Archive for the ‘Water Damage’ Category

Frozen Pipes

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

Frozen and burst pipes can cause costly water damage. Follow the tips below to find out how to prevent your pipes from freezing and how to react in the event that they do.

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes
There are three primary causes of frozen pipes:

1) Quick drops in temperature

2) Poor insulation

3) Thermostats set too low.

Take these steps to prevent your pipes from freezing:

  • Insulate pipes in crawl spaces and attics. Exposed pipes are the most susceptible to freezing. *Tip: the more insulation you use, the better protected your pipes will be.
  • You can also use heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables to wrap pipes. Be sure to use products only for the use intended (exterior or interior). Follow all manufacturers’ installation and operation instructions very carefully. These products can be dangerous if not installed properly.
  • Seal any and all leaks that may be allowing cold air inside near your pipes. Look for air leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents, and pipes. Use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out. In very severe cold, even a very tiny opening can let in enough cold air to cause pipes to freeze.
  • Before freezing temperatures set in, disconnect all garden hoses and use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from the pipes that lead to outside faucets. This reduces the risk of the short span of pipe just inside the house freezing.

If Your Pipes Do Freeze
What should you do if your pipes do freeze?

The first step is… DON’T PANIC! Frozen pipes do not always burst.

Do the following:

  • If no water comes out of your faucets when you turn them on, leave the faucets turned on and call a plumber (if you need a recommendation, please feel free to contact us, we work with a number of reliable, professional and reasonably priced plumbers).
  • Do not use electrically operated items and/or appliances in areas of standing water. This is very dangerous, and you could be electrocuted.
  • No matter what, do not try to thaw frozen pipes with a torch or other open flame because it creates a huge fire hazard. A broken pipe and some water damage is definitely preferable to burning your house down!
  • Try thawing the pipe out using the warm air from a hair dryer. Start by warming it as close to the faucet as possible, and work your way toward the coldest section of the pipe.

If your pipes have already burst:

  • Turn off the water at the main shutoff valve inside your home or office.
  • Leave the water faucets turned on.
  • Make sure that everyone who will be in the home or building knows where the water shutoff valve is and how to open and close it.
  • Call a certified restoration company to begin the mitigation services ASAP.
  • Fast response is crucial.
  • The mitigation process must begin right away to help prevent secondary damage.

Water Damage & Mold | Part 4

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Factors Affecting Mold Growth
There are seven major factors that affect mold growth.

These include:

  • Moisture/humidity
  • Food source
  • Temperature
  • pH
  • Time
  • Light
  • Air Movement

Moisture can come in the form of liquid water or water vapor.

Either one can contribute to mold growth. In fact, moisture is the #1 factor in causing mold growth. Mold will simply not grow without moisture.

Moisture can be measured in terms of relative humidity and water activity. Relative humidity as first presented in the newsletter: “Dehumidifiers’ Use in Water Damage is All ‘Relative’ – Part I” (Vol. 1, No. 3) is the percentage of moisture the air can hold at a certain temperature. Water activity is like the relative humidity measurement at the surface of an object.

In either case, once you reach a certain threshold then mold can grow. At normal room temperatures (around 70-75° F), mold will start to grow once relative humidity reaches 60% or more.

Food source is the next important factor. Unlike plants which use photosynthesis so they can produce their own carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water, mold (fungi) is parasitic in nature. It needs to feed off of something else in order to survive. Mold secretes enzymes similar to those in your stomach to digest its food. In this case, however, the enzymes are sent out into the food source to break down, digest and absorb the food source for its nutrients.

Growth on Various Surfaces
Mold grows on many surfaces. The surface itself may be the food source such as structural wood or dry wall or the food may be on the surface such as when you see mold in a shower stall. The soap and bacteria that is present, not the actual shower liner or tile, are supporting the mold growth.

Following is a list of the more common surfaces that can exhibit mold growth:

  • Wood
  • Plaster and gypsum (dry wall)
  • Cellulose fibers
  • Fiberglass
  • Fabrics
  • Flooring
  • HVAC Systems (AC)
  • Wool, skin and hair
  • Humidifiers
  • Cement and concrete
  • Plastic
  • Paper
  • Paint
  • Vinyl wall coverings
  • Rubber
  • Metal
  • Plants and potting soil
  • Starch in wallpaper paste

If you suspect that you have mold in your home or business, make sure to contact a certified mold remediation contractor. Only certified professionals should perform mold removal.

Water Damage and Mold | Part 3

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Spore Exposure – Health Effects
Some byproducts are produced during the normal life cycle of the mold. One group is called mycotoxins (commonly referred to as toxic mold). A mold may produce one or more of them. They can be found inside and outside the spore.

Mycotoxins can be toxic, cancer-causing and suppress the immune system. They are not produced by all mold although mold related to water damaged structures such as stachybotrus chartarum, aspergillus versicolor and tricoderma do produce them.

Mycotoxin (toxic mold) exposure symptoms may include:

  • Runny nose
  • Asthma
  • Skin rash
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Sore throat
  • Memory loss
  • Lung bleeding
  • Vomiting
  • Fragile blood vessels
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Depression

Infections may also result due to mold exposure.

MVOCs
MVOCs (microbial volatile organic compounds) produced by mold as part of its life cycle is a waste byproduct that is evident through off-gassing. It’s an indicator of past and present unacceptable indoor air quality (IAQ). Dirt crawlspaces commonly have MVOCs present.

Most MVOCs are considered to be irritants that are specific to a certain mold organism and are largely associated with water damage type molds such as penicillium, aspergillus, fusarium and alternaria.

Benefits of Mold
When we said that “mold has been around forever…it’s part of everyday life and our environment,” it’s more than just the damage and health effects that it can cause. It can also have positive benefits as well. It’s used to produce food items such as mushrooms, soy sauce, yeast bread, cheese, beer and wine.

