Space Heater Safety – Staying Safe and Warm

The cold weather is officially here and despite a few warm days here and there, it really is winter. For lots of us, there’s at least one room in the house that just stays chilly no matter what you do or what kind of heating systems you have. That’s where portable space heaters can come in handy to provide that supplemental heat that can take a room from chilled to cozy in minutes. Before you break out the heater, it’s a good idea to review some safety tips to reduce the fire hazards in your home. 

Plugging It In

Power strips and extension cords are a big no-no when it comes to space heater safety. Electric space heaters can become extremely dangerous when plugged into these items; they even have the potential to catch on fire. Power strips and extension cords are not built to handle the extra current flow needed to power a space heater, so keep it safe and plug it directly into the wall. From 2009 to 2013 heating equipment was involved in an estimated 56,000 reported U.S. home fires. This accounted for 16 percent of the total, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Nearly half of all home heating fires occurred in December, January, and February with space heaters accounting for two of every five of home heating fires.

Finally, make sure the plug is not in a walkway, or that it can become a tripping hazard.

Safety Features

Be sure that your space heater, whether it’s a traditional portable electric or an oil-filled space heater, has safety features such as tip-over turn off—which automatically shuts off the heater should it tip, and alerts for tip-over. If these stop working do not use that space heater in your home. Your space heater should also have been tested and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. If it has you will find a tag to this effect on the cord.

The Right Heater for the Right Space

Never use a fuel-burning heater indoors. While electrical heaters are as safe as any other home appliance when it comes to fumes, combustion heaters can produce carbon monoxide, which is unsafe indoors and can kill. 

Other appliances that can be a carbon monoxide hazard are:

  • Non-electric hot water heaters
  • Gas ranges and ovens
  • Gas clothes dryers 
  • Oil, propane, or natural gas furnaces

These appliances MUST be properly vented to be considered safe for indoor use. 

Finally, when using a space heater, give it SPACE. There should be no furniture, loose fabric (such as curtains), or anything else within 3 feet of a space heater. Keep children and pets away from your space heater and use common sense. Never leave a space heater unattended. When you are finished using it unplug the heater, don’t just shut it off.

By following these tips, and using the proper heating equipment for your home heat, you can ensure that you stay snuggly AND safe all season long. 

Winter Is Here, Here’s How to Handle Frozen and Burst Pipes

Every year people experience thousands of dollars in damage when a pipe bursts in their home. When water freezes in unheated crawl spaces or other areas where warm air doesn’t reach, the risk of a burst pipe goes up dramatically. Now that the cold weather is here let’s go over what to do if you get frozen or—in the worst case—burst pipes. 

Find It.
If your pipes have frozen but haven’t yet burst there’s still time to fix the issue. Open cabinet doors, and check crawlspaces and unheated basements. These are the places where exposed pipes generally freeze. If you can find the frozen spot use a hairdryer to gently heat the frozen pipe until it opens up and then be sure to insulate that pipe by sealing up any leaks in the area and wrapping the pipe with insulation.  

Shut It Off.
If the pipe has already burst it’s vital to find your shut off valve and shut the water supply for the house off to prevent even more water damage. After you shut off the water open all of your plumbing fixtures—both sink taps and shower or bathtub fixtures—to help release the pressure that has built up in the pipe. Make sure to open the cold taps first. After that is done shut off the hot water heater and open all of your hot water faucets. If your sink or shower has a single control for both temperatures open those last and set it in the middle. 

Document It.
Take pictures and document any damage before you get around to the cleanup. Your insurance company will want proof of any and all damage; so make sure to photograph everything that has been affected by the water flow. Don’t throw anything away, no matter how ruined, as the insurance company will want proof of the damage. 

Stay Safe.
Mold can form very quickly on wet surfaces, and flooded carpet and drywall are a perfect medium for it to grow on. Once you have called your insurance company and a plumber call in a mold remediation company such as Branch Services. They’ll be able to assess the damage and find out if you have a mold issue. If you do they can remove it. If you don’t, they can help you with the removal of damaged materials and the rebuilding that will have to be done after the cleanup. 

A burst pipe can be a huge hassle, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. The most important thing to remember is to stay calm, shut off the water, and call the experts! They’ll make the experience as painless as possible.

Outdoor Fire Safety

Fire pits are wonderful in the fall. They can be beautiful to look at, and sitting around one with friends makes for a perfect fall evening (not to mention the s’ mores!). With more and more people adding a fire pit to their backyard landscaping it’s important to go over some safety tips when having an outdoor fire. 

Keep Your Distance.

Make sure your fire pit is at least 10 feet from any structure, such as a house or shed. Keep flammable liquids far away from your fire pit, and never leave your fire unattended. 

Keep an Eye Out.

If you have children in the yard with your fire, make sure their outdoor activities are kept a good distance away from the fire. Accidents can and do happen and children are as attracted to fire as adults, so watch them closely if they want to sit around the fire. 

Prepare the Area.

Cleanup around the fire pit is important. Make sure there are no leaves or branches that can catch fire if a spark lands outside the pit. You may want to dampen the ground around the pit before lighting your fire for further fire safety. 

Use the Right Fuel.

Never use flammable liquids like lighter fluid to start a fire. Instead, use crumpled paper or kindling and make sure you use seasoned woods. Never use construction materials like pressure-treated wood or plywood, as they can release toxic fumes when burned. Make sure logs are smaller than the fire pit so they don’t tumble out accidentally. This can cause grass, leaves, and other debris to catch fire and that fire can spread quickly—particularly on a windy day. 

Put It Out. 

When you’re done with your fire make sure to extinguish it properly. If you have a metal or ceramic fire pit water can damage it, so review the instructions it came with before using a hose.

How to Handle a Wet Basement

Spring and fall tend to bring heavy rains to Long Island and, as many of us have recently seen, that means a wet basement. When entering your basement you may encounter visible signs of flooding, or you may experience something as fleeting as a musty odor. Either way, it spells a wet basement. Before calling for help take a look around the outside of your house to see if you can solve the problem yourself.

Check your gutters to see if they’re clogged. The job of a gutter is to move water away from the foundation and if they can’t do their job they can cause a wet basement. Next, check the ground outside the foundation. How is it sloped? If it slopes towards the house that is going to cause you to have basement water. Regrading the ground outside your house can go a long way toward keeping your basement dry. 

If the ground slopes away from your house and the gutters are working, you may have an issue called seepage. That means that surface water is going through the foundation wall.

If you do not use your basement or crawl space, water problems that are ongoing can be addressed by utilizing a drainage system such as french drains or a sump pump. This is particularly useful if you have water dripping down the basement wall. 

However, all of this changes if your basement is a living space. If your basement is finished you may need to consider basement waterproofing by a professional company, as a sump pump solution won’t work in a living space. 

Another issue you will encounter with a wet basement is mold. Mold is present everywhere in the environment but once it is given the chance to take hold and spread—which will occur when there is flooding or even a slow, steady drip in the basement—it can become a dangerous issue. When that happens you should call a mold testing and remediation company to handle the mold before the area is waterproofed. They will come and test to confirm if there is mold and then remove any affected materials, clean what can be cleaned, and spray a preventative coating on remaining materials. Then rebuilding and waterproofing can begin. 

If you have experienced a wet basement or any other flooding issue, call Branch Services. They have extensive experience with mold and water damage and can make your space safe to live in again.

October Is National Fire Prevention Month; So Let’s Talk About Fire Safety.

October is National Fire Prevention Month, making it the perfect time to solidify that your home is a safe place for your family. You can also take the opportunity to teach children a few basic fire safety tips. 

Fire prevention is key to your family’s safety and observing some common-sense rules can help stop some of the most easily preventable fires. For example, keep matches and lighters away from young children; never leave your stove or lit candles unattended; follow all directions on portable and space heaters; make sure you keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, and clean dryer vents regularly and never leave the house when the dryer is running. Following these tips can keep fires from happening, or letting fires that do happen from spreading.

If a fire does occur, fire alarms are one of the best ways to ensure your family’s safety.  There should be alarms on every level of your home, particularly near sleeping areas. Make sure you either have dual fire and smoke alarms or install smoke alarms in addition to fire alarms, as smoke tends to spread more quickly than fire and can be the first sign of trouble. Remember, only working smoke alarms will help you, so when you turn back the clocks change those batteries! Having a smoke detector in your home will greatly reduce the chance of fire-related deaths. 

To ensure that everyone gets out safely in the event of a fire, every member of your family should be aware of your home fire escape plan. They should know which doors and windows make for a safe escape option and where to meet once they exit the home. Children should also be taught to never return to the home once they have exited and they should be taught to “stop, drop, and roll” in the event that their clothing should catch fire. You should also annually practice fire drills so that your whole family knows what to do in case of a fire.

