How Do I Prevent Mold In My Basement After a Flood?

How Do I Prevent Mold In My Basement After a Flood?
This past summer, our crews have been very busy helping flood affected residents in Southern Saskatchewan. Recently, I came across an article by Mike Holmes, recognized as Canada’s most trusted contractor, that provides some excellent advice on how you should deal with a flooded basement and how you can prevent mold.
RESOLVE THE SOURCE OF FLOODING
One of the most important considerations is to determine why your basement flooded. In short, determine the cause.
In many instances, homes flood because of backed up drains, leaky pipes, human error (ie. leaving a tap on and forgetting), sewer back ups, malfunctioning sump pumps, or the lack of a sump pump.
However, Holmes questions the value of fixing a re-finished basement if you live in a flood zone, where mother nature is the cause:
We’re getting more extreme weather, which in some cases means more precipitation. If you live on flood plains, in a floodway or near a river or stream, the risk of repeated flooding in your home is high. Ask yourself: How many basements do you want to pay for?
Excellent question!
BEGIN THE CLEAN UP IMMEDIATELY TO PREVENT MOULD/MOLD GROWTH
Holmes provides excellent advice:
If water is getting into your home, deal with it immediately because there’s the potential for mould growth — especially if your basement is finished.
According to Holmes, mold will begin to grow within 24 hours, so it is important that you get the clean up started immediately. In addition, Holmes is highly critical of the practice of using bleach and recommends that only professionals be hired because mould is a safety hazard:
Most people would just use bleach to clean mould, but that’s wrong. Any surface with over 10 square feet of mould should be cleaned only by licensed professionals. Mould is a huge safety hazard. If you don’t clean it properly, mould spores can become airborne, contaminate other areas and end up in your lungs. That’s why you hire only qualified professionals for the cleanup and rebuild.
With respect to clean up, Holmes recommends a complete gut of a flooded basement because he thinks the long term benefit of doing this far outweighs the extra costs in the short term. For instance, the standard practice is to remove only one foot of drywall above the flood line. Holmes does not recommend this because moisture can creep up behind the surface, so he recommends that all drywall be removed.
In addition, Holmes recommends the replacement of your electrical panel if it was submerged under water, and recommends that all flooring, including the sub-floor be removed. Insulation should be removed as well because it absorbs moisture. Finally, he states that caution should be taken with flood water because it could contain sewage waste.
Since water is such a destructive force, Holmes also recommends that the structural integrity of the home be investigated as well.
ENSURE THE BASEMENT IS COMPLETELY DRY BEFORE ANY REBUILD BEGINS
The most important piece of advice Holmes provides is the fact that he recommends that the basement must be completely dry before any rebuild begins. The key is to measure the humidity level and ensure that the air is cleaned properly. Third party air quality tests are recommended to ensure that the air quality is safe as well.
In short, patience is the key. Proper basement clean up takes time. Trying to fast track the process without properly ensuring that the basement is completely dry will create future moisture concerns which could lead to mold problems which will basically negate any rebuild done.

What is Category 3 Water and Why Should I be Concerned? (Part Two)

