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Issues From High Indoor Humidity Levels.

When the humidity levels soar outdoors, it’s natural to seek sanctuary indoors, thanks to the marvels of modern air conditioning. If you move fast enough between the house, the car, and buildings, you hardly have to feel humidity levels that make you feel like you’re breathing a wet sponge. But just because that cool air is enclosed inside four walls doesn’t mean it’s protected from high humidity. It doesn’t just make you feel hotter; humidity in your house causes all kinds of trouble, ranging from mild discomfort to damage to your home and possessions, and even your health.

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Poor Indoor Air Quality

Even with the benefits of air conditioning, air quality suffers with excess humidity levels. Modern construction techniques and better building materials mean that there are fewer gaps to let air leak in or out. While it’s important to keep the hot, humid air out and keep the nice, cool air in, these tightly sealed buildings also seal in dust mites and mold spores that are commonly found in the air. All the spores need to grow are food sources, which are in building materials and textiles, and humidity. While air purifiers and plants can help clean the air somewhat, the best way to manage the quality of the air inside your home is to control the humidity levels.

Mold and Mildew Growth

If your home or business has a problem with high humidity levels, it’s not a matter of if there’s going to be a problem with mold and mildew, but when. Mold spores occur naturally in the air and are microscopic, so there’s no way to eliminate them completely. Spores begin growing into mold within 48 hours of exposure to high humidity levels because they find plenty of food sources in drywall, paper, fabric, and other materials. Left untreated, mold will continue to grow, quickly moving into hidden areas like walls where it can travel through a building undetected, spreading into areas that weren’t affected by the initial infestation.

Lower Quality Sleep

Anyone who’s gone camping in the middle of summer or lived without air conditioning knows the challenges of trying to sleep when the humidity is high. When the air is humid, water can’t evaporate from your skin and cool your body. When your body is too hot, it’s difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, so the quality of your sleep suffers. Poor sleep quality affects so much of your everyday life, so it’s worth investing in a window air conditioner or a dehumidifier for the bedroom if excess humidity is a problem.

Increased Asthma & Allergy Symptoms

Besides damaging your home or business and its contents, mold caused by high humidity impacts your health. If you already have asthma or allergies, mold growth will only make them worse. Worsening symptoms means more visits to the doctor, which means more lost time from work or school, and more money spent on medications. Even if you don’t have asthma or allergies, mold growth irritates eyes and respiratory systems, so reactions feel more like a cold that just won’t go away, no matter what over the counter medications you try.

Warped Wood

Long-term exposure to high levels of humidity can warp hardwoods and wood furniture in your home. Often the damage is irreversible, especially if the damage is wide spread or affects a large area, such as a hardwood floor. Wood furniture and floors are expensive investments that need protection from high humidity.

Strained HVAC Systems

High humidity levels make the air feel hotter, so it’s natural to turn on the air conditioning. This puts an added strain on your HVAC system, which may already be struggling due to age, dirty filters, or a lack of preventative maintenance. The extra work may even shorten the lifespan of the system.

Higher Utility Bills

The other nasty by-product of turning on the air conditioning more often is an increase in the utility bill. Obviously, the more the air is on, the more electricity is used. There are plenty of cost of living increases that are beyond our control, like gas and medical expenses. However, by keeping the humidity in your home or business under control, you can keep your air conditioner on less often and keep the utility bills down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luke Armstrong. “Issues From High Indoor Humidity Levels.” Web blog post. Restoration guides, Restoration Master Finder. 30 Aug 2017. 17 Nov 2017

Turkey Fryer Fire Safety.

Compared to the tradition of roasting the turkey in the oven on Thanksgiving, many families prefer a little more flavor by frying it instead. But many organizations, including the National Fire Protection Association and Underwriters Laboratories, are strongly against them due to the dangers they pose. If you have ever watched a turkey fryer fire video, you will notice that once the fire starts, it shoots up in seconds, engulfing the fryer and surrounding materials in a thick, fiery cloud.

But if these videos don’t scare you from sticking the bird in the hot oil, be sure to follow all instructions and practice extreme caution before doing so. Check out these turkey fryer fire safety tips to keep you, your loved ones, and home safe from a Thanksgiving fire disaster.

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Emergency Fire Damage Restoration

While not all disasters can be prevented, knowing who to call after a fire damage emergency is crucial when it comes to restoring your property and contents. ServiceMaster is a professional fire and smoke damage restoration company that is available 24/7 to handle all property emergencies. From the initial inspection to rebuilding the structure, they will restore your home’s previous condition within a timely matter.

