Mold during cold weather months
The wet season in the winter months is one of the best times of year for molds to grow and expand. Often mold is contained near sources of water where it can easily grow and reproduce. As it grows, mold can breakdown and compromise the integrity and strength of the source in which it lives.
Mold spores are microscopic and are naturally found in the air we breathe indoors and outdoors. Mold can be killed, but if it is not removed properly, it can remain in the area just cleaned and the dry spores can be released into the air. Mold remediation services can help eliminate the mold in your home and personal items affected by water damage.
Prevention, however, is what will help keep your lungs healthy and homes and buildings strong.
General Home and Building Maintenance:
- Keep all areas clean.
- Make sure there is good air circulation. Use an exhaust fan or open a window when showering, cooking, and washing the dishes.
- Prevent mold and water damage by turning off the water flow to broken appliances and pipes.
- Replace cracked or defective mortar in basements. If you find your basement is wet or has water leaking into it, inspect the outside drainage systems.
- Spread moisture-barrier materials in crawl spaces over the soil. Heavy roofing paper or plastic film made of polyethylene can be used for this. Make sure there is good ventilation in the crawl space and, if possible, do not enclose it. One may need to use a fan to blow out humid air from under the building.
- One can get rid of humidity or dampness within a building by heating it for a short time. After heating, open up the doors and windows, or use an exhaust fan, to let out the air that is moist.
- Hire a professional roofing contractor to cover a damaged roof with a tarp or tent. This will help protect the building from the elements.
- If there are freezing temperatures, take measures to insulate pipes inside and out to ensure they will not crack and/or burst.
- Make sure all the seals on the windows and doors are not compromised and in good-working condition.
- Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.
- Make sure the ground around your building slopes away from the foundation so water does not collect around or enter in to it.
- Act quickly if you see condensation on windows, pipes, or walls inside a building. Dry out the area and determine if the source of the condensation is from a leak or the result of high humidity.
After a Flood or Heavy Rains:
- Work fast. Call in a mold remediation service, which will help in the cleaning and disinfecting of your home from toxins and spores mold can release.
- Lower the humidity and temperature in the building: molds do not like these conditions. Open up windows if the air outside is less humid than the air inside. Otherwise, turn on an air conditioner and a dehumidifier.
- Dispose of moldy items in a sealed bag. Objects that can be saved should be frozen (which deactivates mold) or dried out. Mold remediation services can assist with restoring many of your items, including documents, pictures, and books.
- Make sure there is good ventilation within the building affected. Use a fan, if necessary, to promote good air circulation.
- Remove as much standing water in a building as quickly and safely as possible after disconnecting all electronic equipment inside the building.
- The two key things to remember in mold prevention are: 1. Keep everything clean, and 2. Keep everything dry. Many simple steps can be taken to prevent mold damage as well as water damage during the winter months. However, keep the number for a mold remediation service handy should you require their services. These professionals can efficiently and quickly ensure your home is safe, dry, and mold-free.
Ways You May Be Ruining Your Wood Floors
Forgetting to Sweep
Sweeping and vacuuming hardwood floors isn't only a good cleaning tip, but it can also lengthen the life of your floors. Dust, dirt, and other abrasive particles can scratch and dull the finish of wood floors once they’re underfoot. Tidying up often, though, will keep them from causing lasting damage.
Using the Wrong Vacuum Attachments
Vacuuming is an important chore for keeping dust and dirt off of your wood floors and out of tiny cracks and crevices—but use the right attachments. The beater bar on your vacuum can gouge wood floors; instead use the hardwood brush attachment.
Water is a wood floor’s worst enemy. Moisture can penetrate the wood’s fibers causing boards to swell, cup, warp, and separate. If your hardwood floors need a deep clean, use a barely damp mop or cloth and then dry the floor immediately and completely with a towel.
Letting Spills Wait
Dried and caked on spills can take a lot of force to remove, if left to sit. Avoid that trouble (and possible damage) by wiping spills up immediately with a soft, clean cloth. If you need to use a spot of water to lift the spill, be sure to dry the floor thoroughly with a clean towel.
