Here at Urban Environmental, we have been called to our fair share of cleanups on hoarding sites. Often this is because of the biohazards that come with an individual who has been hoarding for some years. We have had to deal with human waste, and animal decomposition along with other things, so take it from us, hoarding is a severe disease that needs to be monitored. Thus, we have brought together some high-risk signs of hoarding to look for in your friends and family.
More than just a few odds and ends, clutter collecting will begin to dominate the way in which an individual moves within their home. Whether you are dealing with excess furniture or an inability to remove trash from the house, clutter collection is a dangerous warning sign of hoarding. Clutter is a gateway to hoarding, and if not taken care of, can lead to clutter covering every single centre metre of space in a home.
Social anxiety by itself is not a risk sign of hoarding, but in a combination of a few of the other risk signs, it can showcase a trend towards hoarding. Generally, before an individual begins to hoard they will remove themselves from social relationships, and thus social anxiety when combined with isolation can lead to hoarding.
One of the major issues when it comes to hoarding is alcohol dependence, and although there is no cemented link between the two diseases, one thing that is clear is that they both stem from an addictive personality. Alcohol is a poison in two ways. First, it ensures an individual is not taking care of their body, and secondly will only add to the clutter in a home.
Early Warning Signs
It is has been shown throughout the years that children and teens that gravitate towards collecting broken objects and trash could be showing early signs of hoarding. This does not mean that a child who likes to collect seashells is going to be a hoarder, but if someone is collecting garbage throughout their teen years without creating something out of it, they may be showing early behaviours towards a future of hoarding.
One of the current focuses for researchers around hoarding has been the link between an individual and their family with the disease. It has not been proven that genetics play a role in the condition, but current data shows a correlation between family members with hoarding disorders and an individual with the same disease. Researchers are currently engaged in some studies across North America on determining if hoarding is a genetic bond or a learned trait.
Hoarding is a severe disease, and the team at Urban Environmental is hopeful that these early warning signs will help you or a family member identify and take corrective measures with a loved one before we need to get involved.
Vancouver is a city that is full of life and Highrise condos, but throughout the city, the post-war housing style homes are still dominating the urban landscape. This can cause an issue as if a home has not been appropriately treated; chances are there is asbestos. In this article, we are going to look at where you can find asbestos and what to do if you see it in your home or office.
Where can asbestos be found
No matter if we are talking home or an office, asbestos can genuinely be anywhere, especially in an older house.
Insulation that was installed between the 1920’s and 1980’s and is considered vermiculite insulation could and probably has asbestos.
A home that features popcorn ceilings tiled or textured paint, and was last painted in the early 1980’s or below typically has asbestos.
Specific brands and fibres of wall tiles and textures contained high levels of asbestos up until the 1980’s as a fire-resistant feature.
Up until the 1980’s asbestos was used in window putty to add strength and fire resistance to windows.
Wood Burning Stoves
Before the 1980’s the wood around wood-burning stoves would be protected by asbestos paper due to its flame resistant properties. In newer fireplaces, the fake ash, embers and logs can contain asbestos paper depending on the manufacturer.
Depending on the manufacturer, water heaters can contain asbestos within the insulating blanket on the metal cover.
Older garages or sheds could be constructed with wall and roof tiles that contain asbestos. Plus you may also have asbestos pipe insulation that was designed to avoid your pipes freezing.
Most manufacturers before the 1970’s utilised asbestos for both exterior and interior of the boiler.
What to do if asbestos is found
If you find asbestos, you need to take a few immediate measures. The first is to call the team at Urban Environmental. We are one of the premier asbestos abatement teams in the city, and no matter if it is a residential or commercial build, the team at Urban Environmental has you covered. We will either contain or remove the asbestos and bring the affected building materials to a government-approved dumping site where it is held and destroyed. Asbestos is nothing to joke around with, and here at Urban Environmental we go above and beyond to ensure our technicians are safe, and the home or office we work on is entirely abated and protected by the time we leave.
Asbestos… it could be everywhere, but luckily for those in Vancouver, Urban Environmental is the premier option for asbestos abatement in the city. If you spot asbestos, call the team at Urban Environmental, it is that simple.
