They’re Everywhere

When one is gone, three more show up.  It feels that way in the restoration business and you should be concerned.  Not long ago, a one time major restoration company went out of business.  They had several trucks, ten to twelve employees and over one hundred and fifty thousand dollars worth of equipment, not to mention several locations.  But their practices of short cutting, overcharging customers and scamming insurance claims through shady public adjusters finally caught up.  That sounds like like the end of the story right?  But it’s not.  The employees of companies like this, either basic tech’s or supervisors behind the scams start businesses not long after.  They buy the used equipment off of their previous defunct employer, lease a new truck, get a new name and claim to have many years of experience.  So how do you protect yourself?

First, you can ask for a copy of their license, which you have every right too.  Contractors can block out personal information on a license or EIN form, but they should never hide when the company was filed.  Another way to find out how long they’ve been in business, is to use sites that track website analytics which usually display the date of when the domain was registered and how long the site has been up.  Lastly, ask questions.  There’s nothing wrong with asking a contractor where their office is located, if they have one, where did they previously work and can they show documentation as to the training they claim.  Remember, hiring a contractor is a short term partnership and you’re allowing someone not only into your home, but into your life.

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Hiring Franchises

Recently I went into a home where they had a major leak from a second floor sink.  The water damaged some walls and flooring on the second floor, but did most of it’s damage was to the first floor and basement.  The insurance company pushed the owner for their “approved contractor,” and she agreed not realizing she had a choice to hire whomever she wanted.  After six weeks they completed the job which should have taken five to six days, because they weren’t showing up everyday and going to other jobs.  This behavior is common for these types of companies and even some people reading this right now know exactly what I mean because they’ve experienced it  Be it that it took so long for them to take care of the home and properly dry it, mold has surfaced.  That’s where we come in.

We gave the owner a price that was just over ten thousand dollars to correct an issue that should have never occurred, and wouldn’t have if we were hired first.  I say it time and time again, that you have the right to hire any contractor of your choosing when it comes to an insurance job on your property, as long as they’re certified and insured.  Most franchises in restoration could care less about doing the job right because they’re more interested in placing equipment in your home.  So remember a few tips:

  1. If you have a loss in your home, you can hire whomever you chose.
  2. Any company performing work in your home which is being paid through your policy, is still responsible to show up every day and complete the work in a fashion as if you were paying them out of pocket.
  3. You can communicate directly with your insurance agent if you have an issue with any company they sent out, and you shouldn’t wait until they’re finished.
  4. Ask for a copy of the invoice and double check exactly what they’ve done as compared to what they’re billing for.  Remember, even though you may not being paying for this expense out of pocket, you will eventually as the insurance company most likely will raise your premium.
  5. You can still fire any company the insurance company sends out if they cause more damage t your home or don’t show up as promised.  You are not at their mercy.

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Water Damage in Wayne Pa

Overlooking routine maintenance to heaters/air conditioning units can lead to several problems, including water backups and leaks.  Condensate lines often leak from either being clogged or the pumps breaking.  The pictures below show damage to a finished basement where the unit leaked for some time prior to being discovered.

Tips To Prevent Pipes From Freezing

Until recently, not many people knew what an Arctic Vortex is, but with one bearing down on the northern U.S. over the next few days, everybody’s talking about it. As it brings record-breaking cold, here’s what you need to know to keep your pipes from freezing.

Be Prepared

“Preparation is key,” says Pat Porzio, heating ventilation and air conditioning manager for Russo Brothers Plumbing in East Hanover, NJ. “Cut some blocks out of foam insulation to block off foundation vents leading to crawl spaces and know where your water shutoff is located in case a pipe breaks,” Porzio advises. Another item homeowners should have on hand is a temporary patch kit (sold at home centers) to seal off burst pipes as they wait for favorable weather to make a permanent repair or to hire a plumber to sweat in a new length of pipe. “Above all,” Porzio says,” find out which local plumbers are equipped and ready to handle frozen pipes.”

 Turn Up The Thermostat

If you live in an old house built over an uninsulated crawl space, this isn’t the time to worry about your heating bill. Turning up your thermostat will increase the air temperature in the crawlspace by projecting heat energy through the floor into the space. Plan on insulating and air sealing the space.

Install Fiberglass

Take a ride to the nearest home center and pick up a package or two of unfaced fiberglass insulation. While you’re there, get a set of heavy duty disposable coveralls, a dust mask, work gloves and a package of fresh utility knife blades. Don the protective work wear, load the fresh blades in the knife and assess your insulation needs in the attic, crawl space or other out-of-the-way place installing insulation over poorly-protected pipes. This is one scenario where neatness doesn’t count, just get the insulation where it needs to go.

