold or water contamination problem. Put Irene in her place once and for all – the past!

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Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Drought + Sudden Rainstorm = Flooding & Mold

The Northeast is about to switch from fire warnings to a flood watch. Our parched yards are going to meet some wet weather, and that can actually cause flooding, then mold to grow in your home if you are not prepared. Here’s why…

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 spring storms:

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

You probably haven’t thought about your gutters since last fall. But throughout the winter, leaves and organic debris collect there. When that happens, water (from rain) 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. 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, coughing, and wheezing in otherwise healthy people. When there’s a dry spell, we desperately need rain – just keep it outside of your home!

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Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Tips for Tackling Basement Flooding

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.

 

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Flooding & Water Damage Mold

Remember ice dams?

Hate to bring bad news, but after a slow start to the snowy season, above normal amounts of snow are expected across the Northeast for the second half of the winter season, according to Harris-Mann Climatology, the leading long-range weather forecasters in the United States. Normal snowfall for southern Connecticut and New York is 7.2 inches; Harris-Mann is predicting 8.3 inches.

What a perfect time for a refresher course on ice dams!

Ice dams are ridges of ice on the edge of a sloping roof that prevent melting snow from draining off the roof. Ice builds up, and the water formed by melting snow has no place to go, except inside homes.

Assuming you can spot the leak, simply catching the dripping water with pails and bowls, and moping it up, are just the first steps and the start of your troubles. Water damages your home’s structure — walls, ceilings, insulation — in addition to your carpets, furniture and drapes. Once that happens, in less than 24 hours, toxic mold can take hold, affecting your health. There are more than 100,000 different types of mold, that when inhaled, can cause chronic allergies, headaches, fatigue, skin rashes, throat and irritations, wheezing, and many respiratory problems, including asthma.

In our last post, we discussed ice dams — ridges of ice on the edge of a sloping roof that prevent melting snow from draining off the roof. Ice builds up, and the water formed by melting snow has no place to go, except inside homes.

When this happens, immediate action, both indoors and out, is required since water can cause structural damage, and the resulting mold affects your health.

Indoors:

  • Take a picture 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.
  • Some items, once wet, should be thrown away immediately. This includes food, cosmetics, medical supplies, stuffed animals, and baby toys.
  • 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.
  • Snow melts on the warmer parts of the roof, but as it travels down the roof toward the eaves, it begins freezing instead of draining, which causes ice dams to form. To avoid this, keep attic air temperature below freezing when the outside temperatures are in the 20s. To do this, seal any air leaks in the ceiling below your attic floor, making it as airtight as possible to keep warm, moist air flowing from the house into the attic. Once sealing is complete, you can also increase the insulation on the attic floor.

Outdoors:

  • Unfortunately, it’s easy to cause damage to your roof shingles, so it’s wise not to routinely remove snow from the roof. And never chip away the ice from an ice dam.
  • Have a contractor remove snow from the roof. But be warned that some tools, such as roof rakes, can cause damage to the roofing materials. If you do it yourself, choose a rake with wheels.
  • If water is leaking into your home, hire a contractor to make channels through the ice dam.
  • Be sure gutters are clean and free of leaves. Clean gutters will not prevent ice dams, but they offer a place for the water to go.

If you have water damage this winter, a company which tests for mold, such as RTK Environmental Group, sponsors of this blog, 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, or to contact RTK, visit www.RTKEnvironmental.com, or call 800.392.6468.

Categories
Mold

The four ‘Ds’ to fight mold

Water in the home is the biggest source of mold problems. Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and principal at RTK Environmental Group, has devised what he calls the four ‘Ds’ to fight mold, a simple way for people to remember what they should do before and after water penetrates their homes or businesses to keep mold damage to a minimum.

Categories
Flooding & Water Damage Mold

There’s Water in My Basement – Now What?

Torrential rains cause many of our basements to flood. This can lead to problems, big time. Damp and wet areas lead to mold, which can blossom within 24 hours, so drying out the affected areas as soon as possible is very important. Here’s what you can do right away:

  • 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 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 within the time frame or are unsure as to whether you already have a mold problem, the safest thing to do is to call in a professional and have a mold test done.