Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Disaster Recovery - The Days After Flooding

The days immediately following a flood are the most crucial to the potential for recovering any personal property that may be damaged by the floodwaters. Hurried recovery tactics, however, can lead to further damage of your property and potential harm to yourself and your loved ones. To recover from a flood safely and affectively:

1. Determine the type of flood experienced

2. Assess the damage that has occurred

3. Determine the safest way to salvage belongings

Determine The Type of Flood Experienced

Floods vary by origin and damage. Floods can develop slowly and take days to reach their final peak. Flash floods, on the other hand, come about within a matter of minutes from seemingly nowhere, typically caused by a surge in rainfall in dry areas. Floods that occur near a defined lake or river are called overland floods and are often weather related. Levee and dam breaks can also create flooded areas.

Stagnant floodwaters can be contaminated by oils, fuels or sewage. If the flood is accompanied by a hurricane, earthquake or severe storm, downed power lines can also electrically charge the water making it entirely unsafe. Also, be wary of any wild animals in post-flood areas. Experts recommend residents avoid all areas with remaining floodwater until it recedes and never enter moving floodwater as it can very easily cause a loss of footing.

Dry areas may also be potentially dangerous after a flood, depending on the severity. Floodwaters can erode roads and walkways, making them dangerous to traverse. Buildings can also be damaged.

Assess the Damage That Has Occurred

Never immediately enter your home or office after a flood - the floors and stairs may have sustained damage and may no longer be safe. Instead, walk a safe distance around your home's foundation and check for loose or downed power lines, gas leaks, structural damage, and any other potentially dangers. Call a qualified building inspector or structural engineer if you suspect your building has sustained any dangerous flood damage.

Once it has been determined that entering your home or office building is safe, the next step is to assess the damage sustained to your valuables and personal belongings. Not all damage means utter ruin. Water damaged photos, books or documents may not necessarily need to be thrown out. Proper document recovery techniques and document restoration companies can help you stem the loss of your most beloved belongings. Seek out a professional to help you determine if any of your essential materials can be saved, even if you believe them to be beyond repair. Quick response and attention to important pieces may make the difference in its potential for restoration.

Determine The Safest Way To Salvage Belongings

A dedicated document restoration service will be able to help you determine the best system for saving your belongings. Many believe that the best technique for recovering your water-damaged personal effects is the desiccant air dry distribution system. Not all companies offer this recovery service. The desiccant air dry technique is an energy-efficient and safe way of removing moisture from the air surrounding your belongings, allowing the water that is trapped inside them to evaporate quickly and harmlessly.

When looking for a restoration specialists make sure the system they use completely dries the materials. Mold damage can occur long after a flood if valuables are not completely dry before they are returned.

Simple steps taken in the first few days after a flood can make a big difference in the long-term detriment the waters cause a family, home or office.

~Ben Anton, 2008

Unexpected natural disasters can bring businesses to a stand still. We invite you to read more about preventing mold damage and efficient document recovery from the industry leaders at the Rapid Refile website.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Ben_Anton

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/1363940

Protect Your Property From Water Damage

Water may be essential to life, but, as a destructive force, water can diminish the value of your home or building. Homes as well as commercial buildings can suffer water damage that results in increased maintenance costs, a decrease in the value of the property, lowered productivity, and potential liability associated with a decline in indoor air quality. The best way to protect against this potential loss is to ensure that the building components which enclose the structure, known as the building envelope, are water-resistant. Also, you will want to ensure that manufacturing processes, if present, do not allow excess water to accumulate. Finally, make sure that the plumbing and ventilation systems, which can be quite complicated in buildings, operate efficiently and are well-maintained. This article provides some basic steps for identifying and eliminating potentially damaging excess moisture.

Identify and Repair All Leaks and Cracks 
The following are common building-related sources of water intrusion:
  • windows and doors: Check for leaks around your windows, storefront systems and doors.
  • roof: Improper drainage systems and roof sloping reduce roof life and become a primary source of moisture intrusion. Leaks are also common around vents for exhaust or plumbing, rooftop air-conditioning units, or other specialized equipment.
  • foundation and exterior walls: Seal any cracks and holes in exterior walls, joints and foundations. These often develop as a naturally occurring byproduct of differential soil settlement.
  • plumbing: Check for leaking plumbing fixtures, dripping pipes (including fire sprinkler systems), clogged drains (both interior and exterior), defective water drainage systems and damaged manufacturing equipment.
  • ventilation, heating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems: Numerous types, some very sophisticated, are a crucial component to maintaining a healthy, comfortable work environment. They are comprised of a number of components (including chilled water piping and condensation drains) that can directly contribute to excessive moisture in the work environment. In addition, in humid climates, one of the functions of the system is to reduce the ambient air moisture level (relative humidity) throughout the building. An improperly operating HVAC system will not perform this function.
Prevent Water Intrusion Through Good Inspection and Maintenance Programs
Hire a qualified InterNACHI inspector to perform an inspection of the following elements of your building to ensure that they remain in good condition:
  • flashings and sealants: Flashing, which is typically a thin metal strip found around doors, windows and roofs, are designed to prevent water intrusion in spaces where two building materials come together. Sealants and caulking are specifically applied to prevent moisture intrusion at building joints. Both must be maintained and in good condition.
  • vents: All vents should have appropriate hoods, exhaust to the exterior, and be in good working order.
  • Review the use of manufacturing equipment that may include water for processing or cooling. Ensure wastewater drains adequately away, with no spillage. Check for condensation around hot or cold materials or heat-transfer equipment.
  • HVAC systems are much more complicated in commercial buildings. Check for leakage in supply and return water lines, pumps, air handlers and other components. Drain lines should be clean and clear of obstructions. Ductwork should be insulated to prevent condensation on exterior surfaces.
  • humidity: Except in specialized facilities, the relative humidity in your building should be between 30% and 50%. Condensation on windows, wet stains on walls and ceilings, and musty smells are signs that relative humidity may be high. If you are concerned about the humidity level in your building, consult with a mechanical engineer, contractor or air-conditioning repair company to determine if your HVAC system is properly sized and in good working order. A mechanical engineer should be consulted when renovations to interior spaces take place.
  • moist areas: Regularly clean off, then dry all surfaces where moisture frequently collects.
  • expansion joints: Expansion joints are materials between bricks, pipes and other building materials that absorb movement. If expansion joints are not in good condition, water intrusion can occur.
Protection From Water Damage
  • interior finish materials: Replace drywall, plaster, carpet and stained or water-damaged ceiling tiles. These are not only good evidence of a moisture intrusion problem, but can lead to deterioration of the work environment, if they remain over time.
  • exterior walls: Exterior walls are generally comprised of a number of materials combined into a wall assembly. When properly designed and constructed, the assembly is the first line of defense between water and the interior of your building. It is essential that they be maintained properly (including regular refinishing and/or resealing with the correct materials).
  • storage areas: Storage areas should be kept clean.  Allow air to circulate to prevent potential moisture accumulation.
Act Quickly if  Water Intrusion Occurs
Label shut-off valves so that the water supply can be easily closed in the event of a plumbing leak. If water intrusion does occur, you can minimize the damage by addressing the problem quickly and thoroughly. Immediately remove standing water and all moist materials, and consult with a building professional. Should your building become damaged by a catastrophic event, such as fire, flood or storm, take appropriate action to prevent further water damage, once it is safe to do so. This may include boarding up damaged windows, covering a damaged roof with plastic sheeting, and/or removing wet materials and supplies. Fast action on your part will help minimize the time and expense for repairs, resulting in a faster recovery.

