Carbon Monoxide

As the days grow colder and windows begin to close, we turn to our trusted appliances to keep us warm through the long winter nights. However, it is important to keep informed of their condition because of a silent but deadly killer that effects hundreds of Americans every year: Carbon Monoxide Gas. Carbon monoxide is a byproduct from gas and wood-fired appliances such as water heaters, furnaces, stoves, and fireplaces that can cause flu-like symptoms including shortness of breath, dizziness, light-headedness or headaches. If allowed to build indoors, the gas can cause severe injury or even death, so it is essential to service and maintain appliances on a regular basis. If you suspect carbon monoxide gas present, evacuate immediately and contact your emergency care provider.

During an emergency, thank goodness for gas-powered generators. However, be advised that these, like your other appliances, omit CO and must be kept a safe distance from doors and windows. According to the CDC, half of the non-fatal carbon monoxide poisoning events in 2004 and 2005 were caused by generators being placed within seven feet of the house. While some companies recommend generators stay 10 feet away from any open windows or doors, it is safest to maintain at least 15-20 feet of space to keep carbon monoxide at bay.

Applied safely, a well-maintained ventilation system safely removes the gas from the home, but it is essential to schedule regular inspections with your National Property Inspections Professional. He or she will examine the home for any leaks caused by backdrafting, a problem that occurs when insufficient air is available to carry carbon byproducts out of the vents and is dumped back into the home. This can be caused by installation error, certain weather conditions and location of certain appliances. They will also evaluate the state of any heating equipment, fireplace and built-in appliances to ensure another season of safety and warmth for you and your loved ones.

This season ensure the safety and comfort of your family by keeping all appliances properly adjusted by professionals, keep at least one CO alarm in the home, remember to open flues when the fireplace is in use, and remember to regularly hire a trained professional to inspect, clean and tune-up your heating system. National Property Inspections is ready and willing to be your safe energy partner for the seasons to come.

Hardwood Flooring

By Kenn Garder, Corporate Accounts Manager, NPI/GPI Corporate Office

Empty RoomHardwood flooring has been used for years; the flooring, if properly maintained, can last the lifetime of the building.  The most common issues with hardwood flooring stem from moisture.  Wood is a natural product and is considered hygroscopic; It gains and loses moisture as the relative humidity and temperature of the air around it changes.

To minimize moisture issues the hardwood floor manufacturer usually dries the lumber so it has a moisture content of 6 to 9 percent before milling into the flooring.  The flooring should not be installed in rooms that are exposed to high moisture.  It is recommended that the flooring be delivered to the site of installation and allowed to acclimate for up to 4 days in an area that has been climate controlled for at least 48 hours and the sub floor is dry.  Following these recommendations is important to help minimize the amount of movement, but it’s not a guarantee that there won’t be issues caused by the changes in relative humidity.

Months and sometimes years after the floor has been installed and finished, moisture can still cause some visible issues.

Cracks and separation:  When the room is heated in the winter the relative humidity decreases, shrinking the wood. This can cause the wood to separate resulting in cracks.  To minimize these cracks moisture can be added to the air during the heating months.

Cupping:  Wood flooring can cup or curl at the edges leaving the center lower, resulting in an uneven surface. The wood expands when the relative humidity is higher or if water is spilled on the wood’s surface and absorbed.  As the wood expands, compression can result as the boards are crushed together deforming the edge of the boards. Humidity control will help the floor dry out and improve over time.

 

Crowning:  This is the opposite of Cupping. The center of the board is higher than the edges.  Crowning can occur if the wood is left exposed to high humidity or water for an extended period of time.  Another cause is sanding a cupping floor before it is dry; as the cupped wood continues to dry the edges will shrink more than the center of the board.

 

Buckling:   Because of excessive moisture, the flooring pulls up from the sub floor, lifting several inches from the sub floor.  When the floor is flooded with water for an extended period of time, buckling can occur.  A floor that has buckled will probably require more than drying out, typically, after drying out sections of the floor will need to be evaluated to determine if repairs can be made.

 

When these conditions are present in a hard wood floor, determine the water or moisture source and control or stop the moisture exposure to the wood.  In hot humid weather using air conditioning and possibly a dehumidifier to control the relative humidity will help to reduce the movement in the floor.

