Seasonal Tips

Tips to Prevent Flooding in your Home During the Winter

The spring and summer are usually the worst seasons for home flooding because of the high amount of rain and softer soil that allows water to penetrate to the foundation.  However, home flooding is just as likely to happen in the winter.  Frozen pipes, snow melt, and ice dams are just a few causes of winter water damage, and if these problems are not addressed, you could be faced with serious property damage.  Leaks from snowmelt can cause damage to the ceiling and structural elements of your home while water that gets into the cracks of your foundation can freeze and cause the cracks to get worse.  It is important for homeowners to know how to protect their homes from winter flooding to avoid serious flood damage.  The following tips will help you prevent home flooding from the most common causes this winter.

Remove Snow Near the Foundation

Much of the flooding that happens within a home comes in through the foundation.  During the winter, water from melted snow can find its way into cracks in the foundation and if the water freezes within the cracks, it can widen them, leading to further problems.  When you shovel your driveway after a snowfall, make sure to remove the snow from around your home’s foundation as well.  This will help prevent the melting snow from seeping into the foundation and flooding the basement.

Remove Snow from the Roof

Remove Snow from the RoofWhen snow piles onto the roof, it can put extra stress on the features of the roof that can lead to structural damage.  It can also leak into the home when it begins to melt.  If more than two feet of snow has piled up on your roof, you must remove it to prevent leaks and structural damage.  You must be very careful when removing snow from the roof because ice on the roof can make this very dangerous.

Clear Debris from the Gutters

The gutters are just as important for allowing water to drain off your roof in the winter as they are in the summer.  However, debris such as leaves, twigs, dirt, and animal droppings gather in the gutters during the summer and fall which can block the flow of the water.  If your gutters are clogged during the winter, the water from melting snow and ice will have nowhere to drain and will end up overflowing from the gutters.  This can cause damage to the shingles, siding, and foundation if the water runs down the side of your home.

It is very important to remove debris buildup from your gutters during the winter so that the snowmelt has somewhere to drain safely.  Check your gutters for blockages and make sure the downspout deposits the water far enough away from your foundation.

Avoid Ice Dams

Ice_dam_slate_roofIce dams are a common problem in the winter that is caused by poor insulation.  When heat escapes through the roof of a home, it will melt some of the ice and snow.  The water will then refreeze in a different area of the roof, creating an ice dam that blocks any water from draining properly.  The ice dam will not only put extra stress on your roof from the weight, but also cause water to pool on the roof which can result in serious structural damage.

The best way to prevent ice dams is to make sure your attic is properly insulated.  Check the insulation in your attic and make sure it is adequate to prevent the heat from escaping through the roof.  You should also watch out for large icicles hanging from your roof which are a sign of ice dams.

Water Heater Maintenance

Water heaters are an important appliance in the winter, and they are always susceptible to major leaks.  Any issues from sediment buildup to valve malfunctions can cause leaks that will flood the surrounding area of your home.  It is very important to do yearly maintenance on your water heater which includes checking the valve and looking for leaks or sediment buildup.  You can do the yearly maintenance checks yourself, or hire a professional to do the inspection.

Insulate Pipes to Prevent Freezing

Insulate Pipes to Prevent FreezingFrozen pipes can happen very easily in the winter and lead to serious water damage in your home.  Water within exposed pipes in your basement, attic, sprinkler system, and below sinks can become frozen in cold temperatures which causes a blockage and buildup in pressure.  The pressure from the water will eventually cause a burst, resulting in a major leak of hundreds of gallons of water.

You must make sure that the exposed pipes in your home stay warm enough during the winter to prevent a burst.  Insulate any exposed pipes with heat tape, specialized pipe sleeves, or a quarter inch of newspaper.  Open the cabinet doors under your sink so that the heat in your home can keep those pipes warm.  You can also prevent frozen pipes by keeping your water running at a light trickle.

Inspect the Sump Pump

Your sump pump works year-round to keep excess water out of your basement.  It must stay functional throughout the winter to remove water from the melting ice and snow.  Test your sump pump by lifting the float or putting water in the pit to make sure it is running properly.  If your sump pump malfunctions during the winter, water from the melting snow can seep in through your foundation.

Look for and Address Small Leaks

Look for and Address Small LeaksMost water leaks start out small, but they can quickly become a problem if they are not fixed right away.  A small water leak may also mean that there is a bigger issue.  Look for signs of a water leak including peeling paint, spots on walls or ceilings, mold growth, and a musty smell.  If you notice a leak in your home, contact a professional right away to address the problem.

Professional Water Damage Restoration

Your home is just as likely to experience flooding during the winter as in any other season.  By following these flood prevention tips and constantly checking your home for any signs of flooding, you can prevent winter water damage.  If your home is affected by water damage or flooding this winter, call the experts of SVMPS for our water damage restoration services.  We will remove excess water and moisture from the affected materials and fully restore the damaged area, even in the middle of winter.

Get Your Business Prepared for the Winter with These Tips

Many areas of the country, including the greater Minneapolis area, are bracing for the return of the cold, brutal winter weather.  Storms are always more severe in the winter and if the area is affected by heavy snow or ice, it could seriously disrupt your business.  Preparing for the winter should be a point of emphasis for all businesses during the fall season so that you are not blindsided by the first winter storm.  The following tips will help you prepare your business and employees for winter storms and help minimize the interruption they can cause to your daily business activities.

Discuss Winter Preparation with Employees

When preparing your business for the upcoming winter, it is important that everyone from the owner to the employees is aware of what to do if a winter storm hits.  A severe snow storm can create a chaotic situation, but keeping your employees informed on your emergency procedures and their options will help keep the situation under control.  Make sure you cover the following with your employees:

  • Get Your Business Prepared for the Winter with These TipsEmphasize Personal Safety: Winter storms create dangerous driving conditions that can make it difficult for your employees to get to work. It is important to let your employees know that they should always put their safety first.  If possible, you can even offer your employees the option of working from home.  This way, the work can get done without putting your employees in danger.
  • Pay Attention to Weather Updates: It is very important for everyone in your company to be informed on the latest weather updates. Encourage your employees to get text alerts so that they are always aware of what to expect.  If you stay updated on current weather conditions, you can make a better decision about whether your business should remain open or close for the day.
  • Discuss Emergency Supply Kits: Having an emergency supply kit handy can really help in severe winter weather. Talk to your employees about having emergency supply kits at home and in their vehicles.
  • Review Emergency Weather Procedures: If is extremely important for your employees to understand your company’s policies and procedures when it comes to severe winter weather. They should also be familiar with any emergency plans so they know what to do in such a scenario.  Make sure everyone knows what their roles and responsibilities are so that your staff will respond calmly to weather disasters.  It also helps to practice your emergency plan before the winter weather arrives.

Form a Communication Plan

When a winter storm hits, employees, customers, and vendors may be unsure of how you plan to handle the situation.  A well-defined communication plan will help you immediately notify everyone about your plan for the day.  Make sure you compile a list of important contacts that includes phone numbers and email addresses.  As mentioned above, your employees should be the first to be notified so that they know what to do.  You should also have a plan in place to reach the following in an emergency:

    Storm Damage Restoration in Minneapolis, MN - ServiceMaster
  • Business Contacts: In addition to your employees, you may need to reach business partners including vendors and clients in case of an emergency. These people play a role in the operations of your business and should be notified if there are any changes in your operations due to the weather.  You can use your social media outlets to update your customers on the status of your business.
  • Emergency Services: You never know if a winter storm will cause damage to your company’s property. Keep a list handy that includes the contact information for emergency services such as your insurance provider, the fire department, a plumber, heating professionals, the owner of the building, and a snow removal professional.  This way you will be able to get in touch with these contacts immediately if there is an issue.

Review Your Insurance Policy

It is very important to know the terms of your company’s insurance policy so that you know exactly what is covered in the event of a winter storm.  Check to see what type of damager you insurance will cover and reach out to your insurance agent if you have any questions.  You should also check into what your coverage options are if your business is interrupted.

Check Your Property

Do an inspection of your building and the property around your building to identify any potential issues.  If you are responsible for your parking lot, have the number of a snow removal professional ready.  Look for hints of leaks inside and outside the building and make sure all doors and windows seal properly.  You should also look for any areas where pipes may freeze or burst.  It is best to do this inspection in the fall so that there is still time to fix any issues before the winter weather sets in.

Professional Storm Damage Restoration

Preparing your business for the winter with these tips will help you respond to emergencies caused by winter storms and limit the interruption to your business.  However, even the best preparation cannot completely protect your property from damage.  If a winter storm causes damage to your business in the Minneapolis, MN area, contact our professionals at ServiceMaster Professional Services for storm damage restoration.  Our experts will respond immediately to clean up your property and restore the damage so you can resume your normal business operations.

