Proper Fireplace Venting: A Complex Issue

By Rodney Twyford, NPI Franchise Owner and Inspector, San Antonio, Texas

Fireplace_shutterstock_172698602One of the biggest controversial issues with home construction has been proper fireplace ventilation. In an effort to prevent indoor air contamination and improve overall efficiencies within modern homes, the home envelopes have become tighter — meaning little to no air leaks between interior and exterior spaces. While the intentions were good, constructing a tight home has caused some other issues, such as poor air change ratios and controlling pressures between interior and exterior spaces. This has resulted in new technologies to provide controlled mechanical ventilation systems.

Since the topic of building ventilation is vast and involves many different systems and components, this article will focus on exterior air supply, specifically for factory-built and masonry-built fireplaces.

This is a subject that is often misunderstood and which has resulted in improper installation of exterior air supply vents. The current International Residential Code (IRC) Section R1006.1 says, “Factory-built or masonry fireplaces … shall be equipped with an exterior air supply to assure proper fuel combustion unless the room is mechanically ventilated and controlled so that the indoor pressure is neutral or positive.”

Most masonry fireplaces are not constructed with an exterior air supply, and factory-built fireplaces are designed to incorporate exterior air supply vents but are often not connected or are installed improperly. During home inspections, we typically find the exterior air vent to be installed in areas that are specifically prohibited by current code — such as on the side of chimney structure or in the attic area above the firebox.

IRC Section R1006.2 states, The exterior air intake shall be capable of supplying all combustion air from the exterior of the dwelling or from spaces within the dwelling ventilated with outside air such as non-mechanically ventilated crawl or attic spaces. The exterior air intake shall not be located within the garage or basement of the dwelling, nor shall the air intake be located at an elevation higher than the firebox.”

So, while the intake vent is allowed to be located in an attic, the IRC prohibits it from being located higher than the firebox.

However, one manufacturer of a factory-built fireplace allows and actually instructs the installer to locate the exterior air supply vent at least 3 feet from the top of the chimney. Knowing that these instructions are contradictory to current IRC provisions, I contacted the manufacturer about this issue and was quickly informed that the local codes governing your municipality shall take precedent over the manufacturer’s installation instructions.

Fireplace3So, why is it even important where the vent is located? Because pressure differentials between interior and exterior spaces can fluctuate depending on installed equipment, weather conditions and where the home is located. This difference in atmospheric pressure could prevent the chimney from drafting or exhausting properly, or it could cause the exterior air supply vent to function as an exhaust vent for which it is not designed for.

Some inappropriate vent locations are in garage and basements, where combustible materials are often stored. Be sure not to locate an exterior air intake in a mechanically ventilated attic or crawl space. Attic and/or crawl space mechanical ventilating systems are primarily used to remove air from those areas by exhausting unwanted air or creating a negative pressure in those areas. If an air intake for a fireplace terminates in a crawl or attic space that has a mechanical ventilation system, then there is potential for the air intake to perform exactly opposite of its designed intent.

Oftentimes, the exterior air vent is properly installed in a non-mechanically ventilated attic as is permitted by code. However, later down the road, an attic fan is installed and thus causes a problem. Also, where combustion air openings are located inside the firebox, the air intake opening on the outside of the dwelling cannot be located higher than the firebox. Such an installation could create a chimney effect, drawing the products of combustion up through the combustion air ducts, which are not generally constructed of materials that can withstand the heat and sparks that could be drawn through them.

So what do you do if your fireplace is located in the center of your home and not on an exterior wall? This is often an issue, and home inspectors will discuss it with the builder or installer. There are actually two ways to address this issue.

First, in the foundation phase, an exterior air supply vent could be installed through the foundation prior to pouring concrete. This would meet the requirements of not being located higher than the firebox.

However, if the foundation has already been poured, then there is a provision in current code at the end of Section R1006.1 that says, “Unless the room is mechanically ventilated and controlled so that the indoor pressure is neutral or positive.” This provision seems to allow elimination of the exterior air vent altogether if the room is “mechanically ventilated and controlled so that the indoor pressure is neutral or positive.” With that said, new air conditioning systems are becoming more sophisticated in their technologies to provide for this controlled mechanical ventilation.

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Taking a Hard Look at Your Water

By Rodney Twyford, NPI Franchise Owner, San Antonio, Texas

showerheadAn overwhelming 85 percent of the United States has hard water, and the cities with the hardest water are Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Phoenix, San Antonio and Tampa. In Canada, Yorkton, Laval des Rapids, Beaconsfield and Kitchener are among the cities with the hardest water.

What is hard water, and why is it a concern? The elements that make up water, hydrogen and oxygen, do not account for the foreign ingredients found in every drop of the water we use every day. Most of these other ingredients are considered safe to consume, through municipal sources, but they can be damaging to appliances and the plumbing that distributes water.

The most damaging ingredients found in most hard water are calcium and magnesium. Water picks up high levels of hardness minerals as it trickles through the ground (about seven grains or more per gallon). These hard minerals can cause scaling on metal components, resulting in water-flow restriction, poor fixture operation that can cause damage, leaks and increased energy costs. The more mineral deposits that form around heating elements, the more energy is required to heat the water, which eventually results in high energy costs and equipment failure.

How to Soften Hard Water
While there are many theories on how best to soften water, the most common and widely recognized method is to remove the calcium from the water with technology known as ion exchange. The basics of how this works is with a water softener consisting of a media/resin tank and a salt/brine tank. A common myth is that salt softens water; in fact, it is the resin, charged with sodium or potassium, that does the work. Hard water flows through the resin tank where the sodium-coated resin beads exchange the hardness ions in the water for the sodium or potassium ions they are holding. The result is soft water.

After the resin beads are coated with calcium and magnesium, it’s time to regenerate or clean the beads so they can continue to capture more hard water minerals. This is where the salt tank is needed. The salt creates a brine solution that is pumped into the resin tank to remove the hard minerals from the beads and recharge them with sodium. The used brine solution and hard minerals are drained from the softener, allowing the cycle to start again.

What to Know When Shopping for a Water Softener
The main differences in water softeners are how the equipment accomplishes the process of ion exchange and the cost of the equipment. The two main types of water softeners are demand-initiated regeneration (DIR) and timer-based regeneration.

A timer-based softener will regenerate at a preset time regardless of water use and is not the most efficient type of water softener. The DIR softener is the best model and is required by some municipalities because of its efficiencies. A DIR system meters water use and only regenerates when it needs to, requiring less water, salt and energy to operate.

It is important to only regenerate at a time when water will not be used, typically around 2 a.m., so the time of day will need to be fairly accurately set so the equipment knows when to regenerate. Some systems have dual media tanks where one regenerates while the other softens water. This type of system does not rely on a clock setting or electricity, but it will have more gears constantly moving and may increase the possibility for failures to occur. With that said, don’t let the use of electricity be a deciding factor in your selection, as it is typically equivalent to that of a clock radio. All systems have their pros and cons, so do your research.

As for the cost of