What is Category 3 Water and Why Should I be Concerned? (Part Two)
Part One of this article explained what Category 3 Water is. This final installment will explain why you should be concerned and how to minimize the risks.
WHAT POTENTIAL BACTERIA AND VIRUSES ARE CARRIED BY CATEGORY 3 WATER
The most common bacteria found in sewage are:
1. E. Coli;
2. Acanthamoeba;
3. Salmonella;
4. Helicobacter pylori;
5. Leptospira;
6. Cryptosporidium;
7. Giardia;
8. Hepatitis A Virus;
9. Clostridium Tetani; and
10. Adenoviridae
WHAT SICKNESSES AND DISEASES ARE CAUSED BY THESE BACTERIA AND VIRUSES
According to the National Resources Defense Council nearly 2 million cases of illnesses are caused by sewage contamination each year.
Exposure to sewage or its products may result in a number of illnesses including:
1. Gastroenteritis, characterised by cramping stomach pains, diarrhea and vomiting caused by e.coli, salmonella, and other bacteria. Exposure to Helicobacter pylori is also linked to other stomach ailments including ulcers.
2. Weil’s disease also known as Leptospirosis which is a flu-like illness with persistent and severe headache, vomitting, and muscle aches. This disease is commonly caused by exposure to water contaminated with animal urine. Complications from this disease include damage to the liver, kidneys, and blood meaning this condition can cause death.
3. Hepatitis caused by the hepatitis A virus and is characterised by inflammation of the liver, and jaundice.
4. Acute respiratory illnesses caused by the adenoviruses, resulting in attacks of breathlessness, chest tightness, wheezing, pneumonia, croup and bronchitis.
5. Infections of skin, eyes, nose, throat and ears.
6. Tetanus, a medical condition that affects the nervous system and is characterised by a prolonged contraction of skeletal muscle fibres; caused by a clostridium tetani. This is the reason we get tetanus shots.
HOW CAN YOU MINIMIZE YOUR RISKS OF GETTING SICK?
First, it is important to understand how the micro-organisms enter the body: direct contact, ie touching your mouth with contaminated hands and/or breathing in contaminated dust and air and/or exposing your skin, particularly if you have open cuts.
For this reason, it is imperative that you wear protective clothing, rubber boots, gloves, and use eye and respiratory protection.
You do not want to expose your skin, particularly if you have wounds or cuts.
It is also critical that you do not inadvertently touch your mouth, eyes, or nose with contaminated hands or gloves.
With this understanding of the risks and the precautions you need to take, when you are in a flood situation, it is important to realize that disaster restoration companies have specialized equipment and experience to deal with clean up. Hire professionals to do the clean up as opposed to doing it yourself to save yourself from potential sickness and long term health issues.
As stated by the IICRC:
Most household microorganisms (fungi, bacteria) typically require five conditions for germination, growth, amplification and dissemination. Generally, they include:
• organic food source, especially cellulose (e.g., paper, wood), which are found in abundance in construction materials
• moisture, even high humidity (67% RH plus)
• moderate temperature – 68-86°F/20-30°C
• stagnant air
• time – several hours to several days
Anything that can be done to control or minimize these optimum conditions will prolong the time required for microbial growth.
In short, when your property is flooded, time is critical to minimizing the magnitude of the concerns caused by Category 3 Water.
Once your property is professionally cleaned, will the risks caused by Category 3 Water still be an issue?
The answer, of course, is YES!
The only way to be completely sure if your property has been remediated properly is to hire a Third Party Environmental consultant who performs a Post-Remediation Verification to determine whether or not the air quality is at normal, healthy levels.
In addition, it is also important that the consultant takes swab samples of the flooded areas that can be sent to a lab to test for levels of bacteria caused by sewage.
The only way to have true piece of mind after your home is remediated is to make sure that this Third Party Verification and Sewage Swab Sampling is done. Unless this is done, you will not have any certainty that the restoration company you hired has completely mitigated the health concerns caused by Category 3 Water.
If you have any questions about Category 3 Water or have concerns about a recently remediated property, Got Mold? recommends that you contact an IICRC accredited restoration company who understands the risks. We are IICRC accredited and here to help, so don’t hesitate to contact us!

What is Category 3 Water and Why Should I be Concerned? (Part One)

What is Category 3 Water and Why Should I be Concerned? (Part One)
According to the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), Category 3 Water is:
That which is highly contaminated and could cause death or serious illness if consumed by humans. Examples: sewage, rising flood water from rivers and streams, ground surface water flowing horizontally into homes.
In layman’s terms, Category 3 Water is water contaminated by sewage and fecal matter.
During our years of business, Got Mold? has encountered Category 3 Water on numerous occasions.
Recently, we mitigated the risks from Category 3 Water in Calgary and High River, two areas of Alberta that experienced significant damages from the flood.

Calgary 2013 Pump Trucks

In Calgary, we worked on two large scale projects that had extensive issues with Category 3 Water. During my short stay in Calgary, I had the opportunity to visit the projects and it was clear, just from the smell in the air, that the area was saturated with pathogens and fecal matter.

High River Volunteers

The devastation in High River we witnessed was even more extensive particularly because whole sections of the town were cordoned off from residents for safety reasons. Category 3 Water was just one of the concerns we encountered.

Hidden Valley 10

Just recently, Got Mold? was asked to perform sewage sampling in Hidden Valley, Alberta, and the subsequent lab results have proven positive for contamination. In particular, the lab results proved positive for Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Enterococci (a subgroup of Streptococci) are commonly used as indicator bacteria for fecal/sewage contamination. These test results will hopefully help these residents in their insurance claims to recover some of the costs from the damage.
What potential bacteria and viruses are carried by Category 3 Water?
What sicknesses and diseases are caused by these bacteria and viruses?
How can you minimize your risks of getting sick?
Part Two will answer these questions…stay tuned!

