An Easy Guide to Removing Mould from Outdoor Furniture

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You’ve invited all the neighbors round. You have the grill going and some pretty tasty food and drink lined up for them all. You’ve arranged all of your wooden outdoor furniture in a very ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ set up and it’s beginning to look like a bit of a magazine shoot in general. Great. Right up until Aunt Gert points out (in a loud voice) that the chair she was going to sit on has mould in the corners. Yuck.

Outdoor wooden furniture is beautiful and durable but yes, it is prone to mould. Given the fact that it is asked to sit out for a season (or more) in conditions that are likely to vary between hot sticky and humid and then wet when those summer rain showers hit this should hardly come as a surprise. these are just the kinds of conditions mould thrives in best and it is very fond of wood as a ‘base of operations’ as well.

If you do discover that your wooden outdoor furniture has developed mould it isn’t a death sentence for it though. Here’s a relatively easy and rather effective way to deal with the problem without ruining your furniture.

What You’ll Need

Chlorine bleach
Rubbing alcohol
Warm water
Dish soap or detergent
Soft scrub brush
Spray bottle
Garden hose
How It’s Done

Before you begin make sure the furniture to be worked on is as dry and dust free as possible. Use the scrub brush to get rid of as much ‘loose stuff’ as possible but do so gently to avoid scratching the wood.

As bleach is not very friendly to plants, move your ‘workspace’ to a spot where they (and kids and pets) are not. The driveway would be a good choice.

During the dry scrub process the chances are that a lot of the mould spores will have been displaced already. To make sure that they stay gone rinse down your furniture with the garden hose.

Next, fill your spray bottle with a mixture of bleach, water and soap in the following concentration; 10 % bleach and 90% water with several drops of gentle soap. If you prefer not to use bleach, rubbing alcohol can be substituted for it however, rubbing alcohol and water should be mixed 50/50 before adding the soap.

Spray the entire piece with the solution, paying extra attention to the underside, as that is where mould really likes to lurk. Make sure that every inch has a thin layer of the mixture covering it but don’t oversoak.

Scrub the piece gently with the soft scrub brush again. Work slowly in a gentle circular movement until you have been over the entire surface and underside of the piece. Rinse the whole thing again with the hose and check to make sure that all of the mould has been removed. Let the furniture dry naturally before replacing it in its spot.

It should be noted that this method is good for the kind of hardy patio furniture you might buy in Walmart. If yours is actually Granny’s antique teak then you may not want to take any risks and opt to have a professional take a look instead, especially if the mould is extensive as it may have already penetrated the wood more deeply.

Terrific Tips for Conserving Water Around the House This Summer

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In our line of business as water damage remediation experts we spend an awful lot of time dealing with water. And usually a lot of it where it’s not really supposed to be. But we also understand the importance of conserving water as well, from both an environmental and, as the case for many homeowners, financial point of view as well. So with that in mind we’ve pulled together our top tips for easy ways to save water this summer – and possibly prevent water damage too – that really do work.

Use Your Dishwasher Not Your Hands

Believe it or not numerous pieces of research and studies have shown that in households with two or more people living in them using the dishwasher actually uses less – some times significantly so – water than doing them by hand. To save even more scrape dishes rather than pre-rinsing them and don’t run the machine until it’s completely full.

Laundry Tips

Something else you should never run unless it’s full is your washing machine. You should also, wherever possible, avoid that ‘permanent press’ setting, as what many people don’t realize is that it uses up quite a bit of additional water during the final rinse cycle.

In terms of the machine itself keeping it in good repair is a must, both to conserve water and to avoid the kind of leaks, even little leaks, that can lead to some rather nasty water damage. Especially nasty as it builds up over time and it’s not until the mould begins growing that most people are aware that there is an issue. If your machine is older and has plastic piping then replacing the pipes with steel pipes will provide an extra level of protection against leakage.

And finally, if you will be gone for a few days – on vacation perhaps – shut off the hot- and cold-water valves leading to the machine just in case.

