Mold Experts: Certified Mold Remediation Firm

Not all mold remediation companies are the same.  Helpers is an IICRC certified firm (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification).   The IICRC is responsible for setting international quality standards for restoration activities from carpet cleaning and water damage restoration to professional mold remediation.  These standards are based upon industry accepted best practices.

Helpers achieved certification by meeting rigorous requirements set by the IICRC.  Our technicians participate in ongoing, specialized training.  We are committed to provide our customers with exceptional services that meet the highest consumer protection standards set by the IICRC.   We don’t cut corners.

You can be confident that Helpers will restore your home or property to healthful living standards.  Look for the IICRC logo when selecting a disaster restoration company to insure you are getting the very best service and care for your property.   Only certified remediation firms can use the Clean Trust Certified logo.

The following is taken from the IICRC website and lists the requirements that Helpers is committed to:

IICRC Certified Firms have earned the right to display the IICRC logo as a symbol of quality. In order to achieve IICRC-certified status, firms must meet a rigorous list of standards in business ethics and expertise. All IICRC Certified Firms must:

  • Present accurate information to consumers and conduct business with honesty and integrity.
  • Require a technician on all jobs who has been formally trained and passed all required tests.
  • Require a continuing education program to keep technicians up-to-date on the latest changes in the industry.
  • Maintain liability insurance to protect all parties in the event of an accident.
  • Maintain a written complaint policy and agree to Better Business Bureau or similar arbitration to resolve disputes, and accept the conclusions and recommendations of arbitration.

Ridding Your Home of the “Smoke” Odor After a Fire: Five Steps Your Remediation Company Should Take

Fire DamageIf you have ever experienced a fire in your home or business you know that putting the fire out is only the beginning of the recovery process.  After the fire department leaves, your property will be drenched with water from the fire fighting efforts and the smell of smoke will be evident in just about all of your property contents and spaces.  With proper remediation steps, it is possible to recover your home and get rid of any lingering smoke odor.

Clay Buerger, Project Supervisor, and Helpers’ fire remediation specialist, put together a list of the top five things our remediation company will do to help restore your property to its former condition and make sure the evidence of smoke related smells are removed.

 

Five Important Smoke Odor Fixes

1. Charred and/or smoke damaged, porous materials will be removed, including any charred building or structural materials.  These will be replaced in the reconstruction process. Heavily damaged and charred materials will continue to off-gas for extended periods, expelling odor and as a result can keep the smokey smell around.

2. Ducting, HVAC, and furnaces are professionally cleaned as smoke can easily enter these hidden areas. Fire pressurizes the property interior, forcing microscopic smoke particles into ducting and furnaces that will continue to recontaminate the home with smoke odor if not properly cleaned.

3. The entire property is HEPA vacuumed.  HEPA filtration equipped vacuums will lift and capture the microscopic smoke particles that can coat every surface within your home or business following a fire. These particles must be physically removed and HEPA vacuuming is an effective way to accomplish that.

4.  All smoke and fire damaged, fibrous, structural materials will be encapsulated.  Materials continue to release odors for long periods of time.  Sealing the structure with a specialized shellac product contains odors.

5.  The entire space will be treated with thermal fogging.   This helps to further eliminate odor.  This process involves thermal fogging with both a Masking and Pairing agent.  These environmentally safe chemicals, fill the smallest spaces found in building materials.  The pairing agent, will chemically alter the odor molecules. The masking agent adds a desired odor to the home, helping overcome the smell many fire loss victims are challenged with.

Trust Our Experience

Helpers’ has experience with successful smoke and fire remediation.  Our team is always sensitive to your unique situation and the impact that such as event can have on you and your family.  We work with you to make sure the process is as easy and efficient as possible, supporting you from start to finish and navigating the complicated insurance claim process.  If you have any questions about Helpers Fire Remediation services, please contact Clay at clay@helpers.solutions.

Does Your Insurance Cover Water Damage in Your Home: 5 Things You Should Know

Photo by L Church
Photo by L Church

Indoor plumbing is a modern convenience that first appeared in homes in the late 1800’s.  When everything goes right, it brings you your hot shower and fresh drinking water.   However, when things go wrong, such as a ruptured water line, failed hot water tank or overflowing toilet, water can wreak havoc in you home.

These unexpected events are more common than you may think and can be very costly to clean up and repair.  Fortunately, the majority of home owner’s insurance policies have coverage for sudden, accidental water events.   There are instances however, such as neglected maintenance or failure to fix a leak the first time you have water damage that can lead to a loss of coverage.  Check out these five important tips to make sure your water loss is covered.

Keep Your Homeowner’s or Renter’s Insurance Current:   Your home and your possessions likely represent one of your most significant investments and are where a majority of your wealth lies.   More often than you might guess, homeowners and renters find themselves without insurance coverage following a damaging water event.  Missing payments and letting policies lapse are common causes of lost coverage.

Make sure you have a plan in place to monitor your insurance coverage (eg. when premiums are due, when your policy is due for renewal, what your coverage is).

Don’t Defer General Home Maintenance:   Besides just making good sense, preventative maintenance may be effective enough to eliminate water events altogether.  Checking pipes for leaks, making sure plumbing fixtures are installed properly and monitoring the condition of your roof can be small steps to prevent much larger repair and replacement steps down the road.

Knowing the most common as well as the less known areas of maintenance are important.  “Most homeowners and business owners may not realize that they are responsible for the maintenance and repair of their house or sewer lateral – the pipeline between the city sanitary sewer main, usually located under the street, and the building”, sources at The Insurance Institute report.

Insurance coverage may not pay for the repair of damage caused by leaks that have been ongoing and not repaired.  It is important to repair any water damage or leaks as soon as possible after they occur, rather than allow several events to happen before making the repair.  Otherwise, you may end up paying the bill.

Make Sure You Have Coverage for Septic or Sewage Back Up:  Many policies may not include damage related to sewer back up.  Often, this type of coverage is a add-on to your policy at a relatively low cost of $40-$50 per year according to several insurance websites.  Sewer back ups are one of the more common water events our company sees throughout the year.

Report Water Damage as Soon as Possible:  When you discover water damage in your home, you should call your insurance company as soon as possible.  They will initiate a claim on your behalf and will often provide a local insurance adjuster to review and approve your claim.  Timely reporting will give you the best opportunity for coverage as well as expedite the restoration of repair of the damage to your home.

Team up With Your Mitigation Company:   Dealing with insurance companies can be time consuming and challenging.  Your professional mitigation company  will work directly with your insurance adjuster, on and off-site, to make sure you receive the full coverage you are entitled to.

Experienced technicians speak “insurance language” and are knowledgeable regarding industry standards for water mitigation services and repair.  They can assist you in understanding the entire claim’s process.  We recommend not accepting any insurance settlement offer for your property damage without first consulting a professional mitigation company to make sure that you and your insurance adjuster, fully understand the extent of damage and the likely cost of repairing your home back to pre-event condition.

 

5 Facts About Asbestos

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(by guest blogger: Michelle Whitmer)  Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that’s been used to fireproof and strengthen commercial and industrial products since the 1800s.  It prevents fire and makes products safer to use around heat.  Controversy around the use of asbestos arose from the discovery that it is a carcinogen-it has been linked to cancer and other diseases. Mesothelioma

Asbestos exposure has no immediate effect. Asbestos-related diseases develop many years after exposure. For example, it takes at least 10 years for asbestosis to develop and several decades for cancer to develop.   As a result of the toxic effects of asbestos, strict regulatory controls have been implemented to protect the public from it’s harmful effects.
The following facts explain more about the risks of exposure, how to avoid asbestos products and what can be done for people who get sick.
Asbestos Not Banned in the US
The U.S. government passed regulations targeted at asbestos in the 1970s and 1980s.  The Clean Air Act of 1970 gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) power to regulate asbestos. It also effectively banned one of the most dangerous products: Spray-applied asbestos. The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 allowed the EPA to further regulate asbestos. In 1986, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act forced the EPA to design protocols to manage asbestos in schools.
More than 50 countries have banned asbestos but the U.S. is not one of them. The EPA attempted to enact a ban in 1989, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned it in 1991.  Asbestos remains in products, including auto brake pads and clutches, gaskets, roofing materials and other construction products, fireproof clothing and friction materials.
Asbestos is Primarily Used as Insulation
Asbestos was most commonly used as an insulating material to protect products from heat damage and prevent fire. Different types of asbestos insulation include:

• Loose-fill or attic
• Wall
• Spray-applied
• Block
• Pipe
• Cement
• Valve jackets
• Textiles
• Paper products

