Mold in the Home
Health concerns related to the growth of mold in homes have been featured heavily in the news causing a lot of unneeded fear of mold. I get calls regularly from people that are scared to death that they have black, or toxic mold in there home and don't know what to do. Problems do exist for someone with a moisture problem in their home who is allergic to mold, ranging from itchy eyes, coughing and sneezing, to serious allergic reactions including asthma and other respiratory problems. Even some Home Inspectors really don't understand mold. I have seen home inspectors on forums describe mold as being like cancer that if not removed will continue to grow. Some have described it as being like rust on metal, that has to also be cut out or it will continue to devour whatever it is growing on. The fact is that if any one of the requirements for mold growth, listed below, are removed it will NOT continue to grow, the easiest being water. A mold problem is a water problem.
Here are a few basic simple facts about Mold. It is a Fungi and it needs water, oxygen, and a food source such as paper or wood to grow. It does not need light. Mold is part of our environment that turns dead mater, such as plants or trees back to soil. Mold spores (comparable to seeds for a plant) are everywhere. As mold grows it produces spores and they are what some people are allergic to. They are part of our environment, so they are commonly found in the air and in your home. Your home has plenty of food,(paper and wood) and Oxygen is always present so if water is allowed in, then mold will grow. Mold is an allergen, Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions to sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash. Allergic reactions to mold are common. They can be immediate or delayed. Mold can trigger asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. It is possible for mold exposure to irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people if present in high enough concentrations. And it is true, even though rare, some molds can produce mycotoxins that can be dangerous.
So is mold dangerous in your home? The simple answer is that it can be if you are allergic to it. As you search the Internet about mold there are horror stories everywhere. If you look closely at those articles what you will find many times, is those articles are written by Mold Remediation companies. One recent study of post Katrina hurricane in New Orleans which flooded thousands of homes, found that there was no discernible increase in health issues related directly to mold. One study sited the negative health issues were similar to those found in Agriculture, which backs up the fact that mold is everywhere in our environment. So should you worry about mold in your home? Yes. A mold problem is a water problem. Water problems can cause other problems, including insects and pathogens, and is directly related to an unhealthy environment. Is your home ruined if you have a mold problem? No. Dry it up, clean it up, and live in it, and enjoy it.
As more is understood about the health issues related to mold growth in interior environments, new methods for mold assessment and remediation are being put into practice. Mold assessment and mold remediation are techniques used in occupational health. Mold assessment is the process of identifying the location and extent of the mold hazard in a structure. A qualified home inspector can take air and surface samples to determine if mold is present. Mold remediation is the process of cleanup and/or removal of mold from an indoor environment. Mold remediation is usually conducted by a company with experience in construction, demolition, cleaning, airborne-particle containment-control, and the use of special equipment to protect workers and building occupants from contaminated or irritating dust and organic debris.
The first step in combating mold growth is not to allow for an environment that is conducive to its growth. Controlling moisture and assuring that standing water from leaks or floods is eliminated are the most important first steps. If mold growth has already begun, the mold should be removed, and any affected surfaces should be cleaned or repaired. According to the EPA mold can be removed by cleaning with soap and water. The Internet is full of recommendations to use Chlorine Bleach to kill mold. Bleach is no longer recommended by the EPA or OSHA. Bleach will kill mold it comes in contact with but professionals widely believe that it could actually make the problem worse. Bleach dissipates quickly so it does not penetrate the surface, killing the roots. As it dissipates it leaves behind the water that will actually contribute to mold growth. Many have noticed that after treating with Bleach the mold quickly returns. Bleach can be effective on hard surfaces such as tile. Once again the key is to clean and dry.
Of all the natural disasters that man has to deal with, Earthquakes hold a special fear. Storms, whether a hurricane coming in from the ocean or a tornado roaring across the plains usually offers some warning, and most folks know what to do to seek cover. Earthquakes on the other hand come out of nowhere with no warning and most people either freeze in place or run wildly, not knowing what to do. For thousands of years they have been blamed on God. No doubt because many times they are directly related to a volcano erupting and exploding causing death and destruction, or the Earth unexpectedly opens up swallowing homes and people. The Bible book of Matthew sites earthquakes as a sign of the "last days".
Kansan's are a tough group made up of a core that has ties to the farm. When a band of thunderstorms roar through in the spring threatening tornados many don't give it a lot of thought. We are used to them. The farmers are just hoping that there isn't bad hail and are thankful for the rain they bring. But you let a trembler come through that someone in California wouldn't even pause for if they were in the middle of a sentence, and we'll talk about that for weeks. Face it, earthquakes in Kansas, that's just weird.
So why would a home inspector write about earthquakes? Well, there was an article recently on www.drudgereport.com that sited an article from Wichita, Kan which had a quote from officials at the US Geological Survey that said we here in Kansas better get ready for more. So I thought it might be helpful to provide some information about our homes and businesses that in the event of a major earthquake may be of some help. The internet is loaded with information so I encourage everyone to do some research, educate yourself.
Concerning your home, the main cause of injury and death during an earthquake is being struck or buried by falling debris. An earthquake comes so suddenly and lasts such a short period of time there is simply little time to think. You need to take the time and look at your surroundings and decide what could fall and injure you. Naturally TV's, bookshelves, large dressers, pictures, and so on can fall and hurt us. As far as your house itself is concerned it may be the opposite of what you think. If something looks solid and strong such as brick or rock, that is generally the most dangerous. An earthquake causes things to sway and shake and that is exactly what takes down masonry structures, so If you have a brick or stone house or fireplace stay clear of those areas. A brick wall or fireplace 8 feet tall can cause damage or injury twice that distance or 16 feet out. If you live in an older home with plaster walls and ceilings immediately seek refuge in a doorway or if you have time get out. Falling Plaster can come off ceilings and walls in big heavy pieces that can cause severe injury. Construction has changed over the years. Houses have gotten lighter, moving away from things such as plaster walls to drywall. Drywall is at least thirty percent lighter than when it first came out and stronger. Steel beams have been replaced by wooden Laminate beams. Studies have proven that this type of construction fares much better in earthquakes. Many are surprised to learn that modern houses are actually to a degree flexible. A house may sway and rock, drywall may split and separate, glass may break, but usually the structure remains standing. A typical residential house has a much better survival rate as does a concrete block and brick commercial building.
What you should do to your home:
Make sure your house is securely fastened to the foundation. I have been in many houses that have the foundation bolts in place but the washers and nuts were never installed. Check siding to make sure it is properly nailed. Check decks to make sure they are fastened to the house properly and screws or nails added as necessary. Basically what we are talking about is just standard home maintenance.
There is a lot of information about earthquakes in Kansas. One website is KGS-Kansas Earthquakes. Another site that covers Kansas as well as other areas is www.earthquaketrack.com. I appreciate any questions or comments about my articles you may have. Please feel free to contact me.
I have held a wastewater systems installer's license for years and have installed and repaired many Septic systems over the years. Some may wonder why, since I have the knowledge of Septic systems, would I make the statement that Home Inspectors should not inspect septic systems, and yes, I am including myself. I'll get right to the point.
The typical way that inspectors use to inspect a system is to flush a dye, run water into the system and look for the dye to surface in the lateral field. The only way to properly inspect a system is to pump out the tank and visually inspect it. The lateral lines should be located and inspected.
Each year, thousands of dollars are spent on dye tests. If you're told to get a dye test you need to understand what it can and can't do, and what it will and won't tell you. Read on, and when you're through, tell the person recommending that you get a test to read this as well. As mentioned the dye test method uses a non-toxic colorant or dye that is introduced into the system. Then, the evaluator walks the property looking for signs of the dye. Since the average retention time for a 1000 gallon tank is three days, basing what you see or don't see in one day is usually meaningless. To make trips back to the property over the next three days to see if there are any signs of the dye is a "shot in the dark" at best. If the dye does surface in the field you have to be able to spot it through the vegetation over about a 3000 square foot area. It is usually in a small isolated area if it appears. It will not tell you anything about your tank, or if you even have one, or the size and condition of the field. It is just simply impossible. Some of the many variables that will affect the outcome are: Was the system heavily used before the test or has it been sitting unused for an extended period of time? If a system has been sitting unused it can take days of use to saturate the field and still the chance of seeing the dye is slim. Has there been an extended dry weather period or has there been days of heavy rain? A lot of rain can tax an otherwise healthy system and dry weather can make a poor system work adequately. To illustrate I have heard it said that to determine if you have a good system or not based on a dye test is like looking under a car, that you want to purchase, for drips to determine if you are going to get a good car or not. What happens all to often is the dye test will be performed and months after the new home owners have moved in a dark smelly liquid starts appearing on the surface of the field. And by the way, unfortunately, that is the best way to tell that you have a system that needs work or not.
There are so many variables to consider. Are you an older couple purchasing a home from a family with three children? If they have had no problem with the system chances are good that you won't have problems. If the situation is reversed, you are a family of five, buying a house from a retired couple you should have your system thoroughly inspected.
Now, how about some encouraging words? Most counties that I am aware of in Northeast Kansas require the tank to be pumped and someone from the county will inspect the field. Many times the Health Department has a drawing of your system. To have a tank pumped, which should be done regularly anyway, can cost as little as $100.00 and is seldom over $300.00. The counties fee can run in the $150.00 range. The inspector uses a probe to locate the lines and will make a recommendation. Many times the system is fine. In some cases the recommendation may be to add another 100 feet of line or so which can be as little as $1000.00. A complete new system which is rarely needed may be $5000.00 - $7000.00. That is expensive on it's own but when you consider the cost of the property as a whole and the potential stress of a failing system it is money well spent to do it right. And just to repeat, it is seldom that work that extensive has to be done.
In conclusion, the dye test is a tool that in some cases can be useful. If the system is suspected of leaking into a stream or ditch through a pipe the dye is the right tool for the job. It will determine the connection between point A and point B. If your lender insists on the dye test and you are comfortable with it that is completely your decision. Most systems work fine. I can tell you that there are systems in the county I live in, that according to today's standards, are far from adequate but have been working fine for decades. I have worked on customer's systems that couldn't remember when the last time they had the system pumped or if they ever did, and it was still working. If the inspector tells you that you need to come up with some money to fix your system you may feel that you are throwing money away. However I can tell you if you are that person that starts noticing that black water come up in your field that you can smell over the entire property you will be looking for someone to give your money too. Just fix it!
Thanks, I welcome your comments.
Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) are special types of electrical receptacles or outlets and circuit breakers designed to detect and respond to potentially dangerous electrical short circuits in electrical wiring.
How do they work?
AFCIs function by monitoring the electrical circuit and promptly breaking or interrupting the electrical current in that circuit. They also are capable of distinguishing safe or normal arcs, such as those created when a switch is turned on or a plug is pulled from a receptacle, from arcs that can cause fires. An AFCI can detect, recognize, and respond to very small changes in wave pattern.
What is an arc?
When an electric current crosses an air gap from an energized component to a grounded component, it produces a glowing plasma discharge known as an arc. An automobile depends on an arc from the spark plug to ignite the fuel in the piston cylinder. Another example is a bolt of lightning. It is a very large powerful arc that crosses an atmospheric gap from an electrically charged cloud to the ground or another cloud. Just as lightning can cause fires, arcs produced by domestic wiring are capable of producing high levels of heat that can ignite their surroundings and lead to structure fires. Electrical problems are responsible for many structure fires every year.
According to statistics from U.S. Fire statistics website as of 2013 there were well over one millions house fires per year but the number has steadily been declining. Much of the decline should be attributed to education and the use of safety devices such as AFCIs.
Where are arcs likely to form?
Arcs can form where wires are improperly installed or when insulation becomes damaged. In older homes, wire insulation tends to become brittle as it ages and is prone to cracking and chipping. Damaged insulation exposes the current-carrying wire to its surroundings, increasing the chances that an arc may occur.
Situations in which arcs may be created:
Where are AFCIs required?
Guidelines have been written into the National Code requiring the use of AFCIs in certain locations in new construction such as bedrooms. Since enforcement varies from one area to another it is recommended that you consult a licensed electrician for recommendations in your area.
What types of AFCIs are available?
AFCIs are available as circuit breakers for installation in the electrical distribution panel.
An AFCI might activate in situations that are not dangerous and create needless power shortages. This can be particularly annoying when an AFCI stalls power to a freezer or refrigerator, allowing its contents to spoil. There are a few procedures an electrical contractor can perform in order to reduce potential “nuisance tripping."
Arc Faults vs. Ground Faults
It is important to distinguish AFCI devices from Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) devices. GFCIs detect ground faults, which occur when current leaks from a hot (ungrounded) conductor to a grounded object as a result of a short-circuit. This situation can be hazardous when a person unintentionally becomes the current’s path to the ground. GFCIs function by constantly monitoring the current flow between hot and neutral (grounding) conductors, and activate when they sense a difference of 5 milliamps or more. Thus, GFCIs are intended to prevent personal injury due to electric shock, while AFCIs prevent personal injury and property damage due to structure fires.
In summary, AFCIs are designed to detect small arcs of electricity before they have a chance to lead to a structure fire.
Adjustable steel columns, also known as screw jacks and beam jacks, and are hollow steel posts designed to provide structural support. An attached threaded adjustment mechanism is used to adjust the height of the post.
A few facts about adjustable steel columns:
The following are potentially defective conditions:
Why make your home more energy efficient? Here are a few good reasons:
As much as half of the energy used in homes goes toward heating and cooling. The following are a few ways that energy bills can be reduced through adjustments to the heating and cooling systems:
Demand-type water heaters (tankless or instantaneous) provide hot water only as it is needed. They don't produce the standby energy losses associated with traditional storage water heaters, which will save on energy costs. Tankless water heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels through a pipe into the unit. A gas burner or an electric element heats the water. As a result, demand water heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water. You don't need to wait for a storage tank to fill up with enough hot water.
3. Replace incandescent lights.
The average household dedicates 11% of its energy budget to lighting. Traditional incandescent lights convert approximately only 10% of the energy they consume into light, while the rest becomes heat. The use of new lighting technologies, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), can reduce the energy use required by lighting by 50% to 75%. Advances in lighting controls offer further energy savings by reducing the amount of time that lights are on but not being used. Here are some facts about CFLs and LEDs:
Sealing and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make a home more comfortable and energy-efficient, and you can do it yourself. A tightly sealed home can improve comfort and indoor air quality while reducing utility bills. A qualified inspector can assess leakage in the building envelope and recommend fixes that will dramatically increase comfort and energy savings.
The following are some common places where leakage may occur:
The following systems can be installed to conserve water usage in homes:
Appliances and electronics account for about 20% of household energy bills in a typical U.S. home. The following are tips that will reduce the required energy of electronics and appliances:
Daylighting is the practice of using natural light to illuminate the home's interior. It can be achieved using the following approaches:
About one-third of the home's total heat loss usually occurs through windows and doors. The following are ways to reduce energy lost through windows and doors:
An enormous amount of energy is wasted while cooking. The following recommendations and statistics illustrate less wasteful ways of cooking: