It may be slow coming to us the year, but freezing temprature is around the corner and now is the time to get ready. Georgia’s mild winters often keep us from preparing our homes as we should. Cold tempratures can wreck havoc on plumbing, and a burst pipe will quickly rack up costly damages to your home.

Fortunalty, staying ahead of the game is easy. Here are a few simple tips to prepare your pipes for winter.

1. Prepare Your Outside Faucets

Your exterior faucets are directly exposed to the weather and are the most vulnerable pipes you have. Start by disconnecting and draining any garden hoses. Place a Foam Faucet Cover over each spigot to keep them insulated.

2. Insulate Unheated Pipes

Find any pipes that run through unheated areas such as garages, crawlspaces or attics. These will be more prone to freezing and should be insulated with pipe wrap or heat tape.

3. Leave Water Dripping

If you are expecting a particularly cold night and want a little extra peace of mind, leave your faucets running at a trickle. This will keep water moving and prevent freezing.

4. Keep The Heater Maintained

If your heater has not been serviced recently, there is a good chance that it will go out on the coldest night of the year. Get ahead of the game by having the pros service it now. Be sure to change the filter every month. This simple step will keep your pipes safe and keep you warm!

5. Plan For Travel

If you are leaving town for any length of time, take a few simple steps to protect your pipes. First, keep your heat running at 55 degrees or warmer. Next, leave the cabinets open so heat can easily get to the pipes. Finally, shut off your main water supply to the house and turn off your water heater at the breaker. These simple steps could save thousands in water damage repairs.

Finally… Know Who To Call

If the worst happens and you are faced with water damage from a burst pipe, have our number handy. Branch Enviromental is on call 24/7 to handle you emergencies.

A water leak in your home can quickly go from an annoyance to an all-out catastrophe. As a broken toilet or dishwasher supply line spews water, the gallons quickly add up and damage to your home mounts.

You may not be a plumber or even a handyman, but there is one thing you should be able to do: QUICKLY TURN YOUR WATER OFF!

Being able to stop the flow of water into your home is the single best thing you can do to minimize damage, and it is easier than you might think.

Step 1: Determine if you are supplied by municipal water or a well.

This one is easy… if you pay a water bill you are on a municipal supply.

Step 2: Find Your Shutoff

If you have a well, you can simply go to your pressure tank and find the shutoff valve. Close the valve and the water should stop.

If you are supplied by municipal water, head to the street and look for the water meter box in the ground. It’s probably a few feet off the street somewhere along your property line.

When you lift the lid off the box, you should be able to see your water meter. It is a dial with numbers that show the amount of water you have used. Next to the water meter is your water valve. There is a good chance you will have to dig some dirt out of the box to find the valve. Once the valve is clear, use a pair of pliers to turn it back and forth a few times. It probably will only take 1/4 of a turn fully close.

That is it! Now you know how to shut your water off in an emergency.

Step 3: Be Proactive

We get frequent calls from people returning home from vacation to find their homes flooded. One of our own team members had a mouse chew through his dishwater supply line while he was out of town! These unexpected leaks can lead to massive damage. Taking the simple step of shutting off your water when you will be away for a few days can save you from big repairs.


What Is Mold

Molds are microscopic fungi that are found all around us. The fungi reproduce by releasing spores into the air. Mold is naturally occurring and usually is found in large quantities. Airborne spores look for a place to settle and grow.

What Conditions are Needed

The ideal temperature for mold growth is 77 to 86 degrees. Mold also requires moisture to grow. Generally, that moisture will come from water leaks, high humidity, or condensation. If the conditions are not right, the mold will go dormant and not grow.

In addition to the environment described above, mold can be accelerated by surfaces with organic matter. Natural materials like cotton or wood and surfaces with grease or food provide an ideal environment for growth.

When you are looking for spots that mold may be growing in your home, look for damp warm spots. Basement with wet concrete wall or crawlspaces that may have experienced a water leak are prime spots. Crawlspaces with uncovered earth can allow ample moisture to promote mold growth.

