Recent Posts

How to Test Your Smoke Alarms and When to Replace Them

12/2/2019 (Permalink)

Smoke alarms are crucial to preventing fire deaths and injuries during a home fire. However, you need to maintain and test them regularly to ensure they're working properly at any given moment. Here are the steps involved in testing a smoke alarm in your home.

First, make sure everyone in your household test.

Have someone stand in the room farthest way form the alarm you are testing to ensure that the alarm is heard in all rooms of your home.

When everyone is ready, use a sturdy chair or ladder to reach the alarm. Locate the test button, then push and hold it for a few seconds to trigger the alarm.

In addition to testing your alarm manually, you should also check that the sensors are working. Use an aerosol smoke detector tester and spray it towards the alarm; it should go off after a few seconds.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that you should test your smoke alarms monthly and replace them every 10 years. Batteries should also be replaced at least once a year.

When Fire is Gone, What it Leaves Behind Will Continue to Affect the House

11/18/2019 (Permalink)

When the firefighters leave, it may seem like the danger has passed and the home is safe from further destruction, but without professionals to help clean the smoke damage, the building will never return to normal. While the principles behind fire restoration are fairly simple, it requires a lot of experience and manpower to perform adequately, and this means that it shouldn’t be attempted by a homeowner on his or her own.

While fire is always the immediate danger, once it is gone, what it leaves behind will continue to affect the house. Ash and smoke, if left unhindered, will cause extensive corrosion, etching and discoloration, not to mention lingering powerful odors. Professionals that clean fire and smoke damage can stop this before it becomes a major problem, assuming they are contacted soon enough. There are many companies out there that advertise their ability to restore areas affected by fire, but only those with proper training and certification should be considered. The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) is the main oversight agency in this industry. The IICRC requires its registrants to take extensive coursework before earning their certification. This is a symbol of excellence, and those that uphold the standards that have been set can be contacted through the IICRC.

These professionals can clean smoke damage and restore items affected by a fire, but they must be brought to the site as soon as possible to halt the ongoing issues that ash residue can cause. The first thing that ash does to the home is discolor most surfaces. Anything that is made of plastic or was close to the fire will start discoloring within minutes, and within several hours, fiberglass and finishes on appliances will begin to yellow. Metals may also tarnish. After a few days pass, the ash will cause walls to discolor permanently, along with clothing and upholstery. Wood and vinyl will need to be refinished or replaced, and metal will start corroding.

If a professional isn’t hired to clean smoke and fire damage, the costs for restoration will skyrocket after a few weeks. Metals may need to be replaced, carpet will permanently discolor and glass may be severely etched, which will necessitate replacement. It will also become apparent that the odors caused by the disaster may still be present and intense enough to be distracting. Because ash is acidic, the longer it takes to hire experts, the more destruction it will cause.

The first thing a trained, certified, professional company will do when on site is to identify all affected materials and the source of any odors. The only way to properly clean smoke and fire damage is to be extremely thorough. Ash residue is easily disturbed and can spread through the building with ease, causing nearly everything to need restoration. The experts will identify what can and cannot be salvaged, and will remove any built-up ash residue that is coating surfaces. Over time, ash builds up in layers, and may eventually form into a lacquer-like consistency. Once this is done, the restorers will locate the source of the odor, and treat it with specialized detergents that are formulated for neutralizing this kind of odor. Once materials are treated, they may be sealed off to prevent any further odor from permeating the air in the future.

This entire process is very detailed, and hiring a professional that can be trusted to do the job right is imperative.

When to Replace Your Hot Water Heater

9/20/2019 (Permalink)

If your water heater is leaking or not heating up, you may be able to repair it rather than replace it. Regular maintenance will extend the life of your water heater. Some repairs, such as replacing a pressure-relief valve or heating element are pretty simple. Follow our tips to troubleshoot your gas or electric water heater issues and learn how long a water heater should last.

Safety First

Some water heater repairs are simple. However, if you aren't comfortable working with gas or electricity, always call a professional.  

Repair or Replace

Based on the manufacturer's suggested service life, the life expectancy of a water heater is about 8 to 12 years. That varies with the location and design of the unit, quality of installation, maintenance schedule and water quality.

