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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Top Five Problems Revealed During a Home Inspection

By Kenn Garder, National Accounts Manager and Technical Support, NPI/GPI

Purchasing a house is a major decision, and a home inspection report can be used to assist in the decision-making process. Here are some of the more common issues found during a home inspection.

Poor Grading and Drainage
Water should run away from any structure to help prevent moisture intrusion. If the soil around a house slopes toward the house, or if water pools around the perimeter of the foundation, that moisture can create hydronic pressure in the soil that can move the foundation, causing cracks and leaks that can lead to extensive damage and expensive repairs. If water wicks into the wood framing members, the wood will rot over time. This moisture also provides a haven for wood-destroying organisms (WDO) because it provides a water and food source.

Erosion around the perimeter of a house may be caused by water spilling over gutters due to clogged downspouts or downspouts that terminate near the foundation. Downspout extensions or spill ways can be installed to keep water away from the foundation.

Roof Coverings
The roof of a house is designed to withstand most of what Mother Nature can dish out, whether it be rain, wind or sun. If installed properly, the roof should keep water out of the home.

The life expectancy for roof coverings varies depending on the material. Asphalt composite shingles, for instance, typically have a life expectancy of 15 to 25 years. As the roof covering ages, it can become more susceptible to water infiltration and leaking.

Plumbing Problems
Notice a theme here? Controlling water is one of the most important issues in home maintenance.

Leaking supply water and drain lines can cause damage to walls and floors, or they can become the water source for mold and mildew. Outdated (galvanized) or problematic systems (polybutylene) can develop leaks more frequently. Wax rings under toilets can develop leaks and damage the floor around the toilet or the ceiling below.

Electrical Issues
House fires caused by faulty wiring and overloading circuits are common. It is not unusual for a home inspector find evidence of DIY additions to a home’s electrical system. Many times these additions work but were not done properly, causing safety issues.

Exposed wire connections and double taps in the panel are also common problems. If your home inspector finds these or other electrical issues, he/she will recommend that you have the system evaluated and repaired by a qualified licensed electrician

HVAC Havoc
Inadequate maintenance of the HVAC equipment is common. Dirty condenser coils on the air conditioner condenser unit and dirty furnace filters can lead to major repairs. The equipment may be at or near its life expectancy and need to be replaced. Gas-fired furnaces may not burn properly.

With proper maintenance, an HVAC system can continue to heat and cool the house, but many times heating and cooling systems are “out of sight out of mind.”

This is a sampling of typical issues found during a home inspection. These items may vary depending on the geographical location of the property and the overall maintenance of the property.

Looking for a professional, qualified home inspector in your area? In the United States, visit http://npiweb.com/FindAnInspector. In Canada, visit http://gpiweb.ca/FindAnInspector.

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What’s Wrong With These Photos?

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

Englehart-BlogI came across this on a home inspection. This property is only 12 years old. The seller did not have a home inspection when he purchased the house because it was brand new.

The roof was too high to safely climb, so I took a picture from below (Photo 1). The first picture shows the exterior depression in the roof, and Photo 2 shows the top of the drain-waste-vent (DWV) stack inside the attic space — which shows that the sewer vent had not been extended above the roof line. As a result, the warm, moist sewer gases have been deteriorating the sheathing in this area for more than 12 years!

The dry-rot of the oriented strand board (OSB), shown in Photos 3 and 4, is so severe that anyone who would have walked on the roof might have fallen through this rotted area. In fact, it looks like last winter’s snow load may have caused the depression, which now leaks when it rains.

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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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Grow-ops: Out of Sight Should Not Mean Out of Mind

Marijuana PlantsIndoor marijuana grow-ops are more common than some people may realize. With more legalization across the world, individual cultivating may increase. Droughts, little sunlight, flooding, legalization, poor economic situations and a host of other factors can lead to individuals choosing to grow marijuana plants inside their home or commercial building. These operations result in property damages that may be minute or extreme based on the size and length of time that the indoor growing is active.

Not Your Everyday Houseplants
Marijuana plants differ from houseplants mostly due to the size and the number of plants people keep. Most indoor operations have enough plants to make up a small outdoor garden. The next difference is the massive quantities of certain growing tools needed for survival and growth of the plants. Grow-op owners need equipment such as water hoses for watering and chemicals, which are dispersed to the plants to provide the nutrients they require or enhance their normal growth. Some growers might reroute water lines to make it easier to water marijuana plants.

In a grow-op, marijuana’s needs for sunlight and humidity are mimicked by using high-voltage grow lights that are expensive to operate. Moreover, some utility companies report suspiciously high electrical use to police. For these reasons, grow-op owners often illegally bypass the building’s electrical meter to steal electricity. Such modifications to an electrical system can make the system unsafe.

The high levels of humidity that result from growing marijuana in turn create excessive moisture inside the house or building. According to Home Heroes Inc., attics in marijuana grow-ops have average humidity levels of 80 percent. A residential home with normal humidity will have a level around 55 percent. When moisture becomes prevalent inside a grow-op building, mold and wood rot can soon begin to form, causing structural damage and expensive cleanup and repair.

The plants need to breathe, though, and high humidity makes that difficult. Venting becomes necessary, and growers often cut holes in floors, walls and ceilings to help circulate air. Many people will try to paint and patch holes to hide the existence of an indoor grow-op, which can mislead an unsuspecting home buyer into purchasing a severely damaged home.

A house or building that has been used as a grow-op can become a home buyer’s nightmare. Your home inspector knows the signs to look for and will be able to let you know if he/she suspects a house has been used as a grow-op. This is just one more reason to always have a home inspected before you buy.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the necessary qualifications to recognize the signs of a grow-op in a home or commercial building. To find your local inspector, contact National Property Inspections in the United States and Global Property Inspections in Canada.

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Home Inspection 101: Inspecting a Home’s Grading

Submitted by Ken Roleke, NPI Franchise Owner, Tucson, Arizona

New House + Landscaping_iStock_000002119557SmallAn important component of a home inspection that is not always obvious to the home buyer is the grading of the yard. I have seen homes that are meticulously maintained inside but have poor grading, even holes in the yard. Unfortunately, grading is often considered a low priority, but the effects of improper grading can be disastrous.

Rainwater ponding outside, or worse, running toward the house, can wreak havoc. Basements can flood, damaging items in the basement, as well as drywall, carpet and more. Even a slab-on-grade house with no basement is susceptible to water damage, as it could develop mold from water seeping into the walls, and the moisture could attract termites. Furthermore, standing water in cold climates can freeze and damage brick paver decking and other hardscapes.

The ideal grading that the home inspector should look for is for the ground to slope away from the house in all directions a half inch per foot. Other factors besides the slope of the ground can cause problems, including downspouts that disperse water right against the building, instead of directing it away, and vegetation that holds water and keeps it from draining away.

If the property looks like it has drainage problems, then the best way to know for sure is to check during or immediately after a rainstorm. When this is not practical, the inspector could try running a hose in the questionable area.

While the best and most foolproof way to remedy the grading is to build up the ground to slope away from the house in all directions, it’s often just not possible. Small lot sizes, the elevation of the house, where the house transitions from foundation to framed wall, the elevation of the neighbor’s land, existing vegetation, hardscape and accessory buildings, and especially cost are all factors in the equation.

Remedies for improper grading include connecting downspouts to a pipe to direct the roof rainwater further away from the house and French drains, which are basically a trench filled with gravel or perforated pipe that catches the water in the yard and directs it away from the house.

For more information about grading, read our previous post, “What’s Your Grading Grade?

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Home Inspector Safety: Wearing Respirators and Personal Protective Equipment

By Randy Yates, Technical Supervisor and Technical Training Administrator, NPI/GPI Corporat

Inspector on LadderSo, you show up onsite with your home inspector for the inspection on a house you plan to buy. The inspector is about to enter the attic or crawl space, and he puts on a respirator before he goes in. About that time, you run out the door because you’re afraid of what might be in the house, since he put on the mask. Talk about killing the deal.

Like Tom Hanks said in the movie Forrest Gump: “Life is like a box of chocolates; you don’t know what you find until you get inside.”

Truly, your home inspector won’t know what he may find until he gets inside, and there are a lot of possibilities of what could be in those attics and crawl spaces. Maybe mold. Maybe some insulation types that could contain asbestos. In a sense, your inspector is doing safety inspections, so he needs to think about his safety first. A half-mask respirator that has either an N-95 or P-100 filter set should be worn every time the inspector enters an attic or a crawl space. Paper dust masks are worthless and will not filter out certain types of particulates.

