Hurricane Harvey Houston Preventative Measures

HURRICANE HARVEY PREVENTIVE TIPS!
Yes we are now in that time of year called Hurricane Season! Safety is always a key concern and we will have you folks in our thoughts and prayers. I have taught many years ago that it is not just the hurricane damage that affects your property but also the after effects with all the standing water and excess humidity. Mold contamination and bacteria can grow at alarming rates. Excess water and humidity is like putting gas to the fire.

It is important once you come back to your property to effectively dry out all the areas and remove all water damage and mold contents. Calling a professional is highly recommended (in Harvey’s case 36 + inches of water and then some is a large mass of water). The excess relative humidity will begin to cause a lot of mold growth and contamination that can cause just as much damage as the flood.

Insurance companies and adjusters will be scrambling so do not wait sometimes it takes days or weeks to see damage.
Document everything with pictures, video, and keep all receipts of any urgent repairs.

Note you do not have to choose the restoration company the insurance company recommends usually national franchise chains. You can choose your own make sure they are licensed, certified, trained, established companies
Do not hire out of state contractors they won’t be there after they get their check! If it is a necessity, ask restoration companies and independent assessors for their current active certifications for training.
When going back to your property be prepared to wear proper safety gear such as HEPA mask Niosh N-95 or better, gloves, Tyvek coverall suit. Etc.
Be careful of electrical wires and the water supply sewerage, drinking water, etc. Drink bottled water.
Andy Provitola –CMC
Environmental Resources LLC
www.airenvironments.com

Copyright August 2017

Crawlspace Moisture

Excess Moisture in Crawlspaces

This time of year in the summer months causes concerns for musty odors, excess moisture and mold growth on the surfaces. What’s that smell? Do you know what is going on down in your crawlspace? Does it have a dirt floor? Is the open fiberglass insulation in the floor joist drooped down into the floor? These are signs that excessive moisture and mold contamination growth may be occurring.
Mold spores can and will exacerbate with any excess moisture and excess relative humidity that will cause existing mold spores to travel and move around where new growth can occur. Excess relative humidity in a basement or crawlspace is like adding ‘gas onto the fire’ where spores will grow. The picture in this crawlspace has a vapor barrier over the dirt floor and stapled above the floor joist. Moisture was still dripping with excess moisture in the middle of winter with a relative humidity reading at 79%. There was no dehumidification operating in the crawlspace.
Conducting a thorough visual investigation of the musty odor or any source of water leak, excess moisture is very important. Relative humidity (RH) should be less than 60% or lower to help to control moisture (30% to 50% (RH) is the best range). When (RH) is above 60% or more this is not good for your basement, crawlspace, or living/working space where mold and other contaminants can grow; even causing wood rot and decay to the structural support of the wood beams and joists. To control excess moisture and humidity it is important to install the proper dehumidification system. Too often homeowners and business owners do not have the proper size dehumidifier(s) installed because the square footage or cubic area is too large and the unit does not cover this amount of ambient space.
Crawlspaces with dirt floors should have quality grade vapor barriers with minimal 6 Mil thicknesses or higher covering the entire dirt floor including part of the lower side walls or to the top. Quality grade dehumidification is recommended to help control moisture.
During the hot and humid months less moisture is probable when the outside vents of crawlspace are closed up. Climates are different throughout the country; the Northeast region is different from the Southeast and Southwest regions.
Insulate using foam pipe sleeves any copper pipes underneath the crawlspace or in the basement area. The cold water pipes usually condensate when excess humidity comes in contact with them. Insulate Well Tanks and Water Filter Tanks as well. Dehumidifiers need to drain properly operating on a 24/7basis when needed.
If chronic water leaks or water floods into the basement or crawlspace areas then quality grade sump pump(s) and/or drainage are recommended. Install vinyl grade cover over sump pump area. Sump pump is best installed in the ground and the bucket is deep enough to effectively pump and drain water. Add drainage around perimeter if necessary. A professional can provide the proper assessment with the proper tools to help to determine such factors as relative humidity, temperature, air flows, moisture meters, Thermal Infrared Camera, etc.

Environmental Resources is here to help identify problem areas. Also we provide solutions with products and quality air purification with several pounds of carbon to fight odors. We offer sampling if it is called upon. Call for a professional consultation of your home or business’ indoor air quality today.

Andy Provitola CMC-Certified Microbial Consultant
Environmental Resources LLC
316 Washington Street
Norwell, MA 02061
781-248-9975
www.airenvironments.com

Does it really matter the type of mold(s) in my house – building?

