Superstorm Sandy's Lessons a Reminder as We Recover from the Latest 'Bomb Cyclone'
Lesson 1: When Rebuilding, Save Money and Protect Your Health by Avoiding These Seven Common Mistakes
By: RTK Environmental Group
"During Sandy, many homes and businesses were damaged by falling trees and massive flooding," says Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and founder of RTK Environmental Group. "This led to panic. People started ripping out wet and damaged materials, causing even more damage than anyone could have imagined."
Mr. Weitz explains that these hasty decisions actually created problems. " What occurred was that toxic lead dust and asbestos fibers in homes built before 1980 were released into the air, and microscopic mold spores then spread and became trapped behind walls and floorboards that had not fully dried out yet, causing a secondary, hidden mold infestation."
Any one of these issues could be considered a health hazard, but the combination of mold, lead, and asbestos is a trifecta of toxins that can cause all sorts of short- and long-term, chronic health issues. Now, Weitz urges property owners to proceed with caution before fixing the damage caused by the Bomb Cyclone. "The idea is to learn from the six most common mistakes made after Superstorm Sandy," he cautions.
Mistake 1: There's No Plan
If you've endured any kind of damage, you need a plan. Here are some steps to reverse that:
· Inspect the damage. Be sure to take photos and video of everything for insurance purposes;
· Contact your insurance company and FEMA to find out what benefits and help may be available to you;
· Throw away any wet materials, especially if time has passed. They are likely to have mold growth;
· Dry out the area completely. Use fans, vents, dehumidifiers, and open windows when possible;
· Check for wind and tree damage on the roof and windows, which can cause leaks and mold;
· If you lost power, check appliances that use water, such as refrigerators or washers, for leakage and mold – both inside them and around them.
Mistake 2: Going In Blind
After Sandy, the main goal was to fix quickly what was wrong, without considering the potential consequences. If you have damage, the right thing to do is to start with an environmental inspection to assess your current and future environmental risk. An independent examination will pinpoint exactly what needs to be removed, what's salvageable, and which environmental hazards are present or could occur.
Mistake 3: Hiring the Wrong Contractor
Beware of any "one-stop-shop"
Mistake 4: Pre-Paying for Services
Never pre-pay for work to "hold a timeslot" or give a large down payment before any work has started. After Sandy, many people lost tens of thousands of dollars when corrupt contractors took the money and ran. Better to take the time to check contractors and testing companies on verified sites like the Better Business Bureau and Angie's List.
Mistake 5: Not Testing Before and After You Rebuild
If you rebuild before the water-damaged area is completely dried out, you will be sealing mold into your walls. Mold can easily grow back and cause major damage. So, test before you rebuild and have a blueprint for removal. Afterwards, test to be sure the job was done correctly and the mold was cleaned up properly.
Mistake 6: Not Obtaining Proper Documentation
An independent environmental testing company like RTK Environmental Group will provide you with a detailed report, documenting that your home is safe or is cleared to be rebuilt and has a safe environmental toxin level (mold, lead, asbestos, radon, bacteria, and other toxins). This documentation will be critical when you sell your home or for insurance claims. To ensure that your document will hold up in possible legal situations or in court, make sure the company that performs the testing is certified, licensed, insured, and does not perform remediation, which could result in a conflict of interest claim.
Mistake 7: Not Getting the Paperwork Done
If your home has water damage again and mold returns, your insurance company may question whether the mold was actually caused by the new event. Without independent proof that an inspector found your home to be mold-free after earlier repairs, the insurance company might take the position that a new claim is not justified or that you have met your policy limit.
"By taking some simple steps ahead of time, homeowners can save money and heartache, and protect their health," says Weitz.
About RTK Environmental Group
RTK Environmental Group, with offices in Stamford, CT; New York, NY; White Plains, NY; Syosset, NY; and Fairlawn, NJ is one of the most trusted environmental testing service firms on the east coast. For nearly 30 years, it has provided testing services to more than 30,000 commercial and residential customers, ranging from homeowners and real estate investors to schools, medical centers, housing authorities and many others. In addition to mold, lead, indoor air quality, and asbestos testing, RTK performs testing for volatile organic compounds (VOCs,) soil, water and radon, and can also test for specialty toxins. Company professionals are certified, licensed, and fully insured. RTK provides only environmental testing, and not remediation, so results are clear and unbiased. For more information, please visit our site at www.rtkenvironmental.com or call 1-800-392-6468 to set up an inspection.