Mold on Contents

Removing mold from contents can be an exhausting process resulting in many man hours. Some items can be saved once mold grows on them, and others can not.  When mold has grown on contents, it’s also important to remember that not all chemicals and cleaning methods are alike and safe for certain surfaces.  Here’s some of the cleaning methods mostly used for mold remediation:

  •  Dry Cleaning:  Used for cleaning light residues or to pre-clean prior to wet cleaning.
  •  Wet Cleaning:  An effective cleaning method for removing moderate to heavy residues.
  •  Spray and Wipe:  Effective for items that can’t withstand wet cleaning.
  •  Foam Cleaning :  Used for upholstery fabrics that might shrink or bleed if wet cleaned.
  •  Abrasive Cleaning:  Involves agitation of the surface being cleaned.
  •  Immersion Cleaning:  Contents are dipped into a bath of the cleaning product.

Certain surfaces and stains can be damaged by chemicals, so each affected content must be treated differently.  Like always, paper products are the most susceptible to mold growth and most paper can not be remediated.  If stored items are in boxes and those boxes have mold growth on them, it doesn’t mean the contents inside are trash.  Rather, each item should be removed and inspected prior to making a decision.  Hiring the wrong mold remediation company could lead to further damage or a complete loss of the contents, while cross contaminating an area or other items.

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Protecting Basement Storage

Most homeowners utilize their basements for storage, but protecting them is something many don’t think about until a disaster occurs. A failed sump pump, for instance, can spell disaster if you have cardboard boxes full of belongings piled on the floor. That’s why, if you have basement storage, it can’t hurt to take steps when it’s dry to help protect your items from potential water damage.

Preserve Your Memories
The Library of Congress advises against storing photographs in the basement, which may be prone to leaks or extreme temperatures. The U.S. National Archives and Record Administration also suggests avoiding the basement, unless it has a dehumidifier; otherwise, your photos may be exposed to moisture that could case them to get stuck together. But if your photos end up down there, you’ll likely want to preserve your memories the best you can. The National Archives suggests storing photographs in plastic enclosures made from uncoated pure polyethylene, polypropylene or polyester to preserve them.

Store Important Files in a Safe
If you’ve ever waited in line for hours to receive a new Social Security card or if you travel frequently, then you know how important it is to keep birth certificates, savings bonds, passports and other critical documents in one place that is easy for you to access. If you plan to keep these documents in the basement, you also need them to stay dry. The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests storing important documents in waterproof containers in a high location, or in a waterproof or fireproof safe.

Don’t Forget Your Digital Files
You’ve finally created digital files of your favorite photos and saved your almost-finished novel on a flash drive. Where should you store these digital files? Consider stashing your files in a safe. Before purchasing a safe, think about what you want to preserve. As noted by Consumer Reports, some safes can reach interior temperatures of 350 degrees Fahrenheit; depending on the format of your digital files, such as CDs used to store family photos, you may want to consider selecting a safe that better protects its contents from high temperatures.

Save Your Stamps
A little water in your basement could potentially wipe out a lifelong hobby if, for instance, your stamp collection is not properly stored. If you must store such valuables in your basement, the Smithsonian National Postal Museum advises placing your items on a high shelf. The museum cautions, though, against using a shelf located along a concrete wall or or near an exterior door, as heat, humidity and even dryness may put your collection at risk.

Care for Seasonal Decor
From special holiday decor that has been in your family for generations to the newest addition to your collection of Halloween inflatables, storing seasonal items in your basement can be a cumbersome task. When it’s time to take down those holiday decorations, the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the University of Kentucky (UKAg) recommends laundering any washable items, such as tablecloths, before returning them to storage. Ornaments and other decor should be cleaned thoroughly at the end of the season, too. And, the organization adds, keeping those boxes off the ground can help prevent moisture from entering them.

Perform Routine Maintenance
Some regular maintenance may help prevent water from trickling into the basement. According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, homeowners should inspect sump pumps annually to ensure the pump’s components are not jammed or tangled. Don’t forget the exterior of your house, too. Seattle Public Utilities suggests cleaning gutters and drainage downspouts about twice per year to keep water flowing off and away from your home. While you’re at it, the agency recommends directing downspouts so that water flows away from your foundation; don’t direct the flow to your neighbors’ homes, either.

Basements can come in handy when it comes to storing items you don’t need to access regularly, but they may also be sources of dampness or subject to extreme temperatures. By making the effort to store your various belongings appropriately, you can help ensure that they are in the same condition you left them in the next time you need them.

Mold Remediation Before & After

Here are a few photos showing a mold remediation project prior to the wood being encapsulated. Always remember, encapsulating in white isn’t a bad option, but some mold remediation contractors insist on it because they’ll use regular primers and also because they do not want you to see how they cleaned the surfaces.  For us, white is only an option when the customer chooses it.

What is Alternaria?

Alternaria is one of the most important allergenic molds found in the US. It is most common as an outdoor mold, as it thrives on various types of vegetation. Alternaria spores can be detected from Spring through late Fall in most temperate areas, and can reach levels of thousands of spores per cubic meter of air. While one usually thinks of molds as a problem in damp or even wet conditions, Alternaria spores can be at their highest concentrations during dry, windy conditions that are ideal for the spores to become airborne.

Alternaria is one of the most common outdoor molds, but also has been found in the indoor environment. The National Survey of Lead and Allergens in Housing conducted a study looking at house dust samples from 831 homes in 75 different locations throughout the US. Alternaria was found in over 90% of those dust samples. While much of that allergenic load was probably due to outdoor Alternaria finding its way inside, Alternaria is known to grow on moist surfaces in the home as well.

Alternaria is known to be a problem in allergic disease. In patients who show allergy to molds, up to 70% of those patients demonstrate allergy to Alternaria, and Alternaria is known to be a risk factor for asthma. Dampness and mold problems have been reported to occur in 20 – 50% of modern homes. Additionally, keep in mind that mold spores often outnumber pollen spores by 1,000 to one, and mold can produce spores for months on end, versus the weeks of pollen production by many allergenic plants.

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Washer & Dryer Maintenance

Washers and dryers were involved in one out of every 22 home structure fires reported to U.S. fire departments between 2006 and 2010. Incidents of clothes dryer fires are higher in the fall and winter months and peak in January, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The leading cause of clothes dryer fires is a failure to clean the dryer of dust, fiber and lint. Lint is highly combustible and can lead to reduced airflow, posing a fire hazard in clothes dryers.Here are several safety tips for properly maintaining your washer and dryer:

Ensure proper installation
Be sure to have your washer and dryer installed and serviced by a professional. Check your washer and dryer manuals to ensure that your electrical outlet is appropriate for your plugs. If you have a gas dryer, have it inspected by a professional to make sure the gas line and connection are working properly and don’t have leaks.

Maintain the lint filter
Always clean the lint filter before drying each load of laundry. If you are drying a new item that creates a lot of lint, such as a bath towel or bath mat, consider drying it for half a cycle and then pause to clean out the lint filter before continuing to dry the item. Regularly check the dryer’s drum for lint accumulation.

Inspect the vent
The dryer vent is located outside of your house. It’s a good idea to periodically check to make sure air is coming out of the vent while clothes are drying. If no air is coming out of the vent, turn off the dryer and inspect the vent for blockage. Accumulated lint, a bird’s nest or even small animals can block vents.

Check the exhaust duct
Make sure the duct that runs from the back of your dryer to your wall and outside to your dryer vent isn’t clogged with lint or debris. If there is a blockage, you may have to remove the duct to clean it out. Consult with a professional before making any changes to your dryer’s exhaust duct.

Basic washer and dryer safety tips
Follow these basic safety tips when using your washer and dryer.

  • Don’t overload.
  • Read and follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions.
  • Don’t run the washer or dryer when you aren’t home or when you are sleeping.
  • Keep the entire area clean and free of clutter, boxes and other materials.
  • Don’t store items on the top of the washer and dryer.
  • Consult the operating instructions prior to washing or drying an item that has been soiled with chemicals such as gasoline, cooking oil or paint.