 

Garder PhotoWith 10 years of experience in his current position, Kenn Garder is the central point of contact for NPI/GPI’s national accounts. He also provides technical support to our franchise owners/inspectors and teaches the commercial segment of our training program.

To find an NPI or GPI inspector in your area, click one of the links below:

 

 

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Should You Be Concerned About Radon?

By Lawrence Englehart, GPI Franchise Owner, Halifax, Nova Scotia
IMG_0634Radon is a radioactive gas that is slowly released during the natural decay or breakdown of uranium in the earth, and it moves freely though any soil, rock and water. Because it is the heaviest gas in nature, radon can easily accumulate in high levels in the basement or poorly ventilated areas of a house or building.

Why Is Radon Dangerous?
As radon decays, it further breaks down to form radioactive elements that can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can damage the cells that line the lung, causing lung cancer.

Health Canada reports that radon exposure is linked to 16 percent of lung cancer deaths and is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. In Nova Scotia, the Department of Natural Resources has developed an amazing radon risk map; you can enter your physical address and it will show whether you are in a low-, medium- or high-risk area. In the United States, you can find a radon zone map on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website.

How Much Radon Is Too Much?
In North America, radon test results have shown that 40 percent of buildings in high-risk areas exceed Health Canada and EPA guidelines; however, even homes in low-risk areas should be tested, as this is the only way to know how much radon is in your home.

In Canada, radon is measured in Becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3), and the current Canadian guideline for radon action is 200 Bq/m3. In the United States, radon is measured in picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L), and the current guideline for remediation is any level higher than 4 pCi/L. In both countries, the higher the number, the higher the risk. However, even the current action level is equivalent to the radiation exposure from 30 medical chest x-rays per year (assuming radon exposure at home for 12 hours per day).

Radon levels can vary over time and especially from season to season, which is why home owners should conduct radon testing over a duration of 91 days or longer to properly determine radon levels and better understand whether remedial action will be required.

For the average home owner, a simple do-it-yourself radon testing kit can be ordered online or purchased in a hardware or home improvement store.

Should You Test Your House for Radon?
When it comes to buying or selling a house, a long-term test is considered unrealistic, so a short-term test of lasting 48 to 72 hours should be performed. Make sure you hire a certified radon inspector who has been specifically trained to an industry-recognized standard of practice and are held accountable for working to established radon testing guidelines. Your home inspector may be a certified radon tester; if not, he/she can recommend a professional to conduct the test for you.

Englehart PhotoLawrence Englehart is a professional Global Property Inspections home inspector and C-NRPP Certified Radon Measurement Professional in Halifax, Nova Scotia. If you live in the area, call 902.403.2460 to schedule your home inspection with Lawrence.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home, and many of our inspectors hold additional certifications for radon, mold or lead testing. Consult your local NPI or GPI inspector for an inspection of your home or a home you are planning to purchase.

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The Nasty Mold And Mold Removal

By Todd Newhook, GPI Franchise Owner, Markham, Ontario

Newhook Photo 2Quite often, home inspectors come face to face with a so-called enemy : The Nasty Mold. As professional home inspectors, we are obligated to report to our clients the presence of possible mold whenever we see visible staining, and we also must recommend next steps.

Many home inspectors are certified to test for mold. I’ve been testing for mold for about six years and also have considerable mold remediation experience. Our clients and real estate agents appreciate our level of expertise and industry experience. (A little side note [shhhh]: Mold is not necessarily bad for you and is an important part of our ecosystem.)

Mold in general requires a food source to grow — moisture — and something to grow on, such as substrates. It is important to ensure that the house you live in is well maintained, and that includes ensuring proper indoor humidity levels and temperatures. You know those silly cracks and the deteriorated caulking around your house? If you don’t maintain these areas, water will get inside at some point. Concerning mold, preventive maintenance is key.

Attic mold is common in our area (Canada) due to the changing seasons, extreme cold temperatures and sometimes poor home-owner maintenance (e.g., disturbed insulation, poor ventilation, leaks). If not properly assessed and treated, mold can cause damage like dry rot to the structure.

