Category Archives: How to Guides

Helpful how-to guides that show you how to prepare for El Niño flooding, how to fix a water damaged drone, and everything in between.

If you have an idea for a guide you want to see, please let us know.

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Tips for Cleaning Your Home After Water Damage

Water in unwanted places can cause a lot of damage. Not only can it ruin your prized possessions, but also the house in which they are stored. If you’re able to act quickly, you can minimize the damage and possibly save some of your possessions. Some of your success depends on how long the water’s been around, there might be pieces of furniture that can be saved, and sometimes, even carpet, but any electronics hit by water are probably doomed.

Don’t treat flood water in unwanted places lightly: even if your basement only has an inch of water in it, or is even just damp, it is the perfect breeding ground for mold. Mold growth not only ruins walls, furniture, carpets, flooring, etc., it can lead to poor indoor air quality causing respiratory problems including asthma, and can lead to severe illness. Preventing mold growth is key to keeping your home’s air clean and healthy. So in addition to calling your insurance company, here are a few tips to deal with your flooded basement and minimize the water damage. (Call your insurance company before you do anything, and tell them what you want to do.)

  1. Disconnect the power, unplug any electronics, and remove electronics, furniture and movable items immediately. The faster you get items out of water’s way, the more likely you’ll be able to save them. Definitely move all electrical items first, and if you can, turn off your power leading into the affected area, especially if water rises above electrical outlets. Pull up any carpets (wall to wall and area rugs) and underpadding. You may be able to save the carpet if you get it cleaned and disinfected, however, it may shrink and be better off as an area rug afterwards. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to save the underpadding, which acts like a sponge and absorbs a lot of water.
  2. Get rid of the water. There are several ways to get rid of the water. If you don’t have power, or are worried about loose wires, the old-fashioned, manual way will work. Use old towels, buckets and mops to soak up as much water as possible. As long as sewers in your neighbourhood aren’t backed up, you can pour the water down the drain, otherwise, pour onto your lawn or other permeable surface. A wet/dry vacuum can be used too, note: be very careful to plug it into outlets far away from water. Don’t use an extension cord as the connection could also short out and give you a nasty shock. Water and electricity don’t mix! If your basement or other flooded area is overwhelming and you have power, consider renting (if available) a sump pump from your local Rent-all or hardware stores. Getting rid of all the water and drying out the area is the most important thing you can do to prevent mold growth.
    drywall cutaway, after flood waters are mopped up

    drywall cutaway, after flood waters are mopped up

  3. Dry out the affected area. Once you’ve mopped up all the water, use fans and  a dehumidifier to help dry out the area. If it’s stopped raining, open windows to allow for air circulation and faster drying. You want to dry the area out as soon as possible. If you have a finished basement and the drywall was affected, you’ll probably have to cut away the areas that were touched by water as the drywall will crumble and the paper backing is a good source of food for mold. If you have baseboard trim, take it up first, and if it’s made from pressboard it will likely not be salvageable. If it was wood, you might be able to save it.
  4. Disinfect. After the area has dried out, including wood beams, insulation, drywall, etc., use a good disinfectant to get rid of any bacteria that might have come up through sewers, toilets, etc.Gloves Off Disinfectant, is a non-toxic but powerful disinfectant. Disinfect all areas affected by the flood waters including walls and wood and non-upholstered furniture that sat in flood water.
  5. Prevent mold growth. After you’ve disinfected and let the area thoroughly dry out, apply Concrobium throughout the affected area according to directions. I can’t say enough good things about this product; it is non-toxic, made with distilled water and inorganic salts. You can use it on furniture, walls, floors, basically anything that is susceptible to mold growth. Once a thin layer of Concrobium is applied, let it dry overnight. As Concrobium dries, it forms a thin layer over any mold that may be growing and actually crushes the roots of the spores. Wherever it’s sprayed will prevent any mold from growing, providing continued resistance. If you’re spraying an entire room, you might want to consider renting a mister from a hardware store such as Home Depot. It’s easy to use and very fast.
  6. Dispose of damaged items responsibly: you’ll be tempted to throw everything into a dumpster and send it all away and out of site. But if you can organize damaged goods into piles and take what you can to recycling centres, you will help alleviate the pressure on your local landfill site. Go to your city or town’s waste management website to find out where to recycle old paints, stains, adhesives and other toxic liquids, any damaged electronics from cell phones to TVs and computers, furniture, and even drywall. You can also look through Earth 911 to find recycling centres in your neighbourhood.
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Kill Mold on Drywall, Wood, Carpet and Tiles

Mold on Drywall

If you find mold growing on unpainted drywall in your home you will have to remove the drywall and replace it. Unfortunately there is no way to completely remove mold from unpainted drywall since it is a porous material.

How to Remove Moldy Drywall

Use a utility knife to cut out any section of drywall with mold on it. You should make sure to cut out an area that covers at least two of the wooden beams behind the drywall. This is so you’ll be able to properly attach the replacement section of drywall onto the two beams.

Next you’ll need to cut out a section of new drywall to replace the drywall you just removed. Use a tape measure to measure out the length and width of the new section of drywall that you’ll need so that it will fit properly. Then use the utility knife to cut out the section of new drywall.

Make sure that the new drywall fits snugly in place and then use drywall screws to attach it to the wooden beams. After this you should apply joint compound (also called drywall compound or mud) and then leave it to dry. Once you’ve left it for 24 hours you can then sand the joint compound down to smooth it out. You can also then paint the drywall if you like.

It’s a good idea to HEPA vacuum the room as well to remove any mold stirred up during the process.

Mold on Painted Drywall

If you find mold on drywall that is painted or primed then the good news is you shouldn’t have to remove the drywall. This is because the mold should be just on the surface and shouldn’t have penetrated into the drywall itself.

Wipe or scrub the mold away using a cleaning product or mold killing solution. You can find some mold killing solutions and directions on how to use them at the Killing Mold page.


