Protecting Your Home From Winter Storm Damage
Winter weather can be unpredictable in Tennessee. Ice and snowstorms, freezing temperatures, and other winter weather can come with little warning. Winter storms can cause all sorts of problems, from power outages to frozen pipes and wind damage.
SERVPRO technicians are ready to help you recover from any winter storm damage to your home, but with some preventative work, you can help protect your home from severe damage.
Prepare Your Home for Winter
Fall is an excellent time to prepare your home for cold weather and winter storms.
Check your ice melt and snow removal equipment
Make sure you have the right ice melt or rock salt on hand to keep walkways and driveways clear of dangerous ice. If you have a snowblower, check to make sure it’s running properly, and you have enough fuel.
Check the heating and air conditioning
Your heating and air conditioning systems last between 10 and 15 years, but with excellent routine maintenance, many units can last more than 20 years! Schedule a routine maintenance inspection each fall to ensure your system is prepared for the cold months ahead. Change your air filters and ensure everything is running well.
Having your HVAC system inspected also ensures your furnace and water heater have enough ventilation to prevent high carbon monoxide levels in your home this winter. People tend to keep their home closed more tightly in winter, increasing the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Inspect the outside of your house
Inspect the siding and wood trim around the outside of your home. Most patios and decks are built with pressure-treated wood, but wood trim around exterior doors and windows is usually just pine wood that can rot quickly if not properly treated.
Also, replace missing or damaged siding and roof flashing that can let water and ice into your home.
Inspect the caulk and paint around all your windows and doors. Look for places where the caulk is cracked, or the paint is chipping. Replace any rotting or broken wood trim and protect it by keeping the trim properly caulked and painted.
Check the drainage around your home. Soil settles over time, creating places for water to pool around your foundation. Fill any low spots with soil and make sure the landscaping slopes away from your house.
Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clean. If your gutters get clogged, it allows water to back up, then overflow and run down the side of your home. Over time this can deteriorate your foundation and even let water get into your basement or crawlspace.
Add downspout extenders to make sure water runs at least 3 to 4 feet away from your home. If the soil near your foundation becomes saturated, then freezes and thaws repeatedly, it can lead to cracks in your foundation and other significant issues.
Turn off all the exterior water faucets and disconnect garden hoses. Drain the water pipes to prevent them from bursting. If you have a sprinkler system, have your sprinkler service drain your system to help avoid freezing and leaks.
Clean your chimney
It’s lovely to curl up by the fire on a cold winter night. Have your fireplace inspected before you start building any fires. Not only can this improve heating efficiency, but it will also prevent any dangerous situations.
Trim dangerous branches
Fall isn’t a great time to prune trees and bushes, but you should cut off any branches that are rubbing against your house. Ice is heavy and known to wreak havoc on power lines and private property. Trim your trees, so you don’t have ice-covered branches threatening your roof, siding, or other parts of your house.
Check your attic
When the temperatures drop, critters look for warm places to hide away. Unfortunately, they can cause a lot of damage to your attic space. Trim your trees away from the house to make it more difficult for critters to access your gable vents. Tack a screen up behind the gable vent to keep out furry and feathered freeloaders. Also, check to make sure there are no holes in your soffit and fascia that will allow birds to get in.
Look for cracks and holes where warm air is escaping from your attic. Even small holes put extra stress on your HVAC system. Fill any gaps with professional-grade caulk to improve energy efficiency and prevent unwanted critters from making themselves at home.
While you are in the attic, make sure there is enough insulation. Properly insulating your attic will help lower energy costs and prevent ice dams from forming and causing water damage. If the insulation looks old, torn, damaged, or wet, then it’s time to replace it.
Prepare the Inside of Your Home
Fall and winter are the most common times of the year for house fires (December and January are the peak months). People are also running furnaces, building fires, and keeping their homes closed tightly, making it easier for carbon monoxide to build up. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace the backup batteries
Make sure your pipes are appropriately insulated to prevent them from freezing and bursting. Insulate the pipes in your basement and crawl space by putting foam sleeves around them. Another way to prevent your pipes from freezing is to keep your interior doors and cabinets open so the heat can flow through your home.
Preventing Water Damage
Water damage from ice dams and frozen pipes is one of the common ways winter storms wreak havoc on your home.
Pipes are more susceptible to freezing when the temperature falls below 20 degrees F. The outdoor pipes that are most susceptible to freezing are outdoor faucets, swimming pool supply lines, and water sprinkler pipes. Indoors, pipes in the basement, crawl spaces and garages are also at risk of freezing.
Open your kitchen and bathroom cabinets to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes. Let water faucets drip if the pipes run through unheated or uninsulated places.
Make sure you know where the main water valve is located. If a pipe does freeze and burst, you will need to be able to turn off the water quickly to prevent further damage.
Ice dams can cause melting snow and ice to back up into your roof and the walls of your home, causing water damage. When warm air escapes from your attic, it causes ice and snow to melt and create icicles or ice dams. If you notice a lot of icicles forming around your home, pay extra attention to the condition of your attic.
If a winter storm does cause damage to your home, call SERVPRO immediately. Our experts will assess the extent of the damage and create a plan to restore your home fully. Especially when dealing with water damage, it is critical to act quickly to prevent other issues like mold and mildew.
SERVPRO professionals are specialists in water damage restoration and structural drying. Our Disaster Recovery Team can respond quickly with all the right resources to help you recover from all types of winter storms.
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes This Winter
Winter storms can bring freezing temperatures, power outages, and other serious issues that can damage your home and property. Frozen water pipes are a common problem during the winter months, especially if the power goes out or a winter storm brings dangerously low temperatures.
If your pipes freeze, the lack of running water is inconvenient at best and can cause extensive water damage! It prevents you from showering, flushing toilets, doing laundry, and other essential tasks.
SERVPRO water damage restoration experts are standing by 24/7 to help you recover from frozen or burst water pipes. Here’s what you need to know about preventing water damage from frozen water pipes.
What Pipes Are Vulnerable to Freezing
Studies show that pipes are most susceptible to freezing when the temperature drops to around 20 degrees F, especially if your pipes are poorly insulated.
The pipes that are most at-risk for freezing are in unheated areas like basements, attics, and garages. Even pipes in your exterior walls and under cabinets can freeze.
