Restoration Equipment Manufacturer

 

 

The versatile Storm Extreme restoration dehumidifier is the perfect dehumidifier for flood restoration, crawl space or basement applications. With a digital display, integrated pump, and lightweight design, the unit is simple to set up and simple to use. Equipped with LGR technology for extreme efficiency, the Storm Extreme restoration dehumidifier is capable of 85 pints per day and 295 CFM. The Extreme also includes hot gas bypass, auto restart, and multiple filter options.

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Although it is the smallest in the Storm Series, the Storm Pro restoration dehumidifier is capable of an efficient 70 pints per day capacity, thanks to LGR technology. The Pro features an upright design with wheels, and a handle making it ideal for restoration jobs. The Pro also includes an integrated pump, hot gas bypass and a digital display with timer capabilities. Plus, the innovative “clamshell” opening on the Storm Pro makes accessing the internal components simple.

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At 90 pints per day, the Storm Ultra restoration dehumidifier is the perfect size for restoration jobs or basement applications. The Ultra is easily maneuverable from location to location and can be used with a MERV-8, HEPA, or activated carbon filter, depending on the situation. It also features an integrated pump, digital display, and LGR technology. Plus, the innovative “clamshell” opening on the Storm Ultra gives you quick access to the internal components when maintenance is needed.

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The Elite is the largest model restoration dehumidifier in the Storm Series with an impressive 125 pints per day and 325 CFM. Despite it’s large capacity, the Elite is still easily movable thanks to wheels and a handle. An innovative clamshell opening on the Storm Elite, makes it simple to access the internal components for maintenance. The Elite also features an LCD display with hours meter, multiple filter options, and LGR technology.

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With an advanced 3 stage filtration system, the CleanShield 550 air scrubber is the perfect air scrubber for restoration jobs. The variable speed 550 can remove dirt and debris, down to 0.3 microns in size. The CleanShield 550 is capable of 550 CFM on high speed, yet only uses 3 amps of power on a standard 115V outlet. It features indicator lights, an auxiliary outlet, and a circuit breaker reset switch. The CleanShield 550 is also useful for remediation jobs and is capable of removing VOC’s and mold spores from the air.

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The compact Zeus 900 air mover is great for flood restoration with ability to produce 950 CFM on high speed. The 900 only draws 1.9 amps and thanks to an auxiliary outlet, can be linked to multiple fans (up to 6 fans on one circuit). The versatile air mover can also be used in multiple operating positions, meaning it can adapt to almost any job. Weighing less the 20 pounds, the Zeus 900 is easy to transport and can be stacked for easy storage.

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The Zeus Extreme is the largest air mover offered by Seaira Global. The Extreme is capable of 3000 CFM airflow, while only drawing 2.5 amps and less than 75 decibels. It also features an auxiliary outlet, giving you the capability to link up to 4 units on the same circuit. The Zeus Extreme can be used in multiple operating positions plus a variety of jobs ranging such as drying out a flooded room or improving ventilation.

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Flooding 101

Seaira Global has a complete line of water damage restoration products for flood restoration but how much do you actually know about flooding? Keep reading for a complete breakdown on flooding including causes, what happens after a flood, plus the problems that may occur if water damage is left untreated.

What Causes Flooding?

Flooding is defined as when a normally dry area is inundated with flowing water. Although flooding may be more common in certain areas near water, it can occur in all fifty states, regardless of how dry the area normally is.

While rain plays a major role in flooding and water damage, it is not the only the contributor. The failure of a dam or levee could also play a part. There are approximately 76,000 dams in the United States, with 80% of them made of the more fragile earth fill construction, instead of concrete. If one of these dams were to malfunction, it would cause a rapidly rising water level and a significant risk of flooding and water damage. There is a similar danger with levees, which are embankments on the side of a river.

"...rain plays a major role in flooding and water damage, it is not the only the contributor..."

Another potential cause of water damage that’s not caused by rainfall is tsunamis. Tsunamis are created by underwater earthquakes or landslides, and can lead to a significantly higher water level. This is known as the storm surge, and occurs when the force of the tsunami combines with a high tide. The storm surge could cause the high tide to be more than 15 feet higher than usual. This puts roads and buildings in significant danger of flooding.

While there are other factors, the majority of flooding can be traced to excessive precipitation. The most common version of this would be rainfall from thunderstorms. For instance, flooding could occur if multiple thunderstorms cross over a single area in a short period of time. This is also known as training thunderstorms. Rainfall from these consecutive storms can overwhelm bodies of water or drainage areas. Another example would be orographic precipitation, which is common on the West Coast of the United States. Orographic precipitation is heavy, sudden rainfall caused by moist air being forced over mountains. Even if rainfall isn’t sudden, more rain fall than usual could still cause flooding issues. For instance, if several thunderstorms occur within a few weeks, tributaries may rise, causing rivers to overflow

In addition to the more common rainfall and thunderstorms, severe storms, such as hurricanes, and tropical cyclones can bring torrential rainfall. Depending on the speed of a storm, and how long it stays over a specific area, it could produce 30-40 inches of water. This amount of water is going to overwhelm most bodies of water or drainage basins. Furthermore, just like tsunamis, you have to contend with storm surges with a severe storm.