Wearing High Heels
No one would ever take a tiny hammer to their floors, but walking on wood with high heels can do similar damage. The force of walking in these sharp shoes can easily ding and scratch wood floors, so check them at the door. You can minimize the risk of scratches from other damaging items by placing floor protectors under table and chair legs, and keeping the dog's claws clipped and trimmed.
Cold Weather Safety Tips for pets
Exposure to winter’s dry, cold air and chilly rain, sleet and snow can cause chapped paws and itchy, flaking skin, but these aren’t the only discomforts pets can suffer. Winter walks can become downright dangerous if chemicals from ice-melting agents are licked off of bare paws. To help prevent cold weather dangers from affecting your pet’s health, please heed the following advice from our experts:
- Repeatedly coming out of the cold into the dry heat of your home can cause itchy, flaking skin. Keep your home humidified and towel dry your pet as soon as he comes inside, paying special attention to his feet and in-between the toes. Remove any snow balls from between his foot pads.
- Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. If your dog is long-haired, simply trim him to minimize the clinging ice balls, salt crystals and de-icing chemicals that can dry his skin, and don’t neglect the hair between his toes. If your dog is short-haired, consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.
- Bring a towel on long walks to clean off stinging, irritated paws. After each walk, wash and dry your pet’s feet and stomach to remove ice, salt and chemicals—and check for cracks in paw pads or redness between the toes.
- Bathe your pets as little as possible during cold spells. Washing too often can remove essential oils and increase the chance of developing dry, flaky skin. If your pooch must be bathed, ask your vet to recommend a moisturizing shampoo and/or rinse.
- Massaging petroleum jelly or other paw protectants into paw pads before going outside can help protect from salt and chemical agents. Booties provide even more coverage and can also prevent sand and salt from getting lodged between bare toes and causing irritation. Use pet-friendly ice melts whenever possible.
- Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.
- Pets burn extra energy by trying to stay warm in wintertime. Feeding your pet a little bit more during the cold weather months can provide much-needed calories, and making sure she has plenty of water to drink will help keep her well-hydrated and her skin less dry.
- Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.
- Remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet, so keep your animals inside. If left outdoors, pets can freeze, become disoriented, lost, stolen, injured or killed. In addition, don’t leave pets alone in a car during cold weather, as cars can act as refrigerators that hold in the cold and cause animals to freeze to death.
Flood Safety Tips
Flooding can occur anywhere, but water and electricity don’t mix. Because electrical hazards may linger after flood waters recede, it’s important to take precautions before, during, and after flooding takes place.
Know the Danger
- On average, more deaths occur due to flooding each year than from any other severe weather related hazard.
- In the past 5 years all 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods
- A car can easily be carried away by just two feet of floodwater
- Nearly half of all flood fatalities occur in vehicles
- Those living outside of mapped “high-risk” flood areas file nearly 25% of all flood insurance claims and receive 1/3rd of Federal Disaster Assistance aid
- From 2003 to 2012, total flood insurance claims averaged nearly $4 billion per year
- An area’s risk of flood can change over time due to new construction, changes in levee classification, or other environmental factors
Reduce the Risk
- Follow any directives to turn off utilities. If you’re advised to switch off the main power source to your home, flip each breaker and THEN turn off the main breaker. You may also need to shut off the main valve for your home’s gas and water
- DO NOT go near any downed power lines especially if there is standing water nearby
- If your home experienced flooding, keep the power off until an electrician has inspected your system for safety
- Have an electrician inspect electrical appliances that have been wet, and do not turn on or plug in appliances unless an electrician tells you it is safe
- A trained professional may be able to recondition some devices while others will require replacement
- Do not touch a circuit breaker or replace a fuse with wet hands or while standing on a wet surface
Types of Mold
There are many different mold types that can be found in homes and different health problems can occur depending on the type of mold to which you are exposed. While there are more than one hundred different kinds of mold sometimes found in homes, here we’ll discuss a few of the most common.
Common Types of Mold Found in Homes
Alternaria is often found outdoors, but it also grows in damp places indoors, like in showers or under sinks with leaky pipes. It can also be found in buildings that have been flooded or suffered other water damage. It spreads easily from one area of the home to another. Exposure to alternaria can cause allergic reactions and asthma attacks.