Use Foam Board To Insulate Large Areas

Got a really big area to protect? Keep the heat in with a rough-and-ready barrier built with foam board. Faced or unfaced foam board will work, especially if this is a temporary set up. If you’ve never worked with foam board, it’s easy to cut. Mark its surface with a carpenter’s pencil or a Sharpie pen. Score to the depth of a utility knife (if need be, score it from both sides) and snap it on the line. Hold it to wood framing with 1-1/4-in or 1-5/8-in. coarse-thread drywall screws.

Install A Heating Cable

Install a heat trace cable to keep a cold pipe from freezing. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the packaging for how to do this. Some heat tapes are wrapped around the pipe, others simply run along it. If you can’t find heat trace cable at your local home center, try an electrical supply house. Sometimes this cable is cut to length from a roll, in which case you may have to buy a kit (or separate parts) to convert into a working heat trace cable. In other cases, the cable is sold ready to use, with one end safely terminated and insulated and the other end with an electrical plug.

Place A Space Heater

You can keep unprotected pipes above freezing by simply placing an electric heater near them. Remember, the goal is not to make the space toasty warm and comfortable. It’s to keep the water in the pipe above freezing.

Turn Off The Water

In the worst case, turn off the main water valve while the house is unoccupied or while you sleep. If a pipe freezes and breaks, the spillage is limited only to the water in the pipe.

Open Cabinet Doors

It’s not unusual for plumbing running to a kitchen sink on an exterior wall to be extremely vulnerable because the wall is not insulated. Open the cabinet doors along that wall to project heat into the space. Place an electric heater in front of the cabinets for an extra measure of cold protection.

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The 3rd Year of the Teal Project

Every child should be able to experience the joy and tradition of trick-or-treating on Halloween. But kids with food allergies are often left out of the fun, since most candy is off limits. FARE’s Teal Pumpkin Project helps make sure all children will come home on Halloween night with something they can enjoy. It just takes one simple act: offering non-food treats, such as glow sticks or small toys, as an alternative to candy.

Last year, households from all 50 states and 14 countries participated. This is a worldwide movement to create a safer, happier Halloween for all trick-or-treaters.

How To Take Part

  1. Provide non-food treats for trick-or-treaters.
  2. Place a teal pumpkin in front of your home to indicate to passersby that you have non-food treats available.
  3. Display a free printable sign or premium poster from FARE to explain the meaning of your teal pumpkin.

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Sick Building Syndrome

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a term commonly used for non-specific symptoms that are temporally related to occupancy of a particular building. When building-related symptoms are characteristic of a specific clinical entity, they are called Building Related Illness (BRI). These illnesses are varied, and include Legionnaires’ disease, building related hypersensitivity pneumonitis, building-related asthma, and others.

SBS symptoms include mucous membrane irritation (cough, scratchy throat, stuffy sinuses, and itchy eyes), headache, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and other non-specific symptoms. The causes of SBS vary with the building and its occupants. SBS was once called “Tight Building Syndrome” and was considered to be a result of excess tightening of buildings in response to energy use concerns. However, many buildings with an excess of symptoms among the occupants are well ventilated. Still, increase in ventilation rates is often the “cure” for the problem.

Some people consider that SBS is caused not by the physical environment, but, rather, by psychosocial factors. Gender, lack of control, poor management, too much work, too little work, perceived housekeeping quality, and many other social factors have been blamed for the symptoms. In some cases, psychosocial factors may be the major cause of complaints. However, clearly, in some cases, environmental factors are at fault. For example, paper dust, and photocopier use have both been related to increases in complaints in a dose-dependent way. An excess of volatile organic compounds have been blamed for SBS symptoms. However, one study attributed this effect to the perception of odors at VOC concentrations far below those that would be likely to have an effect. These authors discuss the possibility that reactive chemistry might produce irritants that might be responsible for some symptoms.

Mold contamination has clearly been related to cases of BRI. However, its relationship to SBS is less clear. A Swedish study documented that dampness in residential buildings was associated with SBS symptoms with symptoms increasing with the number of dampness indicators present. Whether or not mold growth was responsible for these symptoms remains unknown. An extremely interesting study exposed people to measured doses of airborne fungal spores from growth on building materials. In this study, symptoms were similar among the two fungi studied AND for the placebo tests, indicating no specific effect of the spores. Mycotoxins have not been measured in quantities sufficient to cause the normal SBS symptoms, and the data regarding the role of mycotoxins in indoor air remain equivocal.

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