Over the years, some of our clients have needed emergency services for different kinds of house disaster. Fortunately, full-blown fires are rare. Flooding definitely happens to our clients.

Disaster: basement flood

Most often water in the house is from broken pipes, washing machine overflows or intake line failure, or leaking hot water tanks. Every few years, there are conditions that cause sewer back up, ground water, rainwater, or local river water to enter basements. Sometimes sump pumps give up the ghost during a thunderstorm causing a random event of basement flooding.

I spoke to Aaron Roy at ServPro. That is a company that typically does disaster work. They specialize in fire, flood, and mold clean up and restoration.

When a finished basement floods, most homeowners assume that a full gut renovation will be necessary. That is not always the case. If it can be dried out promptly, more of the finishes can be saved. Speed is of the essence.

Companies like ServPro use equipment to ventilate, blow air, and dehumidify the air in order to dry out the basement finishes. If done quickly, this can prevent mold and bacteria growing in the basement. Here is a simple explanation of the task, by another company.

Drying out an unfinished basement is a simpler task. If you have stored all porous materials above the water line, mop up the standing water, ventilate, and run a dehumidifier until the concrete and foundation components are dry.

Mold

Mold can grow in a house from a flooding emergency, but it also shows up from home maintenance that is allowing either water or water vapor to collect.

Companies that do mold remediation may also do emergency work. Companies that do emergency work may also do mold remediation. You need to ask.

Any house that has water collecting will get mold. Common places are under refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, and in cabinets under sinks. Some of the time, the problem is finite, and a homeowner can clean it up themselves. If the mold has penetrated the floorboards under the appliance, I suggest you get professional help.

New construction

Because new house standards are energy efficient, less air is flowing between the outside and the inside. The advantage of that is lower heating and cooling bills. The side-effect is more chances for water vapor to get trapped in the house and cause mold.

A big no-no that inspectors find all the time is that builders don’t always run the bathroom exhaust fan vent tube out of the house; they blow damp air into the attic. There, damp air collects and creates a mold farm. Sometimes the vent is going through an outside wall, but the tube gets disconnected or damaged. Same thing can happen with laundry dryer vents.

Attics should be vented so air flows under the roof boards. This keeps them free of condensation. Often, you’ll see the light of day in an unfinished attic at the peak (a ridge vent) and along the attic floor (soffit vents). There may also be openings for air under the peak of the roof on the attic wall (gable vent). These are good things for mold prevention. When those vents are not there, or they are blocked, it is common to see mold collecting where the dampness in the house condenses and created conditions that mold loves to grow in.

When mold has been growing in an attic, unchecked, professional mold remediation is a good idea.

Of course, badly installed exhaust vents and lack of attic ventilation also causes mold in older properties.

Smoker’s house

When our clients buy houses where the former owner smoked inside, they wonder if the smell will ever go away. Most of the time, the smell goes away when all the cloth in the house is removed (furniture, carpet, curtains). Sometimes, the walls need to be cleaned before painting to get the residue off them.

ServPro does industrial cleaning. They would use the same methods they use for fire and oil puff-back smoke cleaning and deodorizing. The process includes wiping all the surfaces, removing any residue. Then they use ionizing machines and air filters to clean the air. They have a line of botanical air freshers, if you want that.

 

If you are renovating a smoker’s house, do you industrially clean it before or after the renovation? 

I was told, “It depends.” It would be better to know in advance what the renovations are going to be and how they will affect the space. If a wall is going to be removed then we do not need to worry about it. If paint is going over something that needs to be cleaned first.

 

Wishing you never need a disaster specialist! But, keep in mind that you might be able to avoid a full rebuild, if you house is flooded by a storm or during a fire.