Other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
When it comes to inspecting electrical panels, we now recommend that inspectors wear leather- and rubber-glove combos at a minimum, as well as some type of safety glasses when removing a panel cover. Rubber-soled shoes, along with a fire-resistant shirt, are also good ideas. Furthermore, home inspectors should always use an insulated screwdriver to remove the screws on a panel and replace the screwdriver when it is worn out. And they should always keep their hands out of panels.

As for ladders, if your inspector is using an extension ladder, it needs to be rated for his particular weight and it should also be constructed of fiberglass.

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Reduce Dampness and Moisture in Your Home

Empty RoomIs the humidity in your home too high? Telltale signs include condensation on the windows and a damp feeling in the air, but more serious problems can occur. For example, high humidity levels contribute to mold growth and dust mites, neither of which is healthy for your home and its inhabitants.

Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air, and the mold and dust mites that high humidity levels promote are allergens that can cause people to cough and sneeze, as well as experience skin irritations. In addition, high humidity levels can cause rot, especially in the south, and they draw insects, as the condensation from high humidity provides them with the water they need.

So, what’s the right amount of humidity? A level of 50 percent or lower is ideal for most people, but you also don’t want the level too low, either, especially in the winter months. To mitigate high humidity, add ventilation, use exhaust fans and dehumidifiers, and run the air conditioning for a spell.

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What You Should Know About Water Damage Restoration and Mold Remediation

Submitted by Dale and Tiffany Senkow, GPI Franchise Owners, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

Mold-FloorWall_shutterstock_177235112Q. Who do you recommend when there’s a flood in part of my home, and do they have any rules to follow?

A. To answer this question, we turn to the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification, or IICRC. Think of ANSI/IICRC S500 and BSR-IICRC S520 as the most important professional water damage restoration and mold remediation standards for the industry, respectively.

S500 and S520 set the standards within water damage restoration and mold remediation. When water is discovered in a basement and noticeable water is present, you want a water restoration technician (WRT) as a contractor. A WRT is a trained professional who must practice continuing education and has proper training for just these types of scenarios. Water must be dried and cleaned up as soon as possible to prevent water loss to the structure and building materials.

IICRC Categories of Water Damage
Water loss is categorized into four stages of damage, which are basically determined by the amount of water, and anything that may have absorbed the water is also taken into consideration.

Category 1
This is water that has originated from a source that does not pose substantial harmful to humans. It is also known as “clear water.”

Category 2
This is best described as water containing a significant amount of chemical, biological and/or physical contamination. There is a risk of causing potential harm and discomfort. It can also cause sickness if consumed by or exposed to humans. It is referred to as “grey water.”

Category 3
This is grossly unsanitary water, containing pathogenic agents arising from sewage, or other contaminated water sources. It has the likelihood of causing discomfort and/or sickness if consumed by or exposed to humans. It is also referred to as “black water.”

Category 4 or Special Situations
These are situations that require other professionals, such as for the following:

  • Arsenic
  • Asbestos
  • Caustic chemicals
  • Fuels
  • Fertilizer
  • Glycol
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Mold
  • Pesticides
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
  • Radiological residues and solvents

IICRC Classes of Water Loss
Senkow1In the photograph at the right, we can see an interior weeping tile system (often found on the exterior) that a contractor has installed. Along with waterproofing the exterior, this is a great method to capture water that has made its way underneath the wall, above the footing and into the building.

The S500 offers descriptions of four classes of water loss that designate environments by the relative degree of saturation, which is then used to determine the initial dehumidification equipment required to create an effective drying system.

Class 1 water loss is defined as the least amount of area, water absorption and evaporation. These water losses only affect a small part of the area or room containing materials that have absorbed minimal moisture. There is little or no carpet and/or cushion present.

Class 2 water loss is described as a large amount of water, absorption and evaporation. These water losses affect at least an entire room of carpet and cushion. Water has wicked up the walls less than 24 inches, which means you can physically see water saturation and the drywall. This class of water loss also sees moisture remaining in structure materials.

Senkow2Class 3 water loss is the greatest amount of water, saturation and absorption. The water may have come from overhead. The ceilings, walls, insulation, carpet, cushion and subfloor in the entire area are saturated.

Class 4 water loss is best described as a specialty drying situation. These are situations that consist of wet materials with very low permeation/porosity, such as brick, concrete, plaster, hardwood and ground soil. There are deep pockets of saturation that require a very low humidity ratio. These require longer drying times and special methods. For the WRT, this means high-temperature/high-performance devices — and more money. A very low vapor differential makes the area harder to dry.

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