Sump Pump Failure & Homeowner's Insurance
Imagine the potential damage to your home should your sump pump stop working for any reason; whether it be due to a power failure during a spring storm, or the simple mechanical failure of the pump itself. Without a functioning pump to pump the water out of your sump crock, and up out of your home, the crock will overflow into your basement, soaking your carpet and drywall if your basement is finished, and possibly destroying furniture, important documents and anything else you may have stored in your basement. And depending upon things like the water table and soil conditions in your area, the elevation of your home, and the amount of time the pump is out of order, the amount of water can be significant, causing havoc even in an unfinished basement.
Many people may assume that their homeowner’s insurance will cover this type of damage. But did you know that in most cases, a standard homeowner’s insurance policy does not provide coverage for water damage caused by sump pump failure. However, this type of coverage can be very affordable and can easily be added on to your standard homeowner’s policy in the form of what’s called an endorsement. When this type of endorsement is active, it provides for coverage of property damage caused by water that has managed to back up and into your home from pipes, sewer systems, drains, sump pumps, water-service, or any additional system that transfers fluids to and from your home. Now is a perfect time of the year to check with your insurance agent to see if you have this important coverage.
Sump Pumps: How they Work & Why they're Important
Did you know that water below ground can be a threat to your foundation? That’s where your sump pump comes in.
In-order to understand how a sump pump works and why it’s important, it’s helpful to first understand the home building process. After a hole is dug by an excavator for a basement, the next step is to put in foundation footings. Foundation footings in Kentucky are typically a poured cement slab, often reinforced with rebar. The footings are poured into the excavated trench essentially in an outline of the foundation walls. The footings provide a foundation upon which the cement bricks of the foundation will be laid, or upon which the cement walls of the foundation will be poured, depending on the type of basement wall construction used. The soil upon which these footings are poured needs to stay at a consistent moisture level to prevent settlement, heave, or differential movement. That’s where the sump pump and it’s supporting system comes into play.
A drain system is installed around the perimeter of the foundation/footings. This drain system is essentially a system of pipes (surrounded by crushed stone) with holes in the top that collect water that is heading towards the foundation walls. The water that is collected in these pipes is redirected into a sump crock in the basement, where a pump then pumps the water up and out of the basement. Proper installation and maintenance of this entire system is essential to keeping a basement dry and stable.
8 Common Causes of Water Damage
Having leaking or broken pipes is a major cause of water damage in residential and commercial buildings, making them one of the most common causes of water damage. Clogged and backed up toilets create a buildup of pressure in the pipes, which leads to the busting/leaking of these pipes. Another common problem that can develop is with garbage disposals. If a garbage disposal isn’t working correctly it is often due to leaks near the bottom of the unit and floods cabinets with a nasty concoction of food waste and water. Roots from trees and plants around your house can spread into sewer lines causing them to break. Lastly, keep an eye out for old and rusty pipes as they are most prone to leaking.
The good thing about potential plumbing problems is they can be prevented fairly easily with an occasional look over of pipes under your sink or in your basement. Although sometimes plumbing issues are nearly impossible to detect since some pipes are hidden behind walls. Normally these pipes cause trouble because of hoses and pipe joints that aren’t fully connected.
Crawl Space, Basement & Attic Concerns
Basements, attics, and crawl spaces are some of the most prone areas inside a house for water damage. This is in part due to the lack of temperature controls in these areas. Humidity levels in a basement can rise over the course of time with aging infrastructure and hydrostatic pressure buildup. When it comes to crawlspaces and attics, these areas foster dark and damp environments which are ideal for mold growth.
Malfunctioning Household Appliances
The two most common appliances that cause water damage in homes are washing machines and hot water tanks. Other appliances such as refrigerators, dish washers are also at risk of failure. Keep an eye on these old appliance’s pipes. With the heavy usage of these electronics their pipes can start to rust and crack faster than other pipes around your house.
HVAC stands for heating, ventilating, & air conditioning units. Specifically air conditioners, due to their use of constant water flow, require regular cleaning and maintenance. When left unkempt moisture can easily buildup leading to water and mold damage.
Weather or Natural Disasters
This is the trickiest cause to deal with. There is little predictability when it comes to natural disasters and weather related problems. Take note of your environment where you live and determine which severe weather conditions are most likely. Once you’ve identified the most concerning natural disasters in your area, take the necessary precautions to help prepare your home. The most notable, natural water disasters include flash floods, severe storms, and hurricanes. Don’t be reactionary, be anticipatory.
