The Difference Between Mold & Mildew.

Mold and mildew are both types of fungi that are commonly found in the home. They thrive in moist environments, spread easily, and live on various surfaces which makes them very difficult to get rid of. If left unattended, however, the harmful microorganisms can quickly affect large areas of your property and may even result in health problems and structural damage. While the two types of fungi share many common features, they pose different risks and respond to different treatment.

So, in order to come up with an efficient cleaning strategy and ensure the safety of your living environment, you need to understand the difference between mold and mildew.

Mold removal for bridge city and west lake

What Is The Difference Between Mold And Mildew?

Mildew can be described as a specific type of mold. Mold is a fungus that contains multiple identical nuclei and grows in the form of black or green patches which penetrate beneath the surface of the affected material. Mildew, on the other hand, has flat growth that remains on the surface where it can be easily removed. While mold usually grows on food or inside permanent structures, such as walls and crawl spaces, mildew is to be found on damp surfaces, paper, fabrics, and various organic materials in your home.

Common Mildew Types

Primarily, mildew is a plant disease that causes great damage to crops and plants. It is classified as powdery and downy:

  • Powdery mildew mainly affects flowering plants and first appears as white or gray patterned splotches that gradually become yellowish brown or black as the fungus grows;
  • Downy mildew is commonly found in agricultural products, such as grapes and potatoes. Its appearance varies depending on the type of surface it grows on, but usually downy mildew starts as yellow spots that eventually turn brown.

Common Mold Types

Although the number of mold species that can live indoors exceeds 10,000 according to the latest CDC estimates, most household molds belong to one of the following five types:

  • Alternaria grows on walls, in showers, around windows, under sinks and in various other damp places. It is often found in buildings that have suffered some kind of water damage. Alternaria mold can appear black, grey, or dark brown and has a wooly or down-like texture. Prolonged exposure to this kind of fungi can cause allergic reactions and asthma attacks;
  • Aspergillus is the most common type of mold found indoors. It can look grey, brown, yellow, green, white, or black. Aspergillus mold usually grows on walls, insulation, paper products, and clothing. It can causes allergic reactions and respiratory infections, as well as inflammation of the lungs in people with weak immune systems;
  • Unlike many other molds, Cladosporium can grow in cool areas. It usually appears on fabrics, such as carpets or curtains, and on wood surfaces, like cabinets and floorboards. It has a characteristic black or olive-green color and can cause a variety of respiratory problems;
  • Penicillium can be found on various materials that have been in contact with water, including carpeting, wallpaper, insulation, and mattresses. It looks blue or green and produces strong musty odors. Penicillium spores spread very easily and often result in allergic reactions;
  • Stachybotrys chartarum, often referred to as “black mold” because of its color, is the most dangerous kind of household mold – it produces toxic compounds called mycotoxins that can cause severe health problems, such as allergic symptoms, breathing problems, asthma attacks, chronic sinus infections, fatigue, and depression. The toxic black mold has a characteristic musty odor and usually grows in areas that are constantly damp – around leaky pipes, inside air conditioning ducts where there is a lot of condensation, etc.

How To Tell The Difference Between Mold And Mildew?

There are several crucial differences in the appearance and properties of mold and mildew that will help you recognize the type of indoor fungi you have discovered in your home:

Differences between Mold and Mildew in Appearance

Typically, mold appears black or green while mildew looks gray or white. Yet, there are some more detailed specifics in the appearance of the fungi:

  • Mildew usually grows in a flat pattern and appears either powdery or fluffy. It can be easily identified as a patch of white, gray, or yellowish fungus that is lying on the surface of a moist area. Mildew usually turns black or brown over time;
  • Mold is usually fuzzy or slimy in appearance. It appears as irregularly shaped spots that can have different colors – blue, green, yellow, brown, gray, black, or white. Oftentimes, surfaces that are covered in mold begin to rot.

Differences in the Effects of Mold and Mildew

Both mold and mildew need to be taken care of in a quick and efficient manner as they can cause a lot of trouble over time:

  • Mildew usually affects plants and crops. If it develops indoors, however, it can also pose health risks. When inhaled, mildew spores cause coughing, headache, sore throat, and respiratory problems;
  • Mold can result in considerable structural damage when left unattended for a long time. Prolonged exposure can cause a variety of health problems, depending on the strain of mold. Common health effects of mold include various allergic reactions (sneezing, skin irritations, irritation of the eyes and throat, nasal congestion, etc.), respiratory problems (difficulty breathing, coughing, pneumonia, asthma attacks), heart problems, migraines, inflammation and pain in the joints, dizziness, depression, and extreme fatigue. The mycotoxins produced by black mold are particularly harmful and may have severe long-term health effects, especially in younger kids and individuals with weak immune systems.

Mold and Mildew Testing

If you are not sure what type of fungi you are dealing with, you can have them tested:

  • Home testing – the easiest way to identify the kind of microorganisms in your home is to drip a few drops of household bleach on the affected area. Wait for about five minutes and inspect the spot:

– if it has become lighter, you are dealing with mildew;

– if it remains dark, it is mold that has developed in your home.

You can also use various mold and mildew testing kits that are available on the market;

  • Professional testing – if you suspect considerable mold growth in your property or if you aren’t sure about the best course of action to take, your best bet is to ask for professional assistance. Contact a trustworthy mold removal company in your area for inspection, testing, evaluation, and efficient mold removal services that will help you get rid of the harmful fungi in your home.

How To Get Rid Of Mold And Mildew?

If you can prevent mold and mildew in the first place, you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle and headaches.

