Proper Soot Remediation
Smoke Coming From a Burning Home
The possible health effects of a fire can last long after the flames are extinguished. In fact, decontamination of soot and environmental exposures is the “hottest” topic in the fire service today. The nasty chemicals caused by fire can linger for long periods of time on surfaces and in belongings. Make sure these items are professionally cleaned.
Soot is made of tiny particles created by incomplete combustion, technically called pyrolysis. (Fun fact: solids and liquids can’t burn. Heat at the surface of these materials is converting them to gasses which burn.) Even the basic wood used in framing (Douglas Fur) causes 75 different chemicals including poisons such as hydrogen cyanide and phosgene. These particles linger in the form of soot leaving a dangerous smelly mess.
During a fire, soot spreads to the whole house, attaching to surfaces. The acidic properties of soot can further damage your home and indoor air quality if the soot is not removed immediately.
Soot can inhabit your home even without a fire. Candles can lead to soot buildup, fireplaces can release soot as well if not ventilated properly, and furnaces are also a source of soot contamination when they produce a puff back (reference our blog on puff backs at What is a Puff Back?)
To avoid the health risks of soot exposure after a home fire, make sure that all soot-affected areas are properly cleaned and sanitized.
When cleaning soot, wearing safety equipment to protect the lungs, skin, and eyes is essential in reducing soot exposure. Specialized techniques such as air scrubbing are also needed to restore indoor air quality following a fire.
A dust mask and a household cleaner are not enough to clean up soot! Removing soot requires professional tools, knowledge, and expertise. Certified experts at SERVPRO can properly clean soot and odors from your entire home to ensure it is safe to inhabit.
If you are concerned about these exposures in your home, call us today for a consultation at 201-330-4193.
You Will Thank Me One Day
Water pooling from a leaking furnace exhaust
How often do you check the mechanical closet/spaces in your home? If you’re like me, you are proud of yourself if you remember to change the air filter even once a year. Like many issues that arise with home ownership, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
I recently went into my mechanical closet to get a folding chair and noticed water on the floor. “Where did that come from,” I wondered. It wasn’t the hot water heater or near any plumbing. It was next to the furnace (see image). While the amount of water was fairly minimal, it would certainly result in a deterioration of the plywood flooring and create a breeding ground for mold.
I had my HVAC contractor come and the cause was a tiny hole in the exhaust flu. When the weather turned cold the moisture in the exhaust condensed and ran back down the flu, leaking out onto the floor. I paid $99 for the service call to have it repaired.
The lesson: check your mechanical areas periodically to look for signs of water, mold, or other mechanical issues that could result in more significant issues if not addressed. You will thank me one day…
It's Just Water
Water damage visible when viewed through a Thermal Imaging Camera
It’s just water, but it makes a huge mess! Even a small leak can create a massive amount of damage and pose serious health concerns for the long term. It is important that those cleaning up water damage have the proper training and equipment. This is not a job for your typical general contractor!
The cosmetic aspects of a remediation project are fairly obvious to identify but what about what you can’t see? Water saturated insulation, flooring, and sheetrock can be a breeding ground for harmful mold that may not become apparent for a long time. This growth may also cause health issues including respiratory and auto-immune issues.
One way SERVPRO uses technology to assess the extent of water damage is with a Thermal Imaging Camera (TIC). This roughly $2,000 piece of equipment uses varying colors to show heat changes, making dampness visible. A local handyman or general contractor will not have this type of technology.
Wet areas in the building material do not warm and cool the same way adjacent dry areas do and this makes them visible when looking through a TIC. The photo shown here is from recent water damage at a local school here in NJ. To the naked eye the area shown appeared to be undamaged. However, when viewed as a thermal image the pattern of water soaking into the material from the flooded floor above becomes apparent. Had this area not been removed and replaced it could have created mold issue for the staff and students.
Don't Ruin Your Vacation
Oh, I'd like to be that van!
Are you looking forward to going on vacation again? Our family’s “Spring Break Trip” looks like it is going to be cancelled due to Covid, so my wife (Happy Birthday!) wants to take a road trip to FL. I love vacation but I always have that voice in the back of my head wondering if I set the alarm, locked the doors, and did my wife unplug the hair straightener (yes honey, I love you, and it’s your birthday, but this is a legitimate concern). But, what else am I forgetting? What about Water damage?
Before you leave, it is important safeguard your home from possible water damage. Here are some easy steps to protect your home and prevent vacation from being cut short due to a disaster.
Take a proactive look before you leave
Check for leaks in your plumbing, focusing on the pipes and connection you can see inside your house. The weakest points are places where hoses connect to taps or household appliances. Check under sinks for signs of leakage and rust and around water heaters, dishwashers, furnaces, and washing machines
Turn off the Water Supply
Shut off the water supply to the home and the hot water heater itself. Not only are hot water heaters a major culprit of water damage but there is no need to keep 75 gallons of water piping hot while you are away. Even a small leak, from a toilet supply line for example, can cause a massive amount of damage if not detected quickly (See our Facebook post from 12/4 at Simple toilet leak - NJ).You may also choose to, additionally, shut off the valves at your toilets, appliances, washers, and dishwashers.
Santa Came Early
SERVPRO Commercial Services
Commercial restoration requires a significant capacity. Due to the size and complexity of a large-scale commercial disaster, the demands on resources, manpower, expertise, and equipment can be extreme. Many restoration companies are not equipped to scale-up from residential clean ups to tough commercial operations. The decision to prepare for these types of jobs needs to be made well before disaster strikes.
Required pre-planning and investments:
- Equipment: the right tools for the job need to be ready in advance. This means a significant investment in purchasing, maintaining, and warehousing an adequate quantity of each type of equipment needed. While our owner, John, likes finding reasons to wear his Christmas suit the real message to the team is we are ready!
- Manpower: Any restoration company needs to have a variable staffing pool including full-time, part-time, per diem, and contract workers. But, in commercial jobs the level of expertise needed is hire and this labor pool needs to be trained and ready to go when the time occurs.
- Expertise: Our leaders and project managers maintain the highest levels of certification from The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC).
Even with the best preparation, large scale disasters like Super Storm Sandy here in NJ can cause a need for a large scale disaster response. SERVPRO coordinates a nationwide network of 1,700 franchises along with corporate-deployed resources to ensure that our clients receive the service they require in even the worst of times.
Check out the video of what Santa delivered at Santa Came Early
To talk about SERVPRO can help you pre-plan for a commercial disaster please call
SERVPRO of Hackensack/Little Ferry at 201-330-4193
What is a Puffback?
Furnace after puffback
Do you stay up at night worried about Puffbacks? Yeah, I didn’t think so but this quick read could save you a big headache. Many people don’t even know what a puffback is but they are fairly common.
A puffback is an explosion of unburned fuel vapors inside your furnace, boiler, or hot water heater. The explosion does not pose a serious safety issue but can cause a huge mess of soot and ash that gets blown into your property. Puffbacks can happen in both natural gas and oil fueled furnaces but are more common in oil furnaces due to the need for more routine maintenance.
Fortunately regular maintenance can help prevent a puffback:
- Don’t keep pressing the reset if your furnace is not working properly or staying lit. Schedule a service call with your HVAC contractor.
- Have your heating system serviced annually including a check for clogged burners.
- Look for visible oil leaks/dripping around the oil supply piping.
- Make sure the flue vent is securely connected. Small puffbacks over time loosen this connection.
- Check the exhaust flue and chimney for obstructions.
- Dirty ignition electrodes don’t generate enough of a spark to burn all of the fuel causing excess fuel to puddle in the combustion chamber causing corrosion.