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What are Ice Dams?

You may be feeling  warm in your home as the snow serenely falls outside. But, up on your roof, a dangerous situation could be forming – one that can compromise your roof and lead to water damage inside your home. It’s all the result of an ice dam. If you live in a snowy area and you’re not familiar with what an ice dam is, it’s imperative that you read on.

What Is an Ice Dam?

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms along the edge of your roof and prevents snow melt from running off. It often occurs because heat from the attic warms the middle of your roof, causing snow to melt. When that runoff reaches the eaves, or overhang, of your roof, the cooler surface temperature (there’s no heat rising from inside your home to this part of the roof) can cause the water to refreeze. As this happens over and over, an ice dam forms, preventing melted snow from running off your roof.

Do Ice Dams Cause Damage?

Yes, ice dams cause the water from melted snow to back up under the shingles of your roof and into your home – the water doesn’t have anywhere else to go. This can damage your roof, not to mention your interior. And, remember, water damage can lead to toxic mold inside your home.

How Can I Prevent Ice Dams?

An easy way to help prevent ice dams is to keep your eaves, gutters, downspouts and drains clear. This way water can drain away from your home as snow melts on your roof. It’s ideal to have your gutters cleaned out before snow season even begins. While you’re at it, install gutter screens for added protection.

Here are some other ways to help prevent ice dams:

  • Keep your attic cool. Proper insulation between your living areas and attic will help keep warm air from escaping into your attic and warming your roof. Ideally, during a snow storm, your attic won’t be more than 10 degrees warmer than the temperature outside.
  • Remove snow with a roof rake. Only if you can safely do so, remove accumulated snow from your roof using a long-handled roof rake, a specialized tool for clearing roofs, that won’t damage your roofing material. Do this from the ground. Never climb on top of a snowy roof.
  • Update your roof with materials that help prevent ice dams. These include a rubberized, water-repellant membrane underneath the shingles and a heating cable along the eaves. For either installation, consult a professional.

Ice dams may not be the first thing you think about once the snow stops coming down. After all, there’s the sidewalk and driveway to clear. But, for the sake of your roof and the integrity of your overall home, it’s important to keep an eye out for this winter roof danger.

So, how can you spot ice dams? Icicles may be a sign of ice dams, a buildup of snow and ice along your eaves that blocks water runoff. Discolored ceilings or walls may indicate that your ice dam has turned into a leak. Remember, in the midst of this harsh winter, it’s important to keep your gutters clear, your roof updated and an eye out for the signs of ice dams. If you suspect trouble, call a trusted roofing contractor at once.

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Top 5 Things About Flood Insur

Most of the country is in some kind of a flood zone, a designation that indicates the area’s risk of flooding – some are just more severe than others. So, what does that mean for you as a homeowner? It means you are at risk of flooding, even if it hasn’t happened in your area in recent memory. And, it also means that you may want to consider buying flood insurance.

Here are five important things to know about a policy for flood coverage:

  1. It’s a separate policy. The typical homeowners insurance policy does not offer any coverage for flooding. None. But, you can likely purchase a separate flood policy through the National Flood Insurance Program. A few carriers in Florida also offer private flood insurance as an alternative. Your independent agent can help you find coverage in your area.
  2. Different flood zones have different flood insurance costs. The zone in which you reside will help determine your flood insurance costs, along with other factors. And, yes, the more severe the flood zone, the higher your insurance rates may be.
  3. Your lender may require it. If you purchase a house in one of the more severe flood zones, your lender will likely require you to carry flood insurance as a condition of your loan. If you purchase the home with cash or pay off your mortgage, it will be up to you whether or not you carry the coverage. Just be sure to discuss any major insurance changes with an independent agent first.
  4. Flood insurance is not just for coastal areas. Take, for example, the flooding just this year in West Virginia, Texas and Tennessee. It all goes to show that even if you don’t live near the coast, a flood could still devastate your area – and your home.
  5. What your policy covers will depend on the policy itself. Most people who buy flood insurance want dwelling and contents coverage. Be sure you understand what you’re buying and how much coverage you’ll have. An independent agent can help.

