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Steps Towards a Healthier Home – After a Major Storm
Steps Towards a Healthier Home – After a Major Storm

Has your home recently been affected by a major weather event such as a hurricane or tornado? Perhaps you're anticipating a big storm and want to be sure you're protecting your household as much as possible. It can be a scary thing to experience an intense weather episode no matter how many times you've been through it before. Each storm is different and has the potential to damage your home.


Impacts of a Major Storm

Your house is one of your biggest financial assets, and it's also a sanctuary for all who inhabit it, so it's natural to want to make sure it is in the best condition possible. For those living in a climate that has unpredictable storms or a predictable storm season, there's a lot to think about when it comes to securing your home against damage during a weather episode. Intense storms can seriously take their toll on the structural integrity of a home if proper steps aren't taken after damage occurs. It's easy to get overwhelmed with damage to your home after a storm, after all, it can get pretty costly. However, when all is said and done, the most important thing is that your home is still a healthy environment to live in after a storm.


Common Household Damages

So, what type of damage can happen to a home after a storm? Of course, the more intense a storm is, the more potential it has to cause damage to structures in the area. The most common damage you will find to a home will be due to water from precipitation getting into the house along with damage from high winds that often accompany a storm.


High winds most commonly cause damage to the roof including the shingles and gutters, siding, windows, garages/sheds. Powerful wind can uproot trees, bring down power lines, and even turn a seemingly lightweight object into an airborne danger. When the high-velocity wind picks up an item in the middle a storm, there's no predicting what route it will take or what damage it will cause! Water damage can quickly turn into a mold remediation issue if you do not take steps to get rid of the water in the home as soon as possible. Mold resulting from water damage can seriously affect the health of those who live in the household!

 

Steps Toward a Healthier Home

Here are some quick steps you can take to protect your home after a major storm like a hurricane:

  • Create airflow through the house and ventilate the area by opening doors and windows
  • Dry any wet items that you find as soon as possible, and throw away anything that was damaged too badly for use in the future
  • Ensure any mold remediation is done by a licensed professional in the field
  • Deep clean the entire home to make sure there isn't any moisture lurking around
  • Take precautions to prevent future water intrusion with home repairs both indoors and outdoors
  • Create a structured plan for cleaning, drying, and remediation so you aren't scrambling if it happens again

 


When Humidity Rears Its Ugly Head
When Humidity Rears Its Ugly Head


What is Humidity? 

Humidity is described as the amount of water vapor or water molecules that are currently present in the air. So, what causes humidity in the air to begin with? It can all be traced back to the water cycle and wind patterns on the planet. When it rains and water reaches the ground, it evaporates back into the atmosphere when it reaches a certain temperature. When you hear meteorologists talking about humidity, they are referring to "relative humidity". What does that mean? This term simply compares the current amount of moisture in the air to the total amount of moisture that the air can hold.


Where Humidity is Most Common

Warm air can hold more water than cold air, which is why you experience those unbearably hot and humid days during the summer months. So, it's safe to say that you can usually expect higher levels of humidity in warm climates, especially if they are by a large body of water or experience a lot of rainfall. Humidity is often pushed up from wind currents originating from humid places around the world. This is exactly what causes changes in weather.


Indoor Humidity 

Humidity outside is one thing to deal with, and humidity indoors is another. The level of humidity in your home can impact the concentration of indoor air pollutants, which relates to the overall air quality. Having excess moisture in your house creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to form. Mold in the home can cause a variety of health disturbances, and it can affect the structural integrity of your home if it goes unchecked. Headaches, dizziness, respiratory issues, and asthma symptoms are some of the health dangers that mold in the household can bring. Mold caused by high humidity levels can wreak havoc on your health, emotional state, and bank account if you have to resort to remediation! This is why it is important to control the level of humidity in your home, especially in unfavorable weather conditions.


Controlling Humidity in the Home

You might be wondering, "How do I keep the humidity of my house in check in a climate like Florida?", and we're here to give you some tips. It is recommended to consistently use a dehumidifier in your house if you are experiencing excess humidity indoors, even in the cool winter months. Depending on the weather, you may need to adjust the dehumidifier when it does cool down a bit. You can also get a hygrometer, which is a small tool that measures the relative humidity level in a room. You generally want the relative humidity level to be between 35 and 45 percent, depending on your household. When using a dehumidifier, you'll want to be certain you're replacing the filters and cleaning it as needed. If you're using a dehumidifier with a dirty filter, mold and bacteria can grow quite easily, and those spores will go right into the air.

