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Sun Times Feature Story


Is your condo making you sick?


An entire apartment building can become “sick” from water leaks which turn into mold causing respiratory problems, headaches and rashes in some people. But mold from leaks can also be served up a la carte, one apartment at a time.
Although both new and old apartments are at risk, experts say water leak problems are increasingly cropping up in new-construction apartments. Sealed up more tightly, "they don't breathe as much, and if there is some kind of leak or water damage, mold can grow," says 1st Priority, a water damage and mold remediator, a South Florida-based property damage restoration company.
With 1st Priority’s state-of-the-art infrared scanning equipment, they can help find your leak spots. It’s always easier and less expensive to find the problem sooner than later. 1st Priority gave us the scoop on the top three problem scenarios in new and old apartments/condos:
Culprit #1: Leaks from another apartment
Pipe breaks and water overflows can soak your ceiling and walls from above, or seep into your floors and walls from the side. The most common offender: Plastic water supply lines to sinks and toilets. (Tip: Copper almost never leaks.)

Culprit #2: Clogged Cooling & Heating Units
These all-in-one heating-and-cooling units need attention, many condo owners tend not to realize that A/C units require twice yearly maintenance and that as the owner of the apartment, it’s their responsibility.
“The most common occurrence with the A/C units is that the filter is not replaced often enough.” “Dust collects on the filter and on the coils, and through condensation it drips into the condensate pan and clogs the drain. Then the condensate pan overflows and leaks under the floor. And also people forget to clean them after doing renovation where there’s a lot of dust.”
Unfortunately, dripping A/C units tend to cause mold more often than other types of leaks, says 1st Priority, because they leak so slowly into the floor that it’s not noticed until a large section of flooring shows damage. Nearby sheet rock can also be implicated as it wicks up the moisture from the floor.

Culprit #3: Broken washing machine hose
“We get a lot of these,” says 1st Priorty. “When you buy a washing machine, even the fancy ones, they install them with inexpensive rubber hoses—those are the ones that break, as opposed to the $40 stainless-steel-wrapped hoses you can buy at Home Depot that almost never leak.”
Many of these issues can go unnoticed for a while and that is where trained professionals come in. The professionals at 1st Priority have the state-of-the-art equipment to find these hidden problems and they can solve the problems quickly and efficiently.

How to tell whether you have mold in your
apartment
So how do you know if you have a mold problem? It’s not always obvious, says 1st Priority.
• Water damage: You'll probably notice water damage and staining before you notice any signs of mold, because mold tends to grow faster inside than on the surface. That’s why it’s important to address any moisture problems quickly.
• Odor: One of the first signs that mold might be present is a wet, musty smell or the smell of moldy, wet building materials. These indicate a moisture problem that can lead to mold; it doesn't necessarily mean you have mold.
• Spots: Black, gray, green or brown spotting. (Note: This is similar to what you see on your bathroom surfaces—a.k.a. mildew. Those tend to be surface stains from moisture and soap-residue buildup.
• Health problems: Respiratory reactions including asthma are most common, though mold sensitivity can also cause headaches and skin rashes. Some people have symptoms immediately; for others, it develops over time. Note that not all types of mold cause health problems; to identify which type you have, an industrial hygienist who is licensed to assess and remove mold will need to collect a sample for testing.

Wind Driven Rain: Why Do My Windows or Roof Only Leak Some time?
Your windows & roof has been in perfectly fine condition for years, but one day you suddenly notice a damp spot forming on the ceiling or floor. A calm rain occurred a few days ago, but why now? We often get perplexed customers wondering why they are getting leaks after a mild storm when everything was fine beforehand.

Inconsistent Window & Roof Leaking
We often get confused homeowners wondering why the windows & roof don’t leak with every rain. It is common for these homeowners to report that the area will leak, but not with every rain and they wonder what fluke is causing water to threaten their home structure.
What we find is that, rain propelled by wind often blows horizontally and may create the water intrusion that would otherwise be impossible at a regular rainfall angle. Since many condos are built so high, the wind driven rain at these heights is much stronger than at ground level, so the rain will penetrate into any opening over time. Even though the storm might have seemed like a gentle rain, the wind was still likely causing it to blow into the crevices of your windows, sliding doors, or roof.
Horizontal rain can easily blow past shingles, flashing, skylights, windows, and sliding doors. This may cause water damage to your walls, corner boards, floors, or ceilings whenever the rain blows this way.
Determining who is liable for condo water damage can be a tricky task, as it depends on the precise cause of the damage. At 1st Priority, they will take out the confusion and work with your insurance carrier, they directly bill your insurance, often with no out of pocket to the home owner.

For more information on how 1st Priority Restoration can help you, they can be reached at Broward (954) 828-0238, Dade (305) 517-1417, or West Palm Beach (561) 771-0545. Or visit their website at
www.waterdamagerus.com.