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Spring Thaw

springthawEach year, Michigan homeowners and businesses are hit with the harsh reality of winter, dealing with everything from snow covered roads and pot holes to slippery driveways and the dreaded NO SCHOOL Snow Days. You can’t change the weather, but we can minimize the toll it may take by implementing a few simple safeguards.  Heating and plumbing maintenance and the right insurance coverage, can help minimize any financial burdens that may follow seasonal storm damage.

This time of year, it is important to be aware of water damage that can be caused by Spring Thaw.  You can’t stop the water, but you can take measures to limit or prevent damage and save on restoration repairs.

Understand your insurance coverage

Read the details of your homeowner’s insurance coverage as it applies to water damage and flooding, because unless you carry flood insurance, any damage to your home caused by spring-thaw flooding is generally not covered. Many policies also don’t cover backed-up sewers unless you pay a higher premium specifically for this added coverage.

How to prevent water damage

No homeowner can prevent water damage under every circumstance, but you can prepare your home ahead of spring-thaw months to prevent common causes of damage.

  • Basement pumps. Install a sump pump or a sewer backflow value and keep a battery-operated backup in case of power failure. Consider installing a water alarm that warns when water is accumulating in your basement.
  • Basement storage. Keep valuable items out of your basement. Removing any electronics or stored valuables from your basement prior to spring-thaw warnings could prove to be an important ounce of prevention.
  • Debris removal. Remove debris from window wells, gutters and downspouts.
  • Doors and windows. Check for any leaks around doors and windows.
  • Exterior walls. Keep all exterior walls of your home well painted and sealed.
  • Flood drains. If you have flood drains, make sure they work properly.
  • Foundation cracks. Inspect your foundation for cracks that will allow water seepage and initiate repairs.
  • Grading. Inspect the grading around your home and make any changes. Design the grading to encourage the water to flow away from your home.
  • Landscaping. Trim trees and bushes away from your home and do not store wood or compost piles nearby.
  • Roof. Keep your roof in good repair. Unless a tree falls on your roof during a storm, most insurers expect you to maintain your roof to prevent water leaks caused by snow melting or torrential downpours.

Adapted from https://www.safetyinsurance.com

Power Failure Plan

Having a power failure plan to protect your home from a blackout has become a necessity today.  According to one study, 75 percent of U.S. homeowners experienced a power outage each year.Preventing power failures

So how do you protect yourself from these power failure problems? By setting up backup power systems to protect mission-critical appliances from damage or destruction. Here’s where to begin:

Standby Generators. Generators can run on natural gas or gasoline, and some can re-power most of the home’s critical systems within a short time of a power failure.

Surge Suppression.  Surges can occur from outside or inside the home. To protect yourself, you’ll need several types of devices:

  • Lightning Rods – Good to protect against blasts of lightning hitting at or near your home. Lightning rods provide a “ground” path to divert this runaway power from harming your home’s electrical systems.
  • Surge Arrestors – Surge arrestors are mounted inside your electrical panel and provide another protection against voltage spikes, which occur from the outside.
  • Surge Suppressors – Surge suppressors provide the second stage of an interior defense system. Most suppressors resemble power strips with outlets, and protect equipment that’s particularly sensitive to moderate surges such as computers, TVs, phones, and audio/video systems.

When shopping for surge suppressors, keep in mind that major qualitative differences exist. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for and finding out your suppressor didn’t work during a power failure can be a very expensive lesson to learn.

Battery Back-ups.  Probably the single most effective equipment to protect computers from damage from a power outage is a battery back up. Known as an “uninterruptible power supply” or “UPS”, these small devices will not only protect your sensitive data from surges or spikes, they can also instantly restore power to your computer long enough to allow you to safely save your work and shut down the system.  Battery backups are an essential part of your power failure plan.

Check out these sites for good tools and tips on protecting your power during a power failure:

  • Electric Generators Direct.com– Use the home wattage wizard to find out how much power you’ll need in the event of a blackout.
  • Generac –  View a movie that explains step-by-step how stand-by generators protect your home from power failures.
  • National Lightning Safety Institute – Get the facts on lightening and learn how to avoid becoming a victim.
  • Energy Guide.com – Enter a few details on your home and learn what energy saving improvements makes the most sense.

Protecting your home from power failures with a thorough power failure plan has become a necessity, due to today’s many power outages. But with a little preplanning, the inconvenience of losing electricity can be left at just that.

Mold Clean-Up and Removal Tips

It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors; some mold spores will be found floating through the air and in house dust.  Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture indoors.  The mold spores will not grow if moisture is not present.  If there is mold growth in your home, just remember that you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem.  If you clean up the mold, but don’t fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will come back.

How do I clean up the mold?   To clean up and remove indoor mold growth, follow these steps, as they apply to your home.

1.  Identify and Fix the Moisture Problem – the most important step in solving a mold problem is to identify and correct the moisture sources that allowed the growth in the first place. Common indoor moisture sources include:

  • Flooding
  • Condensation (caused by indoor humidity that is too high or surfaces that are too cold)
  • Movement through basement walls and slab
  • Roof leaks
  • Plumbing leaks
  • Overflow from tubs, sinks, or toilets
  • Firewood stored indoors
  • Humidifier use
  • Inadequate venting of kitchen and bath humidity
  • Improper venting of combustion appliances
  • Failure to vent clothes dryer exhaust outdoors (including electric dryers)
  • Line drying laundry indoors
  • House plants – watering them can generate large amounts of moisture

To keep indoor surfaces as dry as possible, try to maintain the home’s relative humidity between 20-40 percent in the winter and less than 60 percent the rest of the year. You can purchase devices to measure relative humidity at some home supply stores. Ventilation, air circulation near cold surfaces, dehumidification, and efforts to minimize the production of moisture in the home are all very important in controlling high humidity that frequently causes mold growth in our cold climate.

