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Your Home Plumbing Checkup

 

Man checking plumbing under a sink

 

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

Inspect your pipes

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

Sneak up on leaks

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

Focus on faulty plumbing

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

Try the water meter trick

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

Remedy the problems

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

Things You Should Do After Your House Floods.

One of the most damaging and devastating things you can ever experience as a homeowner is a flood. There are many causes of household flooding including:

  • Heavy rains
  • Sewer back-up
  • Malfunctioning sump-pump
  • Burst pipes

No matter what the cause, you should still know what you should do if your house floods. Taking care of the problem earlier will help reduce the amount of damage after and will make clean-up and repair easier.

 

1. Safety First

The first step in any major home disaster is to remain safe. You may be forced to leave your home if the flooding is bad enough. Make sure you are also safe when you return to your home to begin dealing with the aftermath. This may include turning off the power, as water and electricity obviously do not mix. Be sure to wear protective clothing–such as rubber boots and gloves–when you reenter your home. Not only will you be dealing with the water itself, but also whatever else the water has been in contact with, namely debris or even sewage. It is best to protect yourself against whatever harmful chemicals and items the flooding may have washed in.

Be sure to never eat food that has been contaminated by flood waters, or even in close proximity to the water for an extended period of time. If the water was high enough to reach your refrigerator or any of your pantry cabinets, it is safest practice to go ahead and throw the food away and just buy more. Be sure to thoroughly wash any dinnerware, glasses, and flatware that might have been caught in the house flood before you use it again.

2. Stopping and Removing Water

One of the first things you should do when your house floods is stop the source of water coming in if at all possible. If your sump-pump is broken or malfunctioning, replacing it will help keep up with any continuing rains and may prevent further damage to your basement, garage, crawl space, or main floor. Calling the city to remove debris from storm drains may also be necessary in order to help stop flooding.

If your flooded home was caused by a burst pipe, fix the plumbing as soon as possible to lessen water damage. The sooner you stop the water from coming in, the sooner you can get to cleaning up and repairing any damages.

After that, it’s time to remove the water. Depending on the level of flooding you have experienced or even the rooms in your home that have been affected, your process might change. You may need to bail water out using buckets and bins or use hoses to drain large amounts of water from your basement. As the water begins receding, you can use a wet vacuum to suck remaining bits of water and moisture from carpets and floors. If you’re lucky and the damage is minimal, you might be able to simply mop the mess up.

3. Drying Out Your Home

Even if you are successful in removing all of the standing water from your home, everything will remain damp and wet, especially if heavy rains have increased the humidity in your area. If you have power, use your air conditioning and portable fans to help dry the wet areas of your home.

Dehumidifiers are also a big help, especially in closed off spaces such as basements or crawl spaces. Dehumidifiers work by removing excess moisture from the air. This is the easiest way to dry out your home and minimize the potential water damage you might be dealing with, as it does not require you to actively clean. However, in the case of a house flood, dehumidifiers are only supplemental and you are likely to need multiple methods of action. Dehumidifiers are recommended for anyone who lives in a damp climate or an area that experiences longer rainy seasons, as they can prevent some of the problems associated with this type of weather, both for you and your home.

4. Calling the Insurance Company

Your homeowners’ insurance will vary depending on what policies you have, but many insurance companies cover flooding due to storms, backed-up city sewers and storm drains, broken sump-pumps or burst pipes. The insurance company will send an adjuster to look at and assess the damage and determine if it is a covered loss. If your losses and damages are covered, the sooner you call the insurance company, the sooner they will pay out. Repairs can become costly, but the insurance money will help get your home back in order quicker with less of a financial burden on you.

Your insurance company may not be able to send an adjuster right away, especially if your flooding is part of a larger weather event. Document values of everything and take as many photos as possible before, during, and after clean-up. This will help the adjuster when he or she is able to come assess the damage.

5. Clean-Up

Once the water is gone and you have called your insurance company, it’s time to begin post-flood care. You can call in a professional clean-up crew or else begin work yourself. This may involve determining what is salvageable and throwing away anything that is too damaged or no longer safe to use. If the flooding in your home was widespread, you may have to bring in a roll-off dumpster for easy disposal of larger damaged items, as you will find your trash bags filling quickly.

Be aware that you may need to remove flooring, drywall, and insulation to prevent mold and mildew from spreading in your home. Furniture may also need to be dried out, cleaned or thrown away depending on the level of water damage. Unless you are exceptionally handy, it is probably best to call in a professional company that specializes in mold removal. Mold can begin developing within the first 24 hours after a flood, and once it has started growing it can be difficult to fully remove. The quicker you remove items from water and begin drying them, the less likely they are to be lost to mold, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution and have a professional assess the situation.

6. Repairs

The aftermath of a house flood can typically take the longest amount of time. You may have broken windows from the water rushing in, flooring that may need to be replaced, and broken possessions in need of repair. After your insurance company pays out for qualified damages, you can hire a contractor if one is needed. Be sure to board up any broken windows and remove any harmful debris from flooded areas.

If you have electronics that were submerged in water or were damaged in the flood, make sure to have them checked out by a professional before plugging them back in to a power source. This includes your television sets, stereos, game consoles, computers, and appliances.