An often overlooked cause of water damage is gutters. Due to their presence being on the outside of the house and cleverly tucked around the home it becomes a problem of, out of sight, out of mind. During the summer and all throughout fall debris in the forms of branches and leaves star t to flutter around the air. As debris falls it can gather into drainage gutters and get caught, creating blockage. As rain comes it is no longer able to be filtered away from the side of the house. It begins to flood over the gutters and stream down the side of the house. Additionally, if your gutters have any cracks they may be rendered ineffective. As water flows through the gutters it’ll start to drizzle out of the crack and onto the building instead of down and away from it. This constant flow of water can lead to the deterioration of walls due to constant wetness. Even worse, buildup can form around the structure of the home, leading to water leaking into the home (such as the basement), resulting in constant leaks or mold.
If you have a home with a flat roof you are at a higher risk of experiencing water trouble on your roof. Most flat roofs are built with a minor incline to prevent rainfall from forming standing water on the roof. This slight incline allows the water to drain off the roof. Flat roof water trouble comes when debris, manmade and from nature, starts to accumulate on the roof. With enough weight this can cause enough pressure to the weakest points of the flat roof which can cause the roof to warp ever so slightly inward. Water will start to pool up on the roof at these warped areas. During the coldest times of the year water can start to freeze up near the drainage point of the flat roof. Ice dams start to form, preventing the drainage of water from the roof. If this goes on frequently and long enough water can start to damage the roof of your house and eve n create cracks which turn into leaks. These leaks cause moisture to seep into the ceiling of your house. The problem turns from standing water on your roof to water damage and mold damage on the roof and ceiling of your home.
Hot Water Heater Leaks
Most of us rarely think about our hot water heaters until they either fail to give us hot water or they leak all over our basement and cause significant damage. But in fact, due to the nature of what they due, water heaters are prone to leaks and often cause significant damage to your basement, especially if your basement is finished. It's a much harder clean up if you have wet carpeting and drywall versus cement floor and walls.
Hot water heaters operate by bringing cold water into the tank at the bottom. This water is then heated using natural gas, propane, fuel oil or electricity. The hot water then rises to the top where it is released to wherever warm water is needed in your home, while more cold water comes back into the tank to replace it, and the cycle continues. This process results in various spots where water can leak.
- Whenever you have a plumbing connection or plumbing lines, you have the potential for a leak and there are several near your water heater
- Because water is being heated, water heaters have a temperature & pressure relief valve. These valves can be faulty and cause a leak, or they can leak due to excessive pressure, overheating, or becoming stuck
- Your water heater has a drain valve. This drain valve can fail to close completely and can cause leak.
- If you have an electric water heater, leaks can occur due to a loose heating element or a bad gasket
- The tank itself can corrode and water can leak out the bottom
To protect yourself from significant water damage from a leaky hot water heater, you can install an automatic water shut off valve. Moisture sensors are placed on the floor near or under the water heater. If a leak is detected, the sensors send a signal to the control box which in turn closes the valve, shutting off the water supply.
Signs You Have a Mold Problem in Your Business
Discovering you have a mold problem can be a bit overwhelming at first. Before you sell your company, hire a professional to assess the situation. You may notice an odor or react to a mycotoxin in the mold.
It is important to recognize the warning signs of mold before it takes over your home and affects your company.
Smell – Mold has a pungent, musty odor. If it is in one area of your building, you might notice a distinct smell when you enter that part of the property. It is not always visually apparent. Mold can grow behind wallpaper, inside walls and under the carpet. If you notice an unusual and persistent odor in your property, contact a professional to perform an inspection.
Sight – Watch for the appearance of mold. It may be black, discolored, fuzzy or slimy. You will notice a suspect area growing overtime. Like most fungi, it likes damp areas. Regularly check and clean areas that have a high humidity or tend to collect dampness.
Health – Because mold is not always visible, it may not be apparent that you have a mold problem. If you notice a musty odor when you are at the office or you spot water damaged areas, you may need to hire a mold remediation specialist. If you do have a mold problem, you may notice that you feel better when you are away from home.
Organisms of the fungus kingdom, like mold, produce toxic secondary metabolites called mycotoxins.
Things to Know
The best way to prevent mold growth is to control the moisture in your home. Molds can be found almost anywhere and are able to grow on most surfaces, so keeping an eye out for it is essential to keeping you and your employees.
