Seasonal Home Maintenance Tips

Don’t wait until it’s too late to prevent mold and other water damage.  Basic home maintenance tips and a watchful eye can go a long way to help to prevent home and small business disasters.  That’s doubly important.  If you don’t take reasonable maintenance steps insurance is unlikely to approve any claims for restoring your home.  After a little explanation, we’ll give a brief home maintenance checklist covering some of the more important inspection and prevention tasks.

Dampness and Mold

All mold needs to get going is a bit of lingering moisture, whether from a leak or just high humidity.  So it’s most often a problem in the bathroom during the winter when windows are kept shut.  Seasonal maintenance to control moisture & prevent mold growth is most important in the fall.  But considering the health risks and the cost of mold removal, keep an eye out for damp areas throughout the year.

Water Damage

Travelers Insurance notes that 1/4 of all property insurance claims are the result of water damage (https://www.travelers.com/resources/home/maintenance/how-to-prevent-water-damage.aspx).  So what’s the major cause?  Winter storms?  Hurricanes?  Nope.  It’s appliances, plumbing, and roofs, pretty much in that order.  Burst washing machine hoses are a big culprit, with water heaters, dishwashers and refrigerators close behind.  Yes, refrigerators!  Ice maker lines and old-style freezers can defrost and flood.

Old plumbing, faucets, toilets, tubs, and showers are also common water leaks.  Condensation in air condition systems (as well as on windows in winter) can be a problem.  Roofing, windows, doors, and any electrical or plumbing connections that penetrate the outside of the building can also be a source of water intrusion.

Home Maintenance Checklist

In our busy lives, most of us have forgotten the routine of seasonal maintenance, perhaps due to the dreaded spring cleaning.  But it’s important to make time for the steps to prevent big disruptions and expenses later.

Every Season

A change of season is a great reminder for maintenance tasks that should be performed every few months as measures that help to prevent problems, emergencies, and outright disasters.

  • The batteries in your smoke alarms should be checked at least once per quarter, preferably monthly.
  • You should check your clothes washer hoses for cracks and kinks.  Replace them if you have any doubts — they should be replaced every 5 years regardless.  Steel-braided types are by far less likely to rupture and are well worth the small added expense.
  • Check your sinks (including underneath inside the cabinet) as well as around the toilet for leaks.

It’s also a good idea to check for lint build-up in your dryer vent at least every season as it’s a serious fire hazard.

Fall

There’s a lot to be done in the fall in preparation for winter months of cold and rain.  Schedule yourself to do a few each week.  Otherwise, you’ll find yourself doing them out in the cold or risking mold and water damage problems.

  • Clean your gutters so that water doesn’t back up and make its way into eves and under shingles.  An overflowing gutter also dumps water right at your home’s foundation.  They were installed precisely to prevent that!
  • While you’re up there check out the roof for any damage from wind or tree limbs.  Also, check the general condition of shingles — they dry up and become brittle under summer sun’s heat and UV rays.
  • Check the weather stripping on doors and windows.  They prevent heat, water, and humidity leaks.
  • Prune trees so that limbs don’t brush against the roof or walls.  Remove limbs that are unhealthy or damaged.
  • Inspect the attic and crawl space for signs of water leaks or moisture accumulation.
  • If you have a sump pump, make sure it’s in great working order.
  • Insulate external hose connections to protect against freezing.
  • Shut down and sanitize your evaporative cooler.
  • To help prevent mold, make sure that bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans are working properly.

These steps all help to prevent water damage.  You should also consider professional chimney cleaning every few years to prevent fires from a build-up of highly flammable creosote. Did you know that even in the 21st century there are some 26 thousand chimney fires in the US each year?

Winter

Now that you know how to prepare for winter, there are only a few more things to do indoors.

  • Check the caulking around tubs, showers, and sinks.  These let in dampness that then becomes trapped.
  • On particularly cold mornings look around for condensation on windows and toilets, as well as on pipes inside cabinets or in the garage.

