plumbing problems

The most common plumbing problems and best ways to avoid them

There’s an old adage that the only guarantees in life are death and taxes. When it comes to homeownership, it might be said that the only certainties are mortgage payments and plumbing problems. Every homeowner eventually is going to have to deal with a leaking pipe, a clogged drain, an out-of-commission water heater, or some other plumbing issue. However, this doesn’t mean these problems are always inevitable. In this article, we’ll outline some of the most common plumbing trouble areas and how proactive homeowners can take steps to avoid them and, in the event they still occur, limit the damage they do to their home.

Clogged Drains

At one point or another, every homeowner has had to clear a clogged shower drain, toilet, or sink. It’s arguably the most common plumbing problem. Yet, not all clogs are the same. While some are relatively easy to clear with the help of a plunger or a metal hanger, others are cut from a tougher cloth. Deep drain clogs may require the tools of a professional plumber to clear.

The worst-case scenario is a sewer line clog. All the wastewater in your home exits through the sewer line to the municipal sewer. If this line clogs, it means that this waste can no longer leave the home system, and will start to back up into your home if more water is sent down the drain. This is a disastrous event that can result in thousands of dollars in damages.

How to avoid these problems:

  • If you’re noticing your drains start to clear more slowly, have a local plumber out for a sewer line camera inspection. Using a specialized camera attached to a snake tool, this allows you and the plumber to see into the line to identify any clogs, cracks, or sewer line issues.
  • To avoid sewer line clogs, practice drain-safe disposal in the kitchen and bathroom. Pour hot grease and leftover cooking oil into old jars and dispose of them in the trash after they’ve completely cooled. Never put eggshells, uncooked pasta and rice, or flour down the drain. In the bathroom, avoid flushing hygiene products or so-called “flushable” wipes.
  • Some sewer line clogs are caused by tree roots growing around, and then into, the line. Remove all trees, bushes, and other plants that are within 10 feet of the buried line.

Water Leaks

There are many great things about living here in Florida. One of them is that our homes don’t have to deal with the prospect of frozen pipes, like so many homes in the Northeast and Midwest do. Yet, water leaks can still happen as pipes age and deteriorate or are damaged in some other way.

Here in Florida, we’re known for having some of the hardest water in the United States. In fact, Tampa and Orlando are two of the worst cities in the nation for residential water hardness. All that extra mineral content running through the pipes of your home eventually can lead to scaling: a mineral buildup on the inside of the pipe. Scaling causes a variety of problems, including raising the water pressure on the rest of your home’s plumbing. As this pressure ratchets up, your pipes may not be able to take the strain and end up bursting.

Any water leak—whether it’s from a broken pipe, a leaking roof, or some other source—is bad news for your home. Water damage can ruin floors, undermine your home’s structure, destroy drywall, and encourage rapid mold growth. Anywhere there’s moisture and heat, mold can grab a foothold. If you have a water leak, you don’t just need a plumber. You’ll also need to bring in a professional restoration expert to assess the degree of water damage and mold growth and figure out the best way to return your home to normal.

How to avoid these problems:

  • Install a whole-home water softener to eliminate hard water scaling as a threat to your pipes and appliances.
  • Replace your home’s pipes when they show signs of deterioration.
  • At the first sign of a water leak, take immediate action. Call in a plumber and restoration specialist.

Hot Water Issues

As anyone who has ever had to take a cold shower on a cold winter morning can attest, hot water issues are a major nuisance. Besides ruining your morning routine and getting your day off to a very bad start, no hot water also means you’ll be unable to run laundry, do dishes, or properly wash your hands.

While water heaters are generally dependable, they can run into several issues as they age or go an extended period of time without maintenance and upkeep. Let’s address the most obvious issues first: if your home’s electricity is out, or your gas water heater’s pilot light has been extinguished, the unit is not only going to be able to keep its current hot water supply at the desired temperature for very long. Have you been draining and flushing your water heater annually? If not, the problem could be related to the buildup of sediment on the bottom of the tank: this can reduce capacity, lower your energy-efficiency, or just cause the system to stop working altogether.

How to avoid these problems:

  • Every year, drain and flush out the water heater to remove built-up sediment and corrosion.
  • Midway through the life of the unit, replace the sacrificial anode rod so that the tank walls continue to be protected from corrosion.
  • If you notice any leaks, cracks, or water pooling under the tank, call a professional plumber right away.

Act fast and call in a professional restoration company

No plumbing problem is ever going to solve itself, and procrastination often just ends up making things much worse—and expensive—for you and your home. By taking quick action, however, you can often limit the scope of the damage.

How Does Moisture Affect Wood?

How Does Moisture Affect Wood?

Everyone who works with wood needs to understand how wood interacts with moisture in the environment. Whether you’re a woodworker making cabinets, a wood flooring professional installing hardwood floors, or if you use wood in construction, wood moisture content (MC) should be always on your mind.

Wood is hygroscopic. It gains or loses water moisture as the relative humidity (RH) of the surrounding air changes.

These varying humidity levels of the surrounding air cause wood to not only gain or lose water moisture but to expand or shrink as well. As the humidity increases, the MC increases, causing the wood to expand. As the humidity decreases, the MC decreases, causing the wood to shrink. When the wood neither gains nor loses moisture, we say that the wood has reached its equilibrium moisture content (EMC).

According to Dr. Eugene Wengert, professor and specialist in wood processing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Forestry, wood should be dried to a water MC that’s within two percentage points of the EMC where the wood is going to be used.

Before we explain what this means, let’s make sure we have our definitions down.

  • MC = the wood’s moisture content
  • The EMC (equilibrium moisture content) of the location where the wood is at the moment or the location of where the wood is going to be used = the MC that the wood will eventually attain if it’s placed in that location.
  • Humidity of the in-use
    EMC of the in-use location Corresponding MC the wood will attain at this location
    19-25% 5% 5%
    26-32% 6% 6%
    33-39% 7% 7%
    40-46% 8% 8%
    47-52% 9% 9%

    So, using this chart, we know that in an area of the country where the RH inside a home or office is anywhere from 26-32%, both the EMC of the in-use location and the wood moisture content kept in that location will be 6%.

    This means that wood intended for interior use in this location should not only be dried to around 6% but should be kept at this moisture content both before and during the manufacturing process.

    So, the wood must always be allowed to acclimate or come into balance with the RH of the end-use location. Failure to do this will result in warping, cracking, and other problems after the construction of the wood product.

Dry out Walls After Water Damage

How Do I Dry out Walls After Water Damage?

After an event that causes water damage in your home, not only would the floors be affected, but often the walls are as well. Thus, it’s essential to know how to dry wet walls—or call a restoration company immediately. Quick-drying reduces the risk of structural damage and prevents mold from growing.

Understanding how water saturates drywall 

Before you learn how to dry a wall after water damage, here’s a look into how water saturates drywall. Water that enters a room from ground level will cover the floor and floor covering. It will then begin to “wick” up the wall because of capillary action in porous materials. The extent of this movement depends on the wall’s construction, the amount of water, and the water’s height on the wall material.

Drywall is an absorbent material that contains gypsum and a cardboard-like paper on both sides. Drywall can wick water up to 30 inches! The water will be present on both sides of the wall. Often, however, it’s higher on the inside due to restricted evaporation on that side of the drywall. While water damage is sometimes visible, at other times, the wall does not show signs of this moisture.

How to dry a wall after water damage

To begin with, decide whether to handle the problem yourself or call a professional company. We recommend the latter if you don’t know how to dry wet walls or the damage is extensive. Sometimes, the water damage is obvious, but most times, it’s hidden, and those not trained in water damage restoration may miss it.

If you want to DIY, here’s how to dry wet walls out: 

If a burst pipe led to the water intrusion, turn off the water source. Hire a plumber to fix the broken pipe before any drying can take place.

Accelerate drying by opening windows and doors. Use fans to move air around the damp walls. Dehumidifiers can help remove moisture from the air, which indirectly removes it from the walls, too.

To speed up evaporation, remove molding and baseboards to prevent moisture from entering behind them. Store the molding in a dry, safe place to avoid damaging it. Also, remove objects hanging on the wall, such as paintings and portraits.

Remove wallpaper if you have it. This takes patience, but it’s important as the wallpaper forms a “seal” that holds moisture in the wall. Wallpaper removal solutions, which dissolve the adhesive, are available at your hardware store. You will also need 3”-6” broad knives to scrape the wallpaper once released.

Note that fully drying out walls takes time, so don’t rush the refinishing until the walls are dry. A moisture meter can help you be sure. Once completely dry, you can reverse the process and refinish your room. Inspect the removed items for any moisture or mold growth before reinstalling.

Drying wet walls quickly and correctly is crucial. If you can’t dry your walls immediately, don’t let the problem get worse by waiting. Call a water damage remediation specialist and leverage their expertise, experience, and equipment.

Damp Walls After Water Damage

How To Damp Walls After Water Damage

First, technicians determine the extent of the water using a range of water damage restoration tools. One choice is a non-invasive moisture meter. This meter uses radio waves to test for water without putting holes in the wall.

Another professional instrument is an infrared imaging (IR) camera. Since the evaporation from wet walls makes them cooler than dry walls, the IR camera can find water in walls. It does so with no holes or other invasions of the wall material.

Once the professionals identify wet walls, they use specialized drying equipment to dry them.

If the walls aren’t insulated: 

In this case, the restoration professional can dry wet walls out without holes or removing the baseboard. The technicians place high capacity air movers along the wall every 10 to 14 feet. These air movers remove moisture from the wall’s surface, evaporating it quickly. As the moisture evaporates, more moisture goes to the surface where it evaporates.

The restoration expert will also install a low grain refrigerant dehumidifier in the damp wall. Depending on the moisture levels, one or more will be needed. This advanced drying equipment reduces the humidity levels to help with drying and prevent mold growth.

When proper, the restoration professional will install an inner-wall drying system by putting small holes above the sill plate and forcing air into the wall cavity. Studies have shown that this solution is the best and fastest way to dry walls with water damage.

Additionally, if there‘s a moisture barrier on the outside or inside the wall, the drying plan changes. Moisture barriers are coatings or materials that inhibit the movement of moisture from the wall material.

Most latex paints are permeable and don’t make up a barrier. But, glossy paints may create a barrier and enamel paint or vinyl wall coverings create a complete barrier. Technicians will need to perforate or remove them to allow moisture to escape and the walls to dry. If there’s plastic or foil on the inside of the wall, then technicians will need to remove the wall. That’s because drying will not occur properly and mold will develop in such situations.

If the walls are insulated:

If there is fiberglass insulation with paper backing, then an inner-wall drying system can be used, as described above. But, if the insulation is foil-backed fiberglass, blown-in cellulose, or a Styrofoam material, then it can’t be dried successfully.

In those cases, removing the damaged portion of the wall along with the insulation is necessary to allow rapid drying and to prevent mold growth.

Monitoring the drying system 

Regardless of the procedures used by the restoration professional, homeowners should know that the equipment must operate, without stopping, throughout the drying process.

Finally, restoration professionals will monitor the drying system at least once a day. That ensures the equipment is operating correctly during the drying process. Monitoring includes moisture measurements to determine when the materials will successfully dry. Material dryness is measured against similar unaffected contents in that structure. When dryness levels are equal, the drying is finished, and the equipment removed.

To recap, this is how to dry out damp walls

  1. After addressing the water source, remove paintings and other objects from the wall.
  2. Follow up by removing moldings, baseboards, and wallpaper.
  3. Open windows and doors to help speed up the drying process.
  4. Use fans to move air around the damp walls. Also use dehumidifiers, which can help remove moisture from the air and walls.
  5. Professionals use tools like moisture meters, infrared imaging devices, dehumidifiers, and heavy-duty fans. That ensures the walls are truly dry before further repair, painting or refinishing.
Water-stained Ceilings

Water-stained Ceilings? You Must Read This Article.

Water-stained ceilings are unsightly, but often enough, minor damage can be repaired so your ceiling looks good as new. Other times, the damage has gone too far and replacement is the only option. Knowing how to decide will save you time and money.

Replace or Repair?

In general, it’s best to repair a water-stained ceiling when possible. Not only is replacing a section of ceiling messy and time-consuming, but it’s also difficult to match the new section with the rest.

Older lath and plaster ceilings stand up to water damage reasonably well and even a crack up to 1/4 inch can be repaired. Drywall (plasterboard) ceilings are more susceptible to damage because drywall, being made part of the paper, is highly absorbent and breaks down quickly when wet. These ceilings can be repaired only if the damage is superficial, such as light stains or bubbled paint.

If your plaster or drywall ceiling is crumbling, swollen or bulging even after drying or shows signs of mold growth, the material should be replaced by a professional.

Taking Care of Minor Damage

In a plaster ceiling, you can seal a small crack with a strip of fiberglass mesh tape, then plaster over the tape. Repairing a larger crack is trickier, but doable with the aid of plaster buttons (washers) and drywall screws.

Water damage of less than around 4 inches across is usually safe to repair yourself. For anything larger, consult a professional.

To repair damage in plaster, first let the ceiling dry completely, scrape off damaged material with a putty knife, then clean the area with a damp cloth. Next, apply one to three coats of stain-sealing primer or primer-sealer designed for your ceiling material. This prevents the stain from bleeding through better than an ordinary primer.

When the primer is dry, apply a setting-type joint compound to repair a plaster ceiling. For drywall, apply ceiling paint. This paint is formulated to adhere to ceilings and hide imperfections more effectively than wall paint.

For more tips on dealing with water-stained ceilings and other water damage, contact us at 866.334.9111

Can Drywall be Sealed and Painted

Can Drywall be Sealed and Painted After Water Damage?

When indoor water damage strikes, drywall is often among the most conspicuous casualties. A ruptured pipe inside a wall cavity, a roof leak dripping down through the ceiling during heavy rain, water flooding a room and rising to meet the bottom of the walls—any of these scenarios can affect the highly absorbent combination of gypsum core and thin cardboard backing that composes a sheet of drywall. Is it a lost cause?

Maybe, Maybe Not

If wet drywall loses structural stability and sags or becomes deformed —or crumbles or collapses—it’s not a candidate for anything other than replacement. But what about drywall that remains intact, yet displays the discolored blotch that’s often left behind when wet drywall dries? Can you successfully seal and paint that ugly stain out of your life?

Here are some guidelines for painting stained, water-damaged drywall.

Rule 1: You can’t paint drywall until it’s completely dry. Ideally, this should be verified with the use of a moisture meter to be certain. To adequately dry soaked drywall and prevent mold growth, professional water damage remediation experts utilize equipment such as an industrial dehumidifier running inside the sealed room as well as high-volume fans that continuously move air to accelerate the drying process. Only when the moisture meter reading drops below 1% —usually not before at least three days of intensive drying following the initial contact with water—should painting intact drywall be considered.
Once it is tested and confirmed dry, seal the drywall by painting the affected area with a thin application of an oil-based or alcohol-based primer. Allow the first coat to dry completely, then apply a second coat of primer.
After the primer has fully dried, you can apply the first coat of latex or whatever another type of paint was originally used. It may be difficult to match the existing color when painting only a small stained area affected by water, so you may have to paint the entire wall or ceiling for consistency’s sake. After the first coat dries thoroughly, apply a finish coat.

How Do you Repair Water Damaged Plaster Ceiling?

How Do you Repair Water Damaged Plaster Ceiling?

It’s no surprise that water damage to drywall is common.  Lightweight, durable, non-combustible and quickly installed, drywall, also known as gypsum board, is the most prevalent building material in American homes today. However, drywall and water don’t always get along. While the material readily withstands random splashes and drips, drywall is often one of the first casualties of serious water damage.

A whopping 20 billion square feet of drywall is installed in North America each year— most for construction of residential walls and ceilings. Here are eight facts from the Gypsum Association regarding drywall water damage:

  • The first priority must be identifying the source of water and eliminating it. In addition to obvious scenarios such as flooding, damage may occur from hidden sources such as leaky plumbing pipes routed through wall cavities and above ceilings—both areas typically enclosed by drywall.
  • To reduce the likelihood of mold growth occurring in wet drywall, effective drying techniques must be initiated within 24 to 48 hours following the water damage incident.
  • Proper ventilation, continuous indoor dehumidification and adequate air circulation with fans are essential elements in drying out wet drywall.
  • Drywall is very absorbent. If the source of water damage is toxic such as raw sewage, the affected drywall must be replaced to ensure toxins are fully removed from the indoor environment.
  • Physical damage due to water exposure is also an indicator of replacement. Drywall that has lost structural integrity and is bulging or sagging cannot be restored and must be replaced.
  • Other signs of deterioration due to drywall water damage include rust on fasteners used to secure drywall as well as delamination of the outer layers of paper from the internal gypsum material.
  • Moisture meter readings must be taken to verify that the internal gypsum material is fully dried. If meter readings are not consistent, laboratory testing of samples is recommended to ensure that the drying process is complete.
  • Deciding to replace drywall may depend on some or all of the above factors.  However, if doubt still remains about whether or not to replace wet drywall, the Gypsum Association recommends opting for replacement.

So There is Moisture in Your Walls…

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

Nothing good comes from the presence of moisture inside wall cavities — the number of damaging consequences that can happen to a home is extensive:

  • Toxic mold growth
  • Rotting wood structure
  • Stained swollen drywall
  • Peeling paint or wallpaper
  • Ruined insulation
  • Insect infestation
  • Continuous odors

Moisture inside a wall is typically a result of some fault or failure in the construction or maintenance of the house. It also will never get better on its own. Instead, things will get progressively worse. Here are the reasons why and how wetness can seep into areas where it doesn’t belong.

  • Condensation. Gaps and cracks in exterior walls may allow cold outdoor air to seep into the warmer interior wall space. This cold air will naturally form condensation on surfaces inside the wall cavity, creating a perpetually moist environment trapped inside the wall. A careful review is required to locate and seal external cracks and gaps that allow outdoor air to infiltrate exterior walls.
  • Plumbing leaks. Water supply lines routed through wall cavities may have tiny pinholes due to deterioration and/or seepage at joints. These may leak continuously or intermittently, soaking insulation inside walls, saturating wood structure and drywall. Uninsulated copper cold water pipes may also “sweat” condensation in amounts sufficient to cause damage inside walls, particularly if structural cracks and gaps allow humid outdoor air to infiltrate the wall cavity.
  • Penetrating rainwater. Exterior siding resists showers and splashes, not water flowing continuously down the wall. Clogged gutters overflowing during rain frequently cascade water down exterior walls. Water penetrating siding may also infiltrate the wall void, triggering internal moisture damage.

Drying Out

If external signs aren’t obvious, eliminating suspected moisture inside walls requires determining its exact location. Moisture meters that utilize needle probes can identify the presence of moisture inside wall cavities without drilling large holes. Once moisture is pinpointed, the wall can be opened for drying, treating mold contamination, repairing any plumbing leaks and removing saturated insulation, if present. Rotted wood can also be replaced.

Using qualified professional services to identify the cause and make the repairs will be safer and more cost-effective in the long run.

mold remediation protocol

What is a Mold Remediation Protocol?

A Mold Remediation Protocol is typically written when items or areas have been identified containing an unacceptable amount or type of mold and a client requires an industry-recognized method of removal or cleaning instructions.

Before a Mold Remediation Protocol is written, a mold assessment is conducted by a qualified Mold Assessor (some States have licensure requirements). The information that is gathered, which includes but not limited to; a site visit, client interviews, room drawings, temperature & Relative Humidity readings, cause & origin, and sampling (where applicable), are used in the report generation.

Though no federal standards have been set for mold remediation, industry guidance and practices have been established. Those are:

  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency (2001). Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings (EPA Publication No. 402-K-01-001). Washington DC: US EPA
  • American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (1999). Bioaerosols: Assessment and Control. ISBN: 882417-29-1 Cincinnati OH: ACGIH
  • New York City Department of Health (2000) Guidelines on Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments. New York New York: New York City Department of Health
  • Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (2003, 2004, 2008). Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Mold Remediation. Vancouver, WA: IICRC S520
  • American Industrial Hygiene Association (2008). Recognition, Evaluation, and Control of Indoor Mold. Fairfax, VA: AIHA
  • American Industrial Hygiene Association (2005). Field Guide for the Determination of Biological Contaminants in Environmental Samples. Fairfax, VA: AIHA
  • American Council for Accredited Certification. CIE, CMI, CMR. Glendale, AZ: ACAC.

Who should have a Mold Remediation Protocol Written?

Any entity that is going to have work performed where mold has been identified either visually or by a qualified Mold Assessor.

What is performed with a Mold Remediation Protocol?

Interview – Review, and discussion with an authorized representative of the Property of current conditions which has led to the claim.

Site Assessment – A physical site assessment of the Property in the area(s) of concern to visually assess the damage(s), retrieve temperature and RH readings, take air and direct samples for mold (if applicable), and gather room dimension to create room/floor drawings to identify the location(s) of concern.

  • Air Sampling – The purpose of non-viable spore trap air sampling is to provide an approximation of the airborne microbial (fungal) spore concentrations. A minimum of one control sample is typically taken outside the most commonly used entrance into the building, then one or more air samples are collected in the areas of concern within the building. Elevated airborne spore concentrations may indicate an indoor microbial reservoir(s), or that cleaning of personal effects or the HVAC system(s), is a necessary component of a microbial remediation plan.
  • Direct sampling – The purpose of direct sampling is to identify the type and concentration of microbial spores present on affected materials identified with suspect visible microbial growth. The sampling results are also used for reference for source contamination when air samples are taken.

Non-Scope Items – include visual identification and records review for:

  • Asbestos-Containing Building Materials (ACM)
  • Lead-Based Paint
  • Fire Reduction Chemicals

Qualifications: No federal guidelines exist at this time. However, some states have placed requirements for licensed Mold Assessors and Mold Remediators. For those States that do not have specific requirements, it is recommended that you use a person who:

  • Has taken a minimum of 24 hours of mold assessment and remediation courses,
  • Follows one or more of the recognized industry guidelines and practices, and
  • Acquires, at a minimum, 8 Continuing Educational Units (CEUs) bi-annually.

A person not meeting one or more of those qualifications may assist in the conduct of a Mold Remediation Protocol if the individual is under the direct supervision or responsible charge of a person meeting the minimum qualifications.