If you are unsure about what your first steps for home repairs should be when your house floods, then hiring a construction company that specializes in flood or natural disaster repairs can be helpful. They can determine if walls need replaced or if your floors have been compromised by the flood waters. A professional construction company can help you safely enjoy your home once again.

What Happens if You Don’t Clean Your Home After a Flood?

Failure to completely clean up your home after a house flood can lead to severe and costly damage that can affect the hidden corners of your home without you even realizing it. Not only can this damage the structural integrity of your home, but it can lead to costly repairs for your electrical system, HVAC, etc.

Above all, failure to clean up after your house floods can create perfect conditions for mold to grow, which can lead to illness. Mold can be unpleasant–even dangerous, for some people. Mold can cause severe allergy symptoms as well as lead to asthma, which is particularly dangerous for children and the elderly. However, there are things you can do to prevent the growth of mold after a house flood, including the use of special equipment, chemicals, and utilizing a professional company.

It is a smart idea to invest in an air purifier to prevent the growth and spreading of mold spores. Air purifiers can help keep your indoor air free of more than just mold spores. These appliances can also remove unpleasant odors, pollen, pet dander and more from your air, which helps promote a healthy home. It is recommended that anyone who experiences allergies or asthma symptoms invests in an air purifier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Erin Doman. 6 Things You Should Do After Your House Floods. Web blog post. Learning Center, Allergy & Air. 4 May 2016. 20 June 2017

9 Ways To Prevent Mold.

Mold. The very word is enough to make a person cringe.

Yes, mold can be good — it’s essential in making brie and penicillin, for example, and necessary for the decomposition of organic matter in nature — but it can also be very, very bad, especially when it grows undetected in your home.

Mold spores spread easily and cannot be completely eradicated.

Mold can grow anywhere: on carpet, clothing, food, paper, and even in places you can’t see, such as the backside of drywall, areas inside walls around leaking or condensing pipes, and above ceiling tiles.

Not only is a mold problem difficult and costly to fix, but mold can also produce allergens and irritants (and, rarely, toxins) that may compromise your health.

So what can you do if you’re concerned about mold growing in your home?

The best approach is preventing mold before it becomes a problem. The key to mold prevention is simple: moisture control.

Here are nine ways to curb moisture indoors, and the mold that thrives on it.

1. Identify problem areas in your home and correct them. You can’t mold-proof your home, but you can make it mold-resistant. Do an audit of your home: where are the problem areas? Does the basement flood? Do you notice frequent condensation on an upstairs window? Is there a water stain on the ceiling from a persistent leak? Preventing mold from growing or spreading might be as simple as ripping up carpet in a damp basement, installing mold-resistant products, or repairing damaged gutters. Or it may be a matter of major excavation and waterproofing. Whatever the case, address the problem now. It might cost some money up front, but it will surely be more costly down the road if mold continues to grow unchecked.

2. Dry wet areas immediately. Mold can’t grow without moisture, so tackle wet areas right away. Seepage into the basement after a heavy rainfall, accumulation from a leaky pipe, even a spill on the carpet should be dried within 24 to 48 hours. If you’ve experienced a flood, remove water-damaged carpets, bedding, and furniture if they can’t be completely dried. Even everyday occurrences need attention: don’t leave wet items lying around the house, and make sure to dry the floor and walls after a shower. Don’t leave wet clothes in the washing machine, where mold can spread quickly. Hang them to dry — preferably outside or in areas with good air circulation.

3. Prevent moisture with proper ventilation. It may be that your routine domestic activities are encouraging the growth of mold in your home. Make sure an activity as simple as cooking dinner, taking a shower, or doing a load of laundry doesn’t invite mold by providing proper ventilation in your bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, and any other high-moisture area. Vent appliances that produce moisture — clothes dryers, stoves — to the outside (not the attic). Use AC units and dehumidifiers (especially in humid climates), but make sure they don’t produce moisture themselves by checking them periodically and cleaning them as directed by the manufacturer. Your energy-efficient home may be holding moisture inside, so open a window when cooking or washing dishes or showering, or run an exhaust fan.

4. Equip your home with mold-resistant products. Building a new home or renovating an old one? Use mold-resistant products like mold-resistant drywall or mold-resistant Sheetrock, and mold inhibitors for paints. Traditional drywall is composed of a gypsum plaster core pressed between plies of paper. Mold-resistant drywall is paperless — the gypsum core is covered in fiberglass, making the surface highly water-resistant. Moisture-resistant drywall is especially valuable in areas prone to wetness, such as bathrooms, laundry rooms, basements, and kitchens. Not only is traditional drywall more susceptible to mold than the paperless kind, but it is also difficult to rid of mold, and removal and replacement can be expensive. Mold-resistant gypsum board is also available; the core of the drywall is developed in such a way to prevent moisture absorption, and thus prevent mold growth.

5. Monitor humidity indoors. The EPA recommends keeping indoor humidity between 30 and 60 percent. You can measure humidity with a moisture meter purchased from your local hardware store. You’ll also be able to detect high humidity by simply paying attention to potential problem areas in your home. Telltale signs of excessive humidity include condensation on windows, pipes, and walls. If you notice condensation, dry the surface immediately and address the source of moisture (for example, turn off a humidifier if water appears on the inside of nearby windows).