As a first time home buyer, it can be tough to remember to do all of the proper things. One of the main failures of first-time homebuyers is to check the various nooks and crannies of their home during the inspection for mould. Black mould is one of the most common issues in homes in and around Vancouver, and for many, this can mean serious allergy issues, and permanent damage if these mould spurs are not brought under control. So in this blog, we are going to look at what you need to do if you spot mould in your home.
If you have found a potential mould spot in your home, chances are they are in multiple places. Take a quick peek around the attic and any other exposed spots of the house. Do not go over the top, but the faster our technicians are told about other problem spots, the better we can control the growth. During this check, be careful not to touch or inhale any of the moulds, and if you are not comfortable with an inspection call the team at Urban Environmental as soon as possible, as we will be on site quickly.
2. Call Urban Environmental
If we were not called during step one, we need to be involved in phase two. Once we get a phone call from a client, our trucks and technicians rush into business. Our team has been trained to handle mould spurs, and black mould is one of their specialities. Once on site, we will do a full inspection of the home to ensure we are not missing any spots and they will chat with the homeowner about treatment options. Typically, we do not require the family to leave home, but in sporadic cases, we have been known to request the family move out for a while due to the dangers of these spores to their health.
3. Let the experts do their work
Our treatments will depend on the severity and strain of mould, but generally, we will deal with spot treatments to ensure that the mould does not spread and can be quickly killed off. As the mould is a living thing, our technicians will work to stop its spread using safe chemicals and sprays at the site of the infestation.
4. Enjoy a mould free home in only a few days
Once the team at Urban Environmental has finished up our last treatment, you and your home will be mould free at that location. Mould is a general issue in the Greater Vancouver Area, and although we may have dealt with that section of your home, that does not mean your home will always be free of mould. We often suggest to all of our clients to have a home inspector come into the house to ensure that there are no other issue spots. As we never like coming back to deal with another pocket of mould!
From mould to black mould, the team at Urban Environmental is your premier option for mould remediation here in Vancouver and the surrounding area!
No one hopes to ever have to deal with the aftermath of a suicide or murder, especially in your own home or a property under your care, but sometimes the unfathomable happens and someone needs to clean up the aftermath. Crime and trauma scene cleanup jobs are one of the toughest to do in our industry, but Urban Environmental has years of experience dealing with the unpleasant and often painstaking task of removing all traces of blood, bodily fluids, human tissue and other harmful materials from the scene of the incident.
Deep cleaning and sanitizing all surfaces that have been contaminated is an obvious necessity, but often the damages sustained by a property go beyond what the naked eye can see, and that is why it’s best to leave it to professionals. We here at Urban Environmental have been completing these for years, and are looking forward to working with you.
When we initially visit a scene to assess the scene and provide a quote you can be assured a professional interaction with our specialists. In the instance of an injury or death, our team will process and remove all furniture and detritus that has been contaminated with blood or other bodily fluids. In many cases, especially when dealing with a bloody mattress or sofa, we must cut out and separate the affected areas and remove them in biohazard transport containers. Often items of furniture cannot be taken to a medical waste facility whole, but after the biohazardous material is removed we can dispose of the furniture through usual garbage removal means. Urban Environmental always follows provincial and federal regulations when it comes to removing biohazard materials and residential waste.
In some cases, carpeting and flooring must be taken up to uncover and remove stains and fluids beyond what we can see on the surface with the naked eye. We always take great care to remove everything that is contaminated but also tries to cause as minimal upset and upheaval as possible. We will also remove fixtures, walls, and ceilings if necessary. We always do a thorough sweep of the property to guarantee no areas are overlooked in the removal of biohazard materials.
After we have removed all the contaminated items, a deep clean of the affected area begins. We provide a thorough and detailed clean of any remaining surfaces that can be salvaged, usually with a multiple step cleaning process. After we have finished the deep clean we go to the location with speciality lights to double check that we haven’t missed anything and to spot clean as needed.
In many cases, we are in and out in a few days, and homeowners insurance will almost always cover the cost of our services and possibly the replacement of damaged property. Crime scene and biohazard clean up is something we all hope we never have to deal with, but you can be assured that if the unthinkable happens, you will be capable hands with the certified professionals at Urban Environmental, leaders in biohazard and crime scene cleanups in the Lower Mainland.