It is impossible to identify whether a product contains asbestos through visual inspection alone. Laboratory testing is required to confirm presence of asbestos, which takes days to process. For safety, it is highly recommended to treat these insulation products as if they contain asbestos until testing demonstrates that it does not.
If you encounter insulating materials at home or on the job, make sure they’re in good condition and don’t do anything to damage or disturb them. If the insulation looks damaged or is deteriorating, call a licensed asbestos abatement company or a certified building inspector to assess the situation.
Asbestos Was Widely Used by US Military
Every branch of the U.S. military, including the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy, used asbestos-containing materials (ACM).   The Air Force used asbestos insulation on planes. The Army used asbestos parts in armored vehicles. The Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps used asbestos to make ships and shipyards fireproof.   All branches used asbestos insulation throughout their buildings, barracks and housing communities.
Because asbestos exposure was so prevalent in the military, around 30 percent of mesothelioma lawsuits are filed by veterans.
 Occupational Exposure Posed Greatest Health Risk
People who work with asbestos regularly on the job are the ones who face the greatest health risk.  It generally takes years of repeated exposure to become at risk for developing an asbestos-related disease. However, minimal exposure, such as a heavy one-time exposure or just a few months of exposure, has caused disease in some people.
About 20% of people who work with asbestos develop a related disease. The vast majority do not experience negative effects from exposure and it is speculated that those who do may have genetic predisposition.
There is Currently No Cure for Asbestos-Related Diseases
Unfortunately, there are no cures for asbestos-related diseases. Life Expectancy Only early-stage lung cancer and ovarian cancer have a chance of being cured with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.  Sadly, only a handful of mesothelioma cases have entered long-term remission, but most cases are incurable. If diagnosed early, aggressive treatment helps people outlive the 1-year average life expectancy. Some people are living more than three and five years with combined treatment using surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy.
Asbestosis is a progressive lung disease that is incurable, but treatments are available to ease symptoms. Oxygen therapy alleviates shortness of breath, medication thins lung secretions and reduce pain, and respiratory therapy helps to keep the lungs clear.

Asbestos exposures should be taking seriously.  Although most people exposed to asbestos do not get sick, those who do face serious illness. Avoiding asbestos materials throughout a lifetime is essential to reducing your risk of developing a related disease. Take necessary precautions and complete necessary testing if you encounter or suspect materials contain asbestos.
Author bio: Michelle Whitmer has been a medical writer and editor for The Mesothelioma Center since 2008. Focused on the benefits of integrative medicine for cancer patients, Michelle is a certified yoga instructor, member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine and graduated from Rollins College in Florida.  Edited by Julie Warren.

Proper Cleaning of Contaminated Flood Events in Your Home: Carpet Cleaning is not Enough

E Coli Bacteria

Sewer overflows and back-ups are common property water emergencies.   Proper remediation of your home is essential to restore a healthful and safe environment for occupants.  Restoration procedures for these types of events are often extensive and costly.  Understandably, consumers want to make sure they are getting the right service for their money and not getting taken for a ride.   What do you need to know to make sure the job is done right?

Understanding the Situation

The type of water introduced to your home environment during these events, in our industry, is labelled Category 3 water.  Each category of water (there are three) has its own remediation standards and risk ratings.  Category 3 water is defined as ” …grossly unsanitary, and could cause severe illness or death if ingested.  Sources for category 3 water include, but are not limited to, sewage; flooding from rivers or streams; wind-driven rain, water from beyond the toilet trap; water from the toilet bowl with feces [basement ejector pumps]; and standing water that has begun to support microbial growth.”

Often, this water may appear mostly clear, and homeowners might assume that is not actually “dirty water”.  Appearances can be deceiving.   According to one definition, sewage consists mostly of grey water (from sinks, tubs, showers, dishwashers, and clothes washers), black water (the water used to flush toilets, combined with the human waste that it flushes away); soaps and detergents; and toilet paper.  Even though this flood water may not contain obvious feces (although it can), the connection to your septic and home waste removal system, creates a pathway for the introduction of bacteria and contaminates none-the-less.  Ejector pumps for example, often clear waste water from lower level bathrooms where traditional plumbing in not available.  The basins for these pumps contain raw, untreated, sewage.

Is Carpet Cleaning Enough?

