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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 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.

 

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.

 

Ice Dams: How Water Flows Uphill

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

ice damIce dams on your roof result from unsuspected causes and cause unexpected damage. The connection between those mounds of ice along the eaves of the roof and the temperature inside your attic may not be obvious. Likewise, the mechanism of how a line of ice way up there can trigger roof leakage and serious water damage down inside the house is often hard to understand. Here’s how the process behind ice dams works.

  • Snowfall usually covers your roof evenly. However, it may not melt that way. Household heat migrating into the attic rises up to the area beneath the peak of the roof. This concentration of heat warms the underside of the roof near the peak, while the rest of the roof below remains in a frigid, frozen state.
  • Water from snow melting at the warmer upper part of the roof runs down to the lower, frozen area of the roof at the eaves and rapidly re-freezes. This gradually forms a barrier called an ice dam that prevents roof runoff from entering the gutters. As snow-melt and runoff increases, water gradually backs up on the roof.
  • Roofing shingles are designed to resist water in motion running down the roof and into the gutters. They are not designed to resist pools of standing water. Pooling water infiltrates behind the shingles, penetrates the joints between roof sheathing and leaks into the attic.
  • Attic insulation becomes soaked, degrading its insulating effectiveness, and providing an excellent breeding ground for toxic mold. Wooden attic structure is also saturated. Roof leakage finally drips down through the ceiling into living spaces and water damage occurs inside the house.

Prevent ice dams by keeping attic temperatures uniformly cold. Make sure attic vents are open. Keep household heat out of the attic by sealing cracks in the ceiling and gaps around light fixtures and pipes that pass through the ceiling. To minimize heat energy infiltrating the attic, also make sure depth of your attic insulation meets current Department Of Energy standards.

For more on preventing ice dams and resolving water damage that results, contact the professionals at Rytech, Inc.

 

3 Easy Winterizing Tips to Stop Plumbing Problems Before They Start

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

foam pipe insulationJust how bad can the damage get if a pipe bursts inside your home due to freezing? Let’s say you leave the house in the morning for work and moments later a common half-inch water supply line abruptly ruptures due to ice formation. By the time you return home from work that afternoon, as much as 20,000 gallons of water may have potentially inundated your house, depending on your municipal water pressure. In any case, water damage to structure and possessions will be substantial.

Steps you can take to prevent winter plumbing problems such as pipe bursts are always less expensive (and traumatic) than dealing with the aftermath of a major or even minor water inundation. Here are three things to do:

  • Install slip-on foam pipe insulation sleeves on water supply lines. These are readily available at any home center and sized to common pipe sizes. Insulate all supply lines anywhere and everywhere you can reach them to slip the sleeves on. That typically includes the crawl space underneath the house and also inside any wall spaces you can get to. Water lines may also be routed through the garage and attic.
  • Prevent frigid outdoor air from contacting pipes by sealing openings in the exterior of the house. Any holes in the exterior wall or air gaps around pipes or electrical conduits should be caulked or sealed with expanding spray foam insulation in a can. Defects like missing or loose crawl space access doors should be repaired, too.
  • Check your main water shutoff valve. At the beginning of the winter season, test the valve to verify that it operates correctly. Call a plumber if it’s hard to turn. If you notice signs of a frozen pipe during the winter—for instance, if water in the house or at an individual fixture suddenly stops or water pressure drops very low—turn off water at the main shutoff valve, open faucets to expedite thawing, and call a plumber without delay.

Learn more about preventing pipe bursts and dealing with the aftermath if it happens by contacting the water damage experts at Rytech, Inc.

Did You Know? Clogged Gutters Cause Water Damage

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

clogged guttersThe fact that clogged gutters cause water damage inside the house may not be immediately obvious, but it’s true: drainage off your roof can bring about water infiltration into your house in several ways. Your gutters move a lot of water. An inch of rainfall on a typical 1,000 square foot roof sends over 600 gallons of water into the gutters and downspouts. Anything that obstructs that considerable flow can be the trigger for water damage indoors.

Clogs typically form due to leaves or other debris obstructing flow through the gutter and downspouts. Here are three ways that clogged gutters cause water damage inside the house.

  • Clogged, overflowing gutters spill water down the exterior wall. Exterior siding is designed to resist rainfall and splashing. Siding is not, however, totally waterproof and cannot resist a continuous cascade of water. Seepage behind siding penetrates exterior wood sheathing and makes its way into the inside of wall spaces in the house. It may deteriorate sheathing and wooden framing, saturate interior wallboard and spawn mold growth inside the walls.
  • An overflowing gutter saturates the ground directly below with water. This inundation around the perimeter of the foundation forms pools of water and makes it more likely that water will penetrate cracks and pores in the concrete and deteriorate the foundation, particularly if freezing temperatures occur. The hammering effect of water pounding the ground beneath an overflowing gutter also drives water deep into the soil where it may infiltrate cracks in the basement wall and cause water damage in the basement.
  • Clogged gutters are very heavy due to the weight of contained water. Frequently, this weight will pull the roof fascia where gutters are attached loose from the roof structure. This can allow water flowing off the roof to enter the attic and drip down into living spaces. It can also saturate attic insulation, destroying its insulating effectiveness as well as triggering toxic mold growth in the attic.

If clogged gutters cause water damage to your home, contact the experts at Rytech, Inc. for a complete evaluation.

 

Landscaping Problems that Lead to Basement and Crawl Space Water Damage

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

Basement and crawl space water damage can originate from both indoor and outdoor sources. Because they’re the lowest point in the house, basements and crawl spaces are often the final destination of water that leaks anywhere else inside the home. Rising groundwater from the soil beneath the house provides another source of basement and crawl space water damage. One of the major outdoor factors that promotes water intrusion at these lowest levels, however, is the landscaping surrounding the home. Water runs downhill and always follows the path of least resistance. These two facts dictate that the landscaping around your house either helps keep your basement and crawl space dry—or greatly contributes to water damage in those areas. Here are some things to do to make sure your landscaping isn’t working against you:

  • The grade of the landscape surrounding your home should be sloped away from the house so that water flows away from the foundation or crawl space. For the first four feet, the soil should slope downward about six inches to form a mini-berm that diverts water away and prevents pooling near the foundation or basement walls. Extending out into the yard, the slope can be more gentle, but there should be no areas of ground that slope toward the house.
  • If you are altering the landscape, always use clean, dense fill dirt for the area adjacent to the house—not topsoil. Porous topsoil provides little resistance to water soaking into the ground around the foundation, which then infiltrates through cracks in basement walls.
  • Flower beds next to the house may also promote basement and crawl space water damage. Beds generally comprise a large surface area of exposed, porous soil, readily absorbing water that then flows downward along the basement wall. Edgings around flower beds also cause water to pool, increasing ground absorption and infiltration into the house. Instead of flower beds immediately beside the house, landscaping with grass or other dense ground cover is recommended.

For more advice about preventing basement and crawl space water damage—or professional damage recovery services if it’s already a problem—contact Rytech, Inc.