In addition to rainfall, precipitation from snow fall can also play a role in flooding. If an area experiences more snow fall than usual over the winter, followed by the temperatures quickly rising, there could be a problem. This set of circumstances will lead to an abnormal amount of runoff from melting, which the terrain may not be able to handle. Runoff from ice melting can cause this issue, as well.

While a flood can occur almost anywhere, certain factors can exacerbate the flooding. For instance, if the soil is rocky or clay based, it will not be able to absorb as much moisture. Similarly, in an urban environment, with roads, buildings, and parking lots, there is not as much soil present to absorb water. A vertical terrain can also play a role. Not only will it increase thespeed, but heavy rainfall will weaken soil on a steep slope. This may cause debris to fall, leading to a blockage that will eventually break, leading to a surge of water.

Types of Flooding

The majority of flooding can be divided into two categories- river flooding or flash flooding. River floods build up slowly over time, usually days or months. The cause is often excessive rainfall or the combination of rainfall and melting snow, which leads to water basins overflowing. River floods typically occur over a larger area, resulting in extensive water damage to buildings and crops. While they are extremely damaging, one benefit of river floods is that there is often time to prepare since they occur slowly.

Unlike river flooding, flash flooding occurs rapidly and happens in a matter of hours. Flash floods may not last as long as river floods but they are still quite dangerous. Because they form so quickly, it is often hard to warn people or prepare for the flooding. Preparation can be even trickier when the flood doesn’t occur in the area with the rain. People are often caught off guard because the flooding will occur from runoff in an area that didn’t even experience rain. The water damage from a flash flood is more targeted than a river flood but it is still quite harmful. For instance, a flash flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1977 brought over 15 inches of rain, hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and water damage restoration, and caused 77 deaths.

Indoor Water Damage

While natural events are what’s commonly thought of for flooding, you may also experience flood damage from factors around your home. For instance, appliances inside your home may be problematic. If a dishwasher malfunctions or a washing machine overflows, there is going to be water damage and you should contact a water damage restoration company. Plus, there is a risk of plumbing problems, such as a pipe bursting or a water heater flooding.

There are additional causes of flooding on the exterior of your home, as well. A major contributor to this is problems with drainage, such as blocked gutters or downspouts. Both of these issues could lead to water damage within your home. Flooding issues may also be caused by structure problems. Examples of this include window frames that leak or doors that aren’t sealed properly, both of which can cause signification water damage. In all of these cases it is best to call a professional water damage restoration company in your area.

Case Study- The National Archives : Damage Restoration

As you see, flooding can be caused by a variety of factors. In 2006, the National Archives in Washington, DC found this out firsthand. Home to the Declaration of Independence, recordings from the Oval Office and many other countless artifacts, the National Archives can’t afford to lose items to flooding. Unfortunately, it turns out that the National Archives is located in a low spot and historically, the area is quite susceptible to flooding.

On June 25, 2006, Washington D.C. experienced torrential rainfall. The rain quickly overwhelmed the storm drains, causing the streets to flood. Water began entering the building and soon the lower levels of the Archives were completely flooded. This included the transformer vaults, sub-basement areas, and the theatre. By the time the water stopped rising, the water level in the transformer vault completely swamped the transformers. In the theatre, many of the seats were totally covered in water.

The water damage restoration process for the National Archives began as soon as possible, with crews working around the clock. The good news was that while there was significant damage, no original records had water damage during the flood.

By June 27th, all of the standing water had been removed from the building. Once that was completed, workers used restoration dehumidifiers to remove the remaining water, as well as regulate the environment. While the artifacts had survived the flood, it was important to maintain a consistent humidity level to prevent any water damage from high humidity. After the moisture and humidity had been controlled with restoration dehumidifiers, it was time to take care of the building systems, such as electrical and climate control. This was also helpful in controlling the environment to protect the artifacts.

"...workers used restoration dehumidifiers to remove the remaining water..."

Inspired by the flood of 2006, the National Archives put in more protective measures to guard the archives from floods and water damage. For instance, there is now nothing of importance that is stored in the lower levels. Furthermore, all documents sit at least 20 feet above street level. In an effort to stop water from entering the building, all exterior doors are now waterproofed. In addition, the air intake system was surrounded by brick walls. Finally, two flood walls were installed that automatically rise when the storm drains are full.

After the Flood

So what happens after a flood occurs? Three areas across North America experienced flooding in 2016 that illustrated the trials of rebuilding and water damage restoration after a flood.

In September 2016, Iowa experienced an abnormal amount of rainfall which caused multiple rivers to be at higher levels than usual. The city of Clarksville, sits along the Shell Rock River, which was one of the rivers that overflowed. Over 140 homes in the area experienced water damage. Not far from Clarksville is Vinton, Iowa, which also borders a river- the Cedar River. A high water level in the Cedar River lead to water damage of 40 homes in Vinton. Both Iowa towns had countless examples of flooding, such as a completely submerged basement or 4 feet of water on the main level. Clarksville even had to contend with backed up sewer systems, leading to the setup of portable toilets.

