Recent Posts

April Showers Bring...Water in Your Basement

4/16/2018 (Permalink)

While the old saying “April showers bring May flowers” may be true; April showers (and even April snow storms!) can also bring water in your basement.

This time of the year water in your basement typically comes from one of the following sources:

  1. Water leaks in from the outside through a basement window or other opening
  2. Water overflows from your sump pump crock as the result of failed sump pump
  3. Water seeps up through cracks in your concrete floor or foundation, again as the result of a failed sump pump
  4. Your sewer system backs up into your basement

But did you know that a standard homeowner’s insurance policy will not provide coverage for water damage caused by any of these four sources?!  However, coverage for three of the four can be easily and inexpensively added on to a standard homeowner’s policy in the form of what’s called an endorsement.  When this type of endorsement is active, it provides coverage of property damage caused by water that has managed to back up into your home from pipes, sewer systems, drains, sump pumps, water-service, or any additional system that transfers fluids to and from your home. 

Now is an excellent time to check with your homeowner’s insurance agent to ensure you have this very important coverage!  And for more on sump pumps and how they work, see our blog post from February 1, 2018.     

Sump Pump Failure & Homeowner's Insurance

2/2/2018 (Permalink)

Yesterday we talked about sump pumps; how they work and why they’re important.  Now imagine the potential damage to your home should your sump pump stop working for any reason; whether it be due to a power failure during a spring storm, or the simple mechanical failure of the pump itself.  Without a functioning pump to pump the water out of your sump crock, and up out of your home, the crock will overflow into your basement, soaking your carpet and drywall if your basement is finished, and possibly destroying furniture, important documents and anything else you may have stored in your basement.  And depending upon things like the water table and soil conditions in your area, the elevation of your home, and the amount of time the pump is out of order, the amount of water can be significant, causing havoc even in an unfinished basement.        

Many people may assume that their homeowner’s insurance will cover this type of damage.  But did you know that in most cases, a standard homeowner’s insurance policy does not provide coverage for water damage caused by sump pump failure.  However, this type of coverage can be very affordable and can easily be added on to your standard homeowner’s policy in the form of what’s called an endorsement.  When this type of endorsement is active, it provides for coverage of property damage caused by water that has managed to back up and into your home from pipes, sewer systems, drains, sump pumps, water-service, or any additional system that transfers fluids to and from your home.  Now is a perfect time of the year to check with your insurance agent to see if you have this important coverage, and if not, to add it before the heavy spring rains.    

Sump Pumps: How they Work & Why they're Important

2/1/2018 (Permalink)

In our January 18th blog post entitled “Landscape Grading & Keeping your Basement Dry”, we talked about surface water runoff and the importance of keeping it flowing away from your home in-order to keep your basement dry.  But did you know that water below ground can also be a threat to your foundation?  That’s where your sump pump comes in. 

In-order to understand how a sump pump works and why it’s important, it’s helpful to first understand the home building process.  After a hole is dug by an excavator for a basement, the next step is to put in foundation footings.  Foundation footings in Wisconsin are typically a poured cement slab, often reinforced with rebar.  The footings are poured into the excavated trench essentially in an outline of the foundation walls.  The footings provide a foundation upon which the cement bricks of the foundation will be laid, or upon which the cement walls of the foundation will be poured, depending on the type of basement wall construction used.  The soil upon which these footings are poured needs to stay at a consistent moisture level to prevent settlement, heave, or differential movement.  That’s where the sump pump and it’s supporting system comes into play.

A drain system is installed around the perimeter of the foundation/footings.  This drain system is essentially a system of pipes (surrounded by crushed stone) with holes in the top that collect water that is heading towards the foundation walls.  The water that is collected in these pipes is redirected into a sump crock in the basement, where a pump then pumps the water up and out of the basement.  Proper installation and maintenance of this entire system is essential to keeping a basement dry and stable. 

