Your Sump Pump
A Submersible Sump Pump
Keeps Your Basement Dry
Some of the most unglamorous parts of a home or business can be the most important. Sump pumps will never attract admirers, or customers, but a failing sump pump can make your home nearly unlivable, and drive away customers from your business. Three basic, unglamorous things you need to know about sump pumps are what sump pumps do, why they stop working, and how to spot signs of imminent failure.
What a Sump Pump Does
The typical sump pump sits in a sump pit, a hollow in a basement floor, and pumps excess water out into a drainage system. It can keep humidity down, prevent water from flooding your basement, and protect items in basement storage.
When Sump Pumps Go Wrong
Most of the decade-long life span of a sump pump is spent switching on and off in response to sensors that detect water levels. Usually the sump (that hollow pit in the basement) slowly fills with water, but after a hard rain or when snow melts, the sump could fill up quickly. The sump pump is triggered by the same sort of float valve most toilets use, so it is a mechanical connection that activates electrical current for the pump itself.
This means you have at least three areas where a sump pump can fail:
- Water — The pump works best when relatively clean, uncontaminated water is pumped up by the impeller; if foreign objects, greywater or biologicals (algae, slimes, plant matter) get into the impeller, the pump could fail.
- Mechanism — The float activator arm can hang up, whether from corrosion or blockage, preventing the motor from either turning on or turning off. If it does not turn off, the motor will burn out. If it does not turn on, your basement will flood. The discharge pipe’s check valve could also fail mechanically, allowing water to return to the sump pit.
- Electrical — Whether using a float arm or a pressure sensor, the motor on the pump will only run if electricity is flowing; a tripped breaker, a corroded wire, or a loose connection could cause the pump to sit idle, allowing water to back up and flood your space.
Signs of Failure
Of course the most compelling sign that a sump pump has failed is the presence of standing water on your basement floor. Other, less obvious signs can alert you far in advance of actual failure. Be alert for these signs of failing sump pumps.
Noise - Good sump pumps are almost whisper quiet, so if you hear loud whining noises, screeching, or thumping sounds, your motor could have burned a bearing.
On again, off again — A short-cycling sump pump could mean trouble with the float switch, too small a pit, pump too small. Might want to get a plumber to assess your setup.
Age of pump — Sump pumps typically last 10 years with conscientious maintenance; less with casual neglect
If your sump pump does fail, give us a call, 24/7, at 586-421-9595. You'll be glad you did.
Possessions locked away inside the POD while we did the restoration in the home.
To a POD!
After severe water damage from flooding during a recent winter storm event, these Clinton Township homeowners were looking at some severe disruption to their normal family activities because of the extensive repairs that were necessary. Their insurance covered it, and their adjuster approved it, so they opted for what is called a “pack-out.” This means the contents of the home were to be removed from the house, stored offsite, and then returned when the repair work on the house was finished.
Normally, when SERVPRO of East Sterling Heights/West Clinton Twp. is asked to do a pack-out, we employ our vault system. Our vaults are giant, purpose-built plywood boxes in which we store packed-out possessions in our secure warehouse while repairs are underway in the homeowners’ house or business. In this case, however, the amount of packed-out possessions was smaller than we usually deal with and the insurance company asked us to have a POD delivered to the homeowners’ driveway and to store the possessions in it while we did the restoration inside the house.
The photo at top right shows the POD with the homeowners’ packed-out contents locked inside it while we were engaged with the needed repairs inside the home.
Our employees are well trained, experienced restoration professionals and, even in unusual circumstances, you can count on us to get the job done and get your life back normal with as little delay and disruption as possible. Call us if you need us for water damage, fire damage or mold remediation at 586-412-9595. You’ll be glad you did!
Getting Rainwater Away
Getting rainwater away from the house can help keep your basement dry.
From Your Foundation
An inch of rainfall doesn't sound like much. But when it falls on an average-size roof, it adds up to a 1,900-gallon torrent sluicing off the eaves. That's an awful lot of water that can cause an awful lot of damage if your gutters and downspouts aren't up to the task of controlling it. Yet we barely give gutters and downspouts a second thought until they're clogged and overflowing, or ripped from their moorings by ice and snow.
So now that summer's nearly here, it's time to take notice.
Get your raincoat on and take a walk around your house during a really heavy rain. Are the gutters overflowing anywhere? Is water collecting near the foundation or is it being effectively routed out away from the house? If you don't look, you won't know.
If the gutters are overflowing anywhere, you've got a problem. Probably the gutters and downspouts just need a cleaning, but there could be design issues. Clean them (from the ladder, not the roof) and see if that solves the overflow problem. If not, you're going to need to hire a professional installer to evaluate your gutter-downspout system and make recommendations.
