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How Healthy Humidity Levels In Your Home Can Protect You

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

A healthy humidity level inside your home doesn’t just happen naturally. Just as you usually wouldn’t be comfortable simply letting the indoor temperature match outdoor readings, leaving indoor humidity to chance isn’t a strategy for a healthy, comfortable indoor environment, either.

The interaction between water vapor in the air and a healthy home occurs at both low and high humidity levels.

  • Airborne particulates like bacteria, spores and viruses are more active at certain humidity levels. Colds and flu viruses, for example, actually thrive in dry environments where relative humidity is 35% or lower. Mold spores and active mold growth, conversely, as well as certain bacteria types, are activated when humidity rises above 50%.  When humidity is maintained within the 35% to 50% target range, allergic symptoms, respiratory illness and other heath issues may be reduced.
  • Indoor humidity is also linked to increased levels of gases known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These substances—formaldehyde is the best-known example—are ingredients in many building materials as well as carpeting, paint and furniture. When exposed to indoor humidity above 50% for extended time periods, many of these products emit higher levels of VOCs into the air you breathe. Long-term exposure to volatile organic compounds is a known health risk.  

When Humidity Is Too Low …

Low indoor humidity often occurs in dry winter conditions. Gas-fired heating dries indoor air further, causing humidity levels to drop into the unhealthy range. Use of individual room humidifiers—or installing a whole-house humidifier that adds water vapor to the HVAC airflow to maintain precise indoor humidity levels—are the best recourse to keep the indoor environment healthy.

When Humidity Is Too High …

Indoor humidity above 50% is often related to a naturally humid outdoor climate. To keep the indoor environment drier and healthier, these methods are helpful.

  • Air-sealing the home to reduce infiltration of moist outdoor air.
  • Installing a whole-house dehumidifier in the HVAC system to control humidity.
  • Annual maintenance check-up of the central air conditioner to ensure that the unit’s humidity extraction function is operating up to specs.
  • Installing exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms where water vapor originates.

3 Hidden Places Mold Spores Can Thrive In Your Home

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

A typical individual mold spore is as small as 3 microns. By comparison, a human hair is over 100 microns wide. Mold is ubiquitous in nature and dormant mold spores pervade the environment, both outdoors and indoors. Once specific conditions of moisture, temperature and food supply are met, dormant spores can quickly become active and start to multiply. Live reproductive spores are released into indoor air, spreading contamination. Inhaling these living spores is a known cause of allergic reactions and even chronic illness in certain individuals.  

Here are three hidden locations where conditions are favorable for mold growth inside your house:

Down in the Basement

Damp basements are common due to lack of ventilation. Persistent dampness provides moisture for growing mold. Also, since household plumbing is often routed through the basement, small leaks and condensation on pipes contribute to the dampness. Mold dislikes natural sunlight and grows best in cool temperatures, so a darkened basement is a preferred location. The pungent musty odor often associated with basements is usually a giveaway that mold is growing there.

Up in the Attic

Mold spores lying dormant in a dark attic are waiting to be activated by contact with water. In enclosed attics, humidity often accumulates to high levels, providing sufficient water vapor to activate dormant spores. These spores grow well in porous material such as beds of insulation.  Minor roof leaks which may not be evident in living spaces below are another water source in the attic. Insulation material itself doesn’t provide mold food. However, the dust that accumulates within insulation fibers often contains nourishment and the paper backing attached to roll-out insulation batts provides cellulose, as well.

Inside the HVAC System

The condensate drip pan beneath the indoor air handler diverts condensation from the A/C evaporator coil into a household drain. If the pan drains sluggishly due to a clog, however, the continuous presence of warm stagnant water in the pan provides a perfect environment for mold. Spores pulled through the system airflow infect the water. Active mold growth may thrive in the drip pan and/or the system evaporator coil above.

With Water Damage, What You See Is NOT What You Get

Thursday, March 14th, 2019

The visual effect of water damage inside your home can be shocking and discouraging enough: large pools of water where it doesn’t belong, saturated carpets, soaked furniture. But its real impact is often the consequence of what you can’t see. Water damage usually isn’t an isolated incident you can point one finger at. It’s an ongoing sequence of events that continues unabated until professional intervention with proven techniques interrupts the process.

