How to Prevent Frozen Pipes in the Winter

frozen pipes

Aspen and the surrounding area is known for cold winters, with average January temperatures ranging between about 9 and 35 degrees. When temperatures drop below-freezing numbers, we know to bundle up when we head outdoors. But how much do you know about what below-freezing temperatures can do to your pipes?

Frozen pipes can cause serious household damage. Flooding and even the pooling of water caused by a burst or cracked pipe can lead to long-term issues with mold and deterioration.

Fortunately, there are ways that you can prepare for the winter and protect your pipes from becoming frozen. There are also steps you can take when pipes do become frozen to mitigate damage.

Read on to learn everything you need to know to protect your pipes and your home from freezing temperatures this winter.

Frozen Pipe Prevention Tips

There’s nothing you can do to warm things up outside during a Colorado winter. However, there are some preventative measures you can take to protect your pipes when temperatures drop. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can lower the risk of frozen pipes.

Disconnect and Insulate

Some pipes are more likely to freeze than others. These same pipes typically aren’t needed in the winter months. Drain the water supply lines connected to any outdoor swimming pools, hose connections, and sprinkler supply lines.

Also, you’re going to want to increase the insulation in your home. Did you know that American households lose up to 25% of their forced heat circulation due to poor insulation?

First, insulate areas around your vents and light fixtures to prevent heat from making its way into the attic. Look around your basement and crawl space for any cracks in the wall and seal them off, as well. These cracks often appear around your utility service lines.

Exposed pipes or pipes that are located near exterior walls may also need some extra insulation. You can use foam and duct tape to wrap the pipes and help keep out the cold.

Allow for Heat Circulation

Indoor temperatures should stay above 55 degrees to prevent frozen pipes. To maximize the work your HVAC system can do, you’re going to want to make sure that heat is circulating where it counts.

When temperatures drop below 32 degrees, open up the cabinets concealing any pipes. You can also increase the heat in your basement with a space heater, but make sure that you plug it into a grounded outlet and keep it away from flammable materials. Do not leave the space heater on overnight.

Should You Keep a Faucet Dripping?

It’s not uncommon to see people advocating for keeping one or two faucets dripping to prevent frozen pipes. Does this work and is it worth it?

Water freezes at temperatures of 32 degrees or lower. However, for the pipes to freeze, temperatures typically need to drop to around 20 degrees or lower.

When temperatures dip below 20 degrees, it isn’t a bad idea to keep a faucet running, especially if the connecting pipes are attached to an external wall. A slow and steady drip will help the water continued to circulate, lowering the chances that the water, itself, will freeze–which can then cause the pipes to freeze or burst, as well.

Signs and Symptoms of Frozen Pipes

How can you tell if you already have a frozen pipe somewhere in your house?

The first telltale sign is a faucet that doesn’t produce water when you turn it on. However, to determine that a frozen pipe is a culprit, you’ll need to rule out other possibilities.

Look for signs of leaking beneath the faucet in question. You will also need to check your basement or crawl space for leaks, as well. If you find no leaks or burst pipes, the odds are good that you have a frozen pipe on your hands.

How to Deal With Frozen Pipes

Before you try to tackle a frozen pipe, go around and open your faucets. Thawing a frozen pipe can cause a pressure build-up and you need to ensure that any water caught in that pressure has somewhere to go.

Then, locate the frozen pipe and apply heat to it. You can do this with electric heating pads that are designed to safely wrap around pipes. You can also do this with a hairdryer, although the first method is better for pipes that have experienced a large amount of freezing.

Never use a blow torch to heat a frozen pipe. This level of heat is too high for most pipes and could cause serious damage.

My Pipes Froze and Burst! Now What?

Sometimes, homeowners don’t catch a frozen pipe until it’s too late. If your pipes burst and you’ve got flooding on your hands, don’t panic.

First, head to your main water shut off valve. You can usually find this in your basement or on an outside wall, depending on where your utility wall is located. Shut off the water supply to stop further flooding until the pipes are fixed.