A lot of savvy homeowners use buried downspout extensions to move the water coming off the roof far enough away from the foundation to avoid any seeping into the basement. At any big-box hardware store you can buy the needed elbows, drain pipe, adapters and emitters, and install the extensions in your yard in a few hours with common gardening tools.
It's worth it to be smart while you're cooking
Don’t Leave the Stove
Cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home injuries. The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking.
- Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, boiling, or broiling food.
- If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the kitchen while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
- Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.
If You Have a Cooking Fire
- Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
- Call 9-1-1 after you leave.
- If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
- Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and then turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
- For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
Cooking Fires Statistics
(Based on 2011-2015 annual averages)
- Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries, causing 47% of home fires that resulted in 20% of the home fire deaths and 45% of the injuries.
- Two-thirds (66%) of home cooking fires start with the ignition of food or other cooking materials.
- Clothing is the item first ignited in less than 1% of these fires, but clothing ignitions lead to 18% of the home cooking equipment fire deaths.
- Ranges or cooktops account for the majority (62%) of home cooking fire incidents.
- Unattended equipment is a factor in one-third (33%) of reported home cooking fires and half (43%) of the associated deaths.
- Frying dominates the cooking fire problem.
- Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.
Source: National Fire Protection Association (nfpa.org)
Now You’re Cooking With Oil!
Cooking with oil carries genuine risk
Safety considerations for cooking with oil
- Always stay in the kitchen when frying on the stovetop.
- Keep an eye on what you fry. If you see wisps of smoke or if the oil smells, immediately turn off the burner and carefully remove the pan from the burner. Smoke is a sign that the oil is too hot.
- Heat the oil slowly to the temperature you need for frying or sautéing.
- Add food gently to the pot or pan so the oil does not splatter.
- Always cook with a lid beside your pan. If you have a fire, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Do not remove the cover because the fire could start again. Let the pan cool for a long time.
- Never throw water or use a fire extinguisher on the fire.
- If the fire does not go out or you don’t feel comfortable sliding a lid over the pan, get everyone out of your home and call the fire department from outside.
What's That Smell??
Do We Have Mold in Here?
Microbial growth (called "mold" by most people) produces gasses called microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs). Many of these gasses are odorless but some have a musty odor, the smell most people associate with mold. If you notice a musty odor in your home or business, you may be detecting microbial growth, even if you don't see any mold. Such odors are common characteristics of spaces such as basements, attics and crawlspaces. Mold can also grow in hidden areas like inside walls, under carpeting, and inside heating and ventilation ducts. It’s generally considered an unpleasant odor, and a lot of people search Google for ways of controlling that odor.
What Does It Mean if You Smell Mold?
It’s important to realize that if you smell the musty odor of microbial growth, that could mean you are inhaling compounds produced by mold and could be also inhaling mold spores. Some of those compounds are toxic (called mycotoxins) and those toxins, as well as the actual mold spores, are associated with a wide range of medical problems. Yes, microbial growth has an unpleasant odor and you probably don’t want your home or business to smell musty, but the associated health problems are of greater concern than the unpleasant smell.
Covering Up the Odor Does Little Good
The only way to really control the smell is to reduce the amount of microbial growth far enough to make any odor undetectable. Air fresheners, disinfectant sprays, and common cleaning products may temporarily cover up the smell but they won’t reduce the underlying microbial growth. This is also true of scented candles, incense, and potpourri.
What You Can Do To Reduce Microbial Growth
Mold needs two things to grow: moisture and a food source (any organic material, including wood, paper, fabrics, even ordinary dust). So the most practical way to reduce or eliminate microbial growth is to remove either of those two requirements. It's pretty much impossible to remove organic material from your rooms. But moisture is another story. It is relatively easy to reduce moisture far enough to control microbial growth by using dehumidifiers. They are widely available for purchase in department and hardware stores, and of course are available online. Your target is to keep the relative humidity in your rooms between 30% and 40%. If you use air conditioning in the summer, you probably are within that range except for below-grade rooms like basements. Even if you are using air conditioning, below-grade rooms may need one or more dehumidifiers running. You can also purchase inexpensive humidity sensors so you can be sure you are keeping the humidity low enough to limit microbial growth. In the winter in colder climates relative humidity rarely gets high enough to encourage microbial growth. In fact, many homes and businesses actually make use of humidifiers in the winter to add some humidity to the air and keep it in the optimum range.
Testing Your Rooms for Mold
Under certain extreme circumstances, you may wish to have the air or surfaces in your rooms tested for mold. Your best bet for mold testing is to hire a lab that can send a certified mold tester or environmental engineer to your location. It could be pricey but at least you'd know for sure.
