Summer Maintenance Tips

Summer brings sunshine, green leaves, and trips to the beach. But the warm, dry season also offers the perfect chance to get some work done around the house. With just a few weekends’ worth of work, these tips can help get your home in tip-top shape and ready for the rest of the year. When it gets warm, it’s tempting to ditch any housework for the beach or the golf course. Hard as it may be, consider suppressing that urge for a few weekends, because some fairly easy work can improve the state of your home, give it an appearance makeover, and even save you some money.

Keep Your Cool With a Fan

There’s an easy trick to keeping cooler and saving money, and it’s as close as your ceiling fan. Switch the ceiling fan’s blades so the leading edge is higher as the fan turns, so you can feel the breeze from the fan as it rotates. This simple action will push cool air down, enabling you to set the air-conditioning lower and save money on energy.

Clean Your Dryer Vent

Without some maintenance, your dryer could cause a house fire. The U.S. Fire Administration reports nearly 16,000 dryer fires occur annually, which happen largely because dryers’ vents get clogged with lint and dust. Thankfully, you can avoid any unnecessary dryer-caused danger with a few simple steps. First, you’ll need a vent-cleaning brush kit, which can clean your dryer vent tubing more thoroughly than a vacuum cleaner can. Begin by cleaning the dryer’s lint trap housing with a smaller brush to remove as much lint and dust as possible. Then disconnect the dryer duct from the dryer and the wall for a thorough cleaning. Also use a brush to clean the vent on the outside of the house to keep both ends clean and free of lint.

Clean Your Gutters

Water and debris can accumulate in your gutters over the fall and winter, which can lead to water damage in your house. And you don’t want that. So get a ladder that can reach your gutters, but be sure not to overextend yourself. If the gutter is too high, you might want to call in an expert to do the job. If you’re doing the work yourself, don’t lean the ladder against the gutter or near electrical wires. Scoop out the gutter’s wet leaves and debris, and wet down caked-on dirt so you can scoop out the mud with a trowel. Also, use a garden hose to flush the gutters after you’ve cleaned them. This will get the gutters clean, and it will also let you know if you have leaks. Then use the hose to wash out your downspouts to make sure they’re not clogged. But be gentle—downspouts aren’t meant to withstand the same water pressure as a house drain.

Some experts recommend covering your gutters with a wire mesh guard to keep debris out. And remember: Never hang onto a gutter for support. It’s built to hold water and some leaves, not your weight.

Keep Your Deck Healthy

Your deck provides a great place to hang out in the summer, but it needs a little TLC to stay in good shape. Visually inspect the boards to look for curling, cracked, or rotting wood. If you see a board that’s damaged, remove it and replace it with a board that you’ve cut to fit the same space. Go underneath your deck to make sure the support structure is in good shape, and keep an eye out for cracked boards and missing screws or nails. If you see signs of insects or unwanted animals, such as spider webs or chewed boards, call a pest-control expert to take care of the problem.

Lastly, if your deck is sealed or stained, some experts say you should refinish it annually. Start by power washing the deck, then letting it thoroughly dry. Remove the finish or seal with a remover/stripper, and let it dry again. With a sander and medium-grit sandpaper, lightly sand the deck, then remove all of the dust before continuing. Before you apply your finish, do a small test area to make sure you’ve got the right color. If you do, apply the finish with the wood’s grain and don’t stop in the middle—that can cause uneven coloring and streaks.

Two things to remember: make sure you’re wearing a mask to prevent inhaling dust and fumes, and don’t do any of this work if it’s going to rain.

 

Gutter Cleaning Season Again

Now with Fall in full swing gutter cleaning season is here again.  It is a dreaded task shared by many once they see the leaves beginning to turn colors, but properly functioning gutters, after all, help ensure that storm water does not find its way inside. There are several ways to get the job done. No matter your chosen approach, the first step is to assess the state of the gutters, determining whether any clogs exist, and if so, their cause. Twigs and dry leaves are easy enough to clear away, but if your gutters are obstructed by dirt or decomposed organic matter (or even small seedlings), a relatively aggressive removal method may be in order. Here are a few of the most common and effective ways to clean gutters.

Leaf Blowers

Many leaf blowers come with a nozzle attachment designed to release a narrow stream of air, perfect for the purpose of gutter cleaning. Position your ladder so that you can work gradually toward the downspout, blowing out obstructions as you go. (Be careful to avoid blowing leaves into the downspout.) As a final step, remove any lingering leaves or twigs with a hose. Don’t want to stand on a ladder? A specialized attachment can extend the reach of your leaf blower.