Depending upon the surface exposure to contaminated water and the nature of the material, it is recommended by industry experts, that “[Remediation Companies] remove and dispose of carpet and carpet pad from all affected areas and remove and discard all contaminated porous and semi-porous structural materials (e.g. wooden baseboard, saturated drywall and wall coverings)”.  Materials not removed, may remain impregnated with the contaminants from sewage (e.g. viruses, bacteria (including e-coli), and fungi) .  Beyond the obvious risk of exposure to these substances, a fertile ground for mold growth can be created.

Frequently, we will meet customers who have had category three water events in their home and have merely extracted the water and steam cleaned the carpets.   A remediation specialist who proposes that this is sufficient, in an attempt to save you money, is not really doing you any favors.  As industry experts, certified technicians, know that this falls short of the recommended steps for a safe and complete home restoration.  The cost of full restoration, may lead consumers to make decisions that can leave their homes and its inhabitants at risk.

According to the Carpet Buyers Handbook, “This type of flooding [unsanitary water] can produce serious health effects…All floor covering materials must be discarded and other surfaces should be carefully evaluated.”   In fact, only in instances of sanitary water leaks, is extraction of water sufficient if handled immediately.

What are the Recommended Steps?

Our industry standards of care are taken from the ANSI/IICRC S500 and S520 guidelines for professional water damage restoration (The American National Standards Institute/Institute of Inspection and Cleaning and Restoration Certification).  To properly address a Category 3 water event, your remediation specialist should:

  1. Locate the source of the water and stop any further intrusion. It may be required to contact a professional plumber or other contractor.
  2. Protect furniture and personal items.
  3. Extract water from carpet and/or pad using a sub-surface extraction tool.
  4. Apply a biocide to all affected surfaces to help prevent and retard the growth of microbials.
  5. Remove and dispose of carpet and carpet pad from all affected areas. Remove and discard all contaminated porous and semi-porous structural materials.
  6. Inspect all areas that water may have traveled. Document all moisture levels in affected areas.
  7. Install air movers (approx. every 10-15 linear feet) and dehumidifiers. All air movers should be blowing in the same direction.
  8. Monitor job daily. Record all drying data and keep accurate records.
  9. Reinstall carpet with new pad after drying is complete.
  10. Replace all structure materials that were removed.
  11. After drying is complete, all affected areas will need to be cleaned.

 

Because all water events are unique, Helpers will assess a home flood to determine the source and the extent of work that should be completed to insure full restoration.  These standards are well known within our industry and established by our certification body.  Carpet cleaning and extraction may be sufficient for clean water floods, such as with an over-filled tub or a burst pipe, however, if the source is more nefarious, make sure you know what the proper procedures are.  Helpers’ mission is to restore your home to pre-event health and safety.  We wouldn’t cut corners in our own homes and we won’t cut corners in yours.

 

What is Professional Mold Remediation: 6 Tips to Make Sure Your Mold Problem is Handled Properly

 

mold

As a home owner faced with the discovery of mold in your home, it can seem overwhelming to figure out what needs to be done.  Mold growth can have many negative impacts from significant health problems to the delay or failure of  the sale of your home.  Here are some tips to help you understand the process and make sure that your mold problem is being dealt with properly and no corners are being cut.

1  Why is Mold a big deal?  According to the EPA, molds are part of the natural environment, and can be found everywhere, indoors and outdoors (including dry climates). Mold is not usually a problem, unless it begins growing indoors.  Molds have the potential to cause health problems. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions) and irritants. Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash.  These reactions are common.

Indoor Air Quality specialists can assess your home for the presence of unhealthy levels of mold spores.  Mold can be hidden behind walls, in attics or rarely entered crawl spaces.  A home inspection during the sale of a home is often how mold is discovered which is why a thorough home inspection before buying a home is a good idea.  Mold remediation can cost thousands of dollars and often this cost becomes the responsibility of the home seller.

2  Indoor Mold Growth = A Water Problem.  If you have mold growing indoors, it means you have a water problem.  In order to eliminate mold and prevent grow-back your remediation company must identify and repair the water source.  This could be as simple as fixing a leaking pipe or more complex such as adding air circulation and venting to attics or crawl spaces, the lack of which is a very common cause of mold growth.

3  Don’t Skip Air Quality Tests.  Passing an air quality test following mold remediation is an essential step to make sure your mold issue has been properly addressed.  Some remediation companies will not include air quality tests in their services (this is a red flag).  Make sure that a post-mitigation, professional air quality test from a third party company is included in your mold remediation bid.  Without it you cannot know with certainty that the health risks of mold are gone and that it was mitigated properly.  If mold remediation is a condition of a home purchase, make sure you ask for a copy of the mold clearance test from the home seller.

