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Understanding Microbial Growth in Your Home

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One of the most common questions asked of a professional restoration company is, “do I have mold in my home?” It is a common concern for many homeowners, however the answer to the question is not always easy.

At Newman Restoration, we typically do not use the word mold, but instead refer to it as microbial growth. There are many varieties of spores and growths which can occur in a home, and they cannot be accurately diagnosed with a visual inspection. To properly diagnose microbial growth, samples must be collected by an industrial hygienist and analyzed in a certified lab.

Microbial growth needs a food source, time and the proper atmospheric conditions to grow in a home. The food source is often drywall or wood and with the proper atmospheric conditions it can begin to develop in 24 to 48 hours. Microbial growth also requires moisture to allow it to grow. This water source can be from a variety of factors inside a home.

A flood or slow leak are the most common sources of moisture which allow for microbial growth. A flood from a burst pipe or external water source can develop an issue quickly if the water is not removed. A slow leak from a sink, dishwasher or toilet can allow for microbial growth over time. High levels of humidity are another possible source of moisture. Elevated humidity in a crawl space or attic can develop condensation and allow for microbial growth.

Preventative measures are necessary to avoid microbial growth. Check faucets, toilets and appliances for leaks and get them fixed right away if any leak is detected. Regularly inspect crawl spaces and attics for elevated humidity. If you do have a flood in your home, have the water extracted and necessary demolition and dry-out completed.

There are a few physical signs of microbial growth which require immediate attention. If a home is starting to develop a stale or mildew type smell, it can be a sign of microbial growth occurring. Microbial growth can develop inside a wall cavity or underneath flooring and the first sign may be an odd odor. Visual signs of microbial growth will also occur. Stringy or fuzzy patches of growth can appear on building materials. These growths can be a variety of different colors, from black, brown and gray to yellow, pink and green. Any of these signs should be addressed immediately.

It is important for microbial growth to be addressed correctly. It is very easy to spread spores and contaminate other areas of the home. Proper personal protective equipment must be utilized to keep workers safe when they are removing microbial growth. A professional remediation company will set air containment chambers and use specialized equipment to protect themselves and prevent cross contamination. Depending on the severity of microbial growth, building materials may need to be removed and replaced.

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Winter Crawl Space Issues

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The crawl space is an easy place to ignore, however it is an important area to check and maintain. Crawl space issues can develop over a long period of time or in an instant, both leading to costly repairs. Team Newman has a few suggestions on what to look for and prevent major issues.

Be Wary of Elevated Moisture in a Crawl Space – Standing water and high humidity can create lasting damage in a crawl space. Humidity levels over 60 percent can allow for microbial growth and rot structural materials. A damaged or missing vapor barrier can allow for elevated levels of moisture in a crawl space because of ground water penetration. There is a wide range of possible solutions for elevated moisture in a crawl space. It can be as simple as installing a vapor barrier or managing air exchanges. It can also be as complicated as installing a system of sump pumps to control rising ground water.

Winter Water Intrusions Need To Be Monitored – Snowmelt and ground saturation can be an issue for a crawl space. Imperfections in a foundation allow for water to enter a crawl space. As foundations shift, settle and deteriorate, waterproofing and structural measures are often required to prevent water instructions. Cracks can develop in the foundation and become an easy water penetration point. Foundation cracks should be sealed to prevent water from settling in a crawlspace.

Check Crawl Space For Damaged Vapor Barrier or Missing Insulation – Damaged or missing vapor barriers lead to eventual moisture issues. It is also important to inspect a crawl space for missing insulation. A lack of insulation leads to issues with frozen pipes and makes heating a home less efficient. If there is an issue with keeping a crawl space warm, investing in pipe wrap is a good start to preventing frozen pipes.

Rodents Are Another Potential Hazard – Rodents can take shelter in a crawl space during the winter. It is common to find them living in the insulation. Rodent feces can create an unhealthy environment in the crawl space. If they are detected in the crawlspace, it is important to contact an exterminator before the problem gets worse. Areas that have been contaminated by rodents need to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

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Slow Leaks Can Cause Big Problems

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Checking your home for slow leaks needs to be a part of a homeowner’s routine. This can catch water damage before it turns into a much larger issue. Slow leaks will develop microbial growth and often deteriorate building materials, resulting in significant repairs. They can also turn into sudden ruptures. Team Newman has a few recommendations for common
sources for slow leaks.