 

Mold on Wood

It’s usually safe to keep using moldy wood once you’ve cleaned it up. Although there might be some small amount of mold left below the surface of the wood, it shouldn’t regrow and cause problems provided you keep the moisture in your home to a minimum. If the wood is painted then it’s even better news since the mold probably wouldn’t have penetrated into the surface of the wood.

How to Remove Mold from Wood

To clean moldy wood wipe or scrub the mold from the surface using a sponge, cloth or scrubbing brush, along with some water and detergent, or any other household cleaner. See the Killing Mold page for some effective solutions to remove mold.

You can use a mold killer if you want, such as bleach, although it isn’t necessary as the main goal is just to remove mold from the surface. There are always going to be small amounts of mold and spores in your home anyway, so trying to kill all the mold spores isn’t the aim. Plus dead mold spores are still allergenic.

The same general process for removing mold from wood applies whether the mold is on wooden furniture, wooden walls, wooden beams or any other wood.

Removing Mold Stains from Wood

Once you’ve cleaned mold growth off wood there might still be a mold stain left behind. Don’t worry, this is just a cosmetic problem and the mold shouldn’t regrow as long as your house doesn’t have any big moisture problems. And if you do get moisture problems then mold will grow in your home whether or not there’s a mold stain left behind anyway.

If you don’t like the look of the stain you can sand the wood if you want. This should usually remove the stain, although sometimes the mold stain might run deep into the wood so that it can’t be completely sanded away.

Another way to get rid of left over mold stains is to use a small amount of bleach to fade it away. This could discolor the wood though so it’s a good idea to do a spot test.

Removing Moldy Wood

Another option of course is to remove and replace wood with mold on it. Usually this is not worth the cost and trouble compared to cleaning, but if it’s a situation where the wood is cheap and easy to replace you might decide it’s the best option.

After Remediating Mold on Wood

You’ll need to HEPA vacuum the surrounding area once you’ve removed the mold from the wood. During mold removal it’s inevitable that some mold spores are stirred up and so you need to remove as many as possible by HEPA vacuuming.

After you’ve finished cleaning up the mold problem you might want to coat the wood with a fungicidal sealant or paint so that you know it’s completely safe. This way any mold left in the wood certainly won’t affect you and no new mold should begin to grow on the wood either.


 

Mold on Carpet

If you can see significant mold growth on wall to wall carpeting in your home then you need to get rid of the carpet. Unfortunately there’s no way to completely remove mold from fixed carpeting. And ignoring mold on the carpet will only lead to the problem getting worse.

Wet Carpet

The same goes for carpet that has been soaked right through. Once the padding on the bottom of carpeting gets wet it takes a very long time to dry out, much longer than the 24-48 hours mold needs to grow. Even though the top layer of carpet might seem to dry out fairly quickly, the layer of padding underneath stays wet long after.

Replacing Part of Carpet

If only a small section of your carpet got wet or has mold on it then you can cut out and remove just the affected part of the carpet. When you’re cutting out the carpet make sure to cut an extra 12 inches on each side further than the moldy or wet part. You can then replace it with a new section of carpet, as long as you don’t mind the slight cosmetic difference of having a section which might not perfectly match the rest.

Make sure to let the floor dry out properly if it’s still wet before you insert the new piece of carpet. It’s also a good idea to HEPA vacuum too, once the floor is dry, before you install the new section of carpet.

Removing Mold on Rugs and Non-Fixed Carpet

Rugs or carpets that aren’t wall to wall, permanently-fixed carpeting can be cleaned to remove mold. The best thing is to talk to a professional carpet cleaning service or mold removal professional. Make sure they know how to remove mold from carpets or rugs and they have had experience at it. You should be able to remove the carpet and send it to them to professionally clean and dry it to remove the mold.

If you want to try to clean the mold yourself from your rug or non-fixed carpet you should first take it outside. Then spread it out, for example on the driveway, and hose both sides.

Next use a mold killing or cleaning solution on the moldy area of the carpet and scrub the mold away. Some of the most effective mold killers and cleaners can be found at Killing Mold. After you have finished you should rinse the carpet well.

Use a wet vacuum on the carpet, if you have one, to help dry it out faster once you’ve rinsed it. Then let the carpet dry in the sun, making sure both sides get completely dried. Only take the carpet back into your home if it is perfectly dry all the way through.

Once the carpet’s dry HEPA vacuum it to remove any mold spores that might be left in it. Beating the carpet on the line when it’s dry also helps to remove mold spores and other dirt and dust from it.


 

Mold on Tiles and Grout

You’ll often see mold growing on tiles in places like the bathroom. The good news is that mold can easily be cleaned from the non-porous surfaces of tiles.

How to Remove Mold from Tiles and Grout

Begin by scrubbing the mold off of the tiles and grout. You should use a scrubbing brush along with a household cleaning product or mold killing product. There are also commercial tile or grout cleaners you can buy.

After this you’ll probably find there is still mold stains left on the grout. You can use bleach to fade these stains away. Before you use the bleach you should spot test it to make sure that it won’t discolor your tiles. You should also wear gloves to protect your hands from the bleach.

Apply the bleach to the grout and leave it sit for about 10 minutes. Instead of chlorine bleach you can use hydrogen peroxide if you like, or buy a product like Oxiclean which contains oxygen bleach. If you have a septic system it’s better to use oxygen bleach than chlorine bleach.

Another alternative is to use baking soda. Mix it with water to create a paste and then use a toothbrush to scrub it onto the grout.

If you find the stain remains on the grout after bleaching then repeat the process. Afterwards rinse the bleach off thoroughly with water.

If the stains won’t go away you can try using paper towels soaked in bleach. Saturate paper towels in bleach and then stick them to the grout where there are stains. Give it some time and this should fade away the mold stains on the grout.

Grout Sealer

Another thing you can do is apply grout sealer to the grout. This will protect you from any small amount of mold left on the grout and also help to prevent mold growing in the future.

