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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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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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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Has Your Home Ever Flooded? Here Are Some Solutions

Submitted by Dale Senkow, GPI Franchise Owner, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

Senkow2In some homes, water may make its way into the basement. There are, however, ways to prevent this from happening. A home inspector will look to see if the landscape (grading) slopes away from the home (positive grading) and make note of the downspouts — downspouts need to extend out and away from the home. Checking the grading is something that does take a bit of a trained eye like that of a home inspector. You also want to make sure there are no holes in the ground around the outside perimeter of the home, as these areas could fill with water that seeps into the ground and could make its way into the home.

Sometimes positive slope and good drainage may not be good enough. Water may, in fact, be working its way through the home’s footing, which is located under the basement walls. Linoleum can soak up water, and sometimes after water has entered the building mold can be noticed on the back side of the linoleum. A possible solution for this type of water intrusion could be a sump pump and pit with an exterior or interior weeping tile or French drainage system.

A contractor may suggest an interior weeping tile system if there is too much concrete around the home. An exterior waterproofing system is typically the best practice for a leaky foundation: Generally, a basement can be about 8 feet deep. The contractor will use a backhoe to dig down this deep. The building will need to be dug around the exterior. The outside of the foundation needs to be very clean and then the cracks can filled with hydraulic cement or other approved methods. Once dried, the foundation walls can be sealed and waterproofed, and an exterior weeping tile system can be placed around the exterior of the home.

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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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