Unfortunately, these areas of Iowa aren’t considered to be high risk for flooding so many of the residents didn’t have flood insurance. This led to many local volunteers stepping up to help rebuild and help with water damage restoration. Volunteers, including a local football team, donated their time over several days to help people rebuild. Furthermore, professionals, such as electricians and water damage restoration teams, donated their services and restoration dehumidifiers free of charge.

Excess rainfall also became an issue for Ontario, Canada, in September of 2016. In fact, a state of emergency was declared in Windsor and Tecumseh. Homes in the area suffered severe water damage- one homeowner described finding 3 feet of water in their home. This meant that cabinets that should be sitting on the ground were now floating in the middle of the room.

The people who experienced flooding needed to act quickly to prevent more water damage. Water damage restoration companies in the area worked around the clock as they received thousands of phone calls. Many flood restoration companies had to bring in crews from other locations to keep up with demand. Even for professional water damage restoration companies, drying out a home from flooding is a time consuming job. In many instances, the flooring and drywall of a home have to be completed ripped out prior to being replaced or repaired. There may be unexpected surprises during the process, as well. A Windsor resident discovered an inch of sewage coating her basement floor once the basement was drained.

"Even for professional water damage restoration companies, drying out a home from flooding is a time consuming job..."

A month later, Hurricane Matthew hit the Southeastern United States. Fayetteville, North Carolina was one of countless cities that suffered from extensive wind and water damage. Within Fayetteville, Habitat Village, a neighborhood where low income families live in homes built by Habitat for Humanity, experienced some of the worst water damage. Of the 154 Habitat for Humanity homes, 93 had been wind or water damaged by the hurricane.

The majority of people living in the Habitat for Humanity neighborhood were forced to evacuate their homes. Not only was having to live with friends or family a challenge, but moving made it difficult for many people to get to work. Since most people in the area relied on bus routes or shared rides, moving to a new place really complicated matters.

Twenty seven of the Habitat homes had flood insurance, meaning most residents had few options for water damage restoration. Luckily, Habitat for Humanity plus volunteers from local schools and churches stepped up to help. Local contractors, builders, and water damage restoration companies, also donated their time, free of charge. Volunteers faced a massive job restoring the homes which ranged from debris removal to mold remediation and water damage, to electrical rewiring.

What to Do After a Flood

The three examples above illustrate what a traumatic experience flooding and water damage can be, not to mention, how extensive flood restoration can be. This brings up the question, what should you do after a flood?

The first factor to consider is the safety of your family. One danger that arises after a flood is electricity in flooded areas. In an ideal situation, you will be able to turn off electricity in the flooded rooms. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible if the breaker box is blocked by water. In that case, don’t try to turn off the electricity.

Even if you do shut off the power in the flooded area, you still need to use extreme caution wading through the water. Flooded water could be contaminated with sewage or waste. In most cases, it’s best to just avoid the water. If you must cross the water, be sure to wash off thoroughly with soap afterwards. This also applies to drinking water, as it too could be contaminated.

Another safety issue after flooding is the use of generators. While generators are convenient after the loss of electricity, they can also be dangerous if not set up or used properly. Ensure that your generator is installed correctly and set up well away from doors, vents, and windows. Also, keep in mind that generator exhaust is toxic so generators should not be used indoors.

Additionally, flooding can cause problems for sewage systems. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that you refrain from using your sewage system until the water in the soil absorption field is below the flooded water level around your home.

Once you’ve seen the flood damage, it’s a good idea to get in touch with your insurance agent and see what level of coverage you have for flooding and water damage. If you do have insurance, make sure you use a water damage restoration company that is covered by your policy. Even if you don’t have flood insurance, your insurance agent can be a useful resource for water damage restoration information.

At this point, you will have to decide if you want to tackle the water damage restoration yourself or use a professional water damage restoration company. It can be tempting to try to save money and do the job yourself, especially if you don’t have flood insurance. If it’s minor damage, this may work out, but unfortunately, larger water damage restoration jobs are best left to the professionals. A water damage restoration professional will have the knowledge and tools to get the job done quickly and effectively. Costs of flood restoration vary dramatically, depending on the amount of damage. A minor job may only be $1,000 while a larger job could be $50,000+. A large flood restoration job may include an extensive amount of work including draining the water, drying out the area with restoration fans and restoration dehumidifiers, repairing or replacing drywall, replacing flooring, repairing wiring, and much more.

"At this point, you will have to decide if you want to tackle the water damage restoration yourself or use a professional water damage restoration company..."

Whether you decide to do the flood restoration yourself, or have a professional complete the job, it’s crucial to start as quickly as possible. The longer the water sits, the worse the water damage will be. Floors, walls, carpets, and more will become more water logged and damaged. Plus, even worse, the longer your home is flooded, the more time there is for mold, bacteria, and other health risks to grow.

What To Do After a Flood

  1. Turn off electricity in the flooded area if you’re able to safely.
  2. If you must cross flooded waters, use extreme caution. Wash you hands with soap and water afterwards.
  3. If you’re using a generator, ensure that is set up properly. Generators should be installed away from doors, vents, and windows and never used indoors.
  4. As recommended by the EPA, do not use sewage system until the water level in soil absorption fields is below water level around you home.
  5. Contact your insurance agent to determine if you have flood insurance and your level of coverage.
  6. At this point, you will need to decide if you’re going to complete the restoration yourself or hire a professional company.
  7. To prevent long term damage, begin the restoration process as soon as possible.