How to Prevent Mold and Mildew

The most efficient way to prevent mold and mildew in your home is to keep all the areas dry and moisture-free. Maintain a humidity level of about 40-50% inside the house (a dehumidifier provides the most advantageous solution for ensuring appropriate indoor humidity), have your heating and cooling systems regularly inspected, keep air ducts clean and in good condition, ensure good air circulation inside the premises, fix any leaks in the bathroom, kitchen or other areas, etc. Remove any mildew-affected plants and weeds as soon as you notice them in order to prevent mildew infestation.

How to Clean Mold and Mildew

Mildew is a surface fungus that can be efficiently treated with a commercially available cleaner and a scrubbing brush. Just make sure you work in a well-ventilated area and wear a facial mask to prevent inhaling mildew spores, as well as to avoid breathing in fumes given off by the cleaning product you use. It is also advisable to put on rubber gloves in order to protect your hands both from the mildew and from the cleaning agent. Clean all the surrounding areas carefully as well, to ensure that all the fungi have been successfully removed.

Mold, on the other hand, attaches to the affected materials with microscopic filaments that penetrate beneath the surface. The mold spores spread very easily and can survive in extreme conditions, so they can quickly affect large areas of your property and result in permanent damage. Moreover, despite its characteristic musty smell, mold is only visible to the eye when the colonies start growing, so early detection and prevention is very difficult. Worst of all, mold can have a very negative impact on your health, so DIY removal attempts are not recommendable. Besides, DIY remedies are rarely efficient because the fungus usually grows in areas that are very difficult to access and to treat.

The safest and most efficient way to get rid of a mold problem is to call a mold remediation company. An experienced professional will come to your home to assess the situation and determine the type of mold or mildew in your property, as well as the extent of the damage. Then, the most appropriate actions will be taken to remove the harmful fungi and prevent its appearance in the near future. The experts will help ensure not only the safety of your living environment, but also your peace of mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Luke Armstrong. “Mold Vs Mildew: The Main Differences Between Mold And Mildew” Web blog post. Mold Removal, Restoration Master. 12 April 2016. 28 Sep 2017. 

How To Save Water At Home.

A dripping faucet or a pipe with a slow leak may seem harmless, but even small amounts of wasted water can quickly become expensive problems. Save yourself money and head-aches by learning how to stop water leaks—and possible damage—before they start.

It flows from faucets, fills washing machines, collects in gutters and runs down drains. When it’s unseen or unwelcomed, however, water can turn disastrous. Leaks in American homes waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water annually. Your home may seem water-tight, but there’s a 1 in 10 chance it hides a leak that spews 90 gallons or more every day. That’s like throwing at least $50 per year down the drain. And a small leak left unchecked can turn into a pool that causes serious problems. Excess moisture can destroy furniture, carpeting, walls and more.

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According to State Farm® records, the average cost of a water damage claim in 2015 was $11,013, and that price tag can skyrocket when the home also experiences structural damage. Undetected water can also pose a health risk by encouraging the growth of mold, mildew and bacteria. Hiding behind walls, it can exacerbate allergies or asthma and cause respiratory problems in healthy family members.

Luckily, it’s easy to correct most common sources of water seepage. Quickly replacing a worn toilet flapper or fixing a dripping faucet, for example, can save you about 10 percent on your water bill and could help prevent more serious problems.

Here are some ways to limit wasted water and help ensure your home is ship-shape.

Pipe Dream

Indoor plumbing is one of civilization’s great innovations, but it’s not flawless. The pipes that deliver water are common sources of leaks. The risk increases with age because pipework joints can degrade with time. Homes older than 30 years are three times more likely than newer homes to have plumbing problems. Common causes of leaky pipes are:

  • Rust or corrosion of galvanized steel pipes or of the metal joints and connections of newer PVC or copper piping
  • Too much water pressure; fixtures and appliance hoses can withstand only so much before faltering
  • Cracked or broken pipes and hoses, which can happen with age, pressure or freezing

To avoid these problems, replace galvanized pipes with plastic if possible, and hire a plumber every few years to inspect your pipes for rust. If your home has a water-pressure regulator, adjust it or hire a plumber to address pressure problems. Finally, insulate exposed pipes and those in the attic and basement. Once a pipe springs a leak, it’s best to have a professional repair it. One telltale sign of a leak is decreased or inconsistent water pressure. If you notice such problems with your faucets, call a plumber.

Play Detective

When you picture water damage, you may imagine a flooded basement or a waterfall pouring from a toilet. But most problems don’t start with giant splashes; more common is a slow leak that goes unnoticed until the damage is done. Early intervention is key. Waiting too long inflates your utility bill and allows water to build to a destructive point that can result in costly restoration expenses. How do you know if your home hides water leaks?

  • Check Your Water Bill: Review usage amounts during the coldest months. A household of four using more than 12,000 gallons per month probably has some serious leaks.
  • Call Your Water Company: Ask whether your utility provider has a leak detection program that alerts homeowners of unusually high water usage. If so, find out how the system works, so you can take appropriate action.
  • Conduct a Meter Check: Record your water meter reading; then turn off all water inside and outside your home, and make sure no one uses anything that requires water for two hours. Record the reading again; if it’s up, it’s likely there’s a leak. These procedures can help identify the presence of leaks, but they don’t tell you their locations. That requires further investigation, starting with examining the most common culprits—pipes, appliances, toilets, faucets and the home’s exterior.

On Alert

As Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Help protect your home from water damage by using water leak alarms in several strategic locations.