They can also restore personal items to their original conditions with professional content cleaning and pack out services. Using commercial cleaning products, they can remove that thick, oily residue left behind from the smoke and soot byproducts. As soon as the flames have been extinguished on your property, you can rely on these professionals to handle all aspects of the restoration process.

Cause of Turkey Fryer Fires

One of the best ways to prevent turkey fryer fires is to know what causes them. When a frozen turkey is submerged into a pot of oil, it won’t mix with the frozen water on the turkey. Instead, heavy pockets of water will sink to the bottom of the fryer while the oil surrounding them quickly heats it beyond its boiling point. The water then evaporates, expands, and splatters the oil everywhere.

As soon as the beads of oil hit the burner, they heat up instantly, igniting into flames that will quickly spread in all directions from the fryer. This is why the turkey can never be frozen or saturated before being fried.

Turkey Fryer Fire Safety Tips

While many families are successful in frying up a perfectly cooked bird, others become victims to large, thick clouds of fire that destroy their home and/or send them to the emergency room. This is why it is so crucial to know what you are doing before firing up the burner (no pun intended).

Location is key

Even if you have been frying your turkey for years and have never experienced a problem, you should know that doing it at least 10 feet away from all buildings is the most crucial safety tip. Because hot oil will spray everywhere when cooking, it can easily start a fire when making contact with combustible materials, such as wood or fabric.  If the oil touches bare skin, it can also cause severe burns.

When finding an ideal spot to fry the bird, keep it at a safe distance away from all housing structures. The base should be made of dirt or concrete, a non-flammable material that won’t ignite when coming into contact with hot oil. Also keep the burner’s propane tank as far away from the burner as possible without causing too much tension on the hose or tipping over the tank.

For extra safety, keep a fire extinguisher next to you in case anything gets out of control.

Finally, keep everyone out of the frying area for their own safety – unless their help is absolutely necessary.

Thaw the turkey

Even if you choose to roast the turkey, thawing it is an essential part of the preparation process. Before adding any spices or seasonings, make sure that it is fully thawed.

To do this, allow it to sit in the fridge for every 4 pounds of meat, or if you are running short on time, place it into a cold water bath, and let it sit for one hour for every 2 pounds.

After ensuring that the turkey is fully thawed by checking it for ice, dry it out completely and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Be careful with the seasonings

While everyone has their own opinion about which seasonings to add to a turkey, extra attention must be put forth when deep frying the bird. If you are marinating it first, make sure that it dries completely before placing it into the hot oil. You can also inject the liquid seasoning deep within the muscles, under the skin so that the oil won’t splatter when it cooks.

Measure the oil thoroughly

While you are waiting for the seasonings to dry (if you used liquid), you can start the measuring process. This is also another essential step to prevent the oil from spilling over the sides, landing on the burner, and causing everything to go up in flames.

To measure the perfect amount of oil, first practice with water. Place the turkey into the pot and fill it with water until it reaches between 4 and 6 inches below the rim. Then remove the turkey and measure the volume. This will be the exact amount of oil you will want to use when frying the turkey. Just make sure that both the pot and the bird are thoroughly dried before adding the oil.

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Lowering the turkey

As soon as you are ready with the seasonings and have ensured that the bird is fully thawed, it is ready to be placed into the oil. If you choose to do it by hand, make sure to cover every inch of bare skin. This includes wearing oven mitts, long sleeves, pants, and close-toed shoes. Otherwise, the hot oil will stick to bare skin, causing severe burns that can result in an emergency trip to the hospital.

If you want to use something else to lower it, make sure that it can hold a lot of weight by testing it with heavy books, rocks, or a strong fryer basket. Then practice lowering them to get the feel of how to do it slowly.

 

After practicing, be sure that the turkey is securely attached to the rope, or it won’t slip from your hands. Then carefully lower it into the oil. If it starts spitting, DO NOT DROP THE TURKEY, but lift it out of oil and find out what’s wrong.

Non-fire risks

While grease fires are the most dangerous risk when frying turkeys, don’t forget about the most general cooking risk: undercooked meat. But it can be difficult to dip the meat thermometer in boiling oil to measure the bird’s internal temperature.

A general rule is to cook the turkey for three minutes per pound. Then you can carefully remove the turkey from the hot oil to take its temperature. If it reads 145 degrees, allow it to cool down at room temperature for 20 minutes before carving into it.

Cleaning up the mess

Even after a successful frying job, cleaning up the oil can be a chore. First allow it to cool down before taking it out of the pot; you can measure its temperature before disposing of it. As soon as it safe to do so, do NOT dump the oil down the drain.