6. Direct water away from your home. If the ground around your home isn’t sufficiently sloped away from the foundation, water may collect there and seep into your crawlspace or basement.

7. Clean or repair roof gutters. A mold problem might be a simple matter of a roof that is leaking because of full or damaged gutters. Have your roof gutters cleaned regularly and inspected for damage. Repair them as necessary, and keep an eye out for water stains after storms that may indicate a leak.

8. Improve air flow in your home. According to the EPA, as temperatures drop, the air is able to hold less moisture. Without good air flow in your home, that excess moisture may appear on your walls, windows and floors. To increase circulation, open doors between rooms, move furniture away from walls, and open doors to closets that may be colder than the rooms they’re in. Let fresh air in to reduce moisture and keep mold at bay.

9. Keep mold off household plants. They’re beautiful and help keep your indoor air clean — and mold loves them. The moist soil in indoor plants is a perfect breeding ground for mold, which may then spread to other areas of your house. Instead of getting rid of your plants, try adding a bit of Taheebo tea to the water you give to your houseplants. The oil of this tree, which withstands fungi even in rain forests, helps hinder mold growth in plant soil and can be found at natural food stores.

Finally, educate yourself on your region’s climate — be it the cold and wet Northeast, the hot and wet South, the hot and dry Southwest, or the cold and dry West — and how it responds to moisture. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to mold prevention. Knowing what works for your climate and your home is an important first step.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heidi Hill. How to prevent mold: 9 Tips. web blog post. Your home. Mother Nature Network. 16 April 2010, 14 June 2017.

How To Protect Your Home During A Flood.

Flooding can strike anywhere and — as the name “flash flooding” implies — at any time. Floods are the most common and most expensive natural disaster in the U.S., and no state or territory is safe, according to FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Ignore the risk and you could be sloshing around smelly and soaked carpeting, furniture, walls, appliances, lighting, and ruined electronics and keepsakes. Mold soon follows.

You’ll find yourself ripping out walls to reach soaked insulation, tearing up flooring and replacing anything electrical.

The best way to avoid this is to stay above water.

“The one nasty thing about flooding is that there is no (margin) of safety other than elevation,” says Tim Reinhold, senior vice president of research and chief engineer at the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, or IBHS.

“Once the water reaches the level of your floor and goes an inch above, you have significant damage,” Reinhold adds.

It’s important to know the flood level at your home — an official measure of how high floodwaters could rise where you live. You’ll find this information by checking the online flood maps on FEMA’s website. Your local building department and your home insurance agent will know this, too.

But even a home on a hill needs flood-proofing. Here are 6 measures that will offer some protection if flooding occurs.

Be sure to use licensed and insured contractors to make any modifications. Check with your local building department about permit requirements.

 

1. Safeguard in-home electrical and climate systems

Raise switches, sockets, circuit breakers and wiring at least a foot above the expected flood level in your area, the IBHS website advises.

Modify your furnace, water heater and any other anchored indoor equipment so that it sits above your property’s flood level.

2. Anchor and raise outdoor equipment

Fuel tanks, air-conditioning units and generators should be anchored and raised above your flood level.

Unanchored fuel tanks can break free, and severed supply lines will contaminate surrounding ground, the IBHS warns.

Jose Mitrani, engineer and professor emeritus at the OHL School of Construction at Florida International University in Miami, cautions that electrical power units and generators should never sit on the ground.

“These backup facilities will be inundated (by water) and useless,” he warns.

3. Modify water valves

A flooded sewer system can cause sewage to back up into your home. So you won’t find yourself knee-deep in you-know-what, install an interior or exterior backflow valve, IBHS advises.

The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, or FLASH, recommends gate valves. They are more complex, and you operate them by hand. But they provide stronger seals than flap or check valves, which open automatically to allow water to flow out and then close when water tries to get in.

Valves should be installed on all pipes entering the house, FLASH advises.

 

4. Determine how water flows around your house

Called the grading or slope, the angle of the ground can direct water to or away from your house. Obviously, it’s best if the home was built so that water drains away from the building.

This is easy enough to determine by watching how water flows or accumulates during an average rainstorm, says FLASH President and CEO Leslie Chapman-Henderson.

If your street is prone to standing water even after a fairly ordinary rainstorm, talk to your county planning or environmental services department, she advises. “A major part of their job is water flow, and they can make suggestions.”

 

5. Opt for a major retrofit

If your home floods frequently and moving isn’t an option, you may need to take drastic and costly measures.

FLASH’s home safety program suggests 3 options:

  1. Raise your home on piers or columns so that the lowest floor is above the flood level. If that sounds expensive — well, it would be. Experts tell FLASH that such an undertaking would cost $20,000 and up, Chapman-Henderson says.
  2. “Wet-proof” your home by installing foundation vents that would allow water to flow through the building, instead of rising inside and causing more damage. You’d need at least 2 vents on different walls. A 1,000-square-foot house would require 7 square feet of flood vents, according to FLASH.
  3. Do some “dry proofing” by applying coatings and other sealing materials to your walls to keep out floods.