Deodorizing Your Refrigerator

1/31/2018 (Permalink)

"To deodorize refrigerators, leave a bowl filled with clean clay cat litter or charcoal on the shelf to absorb odors.  This is particularly helpful in refrigerators that are going to be shut off or moved.  Make sure you leave the door partially open at all times to allow air circulation, and put some litter or charcoal in an old nylon stocking and tie the top shut.  Lay this in the refrigerator and it will control odors.  For strong odors, nothing works better than dry, fresh coffee grounds.  Put them in a bowl and leave in the refrigerator until odor disappears.  This can be used in conjunction with the cat litter or charcoal very effectively."  Source:  Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean by Linda Cobb  

Cleaning After a Trauma or Death

1/31/2018 (Permalink)

Injury, trauma, and even death, are a difficult but inevitable part of life.  And, unfortunately sometimes these events take place in the home.  Cleaning up can be emotionally challenging, not to mention dangerous if blood and/or other bodily fluids are involved.  Did you know that our cleaning experts can handle any of these situations?  We will treat your property and the people involved with the greatest empathy and respect in the face of trying circumstances and we will remove the burden of having to clean up.  We will remove and dispose of bodily fluids, tissue and other potentially pathogenic substances.  Then we will clean, disinfect and deodorize the structure. 

And if your home has become the scene of a crime, we can handle that too.  Our experts can clean up things like:  fingerprint powder, evidence-gathering chemicals, tear gas & pepper spray residues, and fire extinguisher residues.   

Flooding & Flood Insurance

1/30/2018 (Permalink)

Soon it will be that time of year when flooding will be all over the news.  Did you know that a standard homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover damage from flooding?  Water coming into your home or business from the outside, through a basement window or other opening due to excessive rain or rising bodies of lake, rivers, streams, etcetera, typically falls under the category of a flood, and most homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover floods.  According to a 2016 poll conducted by the insurance information institute, only 12 percent of homeowner’s have flood insurance.    

How can you protect yourself?  The first step is to make sure that your yard is properly graded so that excessive rain, and any standing water resulting from excessive rain, flows away from, and not towards your house.  For more information on this, see our January 18, 2018 blog posted titled “Landscape Grading & Keeping your Basement Dry”

The second step is to determine if your home is in a flood plain.  If it is, you are at risk of flooding from rising bodies of nearby lakes, rivers, streams, etcetera.  FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) can provide you with information you need regarding flooding.  They provide copies of the latest and most up-to-date flood zone maps for most communities.  You can start by going to:  Here you will be able to type in the address of your property, hit “search” and then click on “view web map”.  If you have any questions, or suspect that your property may be in a flood plain, talk to your insurance agent.  You may be able to buy a separate flood policy through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  Talk to your insurance agent about this very important coverage and what your risks are.  Not all areas of a flood plain have the same risk.

Having flood insurance, if it makes sense for your property, will allow you to get our experts in quickly to dry out your floors, walls, furniture and other belongings.  When it comes to water damage, a fast response is important to keep costs down and prevent the growth of mold or other secondary damage.        

Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce Business Expo

1/30/2018 (Permalink)

Our very own Marketing Manager, Joe Leadly had some fun last week at the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce Business Expo.  

Mold Removal & Containment

1/30/2018 (Permalink)

Did you know that mold reproduces by means of tiny, lightweight spores that travel through the air?  Mold spores can be compared to a mature dandelion that has gone to seed.  All you need to do is gently blow on a dandelion that has gone to seed, and the seeds go floating through the air looking for a new place to land and grow.  Mold spores act the same way.  That’s why a small mold problem in your home or business can easily turn into a large mold problem if not treated properly.  Our experts at SERVPRO of Appleton know how to treat your mold problem to prevent it from spreading.

The first thing we do before any work begins is to build what we call a containment.  This containment is a sealed off area around the mold problem built out of plastic.  It seals the area around the mold problem so that mold spores that are disturbed during the removal process are contained and do not travel to other areas of your home or business.

Mold spores in the air during the removal process are almost inevitable.  This means that we will also run a commercial air scrubber within the containment area during and after the removal process. An air scrubber is a portable filtration system that removes particles, gasses, and/or chemicals (including mold spores) from the air within a given area. 

Any building materials such as drywall, wood, or insulation, that has been affected by mold, and needs to be removed, is placed in a bag and sealed while still within the containment area before it is removed.  In addition, crew members working in the containment area are vacuumed with a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuum before exiting the containment area.  HEPA vacuums differ from conventional vacuums in that they contain filters that are capable of trapping extremely small, micron-sized particles. 

