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Preventing fires in your home

3/10/2019 (Permalink)

SERVPRO of Ellis County is here to assist your rebuild and restoration needs in the event of a fire. We understand that the best course of action for you is to avoid the fire in the first place. It's appropriate to end this string of fire-related blogs with one that you can act upon now, to make your home a safer place and hopefully avoid any fire damage in the future.

If you have any questions or there is a topic not discussed, your local fire department will also have plenty of resources to use to ensure your home is protected.

To talk about what can be done to prevent fires to your house or residence, it’s, of course, important to get a grasp on what the main causes of fires are. Once we know what might be the source of potential fire, we can then delve into the steps you can take to make these sources safer in your everyday life.

Our experience at SERVPRO of Ellis County definitely echos this source that discusses the common causes of house fires. The ones we run into most often include kitchen/cooking fires, electrical fires, and smoking-related. These are things that we use every day, meaning that many times people become complacent with them. Having a general idea of the common causes of house fires, let’s now take a look at the steps to be taken to avoid them.

Kitchen fires, cooking fires, and grease fires are all frequent culprits of fire damage. There are some basic things you can do to minimize the risks when cooking. First and foremost, never leave your food cooking when unattended. It is tempting to go do something else for 5-10 minutes while you let food cook, but this can have unintended consequences when one stray flame causes a fire that you could have extinguished easily, but how now turned into a full-blown kitchen fire.

Similarly, leaving rags, oven mitts, or anything flammable near the stove or oven only serves as fuel for a potential fire. Be sure to always store these items a safe distance from the heat sources in your kitchen.

Finally, all kitchen appliances that rely on electricity should be unplugged when not in use. While it may be a hassle to plug your coffee machine in first thing every morning, this is much preferable to a fire caused by faulty wiring.

In fact, faulty wiring can cause a fire in every room of your house, not just your kitchen. Electricity is an ingrained part of modern life, and it is not realistic to request you unplug every single device in every room when you leave.

However, there are still some useful tips to help minimize the risk your electrical devices have in your home.

First and foremost, those power cords and surge protectors you use to expand the electrical outlet capacity in your home are a large fire hazard. These should be avoided or used sparingly. Ensure that all electrical wires do not run underneath carpet or rugs, are kept away from water, and any possible heat source. Keep an eye on your electrical devices and their associated cords, if anything seems hotter than is typical unplug the device immediately.

Smoking is the other cause of fires that we see often. Not only does this cause fire, but we frequently have customers wanting us to help them remove the smoke smell from a residence. The easiest way to avoid both of these is to simply smoke outside. The weather may not be the best, but temporary discomfort is much preferable to the long and arduous process of dealing with fire damage.

Your home has a plethora of flammable items that a stray cigarette can quickly ignite. Whether or not you are inside when you choose to smoke, ensure that the cigarette is completely out before disposing of it.

This is a huge cause of smoke-related fires, someone thinking the cigarette is out when there are still embers to ignite other materials. The way to prevent this is to always use an ashtray, and be thorough when putting your cigarette out, to the extent that you can pour water on the cigarette after you are done to make sure that it cannot cause a fire. If you do choose to smoke inside, you should never smoke in your bed, or when you are under blankets of any kind, or near any sources of medical oxygen.

Some of this may seem like common sense, and most of it is not hard to adhere to. The mere fact of the matter is complacency can be a huge determining factor in whether a house is safe from fire damage or not.

The key is to remain diligent, follow this advice and the advice of your local fire department, and have your smoke detector and smoke alarms checked routinely to ensure they are functioning properly.

With all of this in mind, proper preventative techniques can do a lot to prevent a fire that can harm you, your family, and your property.

Written by: Brendan Gillette

Fire Damage Process

3/7/2019 (Permalink)

Fires are some of the most sudden and destructive occurrences that can happen to your home or property. It is an unfortunate and stressful time for you and your family, so it is important to discuss the necessary steps to remediating your fire damage and getting your life back on track in the fastest and most convenient manner for you.

A fire damage in your home, much like a water damage, could be from a number of causes. There could be an electrical fire caused by faulty outlets, a kitchen or grease fire caused by accidents when cooking, or could be the result of lightning striking your home.

As there are a number of causes, there could potentially be a number of ways we go about your remediation.

First it is important to outline how the fire process differs from the water mitigation process. When you have a fire in your home, please do not call us first! Call 911 and have your local fire department come to take care of the problem. When that is complete is when we can begin our mitigation work.

The fire department, depending on the severity of the fire, will be the ones who determine when a mitigation company can enter the property. It is fine to call us and give us your information so we can prepare, but we cannot come out to begin your scope until the fire department clears the area as safe.

Now that we have been given permission to enter the building, our work operates a little differently than water mitigation jobs. Whereas we can usually get moisture readings and begin mitigation the same day, fire damages are typically a slightly slower process.

It is assumed in a water damage that your house is fine, and whatever work we do inside will be restoring that house. Fire damages aren’t quite so simple.

Adjusters may need to come inspect the property to deem whether or not the structure is salvageable or not. Similarly, a lot of items that were affected by the fire will be either deemed salvageable or unsalvageable, and your adjuster may want us to come up with that list before we continue work. This process of doing inventory and inspecting every one of your possessions is to determine what we can clean and what we cannot clean is the first important step to getting your restored to pre-accident condition.

Once we understand what can be cleaned, and what will need to be replaced, the next step of the process is called a pack out. This is essentially moving your items that will be cleaned to our safe storage facility so that we can best clean them. This happens for two reasons.

First, we oftentimes need to use an ozone machine to get the entirety of the smoke odor out of your items.

Second, the floors, walls, and ceilings of your house are more than likely also affected by smoke odor. This means if we can your dresser and leave it in your room, the smoke odor will permeate back into the item leaving you in the same situation. It is also easiest to do all of the surface cleanings; your walls and ceilings, as well as carpet and duct cleaning while the areas are completely empty of other items.

After our extensive and exhaustive cleaning is finished, ensuring all of your items are restored to pre-fire condition, the final step before we can put everything back in your house is repairing or replacing any damaged parts of your home.

Whether drywall and ceiling have been burnt during the fire, or your vent hood in the kitchen needs replaced, we are here to help and have a number of professional contractors who specialize in restoration work that can make your home "Like it never even happened."

The final step, once all of this is complete, is to do a pack back. We return your items, clothing, furniture, and place everything back in your home like it was prior to the fire.

We understand this is a trying time. We will work in conjunction with your insurance to ensure that the fire that uplifted your life is in the past and you can move forward in your newly restored home.

Written by: Brendan Gillette

Categories of Fire Damages

3/7/2019 (Permalink)

When we talk about the different categories of fire damages, we aren’t necessarily looking at the cause of the fire. While there are differences and nuances in regards to the cause of fires on the methods we use to properly clean afterward`, the bigger concern lies in what happens to stop the fire from spreading, and how far the fire spreads.

We generally categorize fire damages as fire, fire/water, or smoke losses.

We will investigate each of these to explain what that means for you, the homeowner, when one of these occurs.

Fire damage is extensive damage to the property itself and your items and furniture. The extent will vary, depending on the source of the fire and the time it took to extinguish. However these jobs will, generally, involve the removal of your items (packout), cleaning of items and of surfaces inside your home, then the return of your items (packback) after any rebuild is complete. This is a lengthy process, but we here at SERVPRO of Ellis County will do everything in our power to expedite the job to get you back in your home as soon as possible.

A fire/water damage is very similar to fire damage, with the caveat that the fire department had to use water or another liquid agent to extinguish the fire.

While the fire department does the heroic work saving lives and property every single day, the addition of water to your home in such large, unmanageable amounts causes more work to be done.

What we are looking at in this case is everything involving fire damage, but also all of the water damage requirements as well. We will have to include a water remediation portion of the job on top of the rest of the fire damage.

You can go back to view water damages in detail in our previous posts.

The biggest thing to realize, however, is that the non-salvageable list will continue to grow as the areas affected by water or whatever liquid agent extinguished the flames most likely soaked your items such as dressers and furniture and while some may be cleaned and repaired, others may have to be replaced.

This is an unfortunate situation to find yourself in, but the first and most important priority is the safety of you and your family and thus the use of liquid-based extinguisher was deemed required. These jobs are more complicated but are nothing new to the professional team at SERVPRO of Ellis County. We will be able to handle your water/fire situation just as well as any other fire jobs.

One other category worth mentioning is smoke. If you have a grease fire, leave the oven on, or have a fire situation that is relatively small and contained, you may very well still have smoke damage throughout your house. This is because smoke often times can travel through duct systems and affect rooms that were nowhere near the original source of the fire.

When this happens, your clothes, bedding, furniture, and sometimes even walls and carpet can begin to smell like smoke. The remediation process for this is very similar to your regular fire job, however, the additional application of an air scrubber or ozone machine on-site to help clean the air of the smoke odor may be necessary.

Often times, repainting is required as the smoke embeds itself in the walls. These types of damages are best cleaned as soon as possible as the longer it takes to clean the more difficult the smell will be to eradicate from the substance.

This is one of the most trying times in your life when you have fire damage your home. This is something that we are here to help with.

Understanding the differences between fire damage, a fire/water damage, and smoke damage will help you better understand the steps you need to take and the steps we will be performing to best remediate your fire damage.

Written by: Brendan Gillette

Advice During your Water Damage

2/19/2019 (Permalink)

There are some small steps you can take to ensure that your water damage dries as quickly and hassle-free as possible. We will be coming every day to monitor the equipment and check on the drying, but in between those visits are 24 hours where the actual drying occurs.

First, our technicians place our equipment in strategic locations for your benefit. We will try to create a cylinder of airflow that leads back to the dehumidifier to maximize the effectiveness of our drying equipment. Therefore, we ask that you do not move or reorient the machines if at all possible. We understand that at times the optimal placement is in a location that is inconvenient. If machines do need to be moved, please place them as close to their original position as possible to maintain the airflow we were hoping to accomplish.

Next, it is important that if the water damage is in a single room and our technicians close the door to that room it is because it will help the drying process immensely if the room is contained and the air in that room is constantly cycling through the dehumidifier. For this reason, we ask that any rooms with equipment remain shut if possible. These rooms will probably be slightly warmer than the rest of the house, which is a good thing. Warmer temperatures allow for more condensation to transfer into the air, and makes it easier to remove via our dehumidifiers. While we don’t expect you to live in persistent heat, it would be beneficial if the temperature in your home were raised a few degrees to promote quick drying.

However, the number one thing that you can do to ensure a quicker drying time is to let the machines continue running. While there are a couple of things that you could do to help the drying of your floors and walls, there is one thing that many customers do that will harm our drying attempts. That is, of course, turning our machines off. Some customers, depending on the amount and location of our equipment, find them to be too loud and a nuisance during their daily lives. While we strive to be as minimally invasive as possible during our water mitigation, sometimes with equipment placed in living rooms and kitchens, there is no way around it. The worst thing someone can do it to turn off our equipment.

Keeping in mind that these air movers and dehumidifiers are being rented by you, the customer, it is simply a waste of time and money to turn off the machines. These were designed for and work best when they are allowed to run continuously until the affected material is dry.

Our biggest advice to you is to let the machines do their intended work, and hopefully, we can dry your home and have everything picked up and back to new before you know it!

Written by: Brendan Gillette

Different Types of Water Damages

2/19/2019 (Permalink)

Not all water damages are created equal. In fact, beyond the various sizes and severity of water damage you have, there are 3 distinct categories that we use to differentiate water damage based on the source of the water. It is important to understand the different categories because this has a direct effect on the work we perform in your home or property.

Category 1

Category 1 water damages, shortened to Cat 1, are water damages that involve completely clean water. A rule of thumb for this water damage is water that is perfectly fine to drink. This could come from a busted pipe underneath the sink, a failed supply line, or any other source of water that is free of contaminants. This water is the easiest and fastest to clean, however, expediency is still necessary for this category can turn to category 2 as quickly as 24 hours after the damage occurs if not properly handled.

Category 2

Category 2 water damages have what we consider a small number of contaminants. These are the result of washing machine leaks, dishwasher leaks or overflows, sump pump failure, and many more. This water is generally grey in color, can contain chemicals as well as bio-contaminants, and while it should not be consumed by any means (no water that is on your floors should be!), it poses a small health risk to those exposed to the water for a short time. These contaminants will require that we properly sanitize the affected areas to prevent the situation from getting worse. Similar to category 1 turning to category 2, if left untreated this category can escalate rapidly into a much more hazardous situation.

Category 3

Category 3 water damages are classified as the worst type of water. These are completely unsafe to be near and contain many contaminants that you will want to be cleaned properly and quickly. Examples of this include, but are not limited to, toilet backups that include waste and flood waters bringing contaminants from outside your home. These are serious health risks, and often they require what we call a ‘flood cut’. This includes removing floors and drywall up to 2 feet up to ensure no contaminated materials remain. The nature of the source requires the use of Proper Protective Equipment to clean, and multiple applications of sanitization.

Knowing about these categories is important should you have water damage so you understand the different steps we are taking, and why they must be taken. We do not expect you to become an expert at recognizing the intricacies of each category, but basic understanding can go a long way when you are explaining your water damage to our dispatcher. 

SERVPRO of Ellis County is here to help no matter the category, no matter the time, and no matter how large.

We are ready to make your property like it never happened!

Written by: Brendan Gillette

Insurances and Water Damages

2/19/2019 (Permalink)

If SERVPRO of Ellis County isn’t your first call when you come home to discover the water heater has burst, then it is probably to your home insurance.