These sensors can detect water in hard-to-see areas; an alarm sounds for little as one-sixteenth of an inch of water. Basic battery-operated detectors typically cost $5 to $10. Other models, for about $35, connect to smart-home systems such as Iris, Wink and SmartThings. Use the alarms under or near toilets, sinks, refrigerators with icemakers, dishwashers, washing machines, water heaters, sump pump pits, whole-house humidifiers, window air-conditioning units, and any areas that leaked previously.

Rise of the Machines

Many appliances and mechanical systems use a lot of water. When they have problems, they can leak and cause costly damage. Routine maintenance can help!

  • Dishwasher: If a hose leaks or bursts, it can quickly flood your kitchen with gallons of water. The problem is most common with rubber hoses; $20 replaces these with sturdier, steel-braided options.
  • Washing Machine: Half of leaks result from burst water supply lines, which can loosen with vibration and degrade over time. Check your hoses frequently for cracks and kinks, and replace them every three to five years as part of a proactive maintenance program.
  • Refrigerator: Almost three-fourths of leaks happen because of a failed plastic hose that connects the icemaker to the water line. Check the hose every six months, and replace it if it’s discolored or cracked.
  • Water Heater: Three out of four fail before age 12. Protect yours by flushing the tank every six months. Check annually for corrosion, leaks and a bulging tank. Have a professional check the anode rods for rust every two years.
  • Whole-House Humidifier: If the refill valve in a humidifier fails, water can leak directly into your sewer. Inspect the equipment frequently during the heating season, and turn off its water supply when not in use.

Toilet Troubles

Considering how often we use them, it’s not surprising that toilets are common sources of leaks. In fact, more than a third of all residential toilets have at least small leaks. Even worse, water damage from toilets averaged $14,891 in homeowner claims, according to State Farm records.

Finding most toilet leaks is easy. Ten minutes after flushing, remove the tank cover. If the water level is at the top of the overflow tube, you have a leak.

Another way to check: Put several drops of food coloring in the tank; if the color appears in the bowl within 10 minutes, there’s a leak. If the toilet valve makes a semi-regular or constant hissing or gurgling sound, there’s likely a large leak.

Some toilet leaks are easy to fix, while others require skilled professionals. Before hiring help, try replacing the flapper valve. Often a worn or warped rubber flapper with a bad seal is the source of problems. Swapping out this $5 part is so easy, most homeowners can tackle it themselves. If a new flapper valve doesn’t stop the leak, call a plumber. The problem could be a broken part, such as the refill valve or a loose gasket or bolt.

Most issues can be fixed at little expense. If the problem is a cracked tank or bowl, however, the only solution is replacing the entire toilet. When replacement is necessary, consider investing in a WaterSense-labeled model. This third-party certification means the toilet uses 20 percent less water than the federal standard. For as little as $80, the toilet may save the average family nearly $2,400 in water and waste bills over its lifetime.

Faulty Faucets

The drip-drop of a leaky faucet or showerhead is more than a nuisance. Just one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water per year. And the average repair bill for water damage from a leaky sink is $7,000, according to State Farm records.

Faucets have many moving parts that can degrade, making leaks commonplace with enough time. There are four basic types of faucets, and each is repaired slightly differently. To stop a slow leak, first replace worn inside fittings (washers, gaskets, O-rings, cartridges and ceramic discs) and make sure they are secured tightly. You can likely find a tutorial online.

It’s also a good idea to remove mineral buildup in the aerator once a year by taking it out and soaking it in vinegar. If those steps don’t resolve the problem, hire a plumber.

Remember also to inspect faucets in your bathtub or shower, on the water heater, in laundry basins and utility sinks, as well as your home’s exterior.

Showerheads also can cause water issues, but fixing a leak is often as simple as using Teflon tape and a wrench to tighten the connection between the pipe stem and the showerhead. Replacing the washer or O-ring inside the showerhead may also do the trick. As with a faucet, it’s also wise to remove the showerhead annually and soak it in vinegar.

Leaks that aren’t resolved by these tricks may be caused by valves or other parts that a licensed plumber should tackle.

Look Outside

Sometimes water seeping in from outside can cause damage inside. When you search for the source of a leak, walk around your home to examine these possible offenders:

  • Water Supply Line: If there’s no rain but you find wet soil where the water line enters your home, there may be a leak in the line that runs between the meter and your home. The water utility should inspect the line and determine responsibility.
  • Sewer: Tree roots can invade and block drain lines, causing problematic (and smelly) sewer backups. Flush an enzyme drain treatment down the toilet each month in spring and summer. If this doesn’t help, hire a plumber to video-snake the system to look for problems.
  • Foundation: As your home settles, the shifting foundation can cause pipes to detach from each other and create leaks inside your walls. Check your walls frequently, especially those in the basement, and call a plumber if you find wet spots or cracks larger than one-sixteenth of an inch
  • Roof: Water stains in the attic or on the ceiling and upper walls may indicate a roof in need of repair. Roof leaks are most common in areas that get frequent hail, freezing temperatures or severe wind. Hire a roofing pro each spring—or after a major storm—to inspect your shingles and make necessary repairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “How To Save Water At Home” Web blog post. Simple Insights, State Farm. 22 Sep 2017.

 

Removing Water From Your Home After A Flood.

Making a Flooded House into a Livable Home Again

House floods are terrible, catastrophic, and unfortunately, common in many parts of the world. The destructive power of water is amazing to behold from afar, but when it starts inching its way up to your doorstep or in though the basement, that same water becomes your nightmarish reality.

Flooded House

After the flood waters have receded, trying to pick up the pieces may seem daunting, but if you follow the right steps and put in some hard work, it’s not that hard to make your home liveable again. Here’s our guide to removing water from your home, and making it livable again.