Fire Safety Tips to Prevent Fires This Summer

During the summer, many people enjoy the weather with outdoor activities like cookouts, camping, and bonfires.  Each of these activities are a fun way to gather with friends and family, but they also each have inherent fire dangers.  The danger of these potential fire hazards may slip your mind when you are enjoying yourself and getting caught up in the festivities at a backyard cookout or bonfire.  However, it is very important to be mindful of these dangers and follow good fire safety practices to prevent a pleasant cookout from turning into a disaster.  The most effective fire prevention is responsible action.  The following fire safety tips will help you prevent fires as you enjoy your summer.

Grilling Safety

Fire Safety Tipes - Grilling Safety - ServiceMaster in Minneapolis, MNFew activities really capture the essence of summer like a backyard cookout.  Summer cookouts are a tradition that are normally held to celebrate holidays like Memorial Day and the 4th of July, graduations, or just the fact that it’s summer.  With so many people, children, and pets walking around your backyard during a cookout, it is very important to take fire safety precautions, whether you are using a gas or charcoal grill.  Please review the following grilling safety tips before your next cookout:

  • Put your grill in an open, well ventilated area a safe distance from trees and structures like your home, garage, or shed.
  • Wear tight-fitting clothing.
  • For gas grills, check the connections in the fuel line between the gas tank and the grill before starting it.
  • For charcoal grills, only use the recommended amount of lighter fluid and never add lighter fluid once the grill is lit.
  • Never leave a lit grill unattended and keep children and pets away from the grill.
  • Drain all meat of liquids or marinades before putting them on the grill because they can cause the flames to flare up.
  • Cover the grill if the flames become too big, do not try to control the flames with water.
  • Clean the grill and your utensils before and after each use.
  • Do not dispose of used charcoal until the coals have cooled completely. Covering the charcoal with water is a good way to ensure it is extinguished.

Campfire/ Bonfire Safety

Fire Safety Tipes - Campfire Safety - ServiceMaster in Minneapolis, MNSitting around the fire, whether at a campsite or in your backyard, is a great way to socialize with friends and family on summer nights.  Regardless of where you build the fire, you must keep these fire safety tips in mind:

  • If you are at a campground or a park, make sure you follow their rules regarding fires.
  • Build your fire in a safe and open location, away from trees, bushes, tents, homes, garages, gazebos, or anything else that can go up in flames.
  • Fires must be built in fire pits. Parks and campgrounds that allow fires will have pits that you can use.  If you are planning on hosting bonfires in your backyard, build a fire pit first.
  • Try to refrain from using gas or lighter fluid to start or fuel the fire, and don’t store these objects anywhere near the fire.
  • Do not let the flames get too large or out of control. Keep the fire small and never leave it unattended.
  • Make sure you have the means to extinguish the fire before starting it. You can put out campfires and bonfires by dumping water on them and shoveling dirt over the embers.

Burn Bans

It is important to pay attention to any burn bans in your area.  Burn bans are put into effect during the summer if the weather conditions increase the risk of a fire.  These bans typically cover material burning and not recreational fires, but the details of the ban could change according to the weather conditions.  In most areas of Minnesota, you need to get a burning permit for material burning.  Check with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for more information on burning restrictions and permits.

Fireworks Safety

Fireworks SafetyFireworks are probably the only thing more synonymous with the 4th of July than backyard cookouts.  People across the U.S. celebrate Independence Day with a variety of fireworks and every year, thousands of Americans are injured due to firework accidents and mishaps.  It is very important to use fireworks with the utmost safety to prevent injuries and fires.

  • We urge you to use legal fireworks. The state of Minnesota bans fireworks that fly or explode which include bottle rockets, fire crackers, and mortars.  The most serious firework related injuries are caused by illegal fireworks.  Not only are legal fireworks safer to use, but using them will also prevent you from getting in trouble.
  • Do your research into what types of fireworks are legal as well as how to use them safely. Follow all directions and warning labels that come with the fireworks.
  • Always supervise children when lighting fireworks. If you don’t feel comfortable letting children play with fireworks, then don’t.  The majority of those injured by fireworks are boys age 14 and under.
  • Light fireworks somewhere safe outside, away from dry grass or foliage.
  • Make sure your spectators are a safe distance from the fireworks.
  • Only light one firework at a time, and make sure you move a safe distance away immediately after lighting it.
  • If a firework doesn’t go off when lit, dump water on it and throw it away.