Often times when I arrive for a mold assessment/inspection the question often comes up, “Is this the ‘bad mold’ or the ‘good mold’?  My first response is I don’t know because I do not give a physical or verbal interpretation of what I am dealing with. In other words if people are concerned about the types of mold present then sampling will be conducted and sent to a qualified AIHA Microbiological laboratory to determine its species. There may be more than one species  in a suspected room or in the sampling. This is the value of the  lab because I am just the messenger assessing the physical aspects of the property and its building envelope.  it is best find out as much information of the properties history when it has come to past flooding, water leaks, roof leaks, ice dams, past mold contamination, etc.

Getting back to the question of good or bad mold type. My response, to the house or building it does not necessarily matter because the property does not have lungs where humans and animals breathe in the contaminated air.  The mold species are not saying to each other, ” Hey we’re Aspergillus, Cladosporium, Penicillium, or Stachybotrys ‘Black mold’, etc. You get my point. Mold fungi in buildings  will eat at the substrate and organic matter of porous materials such as wallboard, ceilings, cardboard, clothing, furniture, carpets, storage, etc. The source it needs is an excess moisture content such as flooding, water leaks (over 48 hours), excess relative humidity over 60%, etc.  Removing and treating the mold is important to prevent the property from devaluation irrelevant to the type of mold species. In many cases remodeling will also have to be conducted after proper professional cleaning of mold fungi. Remember, the key is to stop the source of the water-moisture problem before remediating.

The importance of good and bad mold to humans and pet is because we are breathing in these allergenic, pathogenic, and toxigenic type mold species. “The term ‘toxic mold’ is not necessarily accurate but there are certain mold fungi that can produce toxins (specifically mycotoxins), the mold themselves are not necessarily toxic or poisonous. ” (See – CDC Mold questions & Answer).

In other words all mold species should be treated the same with respect to health risks and removal, wether good, bad, or the ugly mold species. People with allergies, asthma, immune suppression are more susceptible to potential fungal infections. It is best to consult with an experienced physician when it comes to these type of health problems. Our job is to conduct a professional assessment and inspection not to give any medical advice (which we do not by the way).

One more point. I have heard realtors say to their clients or buyers client that this is not the bad mold!  Again, it is irrelevant to the type of mold in the property. If the property needs professional remediation, then it needs to be addressed professionally and with the proper standard of care. Let us do our job to help point you in the right direction. Environmental Resources does not remediate so we help all parties involved both the buyer and the seller when it comes to the transaction. It is best not to use a remedial company to test and inspect so there is no conflict of interest. Their job is to do the cleaning.  If there are no health concerns but mold is present you don’t always have to test but have the mold removed in a professional manner.

Andy Provitola-CMC

Environmental Resources LLC

http://www.airenvironments.com

 

 

 

 

 



 

Excess Moisture Relative Humidity in Basements-Crawlspaces

This time of year in the summer months causes concerns for musty odors, excess moisture and mold growth on the surfaces.  What’s that smell? These complaints are often called into my office and I ask a few questions such as: Have you been flooded due to the recent heavy rains last spring or prior years. How about roof leaks, pipe leaks, or ice dams? If water intruded into the building or house and flooding occurred, how effective was the cleaning, drying out process ? Did you get to the water early such as within 24 to 48 hours to help avoid potential mold growth problems?

If existing surfaces are spotted with mold spores because the areas were not cleaned out properly then the mold will not disappear! Mold spores can and will exacerbate with any excess moisture and excess relative humidity that will cause existing mold spores to travel and move around where new growth can occur. Excess relative humidity in a basement or crawlspace is like adding ‘gas onto the fire’ where spores will grow.

Conducting a thorough visual investigation of the musty odor or any source of water leak, excess moisture is very important.  Relative humidity (RH) should be less than 60% or lower to help to control moisture (30% to 50% (RH) is the best range). When (RH) is above 60% or more this is not good for your basement, crawlspace, or living/working space where mold and other contaminants can grow; even causing wood rot and decay to the structural support of the wood beams and joists. To control excess moisture and humidity it is important to install the proper dehumidification system. Too often homeowners and business owners do not have the proper size dehumidifier(s) installed because the square footage or cubic area is too large and the unit does not cover this amount of ambient space.

Crawlspaces and basements should have quality grade vapor barriers with minimal 6 Mil thickness or higher covering the entire dirt floor including part of the lower side walls or to the top. Quality grade dehumidification is recommended to help control moisture.  During the hot and humid months less moisture is probable when the outside vents of crawlspace are closed up. Climates are different throughout the country, the Northeast region is different from the Southeast and Southwest regions.