We work with various insurance companies, and in doing so have experience working with all types of adjusters and requirements to complete your job in a satisfactory manner.

It is important to be aware of a few things regarding insurance companies so you can efficiently navigate the often confusing world of water damages.

Forms and Paperwork

There are a few forms that need to be signed prior to beginning your water damage. These outline the expectations and protect all parties involved during the process.

Our forms include Authorization to Perform Services and Direction of Payment which is an agreement to perform water mitigation and also an agreeing upon who will be the paying party.

There is the Equipment Rental Agreement simply outlining that you will take care of (you can simply not touch it and be fine) the equipment that is rented and left on your property.

Finally, we have a Customer Information form that is simply gathering the best contact information and information regarding your house so we here in the office can contact you.

Your insurance, however, depending on who you are insured with, may have their own version of these forms and may have further forms that are required before we can start the job.

We understand you are anxious to begin mitigation services, and understanding these necessary forms is a huge step in expediting the process so we may begin.

Estimates and Pricing

When we are doing your water damage, you or your insurance may want an update on what the total costs are going to be. This is especially true if demolition is required and there will be a rebuild in the future.

A lot of factors go into the estimate and approval process when your job is going through an insurance agent/adjuster. At the end of the day, almost all demo and rebuilds have to first be approved by your insurance adjuster before we can begin this work. We do our best to get this all done in a timely manner by the ever-helpful administrators here in the office, but at times this may cause a slight delay in your job until we manage to get approved.

Sometimes the adjuster requires they be onsite to do measurements and observe the damages themselves before work can be approved. Sometimes adjusters need time to look over our estimates before they approve them. All of these are facts of life that we work with in order to complete your water job as soon as we can.

In regards to pricing and payment, insurance companies handle these in different ways. Some will send the agreed upon amount minus your deductible to you, the homeowner, and we will collect the payment from you directly. Others will mail us the check and require us to collect just your deductible. Even others will mail us the entirety of the payment and collect the deductible from you themselves.

Whatever the situation is, we will remain in contact with you and the adjuster to make sure we are all in agreement about the final bill.

Should you have a question regarding payment status after your job, the best person to contact is your insurance adjuster and ask them for that status. 

Written by: Brendan Gillette

What you need to know about water damage

2/10/2019 (Permalink)

Let’s discuss the basics of a water damage. This information is useful for anyone who rents or owns property, seeing as a water damage could happen at any time. We’ve written other more specific blogs about different types of damage and different scenarios that you may face.  For now, we are going to go over just the basics.

What is Water Damage?

Water damage is a term used to describe damages to your floors, walls, ceiling, and contents caused by an unintended intrusion of water. There can be many causes of water damages, which we will go over, but first, we must establish exactly what is and is not considered water damage.

You do NOT have damage if:

  • Your daughter gets the floor in the bathroom wet after a shower.
  • You spill a glass of water on the carpet in your living room.
  • You accidentally splash water on the kitchen cabinets and floor while doing the dishes.

In these instances, you can simply clean the affected area and wipe up all moisture that is spilled. This doesn’t require a professional. Simply get a towel and you are good to go!

You DO have damage if:

  • Your bathtub was left running, leaving an inch of water standing in your bathroom.
  • A pipe underneath your sink broke, and you didn’t notice for hours.
  • Your hot water heater leaked or burst, emptying its water inside your home.
  • Water is accumulating somewhere in your house but you are not sure of the cause.

There are many more potential causes, but the point here is that you cannot simply use a towel to soak up these problems. If you do find yourself in a situation where your hot water heater burst, you might be presented with more water than you thought was inside your house now spilling across your living room, kitchen, or any room in your house.

This is, understandably, a frantic and alarming thing to happen, but our team at SERVPRO of Ellis County sees these cases and much worse on a daily basis and we are ready to help!

A good rule of thumb: if you are not sure whether your water emergency requires the assistance of professionals is it is better to be safe than sorry.

Give us a call at (972) 935-0827 and we can come to do a moisture check for you and find out if the extent of moisture is enough to require professional assistance.

Read our next topic:

Why do you need to have your water damage addressed?

Why You Need Water Mitigation Services

2/10/2019 (Permalink)

After getting a clear understanding of what constitutes water damage, your next thought may be, “Okay, but why do I need to hire someone to do water mitigation?”

This is an understandable line of thought, and we’ll shed some light onto the necessity of the services we provide here at SERVPRO of Ellis County.

We Perform Water Mitigation Services

When we dissect what it is we do, the purpose and need for water mitigation become clear. We mitigate further damages, further problems, and as a result, mitigate further costs.

Being a liquid, water has a tendency to spread and seep into more items, walls, and floors the longer it is left unattended in your home. What might have started out as a small water heater closet getting soaked can, unheeded, travel through walls, into other areas of your home damaging floorboards, drywall, and insulation in the process.

It goes without saying, there is a need to stop the spread of water and mitigate the potential damages when you are faced with water damage. Left unchecked, water damages can buckle floorboards, soak carpet, and require complete removal and replacement of flooring and walls.

Luckily, SERVPRO of Ellis County is available 24/7  with crews ready to respond to your emergency in a timely fashion and begin mitigation work before a small water damage becomes a large one.

Growth: An Unwanted Visitor

Another key reason we strongly recommend water mitigation is because of the potential of growth.

Cold, wet, damp locations, such as those found beneath your floorboards, and inside of your drywall when you leave areas wet, are the perfect scenario for the growth of mold and other potentially harmful substances.

We see unmitigated water damages turn into a completely avoidable amount of growth very quickly. Unfortunately, the protocol for safe removal of growth can be much more costly than the initial water mitigation, and the price of not doing so is a potential health hazard to you and your family.

Our goal for your water damage is to mitigate the spread of water and dry all affected material to a suitable level without doing any demolition, but if the problem is allowed to turn into a growth remediation, there is little hope to fully remediate the growth without having to cut into drywall and dispose of affected material.

These are two of the largest reasons you need to have your water damage properly mitigated through the services of professionals like SERVPRO of Ellis County.

For your own safety, cutting corners is not an option when dealing with water damages inside your home or business.

Next, we will be discussing the specific work we perform when we are called out to handle your water damage.

What SERVPRO does during your water damage

2/10/2019 (Permalink)

Now that we have established what water damage is, and why it is necessary to have SERVPRO of Ellis County come to do the water mitigation, it is important to take a look into what work we will be performing to better familiarize yourself with the world of water mitigation.

First thing is first

The first thing we do is get an accurate picture of the affected areas. After extracting any standing water, we use moisture readers to measure the moisture content in your floors, walls, ceiling, and whatever else might be affected by water damage.

Our trained technicians have seen a myriad of different damages ranging in size and source and can get a basic understanding of your damages after a short time reading the moisture inside your affected and non-affected areas.

Keep in mind, you may not be able to see or feel that any surface is wet, but inside your floorboards or behind your drywall, there may be moisture trapped there that can cause more problems down the line.

Once we have a clear picture of the water damage at hand, we plug our readings and measurements into proprietary software to accurately gauge the drying requirements. This allows us to easily and automatically know how much equipment we will need to place.

Drying equipment

Now that we understand how much equipment needs to be placed for proper and expedient drying, the next step is to unload all required equipment from our trucks and place them in your house.

Water damages require the use of dehumidifiers and air movers. A dehumidifier is self-explanatory; we use industrial grade dehumidifiers to suck the moisture content out of the air, the very same air that comes into contact with the affected surface and attempts to reach an equilibrium between the wet material and dry air, removing some of the moisture that then gets fed back into the dehumidifier.

Our air movers are placed strategically around the room to create a circular vortex of air flow. The natural air flow combined with intentionally feeding air into dehumidifiers works in tandem to greatly assist the drying process.

Once our equipment has been placed, we must leave it running around the clock for the best results.

Then, the next step to do is monitor our equipment and the drying process. Our technician will ask when you will be available for an equipment check the following day, and we will arrive within a 30-minute window in order to take new moisture readings and assess how the floors, walls, and any affected area is drying.

Our typical jobs require 3-5 days of drying to reach acceptable levels of moisture.

When equipment doesn’t quite do the job

I wish it were as simple as place equipment and wait a few days, however certain circumstances may not allow us that luxury. If, for example, the affected drywall remains wet and doesn’t show an indication that it will dry, we might have to pull the baseboards off and drill holes in the wall to allow proper ventilation.

If wooden floors are buckling from water damage when we arrive on site, or if they are so saturated with water that our best efforts will not sufficiently dry them, they will have to be removed.

Certain material, such as sewage, is categorized as a Cat 3 water damage, and any affected areas must be replaced.

All of this falls under the term ‘demo’ and is sometimes a necessity. Do not worry, however. Whatever wall or flooring we have to remove, we will be able to rebuild for you and make it, “Like it never even happened!”

With the general water damage proceedings understood, the next thing to do is take a look at the different types of water damages and explain what they mean for you.

Keep a lookout for our next blog about the different water damage categories!