Asbestos is often thought of as a relatively modern material, especially with its boom in popularity in construction materials and insulation in the 20th century. But asbestos has been used by mankind for thousands of years, dating as far back as prehistoric times.
In several instances, archaeologists have uncovered asbestos fibres in settlement debris dating back to the Stone Age, and both Greeks and Egyptians used clothes woven with asbestos fibres in shrouds for their dead. For Egyptians, it was to stop bodies from deteriorating and in ancient Greece the historian Herodotus remarked that bodies were wrapped in the asbestos shrouds before being placed on a funeral pyre to prevent human ashes from mixing with fire ashes. In fact, many scholars think the word asbestos comes from the ancient Greek word asbestos, which means inextinguishable. Romans also exploited the use of asbestos in the use of housewares, most notably with the fibres woven into tablecloths and napkins. They cleaned them by tossing them into a blistering fire, where they came out still in one piece and whiter than before.
From the middle ages to the 1800’s asbestos fibres were used in a multitude of everyday objects. It is reported that around 755 AD King Charlemagne had a tablecloth made out of asbestos to prevent it from catching on fire during banquets and celebrations, and like the Greeks, he wrapped the bodies of his dead generals in shrouds made from asbestos. For the next eight centuries asbestos was mostly a novelty material due to its fire resistance and used in lots of everyday items, including a purse famously brought to London in 1725 by Benjamin Franklin on a visit, which is still on display in city’s Natural History Museum. Firefighters in Paris in the mid-1850’s even wore helmets and coats woven with asbestos fibres, as they were thought to be a great fire retardent material in the time.
It was in the 1800’s when asbestos mining and commercialization really took off. Its natural resistance to heat, water and electricity made it an invaluable material in the Industrial Revolution, insulating turbines, pipes, steam engines and generators. It wasn’t long before manufacturers took note of how asbestos’ malleable properties made it an ideal binding, strengthening and building material.
Despite consistent health warnings, the mining and manufacturing of asbestos products continued to grow right until the 1970’s, with mines in Canada at one point producing 85 percent of the world’s asbestos. Demand was so high and the mines so lucrative that asbestos production peaked in Canada at 1.69 million tonnes in 1973. Almost immediately after the boom the public finally began to make a widespread realization of the connection between asbestos and debilitating lung disease. In the following 40 years, over 55 countries have banned asbestos due to consumer demand and environmental regulations, and a further 17 have limited its use. Shockingly, asbestos is still being embraced as a building material in many developing nations, with the same eagerness that was once seen in Europe and North America.
For as long as humankind has been living in sheltered dwellings, we’ve been finding ways to stay warm through insulation. Prehistoric tribes used much the same materials for their clothing as they did for temporary dwellings, usually wool, animal skins, fur and plant products like flax, straw and reed. As people began to settle in more permanent settlements with the development of agriculture, more durable materials were used in the construction of housing, in a pre-tool era that was usually dug out earth shelters or caves, and as building technologies developed the preferred mediums leaned more to stone, woods and sun-baked mud and clay. The ancient Romans and Greeks are reported to be the first implementers of cavity walls filled with a natural fibre insulation.
As housing preferences started to develop in different climates around the world, many regions came up with similar solutions to keep houses cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Though ancient Egyptians used mud bricks to keep their houses cool in the desert sun, Vikings were also using mud, but mixed with straw and spread it in between the logs that made up the walls of their homes.
Houses in medieval Europe were notoriously damp and drafty, with most dwellings made from single layer stone and thatched roofs.The wealthy at the time lined their walls with elaborate and large tapestries that, while pretty to look at, their main function was to cut down on chilly draughts and dampen the noise in a loud and cold grand hall or bedchamber. For hundreds of years, insulation in Europe was limited to using whatever was available to stuff into gaps in walls or building walls thicker, while Mediterranean and southern climates relied on the cooling properties of clay and earth for the construction of dwellings.
As people spread out across Canada and the United States in the mid to late 19th century, straw bale housing became a quick way to get a roof overhead and was mostly viewed as temporary housing. When it was discovered that the straw bales were both insulating and durable to harsh prairie winters and sweltering summers, they were plastered and became popular permanent housing. On the coasts, wooden houses were often insulated with paper, sawdust and pulp, and in some cases seaweed.
