As you drive around town these days you may notice many homes and businesses with icicles hanging from them. While they may be a pretty winter sight, they typically indicate a problem that may lead to water damage to your home or business. Most often icicles are an indication of an ice dam.
An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow (water) from draining off the roof. As snow melts from your roof, either by the heat of the sun, or by heat escaping from your home, it tends to refreeze at the edges and other juncture points of your roof. The refreezing of water has a damming effect creating an even bigger ice dam behind it. Continuous feeding of the ice dam by melting and refreezing snow melt can cause significant damage. As the water seeps under shingles it refreezes expanding and creating an even bigger gap for future drainage to fill and further the cycle. Your shingles are being raised and eventually the water that backs up behind the dam, and underneath the shingles, can leak into your home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and create a perfect environment for mold growth.
To prevent ice dams, it’s important to clean your gutters before winter so that winter’s melting snow and rain can properly drain off your roof.
Additionally, improper insulation and improper attic ventilation can contribute to ice damming by allowing warm air from inside your home to escape into the attic. It seems counter-intuitive, but the basic ventilation principal for your attic is to keep it as cool as possible during the cold season. If you look at your roof several days after a snow and you see an even distribution covering your roof, that’s a good sign that your attic is properly insulated and ventilated. If on the other hand, you see sections where snow has melted, that suggests an area in the attic where warm air is present due to either improper insulation or improper ventilation. These problems should be addressed as soon as the weather allows.
Many of the current ice dams may be caused by an excessive amount of snow in a short amount of time followed by some warmer temperatures. Some homeowners find it useful to use a roof rake during the winter months. A roof rake is not your average garden rake. It is a specialty item used to remove snow from the 4-6 feet of roof above your gutter, while standing safely on the ground, so that melting snow can properly flow off of your roof versus forming an ice dam. Roof rakes can be found in season at most hardware and home improvement stores. If you choose to use a roof rake, it’s important to follow all suggested safety precautions and suggestions for use. Additionally, it’s important to know the condition of your roof and shingles. Older roofs, or roofs in poor shape, can easily be damaged by roof rakes and may cause more harm than good.
Use of Moisture Meters in Commercial Buildings
When your home or business is damaged by water, it is important that everything is dried in a timely manner. Timely drying or removal of water damaged materials is essential to prevent secondary damage like mold and rot. But how can property owners tell if things they can’t see or touch are wet? The bigger the property, the more difficult the challenge is as there are more places for the water to run to. That is where SERVPRO of Appleton comes in. To get an accurate picture of your water damage situation, and determine where the water has traveled, and how deep it has gone, we use a variety of moisture meters and even infrared cameras.
There are 3 types of moisture meters: pin, pinless and pin/pinless all in one. In addition, meters can be equipped with a connection option to add accessory probes that can be inserted deeper into a surface for more accurate core or depth readings. They all work on the same basic principle. Moisture conducts electricity. The meters are essentially testing the strength of an electrical connection. Moisture conducts electricity well. The stronger the connection, the wetter the material. Infrared cameras rely on the notion that wet areas not only conduct electricity better, but they also tend to be cooler. Infrared cameras give us an idea where to look for moisture.
We use all types of moisture meters, including probes depending on the surface and situation. Pin meters have two pins on the end of them that are inserted into the surface. These moisture meters can be good for porous materials like carpet or insulation. Pinless meters work well on wood and drywall and other surfaces that we don’t want to put small holes into. Probes are not desirable, as they leave a slightly larger hole, but can become necessary in situations where we need to analyze multiple layers or surfaces.
In the photo you can see that we have removed the baseboard and have drilled holes in the wet drywall. Low profile air movers are placed up to the holes in order to get air circulating behind the wet drywall. We then use moisture meters to determine when the drywall is sufficiently dry. Very often paint will make drywall feel dry to the touch when it is still very wet on the backside. Moisture meters become very important in these situations.