Here are some results of water damage you may not see at first glance but may have to deal with eventually:

  • Extreme humidity. Water inundation causes humidity to soar within the enclosed confines of a house. Water vapor migrates invisibly into areas of the home apparently untouched by the water itself. The effect of extreme humidity can damage absorbent building materials as well as many valuable possessions such as photographs, books and sensitive electronics.
  • Hidden migration. Water flows through any tiny gap or opening, invasively spreading far and wide. By the time it’s even noticed, water may have seeped under baseboards and into wall cavities where the damage process proceeds sight unseen. It can penetrate flooring on an upper floor and begin slowly saturating the ceiling below (visible signs may not appear immediately). Metal components may not show evidence of contact with water until rusting appears much later.
  • Mold growth. Microscopic airborne mold spores pervade deep into the structure of any home. Until contacted by water—or even unusually high indoor humidity—these hidden spores remain dormant. When water damage occurs, however, mold growth is inevitably triggered, often in unseen locations within the house. Active mold growth becomes a concealed source of toxic airborne reproductive spores that may cause allergic reactions and illness in susceptible individuals.
  • HVAC damage. Water on the move may seep into ductwork routed through seldom visited areas like the attic and crawl space, causing hidden deterioration that leads to loss of heated and cooled air. Roof leaks can silently ruin attic insulation, degrading the effectiveness of the material and leading to unwanted heat gain or heat loss inside the living spaces of the house.

When is Professional Dehumidification Needed?

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

professional dehumdifierSuccessful water damage remediation entails removing all the water from the house: both the water you can see and the water you can’t see. Visible water means the flooding, pooling and puddles resulting from the original incident. Invisible water, meanwhile, manifests as extreme indoor humidity. In the wake of any water intrusion, evaporation into the air from standing water and absorbent materials inside the house is a major factor that determines the extent of damage.

Only in the most limited cases—such as minor pooling on the hard floor of a single room which is removed promptly—is dehumidification not a part of the professional water damage recovery process. Here’s why:

  • Water vapor travels places where water itself never goes. High humidity readily migrates to rooms and upper levels of the house where water in a liquid state isn’t present.
  • Exposure to high humidity and accompanying condensation causes secondary damage to absorbent building materials, carpeting, and household possessions such as books, paper materials, and photographs.
  • High humidity slows the drying process of building materials that have absorbed water. This extends the time period to achieve total water damage recovery.
  • Water vapor infiltrates internal areas of the structure where airborne mold spores collect. Contact with liquid water isn’t required to activate toxic mold. Indoor humidity as low as 55% can trigger some forms of mold and 70% indoor humidity virtually assures mold growth.

To prevent the consequences of high humidity, professional water damage remediation employs techniques that include:

  • High speed fans. As standing water is removed and water is extracted from materials such as carpets, water damage technicians utilize specialized fans that move air in very large volume. These fans can be focused to direct the flow of air at specific areas such as along surfaces like the floor or walls.
  • Industrial grade dehumidifiers. These units incorporate coils that circulate refrigerant, causing water to condense out of air pulled through the coil by a powerful fan. Dehumidifiers usually run continuously during the water damage recovery process until indoor relative humidity reaches the target level.

3 Possible Causes Of Water Damage To Check On Regularly

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

ceiling water damageWaiting for it to happen isn’t the best strategy to avoid water damage in the home. Many water damage crisis events are actually the culmination of an ongoing problem that’s been worsening for some time. Keeping an eye on a few of the most likely suspects—and taking prompt preventive action, ASAP—is always preferable to reacting after the fact. To avoid water damage in the home before it happens, here are three possible causes to check on regularly:

Roof Leakage
Chronic roof leakage can severely damage wooden attic structure, ruin insulation and spawn toxic mold before you’re aware of it. By the time roof leakage finally drips through the ceiling down into living spaces, extensive attic water damage is a fait accompli. A couple of times a year, climb into the attic and look for evidence of leaks. If it isn’t raining, you may only see evidence of previous water intrusion such as dark streaks on the underside of sub-roofing, rotting wood structure, saturated or deteriorated insulation and the telltale musty odor of mold contamination.

Plumbing Issues
Drips and other signs of plumbing dysfunction shouldn’t be accepted as “normal.” A dripping water supply line is a red flag warning of a potentially catastrophic pipe rupture that could flood your house with hundreds of gallons. Inspect water supply lines anywhere they are visible including inside kitchen and bathroom cabinets and behind fixtures. Shine a flashlight into the crawl space and look for wet spots or dried mineral residue on pipes that indicates seepage.

Sewer Problems
Buried under your yard, the household sewer line can harbor a hidden source of water damage, poised to strike. Tree root intrusion, collapsing segments and other unseen dysfunction can trigger reflux of raw sewage into the house—a toxic biohazard that requires extensive professional decontamination to make the premises safe again. Video inspection of the sewer line is the gold standard to check for developing problems before a backup occurs. Schedule inspection with a qualified plumber every three to five years.