If your water heater is more than 10 years old, leaks around the base of the tank, and / or works erratically or not at all, it's probably time for replacement. However, before you begin the replacement process, make sure that an electrical problem, such as a blown fuse or tripped breaker, is not the reason for the unit's failure.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Perhaps the most common problem connected with a water heater is water that isn't as hot as you want it to be. This is usually caused by a faulty thermostat or a defective heating element. Check the following when your water is not hot enough:

Electric water heater

  • Make sure that the power is connected. Reset the thermostat.
  • Flush the heater to remove sediment from the tank.
  • Insulate the hot water pipes.
  • Replace the heating element or thermostat.
  • Raise the temperature setting on the thermostat.

Gas water heater

  • Make sure that the gas is connected and the pilot light is lit.
  • Flush the heater to remove sediment from the tank.
  • Insulate the hot water pipes.
  • Clean the gas burner and replace the thermocouple (a safety device that shuts off the gas automatically if the pilot flame goes out).
  • Raise the temperature setting on the thermostat.

Other common problems and possible solutions

  • Hissing or sizzling noises: Sediment may have collected in the tank. Drain the tank until the water clears. Remove and soak elements in a pan filled with white vinegar for up to an hour and scrape off the collected scale.
  • Leaking pressure-relief valve: Replace valve.
  • Leaking water supply pipes: Tighten the fittings. If that doesn't work, shut off the water and replace the fittings.

Water Heater Maintenance

Today’s water heaters are manufactured to require little or no maintenance, but these maintenance tips could prolong the life of your water heater:

  • Drain the water heater twice a year to rid it of collected sediment that causes corrosion. This also increases efficiency.
  • Test the pressure-relief valve by lifting the valve’s handle and letting it snap back. This should release a burst of water into the overflow drainpipe. If it doesn’t, install a new valve.
  • Lower the temperature setting on the thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This reduces damage to the tank caused by overheating.

When Replacement Is Necessary

If you're replacing a water heater, you can replace it with the same type of unit. However, upgrade possibilities should be considered. For example, you may choose to increase or decrease the unit's holding capacity to accommodate a changing family. Or, you may opt to go tankless. 

When looking for a water heater, consider these features:

  • Gallon capacity (40-gallon and 50-gallon heaters are the most common)
  • Recovery rate (the number of gallons the heater will heat in an hour)
  • Dimensions (width and height — physical space may limit your ability to upgrade your unit's capacity; will the heater fit in the space you have for it?)
  • Energy efficiency ratings (a sticker on the side should list the estimated annual cost of operation for the unit)

Before making repairs or purchasing a new water heater, check the nameplate on the side of your current unit. Here you will find helpful information including the tank capacity, insulation R-value, installation guidelines, working pressure, model and serial number. If you have an electric water heater, the nameplate will also list the wattage capacity and voltage of the heating elements.

  • How will you dispose of your old water heater? Check local codes governing disposal of such appliances.
  • Will you be able to physically handle the unit? Water heaters are bulky and heavy. You will need assistance.
  • Do you have the tools necessary to do the job? Water heater installation requires adjustable wrenches, screwdrivers, a hacksaw and pliers. You may also need a propane torch if your installation uses copper pipe.
  • Do you have time to do the job? Once you start replacing a water heater, you have to finish.

Caution

If you intend to convert from electric to gas or vice-versa, or if you don't feel comfortable doing the repair or maintenance work, hire a professional.

Caution

Make sure your home is equipped with carbon monoxide detectors when gas-powered appliances are present.

Controlling Moisture in a Crawlspace

9/19/2019 (Permalink)

The moisture from these damp crawlspaces not only affects the wood floor structure immediately above, but can travel throughout a building to the detriment of other materials and even the occupants. This excess moisture often condenses on cooler surfaces in a home and can result in wet insulation or delaminated plywood in the attic, sweating pipes, ducts and toilet tanks and mold or mildew on exterior walls.

Increasing the airflow through a crawlspace might not be the best solution to reduce moisture. In some areas, the summer's warm, humid exterior air does little to extract the interior moisture. In the winter, cold air entering a damp crawlspace often just results in condensation forming. Moving air through a crawlspace, below a heated and cooled house, can also reduce energy efficiency and in cold climates, there is an increased possibility of frozen pipes.

The wettest crawlspaces (and basements) seem to be directly related to exterior drainage issues. Ground sloping towards the foundation, clogged or missing gutters, and downspouts not properly extended can all contribute to elevated moisture levels and even regular water intrusion.

Exposed earth in a crawlspace can also be a significant source of moisture. Covering the soil with a vapor barrier can reduce the amount of moisture vapor emitted from the ground into the crawlspace. These soil coverings need to be properly installed to be effective. The seams should overlap at least a foot and be sealed with appropriate tape. It needs to completely cover the soil and be sealed to the foundation. Most publications specify a 6-mil polyethylene sheet. Although adequate, it has little puncture resistance. I prefer cross-laminated, high-density polyethylene (think pond liner).

In addition to proper grading and a properly installed vapor barrier, the most pleasant crawlspaces I occasionally encounter do not have vents to the exterior. They also don't have any insulation under the floor above. Some have uncovered openings from an adjacent basement or have an installed heat source. This creates a somewhat "conditioned" space, similar to living areas of the home. Sealing against drafts, insulating the interior of the foundation, and insulating the perimeter of the floor structure below exterior walls creates a pretty efficient way to control humidity levels.

The crawlspace is to be treated like the rest of the building often results in the crawlspace causing less trouble. Preventing Moisture, Humidity, and Microbial growth is the best solution.

Call a Certified Contractor, to Clean and Remediate Microbial

Is Water Damage Hiding From You?

9/19/2019 (Permalink)

Signs of Water Damage

No one ever truly understands the power of rain or water and the damage it can do to your home or business. Once water has found its way inside your house, it can travel anywhere, creating hidden problems. So, even after that big puddle recedes, there may be some underlying problems lurking behind the scenes. here with some helpful tips on how to identify water damage, SERVPRO of Mt. Laurel/Moorestown urges you to pay attention,

  • Smell the air!
  • Spot the stains!
  • Peeling paint.
  • Sagging spaces and finicky floors.

If you notice any of these signs, call the professionals at SERVPRO of Mt. Laurel/Moorestown to investigate and avoid further damage. SERVPRO of Mt. Laurel/Moorestown is here 24/7 to help you breath a little easier.

The National Flood Insurance Program

9/18/2019 (Permalink)

The National Flood Insurance Program aims to reduce the impact of flooding on private and public structures. It does so by providing affordable insurance to property owners and by encouraging communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations. These efforts help mitigate the effects of flooding on new and improved structures. Overall, the program reduces the socio-economic impact of disasters by promoting the purchase and retention of general risk insurance, but also of flood insurance, specifically. Signup to receive email updates.

I don't have flood insurance--Why do I need it?

FACT: Floods are the nation’s most common and costly natural disaster and cause millions of dollars in damage every year.

FACT: Homeowners and renters insurance does not typically cover flood damage.

FACT: Floods can happen anywhere--More than 20 percent of flood claims come from properties outside the high risk flood zone.

FACT: Most federal disaster assistance comes in the form of low-interest disaster loans from U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and you have to pay them back. FEMA offers disaster grants that don't need to be paid back, but this amount is often much less than what is needed to recover. A claim against your flood insurance policy could and often does, provide more funds for recovery than those you could qualify for from FEMA or the SBA--and you don't have to pay it back.

FACT: You may be required to have flood insurance. Congress has mandated federally regulated or insured lenders to require flood insurance on mortgaged properties that are located in areas at high risk of flooding. But even if your property is not in a high risk flood area, your mortgage lender may still require you to have flood insurance.

Flood insurance helps more: Check out your state's flood history with FEMA's interactive data visualization tool. Roll your cursor over each county to see how many flooding events have happened. The tool allows you to compare how much FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration have provided in terms of federal disaster aid after Presidential Disaster Declarations to the amount the National Flood Insurance program has paid to its policyholders. It's easy to see that having flood insurance provides a lot more help for recovery.

Who can buy flood insurance?

