Recent Posts

Is It Mold or Is It Rust?

2/26/2021 (Permalink)

Can you easily tell the difference between mold and rust? Many people look at a reddish colored stain and assume its rust, although that’s not always the case. Before you break out your heavy-duty cleaning solutions, it pays to understand what you’re up against: mold, rust, or even another stain. 

What’s Normal for Your Home?

If you’re seeing new stains on walls, floors, or countertops, you’ll want to make sure they’re not the result of water infiltration or excess humidity in your home. Try to pinpoint a reason for the stain, based on what room it’s in and the common daily activity. Mold tends to be found in damp, humid areas, while rust forms when metallic surfaces start to corrode. Recognizing the differences between mold and rust helps you determine the best way to take care of an issue before it becomes more pervasive.

What’s that Stain? Mold vs Rust

Areas prone to dampness, such as bathrooms and basements, can easily foster the growth of mold or mildew. If you see a stain that looks like mold or rust in your shower, sink area, or basement, you’ll want to clean them as quickly as possible to avoid permanent damage. However, different cleaning solutions are used to treat different stains. Rust, hard water marks, grease, and mold may all look similar, but if you use the wrong cleaner, you may not be able to fully remove them.

Identifying Rust

Rust is the result of iron, or a metal alloy containing iron, such as steel, corroding. Rust is most often observed as a red, yellow or reddish-brown surface stain. Rust is caused by water or damp air touching the surface or a metal prone to rusting. Some common areas where rust is spotted in the home, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), include the following:

  • Water Pipes
  • Metal Roofs and Chimneys
  • Oil tanks for home with oil heat
  • Electrical Panel Boxes
  • Nails

Preventing Rust

Rust can be prevented by keeping metals out of damp and humid areas. Protective coatings, such as varnish may also be applied to surfaces prone to rusting. Ensuring that metal fixtures in your home are kept dry can also help to prevent rust. Wipe up spills immediately and check your basement after heavy storms to spot signs of flooding as soon as possible.

Removing Rust

Removing rust can be a tough job, but with the right cleaners, you should be successful. For lighter rust stains, some household products, such as baking soda or vinegar might work. Mild abrasives like steel wool pads may also remove surface rust, but they may also leave behind scratch marks. There are also many specialized rust removal products sold that you can try for smaller stains. One product you should never use on rust is bleach, which could react negatively with the rust and actually worsen it. 

If you do attempt to clean rust, always follow the instructions on any commercial cleaning product. Be sure to don safety gear, including gloves, safety glasses and a face mask. Always work in a well-ventilated area. If you’re not comfortable with the task, find a handyman or painter that is.

Mold Stains

Mold can resemble other stains like rust or mildew in appearance, but there are actually over 300 types of mold. The colors of mold can range from black to brown, white or gray, or even pink, blue or green. Mold also presents in a range of textures from downy to fuzzy. Some mold is powdery and some has a more slimy texture. 

Mold can grow as the result of a single event, such as a broken pipe or indoor water infiltration due to floods or leaks. It’s important to catch the signs of indoor mold growth as early as possible and have them taken care of before they lead to greater damage. Mold can also affect the health of certain susceptible individuals, including those with a suppressed immune system or an allergy to mold. Mold sometimes can leave a stain, but that’s not always the case. A damp, musty odor can also be a sign of mold growth. 

If you notice mold growth in damp areas of your home, you can clean affected surfaces with a specialized mold removal product. Common, everyday household cleaning solutions may not be effective against mold. Typically, mold cannot be totally eradicated from porous surfaces, like shower curtains, drywall or insulation; these items should be disposed of and replaced.

When cleaning mold, you should always wear protective gear, such as a face mask and ensure that you’re working in an adequately ventilated area. You can read more about the protective gear recommended for mold removal. If you suffer from mold allergies or asthma, it is not recommended that you try to clean the mold yourself. SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County can help you determine the best way to remove the mold. Once the mold is removed, it’s a good idea to have the area tested by a professional. If mold has continued to grow in your home, you may have a more pervasive problem that requires additional professional remediation from SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County.

Evaluating Mold Issues

Because so many of the stains we see around the house look similar, it may be difficult to determine what is causing the discoloration and damage. If you notice stains on your walls, countertops, or floors that look like mold or rust, contact SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County and request a free home inspection to help diagnose your problem. 

Contact us at 973-383-2024 if you have a service need or click here to visit our website to learn more about SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County's System Services. 

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SERVPRO Cares About Your Safety - Generator Safety

2/1/2021 (Permalink)

Winter season is upon us and power outages may follow.  If you have a generator on hand for power outages during severe weather, follow the safety tips below provided by the American Red Cross.

