OH NO! You have sewage in your basement/crawlspace. Do you have insurance coverage for that? That is the hardest question SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac gets asked in a typical day. The answer is “Maybe”, it depends on exactly what your policy says is covered. Most home policies cover the structure and everything in it. This is where it gets sticky. Is it your “poo” or the neighbors’? Let’s try to sort it out for you.
If you have a septic system there is a good chance you will have coverage since many insurance companies consider the septic system a part of normal home “plumbing”. You still will need to call your agent who will probably defer to your adjuster for the ruling. Another thing to be aware of is that the “sewer backup” part of the policy normally does not cover contents. This should be a hint for you be very careful of storing valuable or unreplaceable contents on the basement floor. Sewer back up on home policies often have a limit of $2,000 to $5,000 and may or may not cover mold growth.
If you are on a city sewer, your chances of being covered are much slimmer. Most home policies will not cover the loss and it is very difficult to convince the city that it is their problem. You have to prove that they either had design issues or possibly a pump failure and that’s tough to do. Also remember that there is a big difference between a sewage backup and ground water back up from the sump pit or floor drain. As always, read the fine print on your policy before you renew to prevent a nasty surprise when it happens to you. And don’t forget to call the experts at SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac at 231-723-4872 if you need help.
Do I have mold?
If your home has been wet you probably have some level of mold growth but finding it is not that simple. Compared to a grain of sand, which can be 10,000 microns in size, most mold spores are less than 1 micron in size. This means that they are not visible to the naked eye. The only way to determine if you really have mold is to send a sample to a lab equipped with a 500 times microscope. If someone tells you that you have mold ask them which lab they used.
Think of visible mold using the sand example magnified 10,000 times. You would not be able to see a single mold spore or grain of sand in your home. However, you would be able to see a pail of sand. After mold grows for several days or weeks, it does become visible to the naked eye just like a pail of beach sand is visible. But, just because it looks like mold, it may be something else. I have seen many instances where well-meaning home inspectors ruined a home sale by falsely identifying dust, oils, tar, and insulation as mold. To be sure, it must be tested by a lab.
It is a conflict of interest (and illegal in most states) for the same company to do mold remediation and also do clearance testing. Note: Michigan has no mold laws so be careful of self-proclaimed mold experts offering to remove your mold and provide “proof” with sampling. SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac can guide you through the process, provide contact information for local independent testing personnel, and answer any questions. Give us a call at 877-350-4872.
Do I have toxic black mold?
There are thousands of different species of mold commonly found in Michigan. Most are black or grey. The famous “toxic black killer mold”, is actually a Texas and Florida mold, Stachybotrys Chartarum. It can be found in Michigan but is pretty rare because it requires high temperatures and extremely high moisture levels for a long time to grow. Stachybotrys Chartarum was blamed (probably falsely) in infant deaths in the 1990’s and has had a bad reputation ever since. When attacked (think bleach) it does give off micro toxins which can cause health issues to sensitive people.
Whenever molds’ food source (drywall, wood, dirt, leather, clothes, or pretty much any organic material) is wet above 16%, mold will grow. Actively growing mold will give off Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOCs). These musty or moldy smells are actually aldehydes, benzenes, tulolenes. These odors are commonly associated with the moldy basement smell most people recognize. If you smell them, you need to look for the water problem and address it immediately.
You will hear this over and over but you cannot have a mold problem without also having a water problem. SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac can quickly find the source of water and get it dry before the mold problem gets worse. SERVPRO has IICRC and ACAC trained professionals on staff to help with any mold issue you may have. Give them a call at 877-350-4872. Never let someone work on your home unless they show you a copy of their certifications and proof that they carry mold malpractice insurance. If they or their employees get sick working on your home, you could be liable.
Is it safe for me to stay in my home if I have visible mold?
The only one who can answer that question is your health care professional who is familiar with your health history. Ask your doctor. That said, the majority of symptoms of mold are allergy symptoms that go away after you leave the source. Think hay fever. If you are allergic to rag weed and go out in a field of rag weed, you will start sneezing, your eyes will start running, and you will feel terrible. A short time after leaving the allergens you will begin to feel better. Mold is similar. If you are allergic to the specific mold or molds in your environment, you will have symptoms.
Mold symptoms are related to time and extent of exposure. You may have more severe symptoms from mold in your bedroom that you will from your bathroom due to the amount of time spent in each area. A couple square inches of mold on your shower curtain will likely not affect you as much as a wet moldy carpet. Don’t assume that because you never go into your attic or crawlspace that mold in those areas is OK. Spores will travel throughout the home due to air currents and pressure changes from your furnace, AC unit, bathroom vent fan, range hood, or outside wind loads.
SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac’s highly trained professionals will take the time to explain the possible issues related to mold and work with your insurance company to determine if you have coverage. Some insurance companies cover mold and some don’t. Read your policy carefully. The insurance companies that do cover mold often have limits and usually require the mold to be caused by a covered loss such as a broken pipe or wind damage to the roof.
If I see mold, can I just cut it out?
You can legally, it is your house and you can do whatever you want. It is not recommended because of the risk of spreading spores to unaffected areas of the home. Once mold is disturbed by cutting, sanding, or cleaning; massive amounts to spores are released into the area. While there are no safe spore count limits identified in Michigan, most hygienists like to see spore counts in occupied dwellings at or below the 2,000 to 3,000 spores per cubic meter range.
During demolition of moldy drywall or carpeting the spore counts can easily reach one million spores per cubic meter. SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac has highly trained professionals who can safely remove the visible mold and invisible spores. Give us a call at 877-723-4872. SERVPRO employees will do the remediation and cleaning in full PPE which includes full face respirators, nitrile gloves, and Tyvek moon suits. They will also set containment and negative air pressure to prevent the spores from spreading to unaffected areas of your home.
Special care must be taken with the heating and cooling systems to avoid contaminating them and spreading spores throughout the home. After the visible mold has been removed, SeERVPRO will HEPA vacuum all surfaces followed by wet cleaning with an EPA registered anti-microbial. Other steps may also be required if the area has “at risk” occupants or is a daycare or health care facility. One last thing to consider is, never do any mold remediation until the source of water has been stopped and the area is dry.
I have black, brown, red, white, or green stains or crystals on my unpainted block walls. Is it mold?
As we stated in an earlier post, you really can’t be sure if it is or isn’t mold without a lab report. However, most of the time these crystals and stains are efflorescence caused by water entering the block from outside the home, evaporating, and leaving the minerals and salts behind as crystals and stains. Although mold can grow on bio-films, dirt, or paint on block walls, it cannot grow on the concrete itself. Mold requires organic material to digest and concrete is inorganic.
A bigger problem with seeing the efflorescence on the block is the water intrusion itself. The water will evaporate from the block and condense on some other surface when it reaches the dew point. Unless this water is removed (usually by setting a dehumidifier) or prevented from entering the structure, the possibility of mold growth on other surfaces is likely. While SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac does not specialize in waterproofing basement, we can give you advice on keeping the water away from the structure.
Installing roof eves with downspouts that get the water at least 6 feet away from the basement is usually the quickest and most cost effective way to solve the water intrusion problem. Landscaping to divert the water away from the basement is another solution. The mold expensive (and sometimes necessary fix) is to dig up the wall and coat the outside with waterproofing material or install drain tile to remove the water. Sometimes installing a vapor barrio near the surface can help in preventing the water from causing problems. Give SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac a call at 877-723-4872.
Using a generator safely following Michigan storms
Yesterday's paper read, "Two Die At Home Running Generator During Power Outage." In this case, an elderly couple died after setting the generator in an enclosed garage because of the power outage. Their death was entirely preventable. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission requires manufactures of portable generators to have a label that states "DANGER! Using a generator indoors CAN KILL YOU IN MINUTES."
* Never use generators indoors.
*Never set generator outdoors near a window, door or vent.
* Never use generators in crawlspaces or under awnings.
* To prevent shock and electrocution, never use a generator in wet conditions.
* Make sure you have working CO (Carbon Monoxide) detectors and alarms in your home.
Opening doors and windows will not prevent carbon monoxide buildup, although, you cannot see or smell carbon monoxide. Symptoms include feeling sick, dizzy or weak. If you hear a generator running in your neighborhood, please check to see if it is being operated properly. If you suspect CO poisoning, do not open the building. Call 911 or your local fire department immediately for professional assistance. Carbon Monoxide deaths are easily preventable and SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington and Cadillac, encourages you to use generators safely and watch out for your neighbors and friends!
What do the national guidelines say about mold?
The best source of mold information is the IICRC S520, Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Mold Remediation 2015 3rd edition. This ANSI standard is accepted throughout the world as the standard care that should be followed on all remediation projects. Make sure that whoever does your mold remediation follows this standard. SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington and Cadillac's employees have been trained in this newly released standard, and can help you with any size project.
The summary of this standard, is source removal. It clearly states, that the use of bleach and anti-microbials, is not an acceptable remediation procedure. Let me just repeat that one more time, no-one should be using bleach or relying on anti-microbials to kill mold. A dead mold spore is just as dangerous to the human body as a live spore.
The standard also states, that porous materials with visible mold growth must be discarded. Hard surfaces with visible mold growth can be cleaned with abrasive cleaning followed with wet cleaning with soap and water. Care must be taken to prevent the spread of mold spores to unaffected areas of the structure through the use of containment, engineering controls and air scrubbing. Contact SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington and Cadillac for advice on rather this is a project you can tackle yourself or need SERVPRO's assistance or visit our website at SERVPROofmanisteeludingtonandcadillac.com
How did I get mold?
Example of Mold Spores
In a home, the recipe for growing mold is "Just add water." Mold needs three things to grow: food (any organic material) water and spores. Mold spores are everywhere. Its food is everywhere, so all that is needed to grow is water. Most mold spores take 48 to 72 hours to start growing after their food source reaches 16% moisture content. This means that 2-days after a rain or dew, you will have mold growth outside and new spores. The same thing happens indoors after you have a water event.
Mold spores will enter your home in many ways. They are small enough to go through the walls as the home breathes, they can be carried in by pets or on your clothes. Open windows are an obvious source. When we say, spores are everywhere, that includes in every home in Michigan. That also includes doctors' offices, hospitals and your car. Remember, "Just add water."
If you have a water leak anywhere in your home, you need to get it repaired immediately. If you have a flood or broken pipe, give SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington and Cadillac a call at 877-350-4872. SERVPRO strictly follows the national drying guidelines that require that the structure be dried down to below 16% moisture content within 72 hours to prevent mold growth. This is not a do-it-yourself project if you have major water damage. Specialized equipment will be needed to get it dry before mold starts.
Back to school tip and tricks
With all of the parents gearing up to send their children back to school, the harsh reality of back to school shopping begins to hit their wallets like a freight train. American parents with children from kindergarten through 12th grade will collectively spend about 24.9 billion dollars, which is an average of $315.18 per child. That amount is down 6% from last year according to Martha C. White. A lead consult at familyfinance.com.
A good way to lower the spending costs is to simply shop around. Shopping online has so many benefits. A lot of the time, you can get the name brands at a fraction of the cost and even shopping around online on multiple sites will allow you that price break. For example, my daughter wanted a specific pair of Under Armour tennis shoes that she found at a popular sporting goods store for $77. I started looking online and found the same pair of shoes for $29.99 with free shipping after searching around a few different sites. $47 less then what they were at the sporting goods store.
Another great way to cut prices is to use social media. Facebook has so many of the yard sale and garage sale sites where people re-sell their gently used items and sometimes brand new which are a lot less because they are simply trying to get rid of them.
There are so many ways to cut costs for back to school shopping. A lot of them are at your fingertips. The internet is great tool to find all of the name brand must haves to make their first day entrance one to remember.