Wet/Dry Vacuums

To remove heavier debris from your gutters, experiment with a wet/dry vacuum. Your local home improvement retail store likely carries the hoses and curved attachments you need to reach the obstructed gutters from a standing position on the ground. Stubborn, stuck-on dirt may need to be moistened before it succumbs to the vacuum. Again, once you’ve removed the bulk of the material, flush the gutters and downspout with water from a garden hose.

Power Washers

Has it been a long while since you last cleaned your gutters? A layer of dirt and debris may have built up over time. Blast it away with the fine-spray nozzle of your power washer. (This type of cleaning can get messy; be prepared to rinse the roof and exterior walls afterward.) For clogged downspouts in particular, there’s no better recourse than a power washer. Simply point the nozzle down the hole and rinse the shaft until water can run freely through it.

Garden Hose

So long as they are not thoroughly clogged, you can clean your gutters successfully with a garden hose. If the hose is equipped with the right attachment (a rigid tube with a curved end), you can stand on the ground, not on a ladder, as you work. Again, start at the end farthest from the downspout and flush the length of the channel; remove any residual material by hand before it dries out.

The Old Fashioned Way, By Hand

To clean gutters by hand, you’ll need a ladder, bucket, gutter scoop (or garden trowel), and heavy-duty gloves. Little by little, take out the leaves and debris, placing what you remove into the bucket. Finally, flush the gutters and downspout with water until you are certain both are functioning properly. Tip: If your downspouts are clogged and you don’t have a power washer, try busting through the obstruction with a plumber’s snake, then rinse with a hose.

Consider installing a screen or barrier on top of your gutters to prevent leaves and debris from accumulating over the course of the year. Remember what they say about an ounce of prevention.  And remember, any time you partake in any project using a ladder, use every precaution possible.

For more information click here:  Biowashing.com

Are Carpet Repair Kits Reliable?

For simple patch up jobs, a carpet repair kit may seem like a good choice to a homeowner, but as with anything else, buyers beware. Over the counter or as-seen-on-TV products often lure people with exaggerated claims, failing to mention the problems with do-it-yourself techniques. Do-it-yourself carpet patching uses inferior materials and equipment to produce a seal, and a professional can be more precise and fix any other problems that might be affecting the flooring.

A carpet repair kit uses a patching process that is similar to what professionals employ, but the quality doesn’t’ compare. During patching, a small piece of carpet is cut out of the closet or utility room and placed where the damaged flooring was. Sealing the patch in place requires a heat activated adhesive and an iron. The problem with do-it-yourself products is that the adhesive is inferior and the iron used in the process is typically a flat iron. Together, these materials are not capable of producing the same secure seal that a professional can get with an industrial glue gun and seam iron. As a result, homeowners who eschew professional assistance will have a patch that is poorly secured. Any heavy foot traffic or active play time with the family dog will quickly rip the seal up and cause the flooring to bunch.

Skilled professionals can also remove odors, stains or other structural issues with the carpeting so a homeowner can resolve several problems at once with professional help.

Did you know that we are the 2011, 2012, 2013 & 2014 Angie’s List Award Winner for Mold Testing, Mold Remediation, Water Damage Restoration, Fire & Smoke Restoration and Bio-Hazard Cleaning. We are also the 2013, 2014 & 2015 Best of Philadelphia Award Winner. We recently won the 2014 Best Philadelphia Contractors Award from Philadelphia Life Magazine, and we’ve been inducted in the Philadelphia Business Hall of Fame for 2014.

Preventing Frozen PIpes

Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the “strength” of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break. Pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines, and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets. Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing.
Preventing Frozen Pipes

Before the onset of cold weather, prevent freezing of these water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:

  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer’s or installer’s directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  • Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a “pipe sleeve” or installing UL-listed “heat tape,” “heat cable,” or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.

During Cold Weather, Take Preventative Action

  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

For more information, visit our website by safely clicking here:  Biowashing.com

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.

For more information, visit our website by safely clicking here:  Biowashing.com

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.

For more, safely visit our site by clicking here:  Biowashing.com

Tips For Sealing Leaks

Sources of air leaks in your home. Areas that leak air into and out of your home cost you a lot of money. The areas listed in the illustration are the most common sources of air leaks.

Air leaks can waste a lot of your energy dollars. One of the quickest energy– and money-saving tasks you can do is caulk, seal, and weather strip all seams, cracks, and openings to the outside.