Then, give us a call for water damage restoration. Any existing water needs to be addressed immediately to prevent costly issues down the road. Plus, most insurance companies want to see that you mitigated the damage to the best of your abilities before footing the bill.

In fact, you’re going to want to call us before you contact your insurance or a plumber. When you’ve got flooding on your hands, that excess water is the first thing you need to address.

We’re Here to Help

Living in Colorado means dealing with long, cold winters. In turn, that means that Colorado homeowners should be aware of frozen pipes, how to prevent them, and what to do when a pipe or two is already frozen.

At Helpers Disaster Restoration, we make it our job to take care of the unforeseen. If you’ve experienced flooding in your home, don’t panic. Contact us and let us help you restore your home after a disaster.

Water Works: How to Handle Water Damage in Aspen

Water Damage

There are two things every Aspen resident needs, according to the city government: flood insurance and a flood plan. This is especially important for anyone living in the 100-year floodplain.

Why is flooding such a pressing issue in Aspen? Living so close to Roaring Fork River means anticipating a possible flood anytime the water levels rise. Plus, flooding of any kind can cause some serious water damage in your home.

What do you after a flood hits your home? Whether you’re looking at a burst pipe or a natural disaster, it’s important to know how to handle it and what to do to restore your property.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about handling water damage in Aspen.

Preparing For an Emergency

The best way to handle an emergency is to prepare for it in advance. Let’s talk about some of the steps you can take before a flood hits that will help mitigate some of that water damage.

Preparing for Natural Disasters

When you live in an area like Aspen, it’s important to stay prepared for flooding. Make sure you know what radio stations provide updates when flooding occurs and pack an emergency disaster kit. Remember, an emergency disaster kit should include both the supplies you need and copies of all of your important documents.

When you know a flood is coming, take precautions. Move your valuables to higher floors. If you’re in a zone that tends to get hit the hardest, make sure you’re prepared to sandbag and ditch your property.

Finally, make sure you know where your emergency breaker is. In the event of a serious flood, it’s important to shut off your electricity.

Preparing for Burst Pipes

It may seem counterintuitive to prepare for something as unexpected as burst pipes. However, the solution is simple.

Your biggest priority, when a pipe bursts, is to shut off the water supply. Make sure you know where your main water supply shut off valve is. In most residential properties, you will find this valve in the basement or on a utility wall outside.

Assessing the Damage

Once the source of flooding has been addressed and it is safe to return to your property, it’s time to assess the damage. Let’s take a look at how that works and why it’s important.

Documenting Water Damage

When you’re documenting the water damage in your property, you’re going to want to gather as much evidence as possible. That means taking photos and videos in addition to itemizing any destroyed valuables.

If the damage is severe, you may want to bring an appraiser to the property to get a professional opinion.

Contacting Your Insurance

Why do you need to document the damage? Why can’t you just start fixing it right away?

Most Aspen property owners have flooding insurance and with serious water damage, you’re going to want to use it. However, to receive full coverage, you’re going to need to prove two things.

The first thing you’ll need to prove is how bad the damage is. The second is what you’re doing to address that damage as quickly as possible to mitigate worsening damage down the road.

Calling in Flood Restoration

Should you try to tackle water damage on your own? After serious flooding, it’s best to call in flood restoration professionals. With a Helpers Disaster Restoration in Aspen, you don’t need to outsource to Denver to get professional restoration.

Let’s take a look at what we’ll do to restore your property.

Dry Out the Property

First thing’s first: we dry out your property. After severe flooding, your property needs more than just an overnight airdry. It will take industrial equipment to remove water from the walls and floors and reduce the humidity inside.

Why is this such an important step? When a property remains damp for too long, it becomes more likely to develop costly structural damage. Property with severe structural damage becomes uninhabitable.

Plus, lingering moisture creates the perfect breeding grounds for mold. Mold isn’t just unpleasant to look at. It can also exacerbate symptoms of respiratory ailments such as asthma and allergies.

By prioritizing drying out the property, we can stop the water damage from spreading and getting worse.

Replace Water Damaged Structural Elements

Some structural elements are bound to undergo damage in the event of flooding. Many of these elements are easy to replace and it often makes more economic sense to replace them rather than restore them.