Spring

With mild temperatures returning, spring is a good time to catch up on exterior inspection and maintenance steps.

  • Has your central air conditioner inspected and tuned up in preparation for summer use?  That not only saves energy, but a clogged drain tube or other problem could lead to water damage.
  • Check your roof for any damage that may have occurred during winter storms.
  • Clean your gutters (yes, again).  Soon any debris will be a fire hazard.

Spring is also a good time to take action on some fire safety tips.  Clear away brush, weeds, and leaves near your home and make sure your fire extinguishers are in good shape (gauge needles in the green zone).  Most should be recharged after 5 years and replaced after 10 years.

Summer

Summer is vacation time, except for those every-season items.  It’s a good idea to have your furnace inspected each year before any chance of a cold snap.

 

10 Guidelines for Handling Water Damage Properly

What should you do after water damage?  Basically you have to get everything completely dry within 48 hours.  Otherwise you’re facing mold along with progressive destruction to flooring and drywall.  If you’re dealing with more than a small leak or overflow, flood water has probably made it’s way upwards inside walls and become trapped in all sorts of places.  Then it’s best to call in a certified firm such as Service First.  As an example, if you don’t discover a burst washing machine hose until an hour later that’s about the same of one or two inches of flooding.

Top Ten Guidelines for Dealing with Water Damage

  1. Protect yourself!  Wet floors are an electrocution hazard, so never enter a wet area without first turning off the electricity.  Germs and other health hazards get going quickly in flood water, so wear boots, gloves, and a face mask.  If raw sewage is involved, don’t tackle it yourself.  The health risks are just too great.
  2. If there’s a plumbing problem, shut off the main supply and don’t spend time tracking down the exact source until drying is well underway.
  3. For small areas you can use a properly grounded wet shop vacuum to remove water.  For larger soaked areas it’s best to call in professionals because once the flooding is gone you’ll need expert drying to get rid of the remaining moisture quickly enough.
  4. You may be able to save carpeting by lifting it up so that it can dry from both sides.  But it still might not be possible to rescue it.  Carpet padding is basically a sponge.  Get rid of it.  If the underlying sub-floor is damp, special drying equipment is likely needed.  If the carpeting survives without mold growth or staining, professional carpet cleaning is highly recommended.
  5. If its warm and dry outdoors ventilate with open windows and strong fans.  Otherwise keep windows and doors closed and speed the drying process with dehumidifiers.  Remember, everything has to be completely dry within a couple of days to prevent mold growth and other problems.
  6. Don’t use the heater as warmer temperatures help bacteria grow.  Don’t use central air conditioning as that circulates humidity and mold spores.
  7. You may have heard about putting documents, books, or photographs in the freezer.  That’s only good if it’s not a frost-free model — so nowadays that’s pretty much means no.  Let them air dry, and take critical items to a restoration specialist.
  8. Don’t place damp items in sealed plastic bags.  That traps in moisture.  Leave bags open, or better still wrap things in paper (but not newspaper — the ink bleeds).
  9. Wet porous items can be rinsed, but don’t scrub them as that rubs in contamination.  Metal items can be rinsed and then immediately dried with a soft cloth.  Whether building surfaces or possessions, use a mild disinfectant to get rid of most bacteria.
  10. Give appliances and electronics plenty of time to dry out after any dampness before testing them.

Major Flooding

If most of a room, or more, has been soaked you really need the expertise and special equipment of a water damage restoration specialist in order to dry out everything quickly enough to prevent secondary water damage.  If for any reason that’s not possible here are a few more guidelines.

  • Remove wet items from affected areas so both they and the room can dry faster.
  • Rescue valuable items first, but don’t neglect the building while attending to numerous possessions.
  • It’s unlikely you’ll be able to rescue mattresses and box springs, pillows, and particle board once they’ve gotten wet.  The same goes for ceiling tiles, cellulose insulation, and fiberglass insulation.
  • Removing baseboards and crown molding helps them as well as the wall dry.
  • If walls aren’t swollen or sagging, pockets of saturation can be dried by ventilating the cavity.  Otherwise building cavities need to be opened and exposed as the drywall will have to be replaced anyway.
  • Use only air drying for building materials.  Both lingering moisture and overly rapid drying cause wood to split and warp.

