Why Home Maintenance Is Important
Your home is likely the most expensive thing you own in your lifetime. That is why it is so important to take the time to protect it. There are things in your home that need some care to ensure they last otherwise when they fail you can watch your insurance skyrocket.
Many times, we see home damages that occur by sources that could have been easily prevented.
Just to mention a few:
- Not cleaning out your gutters can cause water to back up under your roof shingles.
- Not cleaning your chimney can cause creosote buildup that creates a fire.
- Not cutting down that dead tree can cause it to fall onto your house.
So here are some items you should be inspecting and how often you should be doing so.
Hot water heater-drain water to remove sediment & refill.
Inspect garage door-be sure auto-reverse is functioning
Vacuum refrigerator coils: These build up dirt and grime which overtime effects the efficiency of the fridge.
Check water softener, add salt if needed.
Check grout and caulking- re-apply if needed.
Inspect sump pump is running properly
Inspect basement & foundation for any cracks or leaks.
Test Smoke & Carbon Monoxide detector
Look for leaks around toilets/sinks
Check HVAC filters for replacement
Check Kitchen Vent Hood Filter
Inspect fire extinguisher
Before the cold months inspect your pipes. If certain areas of your home do not receive adequate heat then considering wrapping your pipes to prevent a frozen pipe from bursting.
Check the drainage system outside your home to ensure water is flowing out and away from your home/foundation.
Clean out gutters.
Inspect roofing for any damage or leaks.
In the winter regularly inspect for any ice dams or icicles as these can cause damage to your roof and gutters.
What Type of Fireplace is Best?
Did you know that 1 in every 3 homeowner uses a fireplace to provide heat in their home? It is also one of the top 10 sources of a fire in a home. There are several different types of fireplaces out there to use, some safer than others. This blog will help you distinguish which one may be best for you.
Some key factors to think of when choosing the right fireplace for you are the following:
1. Traditional fireplaces -wood-burning
A traditional fireplace is nostalgic for many people and can often been seen by some as the one and only fireplace out there.
It involves an open combustion system which can produce some heat but the heat generated actually just gets sucked back up the chimney like a vacuum. Older fireplaces are around 10-15% efficient in producing heat into a home.
It requires a chimney which in itself has its own maintenance needed. If they aren’t inspected and cleaned regularly, they can create a build-up of soot and other substances that can be flammable.
It also requires more effort to burn the logs correctly as well as the post fire clean up. However, many will say it is worth it because of the authenticity of having a real fire shooting sparks and crackling as it burns. It is easy on the eyes, creating a warm comfort feeling.
This method is most popular for a number of reasons. It takes minimal installation effort and can be installed almost anywhere since venting gets set up through a PVC pipe in the wall instead of a chimney. Everything is enclosed behind a piece of glass so it very safe to use with little to no monitoring. It can easily be turned on with a switch and heats up a home very well.
It also comes in a vent-less option however these emit the exhaust they produce into your home.
They produce an actual flame that is visible without the need of wood or pellets. It is very efficient in producing heat into a home.
This is probably the most mobile type of fireplace as it can be moved from room to room wherever it can reach an outlet. Downside is because there are no live burning flames it doesn’t produce much heat.
It does prove to be ideal for commercial settings like hotels because of the beautiful appearance of a fireplace without the liability of burning someone who tries to touch it. Cost to buy one is more affordable but in the long-term electric bills will spike.
This is the most expensive and referred to as the high-end option. They don’t run on gas, wood or electric but bio-ethanol which is a burning fuel made from an alcohol produced by the fermentation of carbohydrates. They have no cleaning required and are very good looking on the eyes. Downfall is they do not provide as much heat as gas fireplaces and minimal protection from heat.
When deciding on which option is best for you we hope this helped point you in the right direction.
Living in New Jersey, I know everyone must know at least one person living the snowbird lifestyle. (Unfortunately that is not me.) I'm referring to those that are originally New Jersey residents who escape all of the winter blues and head to Florida for a few months out of the year.