What To Do After a Flood
What To Do After a Flood

 

Your home is a major investment, and as a homeowner, you naturally want to protect it from damage. This is why it can be very upsetting to deal with a flood in your home. Your house isn't just an investment, it's a major part of your daily life. Flooding can happen anywhere, it isn't only a regional issue. The potential for damage to your possessions and health is enough to become informed on how to deal with this issue if it arises. Flooding can damage your sentimental belongings and even create health issues for your family in the future if not taken care of in an efficient manner.

First Steps  

There are initial steps you can take if you notice signs of water intrusion in your home. Essentially, you'll want to dry the area as soon as possible. But before you do that, take pictures to fully document the issue for your insurance purposes, and turn off the electrical source to the room. Be sure to check over your insurance policy to ensure you're aware of the coverage that you have. Depending on your policy, certain items like the essential systems in the home and appliances could be the only things covered. Each policy is different, don't be surprised about what is and isn't covered when it is too late.

Don't Forget to Document 

Documentation is important before and after a flood! Always keep copies of your policies on hand along with contact information for the insurance company to review when needed. If you experience flooding, contact them as soon as possible. The longer the water stands, there is greater potential for property damage and mold growth, especially within the first 48 hours. This is why it is important to remove the water and ventilate the area to dry!

Avoid These Mistakes 

Besides the top mistake of waiting too long to remove water after a flood, there are other common mistakes to avoid. Many people decide to wade into the waters without thinking about what might be lurking underfoot. Depending on the severity and location of the flood, you could unknowingly walk into an electrical hazard, contaminated sewer water, unstable foundations, or sharp metal and glass objects. It is best to let a professional with the tools and experience to begin remediation. You might think your shop vac and household fans can resolve the issue, but this could actually make things worse. The peace of mind of knowing that mold isn't lurking and growing in unseen areas of a house is reason enough to call in the professionals.

Call the Professionals 

Begin your search for professional remediation immediately after experiencing flooding in your home. Ideally, look for a company that is licensed and insured for your protection. The issue is time sensitive, so they should have a flexible schedule to accommodate those with emergencies. If they aren't available within the next 24-48 hours to assess and begin remediation of the issues, it's wise to look for another company.


Water Damage | How to Spot It
Water Damage | How to Spot It

 

Water damage is an occurrence caused by many different factors which include one we've been hearing about a lot in the news; hurricanes. Other natural disasters that cause major water damage are heavy rainfall, tsunamis, and storm surges. You would have to be really unlucky to experience all of them, or even one, but there are more common causes of water damage that typically happen more frequently inside of homes including leaks, plumbing issues, HVAC systems, household appliances, and issues caused by clogged gutters.


Water damage in Florida is typically an ongoing issue especially during the hurricane and heavy rain seasons. There are several parts in Florida that have a greater chance of experiencing floods and water damage with the main reason being living near large bodies of water. The main areas in Florida that are likely to flood are:


  • South Florida
  • Tampa
  • Miami
  • Fort Myers
  • Sarasota

 

Flooding in and of itself is difficult to deal with, but when you consider everything else that comes along with water damage (mold growth) the stress of it all begins to rise. Because of mold growth, water damage over time can affect your health and can become very dangerous. Black mold infestation is one of the consequences of not taking the proper actions when water damage occurs that can increase health risks to many individuals. People suffering from asthma and allergies are typically affected the most as well as infants, children and the elderly. They can experience respiratory problems, eye and skin irritation, and many other long-term affects down the line. Black mold is especially dangerous within your home because flood waters are contaminated from sewage and can bring on more severe problems.

Luckily, there is one major sign of water damage you can look out for: brown stains on your ceilings and walls. This a key sign of roof leaks caused by rainfall. If there are streaky stains on your walls in the bathroom, this could be a sign of a burst pipe. Streaky stains on the walls of your home can also be caused by overflowing gutters or appliances. Floorboards can show signs of water damage too. If your floorboards have discoloration or changes in texture, this is a clear indication of water coming from somewhere. Some signs to look for in your floorboards include:

 

  • Warping caused by changes in humidity levels and temperature
  • Unevenness between the individual boards 
  • Soft spots in the wood which are signs of rotting wood

 

Believe it or not, you can use your ears to detect water damage. If you can hear dripping or rushing water, you may have a problem. If you hear a noise similar water dripping, look for things in your home that have changed appearance. Another sense you can use is your sense of smell, for instance by smelling musky/rotten mold.

As always we want to reiterate how important it is that you look over your insurance coverage to see if flood damage is covered. When your property is damaged, please don't wait to take action! It's also a great idea to have a plan-of-action in place in case you do experience water damage. Do your research now on water damage companies in your area and let them know they're part of your emergency plan. Lastly, do not worry because, in the end, everything will get better and be okay.

 

References:  Lowes


 


In The News: Mold & Insurance Claims
In The News: Mold & Insurance Claims

Water damage and mold are words that no homeowner wants to hear. Luckily, there are types of insurances that can cover such losses. Recently in the news, there has been speculation that insurance claims have spiked and for no good reason at all. The real question is, who decides what a good reason for an insurance claim? We take a look at each piece to this puzzle and analyze whether or not this speculation is one sided, or all facts are being considered. 

 

First, let's examine what constitutes as a good reason to make an insurance claim. Should homeowners only be able to make a claim in the event of a large natural disaster such as a hurricane, or, should they have the freedom to make a claim if they have a plumbing leak that could potentially cause more damage that previously mentioned hurricane? What if the plumbing leak flooded their entire first floor and the hurricane only caused a minor roof leak? These are the factors that should be considered when all parties including the homeowner, insurance company, and contractor, assess damage and decide if a claim should or should not be made. 

 

In the featured video below, News 9 reports on a sudden rise in insurance claims featuring Citizens Property Insurance and highlights a bad experience of one set of homeowners.



The purpose of the Assignment of Benefits (AOB) is to give the homeowner the complete right to choose what contractors work on their home and to ensure repairs and damage control will begin in a timely manner. You would hope it is easy to trust contractors that are presenting homeowners with an AOB, but unless you already have a trusting relationship with them, you really can’t be 100% sure, right? There may be companies that abuse the power of an AOB, but you must not let those companies hinder the reputation of all companies that use an AOB because it is used to benefit the homeowner when they are faced with damage and a claim needs to be made. In any given industry you would assume that there are those who have bad experiences and those who have GREAT experiences. Luckily, there is something homeowners can do to safeguard themselves so they don’t repeat the similar outcome as we saw in the video and that is EDUCATION.

 

One way to ensure you are not being deceived by your insurance company or contractors when you have water or mold damage to your home, is to understand all factors that are involved when making a claim. These 5 factors are:

 

·      Know your insurance policy

·      Know your rights

·      Research your contractors

·      Get familiar with your state’s insurance claim laws

·      Documentation

 

 

All homeowners should have a complete print out of their insurance policy in an easily accessible, safe place. Homeowners should also make sure they know their coverages in detail, especially in the case of an emergency. Your rights as a homeowner are very important to also be aware of. This way, you are less likely to be taken advantage of. Before a catastrophe such as water damage, or mold, have a ready-to-dial contractor you already built trust with. Have them input your information into their system so that if and when there is a hurricane or major plumbing leak, you are already in the system and you don’t have to waste time going through that sometimes lengthy process. Also, check your contractors licensing and online reviews. This will give you real life experiences of the company you're choosing to work with and provide you with a sense of security when you know they are properly licensed and insured. Knowing your state’s insurance claim laws can be very helpful not only when you need to make a claim due to damage, but also when you are shopping for your insurance policy. This way, you will know certain limits and regulations related to insurance claims. Document any and all claim related damage of your home. When your home is in tip-top shape, take the before photos. Take photos of ceilings, inside of cabinets, floors, and anywhere you have plumbing. If you find you have mold or water damage, take multiple photos of the damage and date the photos. By following these 5 pieces of advice, you will be more knowledgeable and prepared in the event of water damage and mold related claims.