6. Take last-minute measures as waters rise

  • Clear gutters, drains and downspouts.
  • Move furniture, rugs, electronics and other belongings to upper floors, or at least raise them off a ground floor.
  • Shut off electricity at the breaker panel.
  • Elevate major appliances onto concrete blocks if they’re potentially in harm’s way from flooding.

 

 

 

 

Terry Sheridan. 6 Ways To Protect Your Home From Flooding. Web blog post. Weather: Natural disasters. Bankrate. 2 Aug 2016, 12 June 2017.

Protecting Your Home Against A Hurricane.

Any time a hurricane approaches the coast you’re likely to see scenes of people wasting their time and energy “preparing” for the storm.

In fact, you might have seen these images so often that you think the folks shown are doing the correct thing.

If a hurricane is approaching, forget about:

  • Rushing to a building supply store to buy plywood for your windows.
  • Taping up your windows.

If your house is in danger of being hit by a hurricane, protecting windows and sliding glass doors is almost always the number one thing you can do to ensure you’ll have a livable house if the worst happens.

But, if you wait until a hurricane watch is posted, you are almost surely too late.

Taping up windows is a waste of time because tape isn’t going to keep your neighbor’s garbage can – which he should have stashed in a place where the wind can’t grab it – from breaking your window when a 100 mph wind flings it at your house.

True, the tape just might keep the glass from flying around the room when the garbage can hits it.

But an important rule for any wind storm is to not be in a room with windows that can be broken. If your house doesn’t have a windowless room, you should at least do something like cowering behind an overturned table or a heavy sofa in case glass starts flying.

If you waste time taping your windows, about the best you can hope for is that the storm will miss your house, and the tape won’t be too hard to remove.

While tape doesn’t do much, heavy plywood or metal shutters are vital. But you can’t wait until a storm is bearing down to go buy the plywood because by then it’s almost surely too late.

This is because the plywood has to fit the windows and it has to be firmly attached to them.

Experts recommend using 3/4 inch plywood and drilling screw holes 18 inches apart all around it. Are you going to have time to do this after a watch is posted?

This is the kind of thing that should be done well ahead of time so the window covers will be stored with the screws started, and everything you’ll need to install them,such as a ladder and the correct size screwdriver handy.

The big question you have to answer ahead of time is: Who’s going to install the plywood covers, maybe with a 20 mph wind gusting to 30 mph as a storm approaches? It’s probably a sure bet it’s not going to be your 70-year-old mother, by herself.

Why is protecting windows so important?

Once a window is broken, the wind blows inside to not only wreck the interior, but also to apply upward pressure on the roof, which might be enough to sent if flying. If this happens, the walls collapse and your house is done for.

Protection can include impact-resistant glass or other permanent materials that have passed the state of Florida or Miami-Dade County (Fla.) impact standards tests, sturdy shutters, or pieces of marine plywood, marked and cut to fit each window and glass door.

Here are some other things you should do before a tropical storm or hurricane watch or warning is posted:

  • Remove weak and dead trees or tree limbs on your property.
  • Know whether your home is in a zone that could be flooded by storm surge, meaning you’d have to evacuate.
  • Have plans for where you will go if you evacuate, when you will leave (maybe early to avoid traffic jams), and how family members will contact each other.
  • If you might have to evacuate, have a “grab and run” bag ready with important papers, such as your home owners insurance policy, and prescription drugs.
  • If you live outside possible storm surge zones, and your house is sturdy, you should plan on riding out the storm in a “safe room” inside the house.
  • Have an evacuation or survival kit ready with nonperishable food, water, a first aid kit and other things you’ll need.
  • Have a battery-powered radio, maybe a battery-powered television set for keeping up with the latest advisories.

 

 

After a watch is posted, you should have done all of the things listed above. How you should stay tuned to forecasts and possible warnings. If you are in an area that could be flooded, you should be ready to evacuate.

Of course, if you are living in a mobile home, or a house that isn’t sturdy enough to stand up to the wind, you should evacuate early and avoid the rush.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack Williams. Protect your home against a hurricane, without wasting time. Web blog post. Weather, USA Today. 2 June 2005, 6 June 2017.

Hurricane Safety Checklists

The most important thing you can do as hurricane season approaches is to get yourself, your family and your home prepared.

By starting early, you’ll avoid the rush at home supply stores, grocery stores and other venues typically crowded and often chaotic when hurricane watches and warnings are issued.

You should stock six basics for your home: water, food, first aid supplies, clothing and bedding, tools and emergency supplies, and special items. Keep the items you would most likely need during an evacuation in an easy-to carry container—suggested items are marked with an asterisk (*). Possible containers include a large, covered trash container, a camping backpack, or a duffle bag.

Make your preparations easier by downloading the checklists included with each category and use them as you shop and store your supplies.

