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Common Fall Home Water Issues and How to Handle Them

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

autumn weatherFall is a transitional time of year, which means water damage issues are also in flux. While the snow and ice of winter are still some ways off, the shift from summer heat to cooler autumn weather presents certain seasonal conditions that may impact your home and possessions. Here are some tips to prevent potential water damage.

  • Clean the gutters. Autumn leaves clog gutters and downspouts. When substantial rainfall occurs, gutters overflow and spill water down exterior walls, penetrating siding and infiltrating wall cavities. Indoor water damage and mold growth result. Due to safety issues, gutters should always be cleaned from a sturdy ladder, not by standing up on the roof. Hire a professional if you’re not comfortable working from a ladder.
  • Check the air conditioner condensate drain. Before putting the A/C to sleep for the winter, take a look inside the condensate drain pan located underneath the indoor air handler. It’s normal for it to be wet, but you should not see standing water that indicates a clogged or sluggish condensate drain line. Stagnant water inside the pan can become a source of toxic mold contamination during the off-season. Clearing a clogged condensate drain requires the services of a qualified HVAC service technician.
  • In many coastal areas, fall is hurricane season. Take advance steps to safeguard your home against water damage from severe storms or hurricanes that may occur in fall. Have the roof inspected for loose or deteriorated shingles or other signs of incipient leakage. Cut back any limbs or trees that could fall in high winds and damage the roof or walls. To prevent water intrusion in storm conditions, use caulking or spray foam insulation to seal any openings in exterior walls such as points where conduits or pipes enter the house, garden hose bibs and around vents.
  • Prepare the sprinkler system. Before the first freeze strikes, follow the manufacturer’s procedure to winterize your underground sprinklers. An underground rupture due to freezing in the main line or the shutoff valve connected to household water could affect the house foundation and/or cause basement flooding.

What To Do… And NOT Do When Your Pipes Have Frozen

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

frozen pipesFrozen pipes can usually be prevented—except when they can’t. Sometimes a span of pipe the homeowner isn’t even aware of and/or isn’t readily accessible may freeze. Or overnight temperatures may plummet unexpectedly low without warning and freezing may occur before preventive measures can be taken. Whatever the case, if water pressure drops noticeably at certain fixtures in the house—or flow stops entirely—and outdoor temperatures have dipped into the danger zone (generally 25 degrees Fahrenheit or lower), you can assume you have frozen pipes somewhere.

Important steps to take

In most cases, not all plumbing in the entire house will be affected by freezing. Some fixtures will still have normal water supply while others will be reduced to a trickle or totally shut down. Looking for a pattern may help you make an informed guess about which specific water supply line is frozen. Once you have identified a possible suspect, here are some steps to take (and some to not take).

  • Open the faucet at the affected fixture and leave it open.
  • Identify and trace the water supply line connecting to that fixture. Trace the pipe backwards from the fixture until you come to a span that may have been exposed to freezing temperatures such as in a crawl space, attic, or in the garage.
  • Attempt to warm the suspect segment of pipe with a hair dryer, an electric heating pad, or by wrapping it with cloths soaked in hot water. Take extreme care when using any electrical device in a wet environment.
  • Don’t try to thaw a pipe using an open flame such as a propane torch.
  • Don’t wait for a pipe to completely thaw on its own if you suspect that the pipe has ruptured. If you note any evidence such as a split in a pipe, or a joint that has broken loose, turn off the water supply at the main house shutoff valve and call a qualified plumber now.

Frozen pipes that rupture cause millions of dollars in losses every year due to water damage and associated consequences. It is always best to find and fix the issue quickly before major repairs are needed.


How To Protect Your Pipes From Freezing This Winter Season

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

pipe insulationBroken pipes due to freezing can occur no matter what type of plumbing is installed. Copper pipe and PVC are both rigid and may crack due to pressure of ice formation. Even newer flexible PEX piping is not immune and can separate at connecting joints. The power of frozen water is truly remarkable: inside an enclosed pipe, expanding ice formation can exert tons of pressure per square inch. Merely a one-eighth inch crack that results can release over 250 gallons of water per day, more than enough to ruin possessions and cause expensive structural damage.

The Danger Point

Ice formation inside pipes doesn’t necessarily occur as soon as temperatures drop below the 32-degree freezing point. Latent heat in water usually means a harder, longer freeze is required before the pipe is truly at risk. In most cases, temperatures will have to drop below 25 degrees and remain there for a certain period before the risk of broken pipes and water damage becomes dangerously high.