Instead, pour it into a disposable container, such as a large can or plastic container, and then throw it in the garbage. If you are afraid it may leak, place the container into the freezer until it becomes solid, and then throw it away.

Afterwards, wipe away the grease from the burner with either dish soap or vinegar. And there you have it – a successfully fried turkey and undamaged house!

Always be Prepared

Even if you have been frying turkeys for years, accidents can still happen. The turkey can slip from your hands when lowering it into the fryer or your rope-and-pulley system could break, spilling the oil everywhere and igniting a fire. The point is that something can always go wrong when frying a turkey; therefore, you should always be prepared. Ensure to have all emergency contact numbers, including your local hospital, fire department, insurance company, and fire damage restoration company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luke Armstrong. “Turkey Fryer Fire Safety Tips” Web blog post. Restoration tips, Restoration Master. 9 Nov 2017.

Do These Contractor Practices Seem Shady? They Are!

Clouds aren’t the only things that roll in with severe weather. Also on that horizon are unscrupulous contractors. Home repair scams arrive in the aftermath of storms as shady contractors cash in by delivering substandard or incomplete work. Help protect yourself, your money, and your home from repair ripoffs by learning to spot the red flags.

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Warning signs of a scam

Be alert if contractors do any of the following:

  • Offer unsolicited services for projects like driveway sealing, chimney rebuilds, and roof repair—projects that are commonly “pitched” to homeowners
  • Quote a reduced price on the work because of “materials left over from a job down the street”
  • Offer a discount for using your home as a demonstration
  • Employ pushy door-to-door sales tactics or advertise through flyers or newspapers
  • Appear to be from out of town or working out of a pickup truck
  • Demand immediate payment in full
  • Accept cash only
  • Provide no written contract
  • Are not willing to produce references
  • Fail to provide proof of insurance and proper licensing
  • Suggest financing or recommend financing through someone they know
  • Ask you to secure any required permits
  • Promise insurance compensation for their repairs

Ways to protect yourself

  • Get multiple quotes from local established businesses.
  • Take time to make your decision.
  • Do your research. Look into professional affiliations and Better Business Bureau reports, and follow up on references from previous clients.
  • Check for up-to-date licenses, and verify insurance protection.
  • Insist on written estimates and a contract that includes contact information, important dates, and a breakdown of costs. According to Federal Trade Commission rulings, you may be able to cancel a contract of more than $25 within three business days of signing it at your home or in a seller’s temporary business location.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admin ” Do These Contractor Practices Seem Shady? They Are.” Web blog post. Simple Insights, State Farm Insurance. 8 Nov 2017.

 

Protecting Your Home From Storm Water Damage

A heavy rainstorm has finally stopped. Or maybe a long winter has finally ended, and the deep snows have begun to melt.

While good weather may seem like a relief, the potential for water damage may just be beginning. Storm water runoff can quickly overwhelm natural and manmade systems, leading to flooding and property damage.

The steps you take today to prepare your home and yard for proper drainage can help avoid time-consuming and costly repairs when the bad weather does blow through.

In a natural environment, storm water runoff is absorbed by soil, evaporates into the atmosphere or flows into bodies of water, such as streams, lakes or rivers. Homeowners may need to recreate the natural environment on their property to address storm water runoff. This includes planting trees and other vegetation, building rain gardens and installing rain barrels or cisterns to collect roof water.

Rain on roof of a house

How Can You Protect Your Home from Storm Water?

“The key to developing a yard drainage plan is to understand the specific characteristics of your property and implement the system that works best for you,” says Mike Koppang, a Travelers Risk Control professional. During a storm, you can go outside and observe how the water flows. Take note of the different grades and slopes and whether they divert the flowing water away from your home. Look for any low spots that collect or pool water and for any steep slopes that have indications of surface erosion.

Consider the steps needed to protect your property from water runoff. Rain that falls on roofs, driveways, patios, roads and other impervious areas moves across the ground surface at greater speeds. The property adjacent to these areas could be more susceptible to damage. Frozen soil can also increase risk of damage by preventing water from being absorbed by the soil. Replacing impervious areas with pervious surfaces, such as permeable paving stones or pavers, can also help.

Other questions you might consider:

Is storm water that falls on impervious surfaces diverted away from your house? This is the work of things like roof gutter downspouts, driveways, walkways and patios. Runoff from these surfaces should be directed to an area that has the ability to absorb or slow the surface flow, such as landscaped areas, and away from your house.

