Recent Posts

It's the Moisture You Can't See That Matters Most.

1/15/2018 (Permalink)

Water Damage It's the Moisture You Can't See That Matters Most. Notice the high number, along with the red swish lit up around the display,verifying that this trim is completely saturated.

Before we begin any water damage restoration job whether ins Storm Lake, Spencer Algona or Southern Minnesota, Chris our Project Manager assesses and documents where the water damage has occurred. 

He relies on a Surveymaster Protimeter moisture meter during his inspection. This important piece of equipment allows Chris to assess the moisture levels and diagnose moisture-related problems.

Excessive moisture in buildings can lead
to decay and deterioration of components and
decorative finishes.

The Surveymaster using two operational modes:

Search and measure. These
functions help Chris to distinguish
sub-surface from surface moisture, essential
information when trying to establish the
extent and cause of a dampness problem.

Chris then works with our team of SERVPRO technicians to:

  • Identify the extent of the moisture penetration
  • Diagnose the cause of the problem
  • Monitor change in the moisture level

Have Water or Flood Damage?
Call Us Today – (712) 262-4379

We’re Highly Trained Water Damage Specialists

We specialize in water damage restoration, the cornerstone of our business. We have extensive water damage restoration training, and our process emphasizes regular monitoring and documentation of the drying process from beginning to end.

Learn More

Why You Should NEVER Use Bleach to Clean Mold

1/15/2018 (Permalink)

Mold Remediation Why You Should NEVER Use Bleach to Clean Mold The surface mold looks gone (it's bleached white) but the internal mold always remains to grow back.

Chlorine bleach is generally seen as your “go-to” cleaner for tough jobs. Mold removal requires a heavy duty cleaner, but recently, many of the hazards of bleach are gaining more media attention causing people to take a closer look at the way they clean in Spencer, Storm Lake and Milford, Iowa.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) was one of the first federal agencies to STOP recommending the use of liquid bleach for mold remediation. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has since edited their “A brief guide to mold and moisture and your home” to exclude their once suggested use of bleach as a means to kill mold.

Big bleach labels have promised you that nothing else will do the job like bleach. Chlorine bleach is most well-known for its disinfecting properties but that doesn't mean it's the best choice for mold. Its main function is to disinfect and to, well, bleach or change the color. But after use, what usually happens? The moldy color looks like it’s gone but within a week or two the mold usually comes back and sometimes worse! Most homeowners don’t put together that it’s the bleach causing this reaction and not a really bad case of mold. The fact remains that if the mold is not removed from the material, it will most likely always return.

Does Bleach kill mold?

Yes, but it comes with a catch. Bleach labels will warn you that chlorine bleach will only be effective on a “hard, non-porous surface.’’ This basically means that chlorine bleach is not made to “soak in.” Therefore, its disinfecting properties are limited to a hard surface like tile or glass. So here’s the problem: To ensure survival, mold spores spread its roots (Mycelia) deep into a porous surface. Mold remediation requires a cleaner to reach deep down into wood and other porous building materials to remove or "pull out" the roots. The properties of bleach prevent it from soaking into these materials. The surface mold looks gone (it's bleached white) but the internal mold always remains to grow back.

Another issue: Bleach contains 90% water and mold LOVES water. When bleach is applied, the chlorine quickly evaporates after use leaving behind A LOT of water. This water often soaks into the porous surface allowing the mold to flourish and re-grow in this moist environment. So in effect, using bleach actually feeds the internal mold spores! Although the surface may look bleached and clean, the remaining spores will root deeper, stronger and will often return worse than before.

Bleach and mold. A few facts to remember:

  • In some cases, bleach will encourage toxic mold to grow where it was not present before.
  • Bleach will only remove the green stain from mold. The surface will appear clean but internal roots will continue to grow.
  • OSHA and the EPA have specifically advised against the use of bleach for mold remediation.
  • Chlorine bleach is caustic and extremely harmful to wood and many other surfaces. If bleach is used on wood, it will weaken the wood by breaking down its fibers. This can create further problems with the structural integrity of the home.
  • When bleach is mixed with ammonia it creates a deadly gas!
  • Bleach itself is considered a toxic chemical and is classified the same as gasoline.
  • In its gaseous form (room temperature) chlorine releases Dioxins, a known cancer causing compound.
  • Bleach is highly corrosive to skin. Exposure to bare skin creates a hydrolysis reaction. This means the “oily” feeling is actually the top layer of your skin beginning to dissolve!
  • Bleach is not only hazardous to your health, it will make your mold problem worse in the long run.

