Water is one of the fundamental necessities for life on this planet, and is a critical ingredient in many substances. You, yourself, are almost 60% water. We drink it, bathe in it, swim in it, eat food grown with it – the list goes on and on. Considering how ubiquitous, essential, and common water is, it’s all the more amazing that it can also do such devastating damage. Water is one of the biggest hazards in the home. Unwanted moisture and water damage can contribute to a myriad of home problems, health problems, and can even render your home uninhabitable.
Today, we’re going to look specifically at water damage and wood flooring. We’ll explore the sources of water damage that can have an impact on flooring. Additionally, we’ll talk about the various categories of water damage, and how they dictate different levels of inspection, remediation, and restoration response.
Then, we’ll look at what water does to wood floors, and talk a bit about the different kinds of wood floors and how they respond and handle this damage. Next, we’ll focus on the key hazards created by water damage to wood flooring – not just physical and aesthetic problems, but much more serious health hazards like mold, mildew, bacteria, and fungal growth.
damage can have a diverse range of causes, both natural and man-made. In some cases, water damage is very obvious,
from things like floods. In other cases,
signs may be less obvious, especially in the case of slow leaks from appliances
and the like. Some of the most common
causes of water damage to wood flooring include, but are not limited to:
Further, we’ll look at the different steps for identifying water damage, inspecting for water damage, and hiring professionals to remediate and restore your wood flooring. Finally, we’ll talk about one of the premiere testing companies who can help inspect and determine the extent and impact of water damage on your wood floors – FunGuy Inspections. Read More >
Natural disasters such as excessive rainfall, hurricanes, and floods.
Leaking appliances, home heating and cooling systems, washer/dryer
units, refrigerators, and similar.
Leaking plumbing lines in the home (common with fridge/freezer water/ice
lines, older service lines, etc.).
Overflowing or leaking toilets, sinks, washer/dryers, showers, bathtubs,
Catastrophic plumbing failures or other household incidents leading to
large liquid releases.
Cracked foundation slabs allowing moisture in from below the floor or
all around from natural rainfall and runoff activity.
Minor spills in the home, depending on the type of flooring, quantity of
liquid spilled, and how long it goes unaddressed.
Overflowing gutters, a leaky roof, damaged seals on windows, and so on,
allowing in rain/snow/ice or just excessive moisture and humidity.
With heavy rainfall comes a tremendous amount of moisture. Leaks and condensation increase, temperatures and warm drying daylight decrease.
These are optimal conditions for mold growth, both interior and exterior. As exterior mold spores explode in number some of them are bound to settle in our indoor environments. Here’s an overview from the EPA on Mold growth in the home.
So what can you do to reduce to likelihood mold will take hold?
I have some tips to minimize the conditions conducive to mold growth and maximize you and your family’s health.
Mold needs 3 conditions for optimal growth:
The Right temperature. Some mold species can grow at low (below 50 degrees F) and other species at high (above 90 degrees F), but most common mold species that grow indoors grow ideally at 55-85 degrees F. Unfortunately this is the optimal temperature for human comfort. So it is unlikely you can keep your home at a temperature that is inhospitable for mold growth. So we will not concentrate on that.
An organic food source. Different species of mold like to eat different things, but they all need something organic to munch on. Many mold species love cellulose, i.e. wood and paper. These are the natural composters and when it rains these species start to eat up all the fallen branches and leaves in the forest, as well as our yards emitting millions of spores that make their way into our homes. Inside our homes molds like to eat wood. This is what “dry rot” is, fungi usually consisting of 2 species, Ascospores and Basidiospores. Other species like to eat paper, such as cardboard boxes, books, and paper backed wallboard, such as sheetrock. Pennicillium/Aspergillus and Stachybotrys (colloquially known as toxic black mold) are often found on wet or moist paper. Cladosporium, the species most often found growing on windowsills and in bathrooms, can eat a variety of Biofilms (household dust consisting of epithelial cells (dead skin cells) insect parts, pet dander, natural fibers such as cotton and linen, etc.). Some mold food sources we cannot easily remove from our home such as framing lumber and wallboard, but others we can, such as cardboard boxes.
This is the big one and the one I will be giving tips on below. Mold needs moisture. There is a common saying in our business: “Mold is the symptom, moisture is the problem”. Mold growth either needs liquid water or high humidity. Liquid water can come from condensation on windowsills and in bathrooms, or from leaks, either internal or external. Without liquid water mold will not become active unless the humidity is high, usually 60-80% RH depending on the species. When the humidity is high enough, mold can become active and grow by absorbing moisture directly from the air.
Here are some tips to reduce both food sources and moisture in your home and thus reduce the likelihood and amount of mold that may grow inside your home:
Let’s start outside. When it rains water can easily enter what we call the “Building Envelope”. It is very important to make sure your site drainage system is clear from debris and working properly to move rain water away from your home, foundation, and crawlspace.
Clean the roof of any leave or other debris.