Flood Water Contact Rules

Rule Number One: You should always assume that flood water is contaminated. This means that you need to wear appropriate gear when cleaning up your home and follow strict guidelines of how to deal with items that have come into contact with the water. Some of the most important rules to follow are:

  • Wear waterproof boots or waders and gloves.
  • Throw away any food (including canned goods) that have been in contact with flood water.
  • Disinfect after clearing away remaining water.
  • Clean and protect any bodily cuts.
  • Keep children and senior citizens away from flood water.
  • Bury any fecal matter you discover immediately.
  • Wash your hand thoroughly with soap before eating anything or touching your eyes and mouth.

Removing Flood Water from a Home

The first step when recovering from a flood is removing remaining water that is left inside your home. This can be done with a shop-vac or water pump that is specifically designed to suck up water, or it can be done the old-fashioned way with buckets. The key here is to get as much standing water out of your home as quickly you can.

If you decide to use a shop-vac, make sure you thoroughly read the instruction manual as you may need to remove the filter prior to use.

Maintaining a Drainage Environment

Although a flood will saturate a city or town’s drainage capacity, it will not be long before the infrastructure is capable of draining away remaining water. In order to utilize this, make sure that your home’s drains are clear of debris and that the water in and around your foundation has a clear path to the city sewage systems.

Additionally, it would be wise to make sure the street-gutters near your home are not blocked with debris. It’s very common for leaves and trash to accumulate around your drainage system in your street, preventing excessive amounts of water from draining in an efficient manner. If you keep this area clear of debris, the water will recede at a quicker pace.

Drying Out Your Home

Once all of the standing water has receded or been removed, you can begin the process of drying out your house and your possessions. Anything that can be removed from the house to dry in the sun (as long as it is not raining, obviously) should be removed immediately and set outside. If it is dry you should also open all of your home’s windows and doors to let the trapped moisture escape. It would also be wise to invest in an indoor dehumidifier to remove the evaporating moisture from your home.

A dehumidifier is the best tool you can use for this, but it would also be wise to put a couple of fans in the area to help speed up the drying process. The circulating air will help the drying process.

Looking for Trapped Mud or Water

Completely removing all trapped moisture will prevent mold and decay from causing serious problems for your home down the road. This is much easier said than done as you must remove baseboards, shower trays, and anything that has space beneath or behind it. Remove the mud you find and begin drying these areas immediately. Before replacing the fixtures, these spaces need to be completely dry.

The Risks of Allowing Trapped Moisture to Linger in Your Home

When looking at the flood waters bearing down on your home, the risks of floods are immediately apparent, but you might not be aware of how dangerous it is to let even a little moisture trapped in your home. Some of the risks of trapped water include:

  • Compromised Structural Integrity:

    Moisture locked in flooded home supports can cause the wood to rot, weakening its ability to hold up the weight of your house.

  • Illness Inducing Mold:

    Some molds can be deadly if they are left to grow in your home for too long. It is only after the surfaces of your house are completely dried that you can begin to bleach and clean up mold. If there is remaining moisture, mold will continue to grow.

  • Severely Depreciated Home Value:

    Although a flood will almost always make your house less valuable, you can minimize the loss by properly cleaning and drying out your home after a flood. If a prospective buyer finds that trapped water has created hazardous living conditions, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to sell your home when you wish to or for anywhere close to your asking price.

Home Sweet (and Dry) Home Again

By following the right steps, removing flood water from your home is easier than many people think. With the proper equipment, including a dehumidifier and water pump, you can make your home ready to live in even after something as terrible as a flood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeff Flowers. How to Remove Water From Your Home After A flood. Web blog post.  Learning Center, Compact Appliance. 5 Feb 2014. 18 Sep 2017

Returning Home After A Hurricane.

Preparing to return home after evacuating will keep you safer while inspecting and cleaning up the damage to your home. Before traveling, ensure local officials have declared that it’s safe to enter your community and that you have the supplies you will need. Follow the suggestions below for returning to, inspecting and cleaning your home.

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(Photo: Survival Life )

Before Returning

  • Find out if it is safe to enter your community or neighborhood. Follow the advice of your local authorities.
  • Carry plenty of cash. ATMs may not work and stores may not be able to accept credit or debit cards.
  • Bring supplies such as flashlights, batteries, bottled water and non- perishable foods in case utilities are out.
  • Create back-up communication plans with family and friends in case you are unable to call from affected areas.
  • Plan for delays when traveling. Bring extra food, water, pillows, blankets and other items that will make the trip more comfortable. Keep the fuel tank of your vehicle as full as possible in case gas stations are crowded, out of fuel or closed.
  • Carry a map to help you route around heavy traffic or impassable roads.
  • Find out if local medical facilities are open and if emergency services are functioning again. Do NOT call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number to do this.
  • Understand that recovery takes time. Focus on the positive and have patience. Others will have similar frustrations.

First Inspection

  • If possible, leave children and pets with a relative or friend. If not, keep them away from hazards and floodwater.
  • Beware of snakes, insects and other animals that may be in or around your home.
  • Before entering your home, look outside for damaged power lines, gas lines, foundation cracks and other exterior damage. It may be too dangerous to enter the home.
  • If you smell natural gas or propane, or hear a hissing noise, leave immediately and contact the fire department.
  • If your home was flooded, assume it is contaminated with mold. Mold increases health risks for those with asthma, allergies or other breathing conditions.
  • Open doors and windows. If the house was closed more than 48 hours, let it air it out before staying inside for any length of time.
  • Turn the main electrical power and water systems off until you or a professional can ensure that they are safe. NEVER turn the power on or off, or use an electrical tool or appliance while standing in water.
  • Check the ceiling and floor for signs of sagging. Water may be trapped in the ceiling or floors may be unsafe to walk on.