TIPS FOR SEALING AIR LEAKS

  • Test your home for air tightness. On a windy day, carefully hold a lit incense stick or a smoke pen next to your windows, doors, electrical boxes, plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, ceiling fixtures, attic hatches, and other places where air may leak. If the smoke stream travels horizontally, you have located an air leak that may need caulking, sealing, or weatherstripping.
  • Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows that leak air.
  • Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, ducting, or electrical wiring comes through walls, floors, ceilings, and soffits over cabinets.
  • Install foam gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on walls.
  • Inspect dirty spots in your insulation for air leaks and mold. Seal leaks with low-expansion spray foam made for this purpose and install house flashing if needed.
  • Look for dirty spots on your ceiling paint and carpet, which may indicate air leaks at interior wall/ceiling joints and wall/floor joists, and caulk them.
  • Cover single-pane windows with storm windows or replace them with more efficient double-pane low- emissivity windows. See the Windows section for more information.
  • Use foam sealant on larger gaps around windows, baseboards, and other places where air may leak out.
  • Cover your kitchen exhaust fan to stop air leaks when not in use.
  • Check your dryer vent to be sure it is not blocked. This will save energy and may prevent a fire.
  • Replace door bottoms and thresholds with ones that have pliable sealing gaskets.
  • Keep the fireplace flue damper tightly closed when not in use.
  • Seal air leaks around fireplace chimneys, furnaces, and gas-fired water heater vents with fire-resistant materials such as sheet metal or drywall and furnace cement caulk.

Fireplace flues are made from metal, and over time repeated heating and cooling can cause the metal to warp or break, creating a channel for air loss. To seal your flue when not in use, consider an inflatable chimney balloon. Inflatable chimney balloons fit beneath your fireplace flue when not in use, are made from durable plastic, and can be removed easily and reused hundreds of times. If you forget to remove the balloon before making a fire, the balloon will automatically deflate within seconds of coming into contact with heat. A reasonably capable do-it-yourselfer can create an inexpensive, reusable fireplace flue plug by filling a plastic trash bag with fiberglass batt scraps and jamming it into the flue. Attach a durable cord with a tag that hangs down into the fireplace to (1) remind you the flue is blocked and (2) provide an easy plug removal method.

See our newest awards posted to our website at Biowashing.com

Detecting Air Leaks – Part 1

You may already know where some air leakage occurs in your home, such as an under-the-door draft, but you’ll need to find the less obvious gaps to properly air seal your home.

For a thorough and accurate measurement of air leakage in your home, hire a qualified technician to conduct an energy assessment, particularly a blower door test. A blower door test, which depressurizes a home, can reveal the location of many leaks. A complete energy assessment will also help determine areas in your home that need more insulation.

Without a blower door test, there are ways to find some air leaks yourself.

VISUAL INSPECTION

On the outside of your house, inspect all areas where two different building materials meet, including:

  • All exterior corners
  • Outdoor water faucets
  • Where siding and chimneys meet
  • Areas where the foundation and the bottom of exterior brick or siding meet.

Inside your home, inspect around the following areas for any cracks and gaps that could cause air leaks:

  • Electrical outlets
  • Switch plates
  • Door and window frames
  • Electrical and gas service entrances
  • Baseboards
  • Weather stripping around doors
  • Fireplace dampers
  • Attic hatches
  • Wall- or window-mounted air conditioners.
  • Cable TV and phone lines
  • Where dryer vents pass through walls
  • Vents and fans.

Also look for gaps around pipes and wires, foundation seals, and mail slots. Check to see if the caulking and weather stripping are applied properly, leaving no gaps or cracks, and are in good condition. Check the exterior caulking around doors and windows, and see whether exterior storm doors and primary doors seal tightly.

Inspect windows and doors for air leaks. See if you can rattle them, since movement means possible air leaks. If you can see daylight around a door or window frame, then the door or window leaks. You can usually seal these leaks by caulking or weatherstripping them. Check the storm windows to see if they fit and are not broken.

You may also wish to consider replacing your old windows and doors with newer, high-performance ones. If new factory-made doors or windows are too costly, you can install low-cost plastic sheets over the windows.

Visit our website at Biowashing.com

Getting What You Pay For – Part 1

Why do contractors have such varying prices for the same job? Focusing on mold projects, this will be a short four part series to explain the reason that some contractors charge more than others. Let’s say your in the market for an attic to be cleaned due to growth caused by either poor ventilation or a leak.