  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawl space, or any partially enclosed area.
  • To avoid electrocution, keep the generator dry and do not use it in wet conditions.  Operate it on a dry surface under an open canopy-like structure, such as under a tarp held up on poles. Do not touch the generator with wet hands.
  • Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent carbon monoxide (CO) buildup in the home. Although CO can’t be seen or smelled, it can rapidly lead to full incapacitation and death. Even if you cannot smell exhaust fumes, you may still be exposed to CO. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air immediately.
  • Install CO alarms in central locations on every level of your home or property and outside sleeping areas to provide early
    warnings.

Contact us at 973-383-2024 if you have a service need or click here to visit our website to learn more about SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County's System Services.

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SERVPRO Cares About Your Safety - Carbon Monoxide

1/15/2021 (Permalink)

carbon monoxide detector Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Your safety is always top of mind with SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County.

Winter months present a particular concern with accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.  Every year, hundreds of people in the US die from accidental CO poisoning and 50,000 visit the emergency room.

Carbon Monoxide is an odorless and invisible fume generated by furnaces, kerosene heaters, portable generators and similar fuel burning appliances.  Carbon Monoxide can build up in enclosed spaces and you can be poisoned and die from breathing these fumes.

Common symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning include headaches, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.  Most people are poisoned while they sleep.

Here are some steps you can take to reduce the risk and prevent CO poisoning:

  • Make sure you install a CO detector in different parts of the home and frequently check that the batteries are working.
  • Never operate your car in a closed garage.
  • Keep vents and flues clean of debris and blockages.
  • Make sure your home heating system is inspected annually.
  • Never operate a generator or other gasoline powered equipment within 20 feet of an open window or door and never inside the home.

Remember, CO poisoning is preventable.  If you suspect CO poisoning, do not wait, call 911.

Contact us at 973-383-2024 if you have a service need or click here to visit our website to learn more about SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County's System Services.

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Home Mold Testing - DIY Kit - Use With Caution

12/27/2020 (Permalink)

You can expect mold and mildew outside your home because of the natural damp conditions of the outdoors. Mold and mildew inside the home is a different problem, because the inside of your home shouldn’t remain damp.

The presence of moisture is the biggest contributor to mold growth, and to fight the infestation you should conduct a room-by-room assessment of the house to identify problem areas. The moisture can come from condensation due to poor ventilation (attic), from a water leak (around bathrooms), or from outdoor intrusion (foundation walls).

Detection

Mold and mildew in a home is not always easy to detect if it exists within attics or is hidden within walls. If you suspect your indoor air quality is hindered by hidden mold, the best course of action is to contact an Industrial Hygienist (IH). 

The IH will take both surface and air samples to detect the presence of mold on the structure.  These 2 tests are important to take in concert with each other as they will help to detect the presence of mold in areas that cannot be seen or reached, such as in wall cavities.  They will also help to determine the severity and types of mold in a specific area of the home.

If you choose to take your own surface sample as a first step, mold detection kits can be purchased in most home improvement stores and are easy to use.  Simply swab the surface in an area you're concerned with.  Test results show in as little as 5 minutes, and much like a pregnancy test you’ll either see one line (negative results) or two lines (positive).

Use caution as these tests are not necessarily conclusive, given the absence of air samples and misinterpretation by the user.  Only a trained professional should perform mold testing, using the proper methods.

Even if your home test is positive, it does not necessarily mean you have a serious problem but that you should consider consulting a professional indoor air quality inspector or contact SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County. You can also have an optional laboratory analysis of your test results conducted for an additional fee.  

Click here to go to our website and learn a bit more about Mold Remediation. 

Fighting the Mold you Find

If you discover mold on the home’s interior, the first step in solving the problem is to eliminate the source of moisture—whatever that may be. Otherwise, any mold or mildew you clean is likely to return.

For minor problems you may be able to clean the surface of the materials with an antimicrobial cleaner. For major problems, remove materials that cannot be thoroughly cleaned of mold like insulation, carpeting or drywall. Use your antimicrobial cleaner to clean the surrounding area as well as the places where you actually see mold and mildew, to make sure you remove all traces of the substances.

Finally, replace the removed building materials with new, mold-free materials.

Mold can be a serious issue with challenging aspects in remediating it properly.  We highly recommend calling in a professional, like SERVPRO, to help you evaluate the proper steps before proceeding on your own.

Contact us at 973-383-2024 if you have a service need or click here to visit our website to learn more about SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County's System Services. 

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Places To Find Cash After A Disaster

12/26/2020 (Permalink)

It happens when you least expect it, and you certainly don't plan for it.  The natural disaster, like a flood, fire or any other type of personal catastrophe that leaves you in dire need of liquid funds. 

Self preservation requires cash.  If you’re hit with an emergency and need to find cash fast, of course, the first place to look are your bank accounts. If these funds are not sufficient, then look to these resources.

1. Family and Close Friends

If you need to find cash fast, ask your family and friends. If they can help, remember to always treat this as a loan and never treat it casually.

If you need to, attach an interest rate and a payment time frame, as you would any official loan from a financial institution.  This is important because your family or friend have to charge you something for the transaction to be considered a loan and not a gift that could have tax and estate planning implications.

2. The Government

FEMA is able to provide disaster assistance for such needs as temporary housing, home repair, disaster-related medical expenses, vehicle damage and cleanup costs.  Another source, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers federally subsidized loans for renters, private nonprofit organizations and home and business owners.

Here's the catch...to qualify for either a FEMA or SBA loan, you must live in a federally declared disaster zone and file a claim with their insurance company first.

3. Life Insurance

Permanent life insurance policies are great resources because they’re readily accessible funds.  The can be borrowed against without having to qualify for a loan, and you can pay a policy loan back on your own schedule.

However, rules will vary with insurance providers. Many require policyholders to own their policies for a few years before they can qualify to borrow. You’ll also be charged interest for taking out a policy loan. 

4. CDs, Savings Bonds and Mutual Funds / Stocks

CD's: You can take your money out of a CD, but you’ll likely pay a penalty. Sacrificing some earnings is a relatively insignificant compared to paying interest rates on a life insurance loan.

Savings bondsSavings bonds are another quick cash resource.  You might need to pay a three-month interest penalty if a bond is redeemed too early though. In both cases, of course you’ll pay income tax on any interest earned.

Mutual Funds: You can sell stocks as well as mutual funds and annuities. If you take this route, consult your financial adviser about likely tax issues and penalties.

5. College 529 Savings

You may need to borrow from your future to pay present obligations.  You 529 College Savings Account is a good resource for this.  However, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission, those who withdraw funds out of a 529 plan for non-qualified education expenses will pay income tax and a 10 percent penalty on any earnings.

6. Retirement Accounts

Retirement accounts can be used to fund personal financial needs.  It's important to understand the long term personal retirement planning impact.  So plan accordingly and know the difference between a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA.

Roth IRA holders may withdraw their own contributions — not earnings — without tax or penalty.

Traditional IRA holders may start taking penalty-free distributions on their accounts if they begin taking regular distributions, but specific rules apply. You’ll pay income taxes and a 10 percent penalty on the taxable amount if you’re under age 59½.

7. A 401(k) Loan

A 401(k) loan is usually a better option than using a 529 or IRA loan.

401(k) holders can borrow up to half of their account balance, up to $50,000, tax-free, but, in most cases, funds must be repaid within five years.

The shortcoming is that you have to stay with your current employer for the duration of the loan period.  If you leave your job, you’ll have 30 to 60 days to repay the loan or face penalties.

Before pulling funds from any long-term investment, read the fine print and always consult your tax adviser.

Contact us at 973-383-2024 if you have a service need or click here to visit our website to learn more about SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County's System Services.

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Destroy Odors with DEODORIZATION

12/22/2020 (Permalink)

A fire can leave behind soot, smoke damage, and a host of other problems. Ceilings, walls, woodwork, carpeting, and floors will often need a thorough professional cleaning. If your home or business suffers a fire, it is important to take the appropriate steps to prevent further damage until SERVPRO® of Northern Sussex County professionals arrive.

Even a small fire can cause odors for years to come if the affected areas are not properly cleaned and deodorized. Fire, smoke, and soot damage in your home or business can create unpleasant and potentially permanent problems.

As various materials burn, the smoke produced travels throughout the structure, leaving odorous residues and deposits on surfaces and in hard-to-reach places. Unless fast, professional action is taken, these residues and deposits can cause permanent damage to contents and may result in resurfacing odors.

With technicians certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration (IICRC), SERVPRO® provides specialized services that can rid your home or business of offensive odors left by fire or smoke damage. SERVPRO® does not cover-up lingering odors with a fragrance; they seek out and remove the source of the odor. Once the source is found, SERVPRO’s own proprietary line of cleaning products is used to treat and prevent the odor from returning. Any restorable item in affected areas will also be professionally cleaned and deodorized, including furniture, draperies and upholstery, electronics, art, flooring, walls, ceilings, HVAC air ducts and more.

Ask SERVPRO® of Northern Sussex County professionals to explain the various deodorization methods available and which one will work best for you.

If you or one of your customers suffer a fire damage or some other accident and require deodorization services, contact SERVPRO® of Northern Sussex County immediately. Whether it’s fire, water, or mold damage or just a stubborn odor that refuses to go away, we’ll help make it “Like it never even happened.”

Contact us at 973-383-2024 if you have a service need or click here to visit our website to learn more about SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County's System Services.

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PREPAREDNESS FOR PETS

12/15/2020 (Permalink)

Have you accounted for Fido or Lucy when emergency planning?

After The Storm

After Hurricane Katrina, "It’s estimated that over 15,500 animals were ultimately rescued. Of the 15,500 animals rescued, only 15%-20% were ever reunited with their owners.”

Source: Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, la-spca.org

Pets are just as important as any family member to most people, so why would you not make them a part of your preparedness planning? There are several things you can do to make sure they stay safe as well during an emergency.

Pet Emergency Kit

Ready.gov/animals lists the below items as essential to building your Pet Emergency Kit.

  • Food. At least a three day supply in an airtight, waterproof container.
  • Water. At least three days of water specifically for your pets.
  • Medicines and medical records.
  • Important documents. Registration information, adoption papers and vaccination documents. Talk to your veterinarian about micro-chipping and enrolling your pet in a recovery database.
  • First aid kit. Cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape and scissors; antibiotic ointment; flea and tick prevention; latex gloves, isopropyl alcohol and saline solution. Including a pet first aid reference book is a good idea too.
  • Collar or harness with ID tag, rabies tag and a leash.
  • Crate or pet carrier. Have a sturdy, safe crate or carrier in case you need to evacuate. The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand, turn around and lie down.
  • Sanitation. Pet litter and litter box if appropriate, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags and household chlorine bleach.
  • A picture of you and your pet together. If you become separated, a picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you. Add species, breed, age, sex, color and distinguishing  characteristics.
  • Familiar items. Familiar items, such as treats, toys and bedding can help reduce stress for your pet.

Evacuations
While practicing fire escape or evacuation plans, be sure to include pets. If an evacuation happens, don’t leave pets behind as they can be lost or injured.

Identification
Micro-chipping pets is a great way to locate them. Most veterinary clinics and shelters have scanners that will read the microchip information to help find a pet’s owners.

Be sure to take four-legged friends into consideration when planning for emergencies. Visit ready.gov/ animals for further tips and safety precautions to think about for you or your insured’s families’ pets, or your tenants pets’ during a disaster.

Contact us at 973-383-2024 if you have a service need or click here to visit our website to learn more about SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County's System Services.

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Be Proactive and Reduce Covid-19 Business Liability

12/15/2020 (Permalink)

You likely have workplace safety policies in place.  But you probably never contemplated the Covid-19 pandemic and the fluid, constantly changing landscape of NJ state-wide employer requirements.

Governor Murphy recently implemented Executive Order 192 to "Protect New Jersey's Workforce During the Covid Pandemic".  In short, this order requires New Jersey businesses to document the health conditions of all workers on a daily basis and to restrict access of those workers if they show symptoms.

Taken from an article found in New Jersey Business, "Being Proactive Can Reduce COVID-19 Liability", written by Joe Cavaluzzi, it takes a lot of thought to come up with workplace safety policies that address COVID-19’s threat to workers and protect a company against liability claims. 

Additionally, this article states, a change in New Jersey’s Workers’ Compensation law, which is retroactive to March 9, created the presumption that coronavirus contracted by those whose jobs expose them to COVID-19 is work-related and fully compensable. The New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) has suggested that the law puts an added burden on companies already struggling with lost business, although labor attorneys say the new law provides protection from increased insurance premiums. 

Joe states, the best protection, however, comes from being proactive with comprehensive policies that address the safety of workers – even those working from home – and vigilance to make sure they are understood and followed. 

The key points raised by the article are:

  • Setting Policies that Protect Workers and Employers - Recommending 4 Policies

    • Telecommuting Policy
    • Containment Policy
    • Health Screening Policy
    • Travel Policy
  • Liability When Employees Get Sick 

    • Although state policies are fluid and change frequently, act promptly when a worker comes down with the virus. 
    • Ask workers to sign an acknowledgement form confirming compliance with COVID-19 workplace practices.
    • Document contact tracing with other employees when an employee becomes ill.
  • Changes to Workers’ Comp Law 

    • Will raise concerns for workers and employers

One final note: Gov. Murphy signed S-2380 into law which creates a presumption that COVID-19 infections occurred at the workplace for certain essential employees.  This law leaves it up to the employer to prove that it didn’t.

Contact us at 973-383-2024 if you have a service need or click here to visit our website to learn more about SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County's System Services.