Replacing Grout

You also have the option of replacing the grout all together. First you’ll need to scrape out the old grout. You can use a flat head screwdriver for this. You can buy new grout mixture from the hardware store and apply it yourself. Sealing the new grout with grout sealer afterwards will give you even more mold protection.

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Five Steps To Proper Mold Remediation

Mold has had its 15 minutes of fame over the last few years. Though the hype has died down, mold is still an important issue. Customer complaints require home builders to have a fast action plan; both to clean up the mold problem and to show customers a quality home builder is looking out for their health and safety and the durability of their home.

There are two important things to remember about mold: prevent it by doing things right the first time and when you do face mold, take care of it immediately. Ensuring that your warranty team follows a process for mold remediation will take care of the latter.

The following steps, which can be adapted to fit within your company’s policy, serve as a basic process for quickly remediating mold problems.

Step 1: Learn about moisture

Assessing mold growth involves more than just looking at what’s visibly growing on the walls or in a corner. Mold can be an invisible intruder, growing behind and around what you first see. Such devious behavior requires inquisitive thinking. First, understand that behind all mold growth is a water or moisture problem. Second, become a master of moisture — know where moisture comes from and how it gets into the home. The ultimate goal of these two steps is for warranty representatives to identify a moisture source and use its location to help locate all mold growth, not just what’s immediately visible.

Step 2: Document the mold problem and create a remediation plan

Before you begin remediation, document the mold situation with writing, photos and video. The warranty team supervisor will use the documentation to develop a remediation plan, which typically answers questions like when work is slated to begin, when that work is scheduled to be completed, who will be performing the remediation, any testing that should be done, and if homeowners will be temporarily relocated. In the longer term, the documentation can help manage liability for your company or point to larger trends in mold growth.

Step 3: Calculate the extent of the contamination

Mold may not always grow in one area, so you need to figure out how much contamination you’re really looking at. Calculating the extent of the contamination will impact how you approach mold removal and clean up. The goal of mold remediation is to clean up mold growing within the home, and to avoid exposing homeowners to large amounts of mold. The New York City Department of Health (NYC DOH) has developed guidelines for cleaning up mold contamination. These guidelines are widely used in the construction industry and recommend six levels of mold remediation based on the square footage of the mold and whether or not the mold is located within the home’s HVAC system.

Step 4: Remediate mold contamination

Remediation will always involve cleaning up existing mold while avoiding exposure to oneself as well as homeowners, as well as preventing new growth by addressing the moisture source. Based on your calculation of the contamination area, determine if you’re working in an area up to 30 square feet (approximately the size of a full sheet of drywall). If so, you’ll be following the guidelines for remediation levels 1 and 2. Level 1 remediation is used for small, isolated areas of mold up to 10 square feet and Level 2 remediation covers square footage from 10 to 30 square feet.

The clean up process is the same for Level 1 and Level 2 mold remediation and comprises these steps:

  • Repair the water problem. This will help prevent new mold spores from growing.
  • Isolate the contaminated area. Close all doors and windows between the contaminated area and other rooms of the home for both levels. For Level 2 remediation, also cover all doorways and any other openings with 6 mil polyethylene sheeting. Seal all seams of the sheeting with duct tape and slip openings in the sheeting to enter the contaminated area.
  • Suppress dust. Do this by misting the contaminated areas.
  • Remove materials. Remove all wet and mold-damaged porous materials. Check with your supervisor and reference the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) document, Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings,  if you’re not sure which materials to remove.
  • Place materials in plastic bags. Discard all wet and moldy materials in plastic bags that are at least 6 mil thick, double-bag the materials, and tie the bags closed. The bags can be disposed of as regular trash once the outside of the bags are wiped with a damp cloth and detergent solution prior to leaving the contamination area.
  • Clean. All non-porous materials and wood surfaces that are moldy must be cleaned. Use a wire brush on all moldy surfaces and then wipe the area with disposable wipes. To dispose of as regular trash, discard wipes in 6 mil polyethylene bags, double-bag and tie closed. Finally, scrub all moldy surfaces using a damp cloth and detergent solution until all mold has been removed and rinsed cleaned surfaces with clean water.
  • Clean the affected area and egress. The process for Level 1 differs from Level 2 at this point. For Level 1, clean with a damp cloth and/or mop with detergent solution. Level 2 requires you to vacuum all surfaces with a HEPA vacuum, and then clean all surfaces with a damp cloth and/or mop and detergent solution. Discard wipes as described above.
  • Visibility test. All areas should be visibly free of contamination and debris — no dust and dirt means no mold.
  • Dry. Cleaned materials should be dried to allow leftover moisture to evaporate. To speed up the drying process, use fans, dehumidifiers or raise the indoor air temperature.
  • Replace. All materials that were moved should be replaced or repaired.

Reference the remediation plan during the actual remediation to make sure it’s being followed. If additional mold is discovered during the clean up, the warranty supervisor should update the plan.

For contamination areas greater than 30 square feet, many builders hire outside mold remediation firms to perform the clean up. In this case, you and your team switch from actually performing mold remediation to supervising a qualified contractor. Having a general understanding of the proper procedures an outside company should be following is useful. The NYC DOH guidelines address such procedures for Level 3 contamination and above.

Step 5: Determine if clean up has been successful

Just because the mold is gone and there’s no dirt or dust doesn’t mean that you’re done. Your last step is to determine if your clean-up efforts have been successful. While this last step is a judgment call, there are some options and guidelines to follow.

The EPA document, Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings, is a great resource that provides guidelines for helping you complete your clean up efforts. Some of these guidelines include:

  • The moisture problem has been fixed. Verify this by revisiting the home soon after remediation — you shouldn’t see any signs of recurring water damage.
  • No sign of visible mold, mold-damaged materials or moldy odors.
  • Homeowners should be able to occupy or re-occupy the home without physical symptoms or aggravated health complaints.