Looking At a Flipped House?
Beware of Flipped Houses!
Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware)!
No, flipping houses is not turning them upside down. A flipped house is one that has been purchased, renovated (usually) and resold within 12 months. And if you're buying, or thinking of buying such a house, remember the principle of Caveat Emptor (buyer beware). It's a reminder that the buyer alone is responsible for checking quality and suitability before the purchase is made.
Of course, you'd be in good company if you are more than a little dazzled by the impressive look of a freshly renovated house. The interior of course looks great. The kitchen has all new or re-painted cabinets, stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops, new ceramic tile on the floor. The first floor bathroom has been completely re-done, and a second floor bathroom was recently added, or possibly a basement bathroom. They look great too. All new carpet, paint, light fixtures, outlets, and switches throughout the house. Possibly all new windows as well.
That's why you need to hire a certified private or city inspector to do a thorough inspection and deliver a written report. Almost no purchaser has the necessary experience and knowledge to check all the things that need to be looked at when buying a renovated house. This includes foundation, electrical system, sewer lines, plumbing, roofing, insulation, health hazards (lead paint, asbestos, radon gas) and termite or mold damage. On the matter of termite or mold damage: make sure the inspector has the credentials and certification for this kind of inspecting. Termite and mold damage may not be immediately obvious to the observer. It is typically out of sight and could even be inside walls or hidden by parts of the foundation. Only a certified inspector would know what to look for and how to check it. You don't want to be the proud new owner of a house that's going to need all the drywall removed for a complete mold remediation.
It's easy to understand how the seller could fail to address such important characteristics of the house. He or she is primarily interested in how the place looks in hopes of a smooth and quick resale. Flipping houses is, after all, a quick-profit strategy in which an investor purchases real estate at a discount price and improves the property in order to sell it at a higher price. This can be a very lucrative profit strategy if the housing market is doing well. Old homes and foreclosures are popular properties for use in house flipping because the investors can acquire these properties at a fraction of their resale value thus increasing the potential profit.
Make sure you're not buying a house that has had just a superficial gloss added to it, like lipstick on a pig.
Bad Smells are Bad for your Business
That Could Threaten Your Business
There are odors and then there are odors. The following list presents the worst of the worst when it comes to smelly, off-putting and potentially dangerous smells. Every commercial business owner should be aware of these.
This complex mixture of toxic and non-toxic gasses can contain hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, methane, and hydrogen sulfide, the last two of which are highly flammable and potentially explosive substances. These gasses, which are produced and collected in sewage systems by the decomposition of organic household or industrial wastes, are also of concern due to their odor and health effects. Mold spores may also be present in sewer gasses depending on their source and other factors such as humidity.
Hydrogen Sulfide (Rotten Egg Odor)
Hydrogen sulfide is a common component of sewer gas with a foul stink that is reminiscent of rotten eggs. It is produced by the bacterial, oxygen-free breakdown of organic material. Bad smells usually serve as a warning that something is wrong. If it smells bad, it probably is bad. The health effects of hydrogen sulfide are contingent on the amount inhaled and for how long. At the very least, low concentrations can cause irritation of the nose and throat and lead to a loss of appetite and headache. Higher concentrations can cause eye damage and accumulation of fluid in the lungs.
Methane is a potent climate pollutant and a highly flammable gas that ranks second only to carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. It is the major component of natural gas. Methane itself is odorless, colorless and tasteless but Mercaptan is added to it by the natural gas industry to give it a detectable odor. Mercaptan is harmless but smells of rotten eggs like hydrogen sulfide. If you detect natural gas odor in your business, take immediate action.
Carbon Dioxide In The Workplace
Carbon dioxide in both solid and in liquid form is used for refrigeration and cooling, and has many applications within the food and beverage industry. This odorless, colorless and tasteless gas can be deadly. If you believe your business may have too high a concentration of carbon dioxide, you need to use specific gas detection testing because of the extreme risk.
Ammonia is one of the most commonly produced chemicals in the United States. Fortunately, it has a VERY distinctive odor so it cannot sneak up on you, your employees or your customers. At room temperature, this highly irritating gas emits a pungent, suffocating odor. Exposure to high concentrations of ammonia causes immediate burning of the nose, throat and respiratory tract. This can further lead to respiratory distress or even failure. Inhalation of lower amounts can cause coughing and nose and throat irritation.
If your employees or customers complain of dog-like odors and you do not have dogs on the premises, you need to look into it. The odor could be stemming from rodents or other small animals dying behind office or business walls.
