Protecting the Indoor Air Quality in your Home

Air pollution is a major issue that affects everyone in the world.  As a result, governments, businesses, and institutions around the globe have put forth efforts to reduce air pollution and create a healthier environment.  While it is important to fight outdoor air pollution, the issue of indoor air is often overlooked.  The air inside a home becomes polluted too, and indoor air pollution may pose a bigger threat to your health than outdoor air pollution.

Studies have shown that it is possible for indoor air pollution to be more harmful than outdoor air pollution, especially if a home or apartment has poor or limited ventilation.  There are several sources of indoor air pollution including cooking, smoking, paint or varnish residue, VOCs from cleaning products, radon, and mold spores.  What makes indoor air pollution so dangerous is that these harmful pollutants are much more highly concentrated in confined indoor spaces as opposed to the vast outdoor air.  People also spend more time indoors than outdoors on average, increasing their exposure to these indoor air pollutants.  It is very important for homeowners to understand the dangers of indoor air pollution, the various sources of it, and how to improve the indoor air quality of the home.

Risks of Radon


One common source of indoor air pollution that should concern homeowners across the U.S. is radon.

One common source of indoor air pollution that should concern homeowners across the U.S. is radon.  Radon is a radioactive gas that is produced naturally when soil breaks down uranium.  It can seep into homes through foundational cracks and other openings, and it has no color, taste, or odor, making it very difficult to detect.  Radon can quickly build up to dangerous levels in a home and exposure to radon damages lung cells which can lead to lung cancer.  About 21,000 people die annually due to complications from radon exposure.

The only way to tell if your home is affected by radon is to have it tested.  It is extremely important for homeowners to test for radon because of the serious health complications that can result from extended exposure.  Home radon testing kits are very affordable and will give you an idea of the level of radon in your home.  If you do not trust a home testing kit, you can also hire a qualified professional for radon testing and mitigation if you do have elevated levels.

Protecting your Home from Radon

You can help prevent radon buildup in your home with the following tips:

  • Do not smoke or let others smoke in your home. The presence of smoke can make health complications from radon more likely to occur.
  • Promote good air circulation and ventilation in your home by opening vents and windows and running fans.
  • Look for and seal any cracks or openings in the foundation of your home.
  • Test your home for radon if you think there may be a problem. Radon testing is affordable, and it can save you and your family from serious health complications.

Smoke and Odors from Fires


A home may be affected by the smoke from cooking, cigarettes, and of course, house fires.

Smoke, in all of its forms, is one of the leading causes of indoor air pollution.  A home may be affected by the smoke from cooking, cigarettes, and of course, house fires.  Where there is smoke, there are also harmful contaminants in the air and unpleasant odors.  When smoke damage occurs, regardless of whether it is from a house fire or a cooking accident, the focus of the smoke damage restoration is usually on cleaning the damaged materials and removing the odors.  However, it is also important for the contaminants in the air to be removed with an air cleaning or purifying process.

Gaseous Air Purifiers

When a disaster occurs that involves smoke and odors, air cleanup must be done to bring the indoor air quality back to normal.  One common method that restoration professionals use to do this is oxidation.  There are a couple of different oxidation techniques used for air purification that work by converting the dangerous contaminants to a less harmful form through chemical reactions.  The contaminants will eventually be decomposed into water and carbon dioxide.  The problem with oxidation methods is that they can create potentially harmful chemicals.

The following are common types of oxidation techniques used to improve indoor air quality:

  • Ozone: Ozone has been used for years to help eliminate odors and VOCs from homes, but it also has hazardous side effects. Ozone quickly attacks chemical compounds which makes it effective for eliminating odors and airborne contaminants, but it can also cause damage to paint, rubber, and other common building materials.  This oxidation process can also produce formaldehyde which is a dangerous chemical, and inhaling ozone can also be harmful.  It is very important that this process is done by highly trained professionals.
  • Hydroxyl Ions: Hydroxyl oxidation is a mild oxidation process that works the same way as ozone oxidation, but with less intense side effects. Hydroxyl ions do not create as many harmful chemicals as ozone and is less of a risk to your health.  It also disappears from the air within a few seconds as opposed to ozone which takes 24 to 48 hours to dissipate, so it will not build up to unsafe levels in your home.  Even though hydroxyl ions can produce some of the same hazards as ozone, the harmful chemicals it creates are at much lower concentrations, making hydroxyl oxidation a safe alternative.