Don’t Live with the Drip – Fix Leaky Faucets

Every home develops them at some point; a faucet or two that drip, drip, drips continually. Because it’s such a little thing (although to be frank they drive us nuts) many people put off doing anything with them for months. Big mistake. That little drip wastes an awful lot of water over time and, once again, can eventually lead to some significant water damage.

Temperamental Toilets

Flushing the toilet for more water usage than any other activity in the home. Therefore if you have a leaky, even clog prone, toilet then you could be wasting gallons and gallons of the stuff each and every day. Not sure if you do have a leak issue? Here’s an easy way to find out; remove the tank cover and a little food coloring to the water. Wait about 30 minutes, then check the water in the bowl. If it has turned the color of your food coloring, then the tank is leaking and the flush mechanism needs to be replaced asap.

The best idea of all is to replace older standard toilets with a new low flow model. They only cost a few hundred dollars (at most, you can get some for well under $100, they’ll just be very plain to look at) and the water savings are significant. How big? Old toilets, use between 5 and 7 gallons of water per flush, while a low flow modern toilet uses only 1.6 gallons.

In the Garden

We know that your poor plants need refreshment during the summer months, and your lawn even more so, but overwatering an outdoor space is one of the biggest water wasters of all in the summer.

Lawn and Garden

Spreading a layer of mulch around flower beds, trees, and bushes can really help. Mulch not only blocks out weeds, but it also helps retain moisture so you won’t need to water as often.

If you make use of lawn sprinklers, ensure they’re not spraying the house, street, driveway, sidewalk, or patio. Water early in the morning or late in the day, when temperatures are cooler and less of the water will evaporate before it can properly benefit the ground and soak in properly.

Preventing Bathroom Water Damage and Mould Without an Extractor Fan

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A few weeks ago we blogged about the importance of a properly ventilated bathroom in helping maintain bathroom health (and thus your health too) and to prevent slow water damage and mould. The post concentrated on bathroom exhaust fans, but since then we have heard from folks who have told us there is absolutely no way that they can install such a thing in their bathroom, either because the space is placed in an area of the home that makes it impossible (quite common with guest bathrooms) or they live in an older rental property and would not be allowed to make such changes. What these folks asked us is are they any alternatives they can try.

The answer is yes. None of them are quite as good as a proper bathroom extractor fan but they should help a lot. For the best effect try a couple of these ideas in tandem with one another.

A Fan for the Window – The is the most obvious alternative to a bathroom extractor fan is to crack a window, but in the winter things get a little too cold for showering with an open window and in the height of summer all you will be doing is letting even more humidity in.

Instead try installing a double window fan. These can be set to extract air from a room as well as cool it and in the winter you can just set it to extract rather than extract and cool. The good news is that these are very inexpensive gadgets, even a top of the line model won’t set you back more than about $30.

A Dehumidifier – Every home should have a dehumidifier stored away someplace in case of emergencies like clean up after minor water damage. But if you buy your bathroom it’s own model, even a small one, and run it when people shower and for a few minutes afterwards the damp and mould problems should be held in check.

Moisture Loving Plants – Some pot plants were created to live in damp bathrooms because for them they don’t just need water and moisture to live they love the stuff and ‘guzzle up’ as much as possible. What plants should you look for at the garden centre? Bamboo, orchids, aloe, snake and spider plants all love to suck up damp from the air and the added bonus is that they help cleanse the air too, a big benefit in the bathroom for sure.

Simple Home Improvement Tweaks to Make Your Mornings Brighter

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There are some people who are just morning people. They leap out of bed, chomping at the bit, raring to get going. Then there are the rest of us. Mornings (especially Monday mornings) are not exactly our favorite time of day. There are however a few simple home improvement tweaks and additions you can make to your home itself that will make those early hours just a little bit more bearable. Here are a few simple suggestions:

Get a Better Shower – Starting your morning with a nice shower should be the best way to wake up but for many homeowners it is more of an annoyance than anything else. The water’s too hot, the water’s too cold, the water pressure is too low. The shower leaks, the floor gets too wet, they slip. And where did that mould patch come from in the corner of the shower? Yuck.