If you yourself fall into this category then here are a few tips to help you keep your New Jersey home safe and sound while you are enjoying the sun.
1. Winterize Plumbing:
This involves turning off the water supply and draining the pipes from the faucets leaving them bone dry. If unfamiliar with the process contact a plumber, they can also blow compressed air. Almost 1 in every 4 homeowners insurance claim is related to water usually as a result of low temperatures causing freezing pipes.
Have roof inspected for any wearing or damage. Typically roofs are only designed to last for 20 years.
Have fuel tanks filled. Keep interior temperature around 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Turn off gas line to reduce risk of fire.
Make sure all landscaping is tailored to reduce the risk of coming in contact with your home and creating damage. Clean gutters to prevent buildup and flow occlusions during snowfall.
6. Phone a Friend:
Have a friend come by to check that everything is okay at your home. You can also have them pick up the mail for you to reduce the chance of a break-in.
Review homeowners insurance policy to make sure no updates or extra coverage is needed.
8. Snow Removal:
Arrange for someone to come after snowfall to keep walkways free of snow and ice.
Consider installing motion sensor exterior lights and timed interior lights to make your home appear occupied and unattractive to prowlers.
Unplug all unnecessary appliances and electronics.
How to Install a New Hot Water Heater
You have likely already read our blog on how to remove a hot water heater so now we will discuss how to install your new hot water heater. When purchasing a new tank be sure to use something similar to the pre-existing tank as far as being an electric or gas tank.
- Start by positioning the new tank in the area where it will rest. Maneuver the tank to an orientation where all the wiring and pipes can easily be attached. Also keep in mind that the tank has cover plates that need to be accessible during any future maintenance so keep these visible.
- Wrap any threaded pipe fittings with two or three layers of teflon plumbers’ tape then re-install the water pipes. When applying the tape, start at about 1" from the end of the fitting and wrap the tape in a clockwise manner around the pipe, overlapping at least 1/2 with each rotation. The entire threaded area of the pipe should be covered with two layers of tape.
- Connect and tighten all pipes with a wrench. (DO not over tighten).
- Turn on the water and check for any leaks. Wipe all joints dry and check again after several minutes for any leaks. To eliminate air in the tank and plumbing allow the hot water tap to run until it stops sputtering.
- When the tank is filled turn on the power (if electric) or connect the gas supply line (if gas). Test the gas line for leaks. Recommended temperature is 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This will take several hours to reach.
Hot to Remove a Hot Water Heater
Hot water heater leaks are a fairly common cause of water damages that we deal with. Some homeowners use a plumber to handle the removal and replacement of their hot water heater but if you are the DIY type it is simple enough for one to do it on their own. Some tips you should know before starting is that you may need a hand when removing the heat due to its size. Even after it is drained it is still not light and very bulky. You should also keep in mind that you will not have water available for use for a couple hours during this process.
1. Turn all water/energy sources off!
Start by turning off the water supply to the hot water heater whether that is the main valve to the house or a shut off valve directly to the heater. Turn off the power to the heater at the panel board as well as the gas supply.
2. Remove any insulation around the tank and save to reuse if still in good condition.
3. Drain the tank. At the bottom of the tank there should be a valve that will allow you to attach a garden hose. Once attached have the other end outside to allow water to be drained.
4. Open both hot and cold water valves somewhere in the house.
5. Time to disconnect the tank.
If you have an electric HWH- there top should have a small steel plate where the wires enter the tank. Remove the plate and gently pull the wires out. For a gas HWH- remove all connections to gas piping.
6. Take a wrench and disconnect the water pipe. You may have to carefully bend this flexible pipe out of the way to remove the tank. It is normal for some extra water to leak at this point. However if it is more than a cup worth the water has not been shut off.
7. Remove the tank and set aside for discard.
Be on the lookout for our next blog on how to install a new hot water heater!