Inside your home, mold can take hold inside walls, behind cabinets, or under the carpet. Damp shower curtains and laundry piles can also provide the moisture and temperature required for growth.

How Do I Get Rid Of Mold

That depends on the extent of your problem. If the mold is on a surface that can be cleaned, simply wash it away with a soapy solution. You must be very thorough because any remaining spores will be able to regenerate. If the mold has made it into your walls or carpet, there is a good chance those materials will need to be removed.

After the materials have been removed and the mold has been completely cleaned, all surfaces must be dried.

Will Mold Return

If your mold was caused by a leaking appliance or pipe, there is a good chance you will not deal with any more mold. If there was another reason, the mold will likely return if not corrected. Since mold requires moisture to grow, the easiest way to eliminate the threat is to lower the humidity level. This may take some work on your A/C unit, or you may be able to strategically use dehumidifiers. The bottom line is that you must eliminate the moisture to prevent mold regrowth.

Do I Need Professional Help

Depending on the scope of your problem, a professional mold inspection could save you a lot of headaches. The pros have the tools and experience needed to determine the true extent of mold damage. Getting the mold cleanup done right the first time can save you big in the long run. On your own, you will have a difficult time determining just how far mold has gone without tearing out walls and making a huge mess.



If you’re reacting to a problem because somebody is sick, you’ve waited too long to address indoor air quality. Because mold needs a source of water to sustain growth, preventing water is key.

Your Home’s Bathroom Fans Are There For a Reason

It’s winter, and we love a hot shower when it’s cold outside. A shower produces steam in your house, and that steam consists of thousands of visible microscopic water droplets suspended in the air. Lingering moisture causes mold in bathrooms, typically seen on the ceiling above your shower. Ventilation is required to remove steam, otherwise it will condensate on hard surfaces and can linger causing dampness in surrounding areas of the bathroom.

A Simple Action

If you have multiple people showering every day, your shower can be a culprit to increased humidity levels inside your home or dampness in your bathrooms vicinity. Vent fans are important. Their purpose is to remove excess moisture in the air produced when taking showers. When showering and bathing, use your bathroom’s exhaust fans. Don’t stop there, leave them running until the mirror is cleared.

Exhaust Fan Specs and Recommendations

A fan’s ability to move air is measured in Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM). The larger the CFM the more quickly humidity is removed. Most bathroom vent fans are rated from 50 CFM to 110 CFM. Check to see if it’s the appropriate size.

RULE OF THUMB: For a bathroom W10’ x L6’ x H8’ the recommended vent fan rating is 63 CFM or higher

Is it clogged with debris? Is it ducted to exhaust outside of the home? It doesn’t hurt to inspect the exhaust fan and duct to determine if repairs are needed. Click on the link below to use as a guide.

If you are experiencing mold in your home, our team can clear up your concerns. We perform mold inspections and remediations as part of our whole-home indoor air quality approach, and we’re happy to answer any questions that you have. If you suspect that mold is growing in your home, email Branch Environmental or call us at (706) 310-0097.

water damage mitigation mold remediation

We have written previously on how water damage can lead to a mold problem. Well, it’s happened again, but this time with a new twist.

DIY Goes Awry

Three weeks prior to calling our team, a homeowner had been doing some DIY repairs in his laundry room when the water supply line to his washing machine snapped. Water was spraying everywhere! It took about five minutes of scrambling to get the water turned off.

The homeowner quickly got to work cleaning up the veritable lake of water in his home, and was diligent enough to place fans in the rooms to help dry the carpet and other flooring.

Then it was time to fix the plumbing issue and turn the water back on. After the small project turned into a day-long affair, he hoped the worst was behind him. Unfortunately, he was not so lucky.

Surveying the Damage

After about three weeks, the homeowner called our team to discuss his situation. He was specifically interested in verifying that he had dried everything out appropriately, and would not have a mold problem due to water damage.