Rebuilding Your Basement After a Flood

Rebuilding Your Basement After a Flood
Recently, Mike Holmes, recognized as Canada’s most trusted contractor, contributed an article: Rebuilding the basement after a flood to the National Post.
Holmes provides sound advice on how you should properly deal with a basement flood to ensure that you fix it for the long term. Here are some key points.
RESOLVE THE SOURCE OF FLOODING
One of the most important considerations is to determine why your basement flooded. In short, determine the cause.
In many instances, homes flood because of backed up drains, leaky pipes, human error (ie. leaving a tap on and forgetting), sewer back ups, malfunctioning sump pumps, or the lack of a sump pump. The cause is quite clear.
However, Holmes questions the value of fixing a re-finished basement if you live in a flood zone, where mother nature is the cause:
We’re getting more extreme weather, which in some cases means more precipitation. If you live on flood plains, in a floodway or near a river or stream, the risk of repeated flooding in your home is high. Ask yourself: How many basements do you want to pay for?
Excellent question!
BEGIN THE CLEAN UP IMMEDIATELY TO PREVENT MOULD/MOLD GROWTH
Holmes provides excellent advice:
If water is getting into your home, deal with it immediately because there’s the potential for mould growth — especially if your basement is finished.
According to Holmes, mold will begin to grow within 24 hours, so it is important that you get the clean up started immediately. In addition, Holmes is highly critical of the practice of using bleach and recommends that only professionals be hired because mould is a safety hazard:
Most people would just use bleach to clean mould, but that’s wrong. Any surface with over 10 square feet of mould should be cleaned only by licensed professionals. Mould is a huge safety hazard. If you don’t clean it properly, mould spores can become airborne, contaminate other areas and end up in your lungs. That’s why you hire only qualified professionals for the cleanup and rebuild.
With respect to clean up, Holmes recommends a complete gut of a flooded basement because he thinks the long term benefit of doing this far outweighs the extra costs in the short term. For instance, the standard practice is to remove only one foot of drywall above the flood line. Holmes does not recommend this because moisture can creep up behind the surface, so he recommends that all drywall be removed.
In addition, Holmes recommends the replacement of your electrical panel if it was submerged under water, and recommends that all flooring, including the sub-floor be removed. Insulation should be removed as well because it absorbs moisture. Finally, he states that caution should be taken with flood water because it could contain sewage waste.
Since water is such a destructive force, Holmes also recommends that the structural integrity of the home be investigated as well.
ENSURE THE BASEMENT IS COMPLETELY DRY BEFORE ANY REBUILD BEGINS
The most important piece of advice Holmes provides is the fact that he recommends that the basement must be completely dry before any rebuild begins. The key is to measure the humidity level and ensure that the air is cleaned properly. Third party air quality tests are recommended to ensure that the air quality is safe as well.
In short, patience is the key. Proper basement clean up takes time. Trying to fast track the process without properly ensuring that the basement is completely dry will create future moisture concerns which could lead to mold problems which will basically negate any rebuild done.

Why Sewage Contamination Testing is Vitally Important for Flood Victims

Why Sewage Contamination Testing is Vitally Important for Flood Victims
The past couple of week’s Got Mold? has been very busy helping residents of High River, Alberta deal with flooding concerns.
One of the complaints we are encountering from home owners is the fact that their insurance claims are being denied because flooding is not covered under their policies.
One of the major causes of flooding, particularly during periods of heavy rainfall, are Sewer Backups
Heavy periods of rainfall inundate public sewer systems with large amounts of groundwater and stormwater flow coming into the sewer lines. This means the sewer lines get too full and are incapable of handling the overflow, resulting in a sewer backup.
If your insurance claim was denied, there is a way to validate your claim.
Call Got Mold? and we will take a swab sample of the affected building materials and send it to an accredited lab for ecoli and coliform testing.
The tests will verify if the cause of the flooding was a sewer backup. If the test verifies that there is sewage contamination, then be sure to follow these action steps!
Just recently, we took a sample for detection of sewage for one of the projects we are working on and the lab report that came back proved positive for the presence of E. coli and Enterococci, which are commonly used as indicator bacteria for fecal/sewage contamination. These results can now be used by our client to have the clean up covered by their insurance policy.
Bottom line, the minor cost to test for sewage contamination could potentially save thousands of dollars and is worth the investment to ensure that you maximize the premiums you paid for insurance. Most importantly, if sewage is detected, you then have the proper information to ensure that the clean up is done properly to prevent future health issues caused by the fecal contamination.