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Do Hardwood Floors Need to be Replaced After a Flood?

Thursday, August 15th, 2019

It’s a fact: sometimes a water-damaged hardwood floor may not be salvageable in any way that makes financial sense. Severity and duration of water exposure is a major factor. For example, a hardwood floor totally submerged in standing water after an event like an outdoor flood or hurricane storm surge probably requires replacement. However, some less-severe scenarios present better chances for successful restoration.

How Wet Is Too Wet?

Common hardwood types have a “safe” moisture content (MC) of less than 10%. If exposure to water increases the MC above 12%, dimensional changes begin to occur as flooring planks swell against each other and cup, buckle and warp. If only a few boards are affected by short-term water exposure, those boards may be individually replaced or sanded down to restore a flat, smooth surface. Widespread water exposure over a longer time frame greatly diminishes chances for restoration, however, particularly if professional treatment is delayed.

Mold Also Matters

Mold growth becomes a factor if standing water seeps through a hardwood floor into the plywood subfloor. Water-soaked plywood and dust beneath the flooring provide a favorable environment for hidden mold growth. While spot treatments can address very limited areas of contamination, the only way to access widespread mold contamination in the subfloor is removal and replacement of all flooring.

For the best chance of restoring a hardwood floor after water damage, here are some contributing factors:

  • Rapid removal of pooling water before it is absorbed. Hours and even minutes count. Quick response by water damage professionals and use of wet/dry vacuums and powerful water extractors is critical to pull moisture out of the floor, ASAP.
  • Wood floors affected by water should be thoroughly scrubbed and sanitized before air-drying to mitigate the potential for mold contamination.
  • Industrial dehumidifiers must be kept running 24 hours a day to reduce moisture content. High-volume air movers are also utilized to circulate air continuously and expedite drying.
  • Drying a hardwood floor is a slow, extended process. Moisture content readings of the wood must be taken at regular intervals to determine when the optimum moisture percentage is achieved.

What to Do When a Pipe Bursts in Your Home

Thursday, August 8th, 2019

A burst water pipe inside your house is a crisis and should always be dealt with accordingly. The extent of damage to your home and the possessions inside it may very well depend on how you respond to the event. Here are some steps to get control of the situation rapidly and minimize consequences as much as possible.

Shut off the supply. At the first sign of water leakage inside the house, turn off the house water at the main shutoff valve. Every adult in the home should know the location of the valve and how to shut off the water. If a specific tool is required to operate the valve, purchase one at a home center. Test the valve at least once a year to make sure it turns freely. If it’s difficult to operate, consult a plumber.

Open faucets. After the main valve is shut off, open cold water faucets in the house. This relieves residual pressure in the household lines and reduces the remaining volume of water leaking from the ruptured pipe.

Stay safe. Electrocution is a potential hazard inside a wet house. Stay out of any areas where water may have contacted wall outlets or switches. Don’t step into standing water in the basement. If water damage is limited to a certain section of the house and you can reach the main electrical panel without entering a wet area, turn off the power to that part of the house at the circuit breakers.

Limit the spread. Once power is off, use brooms or a floor squeegee to push pooling water outside through exterior doors. This helps reduce migration of water deeper into the structure and other rooms that are still dry. If water is trickling out of a ceiling due to a burst pipe upstairs, place buckets in rooms below to catch the water.

Contact the professionals. Time is of the essence to mitigate primary water damage and secondary consequences like mold contamination Inform your homeowner’s insurance agent immediately. Contact a water damage remediation service, ASAP. Most qualified professional firms provide comprehensive emergency response, 24/7/365.

So There is Moisture in Your Walls…

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

Nothing good comes from the presence of moisture inside wall cavities — the number of damaging consequences that can happen to a home is extensive:

  • Toxic mold growth
  • Rotting wood structure
  • Stained swollen drywall
  • Peeling paint or wallpaper
  • Ruined insulation
  • Insect infestation
  • Continuous odors

Moisture inside a wall is typically a result of some fault or failure in the construction or maintenance of the house. It also will never get better on its own. Instead, things will get progressively worse. Here are reasons why and how wetness can seep into areas where it doesn’t belong.

  • Condensation. Gaps and cracks in exterior walls may allow cold outdoor air to seep into the warmer interior wall space. This cold air will naturally form condensation on surfaces inside the wall cavity, creating a perpetually moist environment trapped inside the wall. Careful review is required to locate and seal external cracks and gaps that allow outdoor air to infiltrate exterior walls.
  • Plumbing leaks. Water supply lines routed through wall cavities may have tiny pinholes due to deterioration and/or seepage at joints. These may leak continuously or intermittently, soaking insulation inside walls, saturating wood structure and drywall. Uninsulated copper cold water pipes may also “sweat” condensation in amounts sufficient to cause damage inside walls, particularly if structural cracks and gaps allow humid outdoor air to infiltrate the wall cavity.
  • Penetrating rainwater. Exterior siding resists showers and splashes, not water flowing continuously down the wall. Clogged gutters overflowing during rain frequently cascade water down exterior walls. Water penetrating siding may also infiltrate the wall void, triggering internal moisture damage.

Drying Out

If external signs aren’t obvious, eliminating suspected moisture inside walls requires determining its exact location. Moisture meters that utilize needle probes can identify presence of moisture inside wall cavities without drilling large holes. Once moisture is pinpointed, the wall can be opened for drying, treating mold contamination, repairing any plumbing leaks and removing saturated insulation, if present. Rotted wood can also be replaced.

Using qualified professional services to identify the cause and make the repairs will be safer and more cost-effective in the long run.

Summer Storms Can Bring Summer Damage… Be Prepared

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

Every year, summer storms cause about 15 billion dollars in property damage. High winds, flooding, hail, tornadoes, lightning: winter seems like a fairly benign season compared to the damage potential present during the summer months. No home in any state can be considered totally safe from these three months of tempestuous weather, driven by rising heat and moisture. From the top of the house to the bottom, here are a few timely suggestions to be prepared:

Secure The Roof

Your roof takes the brunt of summer storms. Schedule an inspection by a roofing professional to check for split or missing shingles, dislodged flashing, leaky skylights and other issues that could cause indoor water damage from a heavy rain. Also, ensure gutters are securely attached and water flows freely through downspouts. A complete roof inspection should include an attic check to look for evidence of leakage or deterioration on the underside of the roof sheathing.

Manage Trees

Overhanging limbs can become an issue in high winds. Thrashing limbs scraping the roof can cause damage even if limbs remain intact. If they break, the weight of a heavy limb impacting the roof can inflict severe damage to the roof structure. Large limbs extending over the house should be cut back. If any tree limbs that are close enough to strike the home are weak, dying or otherwise compromised, consider having these limbs or the whole tree removed.

Divert Drainage

Water pooling close to the home during heavy rain may seep into the structure or undermine a slab foundation. Ensure that your surrounding landscape is graded so that water flows away from the house and into the yard.

Protect The Basement

Water inundation may damage a basement in two ways: Heavy rain saturating the soil can penetrate basement walls and/or rising ground water may infiltrate through a basement floor. A sump pump installed in a basin excavated at the lowest part of the basement collects entering water and automatically pumps it out to prevent flooding. Due to power outages frequently associated with summer storms, a sump pump with battery backup feature is preferable.

How to Effectively Deal With Mold Damage in Your Home

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

Many of the effects of mold contamination inside a house require the services of a mold remediation specialist to resolve. In most cases, homeowner’s insurance will stipulate a qualified professional with the credentials and technology to do the job. However, do-it-yourself efforts may be useful in dealing with both causes and effects of mold contamination in certain limited circumstances. Here are some suggestions:

  • Eliminate contributing factors. Homeowners can help resolve conditions which trigger contamination in the first place and then spread mold damage. Track down and resolve chronic moisture issues such as leaky plumbing, roof leaks and excessive indoor humidity. Ventilate damp spaces like the basement and attic that tend to spawn mold. Immediately dry any areas that accidentally become wet.
  • Protect air quality. Make sure your HVAC air filter traps airborne mold spores that spread contamination. Filters with a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating of at least 11 will remove about 80% of airborne spores. In homes where mold damage is a concern the filter should be changed every month.
  • Increase circulation. Mold prospers in stagnant, dark environments, so keeping air circulation optimal also helps inhibit contamination. Regularly open doors and air out closed, unused rooms and closets. Make sure all HVAC supply and return vents in the house are open and unobstructed. Open curtains and shades to let in sunlight.
  • Tackle the small stuff. Though significant, advanced mold contamination doesn’t respond well to DIY methods, there’s no reason not to attack minor, limited outbreaks before they become major issues. Over the counter mold cleaners can be used to knock down mold growth on tile grout in damp bathrooms or kitchens, for example. Where caulking around windows or elsewhere is contaminated, it can be extracted and replaced with new caulking. If only a small area in a room—such as just one corner of a sheet of drywall—shows signs of mold, you can hire a inexpensive handyman to cut out that limited portion and replace it. Then, use mold cleaner as a preventive measure on all other surfaces in the affected room to inhibit recurrence.

When mold is present due to water damage, or if the mold contamination is significant, it’s time for a professional to be called to deal with the situation effectively.

What Types of Items Can be Restored After a Flood?

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

After flooding strikes your home, a major part of the ensuring recovery process is deciding what to keep and what to discard when it comes to items that have been contacted by water. Not all things are worth the effort or cost of cleaning and restoring in the aftermath of a flood. Other items, like photos and mementos, may well be priceless.

Professional water damage recovery services can advise you on what to expect when it comes to attempting to salvage possessions, as well as refer you to specialists in saving/restoring specific articles such as electronics. Here’s a general rundown of typical contents in a household and if/when these items can be saved.

  • Clothing affected by Category 3 “black” water containing raw sewage or toxins from outdoor flooding should be discarded due to health risk. If clothes were contacted only by Category 1 flooding—i.e., “clean” water from a ruptured indoor water supply line—washing with detergent and bleach or professional dry cleaning, according to the fabric type, should be sufficient.
  • Solid wood furniture may be saved if wiped down, then air-dried. Laminated wood doesn’t withstand water exposure well and will usually be discarded.
  • Padded furniture exposed to Category 2 or 3 toxic water usually isn’t worth saving, given the expense of replacing contaminated padding. If it’s an unreplaceable antique or item with sentimental value, consult professional furniture restoration services.
  • Photographs saturated by clean water and not affected by mud or other substances can be carefully separated while still wet, then allowed to air dry. If photos have dried and stuck together, or incurred other damage, contact a photo restoration specialist if the pictures warrant the expense.
  • Consumer electronics saturated or completely submerged aren’t likely to be a good candidate for salvaging—if it’s even possible. Replacement is the best option. If a particularly valuable component is deemed to be worth the cost of a specialist in electronics restoration, however, make sure you don’t power up the unit at any time before it’s turned over to the technician. Unplug it now and leave it unplugged.

Can Electronics be Salvaged After a Flood?

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

Water inundating a home affects everything it comes into contact with to some degree. The quandary for the homeowner trying to sort things out is deciding which items can be saved and which must be discarded. This is particularly true of electronics, as these are usually very vulnerable to water damage and typically costly to replace.

First, be aware of some specific rules dealing with wet electronics:

  • Don’t turn on electronics that are suspected of exposure to water or high levels of water vapor. Leave them off and unplug the unit.
  • Don’t try to dry electronic components in a microwave oven or conventional oven.
  • Don’t open up wet electronic items yourself to let them air-dry. Refer that job to a qualified electronics technician. Your water damage specialist can usually recommend one.

Here are some ways water damage typically will affect electronics:

High Humidity

Water flooding a house raises indoor humidity into the extreme range. Water vapor in the air easily penetrates electronic devices and condenses on circuit boards and other components. As long as the device has not been powered on, a professional technician can usually dry and clean these components in a cost-effective procedure

Rainfall or Splashing Water

Rain may contact electronics inside the house if the roof is damaged in a storm, for example. If standing water is present, splashing may affect electronic components in otherwise dry areas near the water. If direct rain or splashing has contacted an electronic item, professional drying and cleaning can often restore them, as long as there was limited contact with water. However, note that this recovery process must begin ASAP as corrosion affecting circuit boards begins rapidly after water exposure.

Water Submersion

In most cases, electronics totally submerged under water are not recoverable or not worth the high cost of attempting professional salvage. Replacing the unit is usually more financially viable. If data storage devices such as hard drives are involved, these components can be removed from the wet unit and are a good candidate for recovery services that can rescue the data, but this service can run high, as well.

How to Deal With Raw Sewage in Your Basement

Thursday, June 20th, 2019

A raw sewage spill means more than the expense and inconvenience of conventional water damage. It’s an emergency that imposes serious health and safety threats. Any sort of blockage or backup occurring in the main sewer line always affects the lowest point in the house first, so the basement is often ground zero for raw sewage influx. Because an enclosed basement below ground level indefinitely retains any flooding deposited there, professional expertise and specialized equipment are literally always required to pump it out and restore a safe, non-contaminated environment.

What’s Different About Sewage?

There’s good reason why professional sewage remediation teams look like the clean-up crew at a nuclear accident, enclosed head-to-toe in a hazmat suit with eye protection, a face mask and often breathing from a respirator. Raw sewage commonly contains pathogens including Hepatitis B virus, E. coli bacteria, as well as parasites like Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia—better known as the two most common causes of water-borne illness. Even the Poliomyelitis virus that causes polio is a frequently identified component. Direct contact with raw sewage isn’t necessary to become contaminated, just breathing the fumes may result in infection.