Using moisture meters, we detected elevated moisture levels in building materials in the laundry room, as well as the adjacent bathroom and study. We found wet subfloor in the laundry room and under the bathroom tile and carpet in the study, wet baseboards and drywall in all three rooms, and wet wall studs and bottom plates between the rooms.

After finding mold growing on the carpet tack strip, behind the baseboards and on the subfloor, we knew we would have to dig a little deeper. On to the crawlspace! Inside the crawl space, it was apparent that the extent of the damage was much more than we could see from inside the house. Water had filled the wall cavity behind the washer, but then it had worked its way out of the wall, under the flooring, and between the two layers of subfloor.

Directly under the leak, the water had been trapped in the subfloor between the vinyl floor covering and the floor insulation. Knowing this, the subfloor still seemed too saturated. It was hard to believe that a leak from three weeks ago had resulted in this much water.

Getting Down to the Source

Upon further inspection, we realized that the supply line was still leaking! It was a small, almost imperceptible leak, but enough to keep the floors completely saturated. Water was even dripping down into the crawlspace and puddling beneath the house. Mold had begun growing in the crawl space on the subfloor above the floor insulation.

After a thorough inspection, we were able to present the homeowner with a full explanation of the extent of damage and a plan for complete water damage mitigation and mold remediation. Although no one wants to find out their problem is bigger than expected, this homeowner is happy that we found the true extent of his problems so that he can get it fixed once and for all.

If you’ve experienced a water damage event, don’t risk incomplete water damage mitigation that can leave you with hidden damage and a potential mold problem. Call professionals to ensure the water is completely removed, and before performing repairs, get in touch to schedule a post mitigation mold inspection.

Prevent mold in your HVAC

Having mold in your HVAC system is more common than you may think. In fact, when we check an HVAC system during a mold or indoor air quality inspection, we find mold more often than not.

Most of the time the mold is located inside the air handler on the coil. There are two simple reasons for this:

  1. Water is present on the coil when the air conditioner is running, deposited as moisture is removed from the air during cooling.
  2. Air filters inadequately prevent dust (mold candy) from being deposited on the coil, usually because they are of poor quality, do not fit properly, or are missing altogether.

Once mold has begun growing inside the air handler, mold spores are blown into the home’s living space every time the heat or air conditioner runs. This compromises indoor air quality and can cause additional mold growth inside the ductwork and the home.

To Prevent Mold, Keep Dust Out

So how do you prevent mold inside the air handler if you cannot remove all mold spores from the air or keep the coil dry during the summer?

To prevent dust from coming into contact with the coil inside the HVAC air handler, ensure that you have a high quality, appropriately sized air filter that is changed on a regular basis.

What to Do When You Find Mold in the HVAC

If you have mold inside your HVAC air handler, it’s best to have a professional clean the coil, fan, and possibly the ductwork. This is a service that most HVAC and mechanical contractors offer. Just be sure to look at the coil yourself before they close the unit up, or ask for pictures to verify that the contractor has done a thorough job.

How Branch Environmental Can Help

Please contact us if you have questions regarding the potential for mold in your HVAC system or if you would like to schedule a mold or indoor air quality inspection.

Check out our additional resources on mold and indoor air quality, and stay tuned for an explanation of how to check and change your air filter.

wallpaper may lead to mold

Wallpaper on exterior walls, especially in older homes, is a bad idea!

As we discussed in earlier posts (Mold FAQs and Why Do I Have Mold In My Basement?), a mold problem is really a moisture problem. Trapping moisture inside walls can lead to a big mold problem.

So how exactly can wallpaper lead to mold? Keep reading to find out.

Are all homes at risk?

Normally, moisture from outside moves through the walls in the form of water vapor, and evaporates into drier indoor air. This moisture would then be removed from the air and expelled out of the house as a byproduct of the HVAC system heating or cooling the air.

Most older homes were constructed without an adequate vapor barrier in the walls. Homes without vapor barriers absorb more moisture from the outside air than newer, more energy efficient homes.