Keep in mind that many mold issues are uncovered during remodel or construction projects.  It’s not uncommon in these situations, for the contractor you’ve hired for the construction project, to attempt to mitigate the mold themselves.  This can be dangerous because they often don’t understand mold the way we do and don’t follow the necessary steps to prevent contaminating your whole home or business.  If you encounter mold during a construction project, stop work immediately and contact the experts at SERVPRO of Appleton for professional advice or assistance.  Our mold removal and mitigation process is so precise, that most of the hospitals and medical facilities in the Fox Valley use us when they have a mold issue.  And if they trust us with their mold issues, you can too. 

Have Your Carpets Cleaned for Valentine's Day

1/24/2018 (Permalink)

Valentine's Day is fast approaching. The exact origins of Valentine's Day are difficult to determine as there were multiple Saint Valentines, and evolutions of the holiday go all the way back to the Roman Empire.  However, many scholars believe that the saint for whom the modern holiday derived, was a bishop who lived around 270 AD in Rome.

At that time, the Roman empire was in crisis under Emperor Claudius II.  They were facing internal struggles like increased taxation and declining education, as well as external aggression on all their borders. As a result, more soldiers needed to be recruited to protect the nation from takeover.  Claudius believed that married men made weak soldiers because of their emotional attachment to their families. So he issued an edict forbidding soldiers from marrying.  It is believed that Bishop Valentine performed secret marriage ceremonies of soldiers in opposition to edict forbidding it. Eventually Bishop Valentine's secret marriage ceremonies were discovered, and Claudius had Bishop Valentine arrested and executed.

If you're planning a romantic evening at home for you and your significant other this Valentine's Day, let SERVPRO of Appleton give your carpet and/or home a deep clean before the big day. Nothing kills a romantic mood like a dirty home and carpets.  

Landscape Grading & Water in your Basement

1/18/2018 (Permalink)

It's hard to imagine right now, but spring will be here before you know it.  And while spring may be a welcome sight for many of us, it isn't without it's problems.  Many of you will find wet foundation walls or even water in your basement during the spring thaw.  There are a couple of reasons why this might happen.  One of them is something many of us never think about and that's the grading of our yards.  

According to Wikipedia, "Grading in civil engineering and landscape architectural construction is the work of ensuring a level base, or one with a specified slope for a construction work such as a foundation, the base course for a road or railway, or landscape and garden improvements, or surface drainage."

It is important that the ground around your home slopes away from your foundation so that water, or surface drainage, from heavy rains or melting snow, runs away from your foundation and your home.  Ground that is flat or slopes toward your foundation is a recipe for wet basement walls or water in your basement.   

Proper slope and surface drainage is something that should be checked periodically.  Ground shifts and settles with freezing and thawing, erosion and other impacts of nature.  Settling ground is particularly pronounced in newer homes where the ground has recently been disturbed to build the home.  The ground will compress or settle downward.  Evidence of this will be more visually apparent in sinking walk ways or patios, but may not be as obvious in the ground around the foundation of the home as it is often hidden by shrubs and plants in landscape beds.  It's important to check for proper slope every year or so and fill in with dirt if necessary to help keep your foundation walls and basement dry.

What is the proper slope away from your foundation?  The consensus seems to be 6 inches for the first 10 feet extending out from your foundation.  This translates to a slope of 5%. According to the Spruce,  

"To find the slope away from your foundation, you will need:

  • Some string (at least 12 feet long)
  • 2 stakes (we will call them "A" and "B"), and something to pound them into the ground
  • A string level (that is, a type of level designed to fit on a piece of string)
  • A tape measure

Do You Already Have the Correct Slope?

Using the above supplies, take the following steps to determine if sufficient slope currently exists:

  1. Tie one end of the string loosely around stake A.
  2. Pound stake A into the ground right near your foundation
  3. Slide the string down stake A, so that it rests at ground level
  4. Tie the other end of the string loosely around stake B.
  5. Now measure out 10 feet down the slope from stake A, and pound stake B into the ground there (if there is excess string, just wrap it around stake B). The string between the stakes should be fairly taut, but still adjustable.
  6. Slide the string up or down stake B, so as to make it roughly level.
  7. Put the string level on the string, at about the mid-point between the stakes.
  8. Now adjust the string up or down on stake B, so as to make it exactly level.
  9. Measure the distance from the string on stake B to the ground. Is the measurement 6 inches or more?" 

And if you do find yourself with wet foundation walls or a wet basement, SERVPRO of Appleton is always here to help.