Mold Removal with Dry Ice Blasting: Faster and Cleaner

Check out our newest mold remediation technique: Dry Ice Blasting.  The benefits of Dry Ice Blasting include:

  • Reduced cleaning time
  • Reduced labor requirements
  • No secondary waste
  • Chemical-free process
  • 99% mold spore removal on wood when IAQA standards followed
  • An environmentally responsible clean

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!

 

5 Facts About Asbestos

asbestos chrysotile fibers that cause lung disease COPD lung cancer mesothelioma

(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

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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.

 

Asbestos: When to Test

 

Asbestos-in-your-home
Homes built prior to the 1990s are more likely to contain materials containing asbestos.

The use of Asbestos has decreased over the years, however it is still used to manufacture products today. The use of Asbestos is strictly monitored, and products cannot be composed of more than 1% of Asbestos material.

Prior to the late 80’s, it was commonly used in construction materials including drywall joint compound. State Certified Building Inspectors are obligated to test building materials for the presence of Asbestos during demolition, beyond certain trigger limits. For example, if you are removing 32 square feet or more of drywall or wall board, Asbestos testing is mandated by the state of Colorado, even if your home is brand new.  So before you demo, call Helpers.

Helpers has State Certified Building Inspectors on staff who can complete this testing for you or answer any questions you might have to safely handle these materials.  Testing can be completed in as little as one business day.