How does wallpaper lead to mold?

When wallpaper is applied to exterior walls, this water vapor becomes trapped. During the summer, the problem is compounded by the temperature differential of warm outdoor air and cool indoor air. Condensation begins to form on the backside of the wallpaper, leading to mold growth and even degradation of the drywall.

If you choose to install wallpaper in your home or commercial building, limit the application to interior walls, especially when using vinyl wallpaper.

Can I just kill the mold with bleach and paint over it?

No! Normally, by the time a homeowner realizes that he has a problem, the solution involves removing the wallpaper and affected drywall and cleaning mold off of wall studs and other framing components. Read more to learn why cleaning mold is more important than killing it.

If the problem has gone undetected for quite a while, the wooden framing components may have rotted. The moisture inside the walls may also attract termites.

Wallpaper leads to mold in a 1960s brick home

Last week we did a mold inspection to determine the cause of mold in the master bedroom of a local home. The homeowner thought the mold may have been the result of a roof or plumbing leak. During the inspection, we checked the dryer vent, roof, plumbing, window and gutter downspout in the adjacent area to determine the moisture source that caused the mold problem. We systematically eliminated each possibility until the true cause, the wallpaper, was identified.

The brick home was built in 1968 without a vapor barrier in the walls. The wallpaper that was on the exterior wall was acting as a vapor barrier and trapping moisture. The problem was made worse due to an HVAC system supply vent in the floor at the base of the wall that was obstructed by a dresser, causing the supply air to be directed at the wall.

During the summer, the combination of warm moist air moving through the wall from the outside, wallpaper that was trapping this air inside the wall, and the vent blowing cold air directly on the wall lead to excessive moisture inside the wall and mold growth.

How Branch Environmental can help

Branch Environmental is a full-service mold inspection, assessment, and remediation company. Contact us today if you see, smell or think you have mold.

We’re here to help whether you’d like to schedule a mold inspection, request a remediation estimate, or simply have questions regarding mold or indoor air quality.

mold inspection

There are many reasons to hire a mold inspector, but if you find yourself in any of these three situations, you should have a mold inspection right away.

Reason #1: Protecting Your Health

Are you getting sick in your home? Do you smell a moldy/musty odor? Do you see something that looks like mold? No one wants to get sick in their own home. Your home should be a place of rest and security.

If you seem to be chronically sick, notice that your asthma is worse at home, or realize that you feel better when you are away from your home, you may have a mold problem.

A mold inspection can determine if there is a mold problem, identify the appropriate solution, and get you on your way to feeling better in your home.

Reason #2: Water Damage Restoration

If you have a water damage event, you may want to verify that mold did not grow as a result. If your toilet, tub, or washing machine overflows, you may think you can simply mop up all the water. But what about the water that soaks into the subfloor or wicks up into the baseboards, drywall and wall studs?

If wet building materials are not dried quickly enough or discarded, then mold may begin to grow. Mold can grow undetected below flooring, inside wall cavities, or above ceilings. A mold inspection can determine if there is a mold problem that needs to be addressed due to a water damage event.

Reason #3: Buying a Home

Are you about to buy a house or investment property? Are you sure you are not about to acquire a mold problem from the previous owner? Although required by law, sellers do not always disclose previous mold or water damage issues during a real estate transaction.

Be especially wary of homes with a crawlspace or basement and homes that have been foreclosed on or sat vacant for a period of time. Stagnant, humid air can build up inside a vacant home, leading to a mold problem in an otherwise perfectly good house.

Don’t get stuck with an unforeseen mold remediation after the closing. Instead, consider a mold inspection prior to closing to identify potential mold problems. This will allow you to factor the cost of remediation into the purchase price.

How Branch Environmental Can Help

If any of these situations apply to you, our team can clear up your concerns. We perform mold inspections and remediations as part of our whole-home indoor air quality approach, and we’re happy to answer any questions that you may have.

