How to Prevent Storm Damage to Your Home This Fall

Autumn is a unique season, from the brilliant crimson and yellow splashes of foliage to the equally riveting orange pumpkins gracing the porches of homes dotted across the country. Although visually pleasing, autumn weather can unleash a tidal wave of storms that can be damaging to residential and business properties.

The transition from hot summer temps to the brisk, coolness of fall spurs a wave of thunderstorms and other drastic weather phenomenon. Although tornado season peaks in May, tornados from October through November should not be ruled out. Snowstorms occur even during the fall months. Rather than light and airy, snow tends to be wet and heavy during autumn. The excess weight of the snow can accumulate on tree branches, which may break onto the roofs of homes. Hurricane season peaks in June, but can continue through the end of hurricane season in late November. Properties situated on the Gulf and East Coasts should be on guard for possible late-season hurricanes through November 30.

Homeowners across the country are advised to prevent storm damage to their homes each autumn by taking preventative steps:

Prepare for Wind Damage

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The transition from hot summer temps to the brisk, coolness of fall spurs a wave of thunderstorms and other drastic weather phenomenon.

Wind is a fall phenomenon, helping shed the trees of its brilliant leaves. However, wind can cause severe destruction to a home. With careful preparation, a home can stay intact in the whirlwind of fierce autumn winds.

Install storm doors to prevent powerful winds from ripping off loose doors or windows. Garage doors should be reinforced to keep them secure and properly anchored (a professional can inspect the garage doors, if needed).

Clean the Gutter

When the autumnal thunderstorms strike, the homes’ gutter systems should be clear of debris to properly function. Rainstorms blow fallen leaves and twigs into the gutter, blocking the flow of water. The downspouts require a pathway free of debris in order for the water to drain away from the property and prevent moisture from seeping into the home’s siding or roof. Homeowners are responsible for regularly clearing out natural debris from the gutter to ensure the home does not sustain water damage.

Maintain the Roof

Fall brings with it a flurry of weather scenarios that directly impact the roof. Hail that beats down on the roof, powerful wind gusts that uplift loose shingles or the sheer weight of heavy snow or ice all cause significant detriment to the roofing structure of a home. In order for the roof to remain functional throughout the fall season, maintenance in the early fall months is necessary.

Trim overhanging tree branches during autumn. The weight of early snow and ice and severe thunderstorms can bring down tree branches. Tree limbs that grow close to the home, such as ones over a rooftop, driveway, patio, garage or other home structure can crash down in harsh weather, leaving the homeowner with costly home repairs. Dead tree branches should also be cut down to prevent wind and snow from hurling natural debris into the property. Hire a professional landscaping company for help with pruning trees and shrubs, if necessary.

Inspect the shingles for proper anchorage. Hire a professional roofing contractor in early fall to examine the shingles. A small investment in a roof inspection can save a homeowner from hefty bills in the event loose shingles expose the home’s interior to water damage.

Add Weatherstripping

A minor crevice along a window or door allows the beating rainwater from an autumnal storm inside. Examine the home’s windows and doors for evidence of gaps or existing yet ineffective weather-stripping. Install new weather-stripping to seal the windows and doors from wind gusts and whiplashing rain. While preventing drafts and water leaks, homeowners will also save on heating and energy costs.

Inspect the Chimney

People require sufficient shelter from a fall storm, but so do little critters, like mice and raccoons. Keep the pesky, wild animals from sabotaging the home and causing pricey interior damage by installing a chimney cap. In the process, conduct a chimney cleaning. A chimney sweep may be hired to perform the routine task.

Turn Off Outdoor Faucets

An unexpected, early autumn snowstorm can freeze the outdoor pipes, causing them to burst. Protect the outdoor pipes from freezing by shutting off the water to the faucets in the backyard long before the cool season starts. Also empty any outside hoses of excess water and store them inside the garage or shed.