Make sure downspouts are in good repair, not clogged, and properly attached any extensions or the site drainage system.
Make sure all property drains are clear of debris and flowing freely.
Check the “Building Envelope” for possible sites of water intrusion, i.e. leaks.
Window and doorframes are spots where water can intrude. Check all door and window frame caulking for cracks and gaps and repair where necessary.
Inspect the sealant around roof penetrations. Repair where necessary.
Check building siding for cracks, peeling paint, holes, etc. Anywhere water may be able to get in.
After a heavy rain walk around the entire house and look for standing water, and clogged drains. Look inside the crawlspace and make sure there is no hidden flooding. Carefully check the inside of the house, take a close look at the ceilings, around windows and doors, and walls for small leaks. Because all big leaks start out as small leaks! Check under sinks and around tubs and toilets to make sure there are no plumbing leaks adding moisture to the interior of your home.
Assuming there are no leaks and your drainage system is working well, what other sources of moisture can address?
Inside a home the occupants can produce a tremendous amount of moisture. On average each human occupant expires (breathes) and perspires (sweats) about 2 POUNDS of water into the air a day. Pets can also add to this moisture source. During the winter we often close out windows, as it is cold out, and most residential heating systems have no way of bringing in fresh air or ventilating out moist, stale interior air. Thus interior humidity can often increase to levels above 60%, which is ideal for mold growth.
So what can we do about Mold Growth?
Monitor interior humidity. Small, portable humidity monitors are available for around $10-15 and can be placed around the home. If RH (relative humidity) is consistently above 65%, action should be taken. Ideally, interior RH should be between 45-55% RH. Below 40% RH mucous membranes start to dry out and can cause occupant discomfort.
Open windows when practicable to help flush out moisture and other interior contaminants. Even 1 hour a day can make a big difference, although 3-4 hours is recommended.
Run ventilation fans in bathrooms and kitchens to help exhaust excess humidity from cooking and bathing. Run fans in bathrooms for at least 20 minutes after bathing. Timer switches can be installed on most bathroom exhaust fans and are highly recommended.
Wipe excess condensation from windowsills. Inspect windowsills often. Do not keep curtains closed as this can trap moist, cool air and promote excessive condensation.
The above tips can help reduce moisture sources, what can do we do about reducing mold food sources?
Do not keep books, papers, or cardboard boxes in moist areas such as attics, garages, basements or crawlspaces. Attic and crawlspaces should not be used as storage areas, but if you must store items in a garage or basement, we recommend sealed plastic bins.
Keep areas mold likes to grow clean and dry. This means cleaning dust (biofilms) from windowsills, baseboards, and doorframes. Vacuum carpet regularly with a HEPA vacuum. The recommendation is to vacuum and sweep one day per week PER OCCUPANT, including pets!
Check behind drapes and furniture for hidden condensation and biofilms. Allow airflow to reach these areas by opening drapes often and moving furniture a few inches from walls, especially exterior walls that can become colder and promote condensation.
Also, trust your nose, that musty smell is a sure indication of active mold growth. That musty smell is caused by microbial VOC’s, airborne chemicals that are a metabolic by-product of mold digestion.
If you think you have a hidden source of mold, call a professional Certified Microbial Investigator for a full mold inspection. Excessive interior mold can cause structural damage to your home and its contents, as well as allergic and respiratory reactions in some occupants. Take heed and be diligent, and you can survive this hopefully wet winter relatively mold-free.
Structural improvements over the last decade to Houston hospitals have helped them so far to avoid devastation like Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, but the pounding it is receiving from Tropical Storm Harvey is expected to financially hobble many already strained Texas medical centers.
The storm has forced hospitals to cancel surgeries, evacuate patients and contend with food and supply shortages. Even bigger challenges are expected in coming months when people who have lost homes and jobs avoid medical treatment or seek charitable care.
“A lot of hospitals already were burdened by uncompensated care…they were already struggling, and this will make things much harder,” said Vivian Ho, a healthcare economist at Rice University.
Rice has been temporarily closed because of the slow-moving storm that has killed at least 11 people since Friday and paralyzed Houston, the fourth most-populous city in the United States with a U.S.-census estimated 2.3 million.
Houston’s healthcare industry includes some of the most prestigious institutions in the country and has grown to accommodate a rising population in recent years.
But uncertainty about changes to U.S. health insurance policy, the region’s shrinking energy sector and Texas’ high percentage of uninsured have forced several Houston hospitals to cut thousands of jobs this year and post millions of dollars in losses, even before the storm.
Investment bank Jefferies warned in an Aug. 28 note that Harvey could have a significant impact on Texas healthcare providers, especially HCA Healthcare Inc, which has “11 percent of its beds in the areas impacted by severe weather.”
Texas Hospital Association spokesman Lance Lunsford said medical centers made significant improvements after buildings were damaged by Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.
Harvey broke rainfall records for the continental United States, with one site south of Houston recording 49.2 inches (1.25 meters) of precipitation.