Cleaning Your Home

  • Be careful when moving furnishings or debris, because they may be waterlogged and heavier.
  • Throw out all food, beverages and medicine exposed to flood waters and mud, including canned goods and containers with food or liquid that have been sealed shut. When in doubt, throw it out.
  • Some cleaning solutions can cause toxic fumes and other hazards if mixed together. If you smell a strong odor or your eyes water from the fumes or mixed chemicals, open a window and get out of your home.
  • Throw out items that absorb water and cannot be cleaned or disinfected (mattresses, carpeting, cosmetics, stuffed animals and baby toys).
  • Remove all drywall and insulation that has been in contact with flood waters.
  • Clean hard surfaces (flooring, countertops and appliances) thoroughly with hot water and soap or a detergent.
  • Return to as many personal and family routines as possible.
  • Caution: Carbon Monoxide Kills
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
  • The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire.

Items to Take When Returning Home:

  • Government-issued photo ID and proof of address
  • Important phone numbers
  • Bottled water and non-perishable foods
  • First aid kit
  • Cleanser/hand cleaning gel for personal use
  • Hygiene products and toilet paper
  • Insect repellent and sunscreen
  • Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, sturdy waterproof boots and work gloves
    Flashlight, portable radio and extra batteries
  • Cameras for photos of damage for insurance claims

Using Generators Safely

  • When using a portable generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a portable generator to a home’s electrical system.
  • If you are considering getting a generator, get advice from a professional, such as an electrician. Make sure that the generator you purchase is rated for the power that you think you will need.
  • Wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots.

Let Your Family Know You’re Safe

If your community has experienced a flood, or any disaster, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well Web site available through RedCross.org to let your family and friends know about your welfare. If you don’t have Internet access, call 1-866-GET- INFO to register yourself and your family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Red Cross. “Returning Home After a Hurricane or Flood” Web blog post. Hurricane Central, The Weather Channel. 19 Sep 2014. 13 Sep 2017

Clean Up Safely After A Disaster

Highlights

  • Stay away from damaged buildings or structures that have not been examined and certified by an inspector.
  • Wear hard hats, goggles, heavy work gloves, and watertight boots with steel toe and insole cleanup work.
  • Carbon monoxide can cause illness and death.
  • Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected.
  • Never turn power on or off or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.

When returning to your home after a hurricane, flood, or other natural disaster protect yourself and your family by following these tips.

 

Reentering Buildings

  • Stay away from damaged buildings or structures until they have been examined and certified as safe by a building inspector or other government authority. You may want to wait to return to buildings during daylight hours, when it is easier to avoid hazards, particularly if the electricity is off and you have no lights.
  • Leave immediately if you hear shifting or unusual noises that signal that the structure may fall or if you smell gas or suspect a leak. If you smell gas, notify emergency authorities and do not turn on the lights, light matches, smoke, or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return to the house until you are told it is safe to do so.
  • Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed.

General Safety Measures

  • Have at least two fire extinguishers, each with a UL rating of at least 10A, at every cleanup job.
  • Wear hard hats, goggles, heavy work gloves, and watertight boots with steel toe and insole (not just steel shank) for cleanup work.
  • Wear earplugs or protective headphones to reduce risk from equipment noise.
  • Use teams of two or more people to move bulky objects. Avoid lifting any material that weighs more than 50 pounds (per person).
  • When using a chain saw, operate the saw according to the manufacturer’s instructions, wear appropriate protective equipment, avoid contact with power lines, be sure that bystanders are at a safe distance, and take extra care in cutting trees or branches that have gotten bent or caught under another object. Use extreme caution to avoid electrical shock when using an electric chain saw. For tips on safely operating a chain saw, see Preventing Chain Saw Injuries During Tree Removal After a Disaster(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/chainsaws.html).
  • If there has been a backflow of sewage into your house, wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of the affected area.
  • In hot weather, try to stay cool by staying in air-conditioned buildings, taking breaks in shaded areas or in cool rooms, drinking water and nonalcoholic fluids often, and wearing light and loose-fitting clothing. Do outdoor activities during cooler hours. For more information on protecting yourself against heat-related illness, see the CDC Extreme Heat Web site(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html).

Carbon Monoxide Exposure

  • Never use generators, pressure washers, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage, or camper—or even outside near an open window, door, or vent. Carbon monoxide—an odorless, colorless gas from these sources that can cause sudden illness and death—can build up indoors and poison the people and animals inside.

For more information, see Carbon Monoxide Poisoning After a Disaster(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/carbonmonoxide.html).

 

Mold and Cleanup

  • Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected (such as mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings, and paper products).
  • Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or flood waters.
  • Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces (such as flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures) with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.

See Mold After a Disaster(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/mold/), Homeowner’s and Renter’s Guide to Mold Cleanup After Disasters and the CDC Flood Web site(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/floods/index.html) for further guidance on safely reentering flooded homes, cleaning up flood or storm water, worker safety issues, and mold cleanup issues.

Electrical Issues

  • If electrical circuits and electrical equipment have gotten wet or are in or near water, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. If you must enter standing water to access the main power switch, then call an electrician to turn it off.
  • Never turn power on or off or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.
  • Do not connect generators to your home’s electrical circuits without the approved, automatic-interrupt devices. If a generator is on line when electrical service is restored, it can become a major fire hazard and it may endanger line workers helping to restore power in your area.

 

Hazardous Materials Issues

  • Call the fire department to inspect or remove chemicals, propane tanks, and other dangerous materials.
  • Wear protective clothing and gear (for example, a respirator if needed) when handling hazardous materials.
  • Wash skin that may have come in contact with hazardous materials.
  • Wear insulated gloves and use caution if you have to remove a car battery. Avoid any acid that may have leaked from a car battery.

 

Hygiene and Infectious Disease Issues

  • After completing the cleanup, wash with soap and water. If there is a boil-water advisory in effect, use water that has been boiled for 1 minute (allow the water to cool before washing). Or you may use water that has been disinfected for personal hygiene use (solution of 1/8 teaspoon of household bleach per 1 gallon of water). Let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, use a solution of 1/4 teaspoon of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.
  • If you have any open cuts or sores that were exposed to floodwater, wash them with soap and water and apply an antibiotic ointment to discourage infection.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill.
  • Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.

Water Issues

  • If the building is flooded, the waters may contain fecal material from overflowing sewage systems and agricultural and industrial waste. Although skin contact with floodwater does not, by itself, pose a serious health risk, there is risk of disease from eating or drinking anything contaminated with floodwater.
  • If you have any open cuts or sores that will be exposed to floodwater, keep them as clean as possible by washing them with soap and applying an antibiotic ointment to discourage infection. (See also Clean Hands Save Lives: Emergency Situations(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/handhygienefacts.html) .)
  • To reduce cold–related risks when standing or working in water which is cooler than 75 degrees F (24 degrees C), wear insulated clothes and insulated rubber boots, take frequent breaks out of the water, and change into dry clothing when possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “Fact Sheet: Clean Up Safely After a Disaster” Web blog post. Disasters, Clean up. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention. 30 Aug 2017, 12 Sep 2017.

Flood Damage Prevention

While fire may be a more common concern among homeowners, your home could in fact be as much as ten times more likely to be damaged by water than by fire. Significant sources of water damage to one’s property can come from weather-related moisture or flooding, including flooding from heavy rains, flash floods, dam and levee failures, tidal storm surges and mudflows. In addition, new construction of buildings, roads or bridges can alter the flow of water, increasing the potential for flooding.

Living in a high-risk flood zone can increase the likelihood of experiencing a flood, but being outside a high-risk zone does not mean homeowners are safe; flooding is always a possibility.

flood damage outside a home

(Photo credit: Travelers)

 

Protecting Your Property Before, During and After a Flood

There are a number of things you can do to help minimize or prevent water damage to your property. Follow these tips to help prepare and recover from potentially costly flood damage.

Before the Flood:

Know your properties flood zone risk and evaluate your flood risk with this reference guide from IBHS.

Have your furnace, water heater and other permanent equipment elevated above the expected flood levels of your area.

Inspect sump pumps and drains regularly to ensure proper operation.

If you own a generator, have a licensed electrician provide a transfer switch to your sump pump so you can operate it in the event of flooding.

To help prevent sewage backup, have a licensed plumber install an interior or exterior backflow prevention valve.

Keep sandbags on hand to help divert unusually high water away from your foundation.

In snowy climates, flag drains to avoid plowing snow on top of them.

Learn the flood alert signals of your community.

Collect emergency building materials if you live in a frequently flooded area. These may include plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber, nails, shovels and sandbags.

Plan and practice an evacuation route. Designate a place for family members to meet in the event they become separated.

Review with all family members how to shut off utilities in an emergency.

Plan a survival kit with important documents, including insurance documents, medications and critical items in the event you need to leave your home.

During the Flood:

Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for the latest storm information. If advised to evacuate, shut off all utilities and evacuate immediately.

Move to high ground, avoid rising waters and do not walk or drive through any floodwaters.

Stay away from downed power lines and electrical wires.

After the Flood:

Listen to the radio and do not return home until authorities indicate it is safe to do so.

Once allowed back into your home, inspect it for damage. If your property has been damaged, promptly report the loss.

Be watchful of snakes that may have found their way into your home.

Throw away all food that has come in contact with floodwaters.

Remove standing water as quickly as possible, including from your basement. If your basement is flooded, pump out about 1/3 of the water per day to avoid structural damage.

Properly dry or remove soaked carpets, padding and upholstery within 24-48 hours after a flood to prevent mold growth. Discard anything that cannot be properly dried.

Wash and disinfect all areas that have been flooded. This includes walls, floors, closets and shelves, as well as heating and air-conditioning systems. Do not energize electrical or electronic equipment that may have suffered water damage without first having a qualified electrician inspect and/or test it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Flood Damage Prevention”. Web blog post. Prepare & Prevent, Flooding. Travelers. 28 July 2017.

 

How Flood Zones And Evacutaion Zones Differ.

Flood zones, evacuation zones, and storm surge are different. They measure different conditions that may not occur at the same time, are determined by different methods, and have different purposes. A home may be located in a non-evacuation zone, yet still be located in a flood zone because of a nearby stream or pond. Residents are advised to check all of them to learn what your flood risk is.

Image result for flood zone sign
(photo credit: Structural Solutions of NJ)
 

Definitions:

Flood zones are areas mapped by FEMA for use in the National Flood Insurance Program. Each flood zone designation, represented by a letter or letters, tells homeowners what the risk is for flooding at their property over a period of years, regardless of the cause. High risk areas, referred to as Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) are shown on the map as zones labeled with the letters A or V. By law, all homes in high-risk zones carrying a mortgage must be covered by flood insurance.

Visit the Pinellas County Flood Map Service Center to find out what your risk is.

Evacuation zones are based on hurricane storm surge zones determined by the National Hurricane Center using ground elevation and the area’s vulnerability to storm surge from a hurricane. The evacuation zones are marked from A through E, plus non-evacuation zones. Visit the Know your Zone Evacuation Level Lookup to find out what zone you are in.

