Snowfall and freezing temperatures leave many homes at risk of water damage from ice dams. Ice dam removal should be handled by professionals and can be dangerous for the inexperienced.
What is an ice dam – An ice dam occurs when snow melts and refreezes on a roof. Sunlight or heat from the inside of a home partially melts the snow as it refreezes overnight. Water can penetrate the shingles and then freeze and expand, eventually causing damage to the roof and allowing water to penetrate inside the home.
How to prevent ice dams – There are many products available to prevent an ice dam. Heat tape, snow shields, roof melt and improved attic insulation are all beneficial products to prevent an ice dam. Roofing and insulation experts can be your first line of defense against an ice dam. Using a roof rake to clear snow from the roof before it can freeze is an effective tool, but it can be dangerous and difficult work.
Removing an ice dam – Removal can be a tricky and dangerous job. Aggressively removing an ice dam can pull shingles and cause further damage. Do not use a sharp tool like an axe or pick to remove an ice dam as it can penetrate the roof. The most effective method is to use a roof melt product to create a trough for the ice to melt off the roof. It is also important for gutters and downspout to be clear to allow for proper drainage
Temperatures across Montana are expected to drop below zero during the month of February. It is time to pay attention and take the necessary steps to prevent freezing pipes.
Where are pipes most likely to freeze – Some pipes are more vulnerable than others. Pipes running near exterior walls are 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 barley 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.
Fire prevention and safety tips
Regular steps can be followed to decrease the chances of a fire occurring on your property. These measures need to be paired with home safety to protect occupants from a fire. According to the American Red Cross, occupants may have as little as two minutes to escape a fire. Protecting life is always the most important factor in fire prevention and safety.
Fire alarms and maintenance – Follow professional recommendations and code regulations for installation and location of fire alarms. They should be located on all levels of a structure and inside and outside of sleeping areas. Test fire alarms monthly and immediately address any issues.
Fire safety plan – Develop a fire safety plan and practice it! Everyone living inside the dwelling should know the safety plan and how to execute it. Remember, there may only be a few minutes to escape the structure and the safety plan needs to be executed quickly.
Know when, how and what type of fire extinguisher to use – It is important to know when it is appropriate to use a fire extinguisher versus escaping a fire. Also understanding how a fire extinguisher works and what type of fire it is appropriate for. Please follow this link for more information: Fire Extinguisher Classes & Safety Tips – Nationwide
Be up-to-date on regular maintenance – Do you sweep your chimney and get it inspected every year? Do you have your dryer vent cleaned every year? These are important maintenance items which need to be addressed. Dryer vents and chimneys are leading sources of home fires.
Be mindful of normal household items – If you utilize space heaters, make sure there is adequate space around them so they do not catch something on fire. Watch out for stray tea towels or flammable items near the stovetop. It only takes a few seconds for something to catch fire.
With a mild winter so far in central Montana, now is a good time to take advantage and check for proper drainage throughout your property.
Complete a thorough check of the gutter system – Ensure gutters are clean of debris and blockages. Check that connections are tight and there are no gaps between the gutter system and the roof. Double check gutters have the proper slope that goes towards the downspouts. The gutter pitch or slope is very subtle and often needs to be checked with a level. A half inch of slope is recommended for every ten feet. Over time, pressure, wear and knocks from branches can mess with the pitch. It is important to check the gutter pitch to ensure water is able to flow easily to the downspouts without pooling.
Downspouts need to remain clear and have enough space to push water away from the foundation – A clogged downspout can be trouble for the entire system and lead to damage and repairs. Downspouts should drain at least five feet away from the property. If possible, have downspouts pushing water onto a hard surface which is sloped away from the property. If this is not possible, utilize splash pads or downspout extensions to properly divert the water.
Whether it is rain or snowmelt, check to see where the runoff is going – Controlling water runoff is key to avoiding water damage inside your home. If water is pooling close to foundation walls, it can saturate the ground and cause interior water damage. If water is consistently settling near the foundation, landscaping may be required to create proper drainage.
As we naturally spend more time indoors during the winter months, it is imperative to have a healthy indoor environment. The duct system of your home can be seen as the lungs of a house. If they have not been professionally cleaned, the duct system can spread dust and allergens around the home.
It would surprise many homeowners how much debris can be held inside the duct system. Everything from pet hair, dust buildup and even small children’s toys can find their way into the vents. These items allow for blockages or buildups of moisture and debris which impact the air quality of a home.
A professional duct cleaning will systematically clean all the vents and trunk lines to remove any debris. This will create a healthier living space and allow the system to run more efficiently.
Along with a professional cleaning every three years, furnace filters should be replaced according to the manufacturer’s recommendation, normally every 90 days. Check for debris lodged in vent covers and clean them out before they fall into the ducting.
Carpets are another portion of the home which can negatively impact indoor air quality. Allergens and dirt will trap themselves inside the carpet fibers. Regular vacuuming will help, but can also spread allergens if the vacuum does not have a good filter.
