Super Storm Sandy Clean-Up Part 2

Welcome to the second installation of our series on dealing with damage caused by Super Storm Sandy. Yesterday we addressed general safety concerns, specifically when dealing with clearing trees and debris. Today we turn our attention to damage that may have occurred to your home or other buildings.

Any time that there is damage to your home there are two primary questions that will help you determine what needs to be done. The first question to consider is: Is the damage penetrating through the exterior envelope? Or, in other words, is the damage simply to the outside of the home, or has it broken through to the wall cavity? The second question is: did the damage impact lived-in areas of the home (as opposed to being contained to only a basement, crawl space, and/or attic-type area)? These two questions help determine not only the immediate clean-up needs, but also what may need to be done to prevent future issues such as insect damage, mold growth, and decay to building materials.

For the sake of this post, let’s assume that the water did penetrate through the exterior envelope and has impacted lived-in areas of the home. In that case, the first thing you need to be concerned about is mold growth. The best way to prevent mold is to dry the area in question as quickly as possible. 48 hours is the maximum amount of time that materials can be damp before mold starts to become a potential issue. Dehumidifiers can help to dry out these areas and prevent the onset of mold.

Building sciences have changed the way that closed walls and other inaccessible areas are to be treated for mold. Research shows that in almost 70% of closed walls that had water entry and were not opened and properly dried out, mold growth was found within six months after the initial damage. The same was found to hold true in circumstances where water got between a subfloor and the surface floor. In an effort to save money it is possible that insurance adjusters and others will tell you that walls do not need to be opened and dried, or later inspected for mold. We recommend doing thorough research, and if you have any questions or hesitations, having a qualified mold evaluator come to your home. Mold can cause significant health issues if left undiscovered and untreated.

Let’s say that you do open up a wall or floor cavity and find mold. DO NOT use Bleach to clean the mold unless you are absolutely certain it is located on a non-porous surface such as metal, plastic, or glass. Bleach works as a topical agent only, and while it may kill some of the surface spores, it can also release the rest into the air. Furthermore, most bleach solutions are approximately 70% water, which serves to feed the root mold particles and can cause additional growth in the long term. For this reason, industry standard no longer generally includes bleach treatments in remediation plans. Instead, wet or damaged Sheetrock should be removed and replaced, wood dried out with fans and heaters, and a proper mold-inhibition product applied.

Aside from mold and general decay to building materials, insects are a concern especially with storm-related damage. Many insects that can cause damage to your home, such as carpenter ants, look to nest in damp or softened wood. Wood that has been exposed to a large quantity of water, or that has been moist for a period of time, provides favorable conditions for these insects. The issue can be exasperated by downed trees in the area, due to the possibility that a downed tree (or one that is manually cut as part of the clean-up process) may have contained an ant nest, and those ants will then be searching for a new home. The best way to try and prevent this type of nesting is to dry out affected areas as quickly as possible, and if there is any question of insect entry or damage to have a professional complete a wood destroying insect inspection in your home.

Come back again tomorrow for the last installment of the post-Super Storm Sandy clean-up series. And remember, if you have questions about today’s post, or would like any additional information you can always email us at inspections@sherwoodinspection.com, or call our office at 866-646-9983.

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