Resources

Instructions for proper water damage removal in all situations requires hundreds of pages and weeks of training.  We’ve only touched on the highlights here.  Along the way we’ve found the following web resources to be particularly helpful for a homeowner or business owner.

 

The Top 10 Reasons You Should Call A Water Damage Specialist

Most people don’t give water damage a second thought until there’s a mold outbreak, the floor starts to sag right around a leaky toilet, or there are water stains on the ceiling.  But by then there’s already a lot of expensive to repair the damage that could have been prevented.

So when should you bring in a water damage specialist?  Always.

Well, not if it’s a spilled glass of soda.

But it doesn’t take a whole lot more than that to lead to problems.  Several factors come into play, so there’s no specific guidance based on the number of gallons or square feet affected.  The IICRC (see below) recommends professional water damage restoration services for anything beyond a small area of wet carpet.  So have a professional assessment if there are any doubts.  You could be saving big time on mold remediation and repair costs.

About Water Damage

Many building materials act like sponges, soaking up enough water in minutes to take weeks to dry out.  Harmful levels of moisture can reach all the way to the innermost structure of the building, including moving upwards by wicking.  Destruction gets going in just a day or two and can continue for weeks and weeks.

  • Physical destruction occurs because most porous materials swell as they absorb moisture.  Wood warps, buckles, cups, and splits.  Sheetrock and gypsum board sag and crumble.  And so on.
  • Mold growth can get out of control in as little as 24 hours at indoor temperatures (60-70 deg F).
  • Bacteria also thrive.  That gives rise to odors, rotting wood, and other decay, and potentially additional health hazards.

Since dampness penetrates into places you can’t see and can remain long after surfaces feel dry, all that can be going on without any obvious signs.

Reasons to Call in Restoration Professionals

Inspection and remediation are surprisingly technical.  Doing things right requires a contractor specializing in water damage restoration, not ordinary cleaners, repairmen, or construction crews.  Many people prefer independently owned and operated companies, but the most important factor is highly trained certified technicians.

At the very least, professional water damage restoration services are a sort of insurance to check that everything’s OK.  At the other extreme, it can save you tens of thousands of dollars of repair costs.  So here are those top-10 reasons.

Reason Number 10: Your Peace of Mind

It doesn’t take standing water to cause extensive destruction.  An expert knows exactly what to look for, how to find hidden problems, and how to assess the extent of the damage.  They’ll evaluate your specific situation so you’ll know exactly what is and isn’t, needed.

Reason Number 9:  No Work For You

Pulling up carpet, removing baseboards, cleaning, disinfecting, and so on are a lot of work.  You’re already busy with your job and family — who wants to give up what little free time they have?  Especially when any delay or mistake can have big consequences.

Reason Number 7:  Special Equipment

The key to water damage restoration is rapid drying all the way down to the core of the building.  And that takes high-capacity pumps, water extraction vacuums way more powerful than shop wet vacs or carpet cleaners, high-performance dehumidifiers, high-volume blowers, HEPA vacuums and air filters, and special deodorizing equipment.  Inspections need sensitive leak detection and location instruments as well as meters that can detect moisture well past visible surfaces.

Reason Number 6:  Training, Skill, & Experience

For the best outcome, you need an expert inspection, highly-skilled services, and a staff experienced in working with insurance companies on water claims.  There are countless details in drying, cleaning, and restoration such as when to remove baseboards, when and how to check for damp insulation, and how to use measurements to keep the drying process proceeding as rapidly as possible.  And that takes a team of technicians certified in various specialties including bacterial and mold removal and microbial remediation.  Along with all that, keeping insurance claims proceeding smoothly requires a thorough understanding of loss documentation for proof of damage in claims filing.