From my experience, mold often causes a hiccup in the real estate transaction process when discovered. That being said, typically mold can be easily treated, and remediation runs between $2,000 and $4,000. If your home inspector finds mold in a house you are planning to buy, your options include but are not limited to ice and soda blasting, which removes a thin layer of wood and removes mold stains; acid Newhook Photo 1treatment and scrubbing; and disinfecting and encapsulation. The photos at the right show before and after views of an attic with the sheathing/structure disinfected and encapsulated with an anti-mold paint.

Mold in the living area of a house is a different issue. Depending on the amount and type, mold may be harmful to your health. A common area of mold growth that you can’t see is in your furnace. If there is an air conditioner, then there is likely an A coil just above the heating system, with a condensation pan. If the drain in the pan plugs with debris, then water will pool. A dark environment plus elevated moisture levels, changing temperatures and humidity can certainly cause mold. Guess what happens when you turn on your furnace or AC? You likely are blowing mold spores throughout the house. This is just one of the reasons to have your furnace and air conditioner serviced and cleaned annually by a qualified HVAC technician. Duct cleaning is also a great option, as technicians can spray disinfectants through the ductwork system.

Another common area for mold to appear is in bathrooms. Many older homes do not have adequate ventilation, such as bathroom and kitchen fans. Due to high levels of humidity, we typically find surface stains of possible mold or mildew. Fortunately, with proper housekeeping and upkeep of seals and caulking, this type of mold is easily cleaned with disinfectants. Upgrading or installing fans and vents will help control humidity levels and prevent mold.

Your home inspector will note if there is other possible mold in the home — for example, from leaks that present visible stains. If you or your inspector suspects mold, you should consult a mold expert. If ever in doubt, always contact a mold expert. Don’t take chances with your health.

Mold is not necessarily a bad thing “or nasty,” but it’s important to be aware of potentially toxic mold and take care of your home and your health.

Newhook Photo

Todd Newhook is a professional Global Property Inspections home inspector in Markham, Ontario. If you live in the area, call 855.504.6631 to schedule your home inspection with Todd or a member of his team.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an assessment of your home to help reduce elevated levels of harmful mold in your home.

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Mold: Friend or Foe?

By Todd Newhook, GPI Franchise Owner, Markham, Ontario

Newhook 1Mold in general is an important part of our ecosystem. It is all around us! Is it really harmful? Why does media treat mold as a bad thing? Is it a bad thing? Should you be concerned?

Good questions. When it comes to living in a home — an enclosed environment, so to speak — the most important issue is ensuring that you manage the environment you live in to help reduce the risk of high levels of harmful or toxic molds. Mold in general needs a food source (e.g., water or elevated moisture levels) to grow and spread.

The good: Molds eat garbage and turn it into soil. They break down dead plant and animal matter. Some of them are also beneficial to our health — do you bake/cook with yeast and mushrooms (fungi)?

The potentially bad: Many home owners don’t understand building science, the importance of managing relative humidity levels in the home, and maintaining proper room temperatures. The majority of excessive or toxic mold growth in homes is due to this lack of understanding and poor housekeeping.

Newhook 2Relative humidity levels should be maintained between 30 percent and 50 percent, with a target of 40 percent. Low levels of humidity contribute to dry air and possible respiratory problems. During dry winters, a humidifier will help to add moisture to the air inside your home — just make sure to keep the humidity level around 40 percent to avoid excess moisture in your home.

Excessive levels of humidity contribute to excessive moisture levels and may contribute to harmful mold growth and respiratory problems. Often when we inspect basements during the summertime, the insulation at the exterior walls is wet due to high humidity. In the summer, when there are higher levels of humidity, a portable dehumidifier will help to control humidity levels. Always follow manufacturer setup and operation procedures for using humidifiers.

Another common source of mold is poor maintenance of heating and cooling systems. The cooling system typically has an A-coil and an evaporator pan enclosed above the heating system. If not maintained on a regular basis, the evaporator pan that captures and drains condensation can sometimes clog. Standing water in a stale and dark environment contributes to mold growth. If you turn on your heating/cooling system you may be blowing potentially harmful mold around your house.

Leaks due to aged roofs, deteriorated caulking/seals, etc., can also contribute to excessive or harmful mold growth. Home maintenance is key to preventing leaks and the opportunity for mold to grow.

Older homes did not require ventilation as mandated today. For example, todays’ standards require that bathrooms and kitchens include properly vented systems. But if you live in an older house, you may not have a ventilation system, and that can contribute to mold growth on bathroom walls.