Something as simple as investing in a new shower head can solve the water pressure problems most of the time. Opt for one of the new low flow models that waste less water and come with some rather invigorating spray settings to boot. It will also often solve leak problems, as as they get older shower heads just tend to fail for no good reason.

If a new showerhead does not solve a leak problem it’s essential that you find out just where the leak is, even if that means calling in a plumber. Little leaks can lead to very big problems, including mould and mildew as well as rotting floorboards and similar expensive water damage.

Hot water problems are harder, but not impossible to remedy as well. Ask your plumber about switching the water heater you have for a tankless or a water on demand model. They use less energy and heat water faster and far more efficiently and have a longer lifespan to boot.

Get a Friendlier Floor – Even if the weather outside is not too cold that often does not extend to your bathroom floor. And stepping out of the shower onto a freezing cold tile floor is enough to wake up even the biggest of sleepyheads – just not in a very nice way.

A nice comfy floor underfoot can make an awful lot of difference to the quality of your mornings. Carpet would be ideal but for the most part, it does not fare very well in the damp and humid conditions that exist in even a well ventilated bathroom and does tend to be a real mould magnet, not a nice thing to step onto first thing in the morning at all.

One great way to make sure stepping out of the shower is not such a traumatic experience consider having radiant under floor heating installed. This is a very energy efficient way to heat the bathroom and costs a lot less than you might imagine.

Buy a Programmable Coffee Maker – Waiting for coffee to brew in the morning is a hassle. So much of a hassle in fact that most people don’t even bother and blow a small fortune on a store bought frothy coffee every morning.

You can make your mornings easier (and cheaper) by investing in a programmable coffee maker. Set it start brewing 15 minutes before your alarm goes off and you will be awoken to the wonderful aroma of fresh coffee – doesn’t that sound nice? (It is, we know, we have one,. which is why we suggested it)

What Do Water Softeners Really Do? Do I Really Need One?

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More than 70% of households in the Western world have what is known as hard water. What many of these homeowners do not realize though is that on fairly simple little appliance – a water softener – could improve their water a great deal with very little effort on their part.

What is Hard Water?

Hard water is water that is contaminated with dissolved minerals. These minerals include calcium, magnesium, sulphur and in some cases even limestone or lead. Hard water may also contain other unpleasant elements like trace sewage, depending upon where you live.

How Can You Tell if Your Home Has a Hard Water Problem?

All of the following indicate a hard water problem in your home:

 

  • Your water has an unpleasant bitter taste
  • Your water has a slightly sulphurous smell
  • Your dishes never quite seem clean, even though you use a lot of detergent and the same is true of the clothes you wash.
  • You have to use a lot of soap and shampoo to get a half decent lather
  • Things you cannot see. Mineral deposits clog both water pipes and the workings of appliances like washing machines and dishwashers. Not only will this shorten their useful life but they will have to work a lot harder, costing you more on your energy bill.
  • Worse still the mineral deposits can actually eat at the pipes, leading to tiny holes, that then lead to little leaks that eventually become bigger leaks and water damage that may go unseen until the problem has become a big, expensive one to fix (often doubly so as where there are small unseen water leaks there is usually nasty mould as well.)

How Do Water Softeners Work?

Water softeners come in a number of different sizes and the best size for you will be determined by the household’s average water usage. Whatever size you choose though all water softeners work in the same basic way. The actual body of a water softener is just a tank that is filled with resin beads. These resin beads are coated with sodium ions that come from the second part of the water softener, the brine tank. As the hard water passes through the water , the resin beads act like a magnet, attracting the calcium and magnesium ions, which cause the hardness, for sodium ions.

There is very little maintenance involved in owning a water softener. Once in a while the resin beads will have to be “recharged” which is achieved by backwashing them with salt water from the brine tank. Really all you have to do is remember to do that and to replace the salt in the brine tank on a regular basis.