Why Do I Need a Restoration Dehumidifier After a Flood?

A restoration dehumidifier isn’t used until after the majority of the water has been extracted, so you may be wondering why it is necessary. While the remaining moisture is not necessarily visible, restoration dehumidifiers actually play a crucial role by reducing the overall moisture levels and drying difficult to reach areas.

"...restoration dehumidifiers actually play a crucial role by reducing the overall humidity levels and drying difficult to reach areas..."

You see, after your home has been flooded, the humidity is going to be extremely high. Even after water is extracted, the humidity is most likely still going to be high, due to moisture in hard to see places, such as floor boards or dry wall. If the humidity, stays above 60% too long, you may see some unfortunate effects in your home. Above 60% relative humidity, is when mold growth, pest infestation, and wood rot become much more likely.

Mold Exposure

One of the reasons why it is crucial to take care of moisture and humidity in your home as soon as possible is to prevent mold growth. But what exactly is mold? On a scientific level, mold is a type of multicellular fungi that is spread by airborne spores. Mold actually plays a vital role in the Earth’s ecology and thousands of mold species have been identified. While it may be helpful to the Earth, that doesn’t mean you want it spreading throughout your home. Mold looks relatively harmless, but it can dramatically impact your health. Issues ranging from shortness of breath to gastrointestinal problems to neurocognitive dysfunction may be caused by mold exposure. Health problems caused by mold can typically be divided into three categories- toxicity, infections, and allergies.

Mold can lead to toxicity issues thanks to mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are chemical toxins produced by mold spores that can infect people through ingestion, absorption, or inhalation. The most common way that toxicity occurs is through ingestion, such as eating moldy foods. Absorption may occur if a person in a moldy environment touches an affected area. Finally, inhalation could occur when a person breathes air that contains small mycotoxin particles.

While there are many mycotoxin that have been identified, one example would be aflatoxins. Commonly found in nuts, rice, and cereals, aflatoxins are extremely toxic to the liver. A person exposed to aflatoxins may also experience headaches, nausea, or rashes. Furthermore, aflatoxins are considered to be immune suppressant, carcinogenic, and may have an affect on the brain and lungs.

Another example of mycotoxins would be ochratoxins. Ochratoxins, often found in bread, cereal, and coffee, are linked to kidney function and may lead to kidney failure. The initial symptoms are wide ranging and include headaches, pale skin, and loss of body weight. Just like aflatoxins, ochratoxins are considered to be immune suppressant and carcinogenic.

In addition to toxicity, mold may also cause issues through fungal infections. Examples of infections include candida, histoplasma, and cryptococcus. These infections can affect deep tissues with the body and in some cases, even lead to fatalities. For instance, Aspergillus, an infection mold has a high mortality rate among immunocompromised patients.

Mold can also affect skin or mucosal surfaces. When an infection doesn’t occur on deep body tissue, it is known as a superficial infection. Superficial infections aren’t as serious but can still cause symptoms for people. Examples of superficial infections include tinea pedis, which is a fungal infection of the feet and tinea corporis, which is dry skin.

Finally, one of the most common ways that mold can affect a person’s health is through allergies. At least 70 allergens in fungi have been identified to cause allergic reactions in people. An allergic reaction would typically occur after a person breathes in the mold spores over a prolonged period of time. Symptoms could include asthma, rhinitis, or wheezing. While these are most common symptoms, every person’s reaction could be different, and some people may even have an immediate reaction when walking into an infected area.

As we’ve established, mold exposure can occur via toxicity, infections, or allergies. Once mold exposure has occurred, it can affect nearly every system of body. One example of this would be the respiratory system. After exposure to mold, a person could experience respiratory problems, such as wheezing, sneezing, or coughing. Over time, these symptoms could develop into a more serious issue like pneumonitis. In fact, a research study showed that high levels of fungi indoors, led to dramatically lower lung function.

Another body system that mold may harm is the hematological (blood) system. For instance, multiple studies have linked mold to an increased likelihood for a person to hemorrhage. Furthermore, types of mold, including aspergillus and stachybotrus, increase the rate of infant lung hemorrhage.

Mold can also be detrimental to the immune system. As you can probably guess, mold weakens the immune system. Research studies have found that mold exposure, causes a person to have fewer “fighter cells”. Fighter cells are the natural killer cells that protect your body from infection and sickness. The suppression of fighter cells most often occurs when the exposure is due to mycotoxins.

If mold only affected a person’s respiratory, hematological system, and immune system, it would be pretty serious. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case as mold can affect nearly everysystem of the body. Other notable areas affected by mold, include the reproductive system, the central nervous system, and the renal system.

Health risks created by mold exposure were further illustrated by a research study conducted in Finland. In the experiment, a sampling of 310 homes of different constructions, and in various cities, were selected to participate. Through the course of the study, the nearly 700 participants, tracked their health. An initial questionnaire established a person’s baseline health and living environment. There were 22 health outcomes that were examined including sore throat, eczema, headaches and doctor diagnosed allergies.