Commercial Building Disinfection
The COVID 19 pandemic has been hard on many individuals and businesses. One of the hardest hit businesses is the entertainment industry and their venues, where hundreds, and even thousands of people gather to watch a sporting event, competition, concert or other such event. Some of these venues are publicly owned, while others are privately owned. But no matter who owns them, there are necessary operating costs to avoid damage to the properties, even during a pandemic when their doors are closed to the public. Buildings must still be heated or cooled depending on the climate to avoid things like burst water pipes in cold climates or mold growth in warm and humid climates. Heating and cooling equipment must still be maintained, filters must be changed, and so much more. As a result, these facilities must find a way to get some revenue coming in again in order to survive, especially the private owned venues with no other income source.
This past week we helped one such venue, the Menominee Nation Arena in Oshkosh, disinfect their facility so that they could safely host an event on a limited basis. We disinfected all public areas of the 64,300 square foot arena with SERVPROXIDE. SERVPROXIDE is our own patented disinfectant that kills 99.999% of virus and bacteria cells on hard and soft surfaces. SERVPROXIDE is not a bleach. It’s active ingredient, chlorine dioxid, has a very different chemistry than bleach. Chlorine dioxide is less caustic, safer and gentler than bleach and many other antispetics and antimicrobials. SERVPROXIDE Chlorine or dioxide has been used in defense against Anthrax attacks, to purify drinking water in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and most recently to kill MRSA in schools and hospitals. And now it is being used for the COVID 19 pandemic. Not only is it effective, but it’s safe. It has the lowest toxicity rating given by the EPA. It is safe to use around pets (both cats & dogs), the elderly, as well as children and infants. It is even safe to use around food.
To disinfect the facility, our staff wiped down all high touch hard surfaces like doorknobs, handrails, plumbing fixtures etc..by hand. For soft surfaces and all other areas, we used electrostatic spray to apply the SERVPROXIDE. Electrostatic spray surface cleaning is the process of spraying an electrostatically charged mist onto surfaces and objects. The solution is combined with air and atomized by an electrode inside the sprayer. The resulting spray uniformly covers even the most complex surface.
Electrostatic spray is also more convenient than disinfectant fogging. Fogging requires the space to be evacuated and closed off for extended periods of time during disinfection. Electrostatic spray disinfecting is highly effective and allows the facility far more flexibility.
If you need your commercial building disinfected, give us a call today.
Often when we think of a storm, we think about a summer storm. But storms can occur anytime of the year. And no matter when they occur, they can do significant damage to your home or business.
According to Wikipedia, a Winter Storm is, "an event in which varieties of precipitation are formed that only occur at freezing temperatures, such as snow, mixed snow, mixed snow and rain, or freezing rain-rain that encounters frozen surfaces".
Just like summer storms, winter storms can include high winds. The effects of high winds on trees and power lines can be further compounded by wet, heavy snow or freezing rain and ice, causing downed trees and power lines. These downed trees and power lines can land on your home and do significant damage.
We here at SERVPRO of Appleton are a full service restoration company. Should your home or business be damaged by a downed tree or power line this winter, we can provide board up services, to prevent further damage from precipitation and quickly begin the restoration and repair process.
Structure vs Contents in a Fire Loss
In an August 12th blog post, we discussed the fact that restoring your home or business after a water loss is often a two step process. There is the mitigation process, where the structure is dried, and secondary damage like wood rot and mold is prevented. Then there is the rebuild process where things that were displaced, or couldn't be properly dried in the mitigation process, are rebuilt or put back together.
Restoring your home or business after a fire is also a two step process. There is the process of cleaning and repairing the structure itself, and there is the process of cleaning the contents IN the structure; things like clothing, dishes, furniture, art work, electronics etc...As you can see by the attached picture from a home fire, the structure, ie..the walls and ceiling are completely coated in soot and smoke, as well as the contents of the home like the couch, tables, wall sconces etc.
In a water loss situation, the steps must be done in the proper order. In a fire loss situation, the two processes can go on simultaneously. In addition, it's entirely possible to hire one company to clean and repair the structure, and have different company clean the contents.
We here at SERVPRO of Appleton are a full service restoration company. We can clean and repair your structure after a fire, as well as the contents of your structure. If you experience a fire, we can make it like it never even happened. Pictures of homes we have restored after a fire can be found in the Before and After Photos section of our website.
National Roof Over Your Head Day
December 3rd is National Roof Over Your Head Day. National Roof Over Your Head Day was created as a day to be thankful for what you have, starting with the roof over your head. We here in the restoration industry think it’s a great day to not only be thankful, but to have your roof inspected before the dead of winter sets in and your roof becomes snow covered and slippery, making it difficult or impossible to access for repairs.
Roofs are no different than any other part of our home or business, they weather and age. As they weather and age, openings can occur. Any opening in your roof is an invitation for water infiltration. And any infiltration of water into your attic or home can lead to wood rot and mold growth. It doesn’t take a whole lot of water for wood rot and mold growth to set in. When the water infiltration isn’t significant enough to be visible in living areas of your home, it’s easy for these things to take hold and do some real damage without you even noticing. Regular inspections of your roof and attic go a long way to catching any problems early and thus saving you a lot of money and hassle.
Clogged Gutters & Water Damage
It’s that time of the year when leaves are falling from the trees and filling our gutters. It’s important to clean your gutters and remove the leaves, in order to prevent water problems in the winter and spring. Gutters clogged with leaves can cause 2 different water problems.
If your gutters are clogged with leaves, water from rain or melting snow cannot freely flow off your roof and an ice dam can form when the temperature dips below freezing. An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents additional melting snow from draining off the roof. As snow melts from your roof, either by the heat of the sun, or by heat escaping from your home, it tends to refreeze at the edges and other juncture points of your roof. The refreezing water has a damming effect creating an even bigger ice dam behind it. Continuous feeding of the ice dam by melting and refreezing snow melt can cause significant damage. As the water seeps under shingles it refreezes, expanding and creating an even bigger gap for future drainage to fill and further the cycle. Your shingles are being raised and eventually the water that backs up behind the dam, and underneath the shingles, can leak into your home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and create a perfect environment for mold growth. In extreme cases we have seen water pouring down into living areas when winter rain falls on the ice dam. To see a graphic of how ice dams work, see our blog post from January 14, 2020.
In warmer weather, clogged gutters can also cause water problems in your basement. In an April 21st, 2020 blog post, we discussed the importance of proper grading around your home to keep water from rain and melting snow flowing away from your foundation and home. Downspouts help to direct rainwater from your roof away from your home. If the gutters are clogged, water can pour over the gutters versus going into the downspouts and flowing away from your home. Water by your foundation is never a good thing. It can compromise your foundation and have a way of finding itself in your basement. In addition, repeated episodes of water pouring over your gutters can cause erosion of the ground around your foundation, which can cause low spots near your foundation furthering the cycle. In that same blog on April 21st, 2020, we shared a great video on the proper slope around your home.
Ideally, you should clean your gutters twice a year, in the spring and in the fall.
National Moldy Cheese Day
October 9th is National Moldy Cheese Day. While an old hunk of cheese sitting around in your refrigerator that has red or brown-tinged mold on it is typically contaminated with bacteria, and is not good for consumption, grey, blue, or green colored moldy cheeses like Roquefort, Brie, bleu and gorgonzola to name a few can be quite tastey. If you have never tried a moldy cheese, your local deli may have a cheesemonger. A cheesemonger is a person who specializes in cheeses, butter, and other dairy products. A cheesemonger can provide expert advice on artisan cheeses for recipes, banquets and sources for restaurants.
While mold on cheese may be a good thing, mold in your home or business is not. Mold is considered a lifeform and it can be found anywhere. During the spring and summer months it is not uncommon for your local weather forecaster to include counts of allergens in the air like pollen and mold. People who suffer from allergies to mold and other outdoor fungi feel their allergies are worse in the late summer than in spring.
The mold spores that are in the air can deposit themselves on just about any surface and grow whenever water or moisture is present. And it doesn’t take a lot of moisture for mold spores to grow. Even condensation on windowsills is enough moisture for mold spores to grow. Therefore, to prevent mold in your home or business it’s important to keep humidity levels at a reasonable level and address any leaks from things like plumbing, roofs, windows etc. as soon as possible.
If you find a mold problem in your home or business we have IICRC certified experts in mold to help you find the source of your problem and safely remove the mold from the building.
National Save Your Photos Day
The last Saturday in September, which this year is the 26th, is National Save Your Photos Day. As a restoration company, we often tell our customers that when you experience a flood or a fire, we can make it "Like it never even happened.” Sadly, photos are one of the few items in your home or business this may not apply to. These valuable memories are perishable. Today is an excellent day to remind yourself to protect your photos should your home or business ever experience a disaster.