Address Odds and Ends

Test the smoke detectors each month, ensuring new batteries are installed yearly. The furnace filter should be replaced before the heater switches on in winter. Also ensure the heater is in good working condition prior to the winter chills. Frayed wires are fire hazards and should be removed from the home.

Before the autumn storms have a chance to derail your home or business, take the steps to prevent the damage. In the event that catastrophic autumnal weather conditions or even minor weather-related events disrupt your household or commercial business, contact a reliable storm damage restoration company, such as ServiceMaster Professional Services.

Our technicians from ServiceMaster Professional Services arrive quickly onsite, understanding the urgency of the situation. Our specialists work quickly to assess the scene and take immediate steps to prevent the spread of water damage, boarding up the home if necessary and installing tarp along a damaged roof. We utilize advanced equipment to remove excess water from a water damaged property. All natural debris, like broken tree branches, and man-made materials, such as broken glass, siding and shingles, that result from a fall storm are also cleared away from the property.

Our ServiceMaster Professional Services specialists are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to respond to emergency calls. Homeowners and building managers can expect their property to be quickly returned to its pre-damaged state with the expertise provided by ServiceMaster Professional Services. Our qualified team dependably serves the Minneapolis and St. Cloud, MN, communities of residences and businesses.


How to Check for Air Leaks in Your Home

Hot air rises, and so does a homeowner’s energy bill when air leaks inside a home are left unaddressed. Drafts are one of the most common causes for wasted energy, especially in older residences. As the autumn weather descends, homeowners are advised to check for air leaks in their homes.

Most drafts are noticed in the cooler months around windows and doors. Although air leaks may occur in obvious areas like these, the most damaging drafts happen in hidden places inside the home. The attic and basement are prime suspects when it comes to investigating energy-depleting air leaks. The insulation in the attic makes pinpointing air leaks a difficult task. With a little detective work, you’ll stumble upon effective strategies to seal the dirty drafts.

It helps to know where else air leaks occur, so that homeowners are fully aware of how to tackle the household flaw. Homeowners should inspect not only the attic, but plumbing fixtures, chimneys, fireplaces, light fixtures and wiring through floors and walls. Aside from these penetrating spaces, homeowners should also examine areas of missing plaster, electrical outlets, basement/window/door moldings and the tops of foundation walls.

Visually Inspect the Home’s Exterior

Use keen eyes to visually notice areas outside of the home where differing building materials adjoin. A homeowner should examine exterior corners, outdoor water spouts and the spots where the chimney joins with the siding. Also take a look at where the foundation and siding meet.

Eyeball the Household Interior

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Windows and doors will need extra attention when investigating for leaks.

Cracks and gaps inside the home indicate a likely presence of air leaks. Drafts may be caused by gaps surrounding electrical outlets, frames around doors and windows, baseboards and the service entrance to the gas. A savvy homeowner will also check for air leaks around cable television lines, holes through which dryer vents pass, doorway weather stripping and the walls where air conditioners are mounted.

Also, inside the home, gaps may be present around wiring and plumbing pipes. The areas surrounding the mail slot can lead to drafts, too.

Replace Drafty Windows and Doors

Windows and doors will need extra attention when investigating for leaks. A homeowner who is able to physically rattle the doors or windows and discovers movement will likely find an air leak. The bright, blazing sunlight beaming through the outline of the home’s doors or window frame is solid evidence of an air leak. Examine the storm door for a tight seal, and ensure no part of it is broken.

Drafty windows and doors can be replaced with high-performance ones. Or, inexpensive plastic sheets installed over the doors and windows are an effective alternative.

Seal the Deal with Caulk

Caulk is a homeowner’s trustiest partner when it comes to solving air leak activity. Cracks that are less than a quarter inch wide are best sealed with caulk. Certain structural materials may be suitable to differing types of caulk, so read the label carefully prior to applying caulk to specific surfaces. Homeowners will also want to purchase high-quality caulk that lasts at least 20 years and remains flexible during its lifetime. Less expensive caulk should be avoided, as it will fail to hold up. Caulk may be available in an array of colors or may be paintable; this is important to consider if the caulked area will be visible. Cracks and gaps also may be sealed with weather stripping.

The Pressurization Test Uncover Leaks

When the pressure is on to locate the airy intruder, turn to a building pressurization test. The process requires easy detective work:

First, check the weather forecast for a windy day. When gusts of cool air blow outside, it’s time to put in motion the pressurization test. Shut all doors, windows and the fireplace flue. Also turn off the gas furnace and water heater.

Next, turn on the exhaust fans, like the stove vents, bathroom fans or the dryer, that blow air to the outdoors. A window fan will do justice, just as well, to suck all the air out of the room.

Lastly, light an incense stick. Wave the stick around the edges of areas suspected of a leak. If the smoke blows around or wavers, a draft is present. A homeowner may also pass a water dampened hand around suspected drafty areas; a cooled sensation will be experienced if an air leak exists.

The Flashlight Method Finds Gaps

Homeowners may partner up with another individual to scout air leaks. At night, one individual should flash light around suspected gaps. If the person inside the home sees the light shine through, a gap and consequent air leak are present. Large cracks are best uncovered via a flashlight. However, small cracks are too tiny to locate via this method.

The Dollar Bill Procedure Saves Energy

When a homeowner is trying to save a buck, a dollar bill goes a long way in uncovering an air leak. Close the door or a window on a dollar bill. A drafty space is present if the dollar bill can be effortlessly pulled out.

The quality of air inside the home is important. When you want to circulate clean air inside your home, consult the pros. ServiceMaster Professional Services is a reputable residential air duct cleaning service that gives homeowners peace of mind and clean air to breathe. If you haven’t had your home’s air ducts cleaned in 10 years or don’t recall the last time the service was done, call the experts. Even newly constructed homes or remodeled houses should have the air ducts cleaned to ensure indoor air quality.

Indoor air pollution is physically imperceptible when it causes a rash of health conditions in people, yet apparent when it leaves dust trains inside the property. Homeowners with pets and those who smoke also should have their home’s air ducts cleaned in order to circulate the best quality air.

ServiceMaster Professional Services reliably serves the residential communities and surrounding areas of Minneapolis, MN. Our team of dedicated professionals stand by to take your call and answer any questions.

 


SVMPS – Common Indicators of Water Damage in Your Home

Water damage can occur in various forms throughout your home. Your roof, attic, ceilings, walls, and floors can all show signs of water damage. The damage can be sourced by multiple factors. Heavy rainfall and flooding can cause more immediate and severe water damage, and leaky pipes can cause water accumulation and gradual damage.

No matter what sourced the water damage in your home, once the harm has been done, the damage can spread and worsen as time passes. Because of this, it is important that water damage in your home does not go untreated. You risk further property and structure damage in addition to potential health risks that can arise when water damage leads to mold growth.

That said, it is important to be aware of the signs of water damage. You will be able to have the damage addressed sooner, thus preventing damage and saving you more money in the long run.

Water Accumulation

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If your home has water damage, the walls will often show signs of it through discoloration.

If you have pools of water or standing water in or even outside your home, then this is an obvious indicator of water damage or that the water will become a bigger issue. Malfunctioning appliances and a leaking roof can leave behind puddles of water inside of your home, and drainage pipes can create puddles of water outside of your home.

Color Changes

If your home has water damage, the walls will often show signs of it through discoloration. Water rings, spots, and stains on your wall are clear signs that there’s a water problem nearby. These spots might be wet or dry and will look brown, copper, or yellow in color.

Color changes can also come as a result of mold growth, which can develop as a result of water damage. Mold can appear on walls in a myriad of colors: black, gray, green, white, and more. If you have vinyl wallpaper, mold can appear pink, purple, or orange.

Check the cabinets beneath the sinks in your home for any water marks. If you find some there, it can indicate that the water damage has been caused by leaking pipes.

Deterioration and Surface Changes

In addition to discoloration, your home’s walls can show signs of water damage through deterioration and surface changes. Wallpaper or paint on your wall will bubble, crack, or peel when the wall has suffered water damage. Ceilings can also warp because of water damage in response to changes in temperature and humidity.

Your home’s flooring can undergo major changes because of water damage as well. Floors can sometimes become discolored as a result of water damage. More often, they change texturally, and there are several ways the flooring can change.

Like ceilings, flooring can warp as well, making it so floorboards either curl at their edges or have gaps in between them.

When water seeps into subflooring, the water can cause the flooring to sag or sink. These spots will be soft and feel spongy. You should look out for such sagging flooring by tubs, showers, sinks, washing machines, and water heaters.

If laminate and wood flooring absorb too much water, the material swells up and “expands.” This will then cause the flooring to separate. Laminate, tile, and wood flooring can also crack in response to water damage, and sometimes, water damage can cause hardwood floor to buckle, meaning one side of the wood becomes detached from its subflooring.

Odor

When there’s water damage, mold growth is likely. When there’s mold growth, there will be unpleasant aromas. Mold gives off a musty odor. If you sniff out such a smell, then you probably have mold growth, as well as water damage, on your property.

Be on the lookout for any of the previously listed signs. If you find any of these throughout your home, then your home is most likely suffering from water damage. As such, it is in your best interest to seek out professional water damage restoration services for your home from SVMPS. Our professionals at SVMPS will eliminate any excess water or moisture, make water damage repairs, and tend to any mold growth that has occurred as a result of the water. In addition, we will even restore any personal belongings that have suffered damage from the water.

SVMPS is ready to provide complete water damage restoration services for homes and businesses in the Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN area.


How to Prepare for an Emergency Home Evacuation

Disasters and emergencies can be sudden, happening at any moment. In such situations, you may be advised — or, if the disaster is severe enough, required — to evacuate your home and the area you live in. Because of that, you will need supplies and other things of importance to take with you when leaving. However, you likely won’t have enough time to gather the essentials in time for evacuation. Some disasters could give you ample time to prepare everything you need for an emergency evacuation, but others will require immediate action with no time to spare.

With that being said, you need to prepare yourself and your family for an emergency evacuation beforehand. That way, when an emergency evacuation is needed, you’ll be ready and can act promptly.

Create Plans

During an emergency evacuation, one of the most important things to have are plans for you and your family.

Evacuation Plan

You must create a primary evacuation route that you can all take when evacuation is necessary. But be sure to develop multiple routes so that there are alternate ones in case you’re unable to take the primary route.

You also need to designate a meeting place. At the time you evacuate your home and area, it will be possible that your family isn’t all together. But by designating a meeting place, you’ll have a spot where you can meet. However, it is important that the meeting place is outside of the evacuation area.

Communication Plan

How to Prepare for an Emergency Home Evacuation in Minneapolis MN

It’s highly recommended that you create a primary evacuation route to take when evacuation is necessary in Minneapolis, MN.

Because you may not all be together or you can get separated from your family, it’s vital to have a communication plan in place so that you can stay in touch with one another. Maybe someone is unable to get to the meeting place but is still safe. You’ll want to know this, and this can be achieved with a communication plan. So be sure to have everyone’s cell phone numbers on hand as one method of communication. Even if there’s poor cell service, oftentimes text messages will still work. But it’s necessary to come up with alternatives in case there is absolutely no landline or cell phone service.

Keep in mind that public safety officials will make announcements as necessary in multiple ways: the news, smart phone alerts, social media, and more. Such information can be helpful and particularly valuable in the case family members become separated from one another.

Have Necessary Items on Hand

When you evacuate your home, there are essentials you can purchase elsewhere outside of the evacuation area, but it’s best to have supplies readily available. There are also some items you’ll need that you can’t simply obtain easily elsewhere.

Prepare a Survival Kit

Having an emergency survival kit packed ahead of time is one of the most useful and important things to do when preparing yourself for an emergency evacuation, because it will contain a plethora of materials you’ll need when away from your home.