To prevent the losses and inconvenience of pipe ruptures, here are some steps you can take:

  • Use slip-on foam pipe insulation sleeves to protect all accessible spans of water supply pipe located outside the thermal envelope of the house: in the garage, the crawl space, the attic and other unconditioned areas where household heat doesn’t reach.
  • Check the exterior of the house for any openings that allow frigid outdoor air to penetrate and reach plumbing. Fill these openings with expandable spray foam insulation or permanently patch with building materials.
  • During a cold spell, keep the house heated to at least 55 degrees at all times to warm the plumbing. If you’re going to be out of town, have a trusted person check on the house and keep the furnace running.
  • If forecasts predict temperatures will drop into the danger zone, open faucets slightly in the house and allow water to trickle until temperatures rise again. Water moving through the pipes discourages freezing.

Broken pipes due to freezing are an issue for homeowners every winter. Doing even these few preventive measures can help avoid resultant water damage.


3 Winter Storm Protection Tips

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

winter stormsWhile wintertime can be scenic and charming, wild weather that frequently accompanies it requires winter storm protection. According to the Insurance Institute of America, damage from winter storms accounted for $30 billion in insured losses during the twenty-year period between 1996 and 2015. These range from the effects of severely low temperatures to snow and ice accumulation and high winds. While winter weather may be unpredictable, you can remove some of the risk and uncertainty from this season by following a few winter storm protection hints.

  • Have your roof inspected. This means checking exterior shingles that prevent melting snow from leaking into the attic and causing water damage. Also attic rafters and the underside of the sub-roof should be inspected for signs of structural weakness. Roof collapse due to snow accumulation is a frequent cause of homeowner’s insurance claims during winter. Just three inches of wet snowfall on a 1,000 square foot roof weighs 3,000 pounds—the equivalent of parking a small car on the roof.
  • Cut back limbs; remove dying trees. Ice accumulation is heavy and can cause large limbs—or an entire tree—to break and fall, damaging your roof or the sides of the house. Generally speaking, it’s best to maintain a 10-foot radius around your home free of overhanging branches to eliminate risk of damage to from falling limbs. Also have any dead or dying trees on your property removed that may not be able to withstand the weight of winter ice or wind.
  • Invest in a backup generator. Most gas-fired home furnaces will not operate if utility power goes out—an all-too frequent event in stormy winter weather. A home without heat in very cold weather is at risk due to low temperature issues such as frozen pipes that rupture and flood the house. A backup generator permanently installed behind your home is hard-wired into your main electrical circuit and automatically activates if grid power goes down, whether you are home or not. This keeps the heat on and indoor temperatures in the safe range.

Winter storm protection helps prevent winter water damage. Taking some time in advance of the storm to head off problems can pay off in the long run.

3 Causes Of Winter Home Water Damage

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

ice damsWhile water damage may occur at any time of year, cold temperatures and inclement weather can combine to trigger winter water damage such as leaks and water intrusion, particularly in residential structures. Another aspect of winter damage is the simple fact that it’s an inconvenient time of year to have to dry out a house. To reduce seasonal risks, be aware of these common sources of water damage in winter:

Frozen Pipes
Ice forming in a water supply line can cause internal pressure as high as 2,000 p.s.i. and rupture the pipe, releasing hundreds of gallons per hour. Install pipe insulation on all supply pipes potentially exposed to freezing temperatures such as in the crawl space or up in the attic. When a hard freeze is forecast, open faucets slightly and allow them to drip to relieve pressure if pipes freeze. If water flow stops during extreme cold, assume a pipe has frozen. Don’t wait until it thaws to find out there’s a rupture. Contact a plumber immediately.

Ice Dams
When the underside of the upper portion of the roof is disproportionately warm, snow melts faster. Water runs down to the colder portion of the roof then freezes again, obstructing flow of runoff into gutters. Pooling water then seeps through shingles and sub-roofing and causes water damage in the attic. Uneven roof warming is caused by excess attic warmth. Prevent ice dams by making sure the attic is properly ventilated to remain uniformly cold. Seal ceiling cracks, gaps and other openings with caulking to prevent heat loss into the attic. Also inspect attic insulation to verify that it meets current Department of Energy standards.

Snow Melt
Melting snow around the perimeter of the house can saturate deep into the soil and leak through the foundation and basement walls. Shovel accumulated snow away from the house before melting occurs. Seal cracks and gaps in the basement wall and, if you don’t have one, install a sump pump.

It’s cold outside! Knowing the types of winter water damage that can occur can help you avoid these hazards.