Depending on your company and the specific details of a mold problem, additional testing by an environmental testing company may be performed after the clean up to verify that all mold has been removed.

When it comes to mold, the key is to implement a comprehensive moisture management strategy. Potential liability and health issues from mold can be dramatically decreased by doing it right the first time. Clean up must be immediate and thorough, following a process like the above steps. It may sound over-simplified, but the primary failure in response to homeowner complaints is simply the fact that builders don’t respond fast enough, or with the emphasis that the issue is potentially serious.

Minimum personal protection equipment for levels 1 and 2 remediation includes an N95 respirator, eye goggles without vents and rubber gloves that extend to mid-forearm.

Got Mold?

Following an immediate and thorough remediation plan is essential for getting rid of the mold and showing your customers you’re committed to acting quickly.

Before entering a home to assess a mold growth situation, make sure you have the necessary personal protective equipment.

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How to Remove Mold After Water Damage

After the clean-up is complete from water damage in your home, you will most likely have some mold issues to deal with. It can take some time for the mold to become visible. You must remove the mold as soon as possible to stop its growth. With a few supplies and a little work, you can remove the mold without the help of a professional, so long as you treat it immediately.

Step 1 – Extract All Moisture

Mold grows in damp areas. You must remove all moisture to stop the growth. Keep air flowing by running fans and opening windows. Turn on a dehumidifier to extract the moisture faster. Be sure to check the holding tank, because it will fill with water and need to be emptied. This water will also contain mold spores. You will not want to leave it sitting for long. After you have a handle on the moisture, you can start cleaning the mold.

Step 2 – Cleaning the Big Surfaces

The walls and floors will need to be cleaned first. Pull up the carpet and take it outside in the sun. The sun kills mold. Leave it out until you have finished cleaning inside. Next, mix 1-cup of chlorine bleach with a bucket of warm water. Put on your ventilator mask and rubber gloves. Wipe down the walls with a rag and let them dry. Mop the floor with this same solution. After the walls and floors have dried, go over them again with warm water and liquid disinfectant. Follow the disinfectant label instructions for the amount, as it varies by product. You may have to repeat this every 2 to 3 days until the mold has disappeared. You’ll then work on the wood surfaces.

Step 3 – Cleaning Wood Furniture

To remove mold spores from wood surfaces, such as desks, tables, and book cases, use a rag and denatured alcohol. Pour a little of the denatured alcohol on the rag and rub down the wood surfaces. The denatured alcohol should not harm your finish, but you should check to be sure by testing in an inconspicuous area before wiping the whole surface. Allow the alcohol to dry completely then spray with disinfectant. After all of your wood surfaces are cleaned, you can treat your porous surfaces.

Step 3 – Porous Surface Cleaning

Porous surfaces, such as upholstered or fabric items, will collect mold spores. Take any washable fabric items and wash them in the hottest possible temperature which the fabric will allow. Take upholstered items outside. Working on the fabric will cause the mold spores to go into the air. Brush the fabric with a soft brush. Leave the items in the sun all day to kill mold. Spray them with disinfectant and return your items back inside the house. Use your vacuum to extract the dead mold spores from the upholstery. The mold should be eliminated now. If you notice that it is not all gone, you will need to repeat this process.

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5 Things You Need to Know About Water Damage

When a pipe bursts, a drain backs up, or a flood occurs in your home, it can be hard to see past the mess. A million questions will run through your mind.

What do I do now?

What’s going to happen?

Is my stuff ruined?

And the most important question of all: Will my homeowner’s insurance cover the damage?

There’s no doubt about it. Water damage is extremely stressful, and the more you know about it, the better you’ll be able to decide how to address it. Here are five things that every homeowner needs to know about water damage.

1. There are different insurance policies for flood damage and water damage.

You might think that water is water, whether it’s from flooding or a burst pipe, but flood damage is not covered under homeowner’s insurance. If you live in an area likely to experience flooding, you will probably already have a separate policy through the National Flood Insurance Policy (NFIP). When you report the claim to the insurance company, make sure to specify whether the claim is for water damage or for flood damage, so they can begin adjusting your claim correctly.

2. Not all water damage is covered by your insurance.

It is a good idea to look over your insurance policy and familiarize yourself with any exclusion to your water damage coverage. For instance, most policies cover sudden damage, like water damage from a really bad storm or from an overflowing washing machine. On the other hand, any water damage that happens because you didn’t maintain the property may be excluded, as well as gradual leaks that caused water damage over time.

3. Once water damage has happened, the clock is ticking before it gets worse.

Flood Damage ProPhoto courtesy of Flood Damage Pro

When your property has been water damaged, you don’t have the luxury of waiting around for a convenient time to start the cleanup. Secondary damage from mold growth can present serious health risks associated with mold in the living environment.

Mold spores are everywhere, but they need moisture and a nutrient source to grow. And that is exactly what your wet carpet or drywall offers.

There is a 24 to 48 hour window from the time something gets wet until mold can begin to grow. After that time, mold will multiply rapidly. When mold growth is widespread, you may need the services of a professional mold remediation service to safely treat and remove the mold.

To prevent mold growth, you will need to get your property completely dry again within that 48-hour window. To do this, you’ll need to contact a company that specializes in water damage restoration and emergency water extraction. They will have the professional water removal equipment and drying equipment to get the job done as quickly as possible. Many have 24-hour a day emergency hotlines, so you can start recovering your property almost immediately.

4. Your insurance company needs to know right away.

It’s a good idea to call your insurance company right away when you discover water damage. Your insurance agent can start the claims process immediately, as well as guide you through the first steps you will need to take to protect your property from more damage, like stopping the source of the water at the main water turnoff.

Your insurance company may also direct you to a water damage restoration company that they have worked with in the past. Keep in mind that you do not have to call the company that they recommend. You may choose any reputable restoration specialist to restore your property for the insurance claim.