Make sure to have water and non-perishable foods on hand in addition to a three- to seven-day supply of medication for anyone who needs it. You should also have a flashlight, a first-aid kit, a portable radio, batteries, a cell phone charger and chargers for other electronics, blankets, extra clothing, and personal hygiene items among other things.

If you have pets, be sure to bring food and extra water for them. You can also make a separate kit for them, including a leash, three days’ worth of food and water, bowls, and medication. If your pets aren’t already micro-chipped and don’t have ID collars, be sure to accomplish those tasks as well.

Copy Important Documents

In addition to the survival kit, you need to make copies of all of your important documents. After you’ve made copies of these, be sure to store them in a waterproof plastic case to prevent them from being damaged. Some of the documents you should make copies of are your driver’s license or identification card, your house deed, insurance cards and other proof of insurance, social security cards, passports, medical records, and a personal contacts list.

Pre-Evacuation Tasks

If the emergency allows for spare time to take further protective steps, there are several things you can do to safeguard your home and belongings from a disaster.

Shut Off Utilities

If you can, turn off all your utilities including electricity, gas, and water. By doing this, you can help prevent potential hazards these utilize can cause like explosions, fires, and flooding.

Take Care of Your Home’s Exterior and Yard

You can manage your yard by tending to any trees and shrubs so that they don’t fall or damage your property if they have weak or diseased branches. If you have wind chimes, birdhouses, or any other items hanging from your home’s exterior or from trees, then take those down as well. That way, they don’t fall, break, and/or cause damage to anything when the disaster strikes. Any objects that aren’t nailed down should be brought inside, too.

If your windows don’t have stormproof shutters, you can cover them up with plywood to prevent them from breaking.

Safeguard Personal Belongings

To protect your personal belongings, move them to higher levels in your home ― particularly your valuables. Doing this will help prevent them from suffering water damage. To protect your electronics and furniture, wrap them in blankets, plastics drop cloths, or sheets.

Flood Preparation

For those with homes that are in areas prone to flooding, you’ll want to sandbag your property. It’s helpful to either have sandbags or the materials to make them on hand. For reference, 100 sandbags create a 20-foot-long, 1-foot tall wall.

If you take the necessary precautions, you can ensure that you, your family, and your property are all safe when there’s a disaster that necessitates evacuation. However, sometimes disasters are so severe that property damage is unavoidable. If you return to your home after an emergency evacuation only to find it has suffered storm damage, then you need to contact professional storm damage restoration services right away.  Our professionals at SVMPS are ready to provide storm and water damage restoration for homes and businesses in the St. Paul and Minneapolis, MN area that have been damaged.


Choosing the Right Insurance Policy for Your Home

Your home is one of your most valuable assets. Homeowner’s insurance helps protect your investment in your home, as well as you and your family.  Selecting a homeowner’s insurance policy can be a daunting task.  It is not only important to purchase quality insurance, but to also know exactly what your insurance covers should your home be impacted by a natural disaster.

What do you need to look for in a homeowner’s insurance policy?  Read on as we provide you with a few helpful tips and insight from All State Insurance and Consumer Reports Homeowner’s Insurance buying guide to help you better understand what you need to look for when purchasing homeowner’s insurance.

  • Understand your homeowner’s insurance policy coverage Homeowner’s insurance protects more than the house itself.  Your insurance policy should extend beyond the physical structure of your home and protect what is inside of it.  Make sure that your personal belongings and detached structures outside your home such as an outdoor shed are covered under your homeowner’s policy should you require disaster restoration services following a natural disaster.
Choosing the Right Insurance Policy for Your Home in Minneapolis MN

Homeowner’s insurance helps protect your investment in your home, as well as you and your family.