In the southeast, we rarely experience bitterly cold temperatures, so most homes have less insulation around the pipes. Fortunately, there are easy, cost-effective ways to keep your pipes safe.
How To Avoid Frozen Pipes
Some of the best ways to keep your pipes from freezing might not help you conserve water or energy. Still, it’s better to have a slightly higher water bill than to deal with significant water damage.
Let your faucets drip
Allow your faucets to drip, especially if the faucet is served by exposed pipes. Running even a trickle of water helps prevent the pipes from freezing.
It’s not necessary to let all the faucets in your house drip. If possible, identify the faucet furthest away from where the water comes into your house. Turning on this faucet keeps the water traveling through most of the pipe system.
Insulate your pipes
Check all around your home to identify all the water pipes that are in unheated areas like attics, crawl spaces, garages, and exterior walls. It might not be possible to access all the pipes, but it is helpful to add insulation wherever you can.
Both hot and cold water pipes should have at least a little insulation. Foam rubber or fiberglass pipe insulation sleeves can cost as little as 50 cents per foot, and it is relatively easy to install. Even a newspaper can provide a little insulation in a pinch.
Insulating the hot water pipes will also help lower your water-heating costs. It helps heat from escaping as the hot water travels through your pipes, and you might even be able to lower the temperature on your water heater.
Adding insulation to the cold water pipes can help prevent the pipes from sweating. When cold pipes run through the warm, humid air, condensation can form on the pipes and can cause puddles on the floor and higher humidity levels. Higher humidity and puddles can cause minor water damage.
Open and close the right doors
Opening the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors allows warm air to circulate around your pipes. This is especially helpful if your sinks are on an exterior wall.
While you’re opening the cabinet doors, keep the garage door closed. This helps regulate the temperature, especially if you have water pipes running through the garage (don’t forget about pipes that might run behind the drywall).
Set your thermostat
When the weather turns cold, it’s tempting to turn the thermostat down at night to save a little on your heating bill. Keeping your home at the same temperature all the time will help prevent your pipes from freezing.
If you are planning to escape to warmer climates, leave the heat on to protect your home from frozen and burst pipes. Fifty-five degrees F is an ideal temperature when you’re away. It won’t run up your heating bill too much and will prevent your pipes from freezing.
Signs Your Pipes Are Frozen
There are a few signs to look for that will indicate if you have frozen pipes somewhere in your house. If the temperature falls below 32 degrees F, begin to keep an eye on your pipes, especially in southern climates where the pipes tend to be less insulated.
Frost on your pipes: If an exposed pipe freezes, you will probably be able to see frost on the outside of the pipe.
No water: If you turn on the faucet, and no water comes out, or there is less water than usual, your pipes might be frozen. If you turn on your sink and only a trickle of water comes out, the pipe leading to that faucet may be frozen.
Unusual smells: When a pipe or drain is blocked (like when it’s frozen), the only way odors can escape the pipes is back in the direction of your home. So, one sign that your pipes may be frozen is if you notice odd smells coming from your faucets or drains.
What To Do If Your Pipes Freeze
It’s essential to act quickly when your pipes freeze to avoid further damage. It’s critical to thaw the pipe as soon as possible before it bursts and causes water damage.
The first thing to do is to locate the frozen pipe. This can get very complicated because you cannot see most of the pipes in your home. Look for pipes with frost on them. Frozen pipes might also have a slight bulge.
When you find the frozen section, turn on the faucet that the pipe feeds. Turn on the hot and cold handles to help relieve the pressure and give the water a place to go when it begins to thaw.
If the frozen pipe is exposed, you can use a hairdryer, portable space heaters, and hot towels to thaw the pipe.
If the frozen pipe is behind a wall or in an area you cannot easily access, turn up the heat in your home to help thaw the pipes. If you know where in the wall the frozen pipe is running, you can place an infrared lamp or portable space heater close to the wall. This may be enough to thaw the pipes.
Never try to thaw pipes with an open flame or any method that could cause a fire. Contact a licensed plumber if you cannot quickly identify the frozen pipe.
If Your Pipe Bursts
If a pipe bursts, turn off the main water line as quickly as possible. After you turn off the water, contact SERVPRO. Burst pipes can cause extensive water damage. It’s essential to clean and dry everything correctly to prevent mold and mildew from growing and avoid structural problems.
Our technicians are experts at cleaning and drying water damage. We use pumps, vacuums, and other water removal tools to clean all the water. Our experts use specialized equipment to make sure all the water and moisture is removed before we begin the restoration process.
SERVPRO has all the resources to respond to any size winter storm disaster. We are standing by 24/7 to help you restore your home quickly. Contact us today to learn more about our water damage restoration process.
Storm Damage: Tips for before and after a major storm
Storm damage is difficult to avoid entirely. You can't control the weather, but you can be proactive and keep your home or business as safe as possible. SERVPRO is standing by to help you recover from any size or type of storm. Here are five things you can do to prevent storm damage to your property.
Take "Before" photos ahead of major storms
When a significant storm is headed your way, document the current condition of your property and valuable belongings. As safely as possible, take photos or video of your home or building. Document the condition of your roof, siding, windows, gutters, drainage systems, and any sheds or storage houses.
These "before" photos will help with the insurance claims in the event of significant storm damage. This is particularly helpful for commercial property owners and property managers.
Batten down the hatches
The easiest way to prevent storm damage is to keep your home or building in peak condition.
Roof, siding, windows, and doors
Schedule annual or semiannual roof inspections. Your roof is the first line of defense against storm damage, but roof damage can be difficult to see with a naked eye. An expert roofer will repair or replace loose, cracked, missing, or damaged shingles.
If you are preparing for a particularly strong storm, consider laying tarps and plywood on your roof to help prevent shingles from getting ripped off. The tarps can act as an extra layer of protection to keep water out and to avoid wind damage.
Visually inspect the siding on your home. Repair any loose siding that might get ripped off in a strong wind. Wind only needs a small crack to lift siding or shingles off your home. Replace any damaged siding that might allow water to seep into the walls.
Make sure your doors, windows, and skylights have reliable seals to keep out the wind, rain, and cold. If you are preparing for a hurricane or strong winds, it is essential to cover your windows with plywood or storm shutters.