Insulate using foam pipe sleeves any copper pipes underneath the crawlspace or in the basement area. The cold water pipes usually condensate when excess humidity comes in contact with them. Insulate Well Tanks and Water Filter Tanks as well.

If chronic water leaks or water floods into the basement or crawlspace areas then quality grade sump pump(s) are recommended with vinyl covers over the top of recessed bucket. It is best in the ground and the bucket is deep enough to effectively pump and drain water. Add drainage around perimeter if necessary.  A professional can provide the proper assessment with the proper tools to help to determine such factors as relative humidity, temperature, air flows, moisture meters, Thermal Infrared Camera, etc.

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Environmental Resources is here to help identify problem areas. Also we provide solutions with products and quality air purification with several pounds of carbon to fight odors.  We offer sampling if it is called upon. Call for a professional consultation of your home or business’ indoor air quality today.
Andy Provitola  CMC-Certified Microbial Consultant
Environmental Resources LLC
316 Washington Street
Norwell, MA 02061
781-248-9975

www.airenvironments.como my office

Allergies and Indoor Air Quality

  • There are many types of air particulate that move around in our homes and offices. We buy products,furniture,home goods, and furnishings that most of us do not know what the materials or chemicals they are made from. It has also been said, “that we spend nearly 90% of our time indoors that can affect the quality of our indoor living lifestyles”. Particles like dust, pollen, mold, dander, fibers, odors, etc. can produce allergy triggers that can cause you discomfort. I often get calls from people who immediately think they have a mold problem. Why do you think you have mold? Usually mold is produced from water damage, water leaks, flooding, excess moisture and high relative humidity over 60%.

    No signs of water damage or leaks, no chemical smells, but the house is full of dust, insect and mice droppings, old storage and furniture with films of dust found in all the hidden places behind & underneath furniture, headboards, tops of picture frames, door frames, top sides of ceiling fan paddles, and very high shelves that rarely get cleaned. The vacuum cleaner is rarely used because we are all legitimately busy and continue to remind ourselves with notes that we will get around to eventually cleaning the areas of concern.

    Before spending money having all kinds of testing conducted indoors which can get expensive, I have a few suggestions as pro-active preventative measures:

    A Good General House Cleaning

    Clean from top to bottom. Use a soap or detergent. Some use an anti-microbial disinfectant cleaner which can combat, mold, bacteria, odors, virus, etc.

    Use a Quality HEPA Vacuum

    Vacuum the floors, carpets, difficult areas and high spaces. Remember, if you hire a cleaner have them use your vacuum. You don’t know where there vacuum has been! I have had cases where clients had severe allergy triggers the next day after the house cleaner arrived the day before.

    Dust Thoroughly the entire House

    Use a good Swiffer or Dust Rag. Dust the difficult high places such as shelves or cabinets and hidden places underneath or behind bureaus, furniture. Tops of ceiling fan paddles, picture frames, and where necessary.

    Invest in Quality HEPA Air Purification
    To help clean the air in your space of dust, allergens, mold, fibers, dander, odors, etc. Use them often and move them around because they work!

    A good general cleaning of the basement once a year is recommended. Dust can accumulate fast. While you’re at it some of that storage may need to got hats been sitting there for years. Give it away, have a yard sale or donate it to a local charitable cause

    Should there be some chronic problem with your indoor air quality then it is recommended to call a professional who is trained, certified with experience.

    Andy Provitola CMC,IEP
    Environmental Resources
    316 Washington Street
    Norwell, MA 02061
    781-294-7071
    www.airenvironments.com

    Real Estate and Mold Fungi Confusion-The New Mold Rush!

    In the past several years many unqualified contractors have jumped on the ban wagon profession of mold remediation. I tend to call it the “Mold Rush!” Contractors who are unqualified may be taking advantage of naïve homeowners and business owners. Most people know a lot about a mold problem after they have experienced shelling out thousands of dollars and in some cases unnecessary costs!

    Our philosophy and standard of care, is the mold cleaning and mold removal should be done properly, and the source of the water or moisture problem is corrected. If this does not take place then don’t waste your hard earned money! There are cases where the home inspectors exaggerate about a mold condition that may not be an excess mold condition at all! The buyers push the envelope for more money claiming ‘health purposes’ or added remediation that involves more cost. In most of these cases the buyers choose the money at the closing, and say, “they will have the work done”! (There are some legitimate cases). I do not recommend this route but do recommended getting 2 or 3 qualified competent estimates from professionally trained and certified companies. How will the work be conducted for the cleaning and removal, spelling out the details of the scope of work for the remediation project? Is there a scope of work from an independent third party consultant? (See guidelines in EPA ‘Mold and Commercial Buildings’, IICRC S 520 Mold Remediation and Cleaning Standards (Note: IICRC S500 this is for carpets. water damage and drying). There are other guidelines as well.