Remember, knowledge is power and not all contractors are the same. The AOB can be very beneficial to homeowners especially in an emergency situation. For more information, view our blog page and website. 


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Articles of Interest: The Assignment of Benefits
Articles of Interest: The Assignment of Benefits

 

Very frequently, homeowners have questions about billing, insurance, and their rights when it comes to hiring companies to perform work inside their homes. We want to make sure not only our clients, but everyone is aware of all possible outcomes to ensure all jobs are performed in good faith.

 

This article presents a recent situation where a homeowner was left battling with their insurance company over 2 years because of a technicality which did not event exist. It’s a GREAT read for a quick lesson learned that could potentially save anyone from a lot of trouble in the wake of an emergency. 


Insurance Company’s Defense Based on an Assignment of Benefits Form Fails



Sick Building Syndrome

Have you ever felt fatigue, coughing and sneezing, shortness of breath, nosebleeds, or increased asthma problems in your work place?  Normally one would not think that all these problems could be caused by a building…well they can. It is known as “Sick Building Syndrome”. Sick Building Syndrome is considered by some in the medical field to be an illness in people who have been exposed to undefined chemical, biological, or physical agents that are thought to be found in buildings. Indoor air quality testing is crucial in buildings and properties to determine if the structure is “sick” or healthy.

In the 1970s a movement was set in motion by builders and authorities to seal up buildings the best they could to save on fuels for air conditioning and heating.  Many buildings became air tight which left no room for clean air to filter in (inadequate ventilation), which in return set the building up for pollution. Examples of pollution that occurred: carbon monoxide build-ups, possibility of indoor combustion (heaters, ranges and smokers), and the release of inhalable particles (Volatile Organic Compounds, airborne allergens, and pathogens). As a way for buildings to have better Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and minimize energy consumption, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) revised the standards of ventilation from 5 cfm(cubic feet per minute) per occupant to a minimum of  15 cfm provided of outdoor air per person (20 cfm/person in office spaces). ("Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) - Indoor Air Pollution Testing." Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) - Indoor Air Pollution Testing. N.p.)

There can be many factors that cause Sick Building Syndrome and one is biological contaminants (bacteria, molds, pollen and viruses). Biological pollutants can cause illness through three different  methods-: 1. Infection, 2. Allergy/Hypersensitivity, and 3.Toxicosis.  A  contaminant’s source could be from water(water is a breeding ground for mold) that has accummulated in places such as humidifers, a/c ducts, drain pans; or where water has been collected on carpeting, ceiling tiles or insulation.  Outside elements have an effect on biological contaminants such as temperature , humidity or lighting. Another factor could be a source that is already in the building like carpeting, upholstery, wood products, cleaning agents and copy machines.  Certain factors emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which research has shown can cause very serious health issues when at high concentrations.  VOCs that may be emitted from items like flooring, varnishes, and gasoline can contain: formaldehyde, acetone, ethylene glycol, benzene and tolune.

How does one know that their building is “sick”? For the most part, it is from complaints of the buildings occupants. Building occupants may have symptoms including: headaches, throat, nose, and eye irritation, dry cough, dry or itchy skin, dizziness, nausea; or more serious symptoms like fatigue, sensitivity to odors, and development of respiratory illness.  The source that is causing the occupants symptoms is unknown; however occupants have said to have felt relief once they exited the building. A good way to know that your building should be inspected is when a group of occupants have or show the same symptoms. Air Quality Assessors will walk through the suspected Sick Building and do a thorough inspection to try and locate the source that has been causing sickness. Testing will be done to see whether the indoor air quality levels reach the standard of safety or not. Once again is it not always known what causes Sick Building Syndrome and sometimes the source cannot be found. What can be done is an IAQ test to ensure that the occupants of the building are safe or to find out whether the building is actually sick.

 


The Respiratory Rival

The Respiratory Rival

(Aspergillus)

Part 2 of the Mold-ifying Series

By: Amy Gallagher

 

Res·pi·ra·tion

ˌrespəˈrāSH(ə)n/

noun

1.    the action of breathing.