Should you experience a puffback, the SERVPRO team has the tools and training needed to restore your property. Specialized tools for this job include proprietary chemicals to remove soot, eliminate odors, and prevent stains. Our technicians are highly trained in property damage restoration. From initial and ongoing training at SERVPRO’s Corporate Training Facility to regular IICRC industry certifications, rest assured our staff is equipped with the knowledge to restore your property. Our training program includes the following:
Employee Certification Training
Initial Franchise Training
Continuing Education Classes
Call SERVPRO of Hackensack/Little Ferry at 201-330-4193
Fun fact: I am a volunteer firefighter and while writing this blog I received an alarm for a smoke condition in a local bank. After our investigation the likely cause was determined to be a puffback in the natural gas heating system. The bank’s HVAC contractor is enroute for a service call.
Commercial Water Damage Concerns due to COVID-19
SERVPRO Cleans Commercial Buildings
With many offices and commercial spaces vacant, or minimally staffed due to Covid, water damage has become more common and more severe. There are several reasons for this increase but many can be prevented with a few simple steps. Here is a list of causes and some steps to prevent a disaster.
- Broken pipes due to freezing – With less staff working, water is not flowing as regularly and pipes are more prone to freezing. Consider shutting off/draining water pipes to areas that are not being used.
- Stagnant water – water sitting in pipes can become rusty and foul. Run the water/flush toilets daily which keeps water fresh. This also helps to keep water in the drain’s “S-trap” which prevents sewer gases from coming into the property.
- Undetected leaks – slow leaks that go undetected can lead to significant mold issues. Major leaks can cause catastrophic damage if they are allowed to flood the structure undetected. Assign a team member to walk the property regularly looking for potential leaks, especially new markings in ceiling sheet rock or tiles.
- Deferred maintenance – While the facility may not be getting it’s typical wear and tear, regular maintenance is still needed on essential systems like boilers, furnaces, and alarm systems.
Should a loss occur call SERVPRO of Hackensack/Little Ferry at 201-330-4193.
Tis the Season to Prepare for Nor'Easters
Photo courtesy of NOAA
As a Nor'easter or Coastal Storm Approaches
- Listen to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio or to a local news station for the latest information.
- Follow instructions given by public safety officials. Many towns have email or phone distribution systems for emergency messages. Make sure you are on the list.
- Review your family emergency plan.
- If you live or work in a flood zone, hurricane evacuation zone, or an area that is prone to flooding be ready to evacuate. This requires an understanding of which roads experience flooding most often so you can have an alternate route in mind.
- If you are not in an area prone to flooding and plan on riding out the storm at home, gather adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days and are unable to leave.
- Prepare for power outages by charging cell phones and electronics (and portable cell phone chargers if you have them) and setting your refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings. If you use electricity to get well water, fill your bathtub with water to use for flushing toilets. Gather adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days and are unable to leave.
- Keep your car’s gas tank full. Pumps at gas stations may not work during a power outage.
- Prepare your home.
- Secure or bring in outdoor objects (patio furniture, children's toys, trash cans, etc.) that could be swept away or damaged during strong winds or flooding. This includes grills! Despite their size and weight, strong winds can knock over grills causing gas lines to be severed. Fire departments across Bergen County, NJ responded to numerous calls for ruptured grill supply lines during our last storm.
- Clear clogged rain gutters to allow water to flow away from your home.
- If damaging winds are expected, cover all of your windows. If you don’t have storm shutters, board up windows with 5/8” exterior grade or marine plywood.
- Go Tapeless! Taping windows wastes preparation time, it does not stop windows from breaking or make cleanup easier. In fact, taping windows may create larger shards of glass that can cause serious injuries.
- Turn off propane tanks if you are not using them.
- Prepare for flooding by elevating items in your basement, checking your sump pump, unplugging sensitive electronic equipment, clearing nearby catch basins, and parking vehicles in areas not prone to flooding.
- If instructed, turn off your gas and electricity at the main switch or valve.
- If you have a boat, remove it from the water. If you cannot, prepare your boat for the storm to reduce damage.
- If the nor’easter or coastal storm is a winter storm, learn how to prepare with our Winter Storm Safety Tips.
For more information visit this great site created by the State of Massachusetts”
Covid-19 Cleaning by SERVPRO
Cleaning a Local School
SERVPRO is Here to Help during this time of need
During this unprecedented time caused by the global pandemic of coronavirus, this is a reminder to our customers that we are specialists in cleaning services, and we adhere to the highest cleaning and sanitation standards. SERVPRO of Hackensack/Little Ferry has been busy cleaning facilities or all types including nursing homes, schools, restaurants, and government offices.
We are prepared to clean and disinfect your home or business, according to protocols set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We have years of experience in dealing with biological contaminants, and we will go beyond the scope of work that regular janitorial staff perform on a daily basis.
The CDC encourages cleaning of high-touch surfaces such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, light switches, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets and tables. Other spaces mentioned in the CDC’s guidance for commercial spaces include:
- Kitchen/Food Areas
- Retail Spaces
- Water Fountains
- Sales Counters
- Carpets and Rugs
- Stair Handrails
- Elevator Cars
- Playground Equipment
- Fitness Equipment
The CDC recommends usage of a labeled hospital-grade disinfectant with claims against similar pathogens to the coronavirus. Multiple products in the SERVPRO product line carry the EPA-approved emerging pathogens claims. While there is currently no product tested against this particular strain of the coronavirus, we are following all guidelines as provided by the CDC and local authorities.
Call Today for a Proactive Cleaning
If your home or business needs deep cleaning services, call the experts today – SERVPRO of Hackensack/Little Ferry, 201-330-4193
Why does SERVPRO Use Ultrasonic Cleaning during Mold and Water Removal?
Hackensack homeowners can trust that their home and belongings are in good hands with our experienced SERVPRO technicians.
Hackensack Homeowners need Gentle and Effective Cleaning after Mold and Water Removal.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that plumbing leaks, storms, and even broken appliances can damage your Hackensack home. Water can move quickly through a property, soaking into any porous material from the carpet to your favorite armchair and even into drywall. And once water is present, it does not take long for fungal growth to begin (as little as 48 hours.)
When you need mold and water removal in your Hackensack home, you might worry about all the items that need cleaning afterward. Water quickly seeps into personal belongings, and mold can grow on many surfaces. Luckily, SERVPRO is on hand to help.
What is ultrasonic cleaning?
Ultrasonic cleaning uses bubbles to clean. The unit contains a basin filled with an ultrasonic cleaning solution. We place the items inside, and the machine creates ultrasonic frequencies to agitate the solution and make tiny bubbles. The bubbles burst against the surface of any items placed in the tank, pushing away dirt, grime, or in this case, mold.
We usually place items in the ultrasonic unit for five minutes, up to twenty, depending on how soiled they are.
Why does SERVPRO use it?
Ultrasonic cleaning has many advantages:
- Gets into hard to reach nooks and crannies
- Gentle enough to leave items undamaged
- Only requires one technician to operate the machine
- A fast and efficient cleaning process
What can we use ultrasonic cleaning on?
You would be surprised at the number of things we can clean with the ultrasonic unit:
- Window blinds – from Venetian to plastic, and including fabric blinds and drapes
- Keepsakes – many toys, stuffed toys, and knick-knacks are suitable for ultrasonic cleaning
- Dishware, cutlery, and kitchen utensils
- Rugs and scatter cushions
We have portable units that fit on the countertop, and some of our facilities include large units that are big enough for automotive parts!
We cannot use the machine on items that are susceptible to water damage, but ultrasonic cleaning is an excellent choice for most other things.
For help ridding your home of mold and excess water, call SERVPRO of Hackensack / Little Ferry at (201) 742-5920.