The research study was divided into two phases. The first phase examined moisture levels within the homes more closely. A certified surveyor noted any signs of moisture and leaking, such as discolored wood, or peeling paint. It was concluded that 52% of the 310 homes had moisture present. This group became known as the Exposed Group while the remaining 48% were called the Non Exposed Group. Of the 22 health outcomes that were tested, 19 were more likely to occur in the Exposed Group.

The second phase relied on the participants themselves to look for signs of mold. 199 people reported that there were signs of mold within their home. Once the health outcomes were reported, it showed the vast majority of health outcomes (20 of 22) were more likely to occur in homes with mold present.

The research study concluded that both mold and moisture in a home have a significant impact on a person’s health. Living in a home with mold and moisture, led to higher rates of respiratory symptoms including sore throat and nocturnal cough. It also increased the risk of non- respiratory symptoms such as fatigue and concentration issues.

"The research study concluded that both mold and moisture in a home have a significant impact on a person’s health"

As you can see, living in a moldy environment can be detrimental to a person’s health. Something you might not have considered is that being exposed to mold as an infant can have effects that last through adolescence.

In 2010, a research study was completed in Korea to determine what factors led to the development of allergic rhinitis (AR) in pre-school age children. Over 800 boys and girls participated in the study from sixteen different childcare centers throughout Korea. An ISAAC survey (International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood) to gather information on the children. The survey covered general patient information, history of related symptoms, and exposure to environmental factors.

For the purpose of the study, a child had to present symptoms within the last 12 months to qualify as having allergic rhinitis. Symptoms of AR, which is an inflammation of the nasal passage, include nasal blockage, sneezing, itching, and more.

The results of the survey indicate that 17% of the children had allergic rhinitis. Children were more likely to have allergic rhinitis after being exposed to mold during infancy, extended use of antibiotics, or a history of asthma. While this study only tested for allergic rhinitis, it did show that mold exposure makes a child more likely to be sick during preschool.

Another research study completed in Sweden studied a broader range of effects. Children born between February 1994 and November 1996 were examined for 16 years to determine how mold exposure affected their health. Over 3,500 children participated in the study by submitting questionnaires starting at 2 months, and continuing at ages 2, 4, 6, 8, and 16.

The determination of mold in an infant’s environment was analyzed based on three factors: whether there was a mold or mildew odor, whether there had been visible mold in the past year, and whether there had been any signs of dampness damage. Health symptoms, such as asthma, and rhinitis were monitored throughout the study.

The survey showed that 23.5% of the children were exposed to dampness damage. 9.1% of children were exposed to mold odor and 8.6% to visible mold. By the age of 16, 6.4% of the children had asthma. Being exposed to mold odor, visible mold, and water damage as an infant, all increased a child’s likelihood of developing asthma. Living in an environment with mold odor or visible mold also increased a child’s risk of developing rhinitis. The results of this study further prove that a child’s environment as an infant plays a significant role in their health later in life.

While mold can have some daunting health effects, the good news is that you can prevent them. Since mold needs moisture and a source of food to grow to survive, the best way to prevent it is by controlling the moisture and humidity levels in your home with a dehumidifier. First of all, its vital to take care of any water damage that has occurred. If moisture and water sit, you’re more longer to have mold issues. Once that is taken care of, the easiest way to maintain a stable humidity level is with the use of a dehumidifier with a built in humidistat. This way, the dehumidifier will automatically maintain your desired humidity level and not allow the humidity to get too high.

Mold Containment

If you do discover mold in your home, then it’s time to call in the professionals. A professional restoration company will be able to contain and remediate the situation. While the exact procedure will be different for each job depending on the size and level of water or mold damage, there are general guidelines that will be followed in most situations.

Prior to beginning any cleaning, it’s important to isolate the area to try to prevent the mold from spreading. This can be done by surrounding the contaminated area with flame retardant plastic sheeting. In addition, a negative air machine is helpful for isolating the area. Negative air machines draw the contaminated air in, running it through a filter, then expelling the air to ducting that is connected to the exterior of the contaminated area. This will help prevent contaminated air from flowing into clean areas.

During the restoration process, a restoration air scrubber can be useful, as well. Although, some machines can be both air scrubbers and negative air machines, they are actually two different processes. While a negative air machine is connected to ducting, and draws air out of the room, an air scrubber is not connected to ducting. A restoration air scrubber draws air into the machine, through the filtration system, but then returns the clean air to the room. Another machine that may be used during the restoration process is, of course, a restoration dehumidifier. As we discussed earlier, a dehumidifier is ideal for removing hidden moisture from the room.

"Another machine that may be used during the restoration process is, of course, a restoration dehumidifier"...

Throughout the restoration job, personal protective equipment (PPE) will also be necessary. PPE is required to to reduce a person’s risk of mold exposure while working in contaminated areas. Certain steps in the restoration process can actually stir up mold, making it airborne and quite dangerous. Examples of this would be stripping water damaged wall paper of breaking up mold on wall board.