Food and Water

Water

  • Store water in plastic containers such as soft drink bottles. Avoid using containers that will decompose or break, such as milk cartons or glass bottles. A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day. Hot environments and intense physical activity can double that amount. Children, nursing mothers, and ill people will need more.
  • Store one gallon of water per person per day.
  • Keep at least a three-day supply of water per person (two quarts for drinking, two quarts for each person in your household for food preparation/sanitation).*

Food

Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking, and little or no water. If you must heat food, pack a can of sterno. Select food items that are compact and lightweight. Include a selection of the following foods in your Disaster Supplies Kit:

  • Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, and vegetables
  • Canned juices
  • Staples (salt, sugar, pepper, spices, etc.)
  • High energy foods
  • Vitamins
  • Food for infants
  • Comfort/stress foods

First Aid and Non-Prescription Drugs

First Aid Kit

Assemble a first aid kit for your home and one for each car.

  • (20) adhesive bandages, various sizes.
  • (1) 5″ x 9″ sterile dressing.
  • (1) conforming roller gauze bandage.
  • (2) triangular bandages.
  • (2) 3 x 3 sterile gauze pads.
  • (2) 4 x 4 sterile gauze pads.
  • (1) roll 3″ cohesive bandage.
  • (2) germicidal hand wipes or waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • (6) antiseptic wipes.
  • (2) pair large medical grade non-latex gloves.
  • Adhesive tape, 2″ width.
  • Anti-bacterial ointment.
  • Cold pack.
  • Scissors (small, personal).
  • Tweezers.
  • CPR breathing barrier, such as a face shield.

Non-Prescription Drugs

  • Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Antacid (for stomach upset)
  • Laxative

Tools and Supplies

Mess kits, or paper cups, plates, and plastic utensils*

  • Emergency preparedness manual*
  • Battery-operated radio and extra batteries*
  • Flashlight and extra batteries*
  • Cash or traveler’s checks, change*
  • Non-electric can opener, utility knife*
  • Fire extinguisher: small canister ABC type
  • Tube tent
  • Pliers
  • Tape
  • Compass
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Aluminum foil
  • Plastic storage containers
  • Signal flare
  • Paper, pencil
  • Needles, thread
  • Medicine dropper
  • Shut-off wrench, to turn off household gas and water
  • Whistle
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Map of the area (for locating shelters)

Sanitation, Clothing and Bedding

Sanitation

  • Toilet paper, towelettes*
  • Soap, liquid detergent*
  • Feminine supplies*
  • Personal hygiene items*
  • Plastic garbage bags, ties (for personal sanitation uses)
  • Plastic bucket with tight lid
  • Disinfectant
  • Household chlorine bleach

Clothing and Bedding
*Include at least one complete change of clothing and footwear per person.

  • Sturdy shoes or work boots*
  • Rain gear*
  • Blankets or sleeping bags*
  • Hat and gloves
  • Thermal underwear
  • Sunglasses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source/Reference: American Red Cross

Hurricane Season & Travel Insurance

The number one concern of summer travelers researching travel insurance is how their trip will be affected by hurricanes or other severe weather events. When traveling during the Atlantic hurricane season, June 1st to November 30th, you must plan for unexpected weather patterns. It is best to purchase a travel insurance plan as soon as you place your first payment on your trip to avoid loss of coverage due to a predicted storm. Basically, you need to buy your plan before a hurricane or tropical storm is predicted to affect your travel plans.

 

If you read nothing else in this article, although all of it is important and we highly recommend you do, know this: purchasing your travel insurance plan prior to a storm being named should provide you coverage for travel concerns that arise due to that storm. If a hurricane or tropical storm that affects your trip is predicted prior to you purchasing a plan, your coverage may be extremely limited.

Hurricane Travel Insurance: How to Decide If it’s Important

You are probably thinking to yourself, “Sure, bad weather affects travel plans. But do I really need to invest in a travel insurance plan?” While we can’t answer that question for you, we can set you up with the right tools. We recommend purchasing a comprehensive travel insurance plan if you can answer ‘yes’ to any of the following questions:

Are you planning to travel between June 1 and November 30?
This is the “hurricane season” in the Atlantic region. If you are traveling at all during these days (even just returning from a trip in early June), we highly recommend you purchase a plan. It can help to reimburse additional expenses, up to the policy limit, for an extended stay due to grounded flights or an interrupted trip due to damage of your primary residence.

Are you traveling to or through any destination on the East Coast of the United States, or in the Atlantic region?
The Atlantic region (or East Coast of the United States or the Caribbean) is the prime area for hurricanes. The most impactful hurricanes in the last decade hit the mid-Atlantic region of the United States east coast, the Texas, Florida, Alabama and Louisiana coastlines; twice.

Do you live anywhere on the East Coast of the U.S. or in the Atlantic Region?
If you live in an area where hurricanes are known for tormenting, travel insurance can help you out – even if you are leaving the area entirely. If you are on a trip away from home when a hurricane hits and your primary residence is made uninhabitable, your plan may provide trip interruption coverage which may help to defray the cost of returning home and provide reimbursement for unused pre-paid, non-refundable trip costs.

Hurricane season is six months out of the calendar year. Six. That’s a large window of time that Mother Nature can wreak havoc on the travel industry. Depending on the travel investment you are making, you should consider purchasing a travel insurance plan if you answered yes to any of these questions. But how exactly does a travel insurance plan cover you if bad weather should occur?

Travel Insurance Coverage That Can Assist if a Hurricane Hits

Let’s go back to that fun fact we shared at the start of the article: purchasing your plan prior to a storm being named should provide you coverage for travel concerns that arise due to that storm.

It may seem like a small detail, but it will make or break the coverage available to you. If you wait to purchase a travel insurance plan until The Weather Channel is already warning the world about the latest hurricane on it’s way to the Caribbean Islands, you’re too late. However, if you purchased your travel insurance plan in a timely manner, you should expect a full suite of coverage as listed on your plan. Here are some reasons you may want to use your travel insurance coverage:

Airline or cruise line cancels or delays the trip due to weather: If your airline or cruise line cancels or delays your scheduled departure due to bad weather, you may be eligible for the trip cancellation, travel delay or trip interruption coverage on your plan. This can help to reimburse you for the unexpected, added expenses for being held in transit longer than expected. Depending on the plan, you may even be eligible for inconvenience benefits if there is a change to your itinerary.

Your destination is under a hurricane warning: Some travel insurance plans will have coverage that becomes eligible for reimbursement when a destination is under an NOAA-issued Hurricane warning or alert.* It’s important to know how detailed your travel insurance plan is in regards to specific hurricane warnings and coverage eligibility.

Accommodation cancels a reservation because of storm damage at destination: If a storm hits hard prior to your arrival date, a hotel, resort, or vacation rental may cancel your reservation because it’s devastated and made uninhabitable by a storm. Travel insurance plans typically provide coverage for this. A reimbursement for this can help if the accommodation you selected does not provide a full refund for your pre-paid reservation.

You must cancel or interrupt because your home was made uninhabitable by a natural disaster: The right travel insurance plan doesn’t just protect you in case something should damage or destroy your destination – but also your home. If you cannot travel because you need to tend to damage done to your primary home, you may be eligible for reimbursement due to cancellation or interruption of your trip.

Going home early because your destination has become uninhabitable while you are there: It could be a scary situation to be on vacation when a dangerous storm rolls through. A travel insurance plan could provide coverage for trip interruption (going home early) because your accommodations have become uninhabitable during the storm.

These are a handful of reasons travelers have found travel insurance to be helpful in recouping lost travel expenses. If you are traveling and think you may be able to be reimbursed for unexpected expenses due to bad weather changing your travel plans, keep your receipts and document everything possible. Call your travel insurance company and any travel suppliers that may be affected by the change as soon as possible. All of this will help minimize possible slow downs during a claims process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. Hurricane Season & Travel Insurance. Web blog post, Insuring your trip. insuremytrip. 12 May 2017. 

Hidden Places Mold Can Be Found.

Information about how hidden mold in our homes can make us sick has been well documented by the media and contractors who make a living removing mold from buildings. We all expect that mold might be lurking in the moist and dark places in our homes, such as in basements or crawl spaces. But there are many other places mold could be growing in your house that you might never find out about unless you do a little exploration. Let’s take a look at some of the places mold spores can thrive so you know what to look for.

1. Window Sills

We don’t often spend a lot of time examining our window sills, but they are a prime place for mold to start and spread. Window sills are frequently exposed to moisture from condensation, and they only get decent air flow during the summer months if the windows are open. The dirt that accumulates in the grooves of the sills supply valuable food to spores and they can grow quickly.

To prevent mold in your window sills, be sure to wipe down windows when you see a lot of condensation and clean out the window tracks periodically to remove the mold’s food source.

2. Refrigerator Drip Pans

The pans used to collect condensation for our refrigerators are rarely seen, so they are easy to forget about. There is not a lot of air circulation under the fridge in most homes, and what is out of sight usually is out of mind. Sometimes, food from spills collects in there as well. This creates a perfect breeding ground for mold spores.

Make a yearly appointment to clean out the drip pan using water and white vinegar. If you notice a lot of mold growth, increase the cleanings to twice per year. Also, use this vinegar and water solution on the flooring below the pan, just in case the mold wants to grow here as well.

3. Wallpaper

Unless you are removing paper from your walls, you are unlikely to know if mold spores are growing behind it. If the paper is older or has peeling edges, it’s possible mold has begun spreading where you can’t see. If you suspect you might have a mold problem, it’s best to just get the paper removed and replaced. If you know for a fact that there is a great deal of mold behind the paper, don’t remove it yourself. Instead, hire a trained professional to get rid of it and sterilize the area. Only a pro will know how to prevent huge amounts of spores from launching into the air when the paper is removed.

If you want to have decorative paper on your walls, treat the surface first with a mold-resistant primer. Use a high-quality paste to adhere the wallpaper, and be sure to remove all the air bubbles from behind it. Do not use wallpaper in moist areas such as bathrooms or basements.

4. Attic

If you have any sort of water leak in your room, chances are good that mold could be growing in your attic. The dust that accumulates in attics paired with little air flow makes a perfect environment for spores to thrive.

Check your attic periodically for mold, and make sure there are air vents to aid circulation to the area. If you have any roof leaks, get them repaired immediately. It is best to regularly have your roof inspected to catch any leaks before they cause a serious problem, and especially after a heavy rainstorm or other harsh weather.