By employing a little bit of common sense and a dash of prevention, you can help to keep your home and your family safe from the dangers of fire. 

Should a fire break out in your home make sure to exit immediately, remain outside, and call for help. Once everyone is safe call Branch Services to take care of any smoke, water, or fire damage. We’ll help you get back to normalcy as quickly as possible,

Fall Home Maintenance Tips

Fall Home Maintenance With summer coming to an end it’s just about time to get to those Fall Home Maintenance tasks you may have put off. Before the winter months are here and it gets too cold to do too much outside work, it’s a great time to prepare for the snow and ice that are sure to come in just a few months.

Fall is a good time to prepare your chimney for cooler weather fires, by calling a chimney sweep company and having your flue cleaned. Creosote can build up over time, which can be a danger to your home and family because it can cause chimney fires. A chimney sweep will be able to remove that for you so you can enjoy nights by the fire safely. You should also see about having your heating system checked, and make sure you change the filters so you’re ready for those cold fall nights.

Another fall home maintenance task you’ll want to do to get ready for winter is to drain your garden hoses and store them for the winter, as well as your outdoor furniture. If you have a basement or storage shed to keep them from the ice and snow, your furniture will last a lot longer. Plus, you won’t need to worry about it blowing around in a Nor’easter and possibly breaking a window.

To make sure your heating bill doesn’t get too high, it’s a good idea to check your windows and doors for leaks and utilize weather stripping if you find any. Extreme temperatures can worsen these leaks so it’s a good idea to address them before the cold weather really sets in. Storm windows are another smart idea to help you save energy. Make sure screens are switched out for storm windows so you get that extra layer of insulation.

Finally, before the weather gets too cold, make sure you clean out your gutters and downspouts. This is a job you’ll want to do after most of the leaves have already fallen, to make sure that they are able to handle winter storms. Clean gutters and downspouts are better able to handle the runoff from snow and winter rain. This can help to prevent ice damming, which can damage your roof and cause leaks.

Just a few hours of preparation during the fall can make a big difference in preventing fires, water, and flood damage during the winter.

Repairing Fire Damage: A Look into the Process

repairing fire damage

When you have a fire in your home the damage comes on many fronts. The fire itself, smoke, and water all have a hand in the havoc. Repairing fire damage takes work and knowing what the restoration process will entail can help you deal with the fallout, and help you get back on your feet more easily.

Step One of Repairing Fire Damage:

After the fire has been put out and it’s safe to return to the structure you’ll want a professional restoration service such as Branch Services to come in and assess the extent of the damage. As mentioned before, the damage comes from many causes, fire and smoke damage being the first things they look at. Making sure that the area is safe to enter is key to moving forward with the restoration. Depending on how much structural damage has taken place, the team you call may need to repair that first before any clean up can happen. If any areas are structurally unsafe, they may be blocked off from the rest of the home so that restoration can continue. Those areas that are blocked off will be tackled after the rest of the process is underway.

Water Damage Left from a Fire:

Water damage is another issue that is important to address. In a large fire, there is often water left behind after it’s been put out; a professional will have specialized equipment to remove the water and dry all affected areas.

If water damage is not handled properly you can end up with a mold problem, on top of the other issues you’re dealing with. Drying the water is not as simple as just opening a window, specialized equipment is necessary to get the job done correctly and keep mold from infesting the unaffected areas of the home.

Once the water is cleaned up the smoke and soot will need to be dealt with. Soot gets into every nook and cranny in your home after a house fire, so smoke damage restoration is an extensive process. The walls and ceilings need to be cleaned, soft items such as clothing and some toys will need to be removed from the home and professionally cleaned, as will furniture, rugs, and other items in the home.

Final Step of Repairing Fire Damage:

The final stage of repairing fire damage is post-soot removal sanitization and cleanup. This will include deciding what can and cannot be kept (certain items may be beyond saving, even if they were not in the area of the fire) and preparing the property for any necessary restoration work, such as replacing drywall, carpets, floorboards, and painting.

No one wants to experience a fire in their home, but with the help of an expert, the process can be a whole lot easier. So if you have had a fire be sure to call Branch Services to assess, clean, and repair your fire damage and get you back to where you want to be.

How To Prevent Mold Growth In Your Home. 