4  How Should Your Mold Remediation Company Handle Your Mold?  There is a lot of mis-information about mold and how to best get rid of it.  Part of that comes from companies who do not follow industry standards or who are misrepresenting the use of certain mold remediation techniques.  This industry is pretty lucrative and many companies add-on mold remediation services without certification or proper training (we recommend using only Certified Mold Remediation companies).

Professional, certified companies will follow these steps:

  • Identify and repair the source of water leading to mold growth.
  • Dehumidify the area to return humidity to healthy levels.
  • Contain the mold BEFORE disturbing it to prevent it from spreading to other locations in your home.  A containment area will be constructed out of protective plastic sheeting and include negative air flow to suck mold spores out of the air so they don’t circulate throughout your home.
  • Contaminated, non-structural materials are bagged and removed e.g. drywall, floor coverings, insulation
  • Treat the mold with a biodegradable, “green” agent that will lift it off of the surface to allow for the removal of mold.  In larger or densely effected areas, wire brushing or high pressured baking soda-blasting, may be used (in our opinion, this is clearly the best option for removal).
  • The entire contained area will be HEPA Vacuumed (a specialized vacuum with a filter on it that captures the mold).
  • The area will then be wiped down with microfiber clothes using an anti-microbial agent.
  • An anti-microbial agent will then be sprayed on all surfaces as a final protective measure.
  • Bring in an Indoor Air Quality inspector from a third party company to test the surface and/or air.

If your remediation company skips these steps your mold problem may not have been handled as completely as is recommended by industry standards.

5  Why is it so Expensive?  Professional remediation companies will follow industry standards to insure that the job is done right.  Those standards not only dictate the processes that must be followed but also the number and type of machines necessary (eg. air scrubbers, air movers and dehumidifiers) and how long they run to achieve necessary air quality (IICRC S-520).  OSHA also regulates the types of protective equipment that must be used during mold remediation (e.g. respirators, suits, supplies).

Pricing, as a standard, is set by the insurance industry through a software program called Xactamate.  These costs are set by zip code.  If your remediation company uses Xactamate in the estimating process they have agreed to accept this pricing structure.

During mold remediation, every square inch of contaminated area will touched a minimum of three times.  This can be a significant amount of area to cover.  If for example, an attic and all of the support structures have mold growth, you can imagine how time consuming and involved touching the whole area that many times can be.  This degree of thoroughness is necessary to properly remove mold.

6  Beware the Low Bidder.  We have discussed this before in a separate blog post, but it is definitely worth repeating.  If the bid is low and all your remediation company is offering to do is spray the mold with a serum or fog the area with a chemical…that is an incomplete service (review the above steps).  Mold must be removed even with the use of these agents.  If you are buying a home and are requesting mold mitigation be completed before you buy the home, make sure it has been mitigated properly.

Sadly, we often see homeowners hiring companies that suggest that spraying or fogging mold with these chemicals or serums will “kill”it.  Even if a chemical agent could kill mold (most manufacturers of these products do not make these claims) the remaining “dead” mold is still toxic.  Leaving this material behind can leave health hazards behind.  Mold must be removed in all circumstances.  Period.

Low estimates, in the majority of cases, fail to include all of the recommended steps.  If you have any questions about your mold project, Helpers certified technicians are available.  Helpers is a Certified Mold Remediation Company and follows industry standards with all of our mold remediation projects.

Mold: 5 Tips to Prevent Mold in Your Home

When moisture is present, mold can grow in as little as 24-48 hours. Poor ventilation, water leaks, and high humidity can all contribute to mold growth.

Here are 5 tips to prevent mold in your home:

1. Inspect the grading around your home foundation to make sure it allows water to run away from the home and not pool around it.
2. Make sure attic and crawl spaces are properly ventilated. Poor ventilation in these areas either from blocked or closed vents is a common culprit in mold growth.
3. If water or condensation builds up around windows, clean up the water immediately.
4. Keep indoor humidity between 30-50%. Use bathroom vent fans when you shower.
5. Insulate pipes to prevent freezing and leaks.

Soda Blast #2_resized
Before and After: The fresh wood has been treated with soda blasting to remove the mold. The darker wood is the untreated wood.