Other Indoor Air Pollutants


There are other factors that threaten your indoor air quality that are much less serious but have a much more immediate impact. These factors include smoking, pet hair or dander, certain cleaning products, and dust buildup.

Smoke and strong odors are extreme examples of indoor air pollution that typically occur as a result of a disaster, and radon is a serious problem that gradually builds over time.  There are other factors that threaten your indoor air quality that are much less serious but have a much more immediate impact.  These factors include smoking, pet hair or dander, certain cleaning products, and dust buildup.  There are simple ways to reduce the effects of indoor air pollution from these factors, such as using VOC free cleaning products and implementing a no smoking rule in the home, but it is a little tougher to keep your home free of dust or pet hair.  Even if you clean regularly, these materials will still end up in your HVAC system only to get blown back into the breathing air each time the system turns on.

The most effective way to reduce the impact of these factors on your indoor air is to call a professional like ServiceMaster Professional Services for air duct cleaning services.  Our technicians use the right equipment to remove dust, hair, and other airborne debris from the air duct walls and internal parts.  This will result in much cleaner breathing air in your home and significantly reduce the risk of allergies and other breathing issues.

Protect your Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air pollution is a problem that can affect any home and lead to health complications such as allergic reactions and more serious respiratory issues.  As a homeowner, you should always be aware of the potential for indoor air pollution and take action to help preserve your indoor air quality.  Smoking outside, using eco-friendly cleaning products, cleaning dust and hair, and ventilating your home when painting are all effective steps to reduce indoor air pollution.  You should also have your home tested for radon and be ready to call our professionals at SVMPS if your property is affected by fire, smoke, odors, or mold to remove dangerous contaminants from the air with our advanced equipment and methods.  Keeping your indoor air clean will contribute to a healthier, happier home.

SVMPS provides professional air duct cleaning services as well as air purification and odor removal to help improve the indoor air quality of your home or business in the St. Paul and Minneapolis, MN area.  Give us a call at (800) 245-4622 for emergency services.

How to Prevent Basement Flooding from Snow Melt

When there are heavy rains, it’s not uncommon to have water in your basement, but melting snow can also turn your lower levels into an indoor swimming pool. There’s no way to prevent snow from melting as temperatures rise, so the best course of action is to keep water from entering your home and damaging the contents.

Water in your basement does more than leave items soggy; it can be dangerous to your health and the safety of your home. Mold starts to grow within 48 hours because the spores are everywhere in the air and feed off common household items like paper and drywall. A foundation wall that stays wet will weaken over time and eventually collapse. The structural integrity of your home relies on a sturdy foundation, so a collapse of any size can be a disaster for the rest of the building. These tips will help you keep snow melt out of your basement and avoid water damage.

Clear the area when it snows.

How to Prevent Basement Flooding from Snow MeltThe most effective way to keep snow melt out of your basement is to keep it away from the foundation of your building. You may not realize that one cubic foot of snow equals ¾ of a gallon of water, so a snow accumulation of a couple of feet around the perimeter of your home adds up to a great deal of water that can end up flooding your basement. When you’re clearing sidewalks and driveways after snowstorms, be sure to clear a path around your home to keep snow away so it won’t find its way inside when it eventually melts. A five-foot perimeter around the building should be enough to keep the water out when the temperatures rise.

Invest in a sump pump and make sure it works.

A sump pump is a smart investment, especially if your basement is furnished. It turns on automatically when water in the sump pit reaches a certain level and pumps the water through a pipe outside and away from your home. Pumps vary in price and are available in home improvement and hardware stores, as well as online sources. It’s a good idea to test the pump on a regular basis to ensure it will work when you need it. Pour a small amount of water into the pit, just enough to go over the level that triggers the pump. If it doesn’t turn on immediately, make sure the pump is plugged in and installed correctly before you consider replacing it. Be sure one of the times you check your sump pump is in late winter, before snow starts to melt.

Repair any cracks in your foundation’s walls.

Cracks in the walls are an easy way for water to enter your basement. It’s possible to seal small cracks yourself using epoxy or a specially made sealing kit from the hardware or home improvement store, but leave major crack repairs to the professionals. It’s important to repair cracks as soon as possible because they will only get worse over time, and the foundation supports the rest of your home. If the foundation gives way, you will have major property damage that is expensive to repair. Keep in mind that concrete is porous, so you may still get some snow melt in your basement even if you don’t have any cracks, if there’s enough moisture outside the foundation walls.

