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.

The Risks of Being an Uninsured Renter: You Could Lose it All

Did youmud sink by dark day know that if you rent a home or commercial space every item that you moved into that space is at risk for losses from fire, theft or flood, unless you purchase renters’ insurance?   That’s right…no matter the origin of the damage, your personal property is not covered under the property owner’s insurance.

We have seen first hand renters’ lose all of their property following a home fire because they did not purchase renters’ insurance.   One of our clients had significant smoke damage to her personal property after badly burning a turkey in her oven.  She was unable to afford the cost of replacing and repairing her damaged furnishings, and without renters’ insurance, she had no options but to swallow the loss.

Another client experienced a flood in their basement level rental.  Even though the flood came from a damaged water main, his personal items were still a total loss because he did not have insurance.  His landlord did have insurance..but this only protected the landlord’s property.

Another benefit of renters’ insurance is that should you be forced to temporarily move out of your home because of a significant event, often your insurance will cover the costs of moving you out and housing you while your home is repaired.  Coverage will also usually pay to clean, repair or replace your damaged property.

Some landlords make it mandatory that their tenants purchase insurance.  For as little as $10.00 to $30.00 a month, you can protect yourself from a catastrophic loss.  Don’t leave your property and piece of mind at risk.  Talk to your insurance agent today to find out more about renter’s insurance.

Disclaimer: Depending upon your personal needs and the terms of the coverage purchased the amount of coverage you are eligible for may vary. Helpers has no affiliation with any insurance broker, agent or carrier and does not profit in any manner from the provision of this advice.  We strongly advise you to contact a licensed insurance broker to learn more about the coverage options that are best for you.

5 Point Winter Checklist: Water Emergency Prevention

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Brrrr.  The temperature is starting to drop outside, with the first official frost of the season on its’ way.  Are you ready?  More importantly, is your home ready?

It is no coincidence that winter time is Helpers’ busiest time of the year for indoor flood calls.   Plummeting temperatures, lack of preparation or deferred maintenance can put your property at risk.

Check out this 5 Point Checklist to run through to help prepare your home for the winter:

Maintain Outdoor Plumbing Fixtures:  Outdoor hose spigots are a significant source of home water damange in the winter.  If you have an indoor shut off control make sure you turn this off and follow any instructions to drain lines before freezing temperatures arrive.  If you cannot turn spigots off internally, you can replace them with freeze and frost proof spigots or cover them with foam faucet covers to prevent freezing. This includes outdoor showers or dog washes (if you are lucky enough to have them).

Insulate Piping:  Any plumbing that is located in an unheated area of your home such as an attic, basement  crawl space or garage, as well as pipes that are located close to an exterior wall, are at greater risk for freezing.  Installing foam pipe insulation can help reduce freezing risk.

Kitchen plumbing located on an exterior wall can be warmed on really cold nights by opening the cabinet doors and letting additional heat in.    If you live in an older home or have areas of your home that have poor insulation, you can add foam or fiberglass insulation to hold in the heat.  Caulking and spray foam can be used in smaller spaces to keep the cold out.

Protect Your Home When You Are Away:  Planning on escaping the cold for a warmer destination?   Make sure your home will be safe while you are away.  Houselogic recommends setting your thermostat no lower than 55 degrees and turning off your main water supply. They also suggest draining your water lines by running water and flushing toilets.  If you have a heating system that relies on water or a fire suppression sprinkler system, consult a plumber before you take this step.

Clean Your Eaves-troughs:  Your eaves-troughs can clog with leaves and other debris creating dams for water.  These dams can freeze and expand which can not only damage the troughs themselves, but can also cause water to back up into your home.  If you have a low sun exposure area, you can add heat tape the length of a drain pipe, eave or in an area of the roof line to prevent ice build up.

Close Crawl Space Vents:  During the summer, moisture build-up in crawls spaces is prevented by opening vents located around the perimeter of the space.  Because winter months tend to be dryer, starting around October, these vents can be closed in the winter to reduce cold air entering your home.  Be sure to open them back up in the spring before moisture can begin to build up in the space.  Also, DO NOT close off any venting that is installed to vent furnaces or appliances!

 

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

 

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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.

Complete Mold Remediation: Fogging vs. Removal

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The prospect of removing mold growth from your home can seem overwhelming and expensive. Different mitigation companies may offer different methods for mitigating mold, but which one is the most effective?

Some companies will suggest that fogging or spraying the mold with chemicals to “kill” it is sufficient for correcting your mold problem. Complicating matters further, these bids will seem attractive as they are usually significantly lower than a complete remediation estimate. This is understandable as often these bids do not include actual mold removal or air quality tests or guarantees upon completion of the work.

According to the IICRC (The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration), killing mold without removing it is not considered a complete solution to your mold problem. In their newly published guidelines  (2015 Guidelines), the IICRC states “Remediators should not mist or fog disinfectants or sanitizers in an attempt to kill mold in lieu of source removal”. The EPA is in agreement stating, “Dead mold may still cause allergic reactions in some people, so it is not enough to simply kill the mold, it must also be removed.”

Complete and effective mold remediation includes the removal of mold at the source such as drywall, insulation or other porous materials. Mold is resilient and covering it up is not a solution.

Helpers is a Certified Mold Remediation firm that follows the highest industry standards to insure that your home is safe and hazard free.‪#‎helpers‬ ‪#‎moldremediation‬ ‪#‎dontcutcorners‬