Does your house have a stream, pond or lake close by? Consider the flood potential and how it may impact your property. You can research local flood maps that will detail flood water levels for various storm events and their flood potential.

Does your driveway or other impervious surface have a negative pitch back toward the house? Consider installing trench drains or area drains to help prevent pooling and divert water away from the house.

Do you have retaining walls on your property? If so, it is important that the walls have a drainage system in place to alleviate pressure behind the wall. Periodically clean weep holes to ensure they are not clogged. Surface water should not be allowed to cascade over the top of the wall and instead should be diverted to the end of the wall or around it.

Is a portion of your house below ground level, such as a basement? Make sure any sewer and water lines, or any other pipes or lines that penetrate subsurface walls, and foundation cracks are properly sealed. Basements that are prone to water intrusion should have a water collection system in place, such as a sump pump system. This system should be maintained with a battery backup for continued operation in the event of a power failure. Consider elevating mechanical systems or installing curbs around areas that need protecting but cannot be elevated, such as finished areas and storage areas. Exterior basement window wells should have covers and the ground surface of the well should be below the well rim.

Do you have a sewer or septic system and property with known high water tables? Have the system checked by a professional. If the groundwater rises too high, it can affect the efficiency and operation of the system. In some cases, this may lead to sewer back up or waste leaching above the ground or back into the house.

Surface storm water is not the only consideration for protecting your home. It is also important to assess the functionality of your whole home envelope system. Make sure that your house exterior is maintained, including roofing, flashings, weather barriers, windows, doors and sealants.

While you cannot prevent against all damage from storm water runoff during large acts of nature, these steps can help protect your home when storms do hit.

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “Protecting Your Home From Storm Water Damage” Web blog post. Prepare & Prevent. Travelers Insurance. 7 Nov 2017 

Snowbirds: Winterize Your Home While You’re Away

If you are a snowbird heading south for the winter, there are several key things you can do to help protect your vacant home. Taking these steps can help protect your home from theft, water damage, heating or electrical system malfunctions and other possible threats while you are away for an extended period of time.

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1. Make Your Home Appear as Though It Is Continuously Occupied

  • Forward your mail, stop newspaper delivery, and ask a friend or relative to collect flyers or other items that may be left at your door.
  • Arrange for someone to remove snow after storms.
  • Put motion-sensitive exterior lights and interior lights on timers and set them to come on at varying times to discourage prowlers.

2. Take Steps to Protect Your Home from Thieves

  • Confirm that your alarm systems are in working order and have been activated.
  • Secure external doors and windows with deadbolt locks, security-type hinges and sturdy door frames that cannot be spread apart. Install slide locks or other equivalent security locks on sliding glass doors or French doors.
  • Store valuables that you are not taking with you in a safe deposit box or other secure offsite location.
  • Do not post your vacation or travel plans on social media sites, as potential thieves can use that information to learn that your house is vacant.

3. Protect Your Pipes to Avoid Water Damage by Turning Off Your Water Supply

  • If a pipe bursts or leaks while you are away, it could cause significant damage. Consider completely turning off the water supply if no one will be in the home for an extended period of time. If your home is heated by an older steam heating system, consult with your heating professional to determine if it is safe to turn off the water supply for your particular heating system. Also, if your home is protected by a fire sprinkler system, do not turn off the water to this system.
  • Drain your pipes of all water by opening the faucets, and flush your toilet to clear the water from the tank and bowl, then consider pouring antifreeze in toilet tanks and bowls to prevent any remaining water from freezing and cracking.* Always use non-toxic antifreeze rated for plumbing systems.
  • To help confirm that the pipes have been drained, consider having a plumber blow compressed air through the pipes.

4. Keep Your Home and Plumbing Warm if Your Water Supply Stays On

  • If you decide against draining your water pipes, keep the furnace running to help ensure the home stays warm and the pipes do not freeze.
  • Set the temperature at 55°F or higher to help keep the interior of the floor and wall cavities, where the water piping is likely located above freezing temperatures. Keeping room and cabinet doors open also helps heat to circulate and warm the areas where pipes are located.
  • Shut off the water to washing machines and dishwashers where possible, to avoid any leaks or broken hoses while you are away.
  • Turn off the heat source and water supply to hot water heaters (if separate from your boiler).
  • Consider shutting off and draining outdoor water faucets to prevent vandalism and freezing damage.
  • Have a water flow sensor and low temperature sensor installed on your main water supply pipe and hooked into a constantly monitored alarm system or your smart phone.

