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!
Commercial Water Damage
Water damage can strike a commercial property without warning and cause devastating damage to the building and businesses inside. In 2016 water and freezing damage ranked second in the top ten most common insurance claims for small businesses and the eighth most expensive insurance claims. The average insurance claim for water damage was $17,000.
SERVPRO has expert technicians standing by 24/7 to take action if flooding or water damage strikes your commercial building. Whether it’s a broken pipe or a significant leak in the roof that causes water damage, do you have a plan to respond?
Common causes of water damage in commercial buildings
The most common causes of water damage in commercial buildings are plumbing malfunctions and broken or frozen pipes.
When the temperatures fall below freezing outside, your building’s pipes may freeze. The water inside the pipes turns to ice and expands, putting pressure on the pipes until they crack. This can cause significant damage since it most frequently happens overnight or during the weekend when nobody is around to catch the situation early.
Another common cause of major water damage in commercial buildings is malfunctioning toilets. Old toilets or those with weak water pressure are prone to clogging. Repeat clogs may cause a toilet to back up and spill dangerous “black water,” which is difficult and costly to clean up.
Corroded pipes are another “usual suspect” in water damage.
Underground pipes can deteriorate over time when they are exposed to corrosive bacteria, different soil conditions, and invading tree roots. Over time, pipes become weak and eventually burst, causing significant water damage to buildings and surrounding areas.
Avoiding Water Damage
You might not be able to prevent all water damage situations, but there are many easy things businesses and commercial property owners can do to prevent water damage or minimize the impact.
Unlike residential properties, commercial buildings tend to have large HVAC units, an extensive network of pipes, and a bird’s nest of wires, ducts, and other components to maintain. One of the easiest ways to avoid water damage is to hire a professional to conduct regular inspections.
Catching problems and making repairs early can save thousands of dollars and a lot of inconveniences.
Keeping gutters, downspouts, and drainage areas clean and clear is essential in preventing flood damage. Make sure the building manager or other responsible parties stay on top of regular maintenance that can keep potential accidents at bay.
To prevent pipes from freezing, keep the thermostat set at a minimum of 55 degrees. This is the easiest way to avoid water damage from burst pipes.
Create an emergency response plan
Before there is a water damage situation, have a plan of action or emergency response plan. Do members of your team know where the major water shut-off valves are? Do key team members know whom to contact in the event of a water pipe burst or other emergencies? Is this information and plan of action written in an easily accessible location?
It is wise to create and go over the emergency plan with key team members before there is a high-stress situation. Make sure there is a trusted individual who has the authority to make decisions in an emergency if you are not available.
SERVPRO’s Ready Plan app is a great resource for commercial property managers and owners to develop an emergency response plan. Knowing what to do and what to expect in an emergency is very important and will make the recovery process much easier.
Have a “Plan B”
It might seem excessive now, but do you have a plan in the event your business experiences extensive flooding or another emergency that prevents you from working from the building for an extended period?
While many commercial buildings do have options for temporary workspaces, it is best to have a plan before you are displaced.
Protect your products and your information
It is always wise to back up critical paperwork electronically and ensure all your essential documents are secure. Consider installing a waterproof file cabinet, safe, or other means of protecting valuable documents from water, fire, or other types of damage.
Keep non-waterproof inventory or valuables above floor level to protect them from potential water damage. If there is a severe risk of flood or rain damage, put valuable inventory, machinery, paperwork or other vulnerable items on high, stable shelves or stacked wooden pallets.
Know your insurance coverage
Most commercial property insurance policies do not cover certain types of water damage, and the exclusions often depend on what caused the damage. A standard insurance policy might cover cost from a burst water pipe but not damage caused by a backed up toilet. Many insurance policies exclude mold-related damage.
Flood damage is not typically covered by private insurance companies in the United States. You can purchase “riders” or add-ons to your property insurance that gives you better coverage in the event of water damage — the National Flood Insurance Program offers flood insurance for homeowners or companies.
Commercial Water Restoration
After severe water damage, be very cautious when entering your building. Check for downed power lines, gas leaks, and serious structural damage. If any electrical equipment is wet, contact an electrician immediately and turn off the power in the building until everything is safe.
Photograph all damage
Before any disaster strikes, take a complete set of “before” photographs of the property and business-related items. Insurance companies appreciate “before and after” photos to show the full extent of the damage.
Contact your local building department
The local building department has all the information on the required building permits for any demolition, permanent repairs, reconstruction, roofing, and other restoration projects.
Contact SERVPRO for cleanup and restoration
Cleaning up water damage can be a complicated and sometimes dangerous job. SERVPRO technicians receive the proper training to address every aspect of commercial water damage emergencies.
SERVPRO technicians do more than clean up the water. They dry the building and property quickly, using all the right machines to ensure no moisture is left. Once everything is dry, SERVPRO technicians deep clean, sanitize, and deodorize the entire space for maximum comfort and safety.
Water damage can lead to expensive repairs, time lost from work, and damaged goods and property, but you can have peace of mind that everything will be put to right as quickly as possible with SERVPRO’s expert technicians.
Hurricane Season Water Damage
People might not think hurricanes have much impact in Tennessee, but those who live in the Volunteer State know that hurricane season is flood season. Hurricanes and tropical storms are capable of marching hundreds of miles inland, bringing strong winds, heavy rains, and flooding.
SERVPRO is here to help you get so you’ll be able to combat or respond to water damage from heavy rains and flooding brought on by a hurricane or strong summer storm.
Before A Storm Or Flood
Have an emergency supply kit.
Create an emergency supply kit that will allow you to survive for at least 72 hours on your own. The kit should include water, non-perishable food, and a few essential emergency supplies in an easy-to-carry container (like a plastic bin or duffle bag).
A few of the most important items in an emergency supply kit are a battery powered or hand crank radio, a flashlight, first aid kit, extra batteries, dust mask, garbage bags, manual can opener, and a local map.
Many companies and commercial buildings also maintain an emergency supply kit in the event everyone must shelter in place for at least 24 hours. Be sure you know if your building has an emergency kit, where it is located, and how to access it in the event of an emergency.
Make a plan.
Before a hurricane or disaster strikes, make a plan for how you and your family will respond. Create a plan for communicating with each other. People often don’t have phone numbers memorized so be sure and write down the phone numbers of family members, friends, and important contacts.
Decide on an evacuation route. Some areas may have pre-arranged evacuation routes everyone is required to take. If you live in an area that does not have a designated evacuation route, create several options and identify where you will gather together if you must evacuate separately.
As you create your plan, consider the specific needs of your family. What will you do with pets? Do any members of your family have mobility difficulties that will impact your plans?
Consider flood insurance.
If you live in an area that is particularly prone to flooding, consider purchasing flood insurance. Most standard insurance policies do not cover flood damage but you can purchase “riders” or additional insurance, particularly if your property is in an area that floods easily. The National flood Insurance Program has flood maps that show the risks for flooding as well as flood insurance options.
Take photos for the insurance agent
Having “before” photos for the insurance agent will be very helpful in filing insurance claims and throughout the recovery process after a major storm.
Preventing Flood Damage
Floods can occur anywhere with little or no warning. Taking a few precautionary steps can go a long way to prevent or minimize serious damage from floodwaters.
Before a flood
Move outdoor furniture indoors and anchor heavier objects to prevent them from being blown over or floating away. If you live in an area that is particularly flood-prone, install floodgates, sandbags, tarps, and other “dry flood protection” materials. Focus on low-lying areas around your home or building to prevent water from getting in.
If a flood is eminent or you must leave your property during the storm, roll up area rugs and other items and get them off the floor. Consider putting all your belongings in a basement or garage on wooden pallets and shelves to keep them off the ground.
Turn off the power to your house or building if you must leave or floodwaters are approaching your home. This will make it safer to re-enter your home later. Make sure all electronics are unplugged and stored high enough to not get wet.
Prevent basement flooding
Repeated flooding weakens the foundation over time. There are ways to prevent basement flooding.
The most common cause of basement flooding is cracks in the foundation. The cracks allow water to seep in during a storm. Have your basement inspected by a professional and repair any cracks. Some cracks can be repaired easily with caulk or similar products. Other issues may need more work to ensure your basement is waterproof.
Check any windows in your basement. The wood frame around windows can rot or deteriorate over time, allowing water to leak in. Aluminum or vinyl windows tend to last longer and stand up to water better.
Check the drainage system around your house. Clean out the gutters and downspouts regularly. Blocked gutters or leaking downspouts allow water to pool around the foundation, causing flooding in the basement.
French drains help address drainage problems in your yard and conduct water further away from the building. A French drain is a ditch filled with gravel or rock and perforated pipes that allow water to drain more naturally.
If basement flooding is a common occurrence, consider installing a sump pump in the lowest part of the basement or crawlspace. Their job is to pump water away from the building.
Protect your business
Businesses are not immune to the impacts of hurricanes and floods. Create an emergency business response and continuity plan. This will help your business get back up and running more quickly after the storm has passed.
Keep the contact information of your employees, suppliers, and venders up to date. It’s best to gather as much contact information as possible and make sure you have a paper copy on hand.
Cleaning Up After A Flood Or Hurricane
Shut off electricity, gas, and other utilities.
Make sure the electricity and gas are turned off in your house. Even if the power is out in your area you don’t want to risk electrical shock during the cleanup process.
Contact your insurance agent and document damages.
The first thing to do after a hurricane or flood is contact your insurance agent. The agent will put you in contact with an adjuster. Make a detailed list of the damages and take photos or video as you go through the cleanup process. This will make the insurance claims, application for disaster relief, and income tax deductions much easier.
Remove any valuables and salvageable belongings.
Wipe down furniture and carry as much furniture as possible out of the affected area. Take wet upholstery and cushions to an area where they can begin to dry.
Put aluminum foil or wood blocks under the furniture legs to get them off the wet carpet. Remove any rugs and gather all the loose items off the floor.
Floodwaters from any source are potentially dangerous and often contain bacteria. SERVPRO technicians are trained to lead the cleanup process safely to avoid sickness and make sure everything is disinfected properly.
SERVPRO has storm and water damage specialists who are trained to respond quickly to any storm. A quick response is necessary to minimize or avoid secondary damages after the flood or storm.
SERVPRO will lead you through the inspection and assessment process to determine the extent of the damage. Then they will remove the water and make sure everything is completely dry and dehumidified. It’s important to properly clean and sanitize everything to avoid mold and other secondary issues.
Water Damage Explained
Whether it’s a broken pipe, overflowing washing machine, flood, or storm water, dealing with water damage can be costly, time consuming, and frustrating. Even little issues like a leaky ice machine can escalate quickly if left untreated. But with the right information, help, and tools, the cleanup process can be much less stressful and more effective.
We hope you never have to call us to restore water-damaged property; but if you do, this guide will help you understand the different classes and types of water damage and first steps to take.
Why is water damage dangerous?
Any time a home or business suffers water damage the impact is both visible and invisible. Some of the most common reported water damage incidents involve burst pipes, backed up sewage lines, and storm or floodwater damage. These sources can contain dangerous contaminants like bacteria, viruses, and sewage.
Mold loves to grow in damp, dark areas. Water that is left for just 48 hours can allow mold and mildew to grow quickly, if left untreated.
Water damage can also lead to structural damage, especially if the damage comes from flooding or storm water. Water weighs a lot and large amounts of water can put significant pressure on the walls and floors of a building. Sometimes the structural damage isn’t immediately evident until the cleanup process is well underway.
An often-overlooked secondary risk of water damage is electrical shock. Many people become focused on cleanup process and forget about the potential damage to their electrical wires and cables. Never enter a room with standing water that covers electrical outlets or devices until you are sure the power is turned off.
It is also dangerous to run power cords or use electricity in or around standing water. Turn off the electricity to any area affected by water damage until professionals assess the situation.
Categories of water
There are three “categories” of water that frequently cause damage to homes or businesses.
Category 1 Water does not pose a serious threat to people or animals. It comes from “clean water” supplies like broken water pipes or overflowing sinks.
Category 2 Water contains large amounts of chemical, biological, or physical contamination. Also known as “grey water”, exposure to this kind of water can cause a variety of illness and infection as it usually contains microorganisms, bacteria, and viruses. “Grey water” usually comes from toilet bowls, broken sump pumps, water leaking from dishwashers or washing machines, and similar sources. Category 2 Water does not contain any sewage or seawater so it’s not the most dangerous category, but it can pose serious threats.
Category 3 Water is called “Black water” and is the most unsanitary form of water. It contains harmful bacteria, sewage, seawater, river water, and other similar sources. Often, damage from category 3 water comes from toilet back flows, sewage pipe bursts, or large scale floods. “Black water” is capable of causing serious, widespread illness and infection.
Time and temperature can impact and change the quality of water. Even Category 1 water that is clean and potable can turn into Category 2 water if left untreated for a long time. Category 2 water that is left stagnant or not properly cleaned can quickly become Category 3 water.
Dealing with water damage
Each water damage situation has its own unique challenges. No matter how much damage your home or business suffered, it’s important to act quickly and take the proper steps.
First, turn off any water sources that may still be leaking. Then, turn off electricity to the affected area. Use electricity with extreme caution around water at all times, even when running fans and dehumidifiers in the drying process.
Next, have a professional correctly identify the class of damage and the type of water involved. This will help you address the situation safely and avoid further damage. Because of the potential for mold and other damage to go undiagnosed in even minor water leaks, it is important to have a professional assess the situation.
SERVPRO has specialized equipment that identify the water migration line, what materials were impacted, and where water may still be “bound” in materials even though they feel dry.
Make sure everything is disinfected properly during the cleanup process to avoid issues later on. Have furniture assessed and professionally cleaned. Either discard or professionally clean damaged personal items made of textiles and fabric.
In every event of water damage, if you suspect that contaminated water caused the damage or mold is present, immediately call professionals who are trained to handle the situation safely. Wear safety gloves, goggles, and a vapor respirator or paint respirator to prevent exposure to potentially harmful bacteria, spores, and microorganisms.
Classes of water damage
Determining the “class” of water damage is an important step in the cleanup process.
Class 1 Cleanup: A class 1 water loss only impacts part of a room with limited damage. The impact was confined to a small area and it was only wet for a short time so minimal moisture is absorbed by the flooring and other materials.
Clean up can be as easy as mopping or soaking up as much water as possible. Quickly discard anything that is unsalvageable. Circulate fresh air with fans and dehumidifiers to speed the evaporation and drying process. It is important to thoroughly dry the affected area to prevent mold from growing.
Even if the cleanup seems simple, it’s a good idea to have the area assessed to avoid further issues down the road.
Class 2 Cleanup: this level of water damage usually involves an entire room and large amounts of water, absorption, and evaporation. Damage frequently impacts the carpet and padding, plywood or subfloor, structural wood, and concrete. That means there is a lot of moisture in the walls, floor, and other spaces.
This level of water damage can quickly deteriorate. It is important to dry the area as quickly as possible with air circulation, ventilation, and dehumidifiers to prevent mold and microorganisms from growing.
If possible, remove the unsalvageable items and material quickly and call professionals to oversee the cleanup. It can be challenging to thoroughly dry the area without professional equipment and expertise.
Class 3 Cleanup: This is perhaps the most devastating level of water damage. The building is usually damaged from ceiling to subfloor and practically everything is saturated with water. This type of damage often comes when there is a significant roof leak, a pipe bursts in a ceiling, or an upstairs appliance malfunctions, spilling large amounts of water to the floor(s) below.
Remove and discard the damaged materials as quickly as possible and begin the drying process.
Because of the extent of damage in a Class 3 cleanup, it is best to avoid the area until professional help arrives. If you absolutely must enter the area, take extra safety precautions and wear gloves, goggles, and a respirator.
Class 4 Cleanup: Standing water grows bacteria, mold, and mildew that quickly turns into a bigger problem. Class 4 damage often includes standing water that must be removed with special equipment before the drying process can begin. Because the damage is extensive, the clean up and restoration process can be quite involved.
Typically materials like hardwood, brick, concrete, or stone are saturated and there are deep pockets of moisture. This type of water damage requires specialized drying methods and very low humidity. An example of Class 4 water damage would be a flooded crawlspace, soaked hardwood floors, or saturated concrete. It takes a long time and special equipment to dry these materials and spaces effectively.
Now that you know the types of water and classes of water-damage, you’re prepared to respond to any water damage situation that comes your way. As always, contact SERVPRO for qualified professional assistance with any water damage cleanup to make sure the job is done right.
Frequently Asked Questions About Water Damage
Whether your toddler shoved a toy down the toilet, causing an overflow, a sump pump backed up in your basement, or the latest storm caused flooding and damage, there are a number of potential causes of water damage to your home or business. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we hear about water damage and restoration.
What are the classes of water damage and why does it matter?
Only licensed professionals can officially classify water damage and the cost of the cleanup process is significantly impacted by the classification of water damage.
Clean water is potable (drinking water). Faucets, sprinklers, water heaters, and sometimes rainwater are classified as clean water. Damage caused by clean water is the least costly to clean and repair.
Grey water usually comes from relatively clean waste sources like baths, sinks, washing machines, and kitchen appliances. All grey water has the potential to carry bacteria, viruses, and microorganisms. It carries only minor health risks but must be cleaned thoroughly to avoid other issues.
Black water is the most harmful type of water. Backed up sewage, floodwaters, wastewater from toilets, and other areas. Black water is full of bacteria, viruses, and microorganisms that cause serious health problems and diseases. Cleaning black water is the most complicated and costly process. It requires special chemicals and equipment to clean up.
It is very important to properly clean up any kind of water leak to avoid more serious problems down the road. Even a small clean water leak from the ice machine can lead to serious damage.
What are the dangers of water damage?
The impact of water damage is not limited to the water itself. There are a number of dangers linked to water leaks, floods, and other types of water damage. It is important to address any leaks as quickly as possible to avoid further damage.
- There is a risk of fire when water comes in contact with electrical outlets and other power sources.
- Mold or mildew can grow on hard and soft surfaces during or after water damage.
- Wood and other building materials can soften, weaken, or rot, leading to serious structural issues.
- Water can cause stains, bad odors, and other inconvenient consequences.
How much does it cost to clean up water damage?
The answer to this question varies widely. The type and extent of damage and source of the water dramatically impact the cleanup costs.
Grey or black water is more costly to clean because you must be mindful of potential bacteria, virus, and microorganism contamination. Using the proper chemicals, cleaning methods, and equipment is very important.
Even though a competent homeowner or property manager may be able to clean and repair some of the water damage, it is important to have a professional assess the situation and determine the extent of the damage. Even trace amounts of water left untreated may allow mold to grow. Professionals can also identify the source of the water and make sure the leak is properly fixed.
Industry professionals estimate the national average cost for water damage restoration:
- Clean water leaks with minimal damage averages $3.75 per square foot.
- Grey water flooding with moderate damage averages $4.50 per square foot.
- Black water damage averages $7.00 per square foot.
How long does it take to dry out water-damaged property?
The time it takes to fully dry damaged property depends on weather, the classification of water that caused the damage, where the damage occurred, and how long the water has been there.
Generally it takes 3 to 5 days to fully dry a home. In the south, humidity and weather can significantly impact the drying process. Even carpet or surfaces that feel dry to the touch may still have water trapped inside. SERVPRO technicians use specialized testing equipment to ensure everything is thoroughly dried.
What are the first steps in dealing with water damage?
You should always contact professional technicians to help you deal with any water damage. But time is of the essence and knowing how to respond quickly can save you time and energy and prevent further damage. Follow these steps before the professionals arrive to get the process started:
- Turn off power to the impacted areas to prevent electrical fires and electrical shock.
- Turn off the main water supply to prevent further leaks.
- Remove any area rugs, furniture, and other movable furnishings from the room.
- Remove any curtains, draperies, and other wet window treatments.
- Move any keepsakes, decorative items, artwork, and personal items to a safe space.
- Bail out or mop up as much water as you can without using any appliances or power tools.
- Open all cabinets, doors, and drawers to help speed the drying process.
- Open any windows to help air out the area.
What is the typical process of restoration?
Every water-damage situation is unique so the process of restoring water damage to your home or business may vary. However, the general process that SERVPRO uses to help restore your property as quickly as possible is as follows:
- Our team of experts thoroughly examines the area and assesses the damage to create a plan.
- The water is removed using vacuums, special suctions, and other equipment.
- Your personal belongings may be moved to another location. It needs to be sanitized and deodorized.
- Our team thoroughly dries your property with dehumidifiers and special fans. Special equipment allows us to test surfaces to ensure everything is completely dry.
- The area may be sanitized and deodorized with air scrubbers, antimicrobial treatments, or other methods.
Does homeowners insurance cover water damage?
While homeowners insurance is usually very straightforward, understanding coverage for water damage can be difficult to decipher. Every insurance company has different coverage policies and regulations so there is not a simple answer to this question.
Water damage is rarely covered by insurance when it is caused by floods or sewer overflows. However, insurance will usually cover damage when it is “sudden and internal”, meaning the damage happened very quickly and the water came from inside the home, like a burst pipe or malicious activity.
Some damage caused by weather events are covered by insurance, like wind-driven rain or snow. The condition of your home is a significant factor in whether your homeowners insurance will cover the damage. Insurance will not often cover damage if it occurred because of corrosion or preexisting issues with your roof or siding.
Water damage caused by slow leaks or neglect typically won’t be covered by homeowners insurance, nor will mold and other consequences of water damage.
While there are probably dozens of other questions you have about dealing with water damage, these are the most frequently asked questions we encounter. Contact SERVPRO for fast, professional, expert help with any kind of water damage! We’re available 24/7 for any emergency fire or water cleanup emergency.
Mold Damage: What Happens Next?
When you’ve had water damage due to a plumbing leak, appliance malfunction, roof leak, or flood waters from a storm, you may also end up with mold damage. Mold, a type of fungus, thrives in wet or damp environments. Mold can spread throughout a home in just two days, causing significant damage to your property and belongings. This is why it’s important to call on a professional remediation team, like SERVPRO of Rutherford County as soon as mold has been discovered.
So, you’ve found mold in your home and have called the pros, what’s next? Here’s some things you can expect from a mold remediation process:
But First… A Word About Remediation vs “Removal”
What’s the difference between “mold removal” and “mold remediation,” you ask? While some companies claim to “remove all of the mold” from a mold affected home or business, the experts at SERVPRO understand that mold spores are naturally occurring organisms that float through the air virtually everywhere, both indoors and out.
Claiming complete “removal” is just not possible. Remediation, on the other hand, is a multi-step process of returning mold levels to a normal, natural level.
The Remediation Process - 7 Steps to Returning Your Space to Normal
Step 1: You’ve found mold - make the call. Call the Professionals at SERVPRO of Rutherford County to get the remediation process started. Our representative will have some questions for you that will help get a rough idea of what resources and equipment will be needed for your specific situation.
Step 2: Inspection and repairing water source (if needed) A thorough inspection and assessment of your property will be done by a SERVPRO professionals. They will use a variety of tools and tech to determine the full scale of the problem, as mold can be hidden behind, under, and inside things, out of sight for the naked eye, but easily spotted by a pro with the right equipment. The SERVPRO technician will also be able to determine any hidden water sources that will need to be addressed before remediation can begin.
Step 3: Preventing the spread with compartmentalization. Physical barriers and more advanced mold containment protocols may be used, depending on your situation. Negative air pressure chambering may be used to keep the mold from spreading further.
Step 4: Clearing the Air. Special air filtration units will be set in place. These devices, referred to as “air scrubbers,” pull mold spores from the air and help prevent the spread of mold during the rest of the process.
Step 5: Clean up and clear out. This is the step in which things will vary greatly depending on your particular mold situation. In some cases, mold-infested materials that are porous (such as drywall and carpeting) will need to be removed. The SERVPRO professionals will use specialized antimicrobial treatments that are appropriate for the surfaces at hand.
Step 6: Getting the contents clean and smelling fresh. The SERVPRO professionals will clean the contents of your space. Any furniture, curtains, clothing, decorative items, etc that was affected by the mold will be cleaned and sanitized. If needed, the space will also be deodorized using specialized fogging deodorization equipment.
Step 7: Restoring your space. The mold is now back to naturally occurring levels, the odor is gone, and the contents of your space are clean and sanitized. Now, the restoration begins. If any drywall, subflooring, or other building materials were affected and removed, this is when they get replaced. New carpet will be installed, walls and ceilings will be repaired, refinished, and repainted as needed, and any other restoration that needs to be done to restore your home or business to it’s pre-mold state will be done.
From this step-by-step layout you can see, from the time you call the SERVPRO of Rutherford County mold remediation specialists until your restoration is complete, we will take care of everything, keeping you in the loop on what’s being done. If you suspect you have a mold problem in your home or business, call SERVPRO of Rutherford County right away so we can get to work preventing further mold damages and cleaning up what has been affected.
Mold Damage? Your Questions Answered.
Have you had a damaging water event that affected your home? Is there an area in your home that stays damp due to a slow leak or condensation? Do you have a suspicious smell in the area where your home got wet? If you have had water damage that wasn’t remediated by professionals (or the source was not identified), it’s likely that you also have mold damage in your home.
If water has flooded in to your home, whether through broken pipes, slow leaks, appliance failure, roof leaks, or flood waters from a storm, mold can begin to grow in as little as 48 hours.
What exactly is mold, and what should you do if you find you have mold damage? We have answers for you. Read on to learn more.
Understanding What Mold Is and Why It is Problematic
- Molds are a type of fungus that are found pretty much everywhere. It’s actually unknown how many types of mold species exist, but experts estimate between tens of thousands to more than three hundred thousand. Some of the most common molds that are found indoors are cladosporium, penicillium, alternaria, and aspergillus.
- Mold spores are the fungus’ way of reproducing. These are microscopic particles, and float through the air, much like pollen, and are extremely hardy; they can withstand extreme drought and cold. Mold spores find their way in to your home through open windows or doors, heating or air conditioning systems, and even on your clothing, shoes, or pets.
- While mold spores can float around in practically any conditions, mold thrives in moist environments, and will reproduce rapidly when wet. It grows especially quickly when wet and warm conditions are present.
- Mold gives off a strong, telltale odor that can smell different from person to person and from one mold species to another. The odor could generally be described as “musty” “old” “like dirt” or “like rot.”
- Indoor humidity levels that are consistently above 50% can support mold growth. Try to keep indoor humidity at about 45% for your comfort and inhibiting mold growth.
- Be aware that before any mold remediation can take place, the source of the moisture needs to be identified and addressed, or the mold may return.
A Note About Black Mold
A specific species of mold has made the news often termed “toxic mold” or “black mold” scientifically known as stachybotrys chartarum. These news reports can be distressing and sometimes confusing. The fact of the matter is that ALL mold should be treated with caution and care, regardless of the type of color. The best thing to do is stay out of the space and call the professionals.
Mold Damage - Do’s and Don’ts
Mold can quickly cause significant damage to your home. SERVPRO of Rutherford County has specialized training and equipment to handle mold problems, but until a specialist arrives, some safety precautions should be taken:
- DO stay out of any mold affected areas of your home. It is especially important to keep children and the elderly away. In fact it may be necessary to temporarily relocate until remediation is complete.
- DO turn off any fans and air conditioning/heating systems - cycling the air through the whole home can carry mold spores to new places.
- DO call SERVPRO of Rutherford County as soon as you notice a problem.
- DON’T touch the mold affected items or move any furniture/items in the area of the mold.
- DON’T attempt to dry out a mold affected area yourself.
- DON’T attempt to clean the mold yourself, do not spray bleach or other disinfectants on the mold.
If you suspect you have a mold problem in your property, contact SERVPRO of Rutherford County, your local fire, water, and mold cleanup and restoration experts.