As you enjoy the festivities that the summer has to offer, make sure you follow these fire safety and prevention tips when necessary.  Responsible fire safety will keep your summer activities fun and exciting and help prevent serious accidents that could result in injuries and property damage.  If you do experience a fire on your property this summer, make sure you call our professionals at ServiceMaster Professional Services as soon as possible for fire and smoke damage restoration services.  The fire damage restoration experts of SVMPS will work diligently to salvage as much of your property as possible, and we also provide deodorization to remove smoke odors.

Tips to Prevent Vandalism on your Property

To most people, the summer is a time for fun things like cookouts, baseball, vacations, various outdoor activities, and enjoying the fact that it is not winter.  Unfortunately, the summer is also the season of vandalism.  Acts of vandalism always increase during the summer as they are generally committed by adolescents who are restless on their summer vacations.  The property damage that results from vandalism costs homeowners millions of dollars each year to repair.  While it is unrealistic to make your home impervious to vandalism, there are some things you can do around your home to greatly discourage it.  The following home security tips can help you protect your home from vandalism by making it a difficult or undesirable target.

Install Security Lights

Vandals often work under the cover of darkness which makes bright security lights a very effective deterrent.  You should install security lights around the outside of your property that have motion sensors so they will turn on as soon as someone approaches your home.  In many cases, motion sensor lights are enough to startle and deter a would-be vandal.

Install Unbreakable Glass and Light Fixtures

Tips to prevent vandalism on your property in Minneapolis, MNLights expose vandals, so naturally a determined vandal will try to break your lights to bring back the darkness.  You can take this option away from them by installing light fixtures with unbreakable glass.  These light fixtures are much more difficult and time consuming for a vandal to destroy which will help discourage them from vandalizing your property.  You can also install your security lights in places that are difficult to reach like high up on the side of your house or garage.

Install a Fence

Installing a fence around your property is a major deterrent for vandals and intruders.  You can choose to fence in your entire yard or put fences around the vulnerable areas of your property.  Make sure the fence is a style that is difficult to climb and put up No Trespassing signs to let potential vandals know that you are serious about protecting your home.

Plant Strategically Placed Shrubs and Bushes

Dense bushes and shrubs planted close to your home make it much harder for vandals to approach.  Plant bushes near possible targets for vandals such as decks or balconies so that they cannot easily reach them.  You can also plant bushes near your windows for added protection and privacy.

Lock Security Gates and Doors

This may seem simple enough, but it is easy to forget to lock every door and gate around your property.  Sometimes a locked gate is all it takes to discourage a vandal.  Make a routine out of checking the doors and gates around your property to ensure that they are locked.

Clean Up and Repair the Effects of Vandalism Immediately

Vandalism Cleaning in Minneapolis MN - ServiceMasterOne of the biggest motivators for a vandal is having their work seen by many people.  They are amused by the angry reactions to the damage and brag about their work to their peers.  This validates the act in a way and may encourage the individual to commit more acts of vandalism.  Failure to clean up the damage also sends the message that your home is an easy target.  Make sure you clean up your property immediately to deny them this satisfaction.  Vandalism cleaning may involve cleaning up debris like eggs or toilet paper, graffiti removal, or even reconstruction in extreme cases.

Report Vandalism to the Police

Acts of vandalism are commonly underreported to the police.  People may not file a report if the vandalism didn’t result in serious damage or if they see the incident as just “kids being kids.”  However, you should file police reports for vandalism because it is the job of law enforcement to respond to crimes such as these.  Reporting vandalism will also discourage vandals because it sends the message that they will face consequences.  Your home will be a less desirable target if would-be vandals know that you call the police.

Support Programs for Adolescents in your Community

Many acts of vandalism are spontaneous and occur when young people are bored and restless.  If the young people in your community have something constructive to fill their time, they will be much less likely to lash out with acts of vandalism.  Community programs and activities provide a safe haven for kids and adolescents during the summer.  These programs not only give young people something to do, but also positively impact them in many ways by helping them make new friends and discover new activities.  There are several ways you can support youth programs in your community from donating your time and money to starting a new program.

As the summer approaches, review this list and see what you can do to protect your home from vandalism.  Implementing just a few of these home security tips can help you deter vandalism and avoid the headache of dealing with the aftermath.  If your home or business in the Minneapolis, MN area is damaged by an act of vandalism, you must react right away to cleanup and repair the damage.  Our technicians at ServiceMaster Professional Services provide vandalism cleaning services to remove debris such as eggs and graffiti as well as repair damage to your home.  You can reach us at (800) 245-4622 to respond to the damage.