5. Perform Routine Maintenance Before You Leave

  • Have your heating system inspected and serviced before winter. Have your fuel tanks filled before you leave, and ask someone to check on heat and fuel levels regularly while you are gone.
  • Be sure to maintain electrical power if required to keep the heating system running. If electrical service to the home is to remain on, consider having a licensed electrical contractor inspect your main electrical panel, wiring and outlets, if necessary. This way, they can repair or replace anything that may be defective.
  • Have your roof inspected before you leave and clean your gutters to help prevent ice from building up.*
  • Remove dead trees or large overhanging limbs that could damage your house.
  • Unplug all unnecessary appliances before you leave. Make sure you can retrieve messages on your home answering machine or voicemail so it does not indicate FULL or unattended when someone calls.

6. Make Your Home Unattractive to Pests

  • Clean your home thoroughly to help discourage new “residents” from moving in.
  • Clean, defrost and unplug refrigerators and freezers, wiping them dry and leaving doors propped open to prevent mildew. Also clean the oven.
  • Inspect your home for openings that animals could use to enter. For example, make sure your fireplace flue is closed, as bats, birds and squirrels are known to get inside this way.
  • Check weather-stripping, insulation and exterior doors and windows to ensure no major deficiencies are present. Water and insects can enter through these openings.
  • Chimneys should be inspected by a chimney service and, if necessary, cleaned to ensure that they are free from obstructions such as nesting birds. Install chimney guard screen-caps to help prevent any infestation.

7. Be Ready for Emergencies

  • Notify the police department that the property will be vacant, and provide emergency notification numbers.
  • Install smoke detectors on at least every floor (preferably tied to a constantly monitored fire alarm system so the fire department will automatically be notified in case of alarm), and confirm that the sensors and system are tested regularly.
  • In higher wind-exposed or coastal areas, install storm shutters (or other mitigation measures, such as 5/8” marine plywood) to secure windows. Properly anchor personal property that will remain outdoors.
  • Ask a trusted friend, neighbor or relative to keep an eye on your home and be available in emergency situations. Give them access to your home so they can regularly monitor heating, electrical and water systems.
  • If the weather turns frigid, have them also check the roof for ice dams and inspect for leaks inside. Make sure they have your contact information and a list of local contractors they can reach if repairs or service are needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “Snowbirds: Winterize Your Home while You’re Away” Web blog post. Prepare & Prevent, Travelers Insurance. 30 Oct. 2017

How to Stay Safe During a Hurricane

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After our first hurricane since living in Texas, we realized there was a lot we didn’t know.  I know there are many more people out there who aren’t quite sure what to do in the event of a major hurricane.  We’re sharing these with you in hope that they’ll help you stay safe and be as comfortable as possible in the event that you lose power or find flood waters seeping into your home.  Here’s what you need to know.

 

 

Hurricane Survival Tips

1. Evacuate. Evacuate. Evacuate.
When you can and it’s safe to do so, leave low-lying areas or danger zones and move inland and to elevated areas.  Call a friend, contact a shelter in another city or make plans to stay in a hotel.  Fill up on gas and get out of town as soon as you are able to.  In the event that you can’t get away, here are more tips to help you stay safe.

2. Fill your car with gas.
If you don’t plan to evacuate, at least make sure that you’re family cars or rentals are loaded and full of gas.  It’s not a bad idea to fill a couple of gas cans and keep those in your trunk just in case.  It’s always better to be prepared, than to need it and not have it.

3. Have plenty of cash on hand.
In the event that the power goes out, stores may not be able to sell you items by using a credit or debit card.  Make sure you have plenty of cash on hand to buy emergency supplies, for hotel stays or to help another person in need, should the situation arise.

4. Make sure you stock up on water and food.  
Sometimes power can be out for a week or even longer.  Make sure you’re well prepared with plenty of fresh drinking water.  Often times flooding will cause sewage and chemicals to infiltrate your water sources.  Don’t rely on water from the pipes.  Make sure you have clean water on hand.  Buy food that doesn’t require cooking.  Bread, fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter, powdered-milk, sandwich supplies and snacks are always a good bet.   If you’re able, you can grill meats outside after the storm has subsided, even after you’ve lost power.  So make sure you have grilling supplies like charcoal and fire starter.  Canned goods that don’t require heating, like canned fruit, potted meat, etc., are also a good idea.  If you have pets, make sure you stock up on food for them as well.

5. Plastic cutlery and supplies.
You won’t have access to clean dishes during a hurricane if the power and water stops running.  Make sure you have plenty of plastic plates, bowls, utensils and cups on hand.  Wrap them in plastic bags and tie them securely to make sure that the contents stay clean and dry.  You can do the same with your food supplies.