5. The pollution level of the water is important.

Flood Damage ProPhoto courtesy of Flood Damage Pro

Water damage is categorized as one of three levels by how polluted the water source was that caused the damage.

Category 1: Water from a clean water source, like a fresh water line for a dishwasher. This water will not cause illness or any ill effects.

Category 2: Water that may cause illness through contact. It may have bacteria in it,

Category 3: Water that is highly contaminated. Contact can cause severe illness or death. Think sewage backup, an overflowing toilet, or storm waters.

Even though water may start out as Category 1, that doesn’t mean it will stay that way. Any contamination that the water touches, such as dirty carpeting or soil from the ground, can change water damage Category to 2 or even Category 3. And since standing breeds bacteria, the longer the water is around, the worse the contamination of your property.

More contamination can mean that the restoration team will have to use more aggressive measures to clean your structure and property, and it might mean that soft furnishings, like your carpet and the carpet pad, may have to be discarded for your safety.

Water damage can be dangerous and expensive, so preventing water damage is an important part of home maintenance. But if you know the basics of what to do once it happens, you can prevent it from doing its worst.

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Cleaning Up After a Flood

 

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A Description of Typical House Flood Damages and Cleanup Requirements:

When your house floods, the water can wreak havoc on the structure of the house, your personal belongings, and the health of the inside environment. Flood waters contain many contaminants and lots of mud. High dollar items can get ruined all at once, even with just an inch of water, for example: carpeting, wallboard, appliances, and furniture. A more severe storm or deeper flood may add damage to even more expensive systems, like: ducts, the heater and air conditioner, roofing, private sewage and well systems, utilities, and the foundation.

After a flood, cleaning up is a long and hard process. Here is a list of common techniques for sanitizing and cleaning flooded items:

  • First things first: call your insurance agent. If your insurance covers the damage, your agent will tell you when an adjuster will contact you. List damage and take photos or videotape as you clean. You’ll need complete records for insurance claims, applications for disaster assistance and income tax deductions.
  • Contaminated mud
    Shovel out as much mud as possible, then use a garden sprayer or hose to wash away mud from hard surfaces.
  • Clean and disinfect every surface. Scrub surfaces with hot water and a heavy-duty cleaner. Then disinfect with a solution of 1/4 cup chlorine bleach per gallon of water or a product that is labeled as a disinfectant to kill germs.
  • In the kitchen
    • Immerse glass, porcelain, china, plastic dinnerware and enamelware for 10 minutes in a disinfecting solution of 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach per gallon of hot water. Air-dry dishes. Do not use a towel.
    • Disinfect silverware, metal utensils, and pots and pans by boiling in water for 10 minutes. Chlorine bleach should not be used in this case because it reacts with many metals and causes them to darken.
    • Cupboards and counters need to be cleaned and rinsed with a chlorine bleach solution before storing dishes.
  • Furniture and household items
    • Take furniture, rugs, bedding and clothing outside to dry as soon as possible. Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier to remove moisture or open at least two windows to ventilate with outdoor air. Use fans to circulate air in the house. If mold and mildew have already developed, brush off items outdoors to prevent scattering spores in the house. Vacuum floors, ceilings and walls to remove mildew, then wash with disinfectant. Wear a two-strap protective mask to prevent breathing mold spores.
    • Mattresses should be thrown away.
    • Upholstered furniture soaks up contaminants from floodwaters and should be cleaned only by a professional.
    • Wood veneered furniture is usually not worth the cost and effort of repair.
      Solid wood furniture can usually be restored, unless damage is severe.
    • Toys and stuffed animals may have to be thrown away if they’ve been contaminated by floodwaters.
    • Photographs, books and important papers can be frozen and cleaned later. They should be dried carefully and slowly. Wash the mud off and store the articles in plastic bags and put them in a frost-free freezer to protect from mildew and further damage until you have time to thaw and clean them or take them to a professional.
  • Ceilings and walls
    • Wallboard acts like a sponge when wet. Remove wallboard, plaster and paneling to at least the flood level. If soaked by contaminated floodwater, it can be a permanent health hazard and should be removed. If most of the wallboard was soaked by clean rainwater, consider cutting a 4- to 12-inch-high section from the bottom and top of walls. This creates a “chimney effect” of air movement for faster drying. A reciprocating saw with a metal cutting blade works well, but use only the tip of the blade and watch out for pipes, ductwork and wiring.
    • Plaster and paneling can often be saved, but air must be circulated in the wall cavities to dry the studs and sills.
    • The three kinds of insulation must be treated differently. Styrofoam might only need to be hosed off. Fiberglass batts should be thrown out if muddy but may be reused if dried thoroughly. Loose or blown-in cellulose should be replaced since it holds water for a long time and can lose its antifungal and fire retardant abilities.
  • Electrical system
    The system must be shut off and repaired and inspected by an electrician before it can be turned back on. Wiring must be completely dried out- even behind walls. Switches, convenience outlets, light outlets, entrance panel, and junction boxes that have been under water may be filled with mud.
  • Heating and cooling systems and ducts
    Will need inspection and cleaning. Flood-soaked insulation should be replaced.
  • Appliances
    Appliances will get stains, odors, silt deposits, and gritty deposits and need to be serviced, cleaned and sanitized. Running equipment before it is properly cleaned could seriously damage it and/or shock you. Professional cleaning is recommended for electronics, TVs and radios, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, and vacuum cleaners. The hard exterior can be hand cleaned. All metallic appliances that have been flooded should be properly grounded to prevent electric shock. Mud or dirt in a grounded outlet or adapter may prevent the grounding system from working, and you could be electrocuted.
  • Pump out the basement
    If your basement is full or nearly full of water, pump out just 2 or 3 feet of water each day. If you drain the basement too quickly, the pressure outside the walls will be greater than the pressure inside the walls. That may make the walls and floor crack and collapse.
  • Floors
    With wood subflooring, the floor covering (vinyl, linoleum, carpet) must be removed so the subflooring can dry thoroughly which may take several months. Open windows and doors to expose the boards to as much air as possible.