Steps to Protect your Home from Storm Damage This Spring

The Twin Cities are prone to major storms at any time of year, but the spring season brings several different weather conditions that can cause major property damage like thunderstorms, hail, high winds, and tornadoes.  Extreme weather is usually quite predictable but sometimes it is impossible to tell just how damaging a storm will be until it hits.  With the high possibility of adverse weather conditions in the spring, residents in the St. Paul and Minneapolis area are advised to take preventative actions to protect their homes from storm damage.  Storms that involve strong wind and flooding can cause serious damage to your home but by following these storm preparation tips, you can prevent extensive damage.

Trim Large or Dead Tree Branches

Storm Damage Restoration during this spring - ServiceMaster in Minneapolis, MNStrong wind from a tornado or thunderstorm has the potential to blow off large or dead tree branches and even uproot entire trees.  If a tree or tree branch falls on nearby powerlines or your home or car, it can cause very extensive damage and even serious injuries.  Inspect the trees around your property and look for loose, dead, or large tree branches.  You should pay special attention to tree branches that are close to your home, garage, or vehicle because they are the biggest threat to cause damage.  Remove tree branches that look like a threat to snap or fall off and consider trimming back branches that are too close to the house.  Trimming tree branches can be a difficult and dangerous job so make sure you call a professional if you cannot do it yourself.

Secure Loose Items in Your Yard

Many homeowners have various items in their yards including outdoor furniture, lawn ornaments, grills, toys, and gardening equipment.  During a severe storm, these items become very dangerous as strong winds can make them into projectiles and send them flying into your home, garage, car, and even your neighbor’s home.  You must clear all these items from your yard if there is an impending storm and either take them inside your home or store them in your garage or shed.  This is an easy way to prevent excessive storm damage.

Inspect the Roof and Gutters

It is very common for rain and wind to cause damage to the roof of a home during a severe storm.  Strong winds can dislodge shingles and large areas of the roof, which allows rain in the house, as well as cause damage to the gutters which affects drainage.  You must inspect your roof as soon as possible this spring to check for loose or damaged shingles, cracks in the flashing or soffit, and issues with the gutters.  Repairing the damage on your roof will help prevent wind damage from a storm as well as leaks from heavy rain.  It is usually best to have your roof inspected and repaired by a professional.

Inspect your Windows

The windows of your home are vulnerable during severe storms because they may leak if they are poorly sealed and they can be shattered by strong winds.  Make sure your windows are properly sealed to keep out wind and moisture and consider getting new windows if they are old and not sealing properly.  New windows are much less likely to leak and there are windows available made of powerful glass that can withstand high winds.  You can also install metal or plastic storm shutters over your windows for extra protection.

Protect your Home from Flooding

Storm-Damage-Repair-for-Minneapolis-and-St-Cloud-MNIndoor flooding is one of the most common effects of severe weather and it can lead to severe damage in your home as well as mold growth.  Flood prevention is an important part of storm preparation to make sure rain and moisture stay out of your home.  Check your basement and foundation for leaks or cracks that could allow water into the home and seal them with caulk.  Installing a sump pump to remove excess water is a highly effective way to prevent flooding in your basement.  You should also make sure that your gutters drain rain water away from your home because any buildup of water near your home can cause flooding.

Have a Backup Power Source

Severe storms tend to knock out the power which is not only inconvenient, but also potentially dangerous.  Without power, the food in your refrigerator or freezer can go bad and if your cellphone battery dies, you will not be able to recharge it to make emergency calls.  The other major issue caused by the loss of power is that the sump pump will stop working.  This can result in significant basement flooding which leads to extensive structural damage and creates the right conditions for mold or mildew.  The power in your area could be out for hours or days, making it important to invest in a home generator to provide backup power.  With a backup power source, you can keep your sump pump running and ensure that your refrigerator will keep your food fresh until the electricity is restored.

Call the Storm Damage Restoration Professionals

As soon as the weather permits, get outside and prepare your home for severe weather this spring with these storm damage prevention tips.  Completing these actions could mean the difference between expensive storm damage and no damage at all.  As mentioned earlier, the severity of storms may be difficult to predict and you could end up with storm damage even after taking these precautions.  If your home in the St. Cloud and Minneapolis area sustains damage in a storm, make sure you contact ServiceMaster Professional Services immediately for our storm damage restoration services.  Our technicians provide excellent storm damage repair and will ensure that your home is restored to its original condition.  Give us a call 24 hours a day at (800) 245-4622 for storm damage emergencies.

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