The Hidden Dangers Of Drywall Water Damage…

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

hidden drywall damageThere’s more to drywall water damage than meets the eye. Drywall construction is the standard throughout residences, composing both the walls and ceilings of most homes. When a burst pipe or indoor flooding from some other source occurs, drywall is usually the primary building material affected. The most conspicuous signs of drywall water damage are stains, sagging or bulging or actual collapse of the material. In these cases, the most cost-effective recourse is replacement of affected drywall sheets.

What You Don’t See After Drywall Water Damage

Here are a few of the less obvious drywall water damage issues:

  • Mold growth begins inside wall cavities behind drywall within 24 to 48 hours after water intrusion. Drywall forms an excellent media for mold growth because it absorbs moisture that activates mold spores and the paper backing of drywall provides cellulose, a food that nourishes active growing mold. Drywall severely contaminated with mold on the inside may show no signs of mold on the exterior. If active mold growth is detected inside the wall after water damage, drywall must be removed and discarded and the interior of the wall cavity treated with fungicides specifically formulated to eliminate mold
  • Drywall covering the interior side of exterior walls — as well as up on the ceiling — normally conceals a thick layer of insulation. Saturated insulation will typically not readily dry inside an enclosed wall cavity or ceiling. First, the continuous wetness supports toxic mold growth. In addition, moisture from the soggy material will initiate wood rot in wall studs and other wooden structure, requiring more extensive construction work to remove and repair damaged constituents.
  • Wet drywall may lose structural integrity that can’t be restored by drying alone. Seams between individual sheets may no longer align. Because drywall swells when wet, the material may pull away from fasteners and remain insecure even after drying. The paper backing on the unseen side facing the wall cavity may peel away, compromising the strength and durability of the inner layer of gypsum.

 

What Does Water Damage To The Foundation Mean For My Home?

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

foundation water damageWater damage to the foundation of a home occurs in various ways. The consequences and cures are equally varied. It’s never welcome news to hear that your home’s most fundamental structure may be compromised in any way. However, it’s critical to know the facts and take corrective actions as soon as possible to prevent a bad situation from becoming even worse. Here’s how water damage to the foundation can happen and what it means.

Foundation damage may be non-structural or structural.

  • Non-structural water damage normally refers to seepage through small cracks in a foundation or cracks or gaps in joints of a concrete basement wall.
  • Structural damage to the foundation occurs when damage caused by water is prolonged and extensive. The house begins to shift under its own weight. Vertical stability is undermined and the structure often sinks further into the ground. Also, basement walls may begin flexing inward as they become structurally unsound.

Dealing with water damage to the foundation.

  • Remedies for limited, non-structural damage are generally not considered major projects. First, reduce the water content of soil around the foundation. Correct sources of water such as overflowing gutters or landscape grading that pools water near the foundation. An underground exterior drain tile may also be installed to carry soil water away from the house. Basement waterproofing techniques include injecting sealant into cracks in the wall or floor and/or installation of an exterior waterproofing membrane. Where rising ground water is permeating the foundation, installation of a sump pump is also recommended.
  • Re-stabilizing a foundation once structural damage occurs due to long-term water damage is often an extensive and expensive undertaking. After eliminating sources of underground water, a sinking foundation can be restored to original level with the installation of underground hydraulic supports (called “piers”) driven through the foundation footing. A basement wall flexing inward can be stabilized with carbon fiber or steel straps. The sooner professional intervention occurs, the more favorable and less costly the outcome will be.

For more about viable options when water damage to the foundation of your home, contact the experts at Rytech, Inc.

What To Do When Water Damages Your Home’s Foundation

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

foundation damageHow water can damage a home foundation is often a mystery to homeowners, especially those who’ve never been affected. The fact is, however, tough, heavy concrete is actually microscopically porous and quite vulnerable to moisture. With enough ground water under sufficient pressure, moisture eventually penetrates concrete pores and triggers deterioration. The result can be cracks in basement walls, shifting of the foundation, as well as water damage caused by infiltration into the basement or subfloor of the house.

Thinking about how water can damage a home foundation, all causes have one thing in common: excess water volume in soil. Here are some ways to reduce ground water around the foundation.

