Raking Fall Leaves, More Important Than You Think!
Raking fallen leaves early and often can help keep mold growth to a minimum in your yard.
With the sudden cold-snap we experienced here in the Missoula Valley, leaves have begun to drop from the trees at a rapid rate. Add in all that rain (and even snow!) that we’ve been getting, and your yard becomes a potential breeding ground for mold. That’s because freshly fallen leaves still have a fair amount of minerals and nutrients in their system, which promote mold growth under the right conditions. For the ‘right conditions,’ look no further than that perpetually shady, dew-covered spot under the tree in your yard or created by the shadow of your house. In other words, mold thrives in moist, dark environments.
However, there is a simple solution to preventing your yard from becoming an irritant to those with mold sensitivities: rake early, and rake often. If you don’t allow those leaves to sit and collect moisture, they’ll have less of a chance to grow mold. That also means bagging and disposing of leaves once they’re raked, instead of leaving large piles in your yard. If mold has already begun to grow and you’re worried about releasing mold spores into the air while doing yard work, you can always don a pair of gloves and an N95 respirator mask (found at any standard hardware store) before setting out.
Leaf mold isn’t all bad, though! If you’re a gardener, you can look into repurposing those leaves as mulch; this gets the leaves off your lawn and puts them to work for you. Or if you’re looking for other ways to keep your home mold-free this autumn, you can also make sure that all of your gutters and water drainage systems are draining away from your foundation, and clear those gutters of leaves and blockages.
The Science of Drying: How we make water damage “Like it never even happened”
SERVPRO of Missoula has the knowledge and equipment to mitigate water damage of any size.
When a pipe bursts in your home or you find that your A/C has been leaking onto the hardwood, your first instinct might be to throw down some towels and then let nature take its course. While the environment does seek equilibrium—wherein water molecules in a material will naturally evaporate over time until the material has reached the same level of dryness as the air around it—secondary damage can occur in the time it takes for materials to dry naturally, especially if you live in a humid area.
That’s where the science of drying comes in. The science of drying is actually called psychrometrics, and it takes into account all three sides of the drying triangle: air flow, heat and dehumidification. So, if you also pointed a fan at the wet materials, you were thinking of air flow. If you turned up the thermostat, you were thinking of heat. But what happens when you push the wet air around without the right equipment, or inadvertently make the area more humid by turning up the heat?
At SERVPRO of Missoula, our IICRC* certified technicians are trained in the science of drying, so you don’t have to worry about the negative effects of improperly dried water damage in your home. We use professional grade fans and dehumidifiers to make sure your home is dried quickly and completely, and we continue to monitor the area until excessive moisture is no longer detected.
*Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification
Should I have a home fire extinguisher?
Quick use of a fire extinguisher can suppress a small fire before it spreads throughout the home.
Home fire safety should start with a working smoke detector and a fire safety plan. If you already have those in your home, though, you may consider a fire extinguisher as the next step in fire preparedness.
A fire extinguisher works to put out a small fire by removing one of the three components of the fire triangle: heat, oxygen, and fuel. The most common fire extinguisher removes oxygen from a fire by smothering it in a dry chemical foam. In a way, it’s a high-powered version of pouring baking soda on a grease fire, which makes it particularly relevant in the kitchen.
But if you’re going to invest in a fire extinguisher to help protect your home and family—which luckily isn’t a huge investment, with most home units coming in between $10 and $40—you don’t want a one-hit wonder. The National Fire Protection Association recommends a multipurpose extinguisher, which works to suppress fires from ‘ordinary combustibles,’ grease fires, and electrical fires. On the market, this translates to a fire extinguisher that is ABC rated, such as a unit with a 3A:40-B:C rating, or the slightly smaller 2A:10-B:C rating. Units with these ratings can be found at almost any home improvement store.
Once again, having a working smoke detector in each room of your home should be your first priority in home fire preparedness. Two-thirds of home fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke alarms. The U.S. Fire Administration recommends checking the batteries in your smoke detector once a month, changing them at least once a year, and replacing the unit altogether once it is 10 years old. Once you’re confident with this routine, you can consider adding a fire extinguisher to your home arsenal!
Is Mold Damage Covered by Insurance?
Keeping your home dry and being aware of potential water access points is the first step in preventing a mold damage claim.
If you own a home, there’s one four-letter word you never want to hear: mold. Mold can be an especially scary type of property damage because it can go undetected in out-of-the-way areas like crawlspaces, and can also cause negative health effects. That’s why the first step in dealing with mold should always be prevention.
That said, nobody ever plans on having mold develop in their home. So if the unexpected does happen, there are some things you may wonder about mold and insurance. Namely, does homeowner’s insurance cover mold mitigation?