5. Air Conditioners

Again, condensation is the culprit here. In addition, the air that AC units suck in from the outside contains dirt and pollen–attractive materials for mold. Machines that sit without use for long periods are likely to contain mold spores.

Prevent mold by running your air conditioner every day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. When the unit is not in use, remove it and store it in a dry place, if possible. If you know your AC has mold, either remove it from the window or hire a professional to do so and have the interior carefully cleaned with a water-and-bleach solution. If your whole-house air conditioner has mold, it’s best to call in a professional to clean it.

6. Washing Machines

The popular new front-load washing machines may be great for high efficiency, but they are notorious for off odors as a result of mold growth. The gasket around the door is wet all the time when the washer is running and doesn’t get to dry out because the door is usually closed when the machine is not in use. This creates a perfect atmosphere for mold to grow.

You can either leave the door open after running a load to let the gasket dry, or you can wipe the gasket with a cloth when you are done washing. If mold already exists in the gasket, kill it with a bleach solution and monitor the area to make sure the mold does not return.

7. Chimneys

Depending how well a chimney is capped off, it might take in a good amount of water from rain and snow. Plus, it’s likely leaves and other organic materials are entering the space, and this all combines to create perfect conditions for mold to grow. The porous surfaces of bricks and mortar only add to the problem.

To prevent mold growth in your chimney, first make sure the top is covered appropriately. Then it’s best to call in a professional chimney cleaner to remove mold and keep your chimney puffing along at its best.

8. Carpets and Pads

Moisture from concrete floors or wet crawl spaces can easily make its way into your carpet pad and, eventually, the carpet. If you have pets who occasionally have accidents on the carpet, this can increase the potential for mold spores to grow there. If your carpet starts to smell odd or seems damp, unfortunately it might be too late–mold is probably already growing.

It seems the simplest way to prevent mold growth on carpet or padding–regardless of moisture level–is to keep the carpet clean. Dirt, as we’ve discovered, encourages mold growth. By vacuuming at least once per week and having your carpets cleaned periodically, you can easily prevent spores from blooming in your carpet.

Mold is present in most places, and sometimes it can make people sick. If you would like to keep your home a healthy space to inhabit, these places should be monitored for potential problems. Fortunately, solutions are simple to achieve with a little diligence and education on what to look for and how to respond.

 

 

 

Allergy & Air. Top 8 Hidden Places You Might Find Mold. Web blog post. Indoor Air quality, Allergy and Air. 27 July 2015.

Home Hacks to Withstand the Worst

From hurricanes to tornadoes to an underestimated amount of rain, severe weather can seriously damage your home.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, Superstorm Sandy caused $18.75 billion in insured property losses, and that’s excluding flood insurance claims covered by the U.S. government. In the last five years, floods have affected all 50 states. Around 20 percent of all flood insurance claims came from low-risk areas. In 2014, the average flood claim was more than $29,000.

When a hurricane or other severe storm results in flooding or structural damage to your home, the results can be catastrophic. But you can avoid many future headaches by making small changes. Here are five household hacks to make your home sweet home safer against the next big storm.

Image result for flooded house florida

Know your BFE

A key factor in keeping your home safe from flooding is knowing your BFE, or your Base Flood Elevation. According to Disastersafety.org, that’s the elevation at which your building has a one percent chance of flooding annually.

You should build your home at least three feet above the BFE to minimize risk. Additionally, make sure your electrical outlets are 12 inches above the BFE to avoid outages during a flood or fires from a short circuit.

Trim Extra Branches

Trees crashing into homes are not uncommon during hurricanes, but you can reduce the risk of this happening to your home. You don’t need to get rid of all the trees on your property, but some maintenance will do the trick. According to Indiana.gov, homeowners should trim branches that are weak or overhanging to reduce the number of limbs that could break and cause property damage.

Be Prepared To Make Shutters

The last thing a homeowner wants to do when a hurricane hits is have to rush to a home supply store to purchase plywood for emergency shutters. Instead, have materials at home so you’re prepared. Cut the plywood to fit your window, ready a drill and drill bits and be prepared to put those shutters up if needed. The Federal Alliance of Safe Homes has a set of full instructions.

Do Your Homework on Flood Insurance

 The most important way to be prepared in case of a flood is to be insured. Many homeowners wait until it’s too late. According to FEMA, most home insurance plans do not cover flood insurance. Plus, flood insurance takes a month to go into effect after the premium has been paid, so get insured pronto.

Wind and Water Protection – Preparing for a Hurricane

Recent hurricane seasons have provided painful lessons in the importance of preparing for these destructive storms. Perhaps most important is the need to protect your home sooner rather than later. This will allow you to focus on more immediate needs when a hurricane approaches, including gathering supplies and heeding evacuation orders.

The first step is to decide what level of protection you want and can afford – especially for doors and windows. Then you can permanently install any hardware that should be in place before storms start brewing. When a storm threatens, you can quickly install the protection and move on to other tasks and actions.

Protecting windows

The highest level of protection normally available for windows is professionally produced shutters that meet the Dade County (Florida) standards for opening protection. These standards require that the shutter product be able to resist the impact of a 9-lb. 2′x4′ traveling at 34 mph without penetration of the shutter, and — if installed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations — not break the glass behind the shutter.

