Educational Corner

Mold: What’s Growing On Up There

  • 01/15/2020
  • 7:06:29

The holidays are over. You’ve clambered into the attic to store all the decorations and knick-knacks away for another year. It smells mustier than you remember. You pull the cord for the light, and there it is:  something is growing up here. It’s covering the rafters and the roof sheathing, and there’s even some stuff on the insulation. Where do you go from here?

What Is It?

Mold is a fungus that grows in the form of multicellular filaments called hyphae. There are many different species of mold, and only lab testing can confirm the particular type of mold in any given situation. Fortunately, the specific type of mold isn’t typically relevant to the fact that the mold needs to be removed or the method of removal. Mold inside a home, even in the attic, is a health hazard and needs to be properly remediated no matter the species. 

Mold Causes and Mold Prevention 

Mold in an attic, or anywhere else in the home for that matter, is caused by moisture. One of the most common causes of attic mold is improperly vented exhaust fans from bathrooms, kitchens, and clothes dryers. Exhaust fans should always be vented to the exterior of the house. These fans push warm, moist air out of the vents creating a perfect environment for mold to grow. So, why do people often find mold in their attics during or just after the time of year when their heat is running? The answer is attic bypasses. These are air leaks that allow warm, moist air from the main house to get into the attic and can occur whether the heater is running nonstop or if it was just turned on to take the morning chill out of the air. These leaks can be easily found with an infrared camera, and traditional insulation is not enough to stop them because it doesn’t stop air movement. These leaks need to be covered with an air barrier such as foam insulation or caulk to seal them properly. 

Mold Removal

Although many people think that mold is no big deal and can be easily removed as a DIYer, it’s usually best to call in a professional for proper mold remediation. Mold can be finicky, and if not treated properly, will grow back often worse than before. The first step in professional remediation, or even if you’re going to try to handle it yourself, is to hire a mold inspector to discover the cause of the mold and the extent of the issue. Upon completing the inspection, most inspectors will recommend a reputable remediation company to take care of the mold removal

The mold cleanup process usually starts with removing all water-damaged and mold-infested materials. The technician will then use specialized cleaning products to clean and disinfect any materials affected by the mold. It the damage is very extensive, they may remove drywall and clean or even remove the studs behind the drywall. 

The final step is using HEPA filtration followed by replacing any materials that had to be removed and returning all cleaned belongings. If the damage is not severe, and you decide to try to clean it by yourself, remember that thoroughly scrubbing is the first step to removing the mold. Often, experts recommend scrubbing with a soft brush and a bleach solution. If this is the chosen method, be sure to rinse the area very thoroughly. Bleach left to dry on the surface will turn to sugar and feed the mold, causing it to return. A better idea would be to use a cleaner specifically formulated for mold removal

It’s always a good rule of thumb to remember that excess moisture will almost inevitably cause a mold issue. Like anything, understanding the causes and seeking prevention is the best route to take. When prevention fails, it’s best to hire professionals to assess and remediate the damage. .

Preparing Your Home for Winter

  • 12/15/2019
  • 7:28:13

With the winter season fast approaching,  the entire nation has to prepare the home for harsh, colder temperatures. Freezing or near freezing temperatures can lead to an array of household issues, most of which are easily avoidable with the appropriate preventative measures.

Protect the Pipes

Household plumbing can be particularly vulnerable to colder temperatures. Whether the pipes are metal or plastic, frozen water expands and creates pressure within the pipe, often causing cracks and breaks. Depending on the size of the break, you may not notice these damages until the ice thaws, and water can flow freely again. An unknown leak can cause tremendous damage to a home. Prevention is key. Most pipes that are in properly insulated homes are not at terrible risk of freezing. It’s important to assess the location of the pipes in the home for vulnerabilities such as pipes that run through uninsulated areas of the house. The first line of defense is to keep the home at an appropriate temperature, even when not home. This temperature control keeps the interior pipes warm enough to prevent freezing. Particularly vulnerable pipes can be insulated with wraps or foam insulation sleeves. When the temperature gets super low, it’s also not a bad idea to keep faucets dripping to allow a continuous movement of the water within the pipe. 

Check the Fireplace 

There’s nothing like sipping hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire on a cold winter day. That is unless you forgot to prepare your fireplace for the winter. It’s important always thoroughly to clean your fireplace before using it each year. The last thing anyone wants is for a fireplace to cause a fire or produce unwanted smoke and soot within a home. Always make sure the flue is open and that the chimney is clear of any type of debris to avoid this type of damage. 