Mold Growth

Summer is here and that means lots of heat and lots and lots of moisture. From humidity to rain, water is everywhere in summer, and where there is water, there’s the potential for mold growth. Moisture problems in the home can range from just creating a musty smell or uncomfortably high humidity levels to mold damage and even health risks from being exposed to mold which, according to the Center for Disease Control, can be as simple as mold allergies or more serious health effects such as asthma or lung infections.

According to the EPA (the environmental protection agency) “there is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.” Every house has some mold spores. Mold is endemic in the environment, but it doesn’t get out of control unless it has the high moisture level it requires to thrive.

Water damage from a leaky pipe or bathrooms without an exhaust fan are prime locations for mold growth in any season, but in summer, you can get mold growth from environmental humidity as well. Your indoor humidity goal should be from 30-60% to help avoid mold issues.

Best Ways to Prevent Mold Growth:

According to the EPA, the best ways to decrease indoor mold is to ensure that you:

  1. Vent your bathroom, clothes dryer and other moisture-generating sources to the outside.
  2. Use air conditioners and dehumidifiers
  3. Increase ventilation
  4. Using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing and cleaning

The EPA’s web site has lots of helpful tips on ways to avoid mold all over your home, however, once mold has taken hold, it is important to deal with it as quickly as possible.

What To Do If You See Mold:

If you see mold on hard surfaces, you should clean up the mold with water and detergent and make sure that you dry it completely. Removing mold on items such as tile is not difficult. That said, mold can grow on just about any surface if moisture is present, so be vigilant about keeping moisture in your home under control to prevent mold growth. If you find mold on absorbent surfaces, such as ceiling tile or drywall, it may need to be replaced.

If you suspect mold in your home that goes beyond the standard bathroom mildew, you may want to call in an expert. Mold problems that go unaddressed tend to get worse, not better, and mold exposure isn’t a great way to keep your family safe. An expert such as Branch Services can come in and go about sampling for molds, identifying any mold problems, and can then come up with a plan to address and remediate existing issues.

Remember, just because you see a tutorial on YouTube, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe to tackle mold, particularly large areas of mold, on your own. You can think you’re helping when instead you’re just spreading the spores into other, previously unaffected areas of your house. So, if you see mold, be safe, and be smart. Call the experts and rest easy knowing that your mold growth problems are being handled the right way, the first time.

Summer Fire Safety Tips

summer fire

People tend to associate forest fires with California, where these fires occur nearly every summer. However, a summer fire danger exists all throughout the country. Extreme heat and hot summer winds combine with lightning strikes, or simply even human carelessness can create a destructive summer fire. These disasters consume everything from National Forest land to private homes and businesses. 

According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), every year since 2000, over 72,000 wildfires burned an average of 7 million acres of land. Fire spreads incredibly quickly, particularly driven by wind, and even smaller fires can grow into the largest wildfire within minutes. 

While summer is a time for fun, remember that according to a United States Fire Administration report, summer is also one of the most dangerous seasons for fire-related injuries and deaths. Don’t forget to follow these tips for summer fire safety; taking precautions will protect not only your family but the lives and property of those around you.


For your home, be careful with fire pits. A small spark leaping out of your fire pit can cause big problems in the summer heat. Wet the area around your fire pit down before starting your fire, and have a hose or fire extinguisher at the ready to handle any stray bits of wood which may fall out of the pit. 

If you live in a wooded area, be sure to clear the area around your house of flammable materials such as leaves and pine needles which spread the fire quickly. 


Summer Fire Safety Tips for Home:

Having a barbeque? Make sure your grill is clean. Grease fires can happen when your grill isn’t regularly cleaned, and they can get out of control quickly. For a grease fire, never use water, use your fire extinguisher instead. 

Finally, make sure your house is clearly and visibly numbered. Remember, if the fire department can’t find your house, they can’t help you. 


Fireworks are another cause of fires. Though they are illegal in NY, many people still use them. To keep them from causing a summer fire, NEVER light them indoors, keep a hose or fire extinguisher nearby, pre-wet the area in which you will be lighting them, and NEVER let children handle them. 


Summer Fire Safety Tips When You are Away from Home: 

When away from home, mind your surroundings. If you’re in a hotel, identify the nearest emergency exits. Ensure your family has a plan in case a fire breaks out and you become separated. Only stay in hotels with fire safety equipment such as sprinkler systems installed. 


While driving, NEVER toss lit cigarettes out of your car. It only takes one cigarette to start the largest wildfire. Forest fires can start easily in dry conditions so do your part and keep cigarettes in the ashtray. 


If we all do our part in taking proper precautions, we can enjoy outdoor activities while keeping the summer fire risk to a minimum. Use common sense, take some precautions, and you’ll have a fun time all summer long!

How to Remove Mold from Your Home.

remove mold

Mold is everywhere. Airborne mold spores exist in almost every environment, so when conditions favor its growth mold can take hold, and quickly. This can happen in humid weather or after heavy rain, and often is the result of water damage. In the following read, we will take you through a how-to remove mold DIY.

Moldy areas are typically found on porous surfaces such as grout or the drywall in your home. Mildew is one of the most common types of mold, most often found in your shower. Mildew can sometimes be seen on old woodwork as well and, causes surface stains but not rot. Ventilation is the key to prevention in these situations. Make sure you open that shower curtain or door after use and use your exhaust fan to help prevent mold growth in the bathroom. There are hundreds of cleaning products available to handle minor cases of bathroom mold, but when it comes to mold stains on your walls, the problem can be a little harder to handle.

Mold Removal Preparation:

Before attempting to remove mold be sure that neither you nor anyone else who will be in the area has health issues, as mold can exacerbate specific health problems. If you are at all concerned about the removal process, or what type of mold you have, you should call an expert in mold remediation such as Branch Services to handle the problem.

Surface mold, such as mildew, or the mold you get on your deck or siding can also be cleaned with a solution of bleach and water. Using a 1-to-8 ratio—1 part bleach to 8 parts hot water—and a scrub brush. This will take care of the mold stain problem in minutes.

You’ll want to wear gloves when you are looking to remove mold and avoid breathing in the bleach solution as even a mild bleach mix can irritate your lungs and skin. After treating these areas, wipe them down but don’t rinse! The remaining bleach will kill the mold that is left. You should protect yourself even when dealing with these simple mold problems by wearing long sleeves, long pants, rubber gloves, and goggles.

When looking to remove mold for larger areas, such as water damaged carpet, drywall, or other mold affected areas, you will need to use even more caution and put in a lot more work. Experts recommend a respirator be worn, specifically one rated for mold spore protection, in addition to covering the rest of your body with clothing you can either immediately wash in hot water and bleach or throw away.

Step 1:

First, make sure the source of water has been removed; if the mold is caused by a leak fix it before dealing with the mess if it’s a ventilation issue address that before you dive into remediation.

When you work, you’ll want to set up a fan in a window as an exhaust fan to ventilate the room while you work. Use a cheap fan, as it will have to be discarded after use due to infestation with spores.

Once you’re dressed appropriately, and you’ve set up your exhaust system, you’ll want to rip up and discard any moldy carpet or drywall. Make sure it’s wrapped and taped inside the plastic and be sure to double bag any debris.

Keep the area you’re working with damp with a gentle spray of water to help keep spores from going airborne, and turn off the AC or heating system, so they don’t take up residence in your ducts.

Step 2:

Once you’ve removed the carpet or drywall, you’ll go about sealing off the rest of the room. Cover the doorway and floor registers with overlapping plastic. Tape it down to ensure that the plastic stays in place; it’s your first line of defense against spreading the mold.

Moldy walls will likely need to be opened, and insulation will have to be replaced. If the problem has been going on for a long time, you may even find that beams inside the wall have begun to rot. If so, they will also need to be removed. Additionally, there are wood preservatives available which can help preserve the existing wood. Once they have been applied, you’ll want to double up damaged studs with new, pressure-treated wood.

Step 3:

Finally, after all of that is done, you can vacuum out the remaining mess with a shop vac. Be sure to keep the shop vac outside and only let the hose inside. If not, you’ll end up spreading more spores all over the area.

Once that is all done you can begin the process of rebuilding from the damage.

This will involve scrubbing exposed surfaces with a mold cleaner made of bleach mix, sealing areas you have cleaned once they dry out, and beginning a new installation of drywall.

For some, the DIY method to remove mold may simply be too labor-intensive or intimidating. Whatever aspect gives you pause, it is often best to leave big jobs like this to the professionals. A company with experience in mold remediation and reconstruction can be a one-call solution to handle the issue without putting your health, or the health of your family, at risk.

No matter which option you choose, the longer mold sits, the worse the damage can be, so deal with the issue sooner rather than later.