Potassium Chloride Vs Sodium Chloride

When you first purchase and install a water softener you may be told by some that rather than using the standard salt usually sold for use in a water softener – officially called sodium chloride, that you should try potassium chloride instead. Should you? There are indeed some advantages to making that switch; water softened with potassium chloride is a little softer and a little kinder to pipes (eventually a sodium build up could be an issue but only minimally so) but it is quite a bit more expensive, so it’s really a matter of personal choice.

Will I Notice a Difference?

Most people notice a difference in water that has been softened right away. Tap water tastes better, clothes come out the washer cleaner and they need far less soap and detergent to get things clean (including themselves!)

 

DIY Tricks to Keep Cool without A/C

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Many have lived this scenario: You meant to buy a new air conditioner. You meant to look into getting central air, or upgrading the rather old system you have in place. You thought about it in the winter, you thought about it in the spring. Now that summer’s here your old A/C is playing up a bit but it seems to be working. You’ll get a new one soon.

Then one hot sticky evening you notice a big wet patch around the A/C unit and the fact that the air it’s pumping out is lukewarm rather than cool and it’s getting warmer by the minute. You poke, prod and try to troubleshoot but as the temperature in the room begins to really rise you have to face the fact that your A/C is suffering from (not so) sudden death syndrome. Because it’s leaking you turn it off to avoid potential water damage but what are you going to do now?

What can you do to avoid overheating before you can get to a store and pick up a new A/C? Here are some DIY ways to stay cool (or relativity cool) when A/C is not an option.

The DIY Cooler A/C

If you really want to try and cool things off, and don’t mind going a bit MacGuyver then you could try putting together this pseudo A/C unit which is created using a standard drinks cooler, a few basic hand tools and it’s rather clever stuff. Will it cool off a whole house? No, but it will do a decent job on the average sized room until you can replace it with a more conventional alternative. A DIY cooler like this may also be helpful for use in vacation cabins etc. that may not come along with A/C either. And this guy – who is very entertaining – makes it all very easy indeed:

The Ice Box Solution

Decades ago, when refrigerators were more commonly referred to as iceboxes, that was because that is pretty much all they were, a way to keep huge blocks of ice frozen and this easy as pie solution is based on that principle. All you need to do is fill a roasting pan – or similar deep container – with bagged ice and then place it in front of a medium sized fan.

Turn on the fan and the breeze it throws off will draw up moisture from the melting ice and create a cooler breeze. It’s not quite as efficient as the cooler A/C but as an emergency measure it works well enough.

The Sheet Solution

If it’s truly hot, but a little late to start DIY work as a last resort you can try hanging a sheet soaked in cold water (and rinsed well) in front of an open window. That will block much of the heat and help cool things off at least a little

Maintaining the Exterior of Your Rental Property – A Simple Checklist

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Rental property maintenance is a very important part of being a landlord. It can also be a nuisance but in order to keep paying tenants safe and happy and to comply with leases it is a must. Rental property maintenance is also important as a way to help protect the investment you have made in your rental properties and to avoid legal complications relating to tenant injury or expensive damage to you investment.

Many landlords are rather good at making sure the inside of a property is in the best possible shape before they rent it out but are sometimes not so careful when it comes to the exterior. This is a mistake, as the outside of the property is as important as the interior, in terms of attracting new tenants, of helping to ensure you meet your responsibilities and just protecting your investment from damage in general. Here are just a few of the thinks that should be kept in mind.

The Entrance – Whether the rental property you own is a single family house the entrance and the area just around it need to be as safe and secure as possible. Taking a scan around the property once in a while to spot potential problems is therefore always a good idea:

Do all of the exterior lights work and do they light up the entrance properly?
Is there any obvious damage to any walkways or driveways leading up to the entrance? Look for cracks and potholes that can be a potential hazard to vehicles and pedestrians.
If there are tree branches near the property they should always be cut back so that they do not allow mould and mildew to form on the roof, as such things can literally eat away at your roof over time.

The Yard – If the rental property has a yard many landlords do make an agreement with tenants to have them take much of the responsibility for the yard-work once they move in, although that is not always the case and who does what should really be specified in a lease. There are some things that a landlord should look at before new tenants move in though:

Look for any obvious potholes or depressions in the lawn or on pathways and have them filled in.
Check any gutters to make sure that they are clean and aligned properly to the downspouts to prevent water damage to the foundation. Make sure that the procedure for the ongoing maintenance of guttering is understood by all as well, since water damage caused by blocked or broken gutters is one of the commonest forms we see.
Make sure that compost heaps, trash bins and recycling bins are set well away from the home to help prevent insect infestation problems.

Performing these kinds of simple checks around the exterior of your rental property should only take a short time and can save you a lot of time, hassle and money later on so they are well worth implementing.

Why Venting a Bathroom Exhaust Fan Correctly is So Important

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Venting a bathroom fan properly is crucial as an improperly installed and vented model can actually cause all kinds of lasting damage to your home that you may not even be able to see!

Why Bother with a Bathroom Exhaust Fan?

There are some very good, and very sensible, reasons why making sure that you have a bathroom exhaust fan properly installed is pretty much essential:

To Extract Moisture – Bathrooms are the dampest room in any home. If moisture is allowed to remain in the room after a shower or bath then not only does the air become unpleasantly humid but damp, mould and mildew can start growing almost immediately.
To Protect the Structure of the Space – If you have a bathroom that does not have a very efficient exhaust fan the build up of even small amounts of excess water in the air can, over time, damage the actual structure of the walls and make them unstable and even potentially unsafe thanks mainly to the build up of mould you won’t even see. As a living organism mould will literally eat your walls, floors and more.
To Make the Bathroom a Nicer Place – It’s hard to be delicate about it – bathrooms can be rather smelly places at times. A bathroom exhaust fan can quickly whisk any unpleasant odors away though so that the next person who needs to use the space does not have to do so holding their nose!

How Do Bathroom Exhaust Fans Work?

There are a number of different kinds of bathroom exhaust fan on the market but they do all work in essentially the same way. Almost all bathroom exhaust fans are installed in the ceiling,its simply the most effective way for them to operate and for them to be vented as well. The exception is a downstairs bathroom that cannot be vented into the attic or the roof – often these fans have to be wall mounted instead.

Venting bathroom fan processes vary. The most efficient form of ventilation – right through the roof – is only possible if the home the fan is installed in does not have an attic. However since many houses do, venting bathroom fans through the attic and then out through the roof is very common

Usually to vent the fan a pipe or tube is attached to the fan and the motor pushes the moist, extracted air through an opening in the ceiling or roof. Alternately for a wall mounted fan the air is sucked outside directly.

Should You Try Venting a Bathroom Exhaust Fan Yourself?

Everyone likes to save money and often that desire leads to people trying to do as much as they can around the house themselves rather than paying a contractor to come in and do the work for them. This can however have serious – and expensive – consequences if something goes wrong. Sure you can by a bathroom exhaust fan at your local home improvement store but do you really have the skills to install it the right way?

If a bathroom exhaust fan is not properly vented then a build up of moisture can degrade the structure of your home. For example, if an loft vented fan is not installed properly all of the moisture being extracted from your bathroom will stay in the loft instead, possible damaging beams, structural supports and even the roof itself.

Are There Any Good Alternatives to a Vented Bathroom Exhaust Fan?

Most new houses now have an efficient bathroom exhaust fan system installed when they are built but that is certainly not the case for many older homes. If the bathroom in an older home is located in an awkward space rather than try to work out just how they could make a vented exhaust fan work some homeowners look for an alternative.

Unfortunately the options are limited. You can open the window of course but can you really stand to do that on a colder winter’s day? This may not be very efficient in the summer either as if the air outside is stagnant and humid all you will be doing is making the bathroom even hotter and even stickier!