    • Carpeting
      Clean and dry carpets and rugs as quickly as possible. If sewage-contaminated floodwater covered your carpeting, discard it for health safety reasons. Also discard if the carpet was under water for 24 hours or more. To clean, drape carpets and rugs outdoors and hose them down. Work a disinfecting carpet cleaner into soiled spots with a broom. To discourage mildew and odors, rinse with a solution of 2 tablespoons bleach to 1 gallon water, but don’t use this solution on wool or nylon carpets. Dry the carpet and floor thoroughly before replacing the carpet. Padding is nearly impossible to clean so should be replaced. If the carpet can’t be removed, dry it as quickly as possible using a wet/dry vacuum and dehumidifier. Use a fan to circulate air above the carpet, and if possible, lift the carpet and ventilate with fans underneath.
    • Vinyl flooring and floor tile may need to be removed to allow drying of subfloor.
    • Wood floors
      Wooden floors should be dried gradually. Sudden drying could cause cracking or splitting. Some restoration companies can accelerate drying time by forcing air through the fluted underside of hardwood floorboards. Remove hardwood floor boards to prevent buckling. Remove a board every few feet to reduce buckling caused by swelling. Clean and dry wood before attempting repairs.
  • Roof damage and leaks
    • Defective flashing– Flashing is the sheet metal used in waterproofing roof valleys, hips and the angle between a chimney and a roof. Wet spots near a chimney or outside wall may mean the leak is caused by defective flashing, narrow flashing or loose mortar joints. Look for corroded, loose or displaced flashing on sloping roof valleys and at junctions of dormers and roof.
    • Clogged downspouts or eaves– Check for choked downspouts. Accumulated water or snow on the roof above the flashing may cause a leak. Ice accumulations on eaves sometimes form ridges, which cause melting snow to back up under the shingles.
    • Cracks and deterioration– Roofing (especially wood or composition shingles) usually deteriorates first on southern exposures. Check southern slopes for cracking or deterioration.
    • Holes– Missing shingles or holes in the roofing may be causing wet spots. To find holes, check for a drip trail or spot of light coming through in the attic. Stick a nail, straw or wire through the hole to mark the spot on the outside.
  • Private sewage systems
    Flooding of a private sewage system can be a hazardous situation for homeowners. It may lead to a back-up of sewage in the home, contaminated drinking water and lack of sanitation until the system is fixed. When flooding or saturated soil conditions persist, a private sewage system cannot function properly. Soil treatment systems for wastewater rely on aerobic (with oxygen) regions to reduce the amounts of chemicals and living organisms (viruses, bacteria and protozoa). When the soil is saturated or flooded, those hazardous materials can enter the groundwater and your drinking water supply.
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Tips for Cleaning Your Home After Water Damage

Tips for cleaning your home after water damage

Water in unwanted places can cause a lot of damage. Not only can it ruin your prized possessions, but also the house in which they are stored. If you’re able to act quickly, you can minimize the damage and possibly save some of your possessions. Some of your success depends on how long the water’s been around, there might be pieces of furniture that can be saved, and sometimes, even carpet, but any electronics hit by water are probably doomed.

Don’t treat flood water in unwanted places lightly: even if your basement only has an inch of water in it, or is even just damp, it is the perfect breeding ground for mold. Mold growth not only ruins walls, furniture, carpets, flooring, etc., it can lead to poor indoor air quality causing respiratory problems including asthma, and can lead to severe illness. Preventing mold growth is key to keeping your home’s air clean and healthy. So in addition to calling your insurance company, here are a few tips to deal with your flooded basement and minimize the water damage. (Call your insurance company before you do anything, and tell them what you want to do.)

  1. Disconnect the power, unplug any electronics, and remove electronics, furniture and movable items immediately. The faster you get items out of water’s way, the more likely you’ll be able to save them. Definitely move all electrical items first, and if you can, turn off your power leading into the affected area, especially if water rises above electrical outlets. Pull up any carpets (wall to wall and area rugs) and underpadding. You may be able to save the carpet if you get it cleaned and disinfected, however, it may shrink and be better off as an area rug afterwards. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to save the underpadding, which acts like a sponge and absorbs a lot of water.
  2. Get rid of the water. There are several ways to get rid of the water. If you don’t have power, or are worried about loose wires, the old-fashioned, manual way will work. Use old towels, buckets and mops to soak up as much water as possible. As long as sewers in your neighbourhood aren’t backed up, you can pour the water down the drain, otherwise, pour onto your lawn or other permeable surface. A wet/dry vacuum can be used too, note: be very careful to plug it into outlets far away from water. Don’t use an extension cord as the connection could also short out and give you a nasty shock. Water and electricity don’t mix! If your basement or other flooded area is overwhelming and you have power, consider renting (if available) a sump pump from your local Rent-all or hardware stores. Getting rid of all the water and drying out the area is the most important thing you can do to prevent mold growth.