Most often, mold is a result of water damage. Whether or not your insurance policy will cover the cost of mold mitigation, then, typically depends on whether that initial water damage was a “covered peril,” and the resulting mold wasn’t obviously preventable. Covered water damage is usually that which is deemed “sudden and accidental.” For instance, damage from a burst pipe that sprays water all over your basement would likely be a covered peril, but damage from a long-term leak that goes unfixed would not. Likewise, mold that begins to form as a result of that burst pipe would probably be covered by your policy, but mold growth due to that slow leak would not. However, even after a sudden, accidental water loss, you’re responsible for cleaning up the area to the best of your ability. Mold growth resulting from a failure to dry out waterlogged materials won’t be covered. That’s why prevention is key.
Of course, mold coverage is always policy specific. If you suspect mold growth in your home, it’s best to connect with your insurance agent or adjuster for your exact policy details, and call a professional cleanup and restoration service like SERVPRO of Missoula as soon as possible.
Sump Pumps: What they are and how they work for your home
A sump pump automatically directs water away from your foundation when it begins to pool under your basement or crawlspace.
From snowmelt runoff to river flooding to summer storms, groundwater seepage has the potential to affect Western Montana properties no matter the season.
Because water naturally migrates through soil, elevated moisture on the surface can spell trouble for crawlspaces, unfinished basements, and even basements with concrete flooring. When groundwater penetrates the floor of a basement, it can lead to mold or mildew growth, and if the seepage is extreme, it can cause flooding and damage to your belongings.
So how do you keep your basement dry and mildew-free when those heavy rains strike? Installing a sump pump (or checking that your existing pump is in good working order) is one good option.
For houses at risk of underground wetness—which is over 60%, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors—sump pumps prevent damage by collecting that seeping groundwater and redirecting it to a discharge pipe pointed away from the structure’s foundation. To accomplish this, the pump sits in a pit dug at the lowest point of the basement or crawl space, and automatically turns on when the pit begins to fill with water. A one-way valve in the sump pump’s pipe, called a check valve, ensures that the water doesn’t run back.
While sump pumps are not a cure-all for water damage in every home, they are certainly a viable option for homes in a number of climates and terrains. If you’re concerned about dampness or the smell of mildew in your basement, call SERVPRO of Missoula today. Our technicians can perform a dry-out and mold inspection of the space, as well as help pinpoint the source of water so you can safely move forward with adding preventative measures, and maybe even a sump pump.
The Insidious Side Effect of Fire: Smoke Damage
Even fires that occur outside the home can have lasting effects on household contents when smoke damage isn’t addressed quickly and properly.
When a fire occurs in or outside your home, visible damage to your property is often your first concern. While this instinct is understandable, even materials completely untouched by flames can pose health risks and be permanently damaged if left unaddressed.
Smoke and soot damage ranges in severity, but most often leaves items in your home discolored and odorous. Because smoke is acidic in nature, it affects the majority of household materials, from fabrics to wood to metal surfaces. The fact that smoke and soot particles can also get into your HVAC system and be redistributed throughout your home makes this kind of damage particularly insidious. According to the IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification), cleaning within the first few weeks post-fire is crucial to removing odor, stopping the discoloration process, and minimizing the need for replacement of belongings. Improper cleaning can actually push soot further into porous materials, and using the wrong cleaners on hard surfaces will only move hazardous particles around without eliminating odor or discoloration.
The last thing you’ll probably think about in the days immediately post-fire is whether or not your household vacuum is HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) certified. So, while you’re making other important arrangements, let us worry about that! The technicians here at SERVPRO of Missoula are IICRC certified and travel with the equipment—like air scrubbers, HEPA vacuums, and deodorization agents—that will make smoke damage “Like it never even happened.”
Put Help in the Palm of Your Hand
The SERVPRO Ready Plan App gives quick access to important information with just a few simple clicks.
Our SERVPRO Ready Plan App is a no-cost tool that puts essential information at your fingertips in the event of an emergency.
When your property is affected by water, fire, or mold damage, safety should always be your top priority. This often means restricting access to certain parts of your property or even temporarily vacating it altogether, which, in turn, can make it difficult to gather important contact information you keep there. After you’ve added your home or business address to the SERVPRO Ready Plan App, the app will create an Emergency Ready Profile (ERP) for you to fill in the types of contacts you’re likely to need in the aftermath of a large loss due to water, fire, or mold. For example, there’s a section in the ERP for insurance information, as well as a place to list the companies that provide your utilities in case water or gas lines need to be shut off during mitigation or restoration. There’s even a place in the ERP to put pictures of the parking area and access doors of your property, to aid SERVPRO professionals in getting to you as quickly as possible if you ever request our services. The app also allows you to create unique ERPs for multiple locations, making it a great option for property managers and commercial property owners!