Clean Your Gutters and Downspouts

At the end of fall, just before the big freezes hit, it’s a good idea to clean your gutters and downspouts one last time. Debris-filled gutters do not allow for water to flow freely, which can result in icicles and ice dams once the temperatures freeze. Ice dams can be a particularly significant issue because they cause damage both inside and outside of the home. The weight of the dams and icicles themselves can damage roof and gutters. Ice dams block the edge of the roof and prevents melting snow from draining off the roof. The backed-up water can then leak into the home which causes both water and mold damage in the interior of the home. In addition to keeping the gutters and downspouts clean, removing snow from the roof is one of the fastest ways to prevent the formation of ice dams. 

Some say winter is the most wonderful time of the year, and it certainly can be if you know how to prepare for the cold weather ahead properly. Knowing the issues you might face due to freezing temperatures and taking preventative measures to avoid damage to the home will make it so you can enjoy the cold weather in comfort.

Holiday Hazards

  • 11/15/2019
  • 3:46:23

A structural fire is a disaster at any time of the year, but especially during the holidays.  Unfortunately, this time of year is prime time for house fires.  Between frying turkeys, dried out Christmas trees, and burning candles, there are numerous extra fire risks involved in the holiday season.  It’s important to understand the risk factors and how to prevent these fires, and, if the worst happens, to know what to do to recover.

Risks and Prevention
Three of the biggest holiday risks for structural fires are deep fried turkeys, burning candles, and Christmas trees.  Knowing all safety precautions to take to try may mitigate or eliminate the risk of fire at this time of year.

Fried Turkeys
Fried turkey fires cause an estimated $15 million in damages each year.  There are three major missteps usually made leading to these devastating fires.  Not thawing the bird properly, not turning the flame off before dipping the turkey, and overfilling with oil are the main risks.  According to the National Fire Protection Association, Thanksgiving is the peak day in the United States for home cooking fires in general.  It’s important to always monitor any cooking in the home, and, if deep frying a turkey, to ensure that the deep fryer is an appropriate distance from any structure. 

The top three days for fires caused by candles in the United States are Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years Day.  Two-fifths of home decoration structure fires are started from candles, with over half of those occurring in December.  To mitigate the risk of candle fires, it’s cruicial to keep candles at least twelve inches away from anything flammable and to keep them in a stable holder where they won’t be knocked down.  To eliminate the risk entirely, electric, flameless candles have come a long way and look and smell more realistic more and more as the flameless candle industry grows. 

Christmas Trees
One-quarter of Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems and another quarter are caused by a heat source too close to the tree.  These types of fires are typically very, very serious.  It’s extremely vital to take all precautions necessary to prevent Christmas tree fires.  Any heat source should be a minimum of three feet from the tree, and further, if possible.  It’s necessary to read and follow all manufacturer’s instructions for lights on the tree as well as to inspect all lights that have been used in previous years to make sure they aren’t damaged.  If it’s a real tree, it must be watered every day and removed from the home as soon as it’s dry.    

What Next?
Even the best-laid plans sometimes fail, and no amount of prevention can save the day.  Once the flames are gone and the smoke has cleared, it’s time to clean up.  There are a lot of different things to consider in the wake of a structural fire.

Board Ups
Often it’s necessary to utilize emergency board up services after a fire.  Fires can cause holes in exterior walls in a variety of ways, including burnt walls and blown-out windows or doors. 

Once the fire is out and the home boarded up, it’s important to contact your insurance company if you haven’t already.  With fire damage, it’s a good idea to make sure the insurance and restoration company are on the same page and agree with the scope of work.  The last thing you want when trying to recover from a fire is for your insurance company to come back and let you know that the work isn’t covered. 

Dry Out
Most people don’t think of water damage after they’ve experienced a fire loss, but it’s often an issue for several reasons, including firefighting efforts, damage to plumbing, and rain or snow entering the home after the damage.  It’s necessary to get the home properly dried in these cases so that cleanup can continue. 

The contents of the home, which are basically all your belongings, need to be packed out, inventoried, and properly cleaned so that cleaning and repair of the structure can occur.  Even if the contents were not directly affected by the flames, soot and smoke causes damage that is sometimes beyond cleaning and repair.  It’s important to keep meticulous inventory records for this reason. 

Cleaning and Deodorizing
Again, soot and smoke can cause damage to the home beyond that caused by the actual fire.  Any material in the home affected but not removed needs to be thoroughly cleared of soot and other residues as well as deodorized.  There are a vast number of ways to handle this, depending on the type of fire and the company doing the cleaning. 

Once mitigation is complete, repairs can begin.  This step is another point in the process where it’s crucial to ensure the restoration contractor and insurance company are communicating and agree on the scope of work to avoid any delays.  This final step is what will return your home to pre-loss conditions in the event of a fire.

A house fire is devastating at any time, but experiencing one around the holidays only adds insult to injury.  It’s important to know the proper precautions to take to prevent fires at this time of year, as well as the steps to take if you do experience fire damage.