 Storm Surge flooding occurs when an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm is pushed toward the shore by strong winds. If you are susceptible to storm surge, flood insurance is recommended, even if you are not located in a FEMA flood zone.

Current Water Levels in a nearby waterbody can help you predict when flooding might occur during a rain or tropical event.

 

Understand flood insurance

Much of Pinellas County is prone to flooding, so you should get flood insurance for your home, business, or rental. Regular homeowner’s or tenant’s insurance do not cover losses due to flooding. Flood insurance covers you for damage to your home, business and contents due to surface accumulation of water from inland or tidal flooding and erosion due to flooding. Don’t assume that you’re safe from flooding just because you live on an upper level in a condo building. If a severe flood wipes out the ground floor of your building, all of the other units in the building (including your own) may become uninhabitable as well.

If you are looking at buying a property, it is a good idea to check out the possible flood hazards before you buy. Most homeowners insurances do not cover flood damage. Talk to your insurance provider about your policy and consider if you need additional coverage.

 

Stay Connected

· Sign up for ALERT Pinellas – You will be notified of an emergency with phone and text messages!

· Sign up for E-Lert – Receive a monthly newsletter with the latest emergency education information and receive emergency bulletins and instructions during emergencies via email.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Flood Information.” Web blog post.  Pinellas County Flood Information. Pinellas County Florida. 28 July 2017.

 

Signs Of Hidden Water Leak In Your Bathroom.

You may need to poke around to find the not-so-obvious bathroom plumbing leak.

 

If left untreated, though, a water leak in your bathroom can cost you, especially if it leads to serious water damage to walls, flooring and paint.

Look for these somewhat subtle signs to determine whether you need to hire a plumber to fix those leaking pipes or plumbing fixtures before things get worse.

Mildew or mold

No matter how well and how often you clean your bathroom, mold or mildew can spring up if you have a hidden water leak. Mold thrives on moist, dark areas, and a pipe, which is typically hidden in a wall or under flooring, provides the perfect starting point for mold or mildew if the pipe springs a leak.

info graphic showing costs of water leak over 5 years

While it’s normal for a little mildew to occur wherever water accumulates, such as in the corner of a shower, mold or mildew on non shower walls or in corners of the bathroom is a clear sign that water is leaking somewhere and finding its way to those areas. A leaking pipe provides plenty of moisture, so the longer it takes you to detect and fix the leak, the easier and faster mold will grow.

Damaged paint or wallpaper

A wall with blistering paint or wallpaper is another sign of bathroom leaks.

In most cases, steam from the occasional hot shower shouldn’t cause paint or wallpaper to come loose. When water and moisture get between the wall and paint, they eliminate the bond and begin to separate the two, causing the paint to rise from the wall and fall off in pieces. The same goes for wallpaper: The adhesive used to bond the paper to the wall becomes less sticky and the paper begins to come loose.

Damaged walls

A wall that is warped or stained for no reason is a clear sign that you have a plumbing leak in your bathroom.

When drywall is exposed to moisture, it becomes soft and begins to bubble, ultimately warping and breaking into pieces. If the leak reaches the ceiling, it causes it to sag and possibly leak some of the water that has accumulated.

To fix the leak, a plumber often must tear out the drywall, requiring someone to patch and paint when the plumber is finished.

Damaged flooring

Unless you purposely let water sit on it, a bathroom floor rarely suffers water damage unless there is a leak. If your bathroom floor is buckling, cracking or beginning to stain for no obvious reason, chances are hidden water is the culprit. The water could be from a pipe directly underneath the floor, or it could have traveled there from another area.

Depending on the type of flooring in your bathroom, moisture can make it feel spongy or soft. Tile may lose its adhesion and become loose, allowing you to easily remove a piece and possibly expose water or moisture underneath it. You will also often find a damp subfloor.

Stains on ceilings

If you have a bathroom on a second floor, you might spot a leak in the ceiling under bathroom. Check the patch of ceiling in the room directly beneath the bathroom for stains and signs of water damage. However, because water can travel a long distance, it’s possible to find water stains on the ceiling farther away.

An occasional wet floor in a second-story bathroom won’t cause enough seepage to damage anything underneath it. Any brown, copper or dark stain on the ceiling is a sign of a pernicious water leak in the ceiling. A sagging ceiling is a sign that water from a leak is reaching the area.

 

 

 

 

 
J.T. Gonzales. Signs Of Hidden Water Leak In Your Bathroom. Web blog post. Solution Center: Plumbing. Angie’s List.  2 June 2015, 13 July 2017

Getting Your Home Ready For A Hurricane.

Start with shutters and your roof

“If you buy shutters or other coverings with product approvals and use licensed contractors who pull building permits, you’re on your way to protecting your home,” says engineer Jose Mitrani, associate professor emeritus in the school of construction at Florida International University in Miami.

“And be sure that inspections are done of the work,” says Mitrani, who served on building code task forces after Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm that tore through South Florida in 1992.

Roof cover damage is the biggest reason for hurricane insurance claims that are not related to storm surges, says the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, or IBHS, in Tampa, Florida.

A cascade of trouble can happen when a roof is roughed up by a hurricane: Water gets in through gaps in the roof decking, which soaks the attic insulation, which collapses the ceiling, which damages your furniture and other belongings when wet wallboard and insulation fall on them.

And that’s if your roof mostly stays intact. If your roof lacks truss tie-downs known as hurricane straps or its gable ends are unbraced or improperly braced, you stand a greater chance of losing part of or the entire roof over your head.

That’s why the IBHS and the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, or FLASH, suggest you take these roof precautions now before hurricane season revs up.