"opiates affect respiration"

o    MEDICINE

a single breath.

plural noun: respirations

o    BIOLOGY

a process in living organisms involving the production of energy, typically with the intake of oxygen and the release of carbon dioxide from the oxidation of complex organic substances

 

 

 

Itchy eyes, sore throat, coughing and runny nose are all common signs that the Respiratory Rival has entered your territory. She shows little to no mercy to humans that have weakened immune systems, allergies or damaged lungs. Her ability to sneak in through air vents, pets, and water-damaged properties makes her a fierce competitor! Once she has entered your territory, she settles down in places that favor mold growth (areas that provide warmth, moisture, high humidity) like your bathroom or kitchen.  The best way to know that she has entered the game is to have your territory assessed by an Air Quality Assessor! The Air Quality Assessor knows that she is a stealth competitor that doesn’t like to show her face all the time, so he takes samples of the air to catch some of the dangerous spores she radiates.

The Respiratory Rival has many different methods of attacking, but for the most part she targets your respiratory system. Aspergillus can have many different forms (species) and cause different diseases. Listed below are some of the most dangerous forms of your rival:

 

Aspergillus clavatus

Aspergillus flavus

Aspergillus fumigatus

Aspergillus glaucus

Aspergillus nidulans

Aspergillus niger

Aspergillus oryzae

Aspergillus terreus

Aspergillus ustus

Aspergillus versicolor


The group of diseases that Aspergillus exposure can cause is called Aspergillosis. The main types of Aspergillosis are: Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (can cause coughing of blood), Acute invasive aspergillosis (can cause infectious pneumonia) and Disseminated invasive aspergillosis (can spread through your entire body). Another disease to take note of before your battle against the rival is Chronic Pulmonary Aspergillosis which can infect your body and start to grow inside your lung cavities.  The Respiratory Rival can leave her spell on you in many different forms: Allergic reactions, fungal mass development, infections, fatigue, nosebleeds, wheezing and more.



If you think you are starting to show symptoms of the Rival, it is highly suggested that you see your doctor!  Sometimes you don’t know that she has even started the game until it’s too late! The best way to stop the Respiratory Rival before she takes things too far would be to have your home assessed by a licensed mold assessor (Air Quality Assessors); The assessor can let you know if she (the rival) has elevated her game (increased spore count) and invaded your home or if she never started the game to begin with!  

 

 


The Mold Series- Stachybotrys Chartarum

Part 1 of the "Mold-ifying" Series 

 

“The Quiet Killer”

 

Stachybotrys Chartarum

 

This killer has no boundaries and shows no mercy for homeowners/businesses. Don’t dare think you can stop all of it with regular bleach or other household disinfectants. A trained team will be needed in order to catch and eliminate this quiet killer. Mold hides in non-porous materials like drywall and hardwood flooring or where moisture and water is/has been present (moisture & water are the Quiet Killer’s life source). It can be lurking, growing and producing mycotoxins for weeks until found. “Mycotoxins” aka the killer’s minions: extremely toxic, take 8-12days to make their appearance and then they slowly break down your body’s defense, causing very serious health issues (sore throat, headaches, chronic muscle pain and in worse cases they can/will kill you)…malicious little monsters! Signs that the Quiet Killer has marked his next target include: the smell of its musty cologne, its yellow moisture stained drawings on the wall or show signs of his curse (coughing, nausea, headaches and more). Its nasty, greenish-black demeanor means business!

 

How does one win against this “Quiet Killer”?

 

The killer can grow where there is or has been moisture or water related problems. Look for places in your home/business that are susceptible to water or moisture damage like: A/C unit, Bathroom, Laundry Room or Attic... This is where the battle will take place. The best way to eliminate the Quiet Killer is to have a specialized team come in to destroy it! Since no one ever knows the extent of damage the Quiet Killer has caused, having an Air Quality Assessor on your side is the best way to know what you are up against! The assessor’s findings helps him conjure up a strategic battle plan (protocol report for remediation services) for you to use against/destroy the Quiet Killer. Since the killer is very toxic, it is necessary to have a licensed removal force (remediation companies) fight on your side during the battle! The removal team sticks to the battle plan drawn up by the assessor and removes all traces of the killer and his minions. Once the removal team has done the fighting/killing, the Air Quality Assessor comes back into play and makes sure, once and for all, the Quiet Killer has been defeated and all is safe.