    Ask the mold remedial companies for their current certifications and are they up to date (not something outdated 10 years ago. How long have they been in the mold business (not as a contractor but actual mold remedial experience). How do they conduct there procedures or scope of work? What kind of class training, field experience training did they take? Did they attend a qualified class or was it just an online gimmick? Do they conduct their own testing (against industry standards) which is a conflict of interest for all parties involved.

    I have experienced cases in past several years where the buyer claimed, “excessive mold and health issues”, why they needed more money or demolition walls floors, ceilings, etc. and remediate entire basement or living space areas when it was not justifiable or necessary. The seller called us prior for an independent assessment the buyer chose to have assessment, but I warned the seller that the buyer should use an ‘independent party’ IEP to test and inspect so there would be no conflict of interest. A week later the seller called us only to be dismayed at looking at a $15,000.00 estimate which was far from what the actual cost was to remediate!

    Homeowners do not need to get desperate to sell their home. (In one case the seller almost lowered the price $100K, $50K, down to $20 K!) Everything was properly cleaned and post inspection, mold testing was verified so there was no need to lower the price!). To be frank, this house could have been in the ‘Home and Garden’ magazine. The moral of this case is the buyer backed out looking for money and claiming health risks at first. The owner sold the house one month later. Do not be sold on fear tactics and get a second professional opinion if necessary. The problem can be treated and corrected by a competent certified trained professional. Mold is not uncommon due to the awareness of hurricanes, flooding, storms, etc. The mold removal company conducted their own testing which is against industry standards and in some states against the law. The confusion with mold remedial cleaning and testing is that there are no federal or state regulations, except for a few states. It is advisable to check references and not just online reviews that are written by some companies friends and relatives. Buyer and Seller Beware!

    Andy Provitola CMC, IEP

    Environmental Resources LLC
    316 Washington Street
    Norwell, MA 02061
    www.airenvironments.com
    781-248-9975

    Real Estate and Mold – Moisture Assessments

    Mold growth and contamination has become a popular yet hidden subject when it comes to buying and selling a home. What has caused a mold assessment to become more frequent in the past 10 years? Several areas to consider for concern include:

    1. The foreclosure crisis in 2008 and 2015 historic ice dams in Massachusetts.
    Homes and building were left unattended with nobody overseeing the property when it was vacant. The banks lost enough so why spend more money! Contractors and investors bought many houses with excess mold contamination due to floods, pipes bursting and leaking roof leaks etc. causing mold to grow. Although house were renovated the crucial question was whether the house or affected room were professionally cleaned and treated by a certified trained mold remediation company? The renovations look good but the musty odors are awful.

    2. The Ice Dams and water damage of the Winter 2015 in Southern NE brought new challenges and the Storms of the past 10-15 years has brought much awareness due to hurricanes, flooding, nor’easter storms and even the ice dams. Ask questions if flooding, ice dams, leaky roofs or plumbing occurred with the history of the house. Ask if mold contamination and growth was a problem? Ask if proper repairs were properly corrected by removal versus just painting over or putting a ‘band aid’ over the existing problem. If mold remediation was conducted and renovations properly completed (repairing the source of water leaks) and documented.

    3. Indoor air quality in general is a growing concern and if you have asthma and/or allergies this may affect your health and breathing! Some people are more sensitive and have a weaker immune system when it comes to mold or excess moisture and excess relative humidity. properly installed dehumidification and sump pumps with drainage where necessary are important.

    Remember purchasing or owning your own home is a lifetime investment and the castle you will live inside for numerous hours. Mold contamination can affect your property value and your health. It is wise to ask questions and address the above issues to allow you to breathe easier in the comfort of your home.

    For Better Health,

    Andy Provitola – CMC

    If you would like more information please go to:
    Environmental Resources LLC
    Norwell,MA
    www.airenvironments.com

    Heat Loss- Ice Dams Culprit for Attic Mold Growth!