Another alternative is to use a wall fan that vents into another room and then pulls clean air in. But which room in your home would want to have all that nasty air pour into instead? Unless you can vent to an outside wall then this is rarely a good option either! However hard it may seem venting bathroom fans properly is the only real way you can help ensure that your bathroom stays nice and dry, as well as mould, mildew and odor free!

Rental Property Maintenance – Bathroom Checklist to Prevent Costly Problems

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Although it may not be the biggest room in a home by far the bathroom is often the busiest. In a rental property the bathroom can also be a source of some of a landlord’s worst repair headaches as often problems in a bathroom are water related and can become an emergency water damage repair situation to avoid permanent and expensive damage.

Keeping in mind that a little prevention can go a long way giving the bathroom – or bathrooms – at your rental property an occasional “check-up”, especially before new tenants move in, is always a good idea. Here are some of the things to look at (and for)

 

  • Flush the toilet, run the shower and the faucet on the sink, one by one. Does all of this water flow well and drain or flush away properly? Is the hot water working and does it heat in a reasonable amount of time? Do you hear any strange gurgles in the pipes? If something does not seem right calling in a plumber before bigger problems arise is a must.

  • Inspect the bathtub and the counters for obvious cracks, chips or other damage.

  • Push a foot down on the floor directly nearest the bathtub. If there is softness or even too much give that is a sign of water leak that will need to be fixed before it damages the flooring and makes the space unsafe.

  • Check the area around the toilet base. Any moisture here usually indicates that the toilet seal needs to be repaired or replaced to stop a leak.

  • If the bathroom has under-sink cabinets, which many do, open them all up and not only look for signs of a leak but also for other problems excess moisture in this kind of an enclosed area can cause like mold and mildew. If you can see nothing but there is a musty smell, investigate further to determine the cause of the odor.

  • Check any and all electrical outlets in the bathroom to make sure that they work properly and that any fault interuptors  are functional as well.

  • Check for mould and mildew. Even tiny water leaks can result in mould build up that, once they discover it is sure to dismay your tenants and may potentially endanger their health as well.

  • Take a little time to add the name and number of a good water damage restoration company to your list of contact numbers. Hopefully you will never need to use it but as any landlord knows owning a rental property – and tenants behavior – can be rather unpredictable, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

 

Prepare Your Home’s Plumbing for Vacation; Free Downloadable Checklist!

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It’s vacation season! However, before you set off to go hiking, biking, camping, beach sitting or whatever it is very important that you take a little time to ensure, as far as possible, that your are leaving your home, its contents and all of its systems in the best possible shape to be ‘left alone’ for a week or two.

Here at Restoration 1 Kitchener we know, sadly, first hand, the damage and heartache a tap left running when a home’s owners go away can cause. And that is not the only potential problem that could have been avoided that we have encountered. Here are some of the most important checks and safeguards you should implement before you head of to catch that plane, train or bus to your holiday paradise:

Check Your Sump Pump – If you have a basement you probably have a sump pump. If so then however sunny it may be you really should make sure that it is ready to swing into action if one of those surprise summer rain storms hit while you are away. Coming home to a flooded basement is not something you want to do. Check your sump pump by dumping a bucket of water into the pit. Does your sump pump turn on and remove the water? If not you might want to call in a plumber to check it over.

Prevent Empty Home Stinkiness – When a house is empty, even just for a few weeks, and the weather is warm outside, it often does not take long for it to become a bit stinky, especially in the plumbing department. To prevent having to deal with smelly toilets and sinks upon your return mix a half cup of vinegar and a half cup of water together and then dump it down each drain and/or toilet (don’t flush) That way things will remain nice and fresh until you get home.

Shut the Water Off – Coming home to water damage is one of the worst possible things that can happen to a homeowner. As no one will be home there is really no need for water to be running at all, so turning it off at the mains is a smart way to significantly reduce the risk of water damage while you are away.

These are just a few tips. To help you be properly prepared to enjoy a worry free break we have complied a downloadable checklist for you to keep handy and make use of before you leave. Grab a copy here and ENJOY YOUR VACATION!