  • Nail or caulk loose roof tiles or shingles.
  • On a metal roof, check for rust and loose anchoring.
  • Install hurricane straps. (Consider hiring a licensed contractor to do this.)
  • Brace gable ends. (Ditto on hiring a professional.)
  • Install a backup water barrier under the roof cover if necessary.

The IBHS also suggests you check your attic’s ventilation. Loose eave and gable end vents, soffits and turbines all provide opportunities for water to enter your attic.

Image result for hurricane house safety

(photo: Travelers Insurance)

Window and door coverings

To a great extent, getting your home hurricane-ready means making sure it’s equipped with the right hurricane-resistant window and door coverings. They run a gamut that includes various types of shutters, panels, screens and sheeting, as well as impact-glass windows and doors.

Plywood is cheap but considered an emergency measure — and it’s little help unless you size and anchor it correctly.

Mitrani says even the smallest windows must be covered because in a major storm, smaller openings are actually subjected to higher wind pressures than larger areas such as the side of your house.

The average window area to be covered (including doors with windows) is about 15 percent of a home’s total square footage, according to the IBHS. A 2,000-square-foot home would need about 300 square feet of shutters. If your shutters cost $20 per square foot, you’ll spend $6,000.

The IBHS notes that some coverings can be installed only by professionals and cost up to $30 per square foot of opening. Do-it-yourself products cost about half as much.

Beware of contractors who try to sell DIY products, warns Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president and CEO of FLASH. “Those are products that are cheap and can’t get product approval,” she says.

Protecting doors and windows

Some coverings are permanent attachments to your home, such as accordion shutters and “clamshell” awnings. Accordion shutters rest folded and highly visible on both sides of your windows, while single-piece clamshell awnings fold down over your windows from above.

Removable hurricane panels sit in tracks at the top and bottom of window and door openings; only the tracks are permanently attached to the building.

If you live in a condo or a development with an active homeowners association, be aware that there may be rules about the type and color of storm shutters allowed. Check before outfitting your doors and windows.

Also, ask your local building department what’s required of coverings in your state or region. Mirtrani says building codes in Florida, for example, require that hurricane products be able to withstand certain levels of impact by wind-borne debris. That means those products have to undergo impact tests to earn approval.

Once your new coverings are installed, take them for a trial run, suggests Tim Reinhold, IBHS chief engineer and senior vice president of research.

“Make sure you have all the parts and everything is sized and fits properly,” he says.

Other property precautions

Before hurricanes start forming, do a spot-check from the attic down. FLASH recommends caulking holes in building exteriors and tightening or replacing loose and missing screws and brackets in windows and doors — including garage doors. Also, be sure to clean out the gutters.

A few final preparation tips:

  • Don’t tape windows. Placing those masking-tape X’s across your panes may feel comforting, but the National Hurricane Center says it’s a waste of valuable time and won’t keep your windows or glass doors from shattering.
  • Plan to evacuate a mobile home. Even if you have a newer manufactured home built to withstand higher wind speeds, Reinhold says there’s too great a chance of damage from flying debris from older neighboring homes to risk staying.
  • Prepare for high-rise pressure changes. If you live in a high-rise building, be aware that potentially damaging wind pressures increase with height.
  • Batten down the patio/yard. Don’t leave anything outside, including furniture, playthings and tools. Trim trees so branches won’t bang against the house, and do it early enough so the trimmings can be hauled off before a hurricane. Otherwise, they could become projectiles in a major storm.
  • Gas up before the storm. Fill up your vehicles and emergency power generator well ahead of time to avoid last-minute lines at the pump.

 

 

 

 

 

Terry Sheridan. This hurricane season could be a big one. Check your home’s defenses. Web blog post. Insurance, Bank Rate. 31 May 2017. 7 July 2017

Your Home Plumbing Checkup

 

Man checking plumbing under a sink

 

Plumbing issues can lead to sky-high water bills—not to mention major structural damage to your home. A small leak could waste tens of thousands of gallons of water each year and result in much larger headaches. Use these tips to help make regular DIY plumbing inspections all around your house.

Inspect your pipes

Look for signs of dripping and corrosion in exposed pipes, such as supply lines for toilets and sinks, as well as lines leading to appliances such as dishwashers, refrigerator ice makers, and washing machines. Leaking fixtures may need replacement parts, such as a new O-ring or cartridge for a dripping faucet or a flapper for a leaky toilet.

Sneak up on leaks

Even if you don’t see dripping, you may still have a problem. Wall or cabinet stains, rusty water, cracked or warped flooring, and a musty smell are all indicators of plumbing issues.

Focus on faulty plumbing

Shutoff valves and copper and brass fittings are the first places corrosion occurs. The likelihood of corrosion is greater if the metals are mismatched, as when galvanized pipes connect directly to copper lines. This should be repaired immediately. But if the pipes are corroded or rusted, have them replaced.

Try the water meter trick

Water meters are great leakage detectors. Note the current level of water usage on your meter, and then suspend all water usage for 30 minutes, making sure all water-using appliances are turned off. Recheck the meter. If the triangular leak indicator is spinning or the dial hand has moved or the number has increased, you probably have a leak.

Remedy the problems

You don’t have to be an expert to fix small plumbing issues, as long as you feel comfortable and confident taking them on. If you have water-damaged flooring and walls, consider hiring a plumbing pro to fix the leak, and then replace the damaged areas to avoid mold growth. For major problems or anything you’re unsure how to fix, always call an expert.

 

 

 

 

 

Your Home Plumbing Checkup: Make This a Habit. Web blog post. Simple Insights. State Farm. 22 June 2017