Kitchen Appliances – One of the most common sources of a slow water leak is the dishwashing machine. Water will leak and pool underneath the dishwasher and soak into the floor and nearby cabinets and drywall. In many cases, a dishwasher leak is not detected until the flooring is warping or bubbling and develops a stench. You can be proactive and check under the dishwasher after it has run and look for any water. Along with dishwashers, refrigerators and ice makers can develop slow leaks. It is imperative to check underneath them once a week to look for standing water.

Under and Around Sinks – Sinks are another common source of a slow leak. Water can drip into cabinets and vanities below sinks and will absorb water. Plumbing underneath a sink can loosen or fail over time, resulting in water damage. These areas are a common spot to find microbial growth from a slow water leak. Regularly check around and underneath sinks to detect water damage.

Toilets – The toilet supply line is another source of slow water leaks. If the plumbing into the toilet is not properly attached, water can drip onto the bathroom floor and become a source for microbial growth. This water can penetrate drywall, trim and underneath flooring. After a toilet runs, check along the supply line and ensure there is no moisture build up around the toilet. In addition to the supply line, wax rings of a toilet are another
common point of failure. Water can leak from underneath the toilet into the
flooring or ceiling below.

Exterior Walls – Snowmelt or heavy rain can enter a home near the foundation. Water will follow the path of least resistance, which can often be a foundation crack. Check the exterior walls of your home to see if any water has built up in carpets, flooring or unfinished areas of the basement. Water entering the home through the foundation can also warp
drywall and create microbial growth on trim pieces.

Ceilings and Attics – Ice dams are a common occurrence in the winter time. An ice dam can create a slow water leak into the home through the roof and into the ceiling. Regularly inspect ceilings for any signs of paint bubbles. If it is safe to do so, check the attic and see if any moisture is impacting insulation or framing materials.

Crawl Spaces – The crawl space of a home is susceptible to slow leaks and water damage. Ground water can enter a crawl space and also enter via a foundation crack. Water lines in a crawlspace are vulnerable to cracks and leaks. This can create an opportunity for microbial growth to occur. If it is safe to do so, regularly check the crawl space for water and water
damage.

Humidifiers or Water Purification Systems – These water systems, often found in the basement of a home can be a source of water damage. It is good to ensure the proper maintenance is followed for humidifiers and water purification systems. Check around these systems to ensure they are not leaking.

Concerned About Slow Leaks? – If you are concerned or your home is vulnerable to slow leaks, invest in water detection equipment. Moisture meters and thermal cameras can help detect water in building materials that is not visible to the naked eye.

Understand Your Insurance Coverage – In many policies, slow leaks will not be covered or may only be covered from specific sources. It is important to know where your gaps in coverage are and to increase coverage for peace of
mind.

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Beware of Frozen Pipes As Temperatures Begin to Drop

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As temperatures begin to drop this Fall, it is time to start thinking about the dangers of frozen pipes.

Where Are Pipes Most Likely to Freeze – Some pipes are more vulnerable than others. Pipes running near exterior walls are most susceptible to freezing. Pipes in the crawlspace are also vulnerable to freezing if they are not properly insulated. Whichever areas of the home are the coldest or most difficult to heat are going to be the first to freeze. These areas should be checked daily to catch water damage before it develops into a larger issue.

Signs of a Frozen Pipe – Water flowing suddenly from pipes or barely trickling out can be a sign of freezing. Excess moisture or a very cold tap is another indication. A frozen pipe may also be bulged out around where the water has frozen. It is possible to unfreeze a frozen pipe, but you should only attempt to do so with the water turned off. Some common home remedies are to use a hairdryer or wrap the pipes with warm towels. Team Newman suggests using a trusted plumber to unfreeze any pipes and offer solutions to prevent freezing in the future.

Protect Vulnerable Areas – Adding insulation, pipe wrap or electric tape can prevent pipes from freezing. Eliminating the source of cold air near pipes is also important. Fixing drafts and missing insulation is crucial to protecting pipes.

Do Not Turn Off the Heat to Your Home – While it is a cost-cutting measure, turning off the heat in your home can lead to very expensive water damage. A pipe may not freeze and burst right away, but consistent freezing and thawing can develop into a sudden rupture or slow leak. Both results can develop into an expensive remediation bill. If the temperature inside a home is in the fifties, exterior wall cavities can easily drop to below freezing. Keep the thermostat above 60 degrees to protect against water damage. If you are going to leave a property unattended, it is recommended to have a plumber winterize the pipes. This step is expensive, but is often less than the deductible for a water damage claim.

Perform a Structure Walkthrough – It is a good idea to inspect all the living spaces of your home daily. Look for discoloration in walls or ceilings or a musty smell. These are signs of a possible slow leak from a damaged pipe. A small leak can lead to large amounts of damage if it is undetected. It is also recommended to check crawl spaces and attics routinely, as they can also develop water damage. Look for excess moisture or elevated levels of humidity, which are often the first signs of water damage in unoccupied or unfinished spaces.

Know Where to Shut Off the Water – If a pipe does rupture, turn off the water to the home immediately. Knowing where the water shut-off valve is located is very important. It is a good practice to clearly label the valve so someone else can easily find it. These valves are most often located on the perimeter of the home in a utility space. It will be located very close to where the water enters the home from the main line. If it is difficult to find the water shut off, contact a local plumber who can help explain the system. Shutting off the water quickly can prevent additional damage.

If a pipe does burst, shut off the water and call a restoration professional. Getting a professional restoration company involved right away will help limit the damage. At Newman Restoration & Cleaning, we are prepared to respond 24/7 to stabilize any water damage that may occur from a broken pipe.

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Utilize the Hierarchy of Controls to Keep Yourself Safe at Home

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When completing a home project or remodel, safety needs to be a top priority. For most people, working safely means utilizing personal protective equipment. While using PPE is important, it is the least effective piece of the hierarchy of controls. Understanding the hierarchy of controls gives you the best chance to work as safely as possible.

 

Elimination – This sits at the top of the hierarchy of controls for a reason. Eliminating hazards is the most effective way to work safely. Elimination of hazards should be considered in the project planning stage. An example of hazard elimination is completing tasks at ground level and not on a ladder or it can be as simple as keeping a clean workplace to eliminate slips, trips, and falls.

 

Substitution – The second most effective method on the hierarchy of controls is substitution. This means replacing a hazard with something less hazardous. This can often be handled in the project planning stage. Instead of using a product that can cause skin or lung irritation, replace it with one that is less harmful.

 

Engineering Controls – If a hazard can not be eliminated on substituted, the next best way to mitigate a hazard is with engineering controls. An example of an engineering control would be installing a dust barrier and ventilation system to reduce airborne contaminants or installing guardrails when working off the ground.

 

Administrative Controls – Utilizing methods to change how people work is a simple definition of administrative controls. This often comes in the form of education or it can be as basic as clearly labeling hazardous items. Administrative controls are often implemented before a project. These controls can be effective in mitigating hazards, however, they are not as effective as substituting or eliminating hazards.

 

Personal Protective Equipment – PPE sits at the bottom of the hierarchy of controls as it is less effective compared to elimination, substitution, and engineering and administrative controls. Properly used PPE can be very effective in reducing the impact of hazards found during a home remodeling project. However, it is important to understand there are often better ways of dealing with a hazard.

 

Project Planning – Ultimately, protecting yourself from hazards in a home remodel or project comes down to planning. While it is exciting to jump into a new project, this can lead to unexpected hazards. Understanding the full scope of a project and anticipating potential problems or hazards is the best way to work safely. This allows you to utilize the hierarchy of controls and mitigate any potential dangers before they occur.

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Why You Need Personal Protective Equipment for Your Home Remodel

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Personal protective equipment (PPE) is not just for professionals or for OSHA compliance. It is a necessary part of any home remodel and something that should be understood and budgeted for in your project.

 

Respiratory Protection – There are many facets and levels of respiratory protection that need to be understood before tackling a home remodel project. These go from the most basic level of dust protection all the way to guarding against harmful carcinogens.

It is important to be aware of the possibility of asbestos-containing material during your home remodel. In addition to asbestos, lead paint can be disturbed during the demolition process. In general, drywall dust is a severe irritant and anyone around the removal of drywall should be using a respirator with a particulate filter.