A professional carpet cleaning will reduce the allergens and dirt trapped inside a carpet. The proper detergent and process will increase the visual appearance and the cleanliness of carpet and upholstery.
Are you concerned about your indoor air quality? Contact Newman Restoration at 406-672-2819 to discuss our cleaning services which can make your home a more comfortable place to live!
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 can not 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 grey 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.
Checking your home for slow leaks should be completed once a week. This step can catch water damage before it turns into a much larger issue. Slow leaks develop microbial growth and often deteriorate building materials, resulting in significant repairs.
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. 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. After a toilet runs, check along the supply line and ensure there is no moisture build up around the toilet.
Exterior Walls – In the spring, snowmelt 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.
Crawlspaces – The crawlspace of a home is susceptible to slow leaks and water damage. Ground water can enter a crawlspace 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 crawlspace 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.
Keeping your home clean with extra family and guests around is of high importance this holiday season. During the Covid 19 pandemic, extra attention must be paid to disinfecting and cleaning common touch points.
Focus on commonly touched areas – The most efficient and time effective cleaning and disinfecting should be focused on commonly touched areas. These include door handles, light switches, countertops, tables and chairs. Use this list to find products capable of disinfecting.
Bathrooms – Special attention needs to be paid to bathrooms. Bathrooms have many high touch areas, including faucets, handles and fixtures. Any towels used by guests should be washed after their stay.
Electronics and remotes – A commonly missed portion of cleaning and disinfecting is electronic. TV remotes, game controllers and mobile devices are commonly touched items which need to be cleaned.
Protect yourself – Wash your hands before you start cleaning and wear disposable gloves. Do not touch your face when you are cleaning. Wearing a facemask or face shield while cleaning is a good reminder to not touch your face. Dispose of your gloves and wash your hands again after cleaning.
Keep cleaning items around for everyone to use – Make sure the bathrooms are stocked with hand soap and hand sanitizer is available. Keep disinfecting wipes on tables and counters for others to use.
Follow the instructions for your cleaning product – Cleaning products have different surface contact times to properly disinfect a surface. These times will be listed on the container or can be found online. It is important for the surface to look visible wet for the entire duration of the contact or dwell time for the product to be effective.
Thanksgiving is a time of celebration with family and friends. Many of us have long standing traditions and are having to reevaluate them during the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic. Team Newman has a few suggestions to help with your Thanksgiving plans.
Go virtual! – The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is with a virtual get-together. Facetime, Zoom or Google Meet with your friends and family. While this will not be the same as getting together in person, a virtual celebration is the best way to limit the spread of COVID 19. One way to have a communal virtual experience is to share recipes and make it feel like you are sitting down for the same meal together. Plan a time for everyone to join a Zoom call and brag about what delicious food they are cooking!
If meeting in person, limit the number of people and time spent together – Most of us are used to a large Thanksgiving party, but it is in our best interest to limit the amount of people attending in person. Getting together for a limited amount of time is also recommended. One idea is for people to get together for a dessert only party. This can help keep the amount of exposure time down.
Wear your mask and keep a safe distance – If you do plan on getting together for Thanksgiving, make sure to wear a mask and maintain social distancing. It will also be important to wash your hands frequently. If you are hosting a Thanksgiving party, communicate the expectations ahead of time so the guests can be prepared.
Small safety precautions can go a long way – Regularly disinfect common touchpoints, including door handles, bathrooms, tables and counters during a Thanksgiving get-together. Have one person serve the food instead of everyone handling the serving spoons themselves. Use disposable plates, cups and utensils so they can be disposed of right after the meal. Setup multiple small dining tables so family units can eat together instead of everyone being around one table. Keep a limited amount of people in the food prep area.
Celebrate outdoors if possible – Unfortunately, the current weather forecast for Montana shows temperatures in the 30s on Thanksgiving, so having an outdoor celebration might not be feasible. If possible, maintain a flow of fresh air inside the home by opening windows often.
Reschedule your celebration – With travel restrictions and family members at high risk, it may not be feasible to have a Thanksgiving celebration. If so, plan a celebration for the warmer months! Prepare all the normal Thanksgiving fixings when it is safer to get together!
Plan, plan, plan – Take the extra time to plan safety precautions before people arrive. Stock up on disinfecting tools, soap, hand sanitizer and masks. Make a plan and set up the area to allow for social distancing. Utilize as many disposable items as possible. Set reminders to disinfect common touch points regularly. Communicate your plan with everyone attending so they can help you execute it.
The crawl space is an easy place to ignore, however it is an important area to check and maintain. Crawl space issues can develop slowly or quickly and lead 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 allow for microbial growth and deterioration of structural materials. A damaged or missing vapor barrier can allow for elevated levels of moisture in a crawl space.
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.
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, installing pipe wrap can prevent freezing.
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 and carcasses can create an unhealthy environment. It is important to check around a crawl space for signs of rodents as their presence will create a health hazard.