If you are a renter or homeowner (residential policy); or business owner (non-residential policy) and your property is located in a NFIP-participating community, you can purchase a policy. Contact your insurance agent to find out if your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program.

Flood insurance from the NFIP is only available in participating communities. Ask your agent if your state and community participate, or look it up online

Did you know? An elevated home, with a first floor elevated 3 feet above the base ­flood elevation, can expect to save 60 percent or more on annual ­flood insurance premiums.

Did you know? Elevating just one foot above the Base Flood Elevation often results in a 30% reduction in annual premiums.

Water Damage Restoration

9/16/2019 (Permalink)

After any water damage situation, your primary focus should be safety:

  • Is it safe to stay in the house?
  • Electrical and "slip and fall" hazards are some of the most prevalent concerns.
  • Only do activities that are safe for you to perform.
  • Wet materials can be VERY heavy. Be careful!

What To Do After Flooding

  • Remove excess water by mopping and blotting.
  • Wipe excess water from wood furniture after removal of lamps and tabletop items.
  • Remove and prop wet upholstery and cushions.
  • Place aluminum foil or wood blocks between furniture legs and wet carpeting.
  • Turn air conditioning on for maximum drying in summer.
  • Remove colored rugs from wet carpeting.
  • Remove art objects to a safe, dry place.
  • Gather loose items from floors.

What NOT To Do After Flooding

  • Don't leave wet fabrics in place. Hang furs and leather goods.
  • Don't leave books, magazines or other colored items on wet carpet or floors.
  • Don't use your household vacuum to remove water.
  • Don't use television or other household appliances.
  • Don't turn on ceiling fixtures if ceiling is wet, and keep out of rooms where ceilings are sagging.

Then Call a Certified Water Damage Restoration Professional at SERVPRO of Mt. Laurel/Moorestown, for Proper Drying, Dehumidifying, Possible Demolition, and Clean Up!

Water Damage Restoration

9/10/2019 (Permalink)

After any water damage situation, your primary focus should be safety:

  • Is it safe to stay in the house?
  • Electrical and "slip and fall" hazards are some of the most prevalent concerns.
  • Only do activities that are safe for you to perform.
  • Wet materials can be VERY heavy. Be careful!

What To Do After Flooding

  • Remove excess water by mopping and blotting.
  • Wipe excess water from wood furniture after removal of lamps and tabletop items.
  • Remove and prop wet upholstery and cushions.
  • Place aluminum foil or wood blocks between furniture legs and wet carpeting.
  • Turn air conditioning on for maximum drying in summer.
  • Remove colored rugs from wet carpeting.
  • Remove art objects to a safe, dry place.
  • Gather loose items from floors.

What NOT To Do After Flooding

  • Don't leave wet fabrics in place. Hang furs and leather goods.
  • Don't leave books, magazines or other colored items on wet carpet or floors.
  • Don't use your household vacuum to remove water.
  • Don't use television or other household appliances.
  • Don't turn on ceiling fixtures if ceiling is wet, and keep out of rooms where ceilings are sagging.

Then Call a Certified Water Damage Restoration Professional from SERVPRO of Mt.Laurel/Moorestown, NJ , for Proper Drying, Dehumidifying, Possible Demolition and Clean Up!

Lightning and Thunderstorms, Helping Your Pets Overcome Their Fears of Them.

9/7/2019 (Permalink)

Storm phobia. You call it your worst nightmare. Either way, we all want the same thing: A calmer dog who doesn’t have to suffer the psychological damage done by booming thunder, wicked lightning and plummeting barometric pressures.

And it’s not just their psyche at risk. We all know that dogs are capable of doing serious damage to themselves during stormy times of the year. Fractured claws, lacerations, broken teeth and bruises are but a few consequences. I’ve even seen broken limbs and witnessed one dramatic case of deadly hit-by-car when a neighbor’s dog ran wildly into the street (so you know, they do this...thinking they’re fleeing the storm).

So how do you handle thunderstorm phobia?

Here are tips:

1. Handle it early on in your dog’s life

Does your dog merely quake and quiver under the bed when it storms outside? Just because he doesn’t absolutely freak, doesn’t mean he’s not suffering. Since storm phobia is considered a progressive behavioral disease, signs like this should not be ignored. Each successive thunderstorm season is likely to bring out ever-worsening signs of fear. It’s time to take action...NOW!