6. Buy lots of bug spray.
After a flood or heavy rain, the mosquitos are out in force.  You more than likely won’t want to stay indoors in the sweltering heat without air conditioning, so make sure that you get plenty of bug spray and repellent to keep pests away.

7. Have flashlights, candles, lanterns and extra batteries on hand.
If the power goes out, you’ll need a way to see to make trips to the bathroom at night, to eat or just to keep the kids distracted when they get scared of the dark.  Make sure you have plenty of flashlights, candles, battery-operated lanterns and alternate lighting options to last you at least a few days.  Also, stock up on batteries.  AA, AAA and C batteries are usually the most common.  After a hurricane, the power can be out for 1-2 weeks at least, so make sure you have enough to be prepared for the worst.

8. Buy a weather radio.
Keep a hand crank or battery operated radio on hand so you can stay up to date with weather reports.  You’ll probably be able to use your cell phone at least until the storm hits, but once the power is out, the battery dies or signal drops due to the storm, you’ll be completely in the dark.  Make sure you have a back up device, like a weather radio, to keep you informed.

9. Keep your devices charged.
More than likely, you’re going to lose power at some point.  Make sure you charge your kids tablets so they have something to do when the storm gets scary or the house is dark.  Charge your cell phones so you can maintain what might be your only lifeline or way to check in with family and friends throughout the storm.  You can also use a portable rechargeable battery to keep your devices charged long after the power has gone out.

10. Stock medical supplies.
If you have medicines, prescriptions or other items you’ll need, make sure you stock up before the storm.  Many stores may be closed for days or weeks after a major hurricane.  In case of injury, you’ll want to have some basic first aid items on hand.  Getting to a hospital isn’t easy during a hurricane and especially if there’s flooding.  Make sure you have medicines, antibiotic ointments, tourniquets and other supplies on hand in case of an emergency.  And remember that allergies are at their highest in the aftermath of a hurricane, so make sure you have plenty of allergy medications and remedies on hand, especially for small kids who often won’t know how to cope with the effects.  Keep kids well hydrated and order extra allergy medications ahead of the storm so you have them on hand.

11. Bring in all outdoor items and secure patio furniture so they don’t become projectiles.
Clean up your yard and patio area so that your lawn chairs, children’s toys and shovels don’t become projectiles.  This is for both your protection and your neighbor’s.  Make sure that all items are secured in your garage, basement, or in your home.  We also tied down our trash can to make sure if wouldn’t blow into the streets and block traffic during the storm or cause any damage.

12. Board up your windows to prevent damage and exposure to the elements.
Make sure you have plywood or another solid type of covering to secure your windows.  This will prevent fencing, branches or other debris from entering your home and will also hold back intense rain and flood waters.  If you can’t board your windows, you can at least cover them with a mattress or heavy blankets from the inside if needed.

13. Place sand bags in front of your doors and in other areas where water might seep in.
Typically, your city officials will pass out free sand bags if you live in an area affected by a hurricane.  Make sure you watch news reports and follow your city, police or fire departments social media pages to find out when and where you can pick up your sand bags.  Place them in front of doorways or anywhere else where water might seep in.  This will slow the flooding process so you can hopefully make it through safely until the storm ends.

14. Put things up away from flood waters.
Make sure you put up things that you don’t want to see destroyed by flood waters.  Family pictures, memorabilia, heirlooms, electronics, etc.  Put them up on top of furniture, desks, counters, in cabinets or the tops of closets when possible.  If you have a safe, dry place to store important items, please get them put away well ahead of time.

15. Fill your bathtub with water so you can flush toilets.
During a hurricane, you may find that you can no longer flush your toilet or access water in your home.  Make sure that you fill up your bathtub, sinks and washing machine with water so that you’ll be able to flush toilets even in the event that you don’t have water.

16. A closet is usually the safest place to go in the event of high winds.
Clean out a closet and make enough space for your family to sit comfortably inside.  If your closets aren’t large enough, you can also use a bathroom.  This will be a place where your family can escape the loud winds and comfort small children.  It is also a safe space in the event that a hurricane or tornado may cause damage to your home.

17. Pack clothes and personal care items.
Whether you evacuate or not, make sure you pack a few pairs of clean, dry clothes (including undergarments and extra shoes) and supplies like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.  Pack as if you were going on a week-long trip and make sure they you also put these items in plastic bags and seal them tight to protect them from the elements.

18. Prepare important documents and records.
In the event of a hurricane, you’ll need to protect all of your most important records.  Make sure you have your insurance policies, lease agreements, car title and registration, marriage license, birth records, forms of identification, pet records and any other important records packed in air-tight bags and ready in case you need them.

19. Stock up on baby and kid supplies.
After the hurricane, most stores will be closed and you likely won’t be able to find a place to get supplies for weeks.  Make sure you stock up on diapers, wipes, formula, sippy cups, snacks and other supplies well before the hurricane hits.  You definitely don’t want to be without these in the event of a disaster.

20. Emergency contacts.
In the event of an emergency, make sure that you have the phone numbers, Facebook pages and Twitter handles of people who could help you if needed.  Have contact info for the police department, city government and both national and local organizations that help with hurricane rescue and relief.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “Hurricane Survival Tips: How to Stay Safe During a Hurricane” Web blog post. Tips & Safety. Bicultural Familia. 25 Aug 2017. 23 Oct 2017.

Issues From High Indoor Humidity Levels

When the humidity levels soar outdoors, it’s natural to seek sanctuary indoors, thanks to the marvels of modern air conditioning. If you move fast enough between the house, the car, and buildings, you hardly have to feel humidity levels that make you feel like you’re breathing a wet sponge. But just because that cool air is enclosed inside four walls doesn’t mean it’s protected from high humidity. It doesn’t just make you feel hotter; humidity in your house causes all kinds of trouble, ranging from mild discomfort to damage to your home and possessions, and even your health.

Poor Indoor Air Quality

Even with the benefits of air conditioning, air quality suffers with excess humidity levels. Modern construction techniques and better building materials mean that there are fewer gaps to let air leak in or out. While it’s important to keep the hot, humid air out and keep the nice, cool air in, these tightly sealed buildings also seal in dust mites and mold spores that are commonly found in the air. All the spores need to grow are food sources, which are in building materials and textiles, and humidity. While air purifiers and plants can help clean the air somewhat, the best way to manage the quality of the air inside your home is to control the humidity levels.

Mold And Mildew Growth

If your home or business has a problem with high humidity levels, it’s not a matter of if there’s going to be a problem with mold and mildew, but when. Mold spores occur naturally in the air and are microscopic, so there’s no way to eliminate them completely. Spores begin growing into mold within 48 hours of exposure to high humidity levels because they find plenty of food sources in drywall, paper, fabric, and other materials. Left untreated, mold will continue to grow, quickly moving into hidden areas like walls where it can travel through a building undetected, spreading into areas that weren’t affected by the initial infestation.

Lower Quality Sleep

Anyone who’s gone camping in the middle of summer or lived without air conditioning knows the challenges of trying to sleep when the humidity is high. When the air is humid, water can’t evaporate from your skin and cool your body. When your body is too hot, it’s difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, so the quality of your sleep suffers. Poor sleep quality affects so much of your everyday life, so it’s worth investing in a window air conditioner or a dehumidifier for the bedroom if excess humidity is a problem.

Increased Asthma & Allergy Symptoms

Besides damaging your home or business and its contents, mold caused by high humidity impacts your health. If you already have asthma or allergies, mold growth will only make them worse. Worsening symptoms means more visits to the doctor, which means more lost time from work or school, and more money spent on medications. Even if you don’t have asthma or allergies, mold growth irritates eyes and respiratory systems, so reactions feel more like a cold that just won’t go away, no matter what over the counter medications you try.

Warped Wood

Long-term exposure to high levels of humidity can warp hardwoods and wood furniture in your home. Often the damage is irreversible, especially if the damage is wide spread or affects a large area, such as a hardwood floor. Wood furniture and floors are expensive investments that need protection from high humidity.

Strained HVAC Systems

High humidity levels make the air feel hotter, so it’s natural to turn on the air conditioning. This puts an added strain on your HVAC system, which may already be struggling due to age, dirty filters, or a lack of preventative maintenance. The extra work may even shorten the lifespan of the system.

Higher Utility Bills

The other nasty by-product of turning on the air conditioning more often is an increase in the utility bill. Obviously, the more the air is on, the more electricity is used. There are plenty of cost of living increases that are beyond our control, like gas and medical expenses. However, by keeping the humidity in your home or business under control, you can keep your air conditioner on less often and keep the utility bills down.

Restoration costs vary, depending on the extent of the flooding and the presence of mold. According to HomeAdvisor.com, the national average to remove standing water is $2,779. The national average to repair water damage is $2,436. The national average to test for mold is $719 and the national average to remove mold and toxic materials is $2,241.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Luke Armstrong. “Issues From High Indoor Humidity Levels” Web blog post. Restoration Guides. Restoration master finder. 30 Aug 2017. 12 Oct 2017

 

The Difference Between Mold & Mildew.

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

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

Mold removal for bridge city and west lake

What Is The Difference Between Mold And Mildew?

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

Common Mildew Types

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

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

Common Mold Types

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

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

How To Tell The Difference Between Mold And Mildew?

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

Differences between Mold and Mildew in Appearance

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

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

Differences in the Effects of Mold and Mildew

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

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

Mold and Mildew Testing

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Get Rid Of Mold And Mildew?

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

How to Prevent Mold and Mildew

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

How to Clean Mold and Mildew

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

How to protect yourself from hurricane repair scams.

Homeowners affected by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey have already absorbed a body blow from damaged homes and lost possessions.

Now, they’re bracing for another: repair scams.

After weather calamities, fraudsters — also known as “storm chasers” — exploit the severe strain on insurance companies. In affected cities, like Houston, due to the extent of damage, insurers have had to recruit independent claims adjusters, some from out of state. This gives scammers an opportunity to sell themselves to unsuspecting homeowners.

The overall bill will be steep: The cost of Irma and Harvey will range between $150 billion to $200 billion, including property damage and lost output.

While filing insurance claims, consumers should keep detailed records of communications, and be wary of potential scammers.

“If you find yourself in a situation where you signed the dotted line without checking with your insurance company first, give them a call,” Chris Hackett, senior director at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, told CNBC.

Government assistance is available

In the meantime, government agencies are stepping in. U.S. attorneys in four Florida districts have formed fraud task forces. The National Center for Disaster Fraud, formed in response to Hurricane Katrina, also has a hotline.

Also in Florida, the nonprofit Citizens Property United, which provides insurance for homeowners who can’t obtain private coverage, has warned policyholders to “be wary of unlicensed contractors or deals that sound too good to be true.”

Other organizations, such as the Better Business Bureau, make public consumers’ accounts of scams. Victims of fraud are encouraged to report incidents, too.

“It’s terrible that there are people who will take advantage of storm victims, but we see it all the time at BBB,” said spokeswoman Katherine Hutt. “Storm victims need to protect themselves and be vigilant.”

“If someone shows up at your house unannounced and claims to be an insurance adjuster, do not invite them into your home. Ask for company ID. If they don’t have any, ask them to leave your property and shut the door,” Hutt said. “If they do have identification, call your insurance company to verify. Don’t give them any information until you’ve confirmed their identity, and never give them any money.”

Beware that phony insurance adjusters and contractor scammers will frequently insert themselves between homeowners and insurance companies, according to Angie Hicks, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Angie’s List, a home-services consumer-review site.

For homeowners, here are some precautions to take:

  1. File a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible.
  2. Document the destruction. Take detailed, interior and exterior photos of your home, said Hicks.
  3. Don’t hire just any contractor or adjuster. “The first impulse might be to hire the first contractor who comes along,” Hackett said. Ask for proof of identity, Hicks said.
  4. Pay via credit card or check to create a paper trail. No cash.
  5. Pay for repairs incrementally. “Don’t pay for all work upfront before work begins,” Hackett said.
  6. Do your homework. Research consumer-review sites. Consult with trustworthy people — family, friends, neighbors — before hiring a contractor.
  7. Get several estimates on the cost of damages.
  8. Continue to pay your mortgage. Doing so protects your credit score and helps you avoid defaulting on a loan. Also ask your insurance agent and bank to explain what’s covered versus what’s negotiable. “These are extenuating circumstances, so ask for leeway on what is most important to you; the worst they can say is no,” Hicks said.
  9. Try to limit further damage. “Protect or repair what you can, but keep all receipts for materials to give to your adjuster,” Hicks said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natalie Daher. “How to protect yourself from hurricane repair scams.” Web blog post. Personal Finance, CNBC. 20 Sep 2017. 26 Sep 2017. 

Removing Water From Your Home After A Flood.

Making a Flooded House into a Livable Home Again

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

Flooded House

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

Flood Water Contact Rules

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

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

Removing Flood Water from a Home

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

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

Maintaining a Drainage Environment

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

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

Drying Out Your Home

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

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

Looking for Trapped Mud or Water

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

The Risks of Allowing Trapped Moisture to Linger in Your Home

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

  • Compromised Structural Integrity:

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

  • Illness Inducing Mold:

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

  • Severely Depreciated Home Value:

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

Home Sweet (and Dry) Home Again

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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