Anytime we’re dealing with flooding, we’re probably looking at floor replacement. Whether you have carpeting, linoleum, or wood flooring, it often makes the most sense to remove the damaged sections and rebuild. In some cases, your flooring may look fine on the surface but have damaged subflooring just below.

We may also need to demolish and replace certain walls, especially if the drywall or insulation sustained water damage. We work quickly and efficiently to ensure that you can get back to your property as soon as possible.

Let Helpers Disaster Restoration Deal With Your Water Damage

If you live in Aspen, Colorado, you’re bound to see a flood or two in your lifetime. Whether you’re concerned about your residential property or your commercial property, rest assured that Helpers Disaster Restoration is here to help. Water damage is no laughing matter, and we work hard to restore your property as diligently and quickly as possible.

To get started, contact us today. Call us at 970-927-3600 or fill out our online form with your name, email, and a description of the damage to be restored. We’ll be in touch right away to discuss what we can do to restore your property.

Sewer Back Up? How to Fix and Prevent Sewer Line Damage

sewer line

What do you do when your main sewer line backs up? How do you identify the warning signs? How do you make sure it never happens again?

You’ve got the questions, and we have all the answers.

This guide will cover the basics of identifying, repairing, and avoiding sewer damage to a home or business.

Common Warning Signs You May Have Sewer Line Damage

Sewer problems often show signs that trouble is brewing. Sewer backup or foul odors are clear signs there is a problem, but sometimes other symptoms can be more discreet or mistaken for common household problems.

What are some of the common warning signs that sewer problems are on the horizon?

Foul Smelling Sewage Odors

Sewage has a very distinct scent that compares to rotten eggs. If you smell foul odors, it’s a sure sign something is not quite right.

Sewers are designed to be airtight, so that smells and other things are trapped inside. Damage such as cracks, holes, and leaks allow sewage to escape and thus leave you with an awful smell.

Sewage Backup and Blockages

There is a good chance there’s a problem with your sewer line if flushing the toilet in one bathroom causes water to back up in another room in your home. Blockages and clogs can be diverting water and forcing an alternate route due to a clog.

Sewer backup is a definite red flag you have a clogged sewer line. A sewer repair contractor can use a sewer camera to diagnose the problem.

Slow Draining

Does your sink or shower drain slowly? Does your toilet keep getting backed up? Your sewer line may have a blockage forming. If the blockage is left untreated, it can lead to cracks and other major sewer problems.

If you tried to DIY the problem with a sewer snake or drain unblocker without success, get in touch with a professional.

Trying to fix the problems on your own by using products that often include harsh chemicals can lead to further damage to your pipes and make sewage problems even worse if you have older hardware.

Mold

Damage in your sewer line, such as cracks, can leak water into your walls. This excess moisture can cause mold growth. Because of their increased humidity, bathrooms are especially vulnerable to mold.

If you notice mold growing on your walls or ceilings, the source could be from your sewage pipe. Even if you see no mold growth but can smell it, it could be a sign of sewer line damage.

To prevent further damage to your walls or ceilings, call a professional to find out if you need to have your sewer line repaired.

Cracks in Your Home’s Foundation

This is a severe sign of possible sewer line damage that needs attention ASAP. Cracks in your home’s foundation could mean leaking water from a sewage or water line.

If you see an excessive amount of water around the foundation of your home, contact a professional before you end up with major (and more costly) problems with your foundation.

Lush Patches of Grass or Pools of Water in Your Yard

If you see lush patches of grass in your yard, specifically grass growth that is unusually thicker or greener, it could be a sign of a problem. Sewage acts as a natural fertilizer and will create lush patches of grass in your yard.

Another sign to look out for is soggy areas or pools of water in your yard. This could be a warning sign of a much more significant problem like a collapsed sewer line.

Pests

Just the sight of that word can instill fear into any homeowner. Rodents and pests live in sewers, and openings in your sewer line create entry points for inviting them into your home.

Keep in mind that nothing will prevent pests from coming in if they find an easily accessible way into your home.

Call in the Professionals

Before you look up “how to clear a main sewer line clog” and attempt to fix it yourself, think again. Plumbing problems are best left to a professional.

One of the benefits of hiring a professional is that most plumbing companies often have video inspection available. Video inspection uses a sewer camera to review the state and condition of pipes as well as identifying other problem areas.

A sewer camera can pinpoint the exact location of a damaged or clogged sewage pipe. Once the problem is identified, they can be solved through either traditional sewer repair or trenchless sewer repair.

Preventing Sewer Line Damage

Routine preventative maintenance can save you more money in the long run.

1. Professional sewer cleaning is a great way to keep your sewer line in tip-top shape and avoid costly sewer line replacement. If you want to avoid having to deal with sewer backup or sewer line repair, make sure you are availing of this maintenance task.

2. Only put toilet paper or human waste down the toilet. Anything else will lead to a clogged sewer line.

3. Do not throw grease down the drain and throw all excess food dishes into the trashcan before washing them. Grease from oil or fatty foods lead to clogs and will cost you a professional sewer cleanout.

4. Stay away from sewer lines when planting trees. Tree root invasion is the leading cause of sewer problems.

5. Take a preventive approach. Tackling problems right away can save you from further damage, and having to spend an even greater amount of money — an ounce of prevention over a pound of cure. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Fixing and Preventing Sewer Line Damage

What do you do when your main sewer line backs up? How do you identify the warning signs? How do you make sure it never happens again?

You’ve got the questions, and we have all the answers.

We hope this guide gave you more insight into identifying, repairing, and avoiding sewer damage. If you found this article helpful, check out more from our blog!

Mold in Your Washing Machine? 5 Tips to Keep it Clean

Despite constantly being used for cleaning,  washing machines have all the necessary conditions for mold and bacteria growth: water and residue build up.  Have you noticed a musty smell in your washing machine or mold and mildew growing in your detergent dispensers?  You are not alone.

Follow these 5 prevention and maintenance tips to keep your washing machine and your laundry clean and healthy:

  1.  Washing With Hot Water.  Energy conscious homeowners are using more cold water to wash their laundry.  Mirroring this change in laundry habits, detergents are designed to be effective with cold water washing.   Using hot water can help kill bacteria and keep your washer from smelling musty.   Hot water use on highly bacteria prone items like musty towels, stinky socks or other odor laden materials can prevent bacteria from growing on the clothes and in your washer.  Hot water washing reduces detergent and fabric softener build up, a common source of odor and bacteria.  Running your machine periodically without any laundry with hot water and either vinegar, bleach or baking soda is a great cleaning option.  For best results, let the water sit in the machine for several minutes before you complete the washing cycle.
  2.  Wash Mold From Detergent and Fabric Softener Dispensers.  Build up of detergents and trapped dirt or lint combined with a moist environment are perfect conditions for fowl smelling mold growth.  In some machines, these come out really easily and can be soaked and scrubbed with either a bleach based cleaning solution or vinegar.   If you can’t remove them, simply clean them in place.  Avoid using too much detergent.  High efficiency washing machines require a lot less detergent and most homeowners are actually putting in too much leading to build up and odors.  Follow with Tip 1 for best results.
  3. Clean the Rubber Seal.  Most washing machines have a rubber sealing rim around the wash basin.  Periodically wipe this with a bleach based cleaner or cleaning wipe to remove residue build up.
  4. Use Washing Machine Specific Cleaning Products.  Many companies make detergents or pods that are specifically designed for cleaning your washing machines, particularly front loaders.    Found in the laundry product section, these can be used to help remove odors and bacteria.
  5. Don’t Let Wet Loads Sit.  I am a big culprit in our house for starting a load of laundry and then forgetting about it…for days.  If your laundry is starting to smell, it is a good idea to re-wash everything in hot water to help kill any bacteria.  If the washing machine is not cleaned following a bad smelling load…the smell will linger and spread to the next load and so on.    Follow your preferred washing machine cleaning procedures to get rid of that smell.

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

deer

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!