2. Don’t heed advice to let her “sweat it out” or not to “baby” her

I’ve heard many pet owners explain that they don’t offer any consolation to their pets because they don’t want to reinforce the “negative behavior” brought on by a thunderstorm. But a severe thunderstorm is no time to tell your dog to “buck up and get strong.” Fears like this are irrational (after all, she’s safe indoors). Your dog won’t get it when you punish her for freaking out. Indeed, it’ll likely make her anxiety worse. Providing a positive or distracting stimulus is more likely to calm her down.

3. Offer treats, cuddlings and other good stuff when storms happen

This method is best employed before the phobia sets in––as pups. Associating loud booms with treats is never a bad thing, right?

4. Let him hide...in a crate

Hiding (as in a cave) is a natural psychological defense for dogs. Getting them used to a crate as pups has a tremendous influence on how comfortable they are when things scare them. Having a go-to place for relaxing or hiding away is an excellent approach, no matter what the fear. Another approach to try, whether he’s a pup or not.

5. Get him away from the noise...and compete with it

Creating a comfy place (for the crate or elsewhere) in a room that’s enclosed (like a closet or bathroom) may help a great deal. Adding in a loud radio or white noise machine can help, too. Or how about soothing, dog-calming music? Not only does this approach muffle sounds, it also means pets can avoid the...

5. Electromagnetism

Though it may sound like Voo-doo, your dog can also become sensitized to the electromagnetic radiation caused by lightning strikes. One great way to shield your dog from these potentially fear-provoking waves is to cover her crate with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Another method involves clothing her in a commercially available “Storm Defender” cape that does the same work. If she hides under the bed, consider slipping a layer of aluminum fold between the box-spring and mattress.

6. Desensitize him

Sometimes it’s possible to allay the fears by using thunderstorm sound CDs when it’s not raging outside. Play it at a low volume while plying him with positive stimuli (like treats and pettings). Increase the volume all the while, getting to those uncomfortable booming sounds over a period of weeks. It works well for some.

7. Ask your veterinarian about drugs

Sure, there’s nothing so unsavory as the need for drugs to relieve dogs of their fears, but recognize that some fears will not be amenable to any of these other ministrations without drugs. If that’s the case, talk to your vet about it––please.

8. Natural therapies can work

For severe sufferers there’s no doubt it’ll be hard to ask a simple flower essence to do all the heavy lifting, but for milder cases, Bach flower extracts (as in Rescue Remedy), lavender oil (in a diffuser is best) and/or “Dog Appeasing Pheromone” (marketed as D.A.P. in a diffuser, spray or collar) can help.

9. Consider seeing a board certified veterinary behaviorist

If nothing else works, your dog should not have to suffer. Seek out the advice of your veterinarian and, if you’ve gone as far as you have with him/her, consider someone with unique training in these areas––perhaps a board certified veterinary behaviorist.

Detect and Prevent Water Damage in Mt. Laurel/Moorestown, NJ

9/7/2019 (Permalink)

Standing water on the floor is easy to see. Less obvious signs of problems include:

  • Unexpected increases in your water bill
  • Stains on walls, floors or ceilings
  • Damaged or warped flooring
  • Warped bottom panels in under-sink cabinets
  • Peeling paint or wallpaper
  • Corrosion on plumbing valves and fittings

Deal with problems as you find them. Clean up any water or moisture, locate the source and make repairs. Tracking down a leak isn't always straightforward — water can travel along components in the building structure, so the indications of the leak may be in a different part of the home than the leak itself. If necessary, contact a professional roofing contractor, plumber or water damage restoration specialist to help with identification and repair.

In addition to the damage that water causes, it can encourage the growth of mold on walls and floors — where it's readily visible — and in ductwork, attics and crawl spaces — where you might not notice it. A musty odor is a sign that mold may be present.

Mold can cause damage and lead to health problems — deal with it quickly. If the affected area is larger than 3 feet by 3 feet, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends you find a professional mold remediation contractor. For smaller areas, you can clean nonporous surfaces with commercial cleaning products, soap and water or a solution of a cup of bleach to each gallon of water. Follow the instructions and safety precautions for the cleaning product you use and wear appropriate safety gear. Porous surfaces such as drywall need to be replaced. For more information on mold in the home and how to clean it up, see A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home on the EPA's web site.

Inspecting common sources of water leaks and taking some simple preventative measures can be an effective way to reduce the risk of water damage and mold.

Plumbing

  • Every 6 to 12 months, inspect water lines, shut-off valves and fittings for fixtures such as sinks, toilets and tubs and for appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and ice makers. Check for cracks, loose connections, kinks and corrosion. If you find a leak, turn off the water to the fixture or appliance until you can make repairs.
  • Check around toilets to make sure water is not leaking at the base — an indication that the wax ring between the toilet and floor might need replacing or that there might be a crack in the base.
  • If the temperature drops near the 20°F mark, allow faucets connected to vulnerable pipes — those not protected in insulated spaces — to drip. This helps minimize the risk of burst pipes by relieving pressure if the pipes freeze.

Appliances

  • Replace washing machine supply hoses at least every five years. Consider using stainless-steel mesh hoses. Keep the machine properly balanced — over time, an unbalanced machine can move, pulling free the hose connections. Read Maintain Your Washer and Dryer for instructions on replacing hoses and balancing the washing machine.
  • Consider turning off the water to the washing machine when it's not in use.
  • Don't operate a dishwasher or washing machine while your house is unoccupied.
  • Follow the manufacturer-specified maintenance for your appliances, including your water heater. Have the water heater inspected every couple of years.

Roof and Gutters

  • Have your roof inspected every three years by a professional, but also check routinely for damage you can see from the ground — such as broken and missing shingles or damaged flashing. A poorly maintained roof can lead to leaks in the home and additional damage to the roof itself.
  • If your roof doesn't have a drip edge or drip cap, consider having one added. This component helps keep water away from the roof deck and directs runoff into gutters.
  • Keep gutters clear and well-maintained. Gutters that overflow, leak or don't drain properly allow water to seep into your roof and into your foundation, crawlspace or basement. See Gutter Cleaning and Repair for steps to keep your gutters working correctly.
  • Make sure gutter downspouts direct rainwater away from the home's foundation. Use extensions to carry water at least 6 feet from the house.

Exterior Walls and Foundation

  • Inspect the exterior of your home. Caulk around gaps at plumbing and ventilation entry and exit points. See How to Caulk for instructions. Repair cracked mortar joints.
  • Check to see if roots from shrubs near your home have caused damage that can allow water to enter the foundation. You may need to remove shrubs that are close to the house to prevent problems. Roots can also damage and block in-ground pipes, causing leaks near the foundation and sewer backups in the home.
  • Keep shrubbery beds and other landscape features sloped to direct water away from the home.
  • Look for evidence of erosion or settling at the foundation that can indicate water problems.

Additional Tips to Avoid Water Damage

  • Have your attic ventilation and insulation inspected annually and seal gaps that allow warm air into the attic — such as those around access doors and light fixtures. When warm air collects in the attic, it can lead to the formation of an ice dam — ice around the eaves that causes water from melting snow and ice to back up under the shingles and leak into your home.
  • If you have a sump pump, test it several times during the year. Follow the manufacturer's maintenance instructions.
  • Check your water pressure with a pressure gauge; typically these screw onto a hose bib. The pressure in an average home is around 50 to 70 pounds per square inch (psi). Higher pressure causes extra stress on pipes and fittings and can lead to leaks.
  • Inspect tile and grout around showers and tubs. Make any necessary repairs. Read Replace a Broken Ceramic Tile and Repair Tile Grout for step-by-step instructions. 
  • Check for leaks around windows during rains and seal any you find.
  • Use exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom to move excess moisture out of the house. Moisture in the air can condense on cool surfaces and cause problems. Read Controlling Moisture and Humidity in the Home for more ways to reduce indoor moisture.
  • Locate your water shut-off valve so you can quickly turn off water to the home in an emergency. See Shut Off Your Home Water Supply for instructions on locating the valve.