Flooding prompted MD Anderson on Monday to cancel appointments and surgeries until Wednesday at the earliest, St. Luke’s Hospital closed one of its branches, and flooding at Ben Taub Hospital shut its food service.
MD Anderson on Monday told employees not part of its storm “ride out” team to stay home.
Roads around the cancer center’s main hospital were impassible, and a doctor posted photos of flooding that reached into the hospital lobby.
MD Anderson’s economic impact to the area is about $35 billion, according to its web site. Its 21 hospitals and affiliated institutions employ more than 106,000 people.
BOMA International extends its thoughts and prayers to the people impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Houston BOMA has established a GoFundMe account to help Houston BOMA members who have lost their homes and belongings in the flood. The proceeds received will go directly to Houston BOMA members to assist in putting their lives back together. Houston BOMA has donated the first $10,000 to the account. To donate, please go to https://www.gofundme.com/houston-boma-member-relief.
BOMA International is in contact with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to gather any information that may be helpful to our members. Ken Rosenfeld, Director of State and Local Affairs, has been participating in daily Critical Infrastructure Stakeholder conference calls with DHS. Of particular note, it is anticipated that “reentry” will become a serious obstacle—it will be difficult to determine the protocols to check on buildings once the storm is over. Since Texas is a “home rule” state, all authority resides with the local jurisdictions, meaning that there may be unique protocols for each jurisdiction. DHS is preparing a list of the local contacts and protocols. BOMA International will post this information to its website once it becomes available.
BOMA International also is assisting the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with their relief efforts. ALAN is seeking donated warehouse space, with priority requests for 10,000 square feet in San Antonio and Austin to support shelters, and another 50,000 to 100,000 in Houston for the Red Cross. FEMA is seeking housing in the Houston area for incoming staff and responders. They are looking for accessible buildings of at least 10,000 square feet, with room to park vehicles, in Houston, Wharton, Brazoria County and Nueces County. The buildings can be “bare-bones,” as FEMA will provide cots, blankets, sanitary facilities and whatever else is needed. Also, the FEMA logistics team is looking for a large, accessible warehouse space of approximately 100,000 square feet in any of the above locations. We have contacted the BOMA local associations in Texas to spread the word to their members about both these requests.
In a related matter, this natural disaster underscores the importance of advocating for a responsible and robust National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Earlier this year, BOMA International created the following policy position:
The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International urges the federal government to implement policies that ensure that all commercial property owners have the ability to obtain flood insurance for their properties at reasonable and affordable rates. BOMA supports efforts from Congress to ensure the long term viability of the National Flood Insurance Program. BOMA also supports initiatives that expand the private insurance market and improve the accuracy of flood mapping.
BOMA’s advocacy team is working with members of Congress to ensure that this important program is reauthorized, especially in light of the damage from Hurricane Harvey.
Lastly, BOMA International has a number of resources available on the website, which may be accessed here.
Los Angeles residents learn about the mold in the walls of your home
Have you experienced a recent overflow, back up, or recognized a new leak in your home? Chances are that you’ve already taken a look at it, decided to feel if were wet or not with your hand, and decided to go about your everyday life. Would you, could you, even imagine saying to yourself; “Is there Mold in my walls”?
It doesn’t take a lot of water to allow 1 mold spore to grow into a mold colony. Inside this wall cavity our mold inspector located the presence of yellow, grey, white, and green molds growing on the drywall. Not every mold has to be black to cause damage to our homes. Different types of mold will grow in walls, depending on the amount of time and available moisture. The different colors of mold can typically indicate primary vrs. secondary colonizers after water damage has occurred in your walls. Look at the picture to the left . .
The camera is point up the inside of a wall cavity.
Mold in my walls! A building wall cavity is a perfect environment for mold to grow after water damage. The wall cavity space keeps the humidity at a perfect level for mold to grow. In addition, other materials such as insulation can increase humidity and moisture levels to help sustain mold in the walls over a longer period of time.
In order to combat the growth of mold in my walls, I would contact a mold remediation company as soon as possible to help dry down the building. If the problem is less than a gallon of water, a homeowner might be able to get some fans and dry down the area. Professional mold removal companies employ dehumidifiers and fans to prevent the growth of mold in walls. Daily monitoring of the building materials moisture is completed everyday to ensure the materials are drying and limit the ability of mold to grow. If I suspected mold in my walls, a local mold inspection company could help me by sampling the air quality, destructively investigating the wall, or sampling the air inside the wall. Many thing can be done to prevent the growth of mold in walls. Learn more today.
Leaves, sticks, and debris can become a problem for your rain gutters. Rain gutters typically allow the removal of water away from your home or building. In this instance, the blockage within the rain gutter allowed water to overflow and deposit near the front door of the unit. If left untended, the backup within the gutter would allow the water to impact the structure and possibly cause water damage inside the home. Water damage and mold growth inside your home can be prevented by regular maintenance of the rain gutters during this El Nino rainy season.
Do your best to observe the signs of a failing rain gutter and prevent water damage: