Commercial and Residential Restoration: Two Very Different Animals
We pulled in the generator as well as a full team to tackle this commercial loss.
Our community is made of a diverse number of members. We strive to provide cleanup and restoration services wherever we are needed. As a pipe burst in your grandmother’s basement, and a sprinkler malfunction in a large office building require vastly different techniques for restoration, we have to be flexible and have differing strategies and tools in our arsenal, ready to use.
No Loss is Too Large
Perhaps the most obvious difference between a commercial water loss and a residential loss, is the size of the damage. Almost always, a commercial loss will be bigger and require more equipment and manpower. We have a few strategies for these situations. We are consistently training our team members in more areas and with deeper knowledge, so that in a large loss event, each team member is able to work efficiently and independently, if needed. Additionally, we also have multiple SERVPRO locations close by that we can call upon for equipment and manpower. We work closely with our other franchisees and help each other out, especially in large loss situations. Time is of the essence and often having access to those extra dehumidifiers and air movers can make the difference!
Working with Multiple Stakeholders
Furthermore, in a residential loss, the homeowner is often the only party involved. We can communicate with the homeowner daily and they are making all the decisions. There is also accordingly only one insurance agency with which we are communicating. In the case of a commercial loss, this is not always the case and we train our teams to be prepared for this possibility. For example, in the case of a water loss in an apartment building, there are multiple parties with a stake in the restoration. We need to communicate with the building owner. But if tenants’ belongings are also affected, they may need to file separate claims with their renter’s insurance. In this case, we are prepared to update and coordinate with multiple stakeholders throughout the process.
Work Must Go On
In another scenario, we may be called in to a cleanup that needs to happen while a business is still operating. As a local business, we understand that in the event of a water damage, sometimes closing your doors for even a day is not an option. In these situations, we must modify our processes to allow for clear and safe walkways as well as minimal noise during working hours. We strive to approach these events as a partnership, so that we can minimize inconvenience without compromising the effectiveness of our drying strategies.
Our teams have experienced both sides of these issues. This experience has helped us develop different strategies for losses that are either commercial or residential. So, whether you call us for a flooded basement at home, or an overflowed toilet at the office, while the process may look different, know that we are “here to help.”
Invasive and Difficult to Remove, the Smell of Nicotine can Affect the Whole Home
No one wants to smell a previous resident’s habits in their home.
You search internet listings for weeks. You work diligently with your real estate agent. You attend open house after open house. Finally, you found it: the perfect house. It has beautiful dark shutters. The kitchen is open and airy. There are enough bedrooms so even your youngest doesn’t have to share a room, and there is space to grow. There’s just one “but.” You step inside the door, take a deep breath, and you can’t ignore the way the smell goes right to the back of your throat. It’s a little chalky and impossible to ignore— nicotine.
Don’t give up hope. This odor may not be the kiss of death for this home. When we get a call about a nicotine odor in a home, there are a few questions that we consider. First, how long has cigarette smoke been impacting the area? Has it just been the past 3-6 months? Or longer, many years of smoking? Then we evaluate how strong the smell is and where it is concentrated. Does it permeate the air? Is it stronger on the carpets or the furniture? Can you see the staining on the walls and ceiling?
Once we can establish the extent of the damage, we begin to plan action steps for restoring the home. If you or the previous owner have already spent time and effort trying to get rid of the smell, the next question to ask is when was the last time the ductwork was cleaned. Often nicotine residue can cling to the HVAC system and a full duct cleaning could be the answer to residual odor that seems to outlast other odor removal methods.
If the ducts have been cleaned, the next question we ask about a persistent nicotine odor is, when were the walls last painted? If they have been painted since the damage occurred, remediation becomes trickier. Because nicotine odor comes from the residue that the smoke leaves, if a wall has been painted, the odor is actually trapped behind the paint and is seeping through, making it impossible to clean away the residue that is trapped behind the paint.
These two items are our biggest culprits for a persistent nicotine odor, but we have a myriad of other methods and products we use to clean nicotine residue and remove the offensive odor from your home. If you have more questions or would like to schedule an odor assessment, give us a call at 434-977-5850.
Are You Ready to Remediate or Should You Test for Mold First?
With protocol in hand, we can begin remediation, starting with containment as necessary.
You walk downstairs to do laundry. It’s been a while since you’ve been down here. Oh no, what is that odor? It smells like your grandparents’ garage: musty. Does this mean you have mold? Should you call SERVPRO, whom you’ve heard so much about? While we love that instinct and we are happy to help with any of your mold remediation needs. You might want to personally evaluate the situation first.
If you do call us in this situation, we will ask you a few questions. Can you see any growth? About how many square feet of growth is visible? Have you removed and stopped the moisture that instigated this growth? While these questions can be frustrating when you are panicked about possible mold in your home, they are important for us to provide you with the best and the correct care. Some situations, including mold over 10 square feet, suspect growth that isn’t visible and any questions about type of mold or health effects need to be answered by an industrial hygienist. As specialists in mold remediation, we do not currently have a certified Industrial Hygienist on staff to complete these types to mold testing.
We strive to operate with our customers honestly and fairly. One of the ways we try to uphold this fairness, as well as avoiding any appearance of underhandedness, is in our partnership with a third-party industrial hygienist. We often refer customers to Star Environmental, they are a local company with environmental hygienists on staff. With this certification, Star Environmental can confirm the type and presence of mold growth in a structure as well as create a protocol for its remediation.
With this protocol in hand, our technicians can safely and efficiently remediate the growth that may be present. This process streamlines identification and allows us to better focus on remediating the mold growth. Of course, as always, if you have any questions about our process or to set up an assessment, give us a call at 434-977-5850.
Avoid Deep Trouble by Avoiding Even Shallow Water
A recent flood swelled the Rivanna River well beyond its normal banks.
My first car had a few problems. Mostly limited to a few rust spots, no A/C and some unidentified stains in the upholstery, I categorized most of my little car’s troubles as purely cosmetic. It had one flaw, though, that was less than cosmetic: the engine stalled whenever I drove through a puddle. Whenever I would wake up and hear the rain tapping the roof, I would wonder how many times my car would stall before I made it to school. Hopefully upon hearing the story of my struggling car, your reaction is, “Wow! That’s not safe. You really shouldn’t drive that car through any puddles at all!” This is the kind of uncertainty that we should all feel when faced with a flash flood. Flash floods can not only stall a car, but can also wash it away.
Before the Flood
If a flash flood could be coming your way, make sure that you know where is the safest place to be. You should locate high ground near you. Places like river beds and ditches are already designed to collect water and will be the first places to flood. You should secure items that could possibly be washed away and stock up on sandbags to help protect your home from the flood waters.
During the Flood
If you do find yourself driving when a flash flood hits, do not drive through water of an unknown depth. It only takes 2 feet of water to wash away a car and flood waters can hide debris and other objects that may be blocking the road. If your car does stall during a flash flood, abandon the car and get to higher ground. The most dangerous part of flash floods is how quickly they can escalate, in some cases allowing only a few moments to get to a safe location.
My sixteen-year-old self was not smart enough to avoid puddles in my struggling car. As adults, let us pass on the wisdom that it is worth it to avoid driving and walking through flood waters.
Find out more from the National Weather Service
Equipment Spotlight: Using Air Scrubbers to Restore the Indoor Air Quality of Homes and Businesses in Charlottesville
Our equipment is just part of what helps us make it “Like it never even happened.”
One of the ways that we strive to offer the best service to our customers is through our equipment. We work to maintain, continually update, and replace equipment that is worn out or aging. We recently received new air scrubbers. Unlike a dehumidifier or an extractor— whose names are also their function— the air scrubber is more industry specific and we would love to share a little bit about what we use it for.
How Does It Work?
In many loss situations, whether it be water, fire, or mold damages, there are contaminants left behind in the air. While our technicians are working to remove and restore the damage on material pieces of a home or business, we can not forget about restoring the air as well. This is when we place an air scrubber. This piece of equipment works by passing the air inside a room through three filters to remove contaminants and small particles.
For What is it Used?
During a water damage, especially one caused by a storm where the water could possibly be filled with dangerous materials, we might employ an air scrubber. As we dry the structure and affected items in this situation, we would use air movers and dehumidifiers to help dry out the structure more quickly. While in use, these machines can also stir up dust and particulates. In this situation, an air scrubber can be employed to keep these contaminants to a minimum and return the affected area to its preloss condition more quickly.
Especially in situations where damage has been caused by sewage or a sewer line back up, air scrubbers are essential to help remove left over contaminants from the air. Any sort of movement or disturbance can kick up particles into the air. We use these air scrubbers to make sure that as we are cleaning the surfaces, the air isn’t retaining any particulates that could leave behind germs or odors.
While restoring an area that has been affected by mold, we will also place air scrubbers. Mold spores are always present in the air. In an area with visible mold growth, a higher mold spore count is also present in the air. As such, while we work to remove the visible mold and prevent more growth, we also remove these spores from the air.
Overall, an air scrubber assists in the restoration process and provides a cleaner, healthier environment in an area affected by a disaster.
Winter is Here, and so are the Frozen Pipes
Pipes that are outdoors or in areas that are poorly insulated are often the first to freeze.
The holidays have come and gone, but winter is still here for a few more months and one of the seasons with the most water damage is still to come.
With the colder months, comes the risk of frozen pipes and the danger that those pipes could burst. Thankfully frozen pipes are easily prevented. One of the simplest methods to prevent pipes from freezing is to increase the warm air circulation around the pipes at risk. For example, if there are water pipes in the garage that you are concerned about, close the garage door. You can also open cabinet and closet doors to allow warm air flow around water supply lines. Additionally, moving water is not as quick to freeze as stagnant, so allowing even a small trickle of water to flow from sinks and showers can help keep the pipes unfrozen. If you are planning to be out of town, try not to leave your thermostat lower than 55 degrees, as temperatures lower than this can raise the risk of a frozen pipe and the resulting water damage.
For a longer lasting solution to this problem, you can also consider adding insulation to pipes that may be exposed to extreme cold. Pipes in the garage or in the exterior walls that don’t have sufficient insulation could be at risk. Solutions for this could be as simple as wrapping towels or newspaper around the pipes at risk to help mitigate the lower temperatures. You can also add insulation to the surrounding areas, which could mean caulking and closing holes or cracks that are allowing the cold are in. However, you will want to make sure that your repairs are not inadvertently closing the pipes off from the heat source instead of the cold outside air. Recently, I was at a home where the pipes had frozen because a contractor had closed up a hole in the back of the cabinets that summer. Once the cold temperatures of winter hit, the warm air from the kitchen could no longer reach the pipes in the wall and they froze.
If you do turn on a sink or shower and no water comes out, this could mean a frozen pipe. In this situation, you do have a few options to thaw the pipe and hopefully avoid the subsequent water damage. While you work to thaw the pipe, keep the faucet on. This will let you know when the pipe is thawed and the flowing water will help to speed up the process. You can use a heating pad or heated blanket to begin thawing the frozen area. You could also try a hair dryer or space heater. You just want to be sure not to use any kind of open flame to thaw the pipe. As water begins flowing you are almost there but keep applying heat until water pressure is back to normal.
Allowing ice to sit untended in your pipes for too long gives the ice time to expand and possibly burst the pipe. Avoid this water damage and act now, before the pipes freeze, and hopefully your home will have a warm and dry winter. However, if something does happen, give us a call at 434-977-5850. We are always here to help.
Storm Damage in a Charlottesville Garage Turns Fuzzy
Heavy rains can leave behind more than moisture if left untended.
After an especially rainy season, many homes in Charlottesville and the surrounding areas experienced flooding in their garages, basements, and even main living spaces in their homes. When the rain stopped, most of the flood water receded. However, the moisture that remained was the tricky, unseen kind. Water can stay under belongings and flooring as well as behind and in drywall. In itself, this moisture would probably dry out over time. However, because mold spores are in the air everywhere, usually this excess moisture is exactly the instigation needed for mold to grow.
This Charlottesville garage flooded during a rainstorm. The family tried to dry things as best they could and hoped that was the end of it. Unfortunately, a few weeks later they began to see what the water had left behind. That’s why they called us.
When we get a call like this, our first step is to schedule an assessment. Mold growth is complex, with multiple factors at play, and is almost impossible to assess from a verbal description. A situation that seems dire is sometimes a very simple remediation, and sometimes a small amount of noticeable growth is an indicator that a larger amount of growth is present. During the assessment, our production manager is able to take moisture readings as well as investigate the growth to see how far it has spread. After the initial assessment of this job, we can began remediating the mold.
This process started with an air scrubber. This is similar to a dehumidifier, but in addition to removing moisture from the air it also filters out mold spores and other contaminants. We could then remove items and building materials that were too far gone to save. With those out of the way, we used a HEPA vacuum to remove growth. Then we wiped down building materials and belongings with an anti-microbial to prevent future growth.
Once we were through, it was amazing to see the transformed garage, with clean flooring, doors and studs. We loved being able to restore this affected part of the home back to the family. It’s like returning something that was lost. If you would like to see how this garage ended up, take a look at our before and after photos.
Make Sure Your Family Knows Where to Go in the Event of a Fire
Drawing a Floor Plan is the First Step to Keeping Your Family Safe
Fire drills in school were always a great excuse to be outside and get out of class for a few moments. Now, as adults, we try to plan for the safety of our children in any way that we can think of. We are now thankful that the school has developed an evacuation plan that helps provide for our children’s safety in the event of a fire in the school. But what about a fire at home? Or a fire at work? Even though we have graduated, we are not past fire drills. Having a fire evacuation plan in place in the home and at work is an important part of keeping your family and coworkers safe in the event of a fire.
To create your plan, bring the whole family together and create a floor plan of your home. On your floor plan, mark all exits: windows and doors. Make sure there are two escape routes marked in each room. Include, in your plan, a designated spot to meet up after you have left the house. You can use any landmark, but make sure it is far enough from the home to be safe.
Once you have a plan created, place it in a place where every family member can access it and practice the plan. You can even make this a fun family bonding experience. The most important thing is that every family member, including children and elderly family members, know what to do and will be accounted for in the event of a fire.
The National Fire Protection Agency has more information on their website as well as a floor plan template that you can print out and use to draw your evacuation plan.
We Have Collected the Last of the Angel Tree 2018 Donations
The whole gym at Salvation Army is filled with gifts and they are still receiving more!
After much planning and legwork, we collected the last of the Angel Tree donations this week. Thank you so much to everyone who participated in donating, sorting, and helping to collect these items.
We are so thankful to live in such a caring and tight-knit community. It was awesome to see the outpouring of love and care that our community has for children that they may not have even met. Seeing the selflessness of the community around us has been truly inspiring for those of us here at SERVPRO this holiday season and we have only our neighbors and community members to thank for that.
We have wrapped up another year of Angel Tree donations and are already looking forward to partnering with the Salvation Army on other ventures in the future.
Merry Christmas, everyone. Have a safe and merry holiday!
Let’s Keep the Fire Under the Heart and the Lights on the Tree
Yikes! This tree is definitely too close to the fireplace!
At Christmastime we want to be joyous, spend time with our families, and remember that there is joy and light in life even in the darkest season of the year. However, this year please don’t let that light come from a Christmas tree fire.
While live trees are beautiful and smell amazing, they must be properly cared for to avoid creating an unintentional fire hazard. According to the National Fire Protections agency (NFPA), ensuring that your tree is not a hazard, begins before you even bring it home.
When choosing your tree, check for needles that are green and won’t fall off the branches when you touch them. This is a helpful indicator on how long ago the tree was cut. Once the tree is in your home, make sure that you are watering it properly every day. Place the tree at least 3 feet away from any heat sources, like fireplaces, radiators, or lights.
During the holiday season, be sure to be attentive of your tree, keeping it watered, turning off the lights before you go to bed and disposing of the tree immediately after Christmas or whenever the tree dries out. A dry tree can be a fire hazards even left to sit in the garage or leaning up against the outside of a home.
Be safe this holiday season and check out this resource from the NFPA for more information on Christmas tree safety.