How to Properly Purchase Contents Insurance
Have you ever asked yourself, "how much coverage do I really need on my belongings?" There is no way to just guess and hope you have enough without keeping an inventory of what you have. Not only for the purpose of determining how much coverage you will need but also in the event of a loss where those items become damaged and that policy comes into effect.
When setting up your home or business insurance policy it is important to keep an inventory of your personal belongings or products/merchandise. Whether you are dealing with personal or business items the same guidelines follow. Keeping a list of items along with the value of them will help keep you prepared when a disaster strikes. It is also important to keep this list current with any new purchases that may increase the value of your property. Trust me, it will be less of a hassle than having to figure out what items you own when they are possibly damaged by a disaster such as a fire. With all the stress and amount of effort one deals with after property damage, one less thing to worry about will help the restoration process resolve much quicker and easier for the owner.
Also, aside from the usual items like furniture and jewelry; it is important to keep copies of any important documents. Things like birth certificates, property deeds and business contracts should be kept safe with duplicates available along with electronic copies.
Once you have an idea of everything you own and its value this will allow you to confirm you are receiving enough coverage for those items in your insurance policy. Every insurance policy has a limit for reimbursement so knowing how your policy matches up will keep any surprises down the road from surfacing.
Can Living With Mold Affect Your Health
The topic on health hazards from mold exposure is a gray area. It is believed that living with high levels of mold can cause some minor and/or serious health affects. However, there is very little evidence to confirm all instances at this time.
What most can agree on is living with mold should not be ignored. Not only due to the beliefs of the health risks accompanied but the affects it may cause to the value of your home. Any new buyer or renter will not want to walk into another person's mold issue.
Mold comes in thousands of different strains but only a few of those produce toxins. The most well known being stachybotrys chartarum also known as "black mold". Did you know the term we hear often as "toxic black mold" is not actually a scientific term. It was created by news reporters that carried the term around to create the myth that "toxic black mold" is deadly which in reality that has not been proven.
Now lets discuss what types of symptoms are reported due to mold exposure. People who spend time in these environments report respiratory issues such as shortness of breath, development of asthma, coughing, wheezing, eye irritation, nasal congestion and throat irritation. It is believed that those with weakened immune systems or a history of allergies or asthma are more prone to adverse reactions from mold. There are also some people that are more sensitive to particular strains of mold that can vary from person to person.
The CDC suggested a link between mold and a medical condition called acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage (AIPH) or pulmonary hemosiderosis. Others state that mold causes more serious conditions as well like lung disease, upper respiratory infections or even cancer. These claims have yet to be proven with any substantial evidence.
Although the research is limited on proving many of these claims it should still not keep someone from treating and removing any mold growth in their home. Hopefully future research can provide more insight so that federal laws can help regulate mold in homes.
What is Not Covered?
Here are a few key areas that are typically not covered by your standard insurance policy. Also keep in mind of a deductible that may need to be met or coverage limits.
1. Damages resulting from unresolved maintenance issues or neglecting to repair source. For instance, you have a leak coming from your toilet supply line that you have just been ignoring for almost a year. It caused some water damage to the ceiling below which typically would be covered by your policy initially but waiting too long to fix the problem will likely cause your insurance to reject coverage.
2. Flood. Any source of water that enters your home from a flood regardless of the cause is not covered under a standard insurance policy. Yet you may purchase flood insurance which would be recommended for those living in a flood prone area.
3. Law or Ordinance Upgrades. This type of scenario can come into play for something like a fire that causes the electrical wiring in your home to need to be removed and replaced. Yet, your town has new building codes that require a more expensive upgrade to new wiring being installed. In this case your insurance will only cover the costs of the original old wiring and the difference in charges for the new upgrade will be your responsibility.
4. Sewer or drain back up from OUTSIDE. You will typically not be coverage for water that backs up into your home from an outside source. There are endorsements that can be added on to your policy to cover backs up occurring within your property line. If the source is coming outside of your property line your city may be responsible.
5. Costs to repair and/or replace source. Most insurance companies will cover the damages associated however the costs to repair the cause falls under the homeowner. For example a pipe bursts in your home causing damages to your hardwood floors. Your insurance company will take care of fixing the floors yet the plumber you hired to replace the pipe will come out of your pocket.
Emergency Ready Profile
The Best Way to Reduce Business Interruption Following a Disaster is to Plan For it NOW.
As many as 50% of businesses may never recover following a disaster, according to the latest industry research.
SERVPRO of Paramus offers a FREE assessment of your property and develops a plan in the event of a disaster.
Why the SERVPRO® Emergency READY Profile?
Here are just a few reasons why your business will benefit from having an emergency ready profile in place.
- A no cost assessment of your facility. – This means there is no need to allocate funds, giving you a great value at no cost.
- A concise Profile Document that contains only the critical information needed in the event of an emergency. – It will only take a little time to complete and will not take you away from current projects. But it will save a lot of time if ever needed.
- A guide to help you get back into your building following a disaster. – This can help minimize the amount of time your business is inactive by having an immediate plan of action.
- Establishes your local SERVPRO® Franchise Professional as your disaster mitigation and restoration provider. – You have a provider that is recognized as an industry leader and close by.
- Identification of the line of command for authorizing work to begin. – This saves time so we can begin the work of mitigating the damage which can save you time and money.
- Provides facility details such as shut-off valve locations, priority areas and priority contact information. – Having a quick reference of what to do, how to do it and who to call provides solutions in a disaster.
- A concise Profile Document that contains only the critical information needed in the event of an emergency.
Developing your Emergency Ready Profile (ERP) will only take a little time to complete and will not take you away from your current projects.
The SERVPRO Emergency Ready Profile (ERP) could be a valuable tool to help restore your business in the shortest amount of time possible.
To set up this free service, call Tony D'Arco @ SERVPRO of Northeast Bergen.
Top Sources of Mold
We will be discussing the primary sources of mold that are commonly found in homes. As we all know mold needs moisture and food (porous materials) to grow. Mold also likes dark humid environments. Some key causes to look out for mold are:
1. Leaky Appliances
Daily wear and tear to your appliances can cause leaks or splits that can allow moisture to escape. Unfortunately most appliances have the pipes and hoses hidden out of sight running inside walls or cabinets. So it may take some digging around to find any leaks. We recommend checking regularly for loose washers or leaky hoses.
2. Air Conditioning Units
The condensation from an air conditioning unit creates moisture for mold. On top of that it also sucks in air from the outside that contains dirt and pollen which are attractive materials for mold. You can help minimize mold growth by running it everyday for at least 10 minutes. When it sits for long periods of time it is more likely to grow mold. When not in use like during winter season you should remove it and store in a dry place.
3. Water Intrusion
It is beneficial to check your ceilings and cracks of your windows for any water getting in. This can be a sign of poor building construction so you may need a professional to diagnose and treat the issue.
4. Window Sills
This area is subject to higher levels of moisture and humidity along with dirt that is a valuable source for mold.
Next, we will discuss some locations in your home that have a higher chance for mold to grow.
Being that most basements are located on a sub-level, moisture is constantly part of its environment. The humidity level is much higher and typically not well ventilated leaving humidity to linger longer. Any cracks in foundation can also add to the issue.
If wallpaper is peeling it is likely that it has mold growing behind it.
The attic of a home is home to many air flow sources like dryer vents, plumbing vents, and kitchen/bathroom. All of these constantly pump moist air into the attic accompanied with all the inevitable dust found there makes a perfect environment for mold.
Like a basement the crawlspace also has a higher relative humidity. The soil in the crawlspace will absorb and lock in moisture and when it dries it will evaporate adding moisture to the air.