Fall Maintenance Tips

Fall foliage is beautiful, but not when it builds up in your gutters! Take these tips into account during the cool autumn months.

  • Have your furnace cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified technician.
  • Keep flammable materials, including all lawn and power equipment, away from water heaters and wiring in the basement.
  • Insulate water pipes in areas exposed to cold temperatures, and turn up the thermostat during extra cold periods.
  • Check for damage to your roof, and clean gutters and downspouts to keep debris from accumulating. This is especially important during the fall season to keep leaves from building up in gutters.
  • Check and repair caulking around doors and windows that show signs of deterioration.
  • Check caulking around showers, bathtubs, sinks and toilet bases; and make repairs as needed.
  • Have your chimney cleaned and maintained annually by a professional.
  • Clean and/or replace your furnace filter.
  • Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct and space under the dryer. Remove all lint, dust, and pieces of material.
  • Check your electrical outlets for potential fire hazards such as frayed wires or loose-fitting plugs. Be sure not to overload electrical outlets, fuse boxes, extension cords or any other power service.
  • Keep a multi-purpose fire extinguisher accessible, filled and ready for operation.
  • Inspect your smoke detectors. Make sure there is one on each floor of your home. Test them monthly, and change the battery annually or as needed.

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Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome

Hantavirus is carried by some mice and may be transmitted through contact with their droppings. Most cases occur in the spring during cleaning when people may breathe in air borne particles.

  • Early symptoms are similar to the flu, but can quickly develop into severe breathing problems and in some cases hantavirus infection can be fatal.

The incidence of the hantavirus and the risk it poses to the public is low. However, particularly in the spring, when the weather improves and people spend more time outdoors and doing spring cleaning, remember to keep any risk to a minimum and take precautions to avoid hantavirus infection.

The only confirmed carrier of the hantavirus in Alberta is the deer mouse (reddish-brown or in some cases grey, but always with white fur on the underside of the neck, belly, feet, and tail). However, it is possible that other rodents may carry the virus and it is not always easy to determine what kind of mouse one is exposed to (particularly when the only evidence is droppings). The virus does not appear to have any effect on mice which carry it.

  • All rodents should be treated as potential carriers.

Precautions

The main risk of infection comes from being exposed to accumulations of mouse droppings in enclosed areas — for example, cleaning a garage or shed that mice have been living in during the winter. Hantavirus is passed to humans when they breathe in airborne particles released from the droppings, fresh urine and nesting material of infected rodents.

The virus does not appear to cause any illness in pets. Even if they are exposed to the virus, dogs and cats do not pass the infection on to their owners. The virus is also not passed from one person to another.

  • The most effective precaution against infection is to keep rodents out of homes and work areas, and immediately trap any that get in.
  • Ventilate enclosed areas before cleaning by opening doors and windows for at least 30 minutes. Stay out of the area while it airs out.
  • When you begin cleaning, disturb as little as possible, mouse droppings and nesting material.
  • Wear rubber gloves to handle the droppings. Rinse the gloves in disinfectant (such as bleach solution or soap and water) before taking them off.
  • Soak droppings with disinfectant (1.5 cups bleach to 1 gallon water) before you mop them up or pick up with a paper towel. Place them in a sealed bag and bury it, or put it out for removal in garbage cans with tight-fitting lids.
  • Do not sweep or use a vacuum cleaner to remove droppings in an enclosed space.
  • People who are likely to be exposed to high levels of contamination or in spaces with little ventilation should wear masks (see link below for further information).

Symptoms

If a person is infected, the disease appears within one to five weeks. Initial symptoms resemble the flu, including fever, body aches, abdominal problems, but if hantavirus is involved this can progress to severe trouble breathing. Anyone who develops difficulty breathing and has recently been in an area contaminated by rodents should see a doctor immediately.

  • Even where its incidence among mice is highest, hantavirus infects only a tiny proportion of people who come in contact with it. However, in the few people who develop hantavirus infection, it can be fatal in one-third of the cases, if left untreated.
  • There is no specific cure but early treatment in an Intensive Care Unit reduces the risk of death.

Deer mice surveys for hantavirus were done in Alberta around a decade ago. Between 4% and 23% of mice were positive. There was no correlation between the number of mice and the number of human cases.

Hantavirus is not a new risk to public health, and there is no evidence that it is increasing or spreading. All that is new is our ability to recognize it and deal with it more effectively through early diagnosis and treatment.

  • The virus has existed in North America for many years, but was only recognized for the first time in May of 1993, in New Mexico.

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Smoke Detectors

A properly installed and maintained smoke alarm is the first thing in your home that can alert you and your family to a fire 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Home fire sprinklers can also alert you, but are a few seconds slower than smoke alarms. Whether you’re awake or asleep, a working smoke alarm is constantly on alert, scanning the air for fire and smoke.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms. A working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire.

What Powers A Smoke Detector?

Smoke alarms are powered by battery or by your home’s electrical system. If the smoke alarm is powered by battery, it runs on either a disposable 9-volt battery or a non-replaceable 10-year lithium (“long-life”) battery. Alarms that get power from your home’s electrical system, or “hardwired,” usually have a back-up battery that will need to be replaced once a year.

Simple Smoke Detector Placement

  • Put smoke alarms on every floor of your home. Also, in every bedroom and in the hallway outside of each sleeping area.
  • Choose smoke alarms that communicate with each other, so that if one alarm sounds they all will.
  • Place smoke alarms on the ceiling or high on the wall. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for the best place for your alarm.
  • Only qualified electricians should install hardwired smoke alarms.

Maintenance

Is your smoke alarm still working? A smoke alarm with a dead or missing battery is the same as having no smoke alarm at all.