    drywall cutaway, after flood waters are mopped up

    drywall cutaway, after flood waters are mopped up

  3. Dry out the affected area. Once you’ve mopped up all the water, use fans and  a dehumidifier to help dry out the area. If it’s stopped raining, open windows to allow for air circulation and faster drying. You want to dry the area out as soon as possible. If you have a finished basement and the drywall was affected, you’ll probably have to cut away the areas that were touched by water as the drywall will crumble and the paper backing is a good source of food for mold. If you have baseboard trim, take it up first, and if it’s made from pressboard it will likely not be salvageable. If it was wood, you might be able to save it.
  4. Disinfect. After the area has dried out, including wood beams, insulation, drywall, etc., use a good disinfectant to get rid of any bacteria that might have come up through sewers, toilets, etc. Gloves Off Disinfectant, is a non-toxic but powerful disinfectant. Disinfect all areas affected by the flood waters including walls and wood and non-upholstered furniture that sat in flood water.
  5. Prevent mold growth. After you’ve disinfected and let the area thoroughly dry out, apply Concrobium throughout the affected area according to directions. I can’t say enough good things about this product; it is non-toxic, made with distilled water and inorganic salts. You can use it on furniture, walls, floors, basically anything that is susceptible to mold growth. Once a thin layer of Concrobium is applied, let it dry overnight. As Concrobium dries, it forms a thin layer over any mold that may be growing and actually crushes the roots of the spores. Wherever it’s sprayed will prevent any mold from growing, providing continued resistance. If you’re spraying an entire room, you might want to consider renting a mister from a hardware store such as Home Depot. It’s easy to use and very fast.
  6. Dispose of damaged items responsibly: you’ll be tempted to throw everything into a dumpster and send it all away and out of site. But if you can organize damaged goods into piles and take what you can to recycling centres, you will help alleviate the pressure on your local landfill site. Go to your city or town’s waste management website to find out where to recycle old paints, stains, adhesives and other toxic liquids, any damaged electronics from cell phones to TVs and computers, furniture, and even drywall. You can also look through Earth 911 to find recycling centres in your neighbourhood.
fire_5

Extensive Fire Damage and How Fire Damage Restoration Deals With It

Fire alone is incredibly formidable and can cause drastic destruction to any premises. If you have a blaze in your home that goes on long enough, then your belongings will be burned for fuel leaving only ash behind until the entire property is little more than a memory.

If that’s all that extensive fire damage represented then that would be bad enough. In fact though, fire damage is far more extensive and multi-faceted than that and it can impact on your home in ways that you might find almost entirely unexpected. Read on and we will look at the other types of damage caused by fires. To end on a positive note though, we’ll also look at how a good fire damage restoration company will go about undoing each one of these types of damage to get a property back to full health as quickly as possible.

Air Pressure and Shattered Windows

broken glass from extensive fire damage

You might at this point be wondering what’s so interesting and complicated about extensive fire damage. A good example to start off with then, is the way in which extensive fire damage can lead to shattered windows through the power of air pressure.

How does this work? Well essentially, when you have a fire raging in your property, this will be burning by using oxygen for fuel. Oxygen is reactive and when you see a fire, this is actually caused by that reaction.

Extensive fire damage then, removes the oxygen from the air in your home and this in turn creates a ‘vacuum’. That means that there are now fewer air particles in your home and around the fire than there are outside the property. This then causes the air in your other rooms to rush to the fire to feed it – this is due to something called ‘equalization’ which essentially is a fancy way of saying that gas particles in any container always spread out evenly (like a puddle). Remove the air from the living room and more air will rush in from upstairs to even things out.

Eventually though, all the air in your home will have been gobbled up by the fire which will create a massive difference in the air pressure in your home compared to outside. When this pressure difference becomes big enough, this is actually strong enough to cause the air from outside to burst in through the windows causing them to shatter inward. This then showers your property with glass and also causes a hot wind to blow in forcefully to your home!

Water Damage

It might seem like a contradiction but often times extensive fire damage will also lead to water damage. This is why most water damage repair companies also work as fire damage restoration companies.

There are many reasons that extensive fire damage can cause water damage. One is that the fire can burn pipes and cause them to boil and burst. Another is that it can burst water tanks. Less obvious perhaps is that it can burn holes in the roof (and break the windows as we’ve seen) thus causing rain water to come in and cause more damage.

In case you’re thinking that water damage ‘pales’ in comparison to the damage caused by the fire itself, bear in mind that much of this will be contaminated water that can lead to serious illness. Furthermore, this water can come into contact with sockets and extension cables causing electricity to run across your entire property.

Water damage also leads to mold. In as little as 24 hours, a wet surface can become a moldy surface and this means that long after the fire has gone, your home can continue to become more and more unlivable. Especially if the mold that grows is ‘toxic black’ mold.

Bear in mind too that this isn’t just water – it’s boiling water.

Explosions and Rubble

Similar to the way that burst pipes can lead to water damage, extensive fire damage can also burst gas lines and thereby cause gas leaks. This can be dangerous on its own but even more-so when it is in the presence of a huge naked flame likely to cause a massive explosion. It’s no exaggeration to say that an explosion caused by a gas leak in this way can be serious enough to potentially level an entire neighborhood!

At the very least, the explosions and the fire itself can cause severe structural damage to your property making it likely that your roof will collapse, that walls will give way or that the stairs will come away. All these things cause tons of destruction themselves as your property and belongings becomes crushed under the weight of the rubble. Even if it’s something as relatively ‘minor’ as a kitchen cabinet falling off the wall, this can destroy everything that was inside that cabinet and everything that was underneath it. And did you think about your soup and chopped tomatoes boiling inside their cans?

Smoke

Smoke itself is also a big part of fire damage restoration. Smoke is such a big problem because it can get everywhere and it can create a terrible odor and stain things black permanently. Smoke is also terrible for our lungs and quite often it’s the smoke that is actually first to cause serious personal harm rather than the fire.

Fire Damage Restoration Services

As you can see then, extensive fire damage is far more extensive than you might originally have imagined. It’s not just a case of things being burned, but of things being burned, crushed, flooded and blown up.

The good news is that as long as you’re away from your property at the time, you can undo all this damage with a fire damage restoration company. These companies specialize in all kinds of restoration which should include everything from water damage restoration, to mold remediation to home renovations. These companies can go about undoing all the damage caused to your home to the point where you’re able to move in again and get on with your life.

winterhouse

7 Ways To Help Prepare Your Home For Winter

7 Ways To Help Prepare Your Home For Winter

Winter is on its way and, for most of the country that means freezing temps, wind, snow, ice and heavy jackets.