The level of personal protective equipment that is required will depend on the severity of the mold. No matter how small the job, there will be some level of equipment that is necessary. For jobs less than 10 square feet, you will need goggles, a N-95 respirator, and gloves that meet certain standards. The goggles must be able to keep out small particles and cannot have small holes. Additionally, the respirator needs to provide protection for your nose and mouth, plus filter out the majority of airborne particulates. Finally, the material of the gloves should be changed based on the material you are working with. Ideally, the gloves should extend to your forearms for extra protection.

Mold containment is divided into two categories by the Environmental Protection Agency. A limited containment would describe an area that is 10 to 100 square feet. If an area is larger than 100 square feet, it would be called a full containment. As you would imagine, a full containment requires a higher level of protection compared to a limited containment, due to the higher risk of mold spreading.

If the situation requires a limited containment (10-100 square foot area), the first step is to enclose the area using polyethylene sheeting. The sheeting needs to be at least 6 millimeters thickness, in addition to being fire retardant. The sheeting can be secured to the floor and ceiling using epoxy or duct tape. If you prefer, you can also construct a frame out of steel or wood studs. For entry into the enclosed space, you can simply slit the polyethylene in the doorway, then attach a piece of sheeting on the outside to cover the slit. Keep in mind that you will also need to seal any vents or heating grills in the enclosed area.

A limited containment requires a little more than the basic PPE requirements of goggles, respirator, and gloves. Personnel will also need to wear disposable paper overalls. Furthermore, the respirator uses for limited containment situations needs to include P100 filter cartridges. As long as it contains the appropriate filter cartridges, it can be a full face or half face model. Obviously, if it is a half face, goggles will need to be worn.

If the contaminated area, is over 100 square feet, then you will need to prepare the space for a full containment. A full containment includes many of the same requirements as a limited containment, plus some extra steps. You will still need to cover any vents or grills, plus use polyethylene sheeting to enclose the space. With a full containment, however, the sheeting needs to double layered. In addition, a slit in the door for entry is no longer acceptable. Instead you will need to create a decontamination chamber. A decontamination chamber is simply an area with doors that provides a buffer between the moldy area and clean areas. The doors entering and exiting the decontamination chamber should be slits covered by flaps on the exterior.

A full containment will also require a higher level of personal protective equipment. While working in a contaminated area, people will need to wear disposable full body clothing made of breathable material, along with gloves, head gear, and foot coverings. All possible gaps in clothing, such as around the ankles, need to be sealed. With full containments, it is also necessary to use a full face respirator with a HEPA filter. The decontamination chamber can be used as the place to put on personal protective equipment prior to entering the contaminated area. This is also where PPE can be disposed of when exiting the chamber by placing it in sealed bags. Keep in mind that the respirator needs to be worn until back in the clean area.

The Affect of Moisture on Wood

In addition to mold, water damage to wood is another reason why you need to take care of flood damage promptly. Wood contains a large amount of water, and is thus, very susceptibleto water damage. To understand, the relationship between water and wood, it’s helpful to learn a little background regarding wood.

Wood is an organic material that is made of thousands of tubular cells that are filled with a mixture of tannins, waves, and starches. This unusual cell structure creates the grains in wood, plus contributes to the strength of wood. The exact strength will vary based on the species of tree, along with it’s color.

While in nature wood’s job is to provide structural support for the tree, plus carry water from the ground to the trees’ leaves. Since carrying water is one of it’s main duties, wood contains a lot of water, with the exact amount depending on the species of tree. The moisture content of wood will also vary depending on the humidity and temperature of the outdoor environment. The amount of water that wood has naturally is described as a percentage of the wood’s dry weight, known as the initial moisture content.

Wood actually contains two types of water- free water and bound water. Free water is located in the hollow areas of the wood, while bound water is connected to the cell’s walls. Once a tree is cut down, the free water will begin to evaporate. On the other hand, bound water requires more energy to dry out. If left to air tree, all of the free water will eventually evaporate, leaving only the bound water. The point where only bound water remains is known as the Fiber Saturation Point (FSP). FSP will typically occur on the outer sections of the wood before the inner sections.

Prior to be used for building, wood needs to go through a drying process to remove some of the moisture. When a tree is first cut, it is considered green, and often contains more water than dry wood. The moisture content of green wood may be as high as 200%. Gradually, cut wood will dry out until it becomes balanced with the amount of moisture in the air. At this point, the wood is at the Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC). The process of going from wood that is green, then at it’s Fiber Saturation Point, and finally at it’s Equilibrium Moisture Content, is known as seasoning. The amount of time can vary greatly, from months to years, depending on many factors, such as air temperature, relative humidity, and type of wood. While wood is more stable, once it has reached it’s Equilibrium Moisture Content, there will still be small shifts, as conditions change. Typically, once seasoned, the moisture content will vary 5% - 15%. If the wood drying process needs to be sped up, kiln drying can be used. Drying the wood in a kiln will dramatically reduce the amount of time needed to dry wood. In some situations, it may only take days. Kiln drying can also be useful for removing any organisms that may be living in the tree. Quickly reducing the moisture, also lessens the risk of mold or fungi developing during drying. Thus, the faster wood is dried, the lower the risk for problems.