From Protect Your Property From Water Damage - InterNACHI http://www.nachi.org/waterdamage.htm#ixzz2mmuapvY4

Monday, April 28, 2014

Advantages of Solar Energy


Solar energy offers considerable advantages over conventional energy systems by nullifying flaws in those systems long considered to be unchangeable. Solar power for home energy production has its flaws, too, which are outlined in another article, but they're dwarfed by the advantages listed below.

The following are advantages of solar energy:  
                 

Raw materials are renewable and unlimited. The amount of available solar energy is staggering -- roughly 10,000 times that currently required by humans -- and it’s constantly replaced. A mere 0.02% of incoming sunlight, if captured correctly, would be sufficient to replace every other fuel source currently used.
Granted, the Earth does need much of this solar energy to drive its weather, so let’s look only at the unused portion of sunlight that is reflected back into space, known as the albedo. Earth’s average albedo is around 30%, meaning that roughly 52 petawatts of energy is reflected by the Earth and lost into space every year. Compare this number with global energy-consumption statistics.  Annually, the energy lost to space is the combined equivalent of 400 hurricanes, 1 million Hoover Dams, Great Britain's energy requirement for 250,000 years, worldwide oil, gas and coal production for 387 years, 75 million cars, and 50 million 747s running perpetually for one year (not to mention 1 million fictional DeLorean time machines!). 

  • Solar power is low-emission. Solar panels produce no pollution, although they impose environmental costs through manufacture and construction. These environmental tolls are negligible, however, when compared with the damage inflicted by conventional energy sources:  the burning of fossil fuels releases roughly 21.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually.
  • Solar power is suitable for remote areas that are not connected to energy grids. It may come as a surprise to city-dwellers but, according to Home Power Magazine, as of 2006, 180,000 houses in the United States were off-grid, and that figure is likely considerably higher today. California, Colorado, Maine, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have long been refuges for such energy rebels, though people live off the grid in every state. While many of these people shun the grid on principle, owing to politics and environmental concerns, few of the world’s 1.8 billion off-the-gridders have any choice in the matter. Solar energy can drastically improve the quality of life for millions of people who live in the dark, especially in places such as Sub-Saharan Africa, where as many as 90% of the rural population lacks access to electricity. People in these areas must rely on fuel-based lighting, which inflicts significant social and environmental costs, from jeopardized health through contamination of indoor air, to limited overall productivity.   
  • Solar power provides green jobs. Production of solar panels for domestic use is becoming a growing source of employment in research, manufacture, sales and installation. 
  • Solar panels contain no moving parts and thus produce no noise. Wind turbines, by contrast, require noisy gearboxes and blades. 
  • In the long run, solar power is economical. Solar panels and installation involve high initial expenses, but this cost is soon offset by savings on energy bills.  Eventually, they may even produce a profit on their use. 
  • Solar power takes advantage of net metering, which is the practice of crediting homeowners for electricity they produce and return to the power grid. As part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, public electric utilities are required to make available, upon request, net metering to their customers. This practice offers an advantage for homeowners who use solar panels (or wind turbines or fuel cells) that may, at times, produce more energy than their homes require. If net metering is not an option, excess energy may be stored in batteries. 
  • Solar power can mean government tax credits. U.S. federal subsidies credit up to 30% of system costs, and each state offers its own incentives. California, blessed with abundant sunshine and plagued by high electric rates and an over-taxed grid, was the first state to offer generous renewable-energy incentives for homes and businesses.
  • Solar power is reliable. Many homeowners favor solar energy because it is virtually immune to potential failings of utility companies, mainly in the form of political or economic turmoil, terrorism, natural disasters, or brownouts due to overuse. The Northeast Blackout of 2003 unplugged 55 million people across two countries, while rolling blackouts are a part of regular life in some South Asian countries, and occasionally in California and Texas. 
  • Solar power conserves foreign energy expenditures. In many countries, a large percentage of earnings is used to pay for imported oil for power generation. The United States alone spends $13 million per hour on oil, much of which comes from Persian Gulf nations. As oil supplies dwindle and prices rise in this politically unstable region, these problems continue to catalyze the expansion of solar power and other alternative-energy systems.
In summary, solar energy offers advantages to conventional fossil fuels and other renewable energy systems.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Seven Steps to the FORTIFIED for Safer Living® Designation


FORTIFIED Home™ is designed to help strengthen new and existing homes through retrofit techniques that will ward off damage from specific natural hazards.

If you are interested in applying for a FORTIFIED designation, the process requires completion of many of the following steps prior to construction start:
  1.     Identify the natural perils that your FORTIFIED project must address.
  2.     Review the FORTIFIED Standards Guide to confirm design and material requirements for applicable perils.
  3.     Complete the appropriate self-assessment checklist(s) to verify the project’s readiness to meet Fortified requirements.
  4.     Send the checklist(s) to the FORTIFIED Program Administrator for review and contact him to discuss the project further.
  5.     Engage a licensed professional to create a design that meets FORTFIED requirements.
  6.     Through IBHS, find an approved FORTIFIED Project Manager you can engage to verify the design, approve the project, supervise inspections, and provide IBHS with necessary documentation.
  7.     Receive a FORTIFIED designation after final approval by IBHS.

Van Hibberts, CMI  Certified with IBHS Fortified for Safer Living.

Certified Residential Building Code Inspector ICC-5319905
IBHS Fortified  Certified Inspector  #FEV32561020109 
ARA Certified Inspector #20302 (Applied Research Associates)
Florida-State Certified Master Inspector Lic. #HI 89
Certified Owens-Corning Roof Data Inspector
Florida-Certified Wind Mitigation Inspector
WDO Certificate #JE190791  
InterNACHI #10071802

362 Gulf Breeze Parkway, #214
Gulf Breeze, Florida 32561
850.934.6800  (Office)                                          
850.485.3209  (Cell / Text Msg)                          

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Roofing



Roofs play a key role in protecting building occupants and interiors from outside weather conditions, primarily moisture. The roof, insulation and ventilation must all work together to keep the building free of moisture. Roofs also provide protection from the sun. In fact, if designed correctly, roof overhangs can protect the building's exterior walls from moisture and sun. The concerns regarding moisture, standing water, durability and appearance are different, reflected in the choices of roofing materials.

Maintaining Your Roof
 
Homeowner maintenance includes cleaning the leaves and debris from the roof’s valleys and gutters. Debris in the valleys can cause water to wick under the shingles and cause damage to the interior of the roof. Clogged rain gutters can cause water to flow back under the shingles on the eaves and cause damage, regardless of the roofing material. including composition shingle, wood shake, tile or metal. The best way to preserve your roof is to stay off it. Also, seasonal changes in the weather are usually the most destructive forces.

A leaky roof can damage ceilings, walls and furnishings. To protect buildings and their contents from water damage, roofers repair and install roofs made of tar or asphalt and gravel; rubber or thermoplastic; metal; or shingles made of asphalt, slate, fiberglass, wood, tile, or other material. Roofers also may waterproof foundation walls and floors.

There are two types of roofs:  flat and pitched (sloped). Most commercial, industrial and apartment buildings have flat or slightly sloping roofs. Most houses have pitched roofs. Some roofers work on both types; others specialize. Most flat roofs are covered with several layers of materials. Roofers first put a layer of insulation on the roof deck. Over the insulation, they then spread a coat of molten bitumen, a tar-like substance. Next, they install partially overlapping layers of roofing felt, a fabric saturated in bitumen, over the surface. Roofers use a mop to spread hot bitumen over the surface and under the next layer. This seals the seams and makes the surface watertight. Roofers repeat these steps to build up the desired number of layers, called plies. The top layer either is glazed to make a smooth finish or has gravel embedded in the hot bitumen to create a rough surface. An increasing number of flat roofs are covered with a single-ply membrane of waterproof rubber or thermoplastic compounds. Roofers roll these sheets over the roof’s insulation and seal the seams. Adhesive mechanical fasteners, or stone ballast hold the sheets in place. The building must be of sufficient strength to hold the ballast.

Most residential roofs are covered with shingles. To apply shingles, roofers first lay, cut, and tack 3-foot strips of roofing felt lengthwise over the entire roof. Then, starting from the bottom edge, they staple or nail overlapping rows of shingles to the roof. Workers measure and cut the felt and shingles to fit intersecting roof surfaces and to fit around vent pipes and chimneys. Wherever two roof surfaces intersect, or where shingles reach a vent pipe or chimney, roofers cement or nail flashing strips of metal or shingle over the joints to make them watertight. Finally, roofers cover exposed nailheads with roofing cement or caulking to prevent water leakage. Roofers who use tile, metal shingles or shakes follow a similar process. Some roofers also water-proof and damp-proof masonry and concrete walls and floors. To prepare surfaces for waterproofing, they hammer and chisel away rough spots, or remove them with a rubbing brick, before applying a coat of liquid waterproofing compound. They also may paint or spray surfaces with a waterproofing material, or attach a waterproofing membrane to surfaces. When damp-proofing, they usually spray a bitumen-based coating on interior or exterior surfaces.

A number of roofing materials are available...

Asphalt

Asphalt is the most commonly used roofing material. Asphalt products include shingles, roll-roofing, built-up roofing, and modified bitumen membranes. Asphalt shingles are typically the most common and economical choice for residential roofing. They come in a variety of colors, shapes and textures. There are four different types: strip, laminated, interlocking, and large individual shingles. Laminated shingles consist of more than one layer of tabs to provide extra thickness. Interlocking shingles are used to provide greater wind resistance. And large individual shingles generally come in rectangular and hexagonal shapes. Roll-roofing products are generally used in residential applications, mostly for underlayments and flashings. They come in four different types of material: smooth-surfaced, saturated felt, specialty-eaves flashings, and mineral-surfaced. Only mineral-surfaced is used alone as a primary roof covering for small buildings, such as sheds. Smooth-surfaced products are used primarily as flashing to seal the roof at intersections and protrusions, and for providing extra deck protection at the roof's eaves and valleys. Saturated felt is used as an underlayment between the roof deck and the roofing material. Specialty-eaves flashings are typically used in climates where ice dams and water backups are common. Built-up roofing (or BUR) is the most popular choice of roofing used on commercial, industrial and institutional buildings. BUR is used on flat and low-sloped roofs and consists of multiple layers of bitumen and ply sheets. Components of a BUR system include the roof deck, a vapor retarder, insulation, membrane, and surfacing material. A modified bitumen-membrane assembly consists of continuous plies of saturated felts, coated felts, fabrics or mats between which alternate layers of bitumen are applied, either surfaced or unsurfaced. Factory surfacing, if applied, includes mineral granules, slag, aluminum or copper. The bitumen determines the membrane's physical characteristics and provides primary waterproofing protection, while the reinforcement adds strength, puncture-resistance and overall system integrity.

Metal

Most metal roofing products consist of steel or aluminum, although some consist of copper and other metals. Steel is invariably galvanized by the application of a zinc or a zinc-aluminum coating, which greatly reduces the rate of corrosion. Metal roofing is available as traditional seam and batten, tiles, shingles and shakes. Products also come in a variety of styles and colors. Metal roofs with solid sheathing control noise from rain, hail and bad weather just as well as any other roofing material. Metal roofing can also help eliminate ice damming at the eaves. And in wildfire-prone areas, metal roofing helps protect buildings from fire, should burning embers land on the roof. Metal roofing costs more than asphalt, but it typically lasts two to three times longer than asphalt and wood shingles.

Wood

Wood shakes offer a natural look with a lot of character. Because of variations in color, width, thickness, and cut of the wood, no two shake roofs will ever look the same. Wood offers some energy benefits, too. It helps to insulate the attic, and it allows the house to breathe, circulating air through the small openings under the felt rows on which wooden shingles are laid. A wood shake roof, however, demands proper maintenance and repair, or it will not last as long as other products. Mold, rot and insects can become a problem. The life-cycle cost of a shake roof may be high, and old shakes can't be recycled. Most wood shakes are unrated by fire safety codes. Many use wipe or spray-on fire retardants, which offer less protection and are only effective for a few years. Some pressure-treated shakes are impregnated with fire retardant and meet national fire safety standards. Installing wood shakes is more complicated than roofing with composite shingles, and the quality of the finished roof depends on the experience of the contractor, as well as the caliber of the shakes used. The best shakes come from the heartwood of large, old cedar trees, which are difficult to find. Some contractors maintain that shakes made from the outer wood of smaller cedars, the usual source today, are less uniform, more subject to twisting and warping, and don't last as long.

Concrete and Tile

Concrete tiles are made of extruded concrete that is colored. Traditional roofing tiles are made from clay. Concrete and clay tile roofing systems are durable, aesthetically appealing, and low in maintenance. They also provide energy savings and are environmentally friendly. Although material and installation costs are higher for concrete and clay tile roofs, when evaluated on a price-versus-performance basis, they may out-perform other roofing materials. Tile adorns the roofs of many historic buildings, as well as modern structures. In fact, because of its extreme durability, longevity and safety, roof tile is the most prevalent roofing material in the world. Tested over centuries, roof tile can successfully withstand the most extreme weather conditions including hail, high wind, earthquakes, scorching heat, and harsh freeze-thaw cycles. Concrete and clay roof tiles also have unconditional Class A fire ratings, which means that, when installed according to building code, roof tile is non-combustible and maintains that quality throughout its lifetime. In recent years, manufacturers have developed new water-shedding techniques and, for high-wind situations, new adhesives and mechanical fasteners. Because the ultimate longevity of a tile roof also depends on the quality of the sub-roof, roof tile manufacturers are also working to improve flashings and other aspects of the underlayment system. Under normal circumstances, properly installed tile roofs are virtually maintenance-free. Unlike other roofing materials, roof tiles actually become stronger over time. Because of roof tile's superior quality and minimal maintenance requirements, most roof tile manufacturers offer warranties that range from 50 years to the lifetime of the structure.

Concrete and clay tile roofing systems are also energy-efficient, helping to maintain livable interior temperatures (in both cold and warm climates) at a lower cost than other roofing systems. Because of the thermal capacity of roof tiles and the ventilated air space that their placement on the roof surface creates, a tile roof can lower air-conditioning costs in hotter climates, and produce more constant temperatures in colder regions, which reduces potential ice accumulation. Tile roofing systems are made from naturally occurring materials and can be easily recycled into new tiles or other useful products. They are produced without the use of chemical preservatives, and do not deplete limited natural resources.

Single-Ply

Single-ply membranes are flexible sheets of compounded synthetic materials that are manufactured in a factory. There are three types of membranes: thermosets, thermoplastics, and modified bitumens. These materials provide strength, flexibility, and long-lasting durability. The advantages of pre-fabricated sheets are the consistency of the product quality, the versatility in their attachment methods, and, therefore, their broader applicability. They are inherently flexible, used in a variety of attachment systems, and compounded for long-lasting durability and watertight integrity for years of roof life. Thermoset membranes are compounded from rubber polymers. The most commonly used polymer is EPDM (often referred to as "rubber roofing"). Thermoset membranes make successful roofing materials because they can withstand the potentially damaging effects of sunlight and most common chemicals generally found on roofs. The easiest way to identify a thermoset membrane is by its seams, which require the use of adhesive, either liquid or tape, to form a watertight seal at the overlaps. Thermoplastic membranes are based on plastic polymers. The most common thermoplastic is PVC (polyvinyl chloride) which has been made flexible through the inclusion of certain ingredients called plasticizers. Thermoplastic membranes are identified by seams that are formed using either heat or chemical welding. These seams are as strong or stronger than the membrane itself. Most thermoplastic membranes are manufactured to include a reinforcement layer, usually polyester or fiberglass, which provides increased strength and dimensional stability. Modified bitumen membranes are hybrids that incorporate the high-tech formulation and pre-fabrication advantages of single-ply with some of the traditional installation techniques used in built-up roofing. These materials are factory-fabricated layers of asphalt, "modified" using a rubber or plastic ingredient for increased flexibility, and combined with reinforcement for added strength and stability. There are two primary modifiers used today: APP (atactic polypropylene) and SBS (styrene butadiene styrene). The type of modifier used may determine the method of sheet installation. Some are mopped down using hot asphalt, and some use torches to melt the asphalt so that it flows onto the substrate. The seams are sealed by the same technique.

Are You at Risk?

If you aren't sure whether your house is at risk from natural disasters, check with your local fire marshal, building official, city engineer, or planning and zoning administrator. They can tell you whether you are in a hazard area. Also, they usually can tell you how to protect yourself and your house and property from damage. It is never a bad idea to ask an InterNACHI inspector whether your roof is in need of repair during your next scheduled inspection. Protection can involve a variety of changes to your house and property which that can vary in complexity and cost. You may be able to make some types of changes yourself. But complicated or large-scale changes and those that affect the structure of your house or its electrical wiring and plumbing should be carried out only by a professional contractor licensed to work in your state, county or city. One example is fire protection, accomplished by replacing flammable roofing materials with fire-resistant materials. This is something that most homeowners would probably hire a contractor to do.
 
Replacing Your Roof
 
The age of your roof is usually the major factor in determining when to replace it. Most roofs last many years, if properly installed, and often can be repaired rather than replaced. An isolated leak usually can be repaired. The average life expectancy of a typical residential roof is 15 to 20 years. Water damage to a home’s interior or overhangs is commonly caused by leaks from a single weathered portion of the roof, poorly installed flashing, or from around chimneys and skylights. These problems do not necessarily mean you need a new roof.

Fire-Resistant Materials

Some roofing materials, including asphalt shingles, and especially wood shakes, are less resistant to fire than others. When wildfires and brush fires spread to houses, it is often because burning branches, leaves, and other debris buoyed by the heated air and carried by the wind fall onto roofs. If the roof of your house is covered with wood or asphalt shingles, you should consider replacing them with fire-resistant materials. You can replace your existing roofing materials with slate, terra cotta or other types of tile, or standing-seam metal roofing. Replacing roofing materials is difficult and dangerous work. Unless you are skilled in roofing and have all the necessary tools and equipment, you will probably want to hire a roofing contractor to do the work. Also, a roofing contractor can advise you on the relative advantages and disadvantages of various fire-resistant roofing materials.
 
Hiring a Licensed Contractor

One of the best ways to select a roofing contractor is to ask friends and relatives for recommendations. You may also contact a professional roofers association for referrals. Professional associations have stringent guidelines for their members to follow. The roofers association in your area will provide you with a list of available contractors. Follow these guidlines when selecting a contractor:
  1.     get three references and review their past work;
  2.     get at least three bids;
  3.     get a written contract, and don’t sign anything until you completely understand the terms;
  4.     pay 10% down or $1,000 whichever is less;
  5.     don’t let payments get ahead of the work;
  6.     don’t pay cash;
  7.     don’t make final payment until you’re satisfied with the job; and
  8.     don’t rush into repairs or be pressured into making an immediate decision.

You’ve Chosen the Contractor... What About the Contract?

Make sure everything is in writing. The contract is one of the best ways to prevent problems before you begin. The contract protects you and the contractor by including everything you have both agreed upon. Get all promises in writing and spell out exactly what the contractor will and will not do.

...and Permits?

Your contract should call for all work to be performed in accordance with all applicable building codes. The building codes set minimum safety standards for construction. Generally, a building permit is required whenever structural work is involved. The contractor should obtain all necessary building permits. If this is not specified in the contract, you may be held legally responsible for failure to obtain the required permits. The building department will inspect your roof when the project has reached a certain stage, and again when the roof is completed.

...and Insurance?

Make sure the contractor carries workers' compensation insurance and general liability insurance in case of accidents on the job. Ask to have copies of these policies for your job file. You should protect yourself from mechanics’ liens against your home in the event the contractor does not pay subcontractors or material suppliers. You may be able to protect yourself by having a "release of lien" clause in your contract. A release of lien clause requires the contractor, subcontractors and suppliers to furnish a "certificate of waiver of lien." If you are financing your project, the bank or lending institution may require that the contractor, subcontractors and suppliers verify that they have been paid before releasing funds for subsequent phases of the project.

Keep these points in mind if you plan to have your existing roofing materials replaced:
  •     Tile, metal, and slate are more expensive roofing materials, but if you need to replace your roofing anyway, it may be worthwhile to pay a little more for the added protection these materials provide.
  •     Slate and tile can be much heavier than asphalt shingles or wood shingles. If you are considering switching to one of these heavier coverings, your roofing contractor should determine whether the framing of your roof is strong enough to support them.
  •     If you live in an area where snow loads are a problem, consider switching to a modern standing-seam metal roof, which will usually shed snow efficiently.
From Roofing - Int'l Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) http://www.nachi.org/roofs.htm#ixzz2zngByFRf

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pool Electrocution Highlights Wiring Safety Issues


MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The electrocution of a 7-year old boy in the family’s North Miami swimming pool – apparently due to faulty wiring to the pool’s light – has served as a lightning rod drawing attention to pool safety.

Master electrician Walter Sanders was at a Coral Gables home Friday where he immediately noticed a potentially, very dangerous issue with the pool’s underwater light.

“As you can see, there’s water in the light,” Sanders said, pointing. “You can see the water line inside of that light fixture.”

There can be no overstating the obvious, Sanders said.

“Water and electricity don’t mix,” without possibly deadly consequences.

Swimming pools are to South Florida as canals are to Venice. They’re everywhere. And most pools built before 1984 have a full 120 volts of electricity going to their lights.

“I would suggest those people would want to look into hiring an electrician to change that system over to a twelve volt system,” Sanders said.

A 12-volt power system for pool lighting uses a transformer to “step down” a potentially deadly 120 volts to just twelve.

“Make sure you don’t have 120 volts introduced into your water, in case a glass breaks or a leakage, and obviously you want to make sure your system is well grounded,” Sanders said.

A well-grounded system ensures that if something goes wrong, the juice flows to the ground and not to those in the pool.

“Have your electrician make sure that the wiring from the switch, to the transformer, to the light has a continuous ground,” Sanders said. “And with pool lights it has to be an independent grounding system,” separate from the rest of the home’s electrical system.

Landscape lighting, too, should be powered by a grounded, low voltage system to prevent someone from being electrocuted on a rain-soaked lawn.

Homeowners should look for possible problems with their wiring – whether it’s driveway lights or pool lights or interior wiring; light fixtures that show signs of rust or corrosion, water inside the pool light fixture, lights that flicker or any odd sounds – buzzing or popping – from switches or fixtures.

“Make sure you get it fixed, so everybody’s safe,” Sanders said.

Miriam Rossi of Miami-Dade County’s building and zoning department cautioned that homeowners should not inspect or repair their electrical systems themselves.

“This is not something you want to do yourself,” Rossi said. “It needs to be done by a qualified, licensed electrician.”

Click here for more information on swimming pool and other wiring safety from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

From: http://miami.cbslocal.com/2014/04/18/pool-electrocution-highlights-wiring-safety-issues/
and see video.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Before You Start Your Home Remodeling

Ready, set, remodel! But wait! Before making any big changes to your home, ask yourself these important home remodeling questions and consider some tips for building a home.

Q: How long do you plan to live in your home post-renovation?

Remodeling contractors will tell you, the longer you plan to live in your home, the more creative you can get. If you plan to sell the house in the next five years, one of the best home building tips and tricks is to keep potential buyers in mind with your choices. In that case, you will want to use more universally appealing materials and neutral colors to increase the salability of your home.

Q: Do you need cosmetic fixes or an overhaul?

Sure, you can make one small change at a time, but think long-term about the next step. If you are having an expensive granite countertop installed, home addition contractors recommend you consider whether you will be replacing your cabinets down the road. The chances of reusing a granite countertop are small; either it does not match the footprint of the new cabinets or breaks when you try to remove it.

Q: Are you ready for long-term chaos?

Home renovations can go on for months, so you need to be prepared to live without certain luxuries- like your kitchen, bedroom or bathroom. When choosing home remodeling contractors check references to find out if they finished the work on time. You would be surprised how quickly a month can turn into two.

Q: Will your home remodeling match the style of the rest of your house?

When it comes to tips for building a home, home remodeling contractors will tell you that the inside of your home should reflect the expectations that the outside gives. For instance, if you live in a Victorian house, do not make it too contemporary indoors. Keep future buyers in mind. When people see a historical exterior, they will expect a historical interior, so stay true to the details.

Q: Are you really up for a DIY project?

You feel like you're pretty handy, but many do-it-yourself projects demand serious time and skill. Many home remodeling tasks are not technically difficult but can take longer than you think. This can get in the way of a full-time job. Home addition contractors suggest having a taste of the job before committing to it in its entirety. After all, it takes minutes to remove something and days to replace it. You just may feel like hiring one of the local home remodeling contractors to finish the job.

When all is said and done, you should build and remodel as though you will live a hundred years. The best home building tips and tricks include using the most energy-efficient materials and techniques available. In the end, you will probably end up with a very valuable place, even though you did not set out for that!






By Michael Ingalls
Michael Ingalls, owner of Ingalls Custom Contracting has a reputation as the top Monmouth county custom builder transforming homes and businesses throughout Monmouth, Ocean, and Middlesex counties. Services include custom home building, new home construction, renovations, additions and construction management, to all carpentry woodworking services.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Michael_Ingalls

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lead Facts

Did you know the following facts about lead?

FACT: Lead exposure can harm young children and babies even before they are born.
FACT: Even children who seem healthy can have high levels of lead in their bodies.
FACT: You can get lead in your body by breathing or swallowing lead dust, or by eating soil or paint chips containing lead.
FACT: You have many options for reducing lead hazards. In most cases, lead-based paint that is in good condition is not a hazard.
FACT: Removing lead-based paint improperly can increase the danger to your family.

If you think your home might have lead hazards, read on to learn about lead and some simple steps to protect your family.

Health Effects of Lead
  •     Childhood lead poisoning remains a major environmental health problem in the U.S.
  •     Even children who appear healthy can have dangerous levels of lead in their bodies.
  •     People can get lead in their body if they:
  •         put their hands or other objects covered with lead dust in their mouths;
  •         eat paint chips or soil that contains lead; or
  •         breathe in lead dust, especially during renovations that disturb painted surfaces.
  •     Lead is even more dangerous to children than adults because:
  •         babies and young children often put their hands and other objects in their mouths. These objects can have lead dust on them;
  •         children's growing bodies can absorb more lead; and
  •         children's brains and central nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
    If not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from:
  •         damage to the brain and nervous system;
  •         behavioral and learning problems (such as hyperactivity);
  •         slowed growth;
  •         hearing problems; and
  •         headaches.
    Lead is also harmful to adults. Adults can suffer from:
  •         difficulties during pregnancy;
  •         other reproductive problems (in both men and women);
  •         high blood pressure;
  •         digestive problems;
  •         nerve disorders;
  •         memory and concentration problems; and
  •         muscle and joint pain
Where is Lead Found?
In general, the older your home, the more likely it has lead-based paint.

Paint
Many homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint. The federal government banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978. Some states stopped its use even earlier. Lead can be found:

  •     in homes in the city, country and suburbs;
  •     on apartments, single-family homes, and both private and public housing complexes;
  •     on the interior and exterior of the house;
  •     in the soil around a home.  Soil can pick up lead from exterior paint and other sources, such as past use of leaded gas in cars;
  •     in household dust. Dust can pick up lead from deteriorating lead-based paint and from soil tracked into a home;
  •     in drinking water. Your home might have plumbing that uses lead pipes or lead solder. Call your local health department or water supplier to find out about testing your water. You cannot see, smell or taste lead, and boiling your water will not get rid of lead. If you think your plumbing might have lead in it:
  •         Use only cold water for drinking and cooking.
  •         Run water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking it, especially if you have not used your water for a few hours.
  •     on the job. If you work with lead, you could bring it home on your hands or clothes. Shower and change clothes before coming home. Launder your work clothes separately from the rest of your family's clothes;
  •     in old (vintage or antique) painted toys and furniture;
  •     in food and liquids stored in lead crystal, lead-glazed pottery and porcelain;
  •     from lead smelters and other industries that release lead into the air;
  •     with hobbies that use lead, such as making pottery or stained glass, or refinishing furniture.
  •     in folk remedies that contain lead, such as "greta" and "azarcon" used to treat an upset stomach.
 Where is Lead Likely to be a Hazard?

  •     Lead from paint chips, which you can see, and lead dust, which you can't always see, can be serious hazards.
  •     Peeling, chipping, chalking and cracking lead-based paint is a hazard and needs immediate attention.
  •     Lead-based paint may also be a hazard when found on surfaces that children can chew or that get a lot of wear-and-tear. These areas include:
  1.         windows and window sills;
  2.         doors and door frames;
  3.         stairs, railings and banisters; and
  4.         porches and fences.

Note: Lead-based paint that is in good condition is usually not a hazard.
  •     Lead dust can form when lead-based paint is dry-scraped, dry-sanded, or heated. Dust also forms when painted surfaces bump or rub together. Lead chips and dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air when people vacuum, sweep or walk through it.
  •     Lead in soil can be a hazard when children play in bare soil, or when people bring soil into the house on their shoes.
Checking Your Family and Home for Lead
  •     Have your children and home tested if you think your home has high levels of lead.
  •     Just knowing that a home has lead-based paint may not tell you if there is a hazard.
To reduce your child’s exposure to lead, get your child checked, have your home tested (especially if your home has paint in poor condition and was built before 1978), and fix any hazards you may have.

Your Family
  •     Children’s blood lead levels tend to increase rapidly from 6 to 12 months of age, and tend to peak at 18 to 24 months of age.
  •     Consult your doctor for advice on testing your children. A simple blood test can detect high levels of lead. Blood tests are important for:
  1.         children at ages 1 to 2;
  2.         children and other family members who have been exposed to high levels of lead; and
  3.         children who should be tested under your state or local health screening plan.

Your doctor can explain what the test results mean and if more testing will be needed.

Your Home

You can get your home checked in one of two ways (or both):
  1.     A paint inspection tells you the lead content of every different type of painted surface in your home. It won't tell you whether the paint is a hazard or how you should deal with it.
  2.     A risk assessment tells you if there are any sources of serious lead exposure, such as peeling paint and lead dust. It also tells you what actions to take to address these hazards.
Have qualified professionals do the work. There are standards in place for certifying lead-based paint professionals to ensure that the work is done safely, reliably and effectively. Be sure to ask your InterNACHI inspector about lead paint during your next inspection. Trained professionals use a range of methods when checking your home, including:
  •     a visual inspection of paint condition and location;
  •     a portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) machine;
  •     lab tests of paint samples; and
  •     surface-dust tests.
Note: Home test kits for lead are available, but studies suggest that they are not always accurate. Consumers should not rely on these tests before doing renovations or to assure safety.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Family

If you suspect that your house has lead hazards, you can take some immediate steps to reduce your family's risk:
  •     If you rent, notify your landlord of peeling or chipping paint.
  •     Clean up paint chips immediately.
  •     Clean floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces weekly. Use a mop, sponge or paper towel with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner, or a cleaner made specifically for lead.
REMEMBER: NEVER MIX AMMONIA AND BLEACH PRODUCTS TOGETHER, SINCE THEY CAN FORM A DANGEROUS GAS.
  •     Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning dirty and dusty areas.
  •     Wash children's hands often, especially before they eat, and before nap time and bed time.
  •     Keep play areas clean. Wash bottles, pacifiers, toys and stuffed animals regularly.
  •     Keep children from chewing window sills and other painted surfaces.
  •     Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from soil.
  •     Make sure children eat nutritious, low-fat meals high in iron and calcium, such as spinach and dairy products. Children with good diets absorb less lead.
In addition to day-to-day cleaning and good nutrition, you can temporarily reduce lead hazards by taking actions such as repairing damaged amd painted surfaces, and by planting grass to cover soil with high lead levels. These actions, called "interim controls," are not permanent solutions and will need ongoing attention. To permanently remove lead hazards, you must hire a certified lead-abatement contractor. Abatement (or permanent hazard elimination) methods include removing, sealing or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials. Just painting over the hazard with regular paint is not enough. Always hire a person with special training for correcting lead problems -- someone who knows how to do this work safely and has the proper equipment to clean up thoroughly. Certified contractors will employ qualified workers and follow strict safety rules set by their state or the federal government. To be safe, hire an InterNACHI inspector trained in lead detection for your next inspection.

Are You Planning to Buy or Rent a Home Built Before 1978?

Many houses and apartments built before 1978 have paint that contains lead (called lead-based paint). Lead from paint, chips and dust can pose serious health hazards if not taken care of properly. Federal law requires that individuals receive certain information before renting or buying pre-1978 housing.

    Residential Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Program
  •         LANDLORDS have to disclose known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before leases take effect. Leases must include a disclosure form about lead-based paint.
  •         SELLERS have to disclose known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before selling a house. Sales contracts must include a disclosure form about lead-based paint. Buyers have up to 10 days to check for lead hazards.
If not conducted properly, certain types of renovations can release lead from paint and dust into the air.

    Pre-Renovation Education Program (PRE)
  •         RENOVATORS have to give you a pamphlet titled “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home” before starting work.
  •     Take precautions before your contractor or you begin remodeling or renovations that disturb painted surfaces (such as scraping off paint or tearing out walls).
  1.         Have the area tested for lead-based paint.
  2.         Do not use a belt-sander, propane torch, heat gun, dry scraper or dry sandpaper to remove lead-based paint. These actions create large amounts of lead dust and fumes.
  3.         Lead dust can remain in your home long after the work is done.
  4.         Temporarily move your family (especially children and pregnant women) out of the apartment or house until the work is done and the area is properly cleaned. If you can't move your family, at least completely seal off the work area.
  5.         If you have already completed renovations or remodeling that could have released lead-based paint or dust, get your young children tested and follow the steps outlined to protect your family.
From Lead Facts - Int'l Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) http://www.nachi.org/lead-consumer.htm#ixzz2z2j5cYKx

Sunday, April 6, 2014

EMFs in the Home

Electromagnetic Fields
 
Can the electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) to which people are routinely exposed cause health effects? What are sources of EMFs, and when are they dangerous?
 
An "electromagnetic field" is a broad term which includes electric fields generated by charged particles in motion, and radiated fields, such as TVs, radios, hair dryers and microwave ovens. Electric fields are measured in units of volts per meter, or V/m. Magnetic fields are measured in milli-Gauss, or mG. The field is always strongest near the source and diminishes as you move away from the source. These energies have the ability to influence particles at great distances. For example, the radiation from a radio tower influences the atoms within a distant radio antenna, allowing it to pick up the signal. Despite the many wonderful conveniences of electrical technology, the effects of EMFs on biological tissue remains the most controversial aspect of the EMF issue, with virtually all scientists agreeing that more research is necessary to determine safe or dangerous levels.
 
Research since the mid-1970s has provided extensive information on biological responses to power-frequency electric and magnetic fields. The Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF) Research and Public Information Dissemination (RAPID) Program was charged with the goal of determining if electric and magnetic fields associated with the generation, transmission and use of electrical energy pose a risk to human health. The fact that 20 years of research have not answered that question is clear evidence that health effects of EMF are not obvious and that risk relationships, if risk is identified, are not simple. Because epidemiologic studies have raised concerns regarding the connection between certain serious human health effects and exposure to electric and magnetic fields, the program adopts the hypothesis that exposure to electric or magnetic fields under some conditions may lead to unacceptable risk to human health. The focus of the program is not only to test (as far as possible within the statutory time limits) that hypothesis for those serious health effects already identified, but to identify, as far as possible, the special conditions that lead to elevated risk, and to recommend measures to manage risk. 
 
Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (ES) is a physiological disorder characterized by symptoms directly brought on by exposure to electromagnetic fields. It produces neurological and allergic-type symptoms. Symptoms may include, but are not limited to, headache, eye irritation, dizziness, nausea, skin rash, facial swelling, weakness, fatigue, pain in joints and/or muscles, buzzing/ringing in the ears, skin numbness, abdominal pressure and pain, breathing difficulty, and irregular heartbeat. Those affected persons may experience an abrupt onset of symptoms following exposure to a new EMF, such as fields associated with a new computer or with new fluorescent lights, or a new home or work environment. Onset of ES has also been reported following chemical exposure. A concerted effort to provide scientifically valid research on which to base decisions about EMF exposures is underway, and results are expected in the next several years. Meanwhile, some authorities recommend taking simple precautionary steps, such as the following:
  • Increase the distance between yourself and the EMF source – sit at arm’s length from your computer terminal.
  • Avoid unnecessary proximity to high EMF sources – don’t let children play directly under power lines or on top of power transformers for underground lines.
  • Reduce time spent in the field – turn off your computer monitor and other electrical appliances when you aren’t using them.
The Office of Technology Assessment of the Congress of the United States recommends a policy of “prudent avoidance” with respect to EMF.  "Prudent avoidance" means to measure fields, determine the sources, and act to reduce exposure.
  1. Detect EMFs in your home and work environment. It is good to know where the sources of EMFs are in your everyday world and how strong these sources are. Is there wiring in the wall behind your bed that you don’t even know about? Is the vaporizer emitting strong fields in the baby’s room? How much EMFs are you and your family getting from the power lines in the street? Even hair dryers emit EMFs. Home inspectors often have meters to measure EMFs, or they can be purchased and shared with friends.
  2. Diminish your exposure to the EMFs you find. Determine how far you must stay away from the EMF emitters in your home and work environment to achieve less than 2.5 mG of exposure — the microwave oven, the alarm clock, the computer, and so on. Rearrange your furniture (especially the beds, desks, and couches where you spend the most time) away from heaters, wiring, fluorescent lights, electric doorbells, and other EMF “hot spots.” Where practical, replace electrical appliances with non-electric devices. Have an electrician correct faulty high EMF wiring and help you eliminate dangerous stray ground currents. Consult a qualified EMF engineer, if necessary. Contact the National Electromagnetic Field Testing Association at 1-847-475-3696 for consultants in your area.
  3. Shield yourself. Use shielding devices on your computer screen and cellular phone. Add shielding to your household wiring, circuit box and transformers.
Magnetic fields are not blocked by most materials. Magnetic fields encountered in homes vary greatly. Magnetic fields rapidly become weaker with distance from the source.
  • Electric fields in the home, on average, range from 0 to 10 volts per meter. They can be hundreds, thousands, or even millions of times weaker than those encountered outdoors near power lines.
  • Electric fields directly beneath power lines may vary from a few volts per meter for some overhead distribution lines to several thousands of volts per meter for extra-high voltage power lines.
  • Electric fields from power lines rapidly become weaker with distance and can be greatly reduced by walls and roofs of buildings.

From EMFs in the Home - Int'l Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) http://www.nachi.org/emfs.htm#ixzz2y6IH087h

Friday, April 4, 2014

Air Quality in the Home

Indoor air quality is generally worse than most people believe, but there are things you can do about it.
 
Some Quick Facts:
  • Indoor air quality can be worse than that of outdoor air.
  • Problems can arise from moisture, insects, pets, appliances, radon, materials used in household products and furnishings, smoke, and other sources.
  • Effects range from minor annoyances to major health risks.
  • Remedies include ventilation, cleaning, moisture control, inspections, and following manufacturers' directions when using appliances and products.
Research has shown that the quality of indoor air can be worse than that of outdoor air. Many homes are built or remodeled more tightly, without regard to the factors that assure fresh and healthy indoor air. Our homes today contain many furnishings, appliances and products that can affect indoor air quality.
 
Signs of indoor air quality problems include:
  • unusual and noticeable odors;
  • stale or stuffy air;
  • a noticeable lack of air movement;
  • dirty or faulty central heating or air-conditioning equipment;
  • damaged flue pipes and chimneys;
  • unvented combustion air sources for fossil-fuel appliances;
  • excessive humidity;
  • the presence of molds and mildew;
  • adverse health reaction after remodeling, weatherizing, bringing in new furniture, using household and hobby products, and moving into a new home; and 
  • feeling noticeably healthier outside.
Common Sources of Air Quality Problems
 
Poor indoor air quality can arise from many sources. At least some of the following contaminants can be found in almost any home:
  • moisture and biological pollutants, such as molds, mildew, dust mites, animal dander, and cockroaches;
  • high humidity levels, inadequate ventilation, and poorly maintained humidifiers and air conditioners;
  • combustion products, including carbon monoxide, from unvented fossil-fuel space heaters, unvented gas stoves and ovens, and back-drafting from furnaces and water heaters;
  • formaldehyde from durable-press draperies and other textiles, particleboard products, such as cabinets and furniture framing, and adhesives;
  • radon, which is a radioactive gas from the soil and rock beneath and around the home's foundation, groundwater wells, and some building materials;
  • household products and furnishings, such as paints, solvents, air fresheners, hobby supplies, dry-cleaned clothing, aerosol sprays, adhesives, and fabric additives used in carpeting and furniture, which can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs); 
  • asbestos, which is found in most homes more than 20 years old. Sources include deteriorating, damaged and disturbed pipe insulation, fire retardant, acoustical material (such as ceiling tiles) and floor tiles;
  • lead from lead-based paint dust, which is created when removing paint by sanding, scraping and burning;
  • particulates from dust and pollen, fireplaces, wood stoves, kerosene heaters and unvented gas space heaters; and
  • tobacco smoke, which produces particulates, combustion products and formaldehyde.
Remedies to Indoor Air Quality Problems
 
Living Areas
 
Paneling, pressed-wood furniture, and cabinetry may release formaldehyde gas.
Remedy: Ask about formaldehyde content before buying furniture and cabinets. Some types of pressed-wood products, such as those with phenol resin, emit less formaldehyde. Also, products coated with polyurethane or laminates may reduce formaldehyde emissions. After installation, open windows. Maintain moderate temperature and humidity.
 
Biological pollutants can grow on water-damaged carpet. New carpet can release organic gases.
Remedy: Promptly clean and dry water-damaged carpet, or remove it altogether. If adhesives are needed, ask for low-emitting ones. During installation, open doors and windows, and use window fans or room air conditioners. Vacuum regularly. Consider area rugs instead of wall-to-wall carpet. Rugs are easier to remove and clean, and the floor underneath can also be cleaned.
 
Some floor tiles contain asbestos.
Remedy: Periodically inspect for damage or deterioration. Do not cut, rip, sand or remove any asbestos-containing materials. If you plan to make changes that might disturb the asbestos, or if materials are more than slightly damaged, contact a professional for repair or removal. Call your local or state health department or the Environmental Protection Agency.
 
Moisture encourages biological pollutants including allergens, such as mold, mildew, dust mites and cockroaches.
Remedy: If possible, eliminate moisture sources. Install and use exhaust fans. Use a dehumidifier, if necessary. Remove molds and mildew by cleaning with a solution of chlorine bleach (1 cup bleach to 1 gallon water). Maintain fresh air with natural and mechanical air circulation.
 
Your fireplace can be a source of carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants.
Remedy: Open the flue when using the fireplace. Have the flue and chimney inspected annually for exhaust back-drafting, flue obstructions, cracks, excess creosote, and other damage. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
 
An air conditioner can be a source of biological allergens.
Remedy: If there is a water tray, empty and clean it often. Follow all service and maintenance procedures, including changing the filter.
 
Gas and kerosene space heaters can release carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants.
Remedy: Never use unvented kerosene or gas space heaters. In the room where the heater is located, provide fresh air by opening a door to the rest of the house, turning on an exhaust fan, and slightly opening a window.
 
Tobacco smoke contains harmful combustion and particulate pollutants, including carbon monoxide and combustion byproducts.
Remedy: Do not smoke in your home or permit others to do so, especially near children. If smoking cannot be avoided indoors, open windows and use exhaust fans.
 
New draperies may be treated with a formaldehyde-based finish and emit odors for a short time.
Remedy: Before hanging, air draperies to ventilate odors. After hanging, ventilate the area. Maintain moderate temperature and humidity.
 
Paint manufactured before l978 may contain lead.
Remedy: Leave lead-based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition. Before removing paint, test for lead. Do-it-yourself lead test kits are available from hardware and building supply stores. Do not sand, burn off or remove lead-based paint yourself. Hire a person with special training to correct lead-based paint problems. For more information, call 1-800-LEAD-FYI.
 
Many animals create airborne allergens, such as dander, hair, feathers and skin.
Remedy: Keep pets outdoors as much as possible. Clean the entire house regularly. Deep-clean areas where pets are permitted. Bathe pets regularly.
 
Biological allergens caused by dust mites can trigger asthma.
Remedy: Clean and vacuum regularly. Wash bedding in water hotter than 130 degrees F. Use more hard-surface finishes; they are less likely to attract and hold dust mites.
 
Kitchen
 
Unhealthy and irritating vapors may be released from chemicals in household cleaners and similar products. Remedy: Select nonaerosol and non-toxic products. Use, apply, store and dispose of them according to manufacturers' directions. If products are concentrated, label the storage container with dilution instructions. Use up a product completely before discarding its container.
 
Pressed-wood cabinets can be a source of formaldehyde vapor.
Remedy: Maintain moderate temperatures (80 degrees maximum) and humidity (about 45%). When purchasing new cabinets, select solid wood or metal cabinets, or those made with phenol resin; they emit less formaldehyde. Ventilate well after installation.
 
Unvented gas stoves and ranges are sources of carbon monoxide and combustion byproducts.
Remedy: Keep appliance burners clean. Have burners periodically adjusted (blue-flame tip, not yellow). Install and use an exhaust fan. Never use a gas range or stove to heat your home.
 
Bathroom
Organic gases are released from chemicals in some personal care products, such as deodorant, hair spray, shampoo, toner, nail polish and perfumes.
Remedy: Select odor-free or low odor-producing products. Select nonaerosol varieties. Open a window, or use an exhaust fan. Follow manufacturers' directions when using the product and disposing of containers.
 
Air fresheners can release organic gases.
Remedy: Open a window or use the exhaust fan. Follow manufacturers' directions. Select natural products.
 
Bedroom
Humidifiers and cold-mist vaporizers can encourage biological allergens, including mold, mildew and cockroaches, that can trigger asthma, and encourage the spread of viruses and the growth of bacteria.
Remedy: Use and clean these appliances according to manufacturers' directions. Refill daily with fresh water.
 
Moth repellents often contain the pesticide paradichlorobenzene.
Remedy: Avoid breathing vapors. Place them in tightly sealed trunks or other containers. Store separately, away from living areas.
 
Chemicals used in the dry-cleaning process release organic gases.
Remedy: Bring any odors to the attention of your dry cleaner. Try to air out dry-cleaned goods before bringing them indoors. Seek alternatives to dry cleaning, such as hand washing items.  Consider using green dry cleaners who use newer, non-toxic solvents and methods to clean garments.
 
Utility Room
 
Unvented gas clothes dryers produce carbon monoxide and combustion byproducts and can be a fire hazard. Remedy: Regularly dispose of lint around and under the dryer. Provide air for gas units. Vent the dryer directly to the outdoors. Clean the lint trap, vent and ductwork regularly.
 
Gas and oil furnaces and boilers, and gas water heaters can produce air-quality problems which include back-drafting of carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants.
Remedy: Have your heating system and water heater, including gas piping and venting, inspected every year.
 
Asbestos pipe wrap and furnace insulation can release asbestos fibers into the air.
Remedy: Periodically check for damage and deterioration. Do not cut, rip, sand or remove any asbestos-containing materials. If you plan to make changes that might disturb the asbestos, or if materials are more than slightly damaged, contact a professional for repair or removal.
 
Basement
Ground moisture encourages biological allergens, including mold and mildew.
Remedy: Inspect for condensation on walls, standing water on the floor, and sewage leaks. To keep the basement dry, prevent outside water from entering indoors by installing roof gutters and downspouts, by not watering close to the foundation, by grading soil away from the home, and by applying waterproofing sealants to the basement's interior walls. To prevent the accumulation of standing water, consider installing a sump pump. If sewage is the source of water intrusion, have drains professionally cleaned. If moisture has no obvious source, install an exhaust fan controlled by humidity levels. Remove mold and mildew. Regularly clean and disinfect the basement floor drain.
 
Radon is an invisible, radioactive gas which poses the risk of lung cancer.
Remedy: Test your home for radon. Do-it-yourself kits are inexpensive and easy to use. Have an experienced radon contractor mitigate your home if your radon level is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher.
 
Chemicals in hobby products, such as solvents, paint, glue and epoxy, release organic gases. Remedy: Follow manufacturers' directions for use, ventilation, application, clean-up, and container storage and disposal. Use outdoors when possible. When using indoors, open a window or use an exhaust fan. Re-seal containers tightly. Clean tools outside or in a well-ventilated area.
 
Garage
Car and small engine exhaust are sources of carbon monoxide and combustion byproducts.
Remedy: Never leave vehicles, lawn mowers, snowmobiles, etc., running in the garage.
 
Paint, solvent and cleaning supplies may release harmful vapors.
Remedy: Provide ventilation when using them. Follow manufacturers' directions. Buy only as much as you need. If the products contain methylene chloride, such as paint strippers, use them outdoors. Re-seal containers well. Keep products in their original, labeled containers. Clean brushes and other materials outside.  Opt for non-toxic green products whenever possible.
 
Pesticides and fertilizers used in the yard and garden may be toxic.
Remedy: Use non-chemical methods whenever possible. Follow manufacturers' directions for mixing, applying and storing.  Wear protective clothing. Mix or dilute these products outdoors. Provide ventilation when using them indoors. Store them outside of the home in their original, labeled containers. After using the product, remove your shoes and clean your hands and clothing to avoid bringing the chemicals into your home.
 
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
  • Install a smoke detector in each bedroom or in the adjacent hallway.
  • If you have gas or other fossil-fuel appliances in the house, install carbon monoxide detectors in these locations.
  • Combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are available.
  • Check the batteries frequently, at least annually.
Amount of Ventilation
 
If too little outdoor air enters a home, pollutants can accumulate to levels that can pose health and comfort problems. Unless they are built with a special mechanical means of ventilation, homes that are designed and constructed to minimize the amount of outdoor air that can "leak" into and out of the home may have higher pollutant levels than other homes. However, because some weather conditions can drastically reduce the amount of outdoor air that enters a home, pollutants can build up even in homes that are normally considered "leaky."
 
How Does Outdoor Air Enter a House?
 
Outdoor air enters and leaves a house by infiltration, natural ventilation and mechanical ventilation. In a process known as infiltration, outdoor air flows into the house through openings, joints and cracks in walls, floors and ceilings, and around windows and doors. In natural ventilation, air moves through opened windows and doors. Air movement associated with infiltration and natural ventilation is caused by air-temperature differences between the indoors and outdoors, and by wind. Finally, there are a number of mechanical ventilation devices, from outdoor-vented fans that intermittently remove air from a single room, such as the bathroom and kitchen, to air-handling systems that use fans and ductwork to continuously remove indoor air and distribute filtered and conditioned outdoor air to strategic points throughout the house. The rate at which outdoor air replaces indoor air is described as the air-exchange rate. When there is little infiltration, natural ventilation or mechanical ventilation, the air-exchange rate is low and pollutant levels can increase.
 
Indoor Air Pollution and Health
 
Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure or, possibly years later.
 
Immediate Effects
 
Immediate effects may show up after a single exposure, or it may take repeated exposures. These include irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, headaches, dizziness and fatigue. Such immediate effects are usually short-term and treatable. Sometimes, the treatment is simply eliminating the person's exposure to the source of the pollution, if it can be identified. Symptoms of some diseases, including asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and humidifier fever, may also show up soon after exposure to some indoor air pollutants.
 
The likelihood of immediate reactions to indoor air pollutants depends on several factors. Age and pre-existing medical conditions are two important influences. In other cases, whether a person reacts to a pollutant depends on individual sensitivity, which varies tremendously from person to person. Some people can become sensitized to biological pollutants after repeated exposures, and it appears that some people can become sensitized to chemical pollutants, as well.
 
Certain immediate effects are similar to those from colds and other viral diseases, so it is often difficult to determine if the symptoms are a result of exposure to indoor air pollution. For this reason, it is important to pay attention to the time and place that symptoms occur. If the symptoms fade or go away when a person is away from home, for example, an effort should be made to identify indoor air sources that may be possible causes. Some effects may be made worse by an inadequate supply of outdoor air, or from the heating, cooling or humidity conditions prevalent in the home.
 
Long-Term Effects
 
Other health effects may show up years after exposure has occurred, or only after long or repeated periods of exposure. These effects, which include some respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancer, can be severely debilitating or fatal. It is prudent to try to improve the indoor air quality in your home even if symptoms are not noticeable.
 
While pollutants commonly found in indoor air are responsible for many harmful effects, there is considerable uncertainty about what concentrations or periods of exposure are necessary to produce specific health problems. People also react very differently to exposure to indoor air pollutants. Further research is needed to better understand which health effects occur after exposure to the average pollutant concentrations found in homes, and which occur from the higher concentrations over short periods of time.
 
In summary, indoor air contaminants can be a source of ill health. Hire an InterNACHI inspector trained in air quality to perform your next home inspection.
 

From Air Quality in the Home - InterNACHI http://www.nachi.org/indoorair.htm#ixzz2xuCcskPC