This level of protection can also be achieved for small- to medium-sized windows by making your shutters out of a ¼-inch polycarbonate sheet. This has the added benefit of providing a transparent shutter that will allow light in if the power goes out. If you are making and installing your own shutters, you may want to consider this for your windows that allow the most daylight into living areas.

It takes about a ¾-inch thick piece of plywood to provide close to the same protection as the Dade County-approved products, and that will make for a very heavy shutter. You can, of course, use thinner plywood, and plywood is recommended over oriented strand board (OSB) because it takes 30% thicker OSB to equal the impact resistance of plywood.

The resistance to penetration by wind-borne debris is reduced in direct proportion to the thickness of the plywood. In other words, a 3/8-inch thick plywood shutter would be only about half as effective in resisting penetration as a ¾-inch plywood shutter. IBHS recommends 5/8-inch thick plywood as a minimum unless you are having problems with handling the weight of the shutter.

Some layer of plywood will always be better than not protecting your window, as long as it remains in place. And even the thinner sheets will help resist the most common wind-borne debris such as small branches and shingles.

If you live in a community with tile roofs, it is recommended that you seriously consider shutter products that meet the Dade County standards for your windows.

In the wake of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Miami-Dade County established stringent testing and approvals for hurricane shutters and other products used to strengthen and protect homes against hurricanes. These standards are thought to be more strict than those of some other national product-certification groups.

Installing plywood shutters

If you are going to make and install your own shutters, take the time to pre-install the anchorage hardware and prepare your shutter materials before a storm threatens. Pick out and purchase the material you want to use and cut it to the appropriate size for the type of installation you select. There are a lot of effective ways to install shutters and many more that are not.

While you can nail plywood shutters as a last resort just before a storm strikes, repeatedly putting them up and taking them down will damage the area around your windows and doors, and ultimately affect anchorage quality.

Plywood is stronger in the direction parallel to the grain. So you can take advantage of the panel’s inherent strength, place fasteners only on the sides perpendicular to the grain, or along the sides if the grain runs that way.

For installations on wood frame walls, you can order stainless steel studs that have wood threads on one end and machine threads on the other. Search under hanger bolts for the types of hardware you need. Select stainless steel anchor bolts for permanent masonry installations.

Be wise about window myths

  • Do not open windows during a storm. This only lets damaging wind and rain into your home.
  • Tape does not protect your windows from flying debris. It might keep more of the glass together when impacted, but it will not keep it in place.
  • Window film does not provide much gain in protection from impact of anticipated debris. Some thicker “structural” film passes the small missile test, which applies to things like gravel or similar sized objects. It does help keep glass shards together when the window breaks.

Protecting doors

All doors should have three hinges and a dead-bolt lock with a minimum 1-inch bolt throw length. Metal or solid wood doors may withstand hurricane pressures and wind-blown debris, but if you have double entry doors (French doors), doors with glass or hollow-core doors, you may want to shutter them.

For double entry doors, add barrel bolt restraints to the inactive door to help keep them from bursting open during a storm. Make sure the bolts connect through the door header and through the threshold into the subfloor.

Garage doors

Because of their width, double-wide garage doors are more susceptible to wind damage than single doors. The wind may buckle the door, force it out of the roller track, or the track could be vulnerable to the pressure, especially if it is light weight or the fasteners don’t penetrate the wall deep enough. Wind coming into your home through an opening this large poses grave problems for the rest of your home – especially your roof.

Consider installing a garage door that is hurricane resistant (tested and approved for your area), or shutter the garage door opening with a wind pressure and impact rated system appropriate for your area. Be sure to check if there are any other code requirements for garage doors where you live.

Garage door retailers may have a wind retrofit kit specifically made for your door. If the manufacturer does not make a system for your door, you can purchase a generic garage door retrofit kit. There is at least one manufacturer of a vertical bracing kit that has Florida Building Code approval. However, keep in mind that these retrofit kits do not provide any additional protection from flying debris. Most doors that are not hurricane rated will not.

If you decide to reinforce your double-wide garage door, do so at its weakest points. Install horizontal and/or vertical bracing onto each panel, using wood or light gauge metal girds bolted to the door mullions (vertical member that forms a division between units of a window, door, or screen). Heavier hinges and stronger end and vertical center supports may be required.

If you do anything that adds weight to your garage door, call a professional to make sure the door is balanced. The springs will probably need adjusting. Note: Since the springs are dangerous, only a professional should adjust them.

Additional steps to consider

  • Shutter and seal gable end vents to prevent wind-driven rain from entering attic space.
  • Use a high quality silicone caulk around outside wall openings such as clothes dryer, kitchen or bathroom vents, outdoor electrical outlets and locations where cables or pipes go through the wall. Just before a storm, close dryer and bathroom vents with duct tape (but remove it after a storm, before using the vents).
  • Consider cutting wall screens in pool enclosures just before the storm hits, if you are still there and your property is located near the landfall position. This may save the aluminum enclosure.

 

 

 

Richard Stockton. Wind and Water Protection – Preparing for a Hurricane. Web blog post. Hurricane tips. The Weather Channel. 8 July 2013.