2.  Begin Drying All Wet Materialsas soon as possible, begin drying any materials that are wet. For severe moisture problems, use fans and dehumidifiers and move wet items away from walls and off floors. HIP offers services for emergency flood Check with equipment rental companies or restoration firms to see if you can rent fans and dehumidifiers.

  • Run your sump pump. If you don’t have one, it would be helpful to get one now to drain your basement of any leftover water. If your basement has a floor drain, mop all the water to the drain. If your basement does not, mop up the excess water.

  • Turn on a few large fans and a dehumidifier to dry out the basement. Typically this will take at least 24 hours, but you’ll be too busy to notice. It is important to quickly dry your basement to prevent mold, mildew and extra bacteria growth. Bacteria love moist areas. 

3.  Remove and Dispose of Mold Contaminated Materials – items which have absorbed moisture (porous materials) and which have mold growing on them need to be removed, bagged and thrown out. Such materials may include sheet rock, insulation, plaster, carpet/carpet pad, ceiling tiles, wood products (other than solid wood), and paper products. Likewise, any such porous materials that have contacted sewage should also be bagged and thrown away. Non-porous materials with surface mold growth may be saved if they are cleaned well and kept dry.

Take Steps to Protect Yourself – the amount of mold particles in air can increase greatly when mold is disturbed. Consider using protective equipment when handling or working around mold contaminated materials. The following equipment can help minimize exposure to mold:

  •  
    • Rubber gloves
    • Eye goggles
    • Outer clothing (long sleeves and long pants) that can be easily removed in the work area and laundered or discarded
    • Medium-efficiency or high-efficiency filter dust mask (these can be found at safety equipment suppliers, hardware stores, or some other large stores that sell home repair supplies) — at a minimum, use an N-95 or equivalent dust mask
    • Take Steps to Protect Others – plan and perform all work to minimize the amount of dust generated. The following actions can help minimize the spread of mold spores:
      • Enclose all moldy materials in plastic (bags or sheets) before carrying through the home
      • Hang plastic sheeting to separate the work area from the rest of the home
      • Remove outer layer of work clothing in the work area and wash separately or bag
      • Damp clean the entire work area to pick up settled contaminants in dust

Haul up soggy and destroyed belongings while the basement dries. This is the hardest part of a flood cleanup effort. Always lift with your legs because wet boxes and belongings way much more than dry ones.

  • Discard anything that cannot be properly sanitized. Paper products like books, boxes and cards should get thrown away. Anything that can be hosed down with bleach and water, place in your yard or driveway to clean later.
  • Scrub the walls and floors that got wet with a solution made of 1 cup of bleach and 5 gallons of water. Be sure to wear rubber gloves and work clothes.
  • Run the fans and the dehumidifier once again. Again, this could take 24 hours or more. Although the moisture in your basement is now clean moisture, you don’t want it to attract bacteria. Your basement should no longer look or feel moist and humid.
4.  Clean Surfaces – surface mold growing on non-porous materials such as hard plastic, concrete, glass, metal, and solid wood can usually be cleaned. Cleaning must remove and capture the mold contamination, because dead spores and mold particles still cause health problems if they are left in place.
  • Thoroughly scrub all contaminated surfaces using a stiff brush, hot water and a non-ammonia soap/detergent or commercial cleaner
  • Collect excess cleaning liquid with a wet/dry vacuum, mop or sponge
  • Rinse area with clean water and collect excess rinse water

5.  Disinfect Surfaces (if desired) – after cleaning has removed all visible mold and other soiling from contaminated surfaces, a disinfectant may be used to kill mold missed by the cleaning. In the case of sewage contamination, disinfection must be performed. Contact your home inspector for advice.

  • Mix 1/4 to 1/2 cup bleach per gallon of water and apply to surfaces where mold growth was visible before cleaning. The solution can be applied with a spray bottle, garden sprayer, it can be sponged on, or applied by other methods.
  • Collect any run-off of bleach solution with a wet/ dry vacuum, sponge or mop. However, do not rinse or wipe the bleach solution off the areas being treated — allow it to dry on the surface.

Always handle bleach with caution. Never mix bleach with ammonia — toxic chlorine gas may result. Bleach can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. Provide fresh air (for example, open a window or door). Protect skin and eyes from contact with bleach. Test solution on a small area before treatment, since bleach is very corrosive and may damage some materials.

6.  Remain on Mold Alert – Continue looking for signs of moisture problems or return of mold growth. Be particularly alert to moisture in areas of past growth. If mold returns, repeat cleaning steps and consider using a stronger solution to disinfect the area again. Regrowth may signal that the material should be removed or that moisture is not yet controlled.

When can we rebuild after mold clean-up and removal?  Rebuilding and refurnishing must wait until all affected materials have dried completely. Be patient it takes time to dry out wet building materials. 

Click here for more information about Mold and here for Tips on Detecting Mold.

If, at any time, you are concerned about your home and would like a Mold Inspection done by Home Inspection Professionals, please contact us anytime at 1-800-HIP-3200 or click here to Request an Inspection via the web.