No matter the cause of home flooding in Minneapolis, St. Cloud, Hutchinson, Marshall, or Willmar, MN and the surrounding areas, ServiceMaster Professional Services is available 7 days a week, 365 days a year to remove all traces of excess water from homes and businesses. We use only the most advanced cleaning products and equipment to extract water and clean, dry, and restore your building and its contents before they’re permanently damaged. Our experienced professionals will stop mold before it can start growing using anti-microbial products, and repair damaged items like furniture, books, and heirlooms you may have thought were lost forever. It’s vital to contact us quickly after a flood because the damage only becomes worse over time.

Water damage restoration costs vary, depending on the extent of the damage and the presence of mold. According to, the national average cost for flood damage cleanup is $2,573.


How to Identify, Prevent, and Remove Ice Dams in St. Cloud, MN

A row of icicles along your roofline may make your home in St. Cloud, MN look festive, but they’re often a sign that there’s a problem on the roof. Poorly insulated attics that allow heat to escape or sudden warm spells cause the snow on the top of your home to melt. When the water from melting snow runs into ice buildups, clogged gutters or other debris, it backs up into a puddle on the roof. This phenomenon is known as an ice dam. Flat places on roofs are also prime places for ice dams, because the water collects but has nowhere to go. Over time, that water can work its way under shingles and roofing materials and into buildings, where it can damage ceilings, walls, and other areas and cause mold growth. The weight of the ice dam can pull gutters and downspouts away from the exterior of your home, so it’s important to check your home for signs of ice dams on a regular basis throughout the winter to avoid costly repairs.

How to Tell If You Have an Ice Dam

How to Identify, Prevent, and Remove Ice Dams in St. Cloud, MNMost ice dams build up on the edges of rooftops, but depending on the style of yours, they can develop in other locations. There are usually a few mild days every winter that are warm enough to pull out the ladder and check any spots that are flat or don’t slope very much.

Check for icicles around the exterior of your home. If they’re only along the gutter and there’s no water buildup behind them, there probably isn’t an ice dam but they can contribute to the formation of one in the future. Large icicles can hurt people and animals if they break off unexpectedly. Remove them before they get too large, but don’t stand directly underneath them.

Look for water stains or moisture on ceilings, walls, and in the attic. As the water pools up on the roof, it works its way under shingles and the roof membrane and leaves discolorations on painted surfaces.

Ice Dam Removal

If you find an ice dam on your home in St. Cloud, MN, it’s important to remove it as soon as possible, before it can cause more damage to your home. Waiting until spring is usually not a viable option. One way is to use calcium chloride ice melt.

  1. Use a roof rake to remove 3-4 feet of snow from the edge of the roof. Be sure not to damage any shingles or block any sidewalks under the roof.
  2. Fill a nylon stocking with calcium chloride ice melt and place it along the ice dam, using a ladder. This is available in hardware and big box stores. DO NOT use rock salt or sodium chloride, both of which can damage your roof.
  3. Cover any plants and shrubs under the affected gutters and nearby downspouts as long as the calcium chloride is in place and until the dripping has stopped. The melting water will be hazardous to plants because of the sodium levels.

Another method to remove ice dams is to hire a roofing company to steam the ice away and remove large chunks. This method is safer for multi-story buildings and doesn’t have the potential environmental impact of using calcium chloride.

Preventing Ice Dams

Preventing Ice DamsThere isn’t a way to control weather fluctuations, but when temperatures are warm after a storm, have someone steady a ladder and check the roof for excess snow or a potential dam in progress. Use a roof rake to remove excess snow while you’re up there. If you needed one more reason to add insulation to the attic, it has been shown to help prevent ice dams. Proper insulation in the attic helps keep it near the same temperature as the outside, so snow won’t melt on the roof. Usually this means insulating the attic floor and installing soffit, gable, and ridge vents to allow excess heat to escape.

When you experience water damage for any reason in the St. Cloud, MN area, you need it cleaned up quickly, before the damage spreads and mold begins to grow. ServiceMaster Professional Services is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to respond to all types of disasters. We use only the most effective products and equipment available to the industry, so our clients receive the highest levels of quality cleaning and restoration.

Water damage restoration costs vary, depending on the extent of the damage, the presence of mold, and the amount of restoration needed. According to, the national average to remove standing water is $2,808. The national average to repair water damage is $2,564 and the national average to remove mold is $2,149.


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.

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