Having a plan before disaster strikes is the key to timely mitigation and minimizing the extent of damage to your home or business. To learn more, contact SERVPRO of Missoula at 406-327-9500, or head to https://ready.SERVPRO.com/home/mobileapp to get started using your computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Storm Damage Mitigation: The Steps to Making It "Like It Never Even Happened"
Heavy rain storms can cause flooding in your Missoula, MT home
When your home falls victim to storm damage, the hours and days immediately following can seem chaotic and even a bit hopeless. However, one of the worst things you can do in this event is to wait. The longer it takes cleanup & restoration professionals to arrive, the more mitigation and repairs may be necessary. Acting quickly and having an idea of what to expect will help ease your mind.
Our technicians here at SERVPRO of Missoula are trained in a number of storm damage cleanup and restoration services, including the most common type of property damage caused by storms: flooding. Here’s what you can expect when you call SERVPRO of Missoula after a storm has brought flood waters into your home or business:
- If there is standing water, our technicians will remove any affected contents to prevent further damage, and then use pumps to extract the water.
- For carpeted areas, our technicians will lift the carpet and pull the pad underneath before relaying the carpet and placing drying equipment (fans and dehumidifiers). For tile and hardwood surfaces, we use extraction mats to help pull water from the material.
- After removing any standing water, our technicians will use a Moisture Meter to perform a moisture inspection of the affected rooms, and continue to run drying equipment and to monitor your home until everything is confirmed to be dry.
- For unsalvageable materials (such as affected drywall or flooring), our technicians are trained to complete the repairs necessary to make the storm “Like it never even happened.”
If a storm causes damage to your home, you do not need to feel helpless. Not only do our technicians carry the knowledge and tools to restore your home, they will work directly with you and your insurance company to make the process as easy for you as possible. Call SERVPRO of Missoula, we’re here to help.
The Aftermath of Wildfire: Flash Floods
Flooding in Mt. Rainier National Park
Summer in Western Montana always promises county fairs and rodeos, outdoor folk festivals, and the treasured huckleberry season, but it also often brings about two natural hazards that can cut down our summer fun: thunderstorms and forest fires.
Even on years like this, where we’ve been lucky enough not to spend our August days hiding from smoke, the damage our mountains routinely see from wildfires makes the Missoula and Bitterroot Valleys particularly susceptible to flash flooding. Fire changes the landscape through which it burns, greatly reducing or even eliminating ground vegetation. That vegetation typically plays an important part in helping to absorb water from rainfall, and with it gone, water is left to flow freely and rapidly down steep terrain. Fires also leave behind ash and debris which, combined with heavy rain, can create mudflows that may reach structures miles away from the original site of the fire.
Because the risk of flash flooding is ongoing – an area affected by wildfire can take up to five years to adequately begin to recover ground vegetation – knowledge and prior planning are the most important components of your family and your home’s emergency toolkit. According to the National Weather Service, “half an inch of rainfall in less than an hour is sufficient to cause flash flooding.” You don’t want to wait until those summer thunderstorms strike to think about flood insurance, and you should always have an evacuation plan in case your home is affected. Ready.gov provides more information on how to build an emergency supply kit, and in the event that your home is damaged by flash flooding this summer, SERVPRO of Missoula is here for you.
The Benefits of HVAC and Air Duct Cleaning
Keeping ducts free of dust and debris may help reduce your energy bill and improve air quality in your home.
HVAC systems are often the biggest culprit in poor indoor air quality. The air inside your Western Montana home is full of tiny particles like dust, pollen and pet dander. When your furnace or air conditioner draws air, it also pulls in airborne particles. Over time, these contaminants can build up inside the ducts, reducing air flow and re-circulating throughout your living space.
Like furnaces and air conditioners, air ducts require proper cleaning and maintenance to perform at their best. Keeping ducts free of dust and debris can also help reduce your energy bill and improve air quality in your home. More frequent duct cleaning is recommended if you have indoor pets, or are sensitive to indoor air quality. You should also have your ducts cleaned if you have recently renovated your home, as this will increase the amount of dust in your forced air system.
Air duct cleaning clears debris from your HVAC air ducts, registers, grilles, and other components of an HVAC system and provides these benefits for you and your home:
- Creates a cleaner living environment
- Reduces allergens and irritants
- Helps your family breathe easier
- Removes unpleasant smells and odors
- Improves air flow efficiency
Duct cleaning is not an easy job. Doing it right takes specialized equipment in the hands of skilled professionals like ours at SERVPRO of Missoula. Call us at 406-327-9500 for more information.