To prepare your home and your household for the colder months ahead, review this handy checklist, which is designed to help you be more prepared for whatever old man winter has in store. Please keep personal safety in mind when checking items off this list, and connect with a trusted professional or contractor for help with anything you are unable to do yourself

1. Invest in weather stripping

Weather stripping is a good way to help seal warm air in and cold air out of your home. Available in almost any hardware store, weather stripping installs quickly around windows and doors and can help prevent air leaks.

Before winter arrives, check the following parts of your home for leaks or drafts:

  • Windows
  • Doors
  • Vents and fans
  • Plumbing areas
  • Air conditioners
  • Mail chutes
  • Electrical and gas lines

2. Clean your gutters

Clear gutters help drain water away from your roof and your house. If they’re clogged however, especially in colder months, they’re more apt to freeze, causing additional blockages. Blocked gutters can allow melting ice and snow to seep into your roof, or flood your home’s foundation, causing damage.

If it’s safe to do so, take some time before winter hits and clear out your gutters, or work with a trusted roofing professional or contractor to have your gutters cleaned.

3. Evaluate your roof to prevent ice dams

While a roofing professional is cleaning the gutters, see if he or she can evaluate your roof for ice dams too.

In cold weather, heat escaping your home can melt and refreeze ice and snow on your roof, leading to ice dams. These block off drains, and let water and ice continually build up on your roof – and possibly under it – weakening your roof and putting your home at risk.

To help prevent ice dams:

  • Insulate your attic – Your attic should have plenty of insulation to prevent too much heat transfer from your living areas to the attic. Check parts of the attic that may not be well insulated, like:
    • Pipes and vents
    • Chimney systems
    • Light fixtures
  • Ventilate your attic – If your attic wasn’t built with a ventilation system, contact a trusted professional or contractor about ventilating your attic before winter. Proper ventilation allows cold air into the attic, while the insulation seals heat in your living areas. This can help prevent warm air from melting ice on the roof, leading to possible damage.

4. Buy a roof rake to keep snow from building up

According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IIBHS), an average roof can handle up to four feet of fresh snow before it’s stressed. However, as snow packs down from multiple storms, could cause a roof collapse!

If you expect a lot of snow this winter, invest in a roof rake. It can help you easily clear snow off your roof and protect your home during those blizzard months.

5. Prune trees around the house

If there are long tree branches hanging near your house, your roof, or your gutters, prune them before it gets too cold. Branches broken from heavy snow and ice can cause all kinds of damage to your home. A few hours with the pruner now could save you thousands of dollars in damages later this winter.

6. Stock up on basics

You know what happens when the news calls for bad weather; stores flood with people, all buying milk, bread, batteries, flashlights, and duct tape by the truck load. How do you avoid this mess?

Stock up on basic supplies before winter, and stay cozy in your home.

Strong winds, blizzards, ice, and snow can cause blackouts and power outages, which can wreak havoc on your home in the winter. To prepare, keep supplies on hand, and read more about the types of alternate heating sources available for purchase.

7. Protect pipes from freezing

According to the IIBHS, a burst pipe can cause more than $5,000 in water damage! Thankfully, you can do something to help protect your pipes from freezing in bitter cold weather.

Don’t turn the heat down too much when you’re out of the house. You may not be there to enjoy it, but your pipes need the heat to prevent freezing.

Let faucets drip during serious cold snaps to provide relief for your pipes.

Give your home a once over for any exposed or vulnerable piping, and wrap them with insulation. Hardware stores usually carry foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves for pipes, which are easy to install.

Caulk up cracks or holes in your walls to keep cold air away from pipes. This might not be practical for the average homeowner, so speak to a trusted contractor.

If your pipes do freeze, and water stops flowing from faucets, call a plumber immediately!

  • Farmer’s Insurance
air-conditioner-troubleshooting

Tips for Preventing Air Conditioner Water Damage

         Most homeowners who enjoy cool and comfortable temperatures indoors throughout summer thanks to their air conditioning system don’t realize that air conditioners can sometimes cause water damage if not properly maintained. When working at peak efficiency, an air conditioning system can collect 10 to 20 gallons of water daily. Ideally, this water drains off of the condensation coil into a collection pan and then is disposed of automatically into the sewer system. But if the drain becomes clogged and the unit produces more water than it can easily handle, the overflow of water can lead to damaged floors and carpeting in addition to creating unhealthy deposits of mold.

A clogged drain line is often the major source of creating water damage, but other causes include excessive condensation that occurs when the unit is running round the clock in addition to evaporator coils that may freeze up and then defrost on a regular basis. Because most of the unit is typically hidden from view, unless regular inspections take place, water damage can be occurring on a daily basis and accumulating into hundreds of dollars worth of damage.

One of the best ways to avoid air conditioner water damage is to change the HVAC air filter at least once a month. This also gives a homeowner the opportunity to observe whether or not there is excessive moisture collecting on the condensation line. Ensuring that an AC unit has clean air filters also helps prevent the unit from overworking, a situation that causes freezing and then defrosting on the evaporator coils, leading to water damage. It’s also important to regularly check to see that water is indeed flowing from the opening of the condensation line directly to the drain as it was designed to do, especially during periods of very high humidity in the atmosphere.
When installing an AC condensation line, avoid using elbow connections if possible and have the line run in as straight an up and down direction as possible to facilitate water removal from the unit. It’s a good idea to get a professional air conditioning repair service to clean the condensation line at least once a year or every six months if the AC system is used on a year-round basis. A professional plumbing service can also install a condensation pump to help ensure the free flow of excess water into the proper disposal drain. A repair technician may recommend installing a device known as a safety float switch which will automatically shut down the power to an AC unit whenever condensation builds up and there is a danger of water overflow.
Professional maintenance of your HVAC unit on an annual basis can also help to prevent water damage from occurring by checking the air filter, the condition of the condensation line as well as the drains to eliminate any blockage or other problems. Ask about having your air conditioner service technician apply an algaecide to your system to discourage build-up of debris in the drain lines in addition to preventing the growth of mold and mildew which can spread throughout the HVAC and pollute the air throughout the house.