Mold can also be made into antibiotics such as penicillin, cyclosporine A and anti-cancer drugs. Mold is instrumental in degrading waste in landfills and compost.

If you suspect that you have mold in your home or business, make sure to contact a certified mold remediation contractor. Only certified professionals should perform mold removal.

Water Damage and Mold | Part 2

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Fungi Exposure
Personal fungi exposure may be from a variety of mold components including:

  • Cell fragments
  • Spores
  • Other cell-related products

They may be allergenic, infectious or toxic. Every person will react differently to mold. Some will suffer next to no symptoms from exposure, where others show immediate and severe signs of exposure. Children and the elderly are especially susceptible to the health problems caused by mold. Mold is systemic and opportunistic and can affect the entire body. Molds of different types can also grow together, and when they do, they magnify toxicity. This is a function that is called synergism.

What is Mold and Mildew?
“Mold” is a simple class of fungi. It’s often used as the term to describe any fuzzy growth seen on surfaces.

The terms “mold” and “fungi” are used interchangeably. “Mold,” however, is more commonly used to describe these kinds of growth.

The term “mildew” is often used interchangeably with “mold” and “fungi” although mildew is actually fungi that causes plant disease.

Spores
Spores are the reproductive structures (just like seeds) that allow mold to spread to other areas. They are small and light (half a million spores can fit on a penny) and are easily transported through the air.

Spores can remain dormant for longer than 20 years until the right conditions are present for growth. The good news is that only about 20% of spores are viable (able to produce more fungi), but whether or not the spores are literally dead or alive they can still produce allergens and may even be toxic to people!

Water Damage and Mold | Part 1

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Being Aware!
Mold has been around forever. It’s part of everyday life and our environment. We are aware of the structural damage that it can cause. Another related important issue that has arisen is mold exposure and potential health risks. How serious can this be?!

Health Studies
Studies have been conducted in several countries by WHO (the World Health Organization). They found that 1 in 3 homes have mold that is noticeable and that 1 in 10 homes have a serious mold problem.

An Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) survey says that 70 million Americans work indoors. One-third of them are quartered in buildings that are breeding grounds for contamination.

Contamination sources found in buildings include:

  • Molds
  • Bacteria
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (like formaldehyde used in building materials like particle board)

Water damaged buildings with mold growth and exposure impact the three parties that form what is called the “insurance triangle.”

insurance-triangle

All have to work and communicate together to solve the problem at hand.

Basic Health-related Terms
Some basic mold health-related terms should be understood as part of this series on water damage and mold. These encompass:

  • Allergenic – Refers to something that is capable of causing an allergic reaction.
  • Infectious – Something that can cause an infection.
  • Toxic – Describes something that is poisonous in regard to causing an adverse reaction but not necessarily a fatal one.

What are Fungi?
Fungi are a large category that encompasses molds, mildew, yeasts and mushrooms. It’s found everywhere. It just needs the proper conditions in order to grow. It reproduces when it’s dried as spores and is released into the environment. It requires free water either as a liquid or vapor (as in high humidity) to grow. Indoor environments can be a source of mold although the outside conditions won’t support it.

Some outdoor conditions are much more likely to be able to produce mold growth.

Water Damage: Prepare and React

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

Water Losses
Water damage is one of the most common problems experienced by homeowners. Water may come in through roof leaks during heavy rains, from washing machine, ice maker, or dishwasher failures, or from major fire extinguishing efforts.

Do not wait to address water damage! The longer the water sits over time, the worse the damage becomes. Building materials will absorb more water and will have to be removed and replaced instead of restored. Prolonged moisture creates hazardous and costly mold growth.

Immediately addressing water problems saves a significant amount of money in repair costs.

How to React
If you suffer a water loss, contact a certified restoration contractor immediately, and then follow these steps while waiting for the contractor to arrive:

  • Report the damage to your insurance company as soon as possible.
  • If it is safe, locate the source of the water and turn off any supply valves to stop the flow. If you have to turn your water off, make sure to take steps to prevent the plumbing and/or heating supply pipes from freezing.
  • Remember…water is an excellent conductor of electricity. The risk of shock is high. Do not allow wet materials or surfaces to come in contact with any electrical source! Always shut off the power if there is any risk.
  • Keep a list of anything you have discarded and receipts for any expenses you incur while protecting your property from further damage.
  • If you have to relocate, even temporarily, give your contractor and insurance company a phone number where you can be reached.

Prevention
Water damage can be a real headache. Here are some tips to help you prevent some common causes of water damage:

  • Replace washing machine supply lines annually. Replace rubber hoses with stainless steel braided hoses.
  • Inspect the ice maker supply line behind your refrigerator periodically. If the line is brittle or leaking…replace it.
  • Inspect your water heater for signs of corrosion and leakage.
  • Clean out your gutters at least once a year. Keeping gutters and downspouts clear helps prevent water backing up under shingles.
  • Inspect your roof annually for leaks. Replace any missing shingles or tiles. Also, inspect all flashing including: chimneys, vent stacks or dormers. These areas are very common entry points for water.
  • Make sure you have plenty of attic insulation and plenty of attic ventilation. These help prevent the formation of ice dams which can cause water to back up under roof shingles.
  • Remove hoses from any outdoor spigots. Freeze-proof spigots only work if hoses are removed.
  • Inspect rooms such as the kitchen, laundry room and bath for signs of leakage in water supply and waste lines.
  • Make sure that your shower walls and floor are structurally sound and that grout and joints are in good condition.
  • Check your toilet water supply lines for leakage. Check to make sure the toilet is properly secured to the floor and does not shift or rock at all.
  • Inspect your central air-conditioning system annually to be sure it is operating and draining properly.