(Stamford, CT) – For many, spring means blooming flowers, playing in the park, biking, hiking, and lightweight jackets. For others, it means melting snow and ice dams, a leaking roof, flooded basements and mold problems. You may think the leak itself is the worst part, but it’s the mold that comes after the leak that’s going to cause the most damage to your home, and possibly your health.
“We have had a particularly difficult winter,” says Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and principal at RTK Environmental Group, which services the Northeast. “Ice dams were a major problem this year, and as the weather improves, they are melting quickly, often into homes. In addition, because there is so much snow on the ground, there is a good chance that water will seep into basements.”
Weitz says the water is damaging walls, ceilings, and insulation, as well as carpets, furniture and drapery. Once that happens, it doesn’t take long for mold to take hold — less than 24 hours for a new colony to be established.
But the problem is not just damage to structures: Mold also is a health hazard. There are more than 100,000 different types of mold. When inhaled, mold spores can cause chronic allergies, headaches, fatigue, skin rashes, throat and eye irritations, wheezing, and many respiratory problems including asthma.
“Being prepared is the best defense,” says Weitz. “Getting your home tested for mold now can save you big headaches later.” But most people wait until there is mold infestation before they deal with the problem. Once this happens, repairs are often extensive and very expensive. “I’ve seen people who had to leave their homes for extended periods while these problems were dealt with.”
So what can you do if you have water damage?
1. Take pictures of the damage, and remove the water immediately. Don't wait for your insurance company to call you back. Waiting — even for a few hours — could accentuate the problem.
2. Mop, vacuum, or pump water out of the affected area as soon as possible. Remove wet items and materials.
3. Dry out residual moisture that is left in concrete, wood, and other materials. You can use a dehumidifier or ventilation. If basement or attic windows open, mount fans in the openings. Unplug electrical devices and turn off the circuit breakers in the wet area, if possible.
4. Some items, once wet, should be thrown away immediately. This includes cosmetics, medical supplies, stuffed animals, and baby toys.
5. If a material cannot be dried within 24 hours, it should be tossed. Unfortunately, this list includes mattresses, pillows, carpets, upholstered furniture, and items containing paper, including wallboard.
6. Put aluminum foil under the legs of furniture to avoid staining damp floors. Wooden clothespins can keep upholstered furniture skirting off damp floors.
7. Snow melts on the warmer parts of the roof, but as it travels down the roof toward the eaves, it begins freezing instead of draining, which causes ice dams to form. To avoid this, keep attic air temperature below freezing when the outside temperatures are in the 20s. To do this, seal any air leaks in the ceiling below your attic floor, making it as airtight as possible to keep warm, moist air flowing from the house into the attic. Once sealing is complete, you can also increase the insulation on the attic floor.
If you have water damage this winter, a company which tests for mold, such as RTK Environmental Group, can conduct air monitoring and surface sampling tests; identify affected areas and measure the amount of mold; and determine if the health of your family is at risk. For more information, or to contact RTK, visit www.RTKEnvironmental.com, or call 1-800-392-6468.
About RTK Environmental Group
RTK Environmental Group, with offices in Stamford, CT; Newington, CT; and New York City, is one of the most trusted environmental testing service firms in the New York metropolitan area. It has provided testing services to more than 12,000 commercial and residential customers, ranging from homeowners and real estate investors to medical centers and housing authorities and many others. The company was founded in 1995 as Leadsafe Environmental. As its scope of business grew to include a full spectrum of environmental hazards, the company’s name was changed to RTK Environmental Group. Company professionals are certified, licensed, and fully insured, and on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The public is invited to visit its Web site, www.rtkenvironmental.com.