Leaving your winter home- Tips about how to Summerize' your Florida home
As a restoration company, every year we see homes and condos that have incurred significant mold and/or water damage due to the fact that the home was not properly prepared before the residents returned to their homes Up North'.
We have seen condos covered top to bottom in mold- on walls, ceilings, floors and all furniture and furnishing. We have seen collapsed ceilings with mold stalactites' and stalagmites' or mushrooms growing on ceilings and drywall. We have seen rainbow colored scenes all over kitchens and laundry rooms. Pretty- no? And very expensive to clean up.
What can you do to prepare your home for the 4 to 6 months of hot humid weather in Florida that you plan to be away? What can you do so that you do not return to a home where your valuables have been ruined by water damage or the inside air is poisoned with fungus and bacteria?
Here are several tips to make certain there are no unpleasant surprises when you return to your winter home.
1. Inspect your home plumbing and AC system. Check for any signs of a leak in plumbing, AC system or appliances. If you do not have the knowledge or expertise, it is easy and relatively inexpensive to have your home or condo thoroughly checked by a home inspector or a restoration company. It will save you money. Really!
2.Many plumbing systems are vulnerable because their parts are plastic and will be damaged by the chemicals in Florida water. Common problems we see are: hot water heaters that are damaged; water lines from a refrigerator icemaker that exploded; or a washing machine pipes that broke. If you are home, you can deal with the crisis immediately. But if it occurs while you are away, the damage in the hot humid atmosphere of your home will be extensive by the time you return. Help prevent these problems:
i.Replace all plastic components with stainless steel pipes or components.
ii.Shut off the main valve, the water supply valve, icemaker, washing machine, water heater (at circuit breaker) and water to exterior faucets.
iii.A very helpful website, with excellent photos, to view for help is the family handyman website (http://www.familyhandyman.com/DIY-Projects/How-A-House-Works/Protect-Your-Home/prevent-water-damage-while-you-are-away).
3. Keep your air conditioner on at between 80 and 84. Control of heat and humidity is essential. We see more significant damage due to this one issue than all the other potential problems. Mold thrives in dark, moist and stagnant air so if you want mold to grow leave your AC off (as many do) or keep the thermostat at 85 degrees or higher.
i.Curtains or window coverings should not be shut tight.
ii.Dark equals mold. Some sunlight will help keep the rooms less moist so allow 25 percent to filter through your window treatments.
4.Unplug everything or contact an electrician about installing a full-home surge protector. Power surges, especially from lightning strikes, are a common occurrence in Florida. The surge can enter your home through phone, electrical, cable, or data lines and destroy electronics or shut down a refrigerator.
5.Do not install all of your hurricane protection coverings or windows. They will create a dark, dank space perfect for mold growth and it also raises security questions that could result in potential break-ins.
All of this suggests that it is best to hire an individual or service that would get your home or condo ready and monitor it on a monthly basis. This service could also install all or the remaining window/door protections for hurricane protection. Good, reliable services are not expensive and often cost no more than $50 or less per month depending on the size of your home. Call your restoration company or home inspector for recommendations.
Finally, there are other critical preparation steps that you should review. A good comprehensive check list called, A Handy Checklist For
Those Heading North, can be found at: http://www.reneesresales.com/PDF Forms/A Handy Checklist for Those Heading North.pdf.
Follow these tips and you will help reduce nasty surprises upon your return next year to your winter paradise.
As you begin to learn about the dangers and prevention pertaining to Fire, Water and Mold damage in your home or business, you will better understand what steps to take to protect your family, employees, pets, personal belongings, business records, equipment, building structure, landscaping and surrounding areas. More importantly, in addition to knowing what steps you can take to aide in prevention, many of these same techniques will help you to mitigate risks in case of an emergency related to fire, water or mold damages should they happen to you. As stated earlier in this series, the more you know about the dangers of Fire, Water and Mold, the better prepared you will be when disaster strikes and in addition to mitigating risks, you may one day help save the life of someone you love as well as yourself, because disaster can strike anyone, anywhere at any time and it is up to you to gain the knowledge to protect your family, home and business and know when to call the professionals who can only respond after the emergency strikes.
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Mary O'Hara holds a Masters of Public Health and has numerous certifications in mold remediation, fire restoration, lead remediation, and fire damage restoration. She spent 25 years as a health care executive with leading health care organizations in Minneapolis, Seattle, St Louis, and Tampa. She started her first health care related business in 2005 in Florida and is a senior partner in a Disaster Restoration Business serving Florida. In 2010, Mary added a mold assessor course and certification to assist with scientific inquiry of residential and commercial building problems.
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