Reason Number 8:  Expert Repairs

A lot of people can replace a section of drywall, and some companies will be happy to replace flooring.  But do they know how to assess indications of further damage that they’re about to cover up?  That requires a detailed understanding of how dampness migrates and how it affects each and every type of construction material.

Reason Number 5:  Reduces Damage and Costs

Prevention is almost always less expensive than a cure.  Immediate water restoration performed by specialists mitigates against further deterioration.  It’s often possible to avoid replacing carpet or even soaked hardwood flooring.  But neglect can lead to major structural damage.  Then the cost of recovery can be crippling if it isn’t covered by insurance.

Minimizing damage is time critical.  Even deep-down excess moisture must be eliminated as fast as possible so there’s no room for delays or mistakes.  As little as 24 hours can make a difference for carpet, wood floors, and mold growth; 48 hours for drywall and textiles

Reason Number 4:  Your Insurance May Require It

And may pay for it.

Justifiably, insurance companies don’t pay for repairing the damage that could have been prevented.  So policies stipulate that certain mitigation measures must be performed within certain time limits, and the cost of taking those measures is often covered.  And when those requirements are met anything that does develop should also be covered.  Unless you are familiar with each and every detail it’s easy to miss something that results in part of a claim being denied.

Reason Number 3:  Health Risks

Even if you know to shut off the electricity before entering a flooded area there can still be safety hazards from debris and structural damage.  And even minor incidents have or will soon have health hazards.  Water from clean sources (Category 1) soon becomes contaminated.  Category 2 water from dishwashers, clothes washers, and the like start out with bacteria and nutrients.  Ground flooding and sewage (Category 3) is teeming with bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

So mold and floodwater have to be treated with extreme caution and absolutely thorough sanitization.  And that means using fungicides and bactericides not available to general public plus the knowledge to treat areas most people wouldn’t even think of.

Reason Number 2:  Rescues More Possessions

In addition to minimizing building damage, water damage specialists can save more of the building’s contents.  Besides valuable items such as furniture, appliances, and electronics their expertise and special equipment can rescue priceless items such as family heirlooms, personal treasures, and business records that would otherwise be lost.

And The Number 1 Reason Is…

Getting Your Life Back to Normal Quickly

By acting promptly, working efficiently, and mitigating against further destruction professional water specialists get you back into your regular daily routine as quickly as possible.

Without them, you’re likely to need more extensive repairs within a few days, or still be discovering new problems weeks later.  It’s quicker and a lot less disruptive to dry a hardwood floor than to replace it!

Discover More

The non-profit  IICRC (Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification) is a worldwide leader in the cleaning and restoration industry, professional water damage restoration services in particular.  You can find more details and a few more reasons to hire professional services on these consumer-oriented web pages.

http://www.iicrc.org/how-restoration-company-handles-water-damage-a-325.html

http://www.iicrc.org/always-call-professional-for-flood-restoration-services-a-336.html

 

Easy Ways to Prevent Water Damage

It’s a fact.  Your home or business is some 10 times more likely to be hit by water damage than by fire damage.  And even including theft, around 1/4 of all home insurance claims are from water damage.  But don’t think it’s all nature’s fury.  Most incidents result from some sort of leak in the roof, plumbing, or appliances.  So it’s actually easy to prevent water damage in your home or business, and part of good home maintenance.  The list of tips below is rather lengthy, but don’t feel overwhelmed and never get around to it.  Just use the bullet items as a checklist and set a goal of checking off one or two each week.

Water Damage

We have a couple of sayings:  “minor leaks aren’t” and “there’s no such thing as minor flooding.”  It doesn’t take a very big leak or all that much water all at once (sometimes on the scale of just a gallon) for areas to stay damp for weeks.  The surface may feel dry, but water can be trapped deeply beneath.  Besides mold growth, that leads to warped, split, and rotting wood… destroyed drywall… and more.  All that can be going on for days, weeks, or even months before the destruction becomes visible and obvious.

Stop It Before It Even Starts

Your first line of defense is keeping water and dampness at bay, so here’s our list of how to prevent destruction from ever getting started.  Our first tip is one of the most important.