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Celebrate Safely this Holiday Season

12/7/2020 (Permalink)

Celebrate Safely this Holiday Season

Local SERVPRO fire restoration specialist says use common sense and caution to help control risk of holiday season home fires

In a year when large holiday gatherings may not be possible, fire damage restoration specialist SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County says a focus on family decorating traditions and more intimate celebrations may take on extra significance.  It’s as important to keep safety top of mind with a small family gathering as it is with a large holiday party.  We all enjoy bringing the glow of the holiday season to our homes with Christmas trees or menorahs and candlelight, but these statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration show how easy it is for home decorating to turn into a home disaster. 

  • The top three days for home candle fires are Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve.
  • More than half of the home decoration fires in December are started by candles.
  • A heat source too close to the Christmas tree causes one in every four winter fires.
  • On average, one of every 52 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in death.

In addition to exercising caution with candles and heat sources, it is important to follow manufacturers’ guidelines for holiday lighting. According to the National Fire Protection Association, electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 44% of home Christmas tree fires. Though Christmas tree fires may not be common, they can be devastating to more than the house itself. They can destroy irreplaceable photos, mementos, and family heirlooms and even cost lives.  To help keep your holidays bright and your home and family safe, use common sense with candles and tree placement, and follow these important home decorating guidelines.

  • Only use decorations that are flame-retardant or not flammable.
  • Check holiday lights each year for frayed wires or excessive wear.
  • Don’t link more than three strands of holiday lights. 

In a year when so many of the things we take for granted have changed, we know people will still come together – in person or virtually – to celebrate family and holiday traditions. "Stay safe" has become a common expression in the context of public health, but this holiday season, we urge all Sussex County-area home and business owners to think about "staying safe" in their homes as they prepare for and enjoy the holiday season. 

SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County is an industry leader and provider of fire and water cleanup and restoration services. For more fire prevention and fire safety tips and information about fire and water damage restoration services, please visit our website.

For more information on SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County, please contact us at 973-383-2024.  If you have a service need or click here to visit our website to learn more about SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County's System Services. 

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What You Need to Know About Air Duct Cleaning

12/4/2020 (Permalink)

Air duct cleaning is a misnomer. In actuality, the entire HVAC system should be cleaned. Failure to clean all components of the system can result in recontamination of the entire system, thus minimizing the benefits of cleaning.

Just as you wouldn’t clean only half of your living room floor, you also would not want to clean only part of your HVAC system. NADCA recommends cleaning the entire HVAC system, including the following components:

  • air ducts
  • coils
  • drain pan
  • registers
  • grills
  • air plenum
  • blower motor and assembly
  • heat exchanger
  • air filter
  • air cleaner

There are two key components to HVAC cleaning: breaking contaminants loose, and collection of contaminants.

Breaking Contaminants Loose

Properly cleaning HVAC systems requires removing the sources of contamination. Source removal begins with the use of one or more agitation devices designed to loosen contaminants from the surfaces within the heating and air conditioning system. Examples of agitation devices include: brushes, air whips and compressed air nozzles or “skipper balls.” Agitation can also be achieved through hand-brushing or contact vacuuming.

Collection of Contaminants

During cleaning, the entire HVAC system is placed under continuous negative pressure (a vacuum) to prevent the spread of contaminants. Continuous negative pressure allows very fine particles to be removed from the system as they become airborne, ensuring that these particles are not released into the living space when the system is turned on after cleaning. This negative pressure also serves to extract the loosened contaminants, which are collected and removed from your home.

System Access

HVAC system cleaning is not a complex process, but each job is unique. Where possible, access to duct interiors should be made through existing openings such as supply diffusers, return grills, duct end caps and existing service openings. Cleaning technicians may need to cut access holes in the duct work in order to reach inside with various cleaning tools. Creation of these service openings, and their subsequent closure, requires craftsmanship and professional skills.

Equipment Requirements

There is a wide variety of equipment available to HVAC cleaning professionals. Both truck-mounted and portable vacuums can be used to stop the spread of contaminants and get the system cleaned to the NADCA Standard.

Antimicrobial Chemicals

Antimicrobial chemicals include sanitizers, disinfectants and deodorizers that can be applied to nonporous surfaces in HVAC systems to address microbial contamination and help control odors. Only chemicals registered with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can be used. These products should only be considered after mechanical surface cleaning has been performed and if the need for such treatment has been deemed necessary. Review the NADCA White Paper on Chemical Applications in HVAC Systems for more information. 

Contact us at 973-383-2024 if you have a service need or click here to visit our website to learn more about SERVPRO of Northern Sussex County's System Services.

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