  • Maintain gutters. Roof runoff during heavy rain pounds the ground around the perimeter of the foundation, pushing water deep into the soil and exerting pressure against basement walls. Eventually, seepage enters the basement space. Make sure gutters are functional and not clogged and overflowing. Gutter downspouts should be long enough to discharge water well away from the foundation perimeter.
  • Install a drain tile. An underground drainage system, a typical drain tile consists of a four-inch diameter perforated plastic pipe installed in a bed of gravel. Typically the drain tile excavation runs around the exterior footing of the basement walls to collect and drain water away from the basement and foundation.
  • Grade the landscape. Pooling next to the house after a heavy rain is another source of ground water that may eventually penetrate the foundation. The soil should be graded in a gentle slope away from the house to divert water into the yard before it is absorbed.
  • Utilize a sump pump. To relieve hydrostatic pressure underneath the foundation, a sump pump basin excavated in the basement floor collects rising ground water. The pump automatically activates and pumps the water out of the basement to an outdoor discharge point. In areas of naturally high water table, a sump pump may collect enough water to activate multiple times each day.

To learn more about how water can damage a home foundation as well as effective steps to prevent it, contact Rytech, Inc.

How To Spot Early Signs Of Water Damage

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

early water damage signsSigns of water damage will eventually be hard to miss—structural deterioration, damaged possessions, toxic mold growth. However, early indicators can be more subtle. Because the effect and extent of water damage inside a house is very time-sensitive, reputable professional water damage remediation services operate on a 24/7/365 basis to get to the scene ASAP. The earlier signs of water damage are recognized by the homeowner and help is summoned, the less complicated the ultimate ramifications will be.

Here are some early warning indicators to be aware of:

  • Changes in flooring. If water is seeping into subflooring due to a saturated foundation or leakage in pipes routed through the crawl space, tile may loosen without explanation or even any noticeable wetness. Linoleum can peel and laminate flooring may warp.
  • Evidence on walls. Sagging, saturated drywall is obvious. More subtle signs of water leakage inside walls, however, include paint that is peeling or bubbling. Cracking may appear in drywall as small amounts of water on the inside of the wall cause the material to swell and retract without appearing soaked.
  • Stains and spotting. Walls may exhibit stains or spots that may be permanent or appear and then fade. These may be mere discolorations or obvious signs of mildew or mold that indicate hidden moisture inside a wall—a leaky water supply line or roof leakage that has migrated down into wall voids, for example.
  • Musty odors. These are the giveaway to mold growth somewhere in the house. Mold doesn’t grow without the presence of moisture so, unless you have a high natural relative humidity inside the house, you can assume there is a plumbing leak somewhere or water seeping in from outdoors.
  • Sounds of water running. Late at night when the house is quiet, can you hear the subtle hiss of water running in the plumbing system or sounds of dripping inside walls? Mark any spots where you can hear water in motion for further investigation.

At Rytech, Inc., water damage remediation is our profession. To learn more about the advance signs of water damage, contact us today.

 

Handle Leaks Fast! Damage Can Be Worse Than It Appears…

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

shower leaksAny water leaks inside your home can be damaging, but shower leaks are particularly insidious. A leak from a sink fixture, for example, will typically be conspicuous in the cabinet underneath the sink or as pooling on the adjacent floor. However, because of its configuration in the house structure, shower leaks often go unseen and may cause extensive damage before they’re pinpointed.

Water damage doesn’t take much time or necessarily involve a large volume of water. Toxic mold growth is triggered within 48 hours of exposure to moisture from even a small plumbing leak. Because many bathrooms are upstairs, minor shower leaks quickly migrate downward, soaking vulnerable wooden structure along the way and saturating the ceiling in rooms below.

Shower leaks can occur from several points of origin:

  • Leakage around the shower door frame, through the door channel or the gasket that seals the door may seep through the joint where floor tiles meet the shower stall. Water can then migrate through the subfloor, pool beneath the shower stall pan or penetrate adjacent rooms.
  • Shower plumbing such as soldered hot and cold water pipe joints, the mixing valve and other components are recessed into the wall cavity next to the stall. Leakage from these components drips downward into the wall cavity, where wetness rapidly accumulates and doesn’t evaporate. Mold growth and rotted building materials result.
  • The shower drain itself may leak at a joint in the drain pipe or around the gasket that seals the drain plate to the floor of the stall.
  • Sealed underneath the shower, a liner is installed to catch minor leakage and convey it into the drain line. Made of flexible waterproof material, the shower liner may eventually deteriorate with age and no longer hold water. Leakage directly beneath the shower penetrates the subfloor and structure underneath the shower, causing deterioration. Replacement of a leaky shower liner is usually major surgery that requires substantial dismantling of the shower to access the liner.

Ask the professionals at Rytech Inc. for more about potential water damage from shower leaks or other plumbing fixtures in the home.