Drywall dust can cause severe irritation in a short exposure window. Asbestos, lead, and mold can cause long-term illness. Make sure everyone who is around a home remodel is taking the necessary steps to prevent exposure with respiratory protection.

 

Eye Protection – According to OSHA, thousands of people are blinded by work-related injuries that could have been prevented with proper eye protection. Many home remodelers believe their prescription glasses or sunglasses can protect them from an injury but this is not true. Proper eye protection will have Z87 stamped somewhere on the frame of the lenses.

Using eye protection during a home remodel project is a must. Debris from demolition, flying debris from power tools and falling debris can all damage eyes. Most of these risks are continually present during a project, which means eye protection should be worn basically at all times.

 

Hand Protection – Cuts, punctures, and chemical burns are all possible hazards of a home improvement project. The area of your body most susceptible to these injuries is your hands. It is important to handle each risk with the appropriate type of hand protection.

Are you planning on using chemicals to clean or strip paint during your home improvement project? If so, chemical-resistant rubber or latex gloves must be used to prevent burns or irritation on the skin.

In addition to possible chemical irritants, cuts and punctures are a major concern. A pair of cut-proof gloves are necessary for almost all home improvement projects.

Another aspect of hand protection is for the glove to fit properly. Loose-fitting gloves and clothing pose a significant risk. Loose material can get stuck in power tools and cause serious damage to the user.

 

Understanding the Hierarchy of Controls – While PPE is necessary for home remodeling work, it is important to understand where it sits on the hierarchy of controls. PPE is at the bottom and is the least effective part of the hierarchy of controls.

Reliance on PPE can make work more dangerous. Before starting a hazardous task, be sure to think about these questions. Is there a way the hazard can be eliminated? Is there a way to substitute for the hazard? Can you isolate yourself away from the hazard? Is there a way to change how people are working to avoid the hazard? The answers to these questions can drastically reduce the chance of a specific hazard harming a worker or homeowner.

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The Importance of Detecting Asbestos Prior to a Home Remodel

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Make sure you use a professional company that cares. At Newman Restoration, we protect the inside of your home to ensure it does not get any contamination during the cleaning process.

 

Are you considering a home remodel or update? Is your home built before 1980? If so, you need to account for the possibility of asbestos-containing materials in your home. Removing or damaging these materials comes with possible serious health implications. Team Newman is here with some information on possible asbestos-containing materials that can be found in an older home.

 

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral used in building materials for resistance to heat and corrosion. It is now recognized as a serious hazard to human health and regulated strictly by government organizations. Asbestos fibers can be inhaled and cause serious lung damage and disease. This is why it is important to identify asbestos risks, test and remediate before demolition is done in any home remodeling project.

 

The most common places to find asbestos in a residential property are textured wall surfacing, drywall joint compound, floor tiles, mastic, linoleum, and insulation. These materials should be tested prior to removal. If asbestos is detected, the removal of the items should be handled by a certified asbestos abatement contractor. At Newman Restoration & Cleaning, we have certified asbestos abatement contractors and inspectors.

 

One common project for a home update is to scrape off popcorn ceilings. Before scraping off any popcorn ceilings or textured wall coverings, it is imperative to have it tested for asbestos. It is common to find asbestos in textured wall coverings and the process of scraping them can create airborne asbestos fibers, which are very dangerous.

 

Another common home improvement project that can bring the risk of asbestos contamination is updating flooring. Floor tiles, linoleum, and the mastic underneath them can all contain asbestos. 9’x9’ and 12’x12’ tiles are the most common sizes for containing asbestos in pre-1980 homes. The process of removing tiles, linoleum, or the mastic underneath can release asbestos fibers. However, if these materials have not been damaged or compromised over time, they can often be left in place and covered by new flooring.

 

Asbestos can also be found in insulating materials. This includes insulation found in the walls, attics, and around pipes. It was common for pipes and boilers to be wrapped in asbestos insulation. Vermiculite attic insulation may also contain trace amounts of asbestos.

 

In addition to wall insulation, wallboard and wallboard systems can be asbestos-containing. The wallboard itself and the joint compound and tape are suspect materials for asbestos. It is important to have it tested before demolition. There are also miscellaneous materials around an older home that can be asbestos-containing. Roofing and siding, ceiling panels and tiles, and caulking are suspect materials.