Sulfur and Other Water Contaminants
The proper operation of any business is dependent, either directly or indirectly, on clean running water. It is the mainstay of life and despite strict purification methods that are heavily regulated by the EPA, foul-smelling chemicals, bacteria, sediments, heavy metals and other contaminants can still make their way into your company’s tap water. Not only can these contaminants create an unpleasant taste or smell, they can also make your water unhealthy for patrons and staff to consume. If you think the water in your business may somehow be getting contaminated, have your water tested by professionals.
These odors emanate from many different sources and they can become a problem and even cause headaches and nausea. Some may be toxic and have harmful health effects. Toxicity is dependent on the amount of the substance that is in the air, how frequently people are exposed to that air and how much time is spent breathing in that air. If you think your business may be suffering from Sick Building Syndrome, don't wait. Get the professionals to test the air. It could mean the difference between health and illness.
A Plan To Follow
Prepared For Disaster
In Case of Fire or Flood
About 50% of businesses close down following a water or fire disaster, according to the latest research. An overwhelming majority of the survivors had a preparedness plan in place. Do you have such a plan? It can act as a kind of insurance policy aimed at peace of mind. Knowing you are ready for whatever happens makes you a more confident supplier of services or products to your customers and a more dependable employer to those who work for you. Having a preparedness plan means that even if your business is affected by a disaster, your customers and employees can quickly get back to business as usual.
By developing a SERVPRO Emergency READY Profile for your business, you minimize business interruption by having an immediate plan of action. Knowing in advance what to do and what to expect is the key to timely mitigation and can help minimize how water and fire damage can affect your business.
A SERVPRO Emergency READY Profile has these benefits.
A no-cost assessment of your facility
This means there is no need to allocate funds. The plan gives 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. You will still be able to focus on your 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 SERVPRO of East Sterling Heights/West Clinton Twp. 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. It will save you both 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 advance of an emergency so that during the emergency you know exactly how to proceed.
Call us at 586-412-9595 to get started on your SERVPRO Emergency READY Profile!
What Causes Fireplace Back-Puffing?
Back Puffing From the Fireplace Can Be a Problem
How Can I Prevent It?
There are few things as relaxing as sitting next to roaring fire. That is, of course, assuming you aren’t startled by a sudden, audible bang with a cloud of soot and smoke filling your room. If you’ve never experienced this, count yourself lucky! Whenever your appliances – from fireplaces to stoves – push their smoke back into your room instead of appropriately exhausting through the flue, this is called “back puffing.” There are several common causes.
Creosote Build-up in the Chimney
Whenever you use your fireplace, smoke leaves a byproduct that coats the interior of your flue. This byproduct is called creosote. As you continue to use your fireplace, creosote buildup grows thicker and thicker. Because creosote is highly flammable, and because the buildup reduces the functional size of your flue, creosote creates a significant hazard. Because of the creosote, your chimney will generate more smoke than can be exhausted, leading to the smoke traveling the path of least resistance: into your room. The only fix and preventive for this is to hire a chimney sweep to clean out the creosote.
Inefficient Pipe Layout
Smoke should be able to flow out as vertically as possible. Any turns in the flue or pipe add resistance to the exiting smoke. If your home’s venting system was designed with numerous elbows, each one impacts your stove or fireplace’s ability to vent. Horizontal pipe is exceptionally inefficient, and can cause serious problems. The sad news is that if THIS is your problem there is really no fix or preventive other than having the entire chimney redesigned and rebuilt.
Poor Air Supply in the Home
While most homeowners commonly feel like more insulation is better, a tightly-sealed home can actually “suffocate” your fireplace. Fire requires oxygen to burn, so when your home is too tightly sealed, it limits the flow of air into the fireplace. You may have to open a window a little to prevent back-puffing when you use the fireplace.
If the chimney is obstructed, it will restrict the airflow. When this happens, the smoke will build in the flue pipe until it’s forced to exhaust back out through the fireplace into your room. These could be branches, birds’ nests, balls or wasp nests. An annual chimney inspection might well help you avoid this possible cause of back-puffing. If you've got an obstruction, it's going to mean hiring a chimney sweep.
Cold Air in the Chimney
If it’s really cold outside, particularly during a rain, the cold air can prevent the smoke in your chimney from being able to escape. Because it can’t go up-and-out due to the denser cold air, it will travel in the opposite direction – right into your home. When this is the cause of your fireplace back-puffing, the problem should solve itself after the air warms up. However, that still leaves you cleaning up the initial mess.
IMPORTANT: the thing to remember is that an improperly-functioning chimney can cause a build-up of carbon monoxide in your home. Because you can’t smell or see it, you often can’t recognize the problem until you experience symptoms of CO poisoning. If your fireplace has problems venting – contact a professional sooner rather than later.