Posts Tagged Home Inspections

Winter Indoor Air Quality.

All the windows are closed and the doors are shut. We are in the midst of winter and trying to get the most out of our heating systems since to date, no one I know is giving away heating oil. For those of us with wood or coal stoves our problems can run from layers of dust to dry skin, not to mention that we are maintaining a fire in our homes! For homes with boilers, as long as the system was checked you should be in good shape. However, most of the homes I inspect have furnaces and constant air movement can cause its own set of circumstances.

 If the air quality in your home is questionable, recirculating air through a furnace can perpetuate a host of issues. Molds and allergens, if present will not just go away unless you take steps to keep them at bay. While high humidity usually isn’t a problem, improperly vented clothes dryers and bathroom fans can add high levels of moisture. Maintaining humidity levels below 50% can help here. Some furnaces have humidifiers that add moisture to the air as it leaves the furnace. These are often neglected and if there is fungus in the unit or in the ductwork, what you are doing is moving those spores through the home. The same holds true for Heat Pumps which are even more neglected. The same ductwork for the air conditioning is used for heat and since there are usually no service contracts for Heat Pumps they are often left alone until they need repair.

 Air filters need to be changes frequently. If allowed to accumulate dirt, not only does your furnace have to work harder but you are potentially forcing dirt, dust and lint along with spores and allergens through the building over and over. Invariably many people get sicker during the winter months. Add more people and you add more issues. You can of course, tell everyone to not visit during the holidays but most of us enjoy hosting friends and family.

 High humidity not only is a prerequisite for mold growth it can also foster an environment for dust mites. The flip side is not enough humidity. Again, allergy issues in a too dry environment can cause sore throats, sniffles, dry skin and poor sleep. We have to strike a balance for better health.

 Until we can once again open our windows and allow fresh air back in, we need to be aware that our homes can kill us. Change your filters, maintain humidity between 30% and 50% and vacuum often. If your air quality is poor or someone is suffering continually, get you home checked!

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Ahh…..Spring Time.

It’s the time of the year when the daffodils and tulips are blooming.  Thoughts turn to tending to the yard and getting outside!  Of course, for some of us it’s still a bit nippy but our thoughts are outside anyway.  So…what’s it gonna be this year?  Maybe you will plant a new tree, or install a pond out front or a new bird feeder?  Whatever you are planning make a few simple smart decisions first!

Ground services, electric, water, cable, gas, etc. are all supposed to be buried a safe distance underground so that shovel you are using doesn’t hit anything.  Even so, not everything is done right. So if you are planning to plant anything, even a bird feeder, make sure you are not digging over anything that can endanger you.  Check with your township for the phone number of the utility companies’ services that will usually come and locate these service lines for free.  It’s in their best interest to not have you hurt and way cheaper for them to not have to repair anything.

Many of us live in rural locations and often we do know where most things are. Except for the septic and water, the utilities are above ground.  This does NOT mean that we know it all.  Abandoned wells, cisterns or oil tanks may have been waiting all these years to deteriorate and have chosen 2013 to show themselves.  Use caution!

If you live in a development or other building lot where utilities are buried you need to take even more care.  Like I said, in a perfect world utilities are installed correctly….usually.  I have uncovered cable lines only a few inches underground.  They were conveniently installed on the property line or partially in the wooded area and I guess the knuckleheads figured no one would dig there. Wrong!  If it’s my property I may choose to plant bamboo or some other separation along the border.

To make things worse anyone can buy a small backhoe and then things can get even more dangerous.  Newer homes have lawn sprinklers and these will be near the surface. Some retrofitted gas lines for a barbeque may be only inches underground.  Buried propane tanks have a small line often just below the surface.

I visited a local restaurant where they allowed parking on the lawn.  No one thought to protect the top of the buried propane tank and it was damaged TWICE!  Fortunately no one was hurt.

Accidents are just that….accidents.  We don’t plan them (unless you are working for the mob).  So take a little time and use common sense and take advantage of the free services offered by the utilities.  Have your property surveyed.  It may save your life or the life of someone close to you.  And…enjoy the warmer weather!

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Mold & IAQ Part 2

I sat down last night before our show came on and decided to peruse one of the Internet forums on a ‘mold’ discussion.  It’s amazing the controversy around this issue.  Some claim it’s all snake oil and others insist it’s valid.  OK, so the EPA says mold is a potential problem and just because they say it is doesn’t mean the Lemmings get in line and go off a cliff, http://www.epa.gov/mold/ nor does it mean that you put your head in the sand and pretend that it doesn’t affect people.

An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don’t.
Anatole France

So let’s educate ourselves!  The unfortunate truth is some people really do have an issue with the presence of mold and if they do then it needs to be dealt with.  The first thing that should be recommended to a client is, “Have you seen a doctor about your sensitivity to mold?”

Some of the snake charmers will take any money they can talk you out of, taking advantage of the naive or simply jumping on the hype bandwagon and scaring the client, stating the worst possible scenarios.  Simply put, if you see mold then you probably have a mold issue. The most common remediation for mold is to eliminate the source of moisture.  Since mold never really goes away eliminating moisture usually will stop it from growing. Once you stop it from growing then it can be cleaned up or your physical issues may improve.

If you can smell mold or musty air and can’t see anything then you should have the air tested, have a full mold inspection performed, or both.  Avoid companies that test and remediate.  That could be a conflict of interest.  I am a Certified Mold Inspector and a Certified Remediation Contractor. I do NOT do remediation but prefer to only do the testing.  As a Home Inspector I do not offer repairs even though I have been a carpenter for 33 years.  I may give a client several contractors to choose from or refer them to the Chamber of Commerce.

With the rainy season coming and as things thaw, moisture will start to seep in unwanted areas of your home. Be aware of changes in your health or the health of children or seniors.  If mold rears its ugly head be prepared, know what to look for and have someone to call…..me!

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Mold & Indoor Air Quality – Part 1

A friend of mine enjoys watching termites, says they are fascinating.  I like mold for the same reasons but watching mold isn’t quite as much fun.  I was browsing through the Journal of Light Construction magazine that I subscribe to and they went through a 30 year recap of their publication.  I found “Mold” listed throughout.

In their very first issue in 1982 they say, “NEB (New England Builder, their first official name) takes on energy issues, like moisture problems from increased insulation and the role of roof ventilation.”

In 1983, “Poorly installed vapor barriers spawning mold and lawsuits”

1987, “More moisture problems, this time in tight houses and crawlspaces”

1989, “Builders report more moisture problems as houses get tighter”

1991, “First ‘sick building syndrome’ suit settled out of court”

1997, “Mixed-climate moisture control is complicated, drying potential to the interior/exterior studied”

1998, “Toxic mold plagues homeowners, delights media and litigators”

2001, “Mold lawsuits bankrupt big builder; ‘stachybotrys’ becomes a household word”

2011, “JLC author uses infrared camera to find moisture problems as well as energy leaks”

As you can see, mold is a big issue and one of the foremost magazines is keeping up to date with the developments.  It’s a problem that isn’t going to go away, at least anytime soon.  You can’t just look away. *start scary movie music* Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposures include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints.  Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, exposure to molds can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation. Some people, such as those with serious allergies to molds, may have more severe reactions.

If you have any of these symptoms, see or smell mold, it may be a good time to have your Indoor Air Quality tested.  It just so happens I can take care of this for you, I am now a Certified Mold Inspector.  Don’t suffer needlessly.

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Deck Safety.

It’s generally agreed that exterior decks have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years.  It seems like that is the rule for many appliances, so I guess decks wanted to get in the picture.  Unlike a failed air conditioner that will cause discomfort, a fail deck can cause injury or death.  Every year there are horror stories about a deck collapse.  What can you do to help insure safety?

If you are purchasing a home, your Home Inspector should include a snapshot of your deck’s condition and point out the usual failure points.  Over 50% of the decks I see have some issues either with connections to the building, improperly fastened joist hangers to rotten wood and bad railings.  However, you may not be buying a home every Spring, and having a Home Inspector hanging around your house can be kind of creepy.  There are other things you can do.

The North American Deck and Railing Association has a Deck Evaluation Form and a Consumer Checklist that you can download and do your own evaluation.  Simpson Strong Tie has good information also.  If anything looks wrong, or if you’re just not quite sure, please call a professional and have them check it out.  Don’t ruin your Summer with a poor choice when it comes to deck safety…. Check it out!

North American Deck & Railing Association.

Simpson Strong-Tie.

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