Part 2: Containment
Continuing our Blog on Required Restoration Equipment, in this post we’ll focus on the containment. Prior to any project beginning, a remediation contractor must construct a containment barrier between the infected area and the other areas which aren’t infected. Failure to do so will result in the possibility of cross contamination and spore exposure. Containment of the work area is not as simple as just installing plastic barriers, but also the air machines needed to control airborne spores. An Air Scrubber is a machine designed to remove particles, gases, or chemicals from the air within a given area. Negative Air machines are basically the same but use a duct to filter the collected air to the exterior of the property. Intense continuous sources of contamination require air volume to be cleaned 5 to 6 times per hour. Thus, the use of a commercial grade air machine is needed since home models will never exchange the air at such a rate. Air Machines are also equipped with HEPA filters and Carbon filters, which will remove airborne particles and chemicals. It is vital for a remediation contractor to have the proper amount of air machines needed to insure all airborne particles and chemicals are removed during the project. These machines work on square feet, so each unit is different depending on size and on most projects, multiple units are needed. Plastic barriers are then next. Sealing off the contaminated section of the property from the “Clean” portion, is one of the most important steps in the remediation process. This will insure not only that the “Clean” portion will be free from contamination, but also will assist in odors from mold cleaning chemicals from being spread throughout the home. Each job we take on usually takes a couple to several hours just to construct the proper containment area, even before any work is begun. Insuring that our containment area is properly constructed while also being free from any leaks, is absolutely vital. The use of 6 mil polyethylene is also important, because 4 mil poly is too thin and easily punctured. If your contractor does not build a proper containment, or doesn’t know anything about it, then you know that their remediation work is most likely not any better. Their are also many other things needed to be done, such as covering all vents, as not to allow any spores into the ventilation system. Not hiring the right remediation contractor could cost you thousands of dollars in the long run, by having to do the project again, because improper containment will result in cross contamination and exposure on the other areas of the property. To schedule an appointment, feel free to call our office at anytime, or visit our website at biowashing.com.
Part 1: HEPA Vacuums
Through years of being in the restoration business I’ve started to notice a recurring theme seen mostly in mold remediation companies: Lack of Required Equipment. One of those required and industry standard pieces of equipment when doing any restoration project that should be used, is a HEPA vacuum. HEPA, which stands for HIgh Efficiency Particulate Air, is a type of air filter that the EPA and the United States Department of Energy require as a standard for Lead and Mold Remediation projects. A HEPA air filter must remove 99.97% of all particles greater than 0.3 microns from the air that passes through the canister or system itself. The use of HEPA filters is beneficial for asthma and allergy sufferers, because the filter traps fine particles such as pollen, spores and dust mite feces, which trigger allergy and asthma symptoms. But for a vacuum cleaner to be effective, that cleaner must be a True HEPA system. The main difference between a vacuum cleaner with just a HEPA filter and a True HEPA system, is that all of the air passing through the cabin of the system itself will pass through the HEPA filter, and the unit will not have cabin leaks. Vacuums that simply have just HEPA filters on them but are not True HEPA units allow air into the system that passes through the filter, but also through the cabin which then will allow spores and pollen back into the air through the exhaust causing re-contamination. But True HEPA vacuums will only allow all air to pass through the filter and the air in the cabin that will soon pass through the exhaust will be cleaned. So why doesn’t every contractor in remediation have True HEPA vacuums? One reason may be knowledge of proper products and cleaning methods, and the other may be the cost. True HEPA systems cost 5 to 7 times more than traditional wet/dry vacuums with HEPA filters. True HEPA vacuums also have specifically designed filters that are up to 10 tens more of a cost than regular HEPA filters found in large department stores. When hiring a remediation contractor for such projects as mold, lead based material removal, water damage restoration, trauma scene clean up, and other such types of projects, be sure to check the equipment being used. True HEPA vacuums have HEPA stamped on the unit. A further check into the equipment would be to look at the manufacturing labels and check with the manufacturer themselves to insure that the unit itself is deemed for the type of work being completed. For further information, please visit our website biowashing.com.
Having a loss in your home can be a very traumatic and stressful experience especially when dealing with your insurance company. The first choice you have when putting in a claim is decide whether or not you want to handle the claim yourself, or file through a public adjuster. A public adjuster advocates for the policy holder in appraising and negotiating the value of the loss directly with your insurance company. They handle all of the paperwork and work on a contingency basis. The advantage to a public adjuster is that they know the ins and outs of your policy and will maximize your claim. The downside to an adjuster is that not all of them are knowledgeable, or truly care enough about getting you the most money possible, so doing your homework prior to hiring an adjuster would be extremely beneficial. If you do decide to handle the claim yourself, the first thing you need to know is that you do not have to hire the restoration contractor that the insurance company requests. These contractors are hired by the insurance through national accounts and most, if not all, are franchise based companies who are in business to work side by side with the insurance carriers. This means, the franchises benefit from claims sent directly to them from the carrier, but also want to minimize the size of the claim in favor of the insurance company to keep the relationship stable. Now most would ask, wouldn’t they want the most money possible from the insurance company? The answer is both yes and no. Yes, some franchises will do more than what’s called for or will work on your behalf to insure the loss is handled properly. But most will not because the volume of work they get through the insurance company is so vast, that your claim really doesn’t matter to them whether i is done correctly or not. And honestly, most of the these franchise owners do not have the experience or industry knowledge to restore a home properly to pre-loss conditions. So in turn, you as the policy holder can hire whichever restoration company you choose, as this is your legal right by law. When handling a claim yourself, here’s a few other tips:
- Carefully review your policy in full detail
- Take photos and video of the loss and document all dates.
- Document and itemize the damage to the property and the items.
- Make temporary repairs. (If plumbing was the cause of the loss, get it fixed immediately)
- Don’t assume things aren’t covered nor accept that response from the adjuster.
- Be prepared for what can be a long and arduous fight.
Knowing your rights and your policy throughout can aid you a great deal when handling the policy yourself. And remember, if this seems too much for you to handle or if you feel out of your element, hiring a public adjuster prior to making any calls to your insurance company is always a great option. biowashing.com
Many homeowners today neglect the importance of regularly cleaning out their gutters. Gutters and downspouts prevent damage to fascia boards and will deter puddling which can later cause damage to your foundation walls. Allowing a build up of dirt and leaves into the gutter will cause overflowing and back ups in the drainage system that can leak into your basement. Clean gutters will collect rain waters into their piping system and channel rain away from the home which can cause major damage. Gutters can be cleaned out by a professional, but also done by home owners themselves if they are comfortable climbing ladders and can do the process safely. Many basement water issues are caused by homes not having rain water properly flowing away from the home. The first step in this process is to add regular gutter cleaning as apart of your home maintenance. This will save you thousands of dollars in future damage to your roof, landscapes and your basement. If you decide to clean your own gutters, be sure to be safe when climbing ladders and where the proper protection to insure no bodily harm.
In a short addition to our Blog, we’ll discuss the importance of being certified in both Mold Inspection and Mold Remediation. The first and foremost reason that such paperwork is required is because without proper certifications, insurance carriers will not issue a mold cert for the contractor. And without mold insurance, home owners are not covered if the remediation should fail, if there is cross contamination or any other complication with the mold removal. Prior to hiring any contractor, and without question before any contract is signed, ask your contractor for their certification in Mold Inspection, Mold Remediation and a certificate of insurance. And be sure to call their insurance provider to insure the policy is still active and up to date, and that the work being preformed in your home is covered under their policy. Any contractor refusing or delaying in providing such information is most likely not certified or insured or both. Visit our website at biowashing.com
Infants raised in a home with moldy areas may be more likely to develop childhood asthma. A new study shows that infants who lived in moldy homes were nearly three times more likely to have childhood asthma by age 7.
“Early life exposure to mold seems to play a critical role in childhood asthma development,” researcher Tina Reponen, PhD, professor of environmental health at the University of Cincinnati, says in a news release. “This study should motivate expectant parents — especially if they have a family history of allergy or asthma — to correct water damage and reduce the mold burden in their homes to protect the respiratory health of their children,” Reponen says.
Mold Tied to Asthma Risk
In the study, published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, researchers looked at factors associated with the risk of developing childhood asthma in a group of 176 children followed from birth in the Cincinnati, Ohio, and Northern Kentucky area.
Mold exposure in the home was measured using EPA standards, and the children were evaluated for asthma at age 7. The results showed that 18% of the children had childhood asthma by age 7. Children who lived in a home rated as having a high level of mold during the first year of life were 2.6 times more likely to have asthma as those who lived in homes with a low level of mold.
Researchers found that other factors associated with an increased childhood asthma risk were a family history of asthma and an allergic sensitization to dust mites. The study also showed that air-conditioning at home slightly reduced the risk of childhood asthma development. Researchers say about 9% of school-aged children in the U.S. will develop asthma. Symptoms of childhood asthma can range from a nagging cough to episodes of shortness of breath and wheezing that require emergency treatment.
Home owners looking for a contractor make a major mistake when checking a contractor’s insurance. I see between 400 to 500 projects per year and meet many potential clients and home owners. And although most home owners understand the risk of allowing a contractor to perform work on your property without having insurance, many never ask. Some do ask from time to time, but most will do that, just ask. Very few homes owners ever ask to see proof of insurance and check if the insurance provided covers the type of work being preformed. Focusing on mold removal as an example, this is one of the most difficult insurance policies to find because of the risk. I have noticed that most of my competitors do not carry mold or pollution insurance because they may have had previous claims, or because of the main reason, the cost. Mold/Pollution insurance is one of the highest types of construction policies to have, and many remediation companies will not carry this type of insurance. Most will get just liability insurance, but if your home should be cross contaminated after project is completed, your home will not be covered for any losses. Be sure to ask your contractor for a copy of his or her insurance and check with the insurance company to see if the policy is still active. Remember, most policies can be written with one year terms but canceled on the first month for many reasons, and the contractor will still have a policy with a valid date. So to insure your not a victim of this type of fraud, call the provider and check the accuracy of the policy, while also asking if the policy covers your home if there should be any damage. You may also request that your home is listed on the insurance policy if you are doing a large job or if there are any machine rentals or the use of heavy equipment. And if the company uses subcontractors, which is something we never do, be sure that that sub has the proper insurance as well. These little details can and will save you thousands of dollars and possible litigation of there should be any problem on the job. As for us, we carry 2 million dollars worth of Mold Removal, Pollution, and General Liability insurance and have a copy of our policy readily available to view at any time.
Over the last fifteen plus years that we’ve been in business, there is one particular item we hear from new home owners quite often. Why didn’t the home inspector notice the problem? Many new home buyers purchase a home and also walk into thousands of dollars in repairs they never anticipated. From water damage, to hidden mold issues to even homes that flood during rains, this is a very common occurrence. So why didn’t the home inspector notice the issues before the sale of the property? Most likely because they never saw it, or are totally unaware of what they’re doing. We’ve come across many home inspection companies that are very highly trained and extremely experienced that give multi-paged, detailed documentation of everything in the home. But we’ve also come across many home inspectors that are just there to either collect a check, or be in the back pocket of the real estate and/or mortgage lender, to insure the sale goes through. Thousands of dollars in commission to both the real estate agent and underwriter are on the line, while hundreds of thousands of dollars are also on the line for the banks. The home inspector sometimes has the fate of the sale on their report, and with that, many agencies hire the same inspectors to insure the reports come back clean, or with very few minor issues. I’ve met some, and when I say some I mean a very small amount of home inspectors that have years of home building experience or even engineering degrees. I’m not saying you need an engineering degree to become a reliable and trustworthy inspector, but the inspector should be a person with many years of home building, remodeling or developing experience which gives them the knowledge and know how to find the slightest problem which can cost many new home buyers thousands of unforeseen dollars. But in today’s market, many, (not all), home inspectors are either failed contractors, persons looking for side money from their real job, or exterminators. Why would an exterminator become a home inspector? Because many real estate companies find it easier to call one person who can handle the home inspection and the termite certification, rather than calling two separate companies. And with real estate being a business known for shelling out “Kick Backs” for a wide range of items, home inspectors are also guilty of giving these back door payments for the inspection job. The answer to this problem is to find a very reliable agency that does a thorough home inspection. The cheaper the company sometimes results in the quicker inspection, which in turn results in many unforeseen items. A normal home inspection should take between two to four hours and should be very detailed. By doing some investigation before hiring a home inspector, you could be saving yourself thousands of dollars in the long run. Remember, it is one of the very few if only, businesses that make you sign a waiver prior to the inspection, which removes them from taking any responsibility from their negligence or wrong doing. Hiring experienced and reputable home inspectors is a great solution in knowing exactly what your getting into before the same of your next home.
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