A smoke alarm only works when it is properly installed and regularly maintained. Maintain your smoke alarms according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Below are some general maintenance tips.

9 Volt Battery

  • Test the alarm monthly.
  • Replace the batteries at least once every year.
  • Replace the entire smoke alarm every 10 years.

10 Year Lithium

  • Test the alarm monthly.
  • Since you cannot (and should not) replace the lithium battery, replace the entire smoke alarm according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  

Hardwired

  • Test the alarm monthly.
  • Replace the backup battery at least once every year.
  • Replace the entire smoke alarm every 10 years.

What To Do When Your Detector Goes Off While Cooking

Never disable a smoke alarm while cooking! If a smoke alarm sounds while you’re cooking or taking a shower with lots of steam, do not remove the battery. You should:

  • Open a window or door and press the “hush” button.
  • Wave a towel at the alarm to clear the air.
  • Move the entire alarm several feet away from the kitchen or bathroom.

Disabling a smoke alarm or removing the battery can be a deadly mistake.

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Mold Certifications

Many potential clients seemingly overlook a question that is very important when searching for a mold remediation firm.  They know to ask, “are you certified?”  But never ask, “where did you acquire your certification from?”  To understand why this is such a vital question, you must first understand the differences between certification firms.  99% of all mold and water restoration companies are certified through organizations who have online courses.  These courses are done on their own time and the testing is done the same fashion.  There’s no way for the certification firm to monitor the test, so the individual taking the exam can simply look up the answers. The more alarming fact is that their certification has no expiration date.  If they took and passed their exam in the year 1999, their certification would still be valid.  Some firms require a renewal fee which is usually a small amount of money every two years or so, but again, their cert will be valid forever.

A company like ours is certified through an organization that requires In Class course study and an exam in the same class which is monitored.  To keep your certification valid, continuing education courses each year are required which keep you up to date or refresh yourself on remediation steps and new products.  The reason that this is important is because all industries in every market change, and to think that earning a certification 15 years earlier is good enough, would be foolish.  

So when searching for any remediation company, or any company that is required to have certification, remember to not only ask are they certified, but where was their certification earned.  It is also within your right to ask for proof, as all major certification firms give paperwork proving that the contractor is indeed certified.

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Conflict of Interest

Many jobs that I go into that require removal of drywall or plaster need to be rebuilt.  Home owners continually ask us if we do the reconstruction and the response is always no.  Some ask why, and my response is that it is a conflict of interest.  Let me take a few minutes to explain how.  The first example will be a finished basement that has 6 inches of mold from the floor up.  

The removal required for this project would be 24 inches passed the infected area or 30 inches up the wall.  For us, cutting it at 30 inches is necessary and is completed without any thought.  For the contractor doing the reconstruction, there’s two ways he may look at it.  One, by laying a piece of drywall down sideways it is now 4 feet in height and 8 feet in length.  By removing 30 inches, he will now have 18 inches of excess.  So, he may decide to compromise the removal to only 2 feet in total height because then he will have two full length pieces of drywall totaling 16 feet.  Or, he removes more than he was supposed to and cuts out the full four feet in height so a full sheet of drywall can be used, while charging the customer more for the additional demo claiming, “it needed to come out.”  Either way the reconstruction compromised the proper remediation process.

The next example is something that happens very often and is the reason that general contractors get into mold.  You noticed mold growth in your kitchen.  When we come out to the job, we do the necessary removal because there isn’t a benefit for us to do otherwise.  But the reconstruction mold company completely demos your kitchen entirely claiming there’s mold everywhere so now they have a huge kitchen rebuild.  They just turned a $3,000 job into a $25,000 one.  This example can be for any room of your home, or for any company that uses mold as an avenue to get additional work.  From waterproofing companies to masons and general contractors, mold can be very lucrative when they get into reconstruction.  

What I constantly tell customers and potential clients is that you don’t hire an electrician to do your plumbing work, and you don’t hire a general contractor to do your mold.  By visiting their websites you can clearly understand what they specialize in.  When visiting a page and you see nothing but scare tactics of Black Mold and their photo gallery showing new basements they rebuilt, then you know they don’t specialize in mold.  And another thing to watch out for is companies claiming their years of experience.  I’ve noticed companies of late saying, “25 Years of Experience,” while their business was started just a year or two earlier and their certifications were earned at the same time.  If you do your research, it will be easy to know who you are hiring.  

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Smoke Odor Removal in Furniture

Seeking out professional help for smoke odor removal, especially in the case of carpets and upholstery, is the first correct step in obtaining proper smell extraction.  This ordeal can be very costly and time consuming for an individual to experiment with on their own, which is why many local professionals are available to help home owners who have suffered the unfortunate fate of this scenario.

First off, ascertaining the severity of the situation is one of the most important aspects in obtaining an accurate quote from a professional beforehand. Additionally, keeping a close watch on the amount of time that has elapsed since the smell had first entered the fibers will also dramatically change the amount of time and overall cost of the cleaning. If weeks have gone by without any professional aid, carpets and upholstery may become permanently damaged, suffering discoloration among other things.

Smoke odor removal professionals will first get rid of any residue that’s physically left on the surface of the fibers.  The first actual deodorizing element to the process is to eliminate any sources of the smell, including any unsalvageable materials that cannot be processed properly and thus, must be disposed of. Next, a thorough cleaning of any salvageable surfaces will be imperative in further eliminating the smell and keeping it from reoccurring.

Since the smell is airborne in nature, professionals will need to create a type of fog that is comprised of cleaning agents and is pumped into the area to eliminate smells that fill the room. If it’s needed, items in the room may be sealed off and quarantined to avoid any exposure to the smell during the odor extraction.

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