Contractor #1 comes in with a price of $5,500 for the job, while contractor #2 is charging $8,900.

Difference between the two estimates and the companies themselves:

Contractor #1 is certified in mold, just like Contractor #2, but #1 earned his certification through an online course while #2 is not only certified himself, but his entire firm is as well. #1 paid a small fee, learned his course at his own pace and then took his examination online. The test itself may appear to be extensive because it is a 100 to 200 question test, but it doesn’t have a time limit and there isn’t any monitoring, which means he can look up the answers. Moreover, his certification may be valid for life, or just require a small fee to keep it valid. These types of certifications require no further testing nor do they require any continuing education. Contractor #2 earned his certification by attending a class which costs significantly more, took several days of in class learning to complete and an extensive test which was monitored and timed. His certification is only valid for 1 to 2 years and requires continuing education in the field to insure the contractor is up to date on any advances in the industry. #2 is also a Certified Firm which means all of his employees or the technicians within his company are also certified in the same manner and have the same level of education.

This example shows the difference between the two contractors in level of education, dedication to their field and the money required to not only take the courses, but to have continuing education while also doing the same for their employees. The second contractor will continually be up to date on all the latest advances in the industry and also be reminded of the required steps for proper remediation.

For more information, visit our website at biowashing.com & look for Parts 2 through 4 in the coming future.

Top 10 Causes of House Fires

Cooking Equipment
When a pot or pan overheats or splatters greases, it can take seconds to cause a fire. Stay in the kitchen when cooking, especially if using oil or high temperatures; most kitchen fires occur because people get distracted and leave their cooking unattended. Keep combustibles (e.g. oven mitts, dish towels, paper towels) away from heat sources.

Heating Equipment
Have your furnace inspected annually by a qualified technician, and your chimney cleaned and inspected annually. Keep portable heaters at least one metre away from anything that can burn (including curtains, furniture, and you), and don’t use your heaters to dry shoes or clothes. Install a carbon monoxide alarm to alert you to deadly carbon monoxide gas.

Careless Smoking
Make the bedroom off-limits to smoking, and supervise smokers who may become drowsy (i.e. on medication, drinking) or forget to extinguish their cigarette. Use large, deep ashtrays; never place an ashtray on or near anything that will burn; and check furniture for fallen cigarettes/embers (a butt can smoulder for hours before causing furniture to burst into flames).

Electrical Equipment
Ensure the following:
1) Your electrical appliances don’t have loose or frayed cords/plugs
2) Your outlets aren’t overloaded with plugs
3) You’re not running electrical wires under rugs or heavy furniture
4) You’re not overusing an extension cord. Be careful about do-it-yourself electrical projects; many home fires are caused by improper installation, so use a licensed electrician.

Candles
Keep candles in a sturdy holder on a level surface, away from combustible materials and out of the reach of children or pets. Blow them out before leaving the room.

Children Playing with Fire
Children cause fires out of curiosity (what happens when something burns) or mischief (they’re angry, upset or destructive, and fire is a major taboo to break). Kids may be involved in fire play if you find matches or lighters in their room/possession, smell sulfur in their room, and/or find toys or other personal effects that appear melted/singed.

Inadequate Wiring
Older homes and apartments can have inadequate wiring – a fire and an electrical hazard. Some warning signs: 1) you have to disconnect one appliance to plug in another; 2) you have to use extension cords or “octopus” outlets extensively; 3) fuses blow or circuit breakers trip frequently; 4) lights dim when you use another appliance.

Flammable Liquids
Flammable liquids – fuels, solvents, cleaning agents, thinners, adhesives, paints, and other raw materials – can ignite or explode if stored improperly. The vapors can easily ignite from even just high temperatures or weak ignition sources (one spark of static electricity). Don’t store flammable liquids near a heating source but, ideally, outside the home in a cool ventilated area, in approved containers.

Christmas Trees/Decorations
Keep the tree in a stand that will hold 2-3 liters of water, and top it up daily. Keep the tree away from all heat sources, including radiators, furnace ducts, television sets, and fireplaces. Check decorative lights before placing them on the tree, and discard any frayed or damaged lights/cords. Never place candles on or near the Christmas tree.

Barbecues
As part of regular maintenance, clean removable parts (inside and out) with soapy water. Spray the connections with soapy water to check for potential leaks; watch if bubbles form when you open the gas. Use barbecues away from your home, deck rails, tablecloths, and tree limbs. Use barbecues outdoors, never indoors (including garages).

For more information, visit our website at Biowashing.com