Newhook 3How is the insulation in your walls and attic? Ensuring that your home has proper insulation levels will help reduce the risk of heat loss and excessive condensation and mold growth.

To-do List

  1. Ensure your home includes a humidifier and dehumidifier to help manage humidity levels depending on the season.
  2. Set up an annual maintenance program with a qualified HVAC company to properly maintain your heating and cooling systems.
  3. Ensure that the exterior of your home is properly maintained to help reduce leaks (e.g., roofing, caulking/seals, siding).
  4. Run exhaust fans during, and for a minimum of 30 minutes after, cooking or showering. In bathrooms, consider installing an automatic switch that runs the exhaust fan to control humidity levels.
  5. Ensure that insulation in walls and attics is properly installed and evenly distributed.

Your local NPI or GP inspector has the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI/GPI Inspector to do an assessment of your home to help reduce elevated levels of harmful mold in your home.

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Radon: Silent Killer in the Home

radiation_warningRadon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that has no color or odor and can be found all over the world. Radon can be found in wells, rocks and soil. Higher radon levels will be closer to the ground. Basements, for example, would be closer to the potential radon-contaminated soils. Radon gas seeps in through cracks, wires, pipes and any available opening.

How Much Radon is Detrimental?
Radon is quite sneaky in nature, so how do you know you are experiencing too much exposure inside your home or any other building?

In the United States, the picocurie (pCi) is used in measure radon levels. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a threshold of 4 pCi/L for indoor air. Any level above 4 pCi/L would require radon mitigation.

In Canada, the Health Canada’s radon threshold is 200 becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3). Any level above 200 Bq/m3 would require radon mitigation.

Radon Facts

  • Radon is an inert nonflammable gas.
  • Radon maps of the United States and Canada show locations of higher elevations of radon. You will notice that radon is nearly everywhere.
  • Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in North America, next to smoking.
  • More than 20,000 Americans and more than 3,000 Canadians die each year from radon-related deaths.
  • An elementary school student who spends eight hours a day and 180 days a year in a classroom with 4 pCi/l of radon will receive nearly 10 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission allows at the edge of a nuclear power plant. (http://www.radon.com/radon/radon_facts.html)
  • According to the U.S. EPA, nearly one in three homes checked in seven states and on three Native American lands had screening levels over 4 pCi/L, the EPA’s recommended action level for radon exposure.

Radon Poisoning
Radon poisoning symptoms are much like its characteristics — there are none.

Unfortunately, if any potential symptoms show, they are usually long-term symptoms that develop after the damage has been done. Symptoms usually will be within the lungs — such as coughing, wheezing and heavy breathing — and infections may occur.

Radon Detection
Radon detection can prevent long term illness or even death. As with many other diseases, the earlier it is detected the better the chances are to overcome or prevent further damage.

You may be able to purchase a radon test kit yourself. The best approach for these devices is to strategically place them on the lowest livable level of the home. Prices for radon testing kits and devices can range from $10 to $300, depending on the functionality, style and brand. Some test kits take samples from the air, while other devices are similar to smoke detectors.

The easiest way to test radon levels in your home is to call your local National Property Inspections or Global Property Inspections home inspector. Your local NPI or GPI inspector may be certified to test for radon; if not, he/she will put you in touch with a trusted company that can do the testing for you.

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How Can I Tell if the Shingles on My Roof Need to Be Repaired or Replaced?

By Lawrence Englehart, GPI Franchise Owner, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Roof Shingles_shutterstock_154579022The roof helps to protect the building and its contents from the effects of weather. You should think of your roof as your home’s protective covering, and as such, its care and upkeep should be an important part of your regular maintenance to-do list. Depending of the type of shingles installed on your roof, you should be able to expect shingles to last upward of 20 years, or even longer.

However, many factors can negatively affect the life expectancy of shingles. These can include improper installation methods, insufficient attic ventilation, adverse weather conditions and trees.

An outdoor roof inspection can be performed safely from your driveway or backyard with a set of binoculars or a good digital camera that has a high-optical zoom.

Look for telltale signs of cupping or curling of the shingles; excessive granular loss; split, cracked or missing shingles; or areas with organic growth (e.g., algae, moss, fungus, staining).