 

Homeowner’s Can Choose Their Disaster Service Provider

duck

One of our biggest frustrations as a professional disaster remediation company, is when homeowner’s are given misleading information.  One of the biggest  misconceptions we see is when an adjuster or insurer tells a homeowner that they have to use certain remediation companies for their home repair.  We think it is important to preserve homeowner choice, and in this matter, Colorado law agrees with us.(House Bill 13-1062).

As a public representative, an insurance adjuster is obligated to serve the interests of their customer above all others.   An adjuster cannot direct a homeowner to any company they have a financial interest in, whether direct or indirect.    Adjusters are prohibited from activity that looks like a conflict of interest, such as referring clients to their preferred mitigation company if there is no objectivity behind the decision.

Recently, we heard of a competing company, who had responded to a weekend emergency call, made by the homeowner, being removed from the job when the homeowner’s insurance adjuster told them they needed to use a specific company.  The responding company left the job site, and the adjuster’s specified company took over.  What the homeowner did not know, is that Colorado law, prohibits this action if it is not in their best interest.   Even more unethical, is that this adjuster may have an indirect financial benefit from recommending the specified company, as their spouse is reported to be an employee of one of the specified company’s franchises.

In addition, delaying the homeowner’s repairs, by replacing an emergency response team could conceivably have led to more extensive damage.  Clearly, this was not in the home owner’s best interest and the adjuster lacks the necessary good faith protection of the homeowner.   Not to mention that the company that responded, lost a job they had been called to complete.

In some cases, the adjuster may believe one remediation company is superior to another, and may make a recommendation based upon this opinion.  They are obligated however, to be objective in this assessment.  If your insurance adjuster recommends a specific company for your repairs, know that you are not required to comply.   You may always choose who works at your home.  In fact, it might be worthwhile to ask the adjuster why they are directing you towards one company over another to make certain your best interests are being protected.

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.

 

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.

 

Beware the Lowest Bidder: 5 Questions to Ask

Low Bidder

Is the lowest bid the best bid?

When gathering bids for work around your home, whether it be construction or mold mitigation, it may be tempting to jump at the cheapest price provided. Homeowners be aware, all bids may not be created equal. If you have received several bids and one stands out as substantially lower than other bids, this could be an early warning sign of trouble down the road. Here are five tips to consider when deciding which proposal is best for your project.

1. How Low is the Lowest?: If you have more than one bid and there is a big difference in price proposal, that could be an early warning sign of potential problems or disputes down the road. Sometimes low bidders have made errors in their bidding or be using a “low ball” bid just to get their foot in the door (with expensive add-ons coming your way after you award the contract).

If you have two bids that are very different, it’s worth the effort to get a third bid to see which bidder might be the outlier.

2. Does Each Bid Cover the Same Amount of Work?: At first glance, a low bid may seem like a money saver, but be careful that you are comparing apples to apples. Check the scope of work outlined on each bid and make sure they match your expectations and the requirements of your project. Clauses in construction contracts that state the bid can be changed due to unforeseen circumstances could add up to surprise bills down the road.

3. Are Your Bidding Contractors Insured and Licensed?: Sometimes bids can be lower from companies that cut corners on industry requirements (such as liability and workers compensation insurance or license and certification requirements) unbeknownst to the homeowner. Make sure you vet your contractors before you hire them with reference checks or prior work review. Easy acceptance of a low bid without due diligence could lead to costly redo’s or shoddy workmanship.

4. Are Your Contractors Equally Qualified and Experienced?: Many contractors can claim to offer different services, however, they may not all be cut from the same cloth. Check into the special training or experience they might have related to your project. In the mitigation industry some companies follow higher quality standards based upon state certifications for example. This could mean the difference between a thorough job done properly versus an incomplete job.

5. Is the Bid too Good to be True?: If it seems like it, it probably is. There are countless stories about homeowner’s paying to re-repair poor workmanship that caused more trouble down the road. Don’t pay twice to get your project done correctly. Be willing to take the more realistic bid to make sure your work is done properly and that you get full value for your money. Trust your instincts. ‪#‎helpers‬ ‪#‎lowestbidder‬ ‪#‎rightthefirsttime‬