When it comes to your digital photos, it is important to have a solid back up plan. Following is a great article on creating a solid back up plan for your digital photos:
As for older printed photos, and/or camera negatives, you can either convert these images to digital images and/or we recommend storing them in a fire and waterproof (or at least resistant) safe. Small fire and waterproof safes start at around $50 at major retailers like Walmart or Costco to name a few.
To convert photos to digital images you can either purchase a photo scanner and scan your photos to digital images yourself, or if you prefer, a quick google search of the topic will yield several companies that will provide this service for you. A few options among many are:
Some local camera stores may provide this service as well.
Mitigation & Rebuild Processes
Pictured is an example of a drywall flood cut in a flooded basement
Did you know that making your water damage disaster “Like it never even happened,” is a two-step process? And that each process is billed separately? The first step is what we call “mitigation”. The second step is what we call “rebuild”.
The first and most important step is mitigation. The definition of mitigation is: “the action of reducing the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something”. In the water restoration industry mitigation is the actual drying of your structure in a timely manner, with timely being the key word.
Drying your structure in a timely manner after a water loss is essential to reducing its severity. Timely drying of your structure prevents something we call “secondary damage” and makes it more likely that we will be able to save versus having to remove parts of your structure. When things like wood, drywall, fabric, carpeting, insulation, and so much more get wet, they need to be dried quickly, to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria, wood rot, leaching, and delamination. (Delamination is a mode of failure where a material fractures into layers.) Once these things happen, very often there is no choice but to remove them.
Our goal in the mitigation process is to dry the structure while saving as much of it as we can with as little disruption as possible. That said, the drying process can require the removal of things like woodwork, cabinets, carpet padding, and more, in-order to get air circulating behind and under them.
Drywall is a perfect example. Our first choice is to completely dry drywall in place. In-order to do this, it is important to get air circulating behind the drywall. Drywall can often feel dry to the touch even though it is not. Things like paint can mask the moisture that is hidden on the back side of the drywall. If that happens, mold and bacteria will start to grow on the backside of the drywall and the building will begin to stink and maybe even become unhealthy. We have special meters that can detect moisture hidden deep within. If we detect moisture on the backside of your drywall our first choice will be to dry it in place. We do this by removing the baseboards, drilling holes in the drywall behind the baseboard and putting special low-profile air movers up to the holes to get air circulating behind the drywall. Once the drywall dries, the baseboard can be put back up. The baseboard will cover the holes and the water damage to the drywall will be "Like it never even happened.”
If, however the drywall is too saturated or has been wet for too long, it may need to be removed. But even then, we do it with as little disruption as possible. We only remove drywall that cannot be saved. When the water has come from the ground up like in a flooded basement situation, this often results in something we call a “flood cut”. This is where we cut and remove only the drywall at the bottom 1/3 of the wall or the drywall that cannot be saved.
The second step after mitigation is to “rebuild”, or put back, everything that has been displaced or completely removed in the mitigation process.
During the rebuild phase, things that were displaced or removed are put back or replaced. In our drywall example above, if we were able to dry the drywall in place, the rebuild phase would involve putting the baseboard back up and thereby covering the holes in the drywall. If any drywall could not be saved and had to be removed like in our flood cut example, new drywall is put up, taped, mudded and the wall painted.
It is important to note that these two steps are truly separate and distinct and are even billed separately. The mitigation process is the part that is most necessary. It prevents further damage and preserves the safety of the structure.
Some water restoration companies do not offer rebuild services. We are a full-service restoration company with in-house carpenters and regular subcontractors for all of our customer’s rebuild needs. Once the mitigation process is complete, we will ask you if you want a bid for the rebuild process. While some property owners choose not rebuild at all, do the work themselves, or have a different contractor they prefer to use for construction jobs, many end up doing the rebuild work with us. But much of it depends upon their level of insurance coverage and their own financial situation.
One of the most common problems we see is an inadequate amount of insurance coverage. Many property owners have adequate coverage to pay for the mitigation process, but they do not have enough to cover the rebuild process. If you want your water damage situation to truly be “Like it never even happened,” talk to your insurance agent today to make sure you have adequate coverage to cover both steps.