Gutters, landscaping, and drainage
Clear your gutters, drainpipes, or flat-top roof of any debris. Leaves and branches can clog your gutters, causing it to overflow. In warm weather, overflowing water can flood into your home. In cold temperatures, standing or overflowing water can freeze, causing damage to your roof.
Keeping your landscaping maintained is an easy way to prevent all kinds of storm damage. Prune trees and shrubs to clear dead or diseased branches that might fall and damage your property. Make sure you keep at least 3 feet of space between your home and any tree branches or shrubs.
Regularly check the trees on your property for damage like cracks in the trunk, mushrooms growing on the trunk (that indicates decay), or branches that cross or interfere with each other.
While you are inspecting the landscape, check for loose fence posts, light posts, and similar structures around your property. Shake each post to test its strength and stability. Even loose fence posts can become dangerous in a strong storm.
Make sure water flows away from your home or business into a ditch or drain. Standing water or flooding during a major storm can cause flooding in your home.
Patio furniture and outdoor items
If you are preparing for a particularly strong storm (like a hurricane or nor 'easter), consider bringing lawn ornaments, patio furniture, garbage cans, grills, and other items indoors. If you cannot bring them in, make sure they are tied down. In a powerful storm, nearly anything can become a dangerous projectile.
Avoid ice damage
Keep your attic insulated properly. This reduces heat loss through your roof, which makes your home or business more energy-efficient and helps prevent ice damage.
As the heat escapes from poorly insulated attics, it melts snow and ice, which can refreeze, creating an ice dam. The ice dam causes water to "back up" under the shingles or fascia boards and soak through the roof and walls.
Immediately after the storm
It is important to assess your property as soon as possible. Finding damage as quickly as possible after the storm can help you minimize damage and save time and money.
Look for signs of water damage inside
While it is still raining or immediately after the storm, inspect your property for signs of water damage. The most obvious signs of water damage are puddles and dripping water. Also, look for stains and discoloration on the ceiling and walls. There may be more water inside the wall or ceiling that can cause more damage.
Mark any leaks you find with tape. When the rain stops or the water dries, it might be challenging to identify the exact location of the leak again. The marks will help SERVPRO experts identify and resolve the issue more quickly.
Check the basement and crawl spaces for water damage. Make sure no water is seeping in and that your sump pump or drainage systems are working.
If you find any water damage, take photos from different angles. Documenting everything as thoroughly as possible will make filing the insurance claim much more manageable. SERVPRO technicians can help you record any damages and relay that information to your insurance provider.
Assess the outside of your property
As soon as it is safe, begin to assess the exterior of your home or business carefully. Stay clear of any downed power lines, damaged trees, and floodwater.
Check for cracks, chipping, and dents in the siding, brick, or stucco. Discoloration is another indication of damage to bricks and siding. Even small cracks or holes require attention from a professional. Make a point to inspect the outside several times after the storm. Different lighting can reveal damage that is easy to miss.
Inspect your air-conditioning units, fences, vent caps, and other things on your property that may have incurred damage.
Contact your SERVPRO professionals who are ready to help you restore your home or commercial property to its original condition after storm damage. We are available 24/7 and equipped to handle any size disaster.
Preventing Storm Damage to Your Commercial Roof
When there is a significant storm on the horizon, you might not be able to control the weather, but you can take proper steps to protect your property.
SERVPRO would rather help you prevent damage, but we are available 24 hours a day to clean and restore any property damage. Our trained technicians are ready to repair all kinds of storm damage.
Roof damage can quickly lead to other kinds of property damage. Here are some practical tips for protecting your commercial roof from storm damage.
Preventative maintenance is the first line of defense
The easiest way to prevent storm damage to your commercial roof is to follow the recommended preventative maintenance schedule. Have a roofing expert inspect your roof annually or semiannually. It is easier to repair small issues before they become significant problems.
Remove debris and hazards
Storm damage often comes from blocked storm drains. Clean any loose debris and make sure there is no standing water. Loose roofing materials, branches, leaves, and other debris can prevent water from draining correctly.
Remove hazards like overhanging limbs and weak roofing sections. Trim branches and bushes to at least 3 feet away from your building. This prevents leaves from blocking drainage systems and reduces the risk of damage to your roof.
Make sure the HVAC systems, satellite dishes, and other equipment are anchored correctly. During a storm, these can cause blunt force damage. Loose material blowing across rooftops cause up to 70% of roof damage during a hurricane.
Waterproof a flat roof
Cold temperatures can cause asphalt-based roofing materials to crack. Hot weather can cause "crazing" and bubbles. If you have a flat roof, invest in regular waterproofing treatments to prevent moisture damage. Make sure the roof hatch and access doors close tightly to prevent water seeping into the building.
Extra preventative measures
If you know a strong storm is on the way, lay tarps and plywood on your roof. The tarp holds shingles in place and adds an extra layer of defense against water.
If you live in an area with frequent, intense storms and high winds, consider replacing your asphalt roof with more durable metal, plastic, or stone materials.
After a storm
Immediately after a storm, look for leaks and evidence of water damage inside your building. Once the weather clears and water dries, it can be challenging to find the leaks. It's best to inspect your property immediately after a significant storm or while it is still raining.
Check your roof for damage and holes that might allow more water, bugs, or debris to get into your building.
If you find any water damage inside your building, immediately phone your SERVPRO technicians and your insurance provider to alert them of the damage. Roof leaks shorten the life of your roof. Untreated water damage can lead to more significant issues throughout your building, like mold and mildew.
Protect your property
Even small amounts of water damage can become a significant problem. As soon as you discover water damage or a leak in your roof, move inventory and property to a safe place or cover it to keep everything dry. Avoid any wet electrical equipment. Contact an electrician immediately if the roof is leaking onto electrical equipment.
Document any water or storm damage for your insurance provider.
Stay off the roof
Storm and water damage can compromise the integrity of your roof. Avoid the temptation to assess the roof yourself. Instead, call your roofing contractor who has the proper training and equipment to inspect your roof safely.
When the roofing contractor arrives, ask them to take photos of any damage for your insurance claims.
Let SERVPRO handle the restoration
A leaking roof can let water seep into insulation, drywall, and other building materials. It is essential to make sure everything dries thoroughly to prevent mold, mildew, and other structural issues.