Aspergillus is a type of mold frequently found indoors. It can causes allergic reactions, respiratory infections, and a condition called hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which causes inflammation of the lungs. More about aspergillus mold.
Aureobasidium is a mold often found outdoors, but it can also be found in homes growing on wooden surfaces, wallpaper, and painted surfaces. It’s also often found on damp window frames and caulking. It is pink and black in color. Many people are allergic to aureobasidium. Follow the link for more information on pink mold in the bathroom.
Botrytis grows in areas with high levels of humidity, like bathrooms with poor ventilation. It can cause allergic reactions and asthma.
Chaetomium often grows on drywall, carpets and window frames that have sustained water damage. It produces a characteristic musty odor.
Cladosporium is a type of mold often found growing inside homes. While most types of mold prefer warm climates, cladosporium can grow in cool areas, too. It often grows on fabrics, like carpets, and on wood surfaces, like cabinets and floorboards. It can cause a variety of respiratory problems.
Fusarium is another of the mold types that, like cladosporium, can grow and spread at lower temperatures. It’s often found growing on water-damaged carpeting and other fabrics. It causes allergic reactions, asthma, and respiratory infections. People with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable to infections due to fusarium exposure.
Penicillium is often found growing on materials that have been damaged by water, including carpeting, wallpaper, insulation, and furnishings like mattresses. It’s one of the mold types that spread quickly and easily from one part of the home to another. Exposure to penicillium can cause allergic reactions, chronic sinus infections, and inflammation of the lungs. Usually appears as a blue mold and/or a green mold.
Stachybotrys chartarum is often referred to as “black mold” due to its slimy black appearance. It’s sometimes referred to as “toxic mold,” although the mold itself is not toxic; it produces toxic compounds called mycotoxins, which cause health problems when people come in contact with them. It can cause allergic reactions, breathing problems, chronic sinus infections, asthma attacks, fatigue, and depression. Stachybotrys chartarum has a characteristic musty odor and usually grows in places that stay damp all the time, like in air conditioning ducts where there is a lot of condensation or around leaky pipes. Learn more about black mold in homes.
Serpula lacrymans is a yellow mold that causes "dry rot" because it feeds on wood.
Trichoderma is often found growing on damp carpet, wallpaper, and other wet surfaces. It produces mycotoxins similar to those produced by stachybotrys chatarum, and it can cause similar health problems. Many people are also allergic to trichoderma.
Ulocladium requires a lot of water, so it frequently grows in areas with extensive water damage, including homes that have been flooded. It’s often found growing on wet walls. Many people are allergic to ulocladium.
Efflorescence are salt deposits that are often confused with white mold in basement.
Cold Weather Tips
When the temperature takes a nose dive, water in your pipes can freeze, causing them to burst. Water floods your home and ruins your furnishings, and you have to pay to have it all repaired and replaced. It’s costly and inconvenient. But it doesn’t have to happen if you follow these simple precautions.
Wrap Up for Winter
Wrap exposed pipes with insulating material. Pipes under kitchen sinks, in crawl spaces, near windows or in unheated basements are areas susceptible to freezing. #WrapIt
Find Your Shut-off Valve
Locate your inside water shut-off valve now! The shut-off valve controls all of the water into your home. If a pipe bursts, knowing the location of your shut-off valve and how to turn it off, can save valuable time and prevent water damage. Our video can help you find the water shuf-off valve.
The shut-off valve may be located in the basement, under the kitchen sink, in a utility closet, near the hot water heater, or even under the house in a crawl space. If you cannot locate or do not have a shut-off valve, call your plumber. #TagIt
Try turning off your shut-off valve. Then turn on each of the faucets in your house, if no water comes out you found the main shut-off valve. Once you locate the main shut-off valve tag it so everyone in your family can find it should an emergency occur.
Make Sure You Have it Covered
If your house has a crawl space, cover the outside vents to prevent winter winds from entering and freezing pipes. Keep the garage door closed if you have a slab foundation. Some water pipes are located under concrete floors in the garage .#CoverIt
Run a Small, Steady Stream of Cold Water
Keep the water running, especially if you’ve had problems with frozen pipes in the past. Try running a small steady stream of water from a cold water faucet in extremely cold weather. The cost of the water is small compared to dealing with the cost and inconvenience of frozen or burst pipes. Make sure you run the water from a faucet children don’t use, because they may inadvertently shut off the faucet after using it. #DripIt
Fall Safety Tips
When the weather turns cold most people spend more time inside their homes using fireplaces, furnaces, and heaters to keep warm. There's nothing quite as cozy as a fire, but it presents some safety hazards. Keep these tips in mind.
Service Your Furnace
Before the cold autumn and winter weather sets in, be sure to call your heating and cooling company to service your furnace. A specialist should inspect the furnace to make sure everything is in working order and that there are no leaks.
Use Fireplaces SafelyKeep that fire in its proper place by using a fireplace screen to keep sparks from flying out of the fireplace. Never leave a burning fire unattended, and make sure a fire in a fireplace is completely out before going to bed.
Use Caution with Space Heaters
A space heater can be an effective way to warm up a chilly room, but it's essential that you read the instructions on the unit before you use it. If your space heater requires venting, make sure you have vented it to the outdoors. Never use your stove or oven to heat your home; only use space heaters that are approved for this purpose. Always allow at least three feet of empty area around space heaters.
Reconsider Leaf Burning
The Air Defenders reports that burning leaves produces dangerous and cancer-causing chemicals and urges homeowners to avoid disposing of leaves this way. If you decide to burn leaves, wear a protective mask. Burning leaves should only be attempted far away from a house or other structures on a homeowner's property. Always check the weather forecast before starting to burn leaves. This activity should not be attempted in windy conditions.
Exercise Candle Caution
Candles are a great way to give a room that warm glow, but they can also cause fires. According to the National Candle Association, almost 10,000 home fires start with improper candle use. Never leave candles burning if you go out or go to sleep, and keep your candles away from pets and kids.
Change Smoke Alarm Batteries
Change the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors when you turn back your clocks for Daylight Saving Time. Make sure to check the alarms with the new batteries installed. Check and replace any home fire extinguishers that have expired.
Tips for Fall Home Maintenance
From cluttered gutters to fire hazards, protect your home this fall by making sure your it’s ready to combat the changing weather and potential dangers.
Check All Safety Devices
In order to ensure safety inside your home, take a moment and check all of your safety devices, making sure the batteries are charged and that they work properly. For example, test all your smoke alarms inside your home. Make sure the batteries are working properly and are fully charged. In addition, make sure to replace used and expired fire extinguishers.
Fire Up the Furnace
Turn your heater on before the temperatures really plummet so you can ensure it works. Contact a technician to inspect that it’s operating properly if you suspect it needs servicing. Keep all flammable materials away from your furnace. This includes clothing, paint products, toxic materials, cardboard and more.
Inspect the Insulation
When your home allows in cold drafts, it forces your furnace to work harder in order to heat your house, resulting in higher energy bills. Keep the cold air out by improving the insulation in your attic and walls.
Give the Heater Some Space
Make sure you read the instructions to see if your space heater requires venting, and if it does, make sure it’s vented to the outdoors. A good rule of thumb is to keep your space heater away from clothing, bedding, drapery and furniture. Remember to shut them off if you leave the house and don’t leave them unattended if you have children or pets. More importantly, don’t use your space heater as a dryer for hats, gloves and other articles of clothing, as they can catch fire.
Before you relight your fireplace, check your chimney to confirm it’s free of debris and has proper ventilation. Make sure the bricks, mortar and liner are in good condition. Lastly, use a fireplace screen to keep the sparks from flying all over the place.
Doing laundry? Prevent dryer fires by cleaning filters after each load of wash and removing lint that collects in dryer vents. Like burning candles, never leave a load of laundry in the dryer unattended.
De-clutter the Gutters
Clean your gutters by removing all debris and leaves. Before burning leaves, check your city’s regulations, as it may be illegal where you live. If you burn them, do so away from the house and use proper containers.
Trim the Trees
As plants begin to die in the cold weather, make sure you call a landscaping service to remove any dead branches or decaying limbs on the trees of your property. When weighed down by ice and snow, or blowing in the wind, they can become hazardous and fall on your house or vehicle.
FIRE PREVENTION FOR BIG KIDS
FIRE PREVENTION FOR BIG KIDS
Big kids are curious about fire. Teaching your children about the hazards of playing with matches and other flammable materials, as well as practicing a fire escape plan with your family, can help prevent accidents and injuries.
Top Safety Tips
- Working smoke alarms reduce the chances of dying in a fire by nearly 50 percent. They are a critical first step for staying safe, but in order to be effective, they have to be working properly. For the best protection, install smoke alarms on every level of your home and in every sleeping area.
- Consider installing a smoke alarm that has a 10-year battery.
- Teach kids never to play with matches, lighters or fireworks.
- Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and always blow them out when you leave the room or before you go to sleep. Teach older kids not to use candles in their bedrooms, unless supervised by an adult.
- Use common sense in the kitchen. Limit distractions when cooking and don't leave a hot oven or stovetop unattended.
- Have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen in case of emergency, and make sure you know how it works. You might be surprised that most people don't know how to use one.
- Children should know how to respond to the sound of a smoke alarm. Teach them to get low and get out when they hear it. A child who is coached properly ahead of time will have a better chance to be safe. Watch our video to learn more.
- Practice feeling the door, doorknob and cracks around the door with the back of your hand to see if they are too hot. Help your children practice this step.
- Together, have your family plan and practice a home fire escape plan with two ways out of your house in case of a fire. It is important to have an alternate exit in case one is blocked by fire.
- Choose a place to meet outside that is a safe distance away from your home.
- If you cannot safely escape your home or apartment, keep smoke out of the room by covering vents and cracks around the door and call 911 or your fire department as quickly as possible. Then signal for help at the window with a light-colored cloth or a flashlight.
- To prevent possible fires, avoid plugging several appliance cords into the same electrical socket.
- If using gasoline-powered devices, store gasoline in a locked location where children cannot access it. Keep only small quantities in an approved container that has child safety features.
CARBON MONOXIDE SAFETY TIPS
Install Carbon Monoxide Alarms
- Make sure your home has a carbon monoxide alarm. If you don’t have one, please go out and get one.
- As with smoke alarms, make sure you have a carbon monoxide alarm on every level of your home, especially near sleeping areas, and keep them at least 15 feet away from fuel-burning appliances.
- You won’t know that you have a carbon monoxide leak without a working alarm. So test alarms regularly and replace them every five to seven years depending on the manufacturer’s label.
- For the best protection, have carbon monoxide alarms that are interconnected throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
- Carbon monoxide alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms, and vice versa. Combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are available.
Understand How Carbon Monoxide Can Be Harmful
- Don’t use a grill, generator or camping stove inside your home, garage or near a window.
- If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Don’t leave a car, SUV or motorcycle engine running inside a garage, even if the doors are open.
- Never use your oven or stovetop to heat your home.
- On the outside of your home, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow and other debris.
- Carbon monoxide can accumulate in or around your motorboat, so install an alarm on your boat.
Leave the House If the Alarm Sounds
- If the alarm goes off, immediately go outdoors or to an open window or door for some fresh air. Make sure that everyone inside your home is safe.
- Call 911 or the fire department. Stay outside or by an open window until emergency personnel arrive to assist you.
Store Gasoline Properly
- If using gasoline-powered devices, store gasoline in a locked location where children cannot access it. Keep only small quantities in an approved container that has child safety features.
- Keep gasoline away from any source of heat, spark or flame. Even common household appliances such as water heaters and clothes dryers can start a gasoline fire. Be sure to store your gasoline away from anything that could ignite it.
- Store gasoline in a well-ventilated area outside your vehicle and living space. The safest place to store the container is in a detached garage or shed.
- Never mix gasoline with fire. There is no safe way to start a fire with gasoline.