  • Know where your shut-off valve is! It usually takes a special tool to turn it, so be sure you know where that is as well.

Otherwise, you could well be facing 500 gallons or more per hour until help arrives.  Next, your water bill can actually be your friend.

  • Keep an eye out for any jump in your water bill. Surprisingly, that’s often the first indication of a problem with the plumbing.

For the rest of our list of tips for preventing water damage, the central theme is good business facility and home maintenance.

Your Property

  • Check for water leaks in the building, especially around doors and windows.  There may be obvious gaps, or tell-tale signs such as discolored paint or caulk.  Dark areas of wood also indicate water damage.
  • Inspect your roof at least once a year and make sure that any damaged shingles are replaced.  Take a few trips up in the attic with a good flashlight and look for dark, discolored, moldy, or damaged areas.
  • Seal any cracks in the foundation as well as wall penetrations such as pipes and wiring.
  • Check for dampness, mold, or dark spots inside sink cabinets and around toilets, tubs, and showers.
  • Replace any broken tub, shower, or floor tile (or damaged grout) immediately.
  • Disconnect outdoor hoses before freezing weather.
  • Check roof gutters and down spouts. If water backs up your gutters it can make its way into the building, including hard to spot places in the attic and inside walls.
  • Make sure there’s adequate drainage away from the house or business.  Experts suggest a slope of at least 6 inches for every 10 feet; if not down spouts should extend to 5 to 10 feet away from the building. (https://www.houselogic.com/organize-maintain/home-maintenance-tips/how-to-prevent-water-damage/).
  • Condensation on the insides of windows indicates an indoor moisture problem.
  • Keep an eye on indoor humidity with an inexpensive meter.  Indoor relative humidity should be 30-50%.  If not, consider portable or whole-house dehumidifiers.

Plumbing and Appliances

  • Check your washing machine hoses from time to time; they’re a major source of major trouble. If they’re just “rubber” and not steel braided replace, them as soon as possible.  Otherwise replace them every 5 years or so.
  • If you’re often away, consider installing an automatic shutoff valve.
  • Consider purchasing water detection alarms for places such as near the water heater, washing machine, and dishwasher.
  • Check the building’s water pressure with an inexpensive meter.  Readings should be in the range of 50-70 psi (pounds per square inch).  Anything above 100 psi puts excess stress on appliances and plumbing.
  • Don’t neglect your water heater.  Major leaks and burst tanks are a common cause of home insurance claims.
  • Check for water leaks in the plumbing using the utility’s meter.  You should be able to find specific instructions at your water company’s website.  A leak detection specialist uses far more sensitive instruments to detect plumbing issues, and is usually well worth the trouble.  They also have infrared imaging cameras that help track down building water leaks as well.
  • Never use caustic drain cleaners — they can indeed damage pipes and can cause leaks with repeated use.
  • To avoid a water backup in the sink, never pour grease down a sink or toilet.  It solidifies and builds up inside pipes.

If you’re in a flood-risk area you can do more than just have the right business or home insurance policy.  Any ground floor remodeling and additions should use stone, tile, sealed concrete, and waterproof wall board.  There are also many construction details that can help, right down to the type of nails used.  If there’s any below grade areas make sure you have a sump pump and that it’s properly maintained and working properly.

Once It Happens

Unfortunately, preventing water damage is never a sure thing.  Once there’s been a sudden soaking there’s only 24-48 hours before mold growth and other water damage really get going.  If it’s just a small area you can speed drying by using a shop wet-vac, lifting carpet, and using fans 24 hours a day for at least several days, often a week or more.  If the weather is dry open windows, otherwise use a room dehumidifier.

If an entire room is affected or if there’s been standing water, then professional remediation services are a must to prevent water damage.  Service First a licensed contractor and a leading damage restoration company with the latest equipment and certified technicians to take care of all of your property — furniture and possessions as well as the building itself.  We accept all insurance and can be there in an hour or less 24/7.