A safer and more effective alternative to Chlorine Bleach:

Dead or alive, mold spores can still remain allergenic. In some severe cases, depending on the material, it may need to be replaced. Hard surfaces that aren't ruined by moisture damage can be salvaged and cleaned.

In this scenario, we recommend Concrobium Mold Control® is an EPA-registered solution that remediates and prevents mold without any harmful chemicals. Concrobium® Mold Control dries to form an invisible antimicrobial shield that encapsulates and physically crushes mold spores. The antimicrobial barrier remains on surfaces to provide continuous protection against mold growth.

We also use Sporicidin®, an EPA registered disinfectant for hard surfaces, and a cleaner and deodorizer for porous surfaces. The active ingredients phenol and sodium phenate, are also FDA approved for use in over-the-counter medicines such as throat sprays. Effective against a wide range of pathogens, Sporicidin Disinfectant Solution can be used for mold remediation work, bloodborne pathogen work (Tuberculocidal), and sewage jobs. Sporicidin®  provides residual bacteriostatic activity for up to six months. In addition to its biocidal activity, Sporicidin®  is also an effective deodorizer, and is less hazardous than other biocide type products.

Our team finishes with a mold resistant coating that adheres to porous and non-porous surfaces and leaves a durable, long-lasting barrier.

If mold has occurred once, it can always occur again. SERVPRO woprks hard to help keep this from happening and will provide your home with a protective barrier to prevent future mold growth.

To learn more about our mold remediation services visit our Mold Remediation and Restoration webpage.

It's not a fan, it's an air mover!

1/11/2018 (Permalink)

Water Damage It's not a fan, it's an air mover! No fancy fan here, but an essential tool that can save you thousands.

If water has made its way into your home, whether in Spencer, Storm Lake, or southern Minnesota, SERVPRO of Spencer & Iowa Great Lakes is here to help.

Our team of Restoration Technicians are trained using IICRC standards to make it “Like it never even happened.” using specialized techniques and industrial equipment designed to mitigate damage and prepare the property for reconstruction. Our warehouses and trucks are stocked with equipment that will extract standing water and then, based on environmental conditions, dry the property to prepare it for reconstruction. The most common equipment you’ll see installed are industrial dehumidifiers, air scrubbers, and air movers.

Air movers? When I told my husband about the equipment we use at my new job, he said, "isn't that just a fancy fan?" Funny guy.

An air mover is much more than a fan, it’s an essential tool for mitigating water damage. This devise creates high-velocity airflow, allowing an environment to dry as quickly and efficiently as possible. Combined with dehumidifiers, it’s a powerful combination that restores the environment to original conditions and is a necessary tool for water restoration.

Advantages of air movers include:

  • Energy Efficient: Air movers use minimal power for maximum air flow.
  • High velocity: Air movers work great for ventilation and cooling.
  • Speeds drying time: Air movers help floors, carpets and wall cavities dry faster.

When the drying process time is reduced so are the chances of a second loss or additional damage, which can include microbial growth.

No fancy fan here, but an essential tool that can save you thousands.

Why Do-It-Yourself Mold Testing Kits are Useless

1/4/2018 (Permalink)

Mold Remediation Why Do-It-Yourself Mold Testing Kits are Useless Call SERVPRO of Spencer & Iowa Great Lakes for all of your mold concerns. We can refer you to a certified environmental hygienist.

If you look on the internet, there are scores of DIY mold test kits. Before you invest in one of these kits, here are things you ought to know about mold:

  • Mold is everywhere and every single house has some form of “mold.”
  • Most self-test mold kits only tell you if your home has mold, but often provides false negatives and positives. It also does not tell you what kind of mold or how to kill it.

A true mold test can only be conducted by a Professional Environmental testing company; they determine the type of mold, the source of the moisture, and how to kill the mold at the core. They create a protocol, which can be read by an IICRC professional (like us!).  It’s best to use a testing company that does not do cleaning themselves because their assessment will be unbiased.