The term “peril,” as referred to in an insurance policy is a cause of loss, such as fire or theft. Coverage can be provided on an “all perils” basis, or a “named perils” basis. Named Perils policies list exactly what is covered by the policy, while Open Perils (or All Perils) policies will list what is excluded from coverage.  For example:

  • Dwelling Coverage
    Should your home and attached structures such as a garage or deck become damaged by a peril, dwelling coverage helps cover the cost of repairs.
  • Other structures
    “Other structures” coverage in your policy may help pay for repairs or replacement for detached structures on your property such as a shed or fence if they are damaged or destroyed by a covered peril.
  • Personal property
    Personal property coverage may help cover the cost to replace certain belongings, including furniture and electronics that may become damaged by a covered loss such as a fire.
  • You and your family
    If you or a family member are found legally responsible for accidentally damaging someone else’s property or injuring someone, liability coverage may help pay for related repair costs, legal fees and medical bills.
  • Guests
    If a visitor is accidentally injured at your home, your policy’s guest medical protection may help pay for their medical bills.
  • Additional living expenses
    If you are unable to stay in your home following a fire or while mold remediation services are being conducted, your homeowner’s insurance coverage may help pay for temporary increased living costs such as a hotel.
  • Get the Right Coverage

The best test of an insurance company is how well it handles claims. Some major insurers provided significantly better satisfaction when it comes to handling claims than others. Review the following resource for homeowner’s insurance ratings to locate top-rated homeowner’s insurance companies.  Homeowners Insurance Ratings

  • Fight for Your Claim

It can pay to negotiate with your homeowner’s insurance company.  If the adjuster says your policy doesn’t cover certain damage, ask to see the specific contract language.  If the dispute is over the damage amount, request a sit-down with the contractor and adjuster to go over the estimate line by line.

  • Look for a Better Deal

You can save hundreds to more than $1,000 each year on home insurance premiums just by shopping around. Consider bundling your homeowners and auto insurance coverage which could result in up to a 30 percent savings.

  • Don’t Underinsure
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Coverage for a sewer backup is also not included in a standard policy, but you can pay extra for it.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your coverage limits will automatically adjust to your home’s rising or falling market price. Replacement value, or the cost of labor and materials required to rebuild, is what you need to consider.  Ask your insurer for a customized estimate of your home’s replacement cost which should take into account its unique features, construction details, age, and any costs of meeting new local building-code requirements. You should review your coverage needs every few years.

Coverage for a sewer backup is also not included in a standard policy, but you can pay extra for it. To avoid paying out of pocket for damage, you may require additional policies for flooding and earthquakes, which aren’t covered by a traditional homeowner’s insurance policy.  Additionally, you may need to consider a separate policy for wind and hail damage.

Coverage for your furniture, electronics, clothing, and other belongings is standard, but if you have expensive furs, jewelry, silverware, or artwork, they’re subject to coverage limits. You’ll need to purchase a special endorsement or floater to cover their full value.

  • Reduce Your Risks

You can help lower your homeowner’s insurance premiums by taking a few steps to reduce your risks:

  • Smoke detectors, burglar alarms, and deadbolt locks can be worth a 5 percent premium discount. A sophisticated sprinkler system with alarms that alert first responders could result in 15 to 20 percent off your insurance premium.
  • Impact- and fire-resistant roofing materials made of asphalt, rubber, cement, and metal can get you further discounts because they stand up better against hail, debris, and embers—the primary cause of damage from wildfires. Noncombustible siding provides increased protection.
  • Fire, lightning, and debris removal lead to the highest claims of all insured perils. Cooking equipment is a leading cause of home fires, so never leave a stove unattended, and keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
  • Insurers recommend a simple fix to help prevent a minor disaster that can cause thousands of dollars in water damage: Replace the standard rubber hoses that come with your washing machine with steel-braided reinforced hoses. The cost is only about $20 total.

If your home has been damaged by a disaster such as a fire, flood or mold, contact ServiceMaster Professional Services for disaster restoration servicesSVMPS has more than 40 years of experience in disaster restoration services and we will also work with your insurance provider to help deal with your claim.  Contact us online or call us at (800) 245-4622 for more information.


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