3 Tips To Keep Your Disposal Running Smoothly This Holiday Season

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

garbage disposal wasteKitchen leaks don’t take a holiday and a clogged or defective disposal is sometimes at fault. While today’s units provide reliable service life of about eight years, defects that develop in plumbing connected to the disposal or its sink mounting can trigger hidden water damage. Similarly, a disposal that can’t grind improperly discarded waste may cause drain pipe backups and also hinder proper dishwasher drain function. Because the holiday season typically means increased cooking activity and disposal use, it’s also an appropriate time to prevent kitchen leaks and other dysfunctions by taking these three steps:

  1. Limit use of the disposal to biodegradable foods. It’s not a trash disposal, so be vigilant to keep paper, plastic, wire, string and all other inorganic materials out of the unit. These items can damage disposal grinding blades and motor. Accumulated cooking grease and fats are also not appropriate for the disposal as these substances will solidify inside the unit or drain pipes. Save cooking grease and fats in a can or other container, then dispose it with the household trash.
  2. Don’t dispose fibrous or absorbent food matter or animal bones. Stringy foods like celery stalks and corn husks, as well as dried grains like rice or pasta that expand, are resistant to grinding and cause clogs in the unit itself or the kitchen drain pipe. Beef and pork bones, and even chicken bones, can jam and damage to disposal blades or motors.
  3. Visually inspect the disposal. Because it’s concealed under the kitchen sink, unseen problems can develop that cause water damage. Look for signs of leakage around the flange that secures the disposal to the underside of the sink. Also, check for leaks where the drain pipe connects to the unit. The dishwasher normally drains through the disposal. If you notice that the dishwasher fails to properly drain and/or leaks around its door gasket, that problem may originate with a clog inside the disposal or in the air gap, a backflow prevention device that stops disposal water from flowing backwards into the dishwasher.


Winter Is Coming – Know How To Protect Your Roof From Ice Dams

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

roof ice dam
Winter water damage inside a home often begins with ice dams up on the roof. The average homeowner’s insurance claim for damage from ice dams is over $4,500. Understanding the sequence of events that lead to formation of ice dams, as well as how they cause indoor damage, is essential to effective prevention.

Heat accumulating inside your attic rises, warming the underside of the upper part of the roof disproportionately. Outside, snow covering the upper roof melts faster. Water runs down the shingles to the lower portion of the roof that is still at freezing temperature and re-freezes, forming a barrier of ice forms that dams free flow of runoff into gutters. Water begins backing up on the roof.

Roof shingles are designed to resist water running down the surface of the roof—not standing water. Pooling water penetrates shingles and sub-roof into the attic, then leaks through ceilings down into living spaces. Consequences include damage to wooden structure in the attic, saturated attic insulation, water damage to ceilings and to possessions inside the house. Mold growth in the attic is also triggered by moisture from roof leakage.

The key to ice dam prevention is keeping warmth that heats the roof unevenly out of the attic:

  • Measure the depth of attic insulation and verify that it meets current Department Of Energy standards. If needed, you can add additional insulation on top of the existing layer.
  • Locate and seal any openings, cracks or gaps in the ceiling that allow heat in living spaces to infiltrate the attic.
  • Check the attic pull-down stairs or access hatch to make sure it closes fully and is weatherstripped to prevent air leakage into the attic.
  • Make sure the attic is properly vented with outdoor air. Verify that upper vents are open and lower vents down at the soffits aren’t obstructed by insulation or items stored in the attic.
  • Ductwork routed through the attic should be inspected for leakage and insulated to prevent thermal loss into the attic.

Ask the professionals at Rytech for additional information about prevention of ice dams this winter.


How To Protect Your Home From Hurricane Damage

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

shuttering windowsThere’s no good reason for lack of hurricane home preparation. Unlike other natural disasters like earthquakes or tornadoes, hurricanes are slow moving, can be tracked over an extended period, and warnings are issued well in advance. However, certain aspects of hurricane home preparation should be made long before a hurricane even develops. Other measures are appropriate once announcement of a hurricane watch indicates the potential for a storm.

What To Do Now

  • Hurricane straps should be added to a home by a qualified installer to tie the roof structure to supporting walls.
  • Standard flimsy garage doors should be upgraded to hurricane-proof models that can stand up to at least 130 mph, as well as resist storm-related flooding.
  • Install permanent hurricane shutters or the fittings for removable shutters that can be quickly mounted if danger threatens.
  • If you don’t have hurricane shutters, have 5/8-inch sheets of plywood pre-cut to fit major windows and pre-drilled for screws to make installation quick. Store these for use when necessary.
  • Remove trees that are weak and likely to fall in high winds.

What To Do When There Is A Threat

If a hurricane watch is announced, you have some time—usually a day or two—to make final preparations.

  • Install hurricane shutters or cover windows with pre-cut plywood.
  • Take lawn furniture and other large, loose objects inside or secure tightly. They could become damaging flying objects in high winds.
  • Make sure gutters are unobstructed to properly discharge roof runoff during very heavy rain.
  • Cut back large limbs that could fracture in high wind and damage the house.
  • Review location of main gas and water shutoff valves so you can turn them off if you evacuate.

What To Do When A Hurricane Approaches

If a hurricane warning is announced, discontinue further efforts to prevent property damage. Focus your attention on safety of the occupants of the house. Monitor emergency broadcasts and stay prepared to evacuate if you are ordered to by authorities, or if you feel it is necessary to protect your family.


Preventing Hurricane Damage: A 5-Point Checklist

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

hurricane damageThe good news is that hurricane damage hasn’t been an issue recently as U.S. coastlines have experienced a pause in the arrival of these major storms. Now the bad news: Statistics show that this won’t last. The U.S. average since 1900 is about two major hurricanes per year and some years have seen as many as six. Anything you can do in advance is preferable to waiting until your weather forecast includes a hurricane watch or—worse— an actual warning of an approaching storm. Here are five items to add to your checklist to prevent hurricane damage:

  1. Install hurricane straps. These small metal straps strengthen the connection between your roof structure and the walls of your home to prevent loss of the roof in hurricane-force winds. In most locales that experience hurricanes, contractors are knowledgeable and experienced in installing hurricane straps.
  2. Add storm windows. Manufactured storm shutters of wood, aluminum or steel should be installed to cover windows, patio sliding doors and skylights. These aesthetic shutters can be quickly closed at a moment’s notice and prevent damage from high winds and flying debris. They are far preferable to attempting to nail up sheets of plywood at the last minute.
  3. Strengthen the garage door. A flimsy garage door presents a lot of surface area in contact with the wind. This makes it a weak spot in your home’s structure during a hurricane. Once the door is blown out, wind and rain can access interior walls of the house through the open garage. Door contractors can reinforce the door structure as well as retrofit heavier-duty components such as rollers and roller tracks.
  4. Take out dangerous trees. Any trees close to the house that are unlikely to withstand hurricane winds should be removed. If planting new trees, consult with a nursery about the best types to resist hurricanes.
  5. Purchase flood insurance. Water damage from hurricane surges can be severe and recovery is very expensive. Federal-backed flood insurance is affordable and sold by local private insurance brokers.

Ask the water damage recovery experts at Rytech, Inc. for more information about steps to prevent hurricane damage.

How to Prevent Ice Dam Roof Damage

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

ice dam roof damageAn ice dam on the roof can cause severe water damage to the roof structure, attic and even the interior of your home. Insurers report that most homeowner’s insurance claims for “snow damage” to the roof are actually related to water damage caused by ice dams—not the heavy weight of snow accumulation on the roof. One insurer estimated that ice dams alone represent as much as 50 percent of homeowner’s claims during a heavy snow season.

An ice dam is actually the end result of a sequence of events that begins in your attic. Rising heat from living spaces infiltrating the attic warms the underside of the roof unevenly: the upper area of the roof is warmed while the lower part down at the eaves stays at freezing temperature. Snow melts quickly off the warmer upper portion near the peak, but the runoff freezes as it reaches the frigid lower part and forms a “dam” — a barrier of ice that prevents runoff from draining into gutters. Water backing up on the roof seeps between shingles and roof sheathing, deteriorating roof components, then drips into the attic and finally through the ceiling into living spaces.

Prevent ice dam roof damage by keeping your attic uniformly cold all winter:

  • Make sure you have an adequate amount of insulation in the floor of the attic. If you haven’t upgraded the amount of insulation in recent years, it’s probably under-insulated by today’s higher standards.
  • Fix air leaks that allow heat to pass from living spaces into the attic. Seal cracks along the joints between the walls and ceiling, gaps around recessed ceiling lights and vent pipes, and make sure the pull-down attic stairs or hatch is weatherstripped and closes tightly.
  • Have HVAC ductwork routed through your attic tested for leakage of heated air and repaired, if necessary. Insulate any spans of ducts that are uninsulated.
  • Ensure that all attic vents—down at the soffits and up at the roof ridge—are open and unobstructed by dislodged insulation or other material.

For professional service to deal with water damage caused by an ice dam, contact Rytech, Inc.