An indoor roof inspection can be performed easily with a ladder and a flashlight from your attic access. Look for signs of damaged, split or sagging wood framing, dark areas that look wet, or significant discolouration on the underside of the roof sheathing. When excessive humidity is allowed to build up in the attic space, it is not unusual for mould to grow, and this will quickly deteriorate the sheathing and can have an adverse effect on the indoor air quality of the home.

Ventilation is extremely important to the health of your entire roofing/attic system.

If you do notice any of these deficiencies, you should first contact a trusted roofing professional for a more thorough examination of your roofing system. Sometimes the solution may be only a minor repair or “tune-up” versus replacing the entire roof.

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Dirty Ducts? Here’s Your Solution

Furnace_shutterstock_132626027Q. Should I have my ducts cleaned? What are the benefits of doing this?

A. The short answer is yes, and the reason and frequency of having them cleaned depends on a variety of factors.

Let’s look at the reasons why you should have your ducts cleaned. Ductwork in a home, especially if the HVAC system has not been maintained by regular annual servicing or simple monthly filter changes, can create a harboring zone for accumulative dust and dirt, as well as the possibility of harboring mold and bacteria. If any member of your family is susceptible to allergies or respiratory problems, then this information could be extremely important.

Dust and dirt is common in any home or building. We, as occupants, bring it indoors, and it can be more problematic if you live on or near dirt or gravel roads in rural areas. Once inside the home, dust and dirt can be circulated by the HVAC system, and without an efficient system, it can circulate throughout and often settle into the HVAC ductwork. When large amounts of dust and dirt settle, it can create the possibilities of a mold and bacteria breeding ground.

So, how often do you need to have them cleaned? The EPA recommends at least every three to five years depending on where you live. If you have members of the family with allergies and respiratory problems, you may need to have them cleaned more often.

At a minimum, you should change your furnace filter monthly. There are different types of filters, depending on the amount of dust and dirt they with trap. Lower, less expensive fiberglass filters will trap fewer particles than more expensive pleated filters.

With annual maintenance of your HVAC system and a scheduled monthly (maybe more often) filter change, you can reduce the amount of dust and dirt accumulation in the ductwork system of your home.

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What You Can Do About Air Pollution in Your Home

Family at Home_shutterstock_98814359According to WebMD.com, you don’t only have to worry about air pollution outdoors; it’s in your home, too. The air inside your home can be polluted by “lead (in house dust), formaldehyde, fire retardants, radon, even volatile chemicals from fragrances used in conventional cleaners.” You’ll also find dust mites, molds and pet dander, even if you don’t live with pets. Some pollutants are tracked into the home; others arrive via things you bring into the home, such as new furniture or cleaning products.

What can you do to reduce the pollution in your home? Here are five tips:

  1. Keep your floors clean. Vacuuming with a HEPA filter and mopping your floors helps reduce lead, toxins and allergens from your home. According to WebMD.com, you can skip the cleaners when you mop and just use water. Also, put a mat in front of every door to catch contaminants before they are tracked into the home.
  2. Maintain a healthy level of humidity. Dust mites and molds love moisture, which means that high humidity levels contribute to their procreation. Healthy humidity levels are in the 30 to 50 percent range. To maintain this level, use a dehumidifier in the summer months and a humidifier in the winter months. Click here for more tips for dehumidifying your home.
  3. Just say “no” to smoking indoors. Cigarette smoke, the No. 1 cause of lung cancer in North America, is a major culprit of indoor air pollution. If you, a friend or a relative smokes, then take it outdoors. Contact your doctor or health insurance company for information about smoking cessation programs.
  4. Get your home tested for radon. Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas resulting from the breaking down of uranium in the soil. It is the No. 2 cause of lung cancer in North America. The only way to know whether your home has a high radon level is to have your home tested. Contact your local NPI or GPI inspector to have your home tested.
  5. Go fragrance-free: Cleaners, aerosols, air fresheners (solid, spray, oil), laundry detergents and fabric softeners all release unhealthy chemicals into the air. To add clean fresh scents to your home, consider adding house plants (which act as nature’s air purifiers) or using fresh lemons and baking soda to get a clean scent in the kitchen.

For more information or to read the full article, click here.

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