  • Mold is more often hidden, sometimes under the floor or in the walls, or in your air ducts

Where the mold is located, often dictates where the moisture is affecting the building

  • Untreated water damage may result in mold growth within 24-48 hours of the event

Wood, insulation, fiberglass, carpet and other organic substances become a thriving environment for mold once there is moisture present for more than 24 hours. After a week, it is almost guaranteed.

Free estimates or removing mold yourself cost homeowners more in the long run

Be wary of companies who advertise free mold testing. Free mold tests are often offered by people who are uncertified or inexperienced and if they do the mold testing themselves, they are using these kits mentioned above. Unless they are a certified Environmental Hygienist and have a PhD in microbiology, they do not have the knowledge or resources to truly diagnose the mold condition in your home.

  • The source of the mold is never addressed, so the problem is reoccurring.
  • They use the “self-test” kits mentioned above instead of environmental testing with diagnostics
  • Remove only topical mold instead of killing it at the source
  • They often remove more walls and floors than needed which increases the price to rebuild.
  • They do not remove enough, or don’t use the right materials which brings the mold back.

This means you have to pay to have it removed again, and have more sanitation and demolition performed, which increases the price to rebuild and replace tremendously.

What you should do instead

Having mold can be scary, especially if anyone in your home is prone to getting sick (people with asthma, low immune systems, allergies, babies and the elderly). We recommend the following course of action if you need to have mold removed from your home.

  1. Measure the area affected and check for moisture.
  2. Call your insurance company, ask:
  • If you are covered for mold
  • What is your deductible
  • What is your coverage
  • Ask for a company that they approve of for mold mitigation (Chances are, it’s us.)

If your insurance company says you can use anyone – or if you are not going through insurance then look for someone who is certified in

  • IICRC, Water Restoration Technician
  • IICRC, Mold restoration
  • IICRC, Applied Structural Drying
  • Now that you’re armed with knowledge, it’s time to start making some calls.

Now that you know your coverage, how much visible mold there is in your home, and whom your insurance company approves as mold remediation specialists. It’s time to start making some calls.

Tips to Help Ease Threat of Frozen Pipes

12/28/2017 (Permalink)

Storm Damage Tips to Help Ease Threat of Frozen Pipes If you plan to be away from home for an extended period of time, leave the heat on and set to a temperature no lower than 65° F.

Thanks to the Spencer Daily Reporter for including us in their latest article about protecting your home during the winter months. 

Here are some additional tips from SERVPRO:

  • Insulate all the exposed pipes in your home. Especially where they may be unheated, such as the basement, attic, garage, crawl space, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
  • Keep the temperature the same during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower temperatures in the evening, you can prevent a costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • Close any inside values that supply water outdoors and open the outside value to properly drain excess water that may be in the pipes.
  • In drastically cold temperatures, let your faucet trickle. While you may be concerned about wasting water, running water is less likely to freeze.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Keep outside valves open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing it to break.
  • If you plan to be away from home for an extended period of time, leave the heat on and set to a temperature no lower than 65° F.

 Found a Frozen Pipe? Thaw It Out:

  • If you turn on a faucet and only a few drips come out, suspect a frozen pipe. Typically, frozen pipes are found along exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
  • Make sure the faucet remains on while treating the pipes, as the flowing water will help to melt the ice within the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad, an electric hair dryer, or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, or other open flame device.
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze too. 

Should you experience a loss resulting from water damage, turn off the water supply as soon as possible, and call SERVPRO or another water damage/restoration company. The longer you wait to call, the greater the chance of mold growth and unrecoverable property. SERVPRO professionals have the expertise to prevent or mitigate the devastating effects that water damage can have.

A Year of Firsts

12/21/2017 (Permalink)

Community A Year of Firsts Merry Christmas and Happy New Year for your friends at SERVPRO of Spencer & Iowa Great Lakes.

This year has flown by for all of us at SERVPRO of Spencer and Iowa Great Lakes. It has been quite a learning process, but also a time to celebrate a lot of firsts!

Lathe and Ryan took ownership of the Spencer and Estherville franchises in November of 2016 and since then it’s been a whirlwind. They attended new franchise trainings, franchise management courses, and the SERVPRO Industries annual convention. Most importantly, they became certified through The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) providing a higher level of competency in our field of business.  

Previous owner Doug Corcoran stayed with Lathe and Ryan for a full year after they purchased the business to help as they got their feet wet (pun intended) in new franchise ownership. Our staff was proud to celebrate with Doug as he retired this year and thanked him for the 40+ years he served Spencer and NW Iowa while building a highly successful business to invest in. Doug was able to celebrate a first as well, his first Thanksgiving not spent on-call!

Not long after we got through the “frozen pipe season,” a hurricane named Harvey made it’s way over Houston, Texas and left a wave of destruction in it’s path. Thanks to the foresight of Lathe and Ryan, they had purchased a commercial desiccant dehumidifier – one of the firsts in Iowa and we were able to take a crew and the new equipment to Houston to help in the clean-up.

In the meantime, they began to actively search for additional employees to help manage fire and water-loss projects and marketing of the additional services they were now able to provide. In August, they hired our first Sales Manager, Sue Loring. Shortly following, they hired our first Project Manager Chris Abram and lastly Marketing Manager Vanessa Moore. As business continued to increase, they began hiring more production crew members and we currently boast a payroll staff of over 15 full-time employees.

With the increase in business Lathe and Ryan found themselves able to provide full health, vision, dental benefits and retirement matching for their staff – a first for the local franchise.

But that wasn’t it for a year of firsts! Our crew was able to provide the Spencer Fire Department with a slew of Dalmatians to comfort children in auto and fire incidents. We were also able to provide a family in need with a smoke detector and fire extinguisher. (We hope to continue and expand these traditions in the upcoming years.)

And, earlier this month, we hosted our first continuing education event for area insurance professionals – with over 65 participants in attendance in December. And finally, we hosted our first After Hours event boasting 50+ in attendance.

As our year of firsts comes to an end, we wanted to write another first. A year of accomplishments, hard-work, tears and sweat, but also a perfect time to say thank you to all our new and returning customers, without you none of these firsts could have happened.

But most importantly, as our busy season is soon upon us, please consider donating locally to the Red Cross, or through another organization who helps families who have been made vulnerable by fire, water or storm damage.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Dryer Vents & Fire Prevention

12/21/2017 (Permalink)

Fire Damage Dryer Vents & Fire Prevention Dryer vent warning signs.

According to FEMA, failure to clean home dryers causes 34% of home dryer fires. Home dryer fires cause $35 million in property loss and can cause injury or death. To reduce the risk of these fires happening in your own home or business, SERVPRO can help clean dryer vents and ducts that may have lint buildup.

Other tips for keeping your dryer vents clean from the National Fire Protection Agency include cleaning the lint filter before and after each each load, and making sure the outdoor vent flap will open and is not restricted by snow, a birds nest or other potential obstacles.

If your home or business is ever affected by fire or smoke damage due to a dryer fire, call us in for a free estimate. Our trained professionals will work with you and your insurance to assess the damage and develop a plan to get you back up and running as soon as possible.

 *Featured Article from the April SERVPRO Restoration Newsline

“Resolve to be Ready” in 2018

12/21/2017 (Permalink)

Commercial “Resolve to be Ready” in 2018 “Resolve to be Ready” in 2018

Local cleanup and restoration specialist shares no-cost emergency planning tools that enable fast and effective disaster response and recovery

With the New Year upon us, now is the perfect time to think about making some resolutions, according to Vanessa Moore, Marketing Manager of SERVPRO® of Spencer & Iowa Great Lakes. While resolutions typically involve committing to personal changes and reaching goals, Moore says the single most important resolution both business and homeowners can make for 2018 is to “Resolve to be Ready.”

“Preparing in advance to deal with the unexpected can make a world of difference in how quickly and completely property owners can put the pieces of their lives back together,” says Moore. “Emergency readiness plans are the foundation for effective and timely emergency response.”

Moore encourages all property owners to take advantage of the no-cost emergency planning tools available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (, as well as SERVPRO’s Emergency READY Profile and READY Plan Mobile App (

For homeowners:

FEMA resources include guidelines for a creating a Family Emergency Plan and Emergency Supply List, with additional tips for pet owners, seniors, people with disabilities, and even commuters.

SERVPRO offers their free SERVPRO READY Plan app, which stores critical contact and property information electronically in advance, where it can be accessed with a mobile device in seconds if disaster strikes.

For business owners:

FEMA offers materials on topics ranging from creating a Business Continuity Plan to an Insurance Discussion Coverage Form in addition to guidelines for creating an Emergency Response Plan.

For businesses, SERVPRO offers a no-cost facility assessment and assistance in creating a comprehensive Emergency READY Profile® (ERP). The ERP includes information about emergency contact numbers, priority and high/risk areas, shut-off valve locations and more that can then be stored in the READY app.

“The time to gather and store information like emergency contact numbers; insurance contacts; and the location of fuse boxes, fire suppression system controls, and such is before an emergency strikes, not during an emergency,” says Moore. “Having this information at your fingertips can help emergency responders react as quickly and effectively as possible, helping to limit loss of property and even lives.”

SERVPRO of Spencer & Iowa Great Lakes specializes in disaster restoration, cleanup and repair services, helping to remediate damage, making it “Like it never even happened,” for both commercial and residential customers. For more information on SERVPRO of Spencer & Iowa Great Lakes, please contact Vanessa Moore at (712) 262-4379 or For more information on the SERVPRO mobile app and the SERVPRO Emergency READY Program, please visit

Thank You Spencer!

12/14/2017 (Permalink)

Community Thank You Spencer! Thanks to all who attended for making the evening a successful one!

Our crew would like to extend a warm thank you to all those who attended our Business After Hours on Tuesday evening.

It was great to meet each of you and it warmed our hearts that so many of our past water and fire clients made it a point to swing by on such a cold evening! We understand there were a lot of Christmas activities the evening of our event, so it was extra special that over 50 folks walked through our doors!

We hope that you enjoyed the delicious food prepared by our friend, and past water damage client, Eve Freeman as well as the desserts made by our own crew member, Carol Bernardy. We can’t forget to mention that our Sales Manager Sue Loring spiced up the evening with her SERVPRO green spiked punch!

We all know that food and beverages are always the heart of a great event and these awesome ladies knocked this one out of the park!

We also wanted to take the time to thank Bill Campbell, Becky Fear-Hatting and Mari Lu Larson of the Spencer Chamber of Commerce for always serving as the central nucleus to employers in the city of Spencer and working with us to put this event together!

Again, thank you everyone for making the evening a successful one for our business. We appreciate the support that Spencer and the surrounding communities have shown us!

Are You Covered for Fire Damage?

12/8/2017 (Permalink)

Fire Damage Are You Covered for Fire Damage? If you currently rent a house or apartment and you do not have renter’s insurance, please take the time to get a quote for this coverage.

Do you rent a house or apartment? Do you have renter’s insurance? Unfortunately, our franchise is frequently called to the scene of fires where tenants do not have coverage for their contents. No coverage means they risk losing everything they value in the event of a fire or other catastrophe. Fires are always terrible, but fires without proper insurance are heartbreaking.

Earlier this year, a fellow SERVPRO franchise was called to clean after a fire in a house. A short circuit caused an oven range fire that affected the whole house, especially the kitchen. Heavy soot covered all surfaces and contents, including cabinet and closet interiors.

Owner’s Insurance
The property owner had insurance to cover the building. Their certified fire technicians were able to clean the soot off the ceiling, walls, and floors. However, they could only clean the exterior of the cabinets and closets, because the insurance company and property owner would only agree to pay for their areas of responsibility.

No Tenant’s Insurance
The tenant was on the hook for any contents cleaning, but the tenant did not have renter’s insurance to cover the contents. Without renter’s insurance, any destroyed items were a total loss for the tenant. Even worse, if the tenant did not have the right training and materials for soot removal, there is a good chance the tenant damaged items that could have been restored by an experienced fire restoration cleaner.

Talk to Your Insurance Agent/Carrier
If you currently rent a house or apartment and you do not have renter’s insurance, please take the time to get a quote for this coverage. You will likely find the coverage is less expensive than you expected and well worth protecting everything you keep in your home.

Here at SERVPRO of Spencer & Iowa Great Lakes, we are committed to restoring property following a fire or flood. Please consider carrying the right insurance coverage to ensure we are able to make your disaster "Like it never even happened."