How Does Wood Deteriorate?

Now that you understand a little more about wood, let’s move on to how wood can deteriorate. Damage to wood can be divided into two categories- biological or physical. Examples of biological factors include insects and decay, while physical factors would include sunlight and wind.

A major source of biological damage to wood is insects. Many types of insects use wood for shelter, food, or movement. One example of this would be termites, who can cause severe damage to wood via tunnels. Termites will eat the wood as they create tunnels. Depending on the species, termites may live in the tunnels or simply use them to travel and nest nearby. For example, Dampwood termites will use the tunnels for shelter while Subterranean termites will nest close by to the tunnels.

As opposed to termites, carpenter ants do not eat the wood as they tunnel. Instead, they leave behind piles of saw dust, which is often how they are identified. Once they have tunneled instead a home, carpenter ants nest in the wood, especially if it is wet and rotting. They are often attracted to a home by food water, overgrown vegetation, or water sources. When it comes to wood deterioration, it doesn’t really matter whether its a termite that eats the wood, or a carpenter ant that leaves behind the sawdust. Both types of tunnel damage can cause extreme damage to the wood structure of your home.

Another type of insect that can damage the wood in your home is the beetle. Beetles use wood as a source of food and a place to lay their eggs. Some beetles will enter the interior of the wood while others will stay near the surface. As the name suggests, wood boring beetles will tunnel into the interior of the wood compared to bark beetles who will stay on the surface. A beetle infestation can typically be determined by piles of sawdust beside the wood and small holes in the wood. The amount of damage caused by a beetle will vary depending on if they are reinfesting or non-reinfesting beetles. Reinfesting beetles will bore repeatedly into the wood, even after it is dry. On the other hand, non-reinvesting beetles will infest wood only once, making them less of a threat to wood.

Just like the wood boring beetle, carpenter bees can also bore tunnels into wood, known as galleries. Galleries created by carpenter bees are relatively large in size and are used as a place to lay eggs. These do not pose an immediate threat to the structure of the building but if used over and over, the building structure could be compromised.

In addition to insects, the other major biological factor that can damage wood is fungi. Fungi uses the wood for nutrients but needs some sort of moisture to develop. Fungi that deteriorates wood can be divided into three categories- stain, mold, and decay.

Stain fungi creates a discoloration in the wood but doesn’t create significant damage to the structure. It only occurs in sapwood, which contains the needed sugars and starches that it feeds on. Stain fungi occurs on the surface of the wood as well as the openings in the cellular structure. Because of this, stain fungi cannot be removed once it develops.

Another type of fungi is mold, which is also a discoloration on the wood. Mold appears as a fuzzy discoloration when moisture levels are high at the right temperature. Unlike stain fungi, mold only appears on the surface and not openings in the cellular structure. Furthermore, mold only feeds on nutrients in the storage cells, not the wood itself. This means it doesn’t have a significant impact on the strength. The problem with mold is that it produces millions of spores that travel throughout the air and can be extremely detrimental to your living environment.

Decay, also known as rot, is the most destructive of the fungi. It can actually break down wood and, depending on the species, may decompose the entire cell wall, known as white rote. Alternatively it may only decompose the cellulose and hemicelluloses in the cell wall (brown rot). While decay can be divided into different species, all types of decay can have a serious impact on the strength capacity of the wood.

In addition to biological deterioration, physical factors can also contribute to the deterioration of wood. One major source of damage is prolonged exposure to sunlight. Ultraviolet rays from the sun can actually break down the fibers of wood. In addition to sunlight, wood that is outside is also exposed to wood and water. This combination of sunlight, wind, and water eroding wood fibers is known as weathering. Typically, weathering is a slow erosion that only occurs on the surface of the wood. Because it occurs on the surface, weather usually doesn’tcause structural damage to your home. As you would expect, it does occur more quickly in soft woods compared to hard woods.

Physical damage to wood can also be caused by checking and settling. During the drying process, wood goes through uneven stress leading to wide cracks on the surface, known as checks. Checks are unavoidable and are a natural part of the wood drying process.

Another issue that may occur is settling. For instance, while building a log home with logs that are placed lengthwise, there may be a difference in height due to settling. A 10 foot wall can shift up to 2 inches as it adapts to the moisture content of the surrounding environment.

Flooding & Pests

Besides mold growth and wood deterioration, pests are another reason why addressing water damage quickly is so important. Many types of pests are attracted to moisture, meaning the longer you wait, the higher the chance of an infestation.

One example of this would be the subterranean termite, which needs moisture to survive. Subterranean termites, the most common species in the United States, live in colonies up to 2,000,000 termites. Typically, they enter the home at the base, near the foundation or crawl space.

Subterranean termites can be hard to detect since they don’t roam in the open. One sign to look out for is termite swarms, which are often the first sign of infestation. Swarms can occur indoors or outdoors, but it is generally only a sign of home infestation if the swarm is inside or adjacent to your home. Generally, swarms stay near the infested structure and are often near window sills or vents since they are attracted to light.

Another potential sign of termite infestation is mud tubes inside your home. Built from materials such as soil and wood particles, mud tubes are used by termites to move around. Mud tubes are brown in color and normally about the diameter of a pencil. They are often hidden when on dark surfaces, or behind walls and cracks. Typically, mud tubes will connect from the ground to some sort of wood. If mud tubes are discovered somewhere above ground, such as the second floor, there may be an above ground infestation. This means that the termites have established nests within the home itself. Above ground infestations are common if there is some sort of moisture problem or leak in the structure of the home.

After mud tubes have been discovered, it’s important to verify that the termites are still active in the tube. If the tube is old and abandoned it will crumble easily. This indicates that the termites have moved on to a new area. Keep in mind that termites often repair old tubes.

The most common sign of termite damage is wood damage. As we’ve discussed, termites don’t move around in the open, meaning they are either using mud tubes or boring tunnels in wood. Unfortunately, termites only eat the interior spring wood and the exterior wood, which can make termite damage difficult to spot. The best way to detect if wood is deteriorated is tapping the wood with the handle of a screwdriver every couple of inches. If the wood is infested, the wood will sound hollow and may even collapse if the damage is severe. While wood is what is most often associated with termites, they can also damage anything containing cellulose. This includes items such as sheet rock covering, insulation, cardboard boxes, or any sort of paper products.

Carpenter ants are another type of insect that is attracted to water. Carpenter ants live in colonies, with the ideal nesting location being somewhere with decaying wet wood. If you see carpenter ants in your home, there may not necessarily be a nest inside your home. Often, ants will enter homes from the outside looking for food. In the wild, carpenter ants primary source of food is insects, however, they often end up foraging for human food, especially if it is sugary or greasy.

If there is a nest inside your home, it will be somewhere that is moist so it’s a good idea to check near appliances, plumbing, or other sources of water. Nests are often found in wall studs, porch pillars, or the wall void behind a dishwasher. Once carpenter ants have entered your home, they can cause damage to wood, insulation, or soft materials throughout your home as they tunnel. Ants will tunnel through any type of wood but they do prefer the wood to be wet with fungus.

Carpenter ants are often confused with subterranean termites because they look similar and both tunnel through wood. In facts, worker carpenter ants are dark black in color while worker termites are white. Worker carpenter ants can be as long as 1/2 in length, while the average worker termite is 1/4 inch in length. Reproductive carpenter ants and termites are both dark in size, however, the reproductive carpenter ant can be as large as 3/4 inch while the reproductive termite can be as large as 1/2 inch.

If examined closely, you will also find a difference in their antennae. Both worker and reproductive carpenter ants have a bend in their antennae and a noticeable waist. On the other hand, both types of subterranean termites have straight antennae divided into segments and a straight body.

While both carpenter ants and subterranean termites tunnel through wood, it is done in different ways. A carpenter ant will leave behind shredded wood after tunneling through wood. Conversely, a termite will leave behind a mud like substance. Generally, carpenter ants don’t cause as much damage as termites, although large infestations of either insect can cause severe structural damage.

An additional type of insect that will be drawn to the moisture in your home is dust mites. Dust mites don’t need liquid water but rather remove water from the air for hydration. Because of this, dust mites can only survive in areas with high humidity, typically 55%-73%. If the humidity drops too low, dust mites will dehydrate and eventually die.

"...dust mites can only survive in areas with high humidity..."

Dust mites are a common cause of dust allergies, but unfortunately, they are often hard to detect, since they are too small to be seen without a microscope. Dust mites thrive in warm, soft areas, such as carpeting, mattresses, or sofas. If dust mites are living in your home, you may experience symptoms like sneezing and wheezing, or even the development of asthma in children.

At the moment, the most common way to get rid of dust mites is with chemicals. A research study completed by Wright University examined whether maintaining a lower humidity, with the help of a dehumidifier, was an effective preventative for dust mites. Between May 1998 and October 1999, 71 selected homes participated in the study.

The participants were divided into three groups, with Group 1 keeping their home below 51% with a dehumidifier, Group 2 using air conditioning only, and Group 3 using no climate control. At the beginning of the study, there was a baseline screening to assess the initial dust mite density. All homes participating were given two monitors that recorded temperature and humidity levels. In addition, dust sampling was completed at regular intervals.

At the completion of the study, it was evident that a lower humidity level did help with dust mite prevention. Throughout the study, the concentration of dust mites in Group 1 (Low Humidity Group) steadily decreased from 401.2 mites/g to 8.2 mites/g. On the other hand, the other two groups showed an increased level of dust mites. Furthermore, the number of allergenic for Group 1 was ten times lower than the other groups.

 



Sources:
Carpenter Ants & Your Crawl Space
3 Signs of Termite Infestation
Will a Dehumidifier Help with Dust Mites?
The Aftermath of Flooding
Case Study: Flooding at the National Archives
Common Sources of Flooding In Your Home
Does Flooding Affect Property Values?
What Causes Flooding
You Versus Mold
7 Places Moisture Could Be Hiding in Your Home
Do Dehumidifiers Really Help Moisture Levels?
Moisture in Your Home
Wood and Water
Mold and Moisture Problems for College Students
Mold Containment