After our SERVPRO technicians inspect your building and determine the scope of the damage, they use specialized equipment, sensors, and infrared cameras to identify hidden moisture, in ceilings, walls, and flooring that is very difficult to see.
Our technicians use pumps, fans, and wet/dry vacuums to clean up any excess water. We remove any drywall, insulation, and other materials that cannot be dried and repaired.
When everything is dry, our technicians repair everything as quickly as possible so your business can get back up and running. We can even help you with your insurance claims!
5 Things You Should Know About Commercial Fire Damage
Any amount of fire damage can be devastating for a business, and fire restoration is hard work! After the fire department ensures everything is safe, restoration professionals are the next people who should enter a building that has been damaged by fire, water, flood, sewer backup, or other significant events.
SERVPRO technicians are experts at commercial fire, water, and mold restoration and we will have your business back up and running as quickly as possible. We know that every day spent restoring your commercial building is lost revenue and productivity! We will do the hard work, so you don't have to.
Here are five commercial fire damage restoration tips.
1 Limit activity in the damaged area.
Don't enter a damaged building until the fire department deems it safe. Fire can impact the structural integrity of the building. Firefighters often have to cut holes in the walls, ceilings, and floors to slow the fire and make sure it is completely out.
You should limit any activity in the damaged area to prevent soot and ashes from being embedded into surfaces or spread to other areas of the building. Staying away from the damaged area also helps minimize your exposure to hazardous chemicals and materials like lead, asbestos, bacteria, mold, and other pathogens. Disturbing or spreading these toxins and contaminants can cause further property damage and can cause health problems.
SERVPRO technicians are experts at cleaning up even microscopic bacteria, mold spores, and hazardous chemicals. We use HEPA filters, vacuums, and special chemicals to make sure every area is safe and clean.
2 Removing smoke and soot damage is challenging.
Any fire, large or small, will likely cause smoke damage to walls, ceiling, and other surfaces. Soot is very greasy and can cover the interior of your business, even if the fire was limited to a small area. Smoke can get into the walls, floors, and air ducts, causing the smell to linger long after the fire if it isn't properly treated.
It is essential to hire fire restoration experts that will thoroughly scrub your building of all the soot, smoke, and potentially hazardous chemicals. Improperly cleaning smoke and soot can actually "set" the smells, especially in fabrics and textiles like carpets, upholstery, clothing, and similar items. Additionally, soot residue can contain dangerous chemicals and cancer-causing carcinogens.
3 Cleaning up after fire sprinkler and suppression systems.
It is essential to properly clean and repair any water damage to prevent mold and mildew from growing. Commercial buildings should have fire sprinkler systems, and many modern buildings have fire suppression systems instead of sprinklers.
Sprinkler systems automatically turn on if the temperature in the building rises too quickly. Some systems will turn on the sprinkler heads in every room while others only turn on in the places where the system detects a fire. Quick response sprinklers spray 18 to 24 gallons of water per minute to suppress and put out the fire.
Fire suppression systems use a mix of dry chemicals and liquids (like water) to put out any fires in the building. Suppression systems do reduce the damage directly caused by the fire, but they can make the amount of soot damage worse. The combination of water and dry chemicals can allow the soot and dust to spread around the building.
Whether from a sprinkler system or firefighters spraying gallons of water, if the fire was big enough, you probably have some water damage in addition to the fire damage. Mold and mildew can begin to grow within 48 hours after the water damage occurs!
SERVPRO technicians have the right chemicals and methods to clean up the fire suppressant chemicals and properly restore any water damage to prevent mold and mildew from growing.
4 The most common causes of commercial fires might surprise you.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, the most common cause of fires in commercial buildings are cooking equipment. Faulty stoves, cooking accidents, and other kitchen-related incidents account for 29% of fires in office properties and 13% of fires in retail stores.
Other primary causes of fires in commercial buildings include malfunctioning heating equipment, faulty electrical and lighting, and improperly disposed cigarettes, cigars, or other smoking materials.
Because kitchens and break rooms are high-risk areas for fires, make sure your sprinklers, alarms, and fire extinguishers are properly maintained and in good working order. Have your HVAC system, water heaters, and other electrical systems inspected and maintained by a professional. Always make sure flammable materials are stored away from heat sources.
5 Cleaning damaged property can be tricky
Cleaning all the smoke and soot-damaged property can be very challenging. You can't just throw the sooty, smoky clothes in the wash or take dirty curtains to the dry cleaners. Removing soot and smoke odor can be very difficult, and household remedies are not very effective.
It is vital to deodorize everything before you clean it. SERVPRO recommends letting the professionals do the dirty work. It is essential to use counteractants, chemicals that break down the smoke molecules to get rid of the bad odors.
SERVPRO technicians use counteractants on furniture, carpets, upholstery, curtains, and other fabric surfaces. If you decide to take things to professional dry cleaners, make sure they have experience and the right equipment to handle the job.
It is vital to clean all the dishes and cookware properly, even if they look clean and unharmed by fire or smoke. Make sure all dishes and utensils are scrubbed and soaked in a solution of bleach and water. Rubber and wooden cooking items tend to absorb smoke and should be thrown away.
In most cases, floors and carpets absorb the worst of the damage because of the water or chemicals used to extinguish the fire. It is important to make sure everything is dried thoroughly to avoid mold and other problems in the future. In many cases, it is necessary to take up the flooring and replace it.
SERVPRO technicians are experts at cleaning and restoring your commercial property to its original condition. We are standing by, 24/7 to help clean and repair any size disaster. Contact us today to learn more about our commercial restoration services.
What To Expect From SERVPRO Commercial Restoration Services
If your business needs water or fire damage restoration, it is essential to choose a company that has experience restoring commercial properties. SERVPRO is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and our experts are highly trained to help any business recover as quickly as possible. Here is what you can expect from SERVPRO and our process of restoring your commercial property to its original condition.
As soon as the fire is out, the storm is over, or the water main is turned off, our SERVPRO technicians will begin assessing your commercial property. We inspect to determine the extent of the damage and create a plan of action for restoring your building and property.