Meanwhile, urban areas and factories were seeing a boom in insulating technologies. The industrial revolution was instrumental in the development of modern asbestos, which was initially used to sleeve steam carrying pipes in factories to prevent workers from getting burned by the pipe’s radiant heat.In the early 20’s century fibreglass was discovered and it became an incredibly popular insulation in the 30’s and 40’s.
As once popular asbestos became linked to a rash of health complications and respiratory illnesses, developers turned to safer alternatives to insulate homes, including cellulose and styrofoam and polystyrene foam, which ebbed and flowed in popularity through the mid to late 20th century. Spray foam insulation has been steadily gaining popularity since its initial use in housing in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Its versatility and ability to expand into almost every divots and corner has solidified it as the preferred material in new construction and renovations
Remediating flood damage is one of the most common property restoration tasks for a Vancouver home restoration specialist, and the better ones in town understand that certain remediation procedures involve added secondary risks to the structure. The heat generated by drying units can affect the integrity of building materials, and a pro will be expected to know how and to what extent heat levels may pose a problem.
Water damage remediation jobs are all about HAT – Humidity, Airflow and Temperature. All three factors need to be working together to achieve the best drying results. Modern high-flow drying units are very effective, but only when applied and operated by someone with the required level of know how.
Heat concentration and dissipation rates are an important part of the equation and controlling them can sometimes become a concern. HVAC systems are very effective if excess heat is an issue, and they are typically used with portable air conditioners. It’s easy to neglect factoring in the heat that is generated by your drying equipment.
Here is a simple and effective formula to find out the amount of heat your equipment is adding to the structure:
- Amps x Volts x 3.4 = BTUs/hr.
For example, let’s use these equipment specs:
- 12 Air movers (@4A each) = 48 amps
- 2 Dehumidifiers (@10A each) = 20 amps
- 1 Air scrubber = 3 amps
- Total amps = 71
- 71 amps x 115 volts x 3.4 = 27,761 BTU’s/hr.
12,000 BTU’s of heat per hour will be offset by a 1-ton air conditioner. But we can see that even a 2-ton unit wouldn’t be enough to effectively counter the heat radiating off your units, along with other possible heat sources like the outside temperature and body heat from techs and residents. Utilizing a portable air conditioner to serve as a cooler and dehumidifier would be helpful here.
It’s true that the heat coming off your equipment can also benefit you in the wintertime as regards inside climate control, but may at the same time negatively affect the buffer between interior warmth and exterior cold as it relates to maintaining correct temperatures and / or humidity. Knowing the number of BTU’s your units produce helps you control the climate for the best property restoration outcome.
All our certified technicians at Urban Environmental are very familiar with these secondary considerations when it comes to treating flood and water damage in Vancouver homes, and it’s that level of expertise that has allowed us to build the reputation we have for excellent work. It’s true that some people are knowledgeable and skilled enough to take on area drying jobs on their own, and in those cases we hope that this simple equations comes to be useful.
Mildew might be the cause of most of the odours a Vancouver property restoration provider will come across, but it’s not the only one. There’s a whole host of reasons why a space can have an unpleasant smell to it, and some will come from contaminants and others will be the work of the human inhabitants of that room over time. Either way it’s not going to get much attention in the way of being a major structural or habitation concern, but it can get to the point where some people say the stink is making it darn near inhabitable.
Controlling or eliminating odours can be a challenge. Here are some standard approaches you can try and some tools that we use in the industry for ridding homes of bad smells.
- First, you need to understand the root cause of the odour, and that’s not always easy to do. Many times the cause will be unknown, but the bottom line is if you can figure out the cause or source of the odour, you are going to going to get a lot farther with removing or controlling it. Make sure you identify the source first.
- Next, you need to remove that source. Not a problem if the source of the odour is a thing or substance you can see and access. On the other hand, if the odour source is somewhere you can’t see or get to or is beyond your logical control then this may be impossible, and you’ll need to call in a Vancouver home restoration tech. Quite often, however, it really is something the average homeowner is capable of if they’re willing to put in the time and get a little dirty.
- Now you remove the odour from ALL affected areas. When a source is removed or no longer produces odour that doesn’t mean the odour will dissipate on its own. Odour molecules in the airspace will continue to stay in place, and the molecules that have bonded to or been absorbed into building materials and contents will also need to be dealt with.
- It needs to be mentioned to put the hands of qualified restoration tech if you need to move any further to deal with unwanted odours in the home. The use of many of the implements, materials, and technologies listed below should only be undertaken by people with extensive know-how of use and safe application.
Commonly Used Technologies
Air exchange: When weather and other conditions permit, air exchange units are a fast and cheap way to bring in fresh outdoor air and force out fouled air. This of course is only effective if the odour source has been eliminated entirely.
Cleaning: The foundation of source removal and a critical odour removal step if smelly residues have accumulated on surfaces or been absorbed into soft goods.
Heat: Applied concentrated heat can be effective for forcing materials to give up their embedded odours and break down various types of them.
Odour Eliminators, Paring Agents, and Encapsulants: Now we’re talking new technology. Without getting into the specific of them and how they work, these products are designed to eliminate odours on contact. Typically they will be used by pros, but you could look into rentals of units.
Oxidizers: Chemical compounds such as hydrogen peroxide, chlorine dioxide, and others are super effective for breaking apart odour molecules. They penetrate into materials like wood and break down the residues in the cleaning process. Do be careful with them, however, because you don’t want to risk injuring someone or doing damage to finished materials. These products come in liquid and gas/vapour forms and will have very specific safety profiles that you’ll need to know soundly before use.
Ozone: Ozone has been used to deodorize contents and structures following fire losses for decades. It definitely works, but it does have its drawbacks now that we understand more about the potential dangers for humans exposed to ozone, as well as the potential for damaging certain sensitive building or frame materials.
Hydroxyls: Hydroxyl generators are go-to workhorses for any home restoration company in Vancouver. They are able to quickly eliminate odours in the airspace and are safe enough to allow you to continue working in the vicinity. Using them takes a little training and practice, but they are also super effective for treating tough odour issues. They’re not cheap, and will only be used by pros for the most part but you could again look for rentals.
Disinfectants: If the source of your stench is biological, it’s important to make sure any disinfectant you choose says “Tuberculocidal” on the label so you know it’s strong enough to do the job.
Enzymes / Engineered Bacteria: Great for specialty jobs like long-term treatment of crawlspace sewage that has seeped into dirt foundations and for treating pet urine deposits. Again, make sure you have all the information and understand the process.
Odour Counteractants: These products are much more suitable for the DIY person. They can be sprayed directly on surfaces, added to cleaning solutions, or fogged. The best ones are designed to break apart the odour molecules or bind with them. Some only add a scent, though, so be careful or you may create a more unpleasant stink than the one you started with.
There are two types of fogging. ULV (cold) fogging / misting and thermal (hot) fogging, and many of the liquid products mentioned here can be applied to the air with a ULV fogger. It involves burning a product to create a type of smoke, so be sure to use products in a thermal fogger that are specifically designed for thermal fogging.
Absorption / Adsorption: These techniques literally ‘pull’ odours out, and the most common ones use activated charcoal. OdorKlenz-Air Cartridges and Zeolites can grab ahold of an even wider range of odour molecules and pollutants in the air.
Sealing: You need to select a product specifically designed for this purpose and then apply it with sufficient thickness and according to the manufacturer’s directions. Sealing is likely going to work best after you have properly treated the odours with an appropriate odour treatment method. Sealing should be your last step, although it is becoming less necessary as industry professionals learn even more about how odour control technologies can be effectively put to use.
Fixing the ‘dark’ part of dark and dank is easy, but not so much for the ‘dank.’ Still, with a little hustle and exploration along with the right products you can get back to having fresh air in any space.
It is easy to forget how important proper insulation can be for your home. It is what helps keep you comfortable and warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. Good insulation can also save you plenty of money on your monthly energy bills. Although you may not notice the problem right away, neglecting to replace your insulation when it has become damaged or ineffective will cost you money and cause you problems down the road. Always make sure to do a yearly inspection of your insulation to make sure that it is fully intact and functional. Be on the lookout for any of these warning signs, and if you notice any problems, be sure to take action quickly. Contact the professionals at Urban Environmental for quick, efficient help replacing your insulation.
One sure sign that your insulation is no longer functioning properly is fluctuating temperatures in your home. If you are setting the thermostat to a specific temperature and notice that it often feels hotter or colder than normal, you should check your insulation for damage as soon as possible. Sometimes changing temperatures happen when insulation has shifted or fallen out of place, so it is easy to make things right. However, if your insulation appears to be worn out or damaged, replacement may be necessary.
If small animals such as squirrels, mice, rats or bats have somehow gained access to your home, they can cause massive amounts of damage to your insulation if they are left unchecked. If you discover any kind of unwelcome animal in your home, you should do a full inspection to make sure they have not nested inside your insulation. Animals can tear your insulation to shreds, and they can also leave hazardous waste materials behind that can compromise your health. If an animal infestation has occurred, it might be best to contact the professionals at Urban Environmental for help.
Everyone knows that the weather in Vancouver can be extremely stormy and wet at times. Water can get through the tiniest cracks and damage your home. When insulation becomes wet, it stops functioning properly and will need to be replaced. Mold can start to grow, and you and your family’s health can be seriously compromised. If you have been having a problem with water leaks in your home, you should make sure that your insulation has not been affected.
If you notice that your monthly energy bill is higher than usual, you should do a thorough inspection of your home to determine what the cause could be. Increasing energy costs are often caused by insulation that has become damaged and is not functioning properly. Though replacing all the insulation in your home can seem like an expensive proposition, you will actually save money in the long term. If you contact Urban Environmental for help, we will install the highest quality modern insulation in your home, which will often immediately reduce your energy bill. When a home improvement project can actually save you money, there is no reason to delay. Contact Urban Environmental and let us show you why people all over Vancouver trust us to replace their insulation.
Most people are familiar with ordinary household insulation, having seen it in attics and basements everywhere. But fewer people are familiar with what exactly insulation is made of. Most modern household insulation is made from recycled waste materials, including cellulose, fiberglass, and mineral wool. Another option is foam insulation, made from polystyrene or polyurethane. These different types of
insulation have different benefits and drawbacks, but are both safe, non-toxic materials that are safe for use in your home. The same cannot be said for older forms of insulation that can sometimes still be found in offices and houses throughout Vancouver.
Vermiculite is a material formed by the alteration of biotite or phlogopite, both part of the mica group of minerals. First described in 1899, it is still used today for many purposes across numerous industries. Vermiculite has fire-resistant and insulating properties, so it was a natural choice for use as insulation in homes. Pure vermiculite is non-toxic, but the conditions under which vermiculite forms can also cause the formation of asbestos. We now know that prolonged inhalation asbestos fibers can cause a host of serious heath problems, including lung cancer. But for much of the 20th century, asbestos was present in all kinds of industrial products.
A mine in Libby, Montana was the largest supplier of vermiculite in the United States. It produced insulation under the name Zonolite at facilities across the United States and Canada. All of the vermiculite mined at Libby was contaminated with asbestos. Production at the mine shut down in the 1990’s after evidence of the health risks posed by exposure became impossible to ignore. Today, all vermiculite mines are carefully checked for any asbestos contamination. But Zonolite insulation is still being discovered inside old homes.
If your house was built before 1990, you should be very careful that no contaminated insulation is still present. Zonolite is usually grey or silver in color, and has a rumpled, folded texture. It usually lays flat rather than puffing up like fiberglass. If you spot something that looks like Zonolite insulation, you can buy an asbestos testing kit at a hardware store to make sure. Once you determine that contaminated vermiculite is present in your home, you should contact a professional asbestos removal company and let them determine what needs to be done. Trying to remove this material on your own can be extremely difficult and unsafe, so don’t take the risk. Urban Environmental is experienced at spotting even the smallest amounts of asbestos-contaminated vermiculite, and we know how to safely remove this dangerous material from your home. If vermiculite containing asbestos is not handled carefully during the removal process, small particles can be left behind. Urban Environmental has the technology to remove this dangerous containment quickly and safely. We do a thorough check of your home to make sure that nothing has been missed, and our experienced technicians ensure that your home is not damaged during the removal process. Discovering that you have been exposed to asbestos can be frightening, but if you act quickly to remove the contamination you keep your risk of exposure-related health problems low. If you live in an older home that has not been thoroughly inspected for asbestos contamination, do not delay. Contact the professionals at Urban Environmental and let us restore your peace of mind.