5 Steps To Prepare Your Home for a Fire
Most people take active measures to prevent house fires, but not many people have implemented fire preparation techniques. Yet, fire prep is just as important as fire prevention, and in fact may be more so when it comes to protecting your home and loved ones. If you have yet to implement fire safety procedures, it’s time to do so. Below are five things you can do to get started:
• Test your smoke alarms.
• Plan an evacuation route.
• Teach your children what to do in the event of a home fire.
• Devise a communication strategy.
Test Your Alarms
Though your smoke alarms should inform you when they’re low on batteries, it doesn’t hurt to check them periodically. Test them once a month, and to err on the side of caution, replace their batteries at least once a year.
Plan an Evacuation Route
This should be at the top of your fire preparation list. Identify all possible exits for each room in the home and make sure that each family member is aware of where those exits are. Designate a family meeting spot outside.
Teach Your Children
If you have young children, show them what the fire alarm sounds like and advise them on what to do if they hear one. Inform them of evacuation routes as well.
Plan a Way To Communicate
Put together an emergency contact list and make sure that all family members know who to contact if they cannot find one another. Have your young children memorize important phone numbers, beginning with 911.
The best way to ensure that all family members know what to do in the event of an emergency is to practice. Host a fire drill every couple of months and devise different scenarios. In doing so, you can increase the odds that everyone knows what to do and how to escape in a real emergency.
Your SERVPRO fire remediation team or local fire department can review your fire preparation plan and provide additional tips for how to improve it. Don’t cut corners when it comes to fire safety and start planning today.
Tips for Creating a Fire Escape Plan
A fire usually happens without warning, so it is important that you are prepared and have a fire escape plan in place before you need it. Knowing how to create an emergency escape plan is the first step, because you want to ensure that the one that you design will be able to get you, your family and your pets out safely and quickly should a fire ever occur.
You should have fire alarms outside of all bedrooms and on all levels of the home. This ensures that everyone will be able to hear them sound if a fire happens. Every season, test them and change the batteries so that they are always fresh and working properly.
Prepare and Practice Your Escape Plan
Everyone should play a role in the creation of an escape plan so that they know it. Write it down and put it in an area where people can see it daily, such as on your refrigerator. When you are creating and practicing your plan, give each family member two escape routes. You also want to have a meeting spot for everyone to go to that is safely away from your home.
Once you have a good fire escape plan, it is important that the whole family knows what to do. This means occasionally practicing it, just like the fire drills you used to do when you were in school. According to the American Red Cross, only 26 percent of American families have created a plan and practiced it.
Now that you have this information, it is time to get your fire escape plan in place. Get the entire family together so that you can work on the plan together. It is also a good idea to practice your plan every now and then so that it remains fresh in everyone’s mind.
5 Things You Need to Know About Mold
Mold can spread if moisture is present.
As a homeowner, you don't want to hear that there is black mold in your living space. The thought of mold growth may terrify you. It's true that this fungus can be a problem, but the spores themselves really aren't that scary. If you talk to any residential mold professional, you'll learn a few important things about this growth.
1. It is everywhere. Mold already exists in your home. This doesn't mean you need to call in a remediation team right now, but it does mean that the spores naturally occur both indoors and outdoors. You can never have a mold-free house because the spores are always around.
2. It requires water. While the spores may be everywhere, mold cannot thrive in every location. Water is a key ingredient for mold survival. If you have been dealing with a moisture problem in your house, even just high humidity, you may be inviting colonies of mold.
3. It can travel easily. Part of the reason spores can be everywhere is because they travel through water, in the air and on humans and animals. You may introduce mold to your home without realizing that a few spores caught a ride on your shoes.
4. It may have a smell. Some molds, particularly black mold, are associated with a musty odor. This aroma may be what clues you in to your growth. However, this fungus can exist without a tell-tale smell.
5. It needs to be dealt with quickly. Because mold is everywhere and can spread easily, a mold cleanup crew should be called as soon as you suspect the growth is in your house. If not taken care of right away, it may spread to other rooms and the remediation process may grow.
Black mold is something that no one wants to find in their home, but sometimes it finds a way to show up. The more you know about mold the better prepared you will be to take care of the problem.
Which Types of Mold Grow in Houses?
There are many different types and subspecies of mold that may grow in a house. If you have found mold in your home or smell an odor that leads you to suspect the presence of hidden mold, you should contact a certified service that provides testing, clean-up, and restoration services. Skilled professionals can determine whether mold growth poses a risk to any member of the household and limit your family's exposure.
• Aspergillus is a common genus of mold found on food such as bread or potatoes and in HVAC systems. This type of mold is highly aerobic and depends on the presence of oxygen in order to thrive.
• Cladosporium is black or green mold growth that often forms on air ducts, toilets, or painted surfaces in high humidity or when excessive moisture is present.
• Black mold is a type of mold that is known to cause problems for residents in homes with substantial growths. The scientific name for black mold is stachybotrys chartarum. This type of mold should be identified and handled only by mold experts.
• White mold tends to be in the early stages of growth. A reputable service should be able to prevent this type of mold from continuing to grow into mature colonies. White or light grey molds on plants are mildew – a related type of fungus.
These are just a few of the major types of mold growth that you may see in a home in the wake of water damage. You may attempt to identify visible mold in your home, but when it comes to determining the real risk posed by mold and eliminating its presence, you should rely on trained hygienists and remediation experts at SERVPRO. These specialists can provide accurate results with either microscopy or culturing and determine the type or subspecies of mold and the best way to eliminate it from your home.
Professional Storm Restoration Services Provide the Best Solution
Natural disasters can happen fast. Even if storms or other weather events are expected, storms can suddenly change course and become worse than projected. They can leave things like hurricane damage, excess ground water, flood water from river flooding, hail damage, frozen pipes, ice damming and ice damage behind.
When there is storm damage that includes wind damage, flooding, roof damage, a roof leak requiring roof repair, and water damage to your home or business you need the professional services of experts in storm restoration. The faster you get expert help with wind or water damage, the less permanent destruction you'll see.
Professional Help is Best
It's always best to hire experts in storm restoration when the unthinkable has happened. They can remove flood water and dirty ground water thoroughly. They know how to extract water fast with professional water removal using drying equipment, before standing water can create more damage from mold and mildew. Water restoration is a complicated process.
Professionals get businesses or homes dry again by using proven water restoration techniques. They'll sanitize and deodorize areas that have experienced flooding, whether it resulted from hurricane damage, river flooding or tornado damage. Professionals use special sensing equipment to find hidden water damage behind ceilings or walls. Storm restoration is something you never want to tackle on your own. It needs to be done right.
Steps Behind Water Extraction
When you call water restoration experts, the first step they'll take is to come to the home or business to evaluate the extent of water damage. Since they've seen the damage that comes from flood water, ground water, hurricane damage and storm damage, they have experience that helps them to know exactly what methods will be best for your storm remediation. Here are some of the steps they'll take:
- Water Removal - The first thing professionals do is remove the water quickly. Using specially designed flood pump technology and industrial strength wet and dry vacuum equipment, thorough home restoration will soon be underway. In cases of river flooding or damage by other types of standing water, after a flood pump is used, the water is evaluated for levels of bacteria and put into a category.
- Professional Drying - Professional, industrial grade dryers are used in water restoration service. After flood pumps have removed water, it's crucial to begin the drying process. Even when things look dry to the touch, they can still be wet. Specialty blowers are used to create airflow across previously flooded surfaces.
- De-humidification - A special complementary service to drying makes sure water is thoroughly removed from drywall and other building materials. Experts in storm restoration use specially designed meters to track the drying progress to be sure you get the most effective storm remediation.
- Cleanup and Sanitizing - After water is removed with a flood pump and other equipment, a critical part of your total home restoration is to have the area professionally cleaned and sanitized. River flooding and flooding due to hurricane damage or other storm damage features ground water and flood water that can be filled with bacteria or potentially dangerous organisms. Sanitizing after storm damage is an important part of storm remediation.
Winter Storms Create More Challenges
Winter storms like blizzards and whiteout situations can create ice damming, frozen pipes, hail damage, ice damage, wind damage and other problems making home restoration a challenge. There may be denting from hail damage, ice dam formation, frozen pipes, roof damage, severe ice damming, wind damage and damage from a roof leak requiring roof repair. These situations call for professional storm remediation. Frozen pipes require specialized treatment to thaw. Roof damage with a roof leak needs to be assessed so problem areas can be fixed correctly.
In an ice dam situation, shingles and gutters can be permanently damaged if it isn't corrected early. Ice damming left unchecked can lead to further flooding or roof leak scenarios leading to expensive roof repair situations. Wind damage, hail damage, ice dam events and ice damage can be incredibly destructive. Ice damage including an ice dam can lead to roof damage needing roof repair due to excessive weight. Professional home restoration is always the smart choice.