Keep in mind that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) periodically updates its flood zone maps. Even if you have flood insurance now, you may want to check whether it is still insuring you at the level you want. If you don’t have flood insurance and you think you could benefit from it, be sure to contact an independent insurance agent.

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Minor Kitchen Leaks

Sometimes what appears to be a small leak, can result in major water and mold damage. These photos show a kitchen in Newtown PA, where a leak under a sink caused major damage not only to the cabinets, but the walls behind them and the sub flooring.  Some of the cabinets had to be removed, while the back splash and walls needed to be cut out in order to properly clean and dry the home.  This is just a few of the photos, as more cabinets and the ceiling in the basement below, also needed to be removed.

Food Safety After an Outage

The wind is howling. The rain is coming down in sheets. The power goes out for a few hours. And, then everything’s fine — except, maybe, all that food in your fridge and freezer.

The question is: Should you eat it or toss it? The answer: It depends – on a lot of factors, actually. To help you determine the best course of action, here are some insights and guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

While the Power’s Out

Don’t open your refrigerator or freezer, if possible. Keeping the doors closed helps keep the cold in, potentially preserving your food for longer. How long? Typically food is safe for up to four hours in an unopened refrigerator and 48 hours in a full, unopened freezer (less if the freezer isn’t full). You can add block or dry ice to either if you think the power might be out for an extended period.

Once the Power Returns

When the lights blink back on, don’t just assume everything is OK. A few checks are in order first, especially if the power has been out for more than four hours. What’s not in order? Taste testing. You should never taste food to determine if it’s safe. Instead, follow these tips.

  • Meat, poultry and seafood: Discard raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish or seafood that may have been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more. Same goes for thawing meat or poultry, along with tuna, shrimp, chicken or egg salad.
  • Dairy: Toss milk, cream, sour cream, yogurt and soy milk that may have been above 40 degrees for two hours or more. Butter and margarine are likely safe to keep.
  • Cheese: Discard soft cheeses, such as bleu, Brie, cottage and others, if they may have been above 40 degrees for two hours or more. Hard cheeses and processed cheeses should be safe.
  • Sauces and condiments: Mayonnaise, tartar sauce and horseradish should go in the trash if they may have been above 50 degrees for more than eight hours. Toss creamy dressings such as ranch, but vinegar-based dressings may be safe to keep. Items such as peanut butter, jelly, relish, ketchup, barbecue sauce and pickles are typically safe.
  • Frozen food: Evaluate frozen (or now partially frozen) items individually. If the food still contains ice crystals, or is has stayed at or below 40 degrees, it should be safe to refreeze.

Prepare for the Next Outage

Not knowing whether or not your food is safe to eat is frustrating, to say the least. These tips will help to further unravel the mystery.

  • Keep appliance thermometers in your refrigerator or freezer. These will help take the guesswork out of determining whether your food has been holding at a safe temperature.
  • Keep a food thermometer handy, too. This will allow you to check individual items.
  • Consider using coolers and ice packs. If the power is out for more than four hours, having these handy can help you protect expensive items, such as meats.
  • Have a supply of nonperishable food that doesn’t require refrigeration. And, don’t forget the can opener. Remember, even nonperishable food won’t last forever, so use it or replace it periodically.
  • Store food where flood water is unlikely to reach it. Never eat food that may have come into contact with flood water, unless it is in a completely waterproof container. Even sealed cardboard juice and milk cartons should be discarded.
  • Discard all food that has been near a fire in your home. It can be damaged by the heat, fumes or chemicals used to fight the fire, even if it appears to be OK.

Throwing out food is frustrating, too, so check your homeowners policy. Many provide coverage for food spoilage in such situations. However, because your deductible might be higher than the value of your food, a claim often doesn’t make sense unless you have other damage to your home. Power outages and other emergencies are already stressful enough. Don’t compound that stress by eating food that could make you sick. If there’s any doubt, just go ahead and throw it out.

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