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    So often in attic spaces especially in the Northeast region attics have large area spaces and most of the homes are very old. Many home inspectors keep pointing out that the ventilation or an improperly vented bath exhaust fan cause the mold growth. This can be true but in many instances of assessments but the real culprit for the mold contamination and growth is due to heat loss! Yes, heat loss due to lack of proper insulation R-value installed in the floor joist to keep the heat in its proper place – The Living Space. The purpose of insulation is to keep your home warm where you live and sleep not your attic. Attic space temperature is similar to outside space and should be within a five degree difference. During the cold or winter months films of frost eaves slightly buildup on the roof bays overnight. When the heat escapes into the attic area it melts the frost from the roof bays causing the plywood or pine boards to become moist and wet. The longer the moisture stays on the wood substance the greater potential for mold fungi is ripe to grow. Excess snow and ice dams standing on the roof can also be a causation for mold growth. Water seeps into the roof bays freeze and then melt due to heat loss or a rapid increase or spike  in warmer temperatures i.e. 20 degrees Fahrenheit (F) to say 50 -60 degrees F in a day. In the northern climates attic experience this more verses warmer southern climates. Consider a mold assessment/inspection or an energy audit utilizing Thermal Infrared Camera optimization to determine if heat loss is occurring due to temperature differential Several energy audit companies observe this heat loos and moisture problem usually identifying some form of staining of the attic roof bays and recommended to conduct an assessment for mold before any insulation is added.
    Andy Provitola CMC-Certified Microbial Consultant
    Environmental Resources LLC
    Headquarters
    316 Washington Street
    Norwell, MA 02061
    781-248-9975

    www.airenvironments.com

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    Is All Black Mold Toxic?

    When homeowners or business owners see or hear of black mold they think of toxic mold? Why? Well the media hype and websites that stress fear rather than solutions to sell you a bill of goods becoming alarmists. There are legitimate cases when it comes to mold and health hazards but most are more allergy induced causing irritable respiratory and breathing problems. Especially for those with chronic asthma and allergies. An example of black mold is in attic where dark or black stains may be visible. A mold that often comes up in New England, Greater Boston, or Cape Cod and the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard is usually a cladosporium type species. This is a common mold in the outdoors and the spore counts are much higher than other mold species during the peak of the mold spore elevation season such as Spring, Summer and Fall seasons. As for black toxic mold, which I prefer to as mycotoxin, a species such as Stachybotrys chartarum or sp. atra. This usually stands in chronic wet areas and is a slow terciatary species. Usually not as airborne as some would think. If stachybotrys species is airborne, it is considered a chronic condition. It’s more of a slimy like substance greyish, greenish more than actual black. Also, other toxic mold species come in a variety of different colors as well, besides black. Remember, the longer water infiltration stands in a basement or living area where the substrate is wet, it has potential for excess mold fungi growth.

    For a professional assessment hire a trained certified professional to assess and provide solutions for your home or business.

    Andy Provitola CMC-Certified Microbial Consultant
    Environmental Resources LLC
    Headquarters
    316 Washington Street
    Norwell, MA 02061
    781-248-9975

    www.airenvironments.com

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    Ice Dams-Roof Leaks and Mold



    Did you know that ice dams can cause mold problems?

    Frozen ice and snow on top of roofs and gutters are creating havoc for homes in New England and the greater Boston area. With cold temperatures in freezing climates then an unexpected 40 to 60 degree day causes a lot of melting of the ice and snow which enables mold growth, roof deterioration of the plywood, wood rot in the fascais boards behind the gutters. The water and moisture can travel through the attic area, dormers, wall cavities and down into lower levels even down into the basement and first floor.

    Some ways to detect mold: 

    1. See if water spots and dark stains are noticed and perhaps wet.

    2. Look for visible stains such as mold on the surfaces of the ceiling, walls of the living areas, floors, carpets, attic plywood sheathing, attic sidewalls,  floor joist, wet insulation, and excess moisture or humidity

    3. Check for moisture or high relative humidity over 65% and higher.

    4. Smelling unusual irritable odors such as musty or moldy where wall cavities or insulation can be wet inside the walls, but dry on the outside wall. High relative humidity or moisture may be the culprit.

    5. Other ways to detect mold is to hire a competent professional with the right tools such as conducting mold sampling the air or visible mold with tapes, swabs, or bulk.

    6. Utilizing moisture meters, Thermal Infrared Imaging camera, boroscopes, etc.


    For a professional mold inspection and mold assessment call:

    Andy Provitola CMC-Certified Microbial Consultant
    Environmental Resources LLC
    Headquarters
    316 Washington Street
    Norwell, MA 02061
    781-248-9975

    www.airenvironments.com

    Continue reading