Often, in the case of fire, water, and mold, the damage is more extensive than it appears on the surface. Our technicians will use all available resources like sensors, probes, and cameras to assess the condition of your entire building to make the right repairs and prevent future problems.
When SERVPRO is dealing with commercial restoration, our technicians will also seal any leaks or address any immediate problems that could cause further damage. This might require putting tarps on a roof, repairing a pipe, or other preventative measures.
2 Contact the insurance company.
As soon as there is damage to your commercial property, contact SERVPRO. Some insurance companies may try to deny or limit coverage if they believe you did not take steps to minimize damage or prevent further destruction.
As soon as SERVPRO is on the way, notify your insurance company. Your insurance company will provide a claim number. If you would like our SERVPRO experts to help, give the claim number to the administrator assigned to your case. We will work with your insurance company on your behalf to provide documentation and begin processing your claim.
SERVPRO franchises will work with nearly every insurance company, and many insurance adjusters prefer to work with us because SERVPRO is a full-service provider.
Once our restoration experts assess the damage and create a plan of action, the first step is to clean the property.
If your commercial property suffered water damage, the type of water damage would determine the cleaning process. Contaminated “black water” is much more challenging to clean than stormwater or a leaking pipe. Our experts will remove the water and use industrial dryers, fans, and dehumidifiers to remove all the moisture from the building.
Cleaning up after a fire is also a complicated process. Fire damage can compromise the structural integrity of your building. Our technicians will board up or tarp damaged areas to maintain security and prevent further damage.
After removing the water from the sprinkler systems or fire trucks, SERVPRO technicians begin removing soot and smoke from the building. Soot is very greasy and difficult to clean, and the smoke smell is notoriously challenging to get rid of. It’s essential to use the proper chemicals and techniques to prevent further damage. SERVPRO uses industrial air scrubbers, ozone machines, and fogging equipment to handle all the chemical and smoke odors. Our technicians use chemicals to kill bacteria and seal surfaces so the smells don’t return or linger.
Our SERVPRO teams include odor control specialists, upholstery and fabric cleaning technicians, and fire and smoke restoration experts. We ensure everything is clean and sanitized for your safety and to prevent future problems, like mold or bad smells.
4 Restore vs. replace, including your documents
Our goal is to restore everything to pre-damage conditions. SERVPRO believes it is essential to clean and restore as much as possible. This “restore first” attitude saves you money and helps you get your business back up and running more quickly.
Document restoration is another critical step in getting your business back up and running. If your business suffered any water damage, your documents might be exposed to sewage, bacteria, pesticides, or harmful chemicals in addition to water.
Our technicians use the latest vacuum freeze-drying method and gamma irradiation technology to dry, sterilize, and preserve damaged documents. Our drying processes are the only methods approved by the National Archives and Records Administration!
Our facilities are secure and HIPAA master-certified, so we can properly handle sensitive information. We can even use or computerized inventory system to digitize your documents.
Once everything is properly dried, cleaned, and sanitized, our restoration team will work to repair everything. Our goal is to return your business to the pre-disaster condition. Whether that requires minor repairs like replacing drywall, installing new flooring, or painting or it demands total reconstruction, our repair teams are up for any size project.
From start to finish, our SERVPRO team will work with you and your business to ensure the restoration process is as smooth and efficient as possible. But, you don’t have to wait until disaster strikes.
Contact us today to set up your SERVPRO Emergency READY Program (ERP), so you are prepared for any incident. The ERP profile includes information like emergency contacts, locations for all your shut-off valves, and other vital details that you, your employees, and the emergency response team will need. You might not be able to prevent every accident or disaster, but you can be prepared for them!
6 Ways To Prevent Mold From Invading Your Home
Mold is all around us, and in every breath we take. It is a fungus that plays an essential role in the natural process of decay. Mold is also necessary for creating things like penicillin, cheese, and decomposing the piles of fallen leaves and dead trees in the forest.
It can grow year-round in almost every environment. Mold spores spread quickly in the air and can grow anywhere there is moisture and organic matter for it to "digest."
Outdoors, mold likes shady, damp places or anywhere vegetation is decomposing. Mold colonies thrive indoors where humidity levels are high, like basements, bathrooms, crawlspaces, and poorly ventilated areas. Carpet, clothing, food, paper, drywall, ceiling tiles, and wood are common surfaces mold likes to grow in people's homes.
It is impossible to eradicate mold from your home completely. However, it is crucial to keep the mold levels low to prevent it from growing and becoming a problem in your home.
SERVPRO is the industry leader in mold remediation. No matter how large or small, our technicians are trained to handle any kind of mold problem. However, we would rather help you prevent mold from becoming a problem in your home. Here are some easy things you can do this fall to avoid a mold issue.
Proper ventilation is key
Many of our daily activities can encourage mold to grow in our homes. Anything from cooking dinner or taking a shower to washing a load of laundry can cause moisture to build up in your bathroom, kitchen, and laundry rooms.
Make sure all the high-moisture areas in your home have proper ventilation. Appliances that produce moisture, such as clothes dryers and stoves should have vents to move moist air to the outside. Install exhaust fans in the bathrooms and make sure to run them every time you shower.
Air conditioners and dehumidifiers help with moisture control, especially in humid climates. However, have them inspected and cleaned regularly to make sure they don't contribute to the moisture problem.
Open the windows when you cook or wash dishes to circulate drier air through your home, especially on days with low humidity.
Energy-efficient homes are excellent at reducing your heating and cooling costs, but they may be holding moisture inside your home by preventing airflow. Before the emphasis on energy-efficiency, homes were "leaky," allowing air to move through the walls more easily. This helped prevent mold from growing because damp surfaces like wood and insulation dried easier.
Now that homes are designed to be more air-tight, it is essential to have proper ventilation to control the indoor humidity levels. Keep doors between rooms open and move the furniture away from walls and corners to let air move more freely around your home.
Use mold-resistant products in your home
If you are building a new home or renovating an old one, choose mold-resistant products, especially when it comes to materials like wood, insulation, drywall, carpet, and sheetrock. These building materials have a fungicide treatment that kills all types of fungus as it tries to grow on the surface.
Mold resistant drywall contains fiberglass facing instead of a paper facing. Therefore, there is no organic material in this type of drywall for mold to feed on. Even though fiberglass facing could still allow mold to grow, the chances of this happening are significantly reduced.
Mold resistant paint will not kill mold, but it will prevent mold from growing behind walls for up to five years. There are many options on the market to suit a variety of budgets and specific needs.
Rugs and carpets can harbor colonies of mold in the fibers or under the surface. Mold-resistant carpets use acrylic fibers that are more resistant to fungus growth. The disadvantage of mold-resistant carpets is that the material tends to wear out faster than traditional rugs and carpets. But, if you or your family have allergies or strong reactions to mold, or if you live in a particularly damp environment, mold-resistant carpets may be a worthwhile investment.
If you notice areas that are often damp or prone to mold growth, consider applying a mold-resistant sealant. It is a protective fungicide coating that can be applied to a variety of surfaces, including wood, brick, and stucco. The sealant will prevent mold from growing even in humid conditions.
Monitor humidity levels
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends keeping indoor humidity levels between 30 and 60 percent to prevent mold growth and other moisture-related problems. Purchase a "hygrometer" moisture meter from your local hardware store and install it in a "problem area" in your home.
There are also tell-tale signs of excessive moisture in your home. The most common symptoms are condensation buildup on windows, walls, and pipes, and musty odors. Make sure to turn off any humidifiers and dry the surfaces immediately if you notice condensation. Try to identify the source of the moisture (an air vent that is not working, poor air movement, etc.) to address the root cause and avoid a mold problem. If this is a common problem, invest in a dehumidifier.
Air conditioner size matters
Make sure your air conditioning unit is the right size for your house and climate. An air conditioner that is too large will cool the home too fast and won't remove enough moisture from the air. If you live in a very humid climate (like Tennessee), consider adding a dehumidifier to the central air conditioning system. Another option is to use portable dehumidifiers in chronically damp areas of your home.
Keep water away from your foundation
Make sure the landscaping and ground around your house slopes away from the foundation of your home. Otherwise, water can collect and seep into the basement or crawlspace, creating a dark, damp environment for mold to thrive. As your home and the soil settles, the slope will change. Rebuild the soil each spring to make sure it slopes away from the foundation. Experts recommend building a slope of 1 inch high per foot in length.
Make sure the gutter system is clean and in good condition. The downspouts should move water at least five feet away from the foundation to prevent water from pooling around your house.
If gutters and a slope are not enough to keep water away from the foundation, your lawn may require a dry well. Dry wells are holes in the ground filled with gravel. They help water to return to the ground without pooling or flooding on the surface.
Contact SERVPRO to clean mold
Small mold patches are easy to clean off hard surfaces with heavy-duty cleaning products, but it is essential to identify the cause and resolve the underlying problem. Whether it's a small area, major mold issue, or anything in between, SERVPRO professionals are equipped to identify the source and cause of the mold problem. Then they will properly clean the area and restore your home to its original, healthy condition.
Because mold spores travel by air, it is important to use the right equipment when cleaning mold to avoid allowing it to spread to other areas of your home. SERVPRO technicians use technology like negative air chambers to contain the mold and high-quality air filtration systems with "air scrubbers" and HEPA vacuums to prevent the mold spores from spreading while they clean and disinfect the area.
Mold Remediation In Schools And Commercial Buildings
Mold doesn't just grow on the food left in the breakroom refrigerator too long. A damp environment leads to mold growth if not addressed quickly. Pipe leaks, unvented shower areas, and other moisture sources inside the building or stormwater leaking in are common culprits for indoor humidity.
Even excessive moisture in the air can lead to mold problems if you don't control it with air conditioning. It can grow on most organic surfaces where moisture and oxygen are available.
Besides causing significant disruptions to your business or school, mold can pose serious health concerns for people. SERVPRO is equipped to resolve all kinds of mold problems in commercial buildings and schools.
What Is Mold?
Mold (sometimes called mildew) can be found indoors and outdoors, in all climates, and at any time throughout the year. It is a fungus that forms and grows on any type of damp or decaying organic matter. There are many different species of mold that come in different colors.
Mold survives by relying on organic matter for nutrition. Outdoors, this includes fallen leaves and decaying plants. Indoors, mold looks for carbon sources for food, like drywall and other building materials.
The most common cause for mold growing indoors is excess moisture. Office buildings and schools usually have moderate temperatures, nutrition sources, and dark, damp areas that are ideal for mold to grow.
Mold grows by releasing microscopic spores into the air. The spores float until they land and settle in a moist area that has a source for nutrients. Once the spores find those places, they form new mold colonies. The heating and air conditioning systems inside commercial buildings and schools may help spores spread quickly. The ducts themselves can even be ideal areas for mold to grow.
What Is "Mold Remediation"?
SERVPRO technicians understand the science behind how mold grows and spreads. Mold remediation focuses primarily on getting (or keeping) mold levels back to the healthy, naturally occurring levels.
Every situation of mold damage is unique and requires a custom solution. The general SERVPRO mold remediation process is as follows:
Inspection and damage assessment: A team of SERVPRO agents inspects the building for mold damage using a variety of technologies to detect unhealthy levels of mold and hidden water sources.
Containment: SERVPRO agents use a multi-pronged process to contain and prevent the spread of mold. Depending on the situation, this step may involve advanced containment procedures like negative air chambers to keep the mold spores from spreading during the cleanup process. All the heating and cooling systems are usually turned off during the containment process to prevent mold spores from spreading through the air ducts.
Filtration: Cleaning the air of excess mold spores is an essential part of the remediation process. SERVPRO uses specialized filtration equipment to trap microscopic mold spores in the air. "Air scrubbers" and HEPA vacuums prevent mold from spreading and growing.
Removing the mold and invested materials: The mold remediation process depends mainly on how much and what types of molds are growing, and the types of surfaces on which the mold grows. SERVPRO technicians remove all the mold-infested materials like carpeting and drywall from the building. Next, the agents use antimicrobial and antifungal treatments to kill existing mold colonies and prevent new colonies from growing.
Cleaning Belongings: Mold can also grow on furniture, curtains, clothing, decorative items, and other belongings. SERVPRO professionals use a variety of techniques and chemicals to clean and sanitize the affected belongings. This also helps remove the musty, moldy smells from the building and items.
Restoration: Depending on the extent of the mold damage, SERVPRO technicians might need to remove drywall, carpeting, and even subfloors to make sure the mold colonies are eradicated. Once they clean all the mold, the technicians will make any repairs necessary to return the building to its original condition.
How To Prevent Mold In Commercial Buildings And Schools
Because mold is present almost everywhere (both indoors and outdoors), it is impossible to remove all mold. However, it is possible (and essential) to prevent mold from growing beyond healthy levels and spreading inside the building.
It is much easier and cost-effective to eliminate the potential causes for mold growth than to wait until you have a mold problem. Here are some easy ways to prevent mold problems before they start:
Make repairs: Leaky roofs, poorly sealed windows and door frames, broken pipes, and cracked foundations are common problems that can allow mold to grow. Stay on top of building maintenance and repairs so you can catch water damage before the moisture leads to a moldy disaster.
Clean the ducts: The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems can quickly spread mold spores around the building. Reduce the spread of mold spores by having the air ducts regularly cleaned and maintained. This will improve the overall air quality in the school or offices, which will have a positive impact on peoples' health.
Moisture control: In Tennessee, humidity is often high. Damp air makes it easy for mold to grow. Consider installing dehumidifiers around the building, or at least in basements, attics, and other areas prone to moisture and mold. Keep the indoor humidity below 45% to prevent mold from growing quickly.
Make sure shower areas in the locker rooms have proper vents to move moist air outside and install exhaust fans in the cafeteria and food services areas. Make sure the exhaust fans run whenever you are cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning.
Inspect regularly: Mold can thrive places you may never think to look. Create a routine inspection plan to look for mold, high moisture areas, damp surfaces, stains on the walls or carpeting, and musty smells. These are the early signs of a mold issue that, if addressed early, can be cheaper and easier to resolve.
Bathrooms, locker rooms, and kitchens have a lot of places where mold grows easily. Make sure to inspect bathrooms for water stains, standing water, and leaking pipes. Don't allow water to stand in the refrigerator and air conditioning drip pans. If a lunchroom or break room has a water dispenser, inspect the area around it to catch leaks and spills early.
Clean the floors and carpets: Don't install carpet in areas where moisture might be a constant concern, like around drinking fountains or classroom sinks. Have the floors and carpets professionally cleaned regularly to remove spots, stains, and dirt build-up. This will prolong the life of the flooring and prevent mold spores from building up. However, make sure the flooring dries quickly to prevent mold from growing.
Do you have a SERVPRO Emergency READY Profile for your school or business? Pre-planning for all sorts of disasters will help you recover and return to normal quickly. Whether it's mold remediation, water damage, or a host of other potential disasters, SERVPRO are experts at cleaning and restoration.
Water Damage Checklist
Water damage is a year-round concern for homeowners and commercial property owners alike. If left untreated, water damage will lead to larger, more severe problems, including structural damage and mold.
Here are some simple steps you can take to prevent water damage around your house, especially if you plan to leave for an extended vacation. If something does go awry, SERVPRO is available 24/7 to respond to any water damage disaster, large or small.
Annual To-Do List
Mark your calendar to check these things at least once a year to prevent undetected leaks and water damage.
Check your sump pump
If you have a sump pump, test it annually to make sure it is in good working order. Fill the sump pit with enough water to trigger the pump. Listen to make sure the engine is not making any unusual noises and it is pumping efficiently.
If you don’t already have one, consider installing a battery back up so your sump pump will keep working even if the power goes out.
Look for supply line leaks
Washing machines, refrigerator ice makers, and dishwashers use hoses to connect to the water source. Often these appliances use cheap, plastic supply line hoses that can crack or kink easily, causing water leaks.
Check the hoses annually to make sure they aren’t leaking or becoming worn. An easy and cost-effective upgrade is to replace the standard plastic supply lines with stainless steel hoses. You can make the upgrade for just $20 to $30.
Pipe and water heater leaks
Every building has hundreds of feet of plumbing running through the walls and ceilings. While it’s impossible to inspect all the pipes, you should check the exposed pipes around your house regularly. Also inspect ceilings and walls where you know the pipes run to look for any discoloration or dark spots.
Dark spots are one indication there is a water leak in the area. Dank odors, dampness, or water stains are other signs of a leak. To thoroughly inspect the area, wipe each pipe connection with a dry tissue to look for wet spots.
Also, check your water heater for cracks or rust on the outside. These can indicate a small leak or weakness in the tank and should be taken very seriously. Water heater leaks often start small then burst suddenly, spilling hundreds of gallons of water into your home and causing significant water damage.
Gutters and drainpipes
Clogged gutters and drainpipes allow water to pool under the roof or gather around the foundation, causing water damage over time. Clean the leaves and debris out of your gutters at least twice a year to prevent clogs.
Signs that your gutters or drainpipes are clogged include water spilling over the edge of the gutter or dripping out of a seam or joint. Also, if water isn’t flowing from the bottom of the drainpipes, there is likely a blockage somewhere.
Make sure the drainpipes direct water at least 5 feet away from your house or building to prevent water damage to the foundation. If necessary, purchase drainpipe extensions to guide the rainwater further away from the foundation or hire a contractor to install additional drainage in problem areas.
Inspect the roof
While you are cleaning the gutters, inspect your roof for missing or loose shingles and damaged flashing. Call a roofer to make any necessary repairs as quickly as possible.
Loose or damaged shingles can allow rainwater to seep into your house and wreak havoc if unnoticed. Leaks can lead to mold, mildew, and even termites!
Before Going On Vacation
In addition to the annual checklist, here are a few things you should do before leaving for summer vacation to prevent water damage and keep your home safe while you are away.
Turn off the water main
If you don’t plan to have someone check on your house regularly while you are gone, consider turning off the water main. After you turn off the water main, turn on all the faucets inside and outside to let the water drain out. This prevents water pressure from building up in the pipes and causing leaks.
When water pressure builds up in the pipes, it puts pressure on weak or damaged areas. It would be unfortunate if the compromised pipe finally started leaking while you are away.
Turn off the water heater
Turning off the water heater while you are away for an extended time saves energy and prevents any potential water leaks. While leaks are uncommon in well-maintained water heaters, this is an easy action that will give you peace of mind while you are gone.
If you have an electric water heater, turn off the breaker in the circuit panel to shut off the water heater. Modern gas water heaters often have a “vacation” setting on the thermostat. Either turn it to the vacation setting or turn the thermostat up.
Have someone check your home
If your travels will take you away for more than 5 to 7 days, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to check on your house and water your plants every few days. If anything does begin to leak or go awry, it will only be a few days before someone catches it.
Make sure the person who will be checking on your house knows where the water main and the electrical panel box are located in case something goes awry and they need to turn the water or electricity on or off.
Don’t forget to leave your contact information, the information for your insurance agency, and SERVPRO’s information for the person who will check on your home. If something does happen, they will know whom to contact to resolve the matter quickly.
Preventing Water Damage From Appliances
The story is all too common: you’re sitting in your living room enjoying a quiet evening, and suddenly water starts pouring from the ceiling. Or you walk into your basement to discover water everywhere from a broken water heater.
Common culprits for water damage are washing machines, water heaters, and other appliances in your home. About 30% of all home water damage situations are caused by appliance failures.
SERVPRO is equipped to handle any water damage, but we would prefer to help you prevent those unfortunate situations. Here are some practical things you can do to keep your dishwasher, washing machine, and water heaters from causing problems in your home.
Most water heaters hold between 40 and 120 gallons of water (unless you have a tankless water heater). That amount of water can cause significant damage. A broken water heater may also be a fire hazard. And, if too much pressure builds up in the tank, it can explode!
A common culprit for water heater malfunctions is sediment buildup. When sediment collects at the bottom of the water tank, the heating element has to work overtime and water can get trapped as it heats up and moves through the sediment.
If you have a gas water heater, sediment buildup can cause the heating element to overheat, damaging the tank or leaving burn marks. Sediment buildup in an electric water heater can cause the heating element to burn out.
Signs you should have your water heater serviced:
- Popping sounds: All appliances make noises, but if your water heater is making sounds like popcorn popping on a stove, that is an indication that sediment is building up in the base of the water heater.
- Cold showers: if you seem to be running out of hot water faster than usual that is a symptom of sediment buildup or that the heating element inside the tank burned out.
- Rotten egg smell: Hydrogen sulfide has a potent rotten egg smell and very unpleasant taste. It doesn’t pose a health risk and usually occurs in well water, but water heaters have been known to cause the offensive odor when the magnesium rod in the water heater mixes with bacteria in the water to produce hydrogen sulfide. If the smell comes from both hot and cold water, then it’s likely your water. If the foul smell is only coming from the hot water, then your water heater is likely to blame.
75% of water heaters fail at or before 12 years of age. On average, water heater leaks and failures cause between $3,000 and $5,800 in damages. Routine maintenance on your water heater will prevent catastrophe and keep it running strong for many years.
Washing machines—both front loaders and top loaders—are one of the leading causes of water damage in homes and rank among the most expensive causes of water damage, averaging over $5,000 after the insurance deductible is paid. Mold is often a secondary problem after washing machines leak.
There are several things you can do to avoid costly washing machine catastrophes.
Avoid overloading and using too much detergent: One of the most common causes of a washing machine leak is shoving too much into the washer. Similarly, using too much detergent can cause excessive suds that will spill out of the machine and cause water damage.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions about maximum load sizes and recommended amounts of soap to use. If you do find a leak, clean up all the water, then run a quick cycle with no clothes and no laundry detergent. If you don’t see any leaks, the load of laundry was probably too big, or you used too much laundry soap.
Supervise your laundry: Avoid running the washing machine while you are away or asleep. If catastrophe strikes, you want to be around to react quickly.
Turn off the water supply: Did you know washing machine manufacturers recommend turning off the hot and cold water supply after each use? People rarely do this, but it is an excellent way to avoid water damage. If you don’t turn off the water supply after each use, you should at least turn off the water supply when you plan to be away for an extended length of time.
Inspect the hoses frequently: Washing machines have three rubber hoses: one for hot water, one for cold water, and a drain hose. One ruptured hose can let hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water into your house! Mark your calendar to inspect the hoses regularly. Look for cracks, kinks, blistering, or signs of leaks.
Even if the hoses are still in good condition, consider replacing the rubber hoses every five years. Stainless steel braided hoses last longer and are much more resilient than standard rubber hoses at an affordable price.
Install an emergency shutoff kit: The emergency shutoff kit is a device that installs directly onto the water supply valves. It senses when the washer is turned on and opens the water supply valves, then closes the water valves at the end of the wash cycle. A sensor also sits on the floor and closes the valves if it detects a water leak.
For around $150 you can have peace of mind that if your washing machine malfunctions the emergency shutoff kit will prevent water from flowing freely into your home.
Dishwashers make life so much easier… until they malfunction and spill gallons of water all over your kitchen. Often tile or linoleum in front of the dishwasher prevents water from leaking out into the kitchen. That means a slow leak under the dishwasher can go undetected for months or years!
Taking the kickplate off and inspecting under the dishwasher twice a year will ensure everything is in good working order and avoid costly water damage.
Here are a few simple things you can do to prevent water damage from your dishwasher.
Use the right soap: Using the wrong kind of soap can cause too many suds to develop during the wash cycle. This usually results in water dripping out from the edge of the dishwasher door. If you open the door during the wash cycle and see a lot of suds, you should use a different detergent or you might be using too much detergent.
Check the water valve: Remove the kickplate and inspect the water inlet solenoid valve. If there is any corrosion or rotting around the valve, turn off the water supply and have the valve replaced.
A bad water valve usually starts with a slow leak under the dishwasher that is difficult to detect. If the water valve breaks, the anti-flood switch cannot close the water valve, and water will fill the dishwasher and continue to run until the water supply is turned off.
Check the door seals: Over time the door seals wear out or become damaged. Sometimes soap scum can prevent the dishwasher door from sealing properly.
To clean soap scum and residue off the door seals, use white vinegar or Lime-Away. Pay extra attention to the bottom of the door; this is where soap scum, hard-water calcium buildup, and food particles tend to collect and cause problems.
Developing a habit of regularly checking and maintaining your appliances will help you catch problems before they become serious. But, if disaster does strike and you experience water damage caused by an appliance (or any other source), call SERVPRO. We will restore everything to normal as quickly as possible!