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Get your chimney swept this summer

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The warm weather is coming and getting a chimney sweep could be the last thing on your mind. However, now is the perfect time to get a professional chimney sweep. 

 

If a chimney is used regularly, it should be swept yearly. Scheduling a cleaning for the summer will avoid the late fall and winter rush to make sure you are prepared to burn a safe fire all winter long. Take something off of the to-do-list and get your cleaning on the books now.

 

In addition to avoiding the rush later in the year, it is easier and safer for companies to clean your chimney in the summer. Bad weather can make getting on the roof unsafe and delay cleaning.  A clear roof makes it much easier to clean a chimney in a top-down fashion and clean the cap. 

 

Make sure you use a professional company that cares. At Newman Restoration, we protect the inside of your home to ensure it does not get any contamination during the cleaning process. We protect the mantle and surrounding areas with drop cloths and plastic over the fireplace or stove opening to ensure no soot escapes. Our team also uses a three stage HEPA vacuum to prevent any dust from being exhausted into the home.

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Carpet cleaning brings a variety of benefits

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Professional carpet cleaning is the perfect way to maintain a substantial investment made in a home. During the spring, a professional carpet cleaning can improve the look of your carpets and the indoor environment in your home.

 

Extend the life of a carpet – A professional carpet cleaning improves the lifespan of a carpet. It is often a requirement to maintain the warrant of a newly installed carpet. If done correctly, a carpet cleaning will remove dirt and debris from the carpet that can cause permanent damage if left to stay. Ever notice traffic lanes start to develop in a carpet? A professional carpet cleaning can help these areas spring back and last longer without wearing out. It is important to get rid of the dirt and debris that builds up over the winter.

 

Develop a healthier in-home environment – Allergens, dirt and bacteria become trapped in a carpet from regular use. A professional cleaning can thoroughly reduce the amount of contamination built-up in a carpet and create a healthier environment. It can also reduce odors that are emanating from a carpet. Your carpet can act as a filter for the air in your home. You do not want to go an entire year without getting that filter cleaned. 

 

Improve the look of a carpet – One of the most noticeable benefits of a professional carpet cleaning is the improved look. A cleaning can remove staining and brighten the look of a carpet. It also revitalizes worn down traffic lanes. Don’t be hesitant to invite guests over because the carpet looks worn down. A professional cleaning will make your carpet look much younger.

 

Add a carpet protector – After a professional cleaning is the best time to add carpet protector. This is an option with most professional cleaning companies. It can protect against the buildup of stains and dirt. It also allows your vacuum to work more efficiently and will leave your carpet looking cleaner for longer.

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Synthetic vs Botanical cleaning products

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Team Newman utilizes an array of different cleaning products and disinfectants depending on the circumstances. These products come with different methods of application, dwell times, dilution rates and risks. Whenever possible, Newman Restoration & Cleaning utilizes botanical cleaning solutions and disinfectants. Most often, these products are the safest and easiest to use.

 

What is a botanical disinfectant or cleaner? – Botanical cleaners are basically plant-based cleaning products. Team Newman’s preferred botanical products are created from 100% plant essential oils. 

 

Botanicals are safer for the environment – With many synthetic disinfectants, after the proper dwell time is achieved, the product must be removed from the surface. However, with botanical cleaners, this step is often not required. Botanicals can also be biodegradable and not have the aquatic toxicity of many synthetic cleaners. Botanical cleaners are safer for homes with pets and children.

 

Safer for the user – Many synthetic disinfectants require the use of personal protective equipment for application. For most botanicals, there is not a need for protective equipment, or a lower level of protective equipment is required. 

 

Easier to use – Overall, botanical cleaners can simplify the cleaning or disinfection process. Not having to utilize protective equipment or a clean any residue allows for an efficient and effective cleaning process with fewer steps and hassles. 

 

No matter what product you use, follow the instructions provided by manufacturers – For the safest and most effective use of any cleaning or disinfecting product, following the instructions on the label and from the manufacturer is vital. Labels will have any necessary information about toxicity, protective equipment required and dwell times. These are important factors for the proper use of these products.

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