Spring Cleaning

hand in orange glove cleaning window with green rag

Winter has finally left and it is starting to get warm. Now is the time for spring cleaning. Unfortunately once we start getting into all the cracks and crevasses in our home we can spot damage the winter months brought about that we didn’t notice.

Leaks and damage

The elements mixed with an aging house can wear down even the sturdiest of homes, small cracks can turn into leaks which can turn into mold. Water damage is one of the most common types of damage to a home.

Insurance claims

Most insurance policies don’t cover flood damage, but many policies allow claims for water damage caused by rain, snow, or ice or accidental leaking or discharge from plumbing, heating, air conditioning, or a refrigeration system. If you notice water damage caused by any of these things, check with your insurer, you may be covered! Make sure you call your agent as soon as you discover the damage as many policies have time limits on how late you can file a claim. To make a claim, you need to contact your insurance provider and speak with an adjuster. Be prepared to provide:

Photos of the damage. If you are claiming damage to contents and have that coverage, provide photo evidence of that, too. The description should include the make/model, size, material, and replacement cost.

 

  • A written estimate, from a contractor, for the repairs needed. Estimates should include a description of the work and a breakdown of the costs by materials and labor. The replacement materials should be those of the same kind and quality of those being repaired.

 

  • Be sure to check your homeowner’s insurance to see if it will cover mold. If you find evidence of mold, your insurer will want to be contacted immediately and most likely will assign an adjuster to inspect the site. Be careful, a mold claim might affect your ability to get insurance later.

 

Once you notice a leak the first thing you need to do is to fix it! Seal up the crack or call the plumber to fix the pipe or a handy man to fix that leaky appliance.

The second thing you should do, AS SOON AS YOU FIX YOUR LEAK is to call an environmental services company like Branch Services to dry out the area. The faster you catch water damage the less likely you will deal with a mold problem in the future. Don’t be fooled if something feels dry to the touch doesn’t mean moisture isn’t lurking underneath the surface.

Mold concerns

Mold will start to grow in the first 24 to 48 hours after a leak, under ideal conditions. Carpets get moldy very quickly. Older carpets that have dirt as a food source start smelling moldy after being wet just a short time. It may be a week or two before it grows to the extent that it is visible to the naked eye as spots on drywall or carpet pads.

Mold spores need three things to grow and thrive:

  1. Food (cotton, leather, drywall, wood, and paper products, among other things)
  2. Water (good circulation throughout the home is important to eliminate dampness or potential moisture, especially in attics, basements, crawl spaces, and laundry rooms)
  3. Optimal temperatures

The single best method for eliminating these spores in your home is through the use of a certified mold remediation professional.

Avoid Basement Flooding This Spring

basementflood

It seems old man winter was not about to leave without a fight. Now, as spring approaches and the snow melts, basements are at risk for flooding.

Flooded basements can be avoided if proper attention is paid.

  • Fix leaky or blocked pipes and spigots. Cracked pipes and spigots can cause a leak that can cause water to backup into your basement. Clogged pipes can also pose a risk for flood damage. Clear blockages and fix leaks as soon as you spot them.

 

  • Invest in a sump pump. Even if you live in a home in an area with very little chance of floods, it’s still important to have the protection of a sump pump. You don’t want the time you start considering purchasing one installed to be after your basement has flooded.

 

 

  • Redirect or extend your downspouts. If your downspouts are directing water toward your home, they aren’t doing their job. Reposition them so the bottom faces away from your foundation. Extenders are a good way to put more distance from the water and your house.

 

  • Make sure your land slopes down and away from your home. If you find that water pools around your house during a storm, you might need to regrade your yard. If your yard cannot be properly regraded, a French drain may work just as well.

 

  • Install basement window covers. These transparent covers can be attached to your foundation and still permit light to enter your basement.

 

 

  • Check for cracks. Cracks in the foundation can lead to infiltration flooding of your basement through its walls. So seal any small cracks with heavy-duty caulk; for large cracks, call a foundation repair company.

 

  • Keep your gutters clean. Make sure that your gutter system is in good working order. Clogged or damaged gutters can cause rainwater or snowmelt to spill over your gutters and onto the ground near your basement.

 

Even if you take all the necessary precautions, a basement flood can still happen. If you are experiencing flooding in your home or basement call Branch Services (631) 467-6600

Preventing Space Heater Fires

spaceheaterfire

During the winter heaters help us escape from the cold, home heating fires are the second leading cause of house fires behind only kitchen fires.  Space heaters rank as the most deadly of home heating devices and while only 32 percent of home heating fires involve space heaters, they are involved in 79 percent of home heating fire deaths, according to the new report Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment released today by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

The leading factor contributing to space heater fires in general was heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding. Failure to properly clean and maintain space heaters can pose a fire risk as well.

 

NFPA offers the following safety tips.

 

Heating

  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Never leave children and pets unattended around afireplace, fire pit, or other space heater is being used. Use a sturdy, metal screen to prevent contact burns, which are even more common than flame burns.
  • All heaters need space. Keep things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
  • Use heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Never use your oven for heating.
  • Make sure all fuel-burning vented equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. CO is created when fuels burn incompletely. CO poisoning can cause illness and even death. Make sure the venting for exhaust is kept clear and unobstructed. This includes removal of snow and ice around the outlet to the outside.
  • Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms.
  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional.

Portable electric space heaters

  • Turn heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.
  • Use and purchase portable space heaters with an automatic shut off so if they’re tipped over they will shut off.
  • Place space heater on solid, flat surface.
  • Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord.
  • Replace if cords, plugs or any equipment seems to be worn, frayed or broken.

Fuel burning space heaters

  • Always use the proper fuel as specified by the manufacturer.
  • Allow the appliance to cool and refuel outside or in a well-ventilated area when refueling.
  • When in use, open a window to ensure proper ventilation.
  • If the pilot light of your gas heater goes out, allow 5 minutes or more for the gas to go away before trying again, do not allow gas to accumulate, and light the match before you turn on the gas to the pilot to avoid risk of flashback.
  • If you smell gas in your gas heater, do not attempt to light the appliance. Turn off all the controls and open doors and window. Call a gas service person.

Wood burning stoves

  • Chimneys and vents need to be cleaned and inspected at least once a year.
  • Wood stoves should bear the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • In wood stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets.
  • Start the fire with newspaper or kindling, never with a flammable liquid, such as lighter fluid, kerosene or gasoline.
  • Keep the doors of your wood stove closed unless loading or stoking the live fire.
  • Allow ashes to cool before disposing. Dispose of ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from the home and any other nearby buildings. Douse and saturate with water.

Ice Dams

ice-dam-prevention-and-removal-tips

When the cold weather hits our homes often take the brunt of the damage. From freezing pipes to winter storm damage, there are lots of things a homeowner needs to worry about when it comes to preventing damage in the winter and ice dams are one of them.

Ice dams happen after a heavy snow. The warm air from the top of the house heats the outside roof surface to the point that snow melts. When roof snow is melted by a warm attic space, it runs down and freezes again when it gets past the exterior wall and hits a cold unheated roof edge or gutter. The ice dam grows as the process repeats itself and the ice dam becomes larger.

Ice dams can create damage to not only your roof and gutters, they can cause interior damage as well. Water from the melting snow and ice can find their way under shingles and behind exterior walls. In some cases, if the right temperature and humidity exist, mold may begin to grow in the attic or top floor of your house. Often paint will peel or blister weeks or months after the ice dam had melted as moisture from the leak in the wall or ceiling cavities tries to leave and pushes outward.

 

How do you battle an ice damming situation?

  • Use A Roof Rake

This took allows you to remove at least the first 4 feet of snow from the roofs edge to help prevent damage

 

  • Apply calcium chloride or an ice melt to the ice dam

Be careful if you choose this method as you will most likely need to utilize a ladder which is not recommended in cold and icy conditions.

 

  • Professional Ice Dam Removal

There are professional companies available that are insured and will remove your ice dam using professional equipment such as high pressure steam. This approach may cost a few hundred dollars but the prevention of damage to your home may be significant.

If you are experiencing water damage due to an ice damming situation, give us a call. We offer expert services in water damage remediation and provide free estimates. Feel free to learn more about us and the services we provide by logging onto 631-467-6600

Avoid a Residential House Fire This Christmas

christmasfire

During the holiday season residential house fires are at their peak in both frequency and deadliness. We tend to do a lot of cooking and literally drag in a bunch of kindling and have it strewn festively around our homes alongside hot strings of lights and open flames.  With all the mirth and merriment happening we can lose focus on safety, a foresight that could lead to disaster.

 

  • In the Kitchen

The kitchen is where most house fires start. With all of the hullabaloo of the holidays it is easy to get distracted. Make sure you keep your cooking area free of debris like printed recipes and dishcloths. Don’t leave unattended pots and pans on a burning stove and keep a fire extinguisher handy in case of emergency.

If you’re planning to deep-fry your holiday turkey, do it outside, on a flat, level surface at least 10 feet from the house.

 

  • Outdoor Lights

If you’re the Clark Griswold type when it comes to exterior illumination you should take care to check a few things before flipping the on switch. Make sure you only use lighted strands that are meant for outdoor use. Double check old strands to make sure there are no frayed or exposed wires and busted bulbs. Don’t plug too many strands together and don’t stuff to many strands into one outlet.

 

  • A Roaring Fire

Candles are beautiful during the darkest time of the year but make sure to maintain about a foot of space between the candle and anything that can burn. Set candles on sturdy bases or cover with hurricane globes. Never leave flames unattended. Before bed, walk through each room to make sure candles are blown out. For a safer way to get the romantic effect of candles use LED candle lights.

During these cold months there is nothing better than curling up in front of a roaring fire. Don’t light your fire place without having it cleaned first. Screen the fireplace to prevent embers from igniting your carpet or drapes. Only use seasoned wood.

 

  • Oh Christmas Tree

A Christmas tree fire can destroy a room in less than a minute. If you are going to use a real tree make sure it is fresh. Do not buy it too early or you risk drying it out. Make sure to keep your tree away from heat sources like fireplaces and space heaters. Turn off the lights on your tree during the day and before you go to bed to make sure they don’t heat up too much. LED lights are less likely to heat up.

 

Even if you take all of these precautions it is still possible for a fire to rip through your home. If the worst happens call Branch Services to bring your house back to its original glory.

 

Preventing Burst Pipes

burst pipe

The damages, expenses and the messes that can be caused from a burst pipe are nothing that anyone wants to deal with.  Burst pipes occur when water coming in to the house from outside causes your pipes to contract and this contraction often causes leaks from areas of the pipe that had weakened over time.

While you can’t control the temperature, you can keep an eye on your plumbing system as the temperatures change and check to see if you have any leaks. Luckily there are things you can do to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting.

  1. Keep the Water Running

Water moving through the system should prevent the line from freezing. If it is extremely cold outside, keep one or two faucets running slowly at all times.

  1. Get Heat to the Drafty Parts of your House.

Often times, the pipes that freeze are located near an outside wall or a window, so be sure to direct warm air to any colder areas of your home.

  1. Keep Your Kitchen Cabinets Open

If your kitchen sink is on an outside wall (it usually is), be sure to leave cabinet doors open to allow warm air into the cabinet. Your kitchen faucet is usually a good faucet to leave on during extremely cold weather.

  1. Disconnect your Hoses

If you leave your hoses connected, water is not able to drain out of your hose bib and will likely freeze and break the device.

  1. Keep the Cold Air Out

Seal leaks that allow cold air into your home where pipes are located. Look for air leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents, and pipes. Use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out. With severe cold, even a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze.

  1. Keep Your House Warm

Prevent temperatures from dropping below 32 degrees in any areas of your home where water lines are located.

Weathering the Storm: Stay Safe During a Hurricane

hurricane1

As another hurricane barrels up the coastline it is important to remember hurricane safety.

If a hurricane watch or warning is issued it generally means that the storm will hit within thirty-six hours. During a watch or a warning you should take precautions to secure property, stock up on supplies and go over your emergency evacuation plans. Here are some steps and precautions you should take before any major storm.

 

Before the Storm

  • Have a disaster plan in place. Have a place your family can go in case you need to evacuate.
  • Don’t forget your pets! Before a storm threatens, contact your veterinarian or local humane society for information on preparing your pets for an emergency. Look up shelters that accept pets. Make sure you have paper work and pet carriers all ready to go.
  • Board or tape up your windows.
  • Bring in outdoor objects that could blow away.
  • Know where all the evacuation routes are.
  • Prepare a disaster supplies kit for your home and car. Have enough food and water for at least 3 days. Include a first aid kit, canned food and a can opener, bottled water, battery-operated radio, flashlight, protective clothing and written instructions on how to turn off electricity, gas, and water.
  • Have a radio handy with plenty of batteries, so you can listen to storm advisories when the power goes out. Don’t rely on cell phone service!
  • Have some cash handy. Following a hurricane, banks and ATMs may be temporarily closed.
  • Make sure your car is filled with gas.

 

During the Storm

  • Always stay indoors during a hurricane, because strong winds will blow things around.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • Have some board games and other activities that don’t require electricity on hand to keep occupied during the storm.
  • Leave mobile homes and to go to a shelter.
  • If your home isn’t on higher ground, go to a shelter.
  • If emergency managers say to evacuate, then do so immediately.

 

After the Storm.

 

  • Stay indoors until it is safe to come out.
  • Check for injured or trapped people, without putting yourself in danger.
  • Watch out for flooding which can happen after a hurricane.
  • Do not attempt to drive in flooding water.
  • Stay away from standing water. It may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  • Don’t drink tap water until officials say its safe to do so.
  • If there is damage to your home, contact your insurance company.

Branch is now officially a Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise

Branch is proud to announce that we have met the qualifications for The Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) Certification Program. The program’s goal strengthen diversity in the state.

Branch Services is committed to providing opportunities to all Long Islanders who are committed to the fire, flood and mold restoration business. We are proud of our hardworking staff and owners who have decades of experience behind them and look forward to continuing to serve the community for years to come.

branchmwbecert

Hurricane Insurance and other Hurricane Safety Tips

hurricane

We are in the middle of Hurricane season. While it doesn’t happen too often, New York sometimes gets hit with a major storm that causes serious destruction. Because super storms are so rare, we are often caught unprepared for such disasters like Irene or Sandy. So how does one prepare for a hurricane?

These 6 tips can help you plan ahead so you never have to face a storm unprepared.

  1. Check your insurance coverage

Flood insurance mandates have changed since Sandy.  Make sure your policy reflects the current state of your home. Consider adding flood insurance and coverage for additional living expenses in case your home is uninhabitable after a storm.

  1. Do a home inventory

A home inventory can save you time and make filing a claim easier, ensuring you don’t forget anything. Document the contents of your home with a video camera or other home inventory tool. Keep receipts for valuable items and consider separate coverage for these things.

  1. Protect Your Property :
  • Install hurricane shutters or keep ¾ inch outdoor plywood boards for each window. If using boards, be sure to install anchors and pre-drill holes so you can put them up quickly.
  • Head and foot bolts on doors for extra protection.
  • Hurricane straps or clips to help hold the roof to the walls of your home.
  • A safe room that can withstand high winds and flying debris.
  • Also, be sure to keep up with your landscaping; diseased and damaged tree limbs can become serious hazards in high-speed storm winds.
  1. Create a Disaster Supply Kit
  • A 2-week supply of water and ready-to-eat, non-perishable food for every family member and pet.  (If you evacuate, you’ll want a 3-day supply of the same. )
  • Manual can opener
  • Essential medicines including eyeglasses and contact lenses
  • Personal hygiene items such as toilet paper, toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Change of clothing
  • Paper towels, hand sanitizer, and eating utensils
  • First-aid kit
  • Battery-powered flashlight and radio with extra batteries
  • Blankets, pillows and sleeping bags
  • Mosquito repellant and citronella candles
  • 2 coolers—one for food, one for ice
  • Plastic tarp for roof/window repairs and tools
  • Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members

 

  1. Have an established evacuation plan

Every family should have an evacuation plan and a backup. If you don’t have transportation of your own, make arrangements now with friends or family members and don’t forget about the pets! If you have any family members, friends or neighbors with disabilities ask them about their evacuation plan.You want to make sure the whole family is covered, so identify an out-of-state contact that everyone will call if separated and establish a meeting location at least 50 miles inland.

 

  1. Keep important papers with you
  • Driver’s license or personal ID
  • Social security card
  • Proof of residence (deed, lease or utility bills)
  • Insurance policies (home, auto, flood, wind)
  • Birth and marriage certificates
  • Stocks, bond and other negotiable certificates
  • Wills, deeds, and copies of recent tax returns
  • Personal checkbook and any unpaid bills
  1. Don’t take silly risks like running back into a home that’s been destroyed or refuse to evacuate when you’ve been ordered to, just to salvage material possessions. Things can be replaced, but people cannot.

 

Where to Find a State Licensed Mold Remediation Contractor

mold-inspection

A new law went into affect mandating  that a State Licensed Mold Remediation Contractor on Long Long Island must be properly trained. Branch Services is in compliance with this law and will continue to be the mold remediation contractor you can count on.

Hiring an inexperienced contractor, ill equipped to handle such a job could cost you thousands of dollars and put your family’s health at risk. There are ways to protect yourself, however, by following these simple mold remediation contractor guidelines given by Branch Services of Long Island, New York.

To find out if a contractor is licensed in the state to perform mold testing or mold remediation you can check out this site.

We at Branch Services are prepared for this new law and are licensed as a Mold Remediation Contractor.  Standard Industry Certifications that were accredited in the past do not apply to the current licensing requirements.  We have been in compliance with the new law by January 1, 2016 and will continue to be the mold remediation contractor you can count on.