Don’t Even Try to Do It Yourself

Putting on rubber boots and gloves and adopting a can-do attitude aren’t enough. That’s why any responsible sewage clean-up advice must be brief and blunt: Don’t do it yourself. Let qualified professionals handle it.

In addition, these precautions apply:

  • Stay out of the basement.
  • Keep kids and pets away, too.
  • Avoid breathing sewage fumes.
  • Infants, the elderly, pregnant women, and persons with compromised immune systems should immediately evacuate the house until it is declared safe to return by a qualified professional.

Can Items Be Saved?

The general rule is, all items directly contacted by raw sewage should be discarded using methods that comply with local and state regulations for toxic waste disposal. Attempting to disinfect sewage-saturated materials such as carpeting, furniture, drywall, insulation, bedding, and clothing is typically more labor-intensive and expensive than replacement. Valuables deemed to be irreplaceable will require professional decontamination procedures before being safe to handle.

Inspecting Your Home’s Roof After the Storm

Thursday, June 13th, 2019

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), about 10% of the over 100,000 storms that occur in the U.S. annually can be classified as severe storms that may cause property damage. The damage may result from high winds, hail, lightning strikes, flooding, or all of the above.

Since your roof bears most of the brunt, after the sun comes out again, it’s a good idea to know how it weathered the storm—before the next one strikes and damage is potentially multiplied. A basic visual roof inspection can usually provide enough information to know if a professional consultation is needed.

Note: If you’re not comfortable climbing up on the roof and/or lack the necessary equipment to do it safely, a reputable roofing contractor will usually provide an inspection at no charge.

Shingles

  • Look for entirely missing shingles, as well as any that are cracked, curled or ripped up from the surface of the roof.
  • Examine asphalt shingles for discolorations caused by hail. These usually show up as dark circular spots where asphalt granules have been dislodged by the impact of hailstones. These shingles will degrade more rapidly in sunlight and should be replaced.
  • Raised nail heads that secure shingles usually indicate that the shingle has been lifted up by high winds and may detach completely in the future.

Flashing

Metal flashing around vents, chimneys and other components that penetrate the roof diverts waters away and prevents leaks. Look for flashing that may have been bent or dislodged by wind or hail.

Debris

If remnants such as a large tree limb broken by high winds are found on the roof, impact damage to the roofing or sub-roof may be suspected.

Gutters

If gutters are sagging, this usually means they have clogged due to debris, and the weight of contained water from heavy rain is straining attachments, which may cause the gutters to give way.

In The Attic

Examine the underside of the plywood subroof for sagging due to structural weakness, as well as dark streaks that typically indicate roof leakage. Look for any signs of sunlight shining through the roof.

Preventing Home Water Damage in the Summer

Thursday, June 6th, 2019

Though the “water damage season” actually runs throughout the entire year, certain times are more likely than others to present specific challenges. Summer, for example, has its own unique circumstances that may trigger water damage, most of which are related to outdoor weather. While you can’t do anything to control the weather, you may be able to take steps to prevent or reduce the ultimate outcome of weather-related water damage. Here are some typical sources of summer water damage and what can be done to best avoid it.

Severe Storms

Heat-triggered thunderstorms can dump several inches of rainfall in a short time on a hot, humid summer day. This abrupt transition from dry to deluge can inflict water damage in several ways:

  • Gutter overflows. Water spilling out of clogged gutters penetrates exterior walls as well as undermines the foundation and seeps into the basement. Inspect gutters and downspouts and keep them clear of debris. Make sure downspouts are long enough to discharge water at least three feet from the house.
  • Roof leakage. Saturated attic insulation and water dripping down through ceilings into living spaces during a summer storm is an untimely way to find out that your roof leaks. Experts recommend a professional roof inspection every three years for asphalt and wood-shingle roofs. You can do some DIY checking yourself by climbing into the attic and looking for signs of leakage such as dark streaks on the underside of sub-roofing.

Air Conditioner Issues

Keeping you cool on a hot summer day, a central A/C unit extracts gallons of water vapor from the air. If everything works right, it’s collected in the condensate drip pan, then conveyed down the drain line. If the drip pan or drain line is clogged, the pan overflows every time the system cycles on, potentially inflicting substantial water damage before it’s noticed. While the unit’s running, use a flashlight to inspect the drip pan under the air handler. It’s normal for it to be wet. However, if you see standing water, contact an HVAC service technician to troubleshoot the drain system.