If you suspect that mold is growing in your home, contact Branch Environmental, or call (706) 310-0097 anytime, 7 days a week.

Mold remediation in Winterville, GA

After dealing with a roof leak, our neighbors in Winterville discovered mold in their home, and their pulmonologist actually recommended that they call us to have the mold safely remediated.

Inspecting for Mold and Asbestos

The leak occurred around the exhaust vent for a built-in fireplace insert. Water ran down the exhaust duct and wet the ceiling and wall drywall. The fireplace was installed in a corner of the living room after the house was built. A new wall was framed up that ran diagonally across the corner of the room. Therefore, drywall on the new wall as well as on the original walls behind it was affected by the leak.

Mold was also found on the ceiling drywall, ceiling joists, wall studs and subfloor. The house had a basement, so we were able to inspect the underside of the subfloor and determine that mold was not present on the bottom of the subfloor.

We sampled the drywall, drywall joint compound and ceiling texture for asbestos. The lab results were negative for the presence of asbestos, so we were able to proceed with mold remediation, rather than asbestos abatement and mold remediation. Asbestos in drywall, drywall joint compound and ceiling texture is more common than you might think.

The Mold Remediation Process

The affected area was confined to the living room, so we built a containment to prevent the spread of mold spores and dust to other areas of the house. We utilized a ZipWall barrier system, 6 mil polyethylene sheeting, spray adhesive, painter’s tape and duct tape to build our containment.

Due to the small size of the contained area, we placed our HEPA-filtered negative air machine outside the containment and connected it to the containment using additional polyethylene sheeting. We ducted the exhaust out a window using poly tubing, and constructed the containment with a flap door to provide makeup air.

Our mold remediation staff wore personal protective equipment consisting of disposable suits with built-in boots, gloves, half-face HEPA-filtered respirators and safety goggles. Drywall was removed inside the containment and sealed in 6 mil trash bags to be carried out of the house.

Once all water and mold damaged drywall was removed, we cleaned the ceiling joists, wall studs and subfloor with a mild detergent solution. Then we HEPA-vacuumed all surfaces inside the containment and treated the affected building materials with Concrobium Mold Control before removing the containment.

The Remediation Outcome: Safe, Contained, and Clean

Mold spores and dust were contained to the work area and were not spread to unaffected areas of the home. Our customers were left with a clean area, free of mold, and ready for reconstruction!

If you’ve had a roof leak that has caused water damage and mold growth, contact Branch Environmental. We take every precaution to contain and eliminate your mold problem, keeping your family and your property safe. To learn the basics of mold remediation, check out our most recent post, and for more on how we perform mold remediation, refer to our complete resources on mold.

What is Mold Remediation?

In the environmental world, we frequently refer to our mold remediation service, but what does the term “mold remediation” actually mean? We’d like to explain what a mold remediation comprises, and what you should expect from a remediation in your home or business.

According to Merriam-Webster, “remediation” means “the act or process of remedying.”

In the case of mold, remediation is a two step process that both removes mold using safe work practices and corrects what caused the mold in the first place.

What Does a Typical Mold Remediation Look Like?

Some of the details depend on the property type (residential vs. commercial), the type of material affected (drywall vs. wall studs) and the extent of mold growth (light vs. heavy).

A typical mold remediation consists of:

  • Competent, insured contractor
  • Trained workers
  • Personal protective equipment (disposable clothing, respirator, gloves, etc.)
  • Containment of the work area to prevent the spread of mold spores to unaffected areas
  • HEPA filtered negative air machines or air scrubbers
  • Cleaning or removal and disposal of the affected building materials and contents
  • Cleaning of the remaining surfaces/building materials to remove any mold spores

How Our Team Can Help

Check out our resources to learn more about mold, the causes behind a mold problem, and the health concerns related to indoor mold.

Contact Branch Environmental today for a mold inspection or remediation to ensure that the air inside your home or building is healthy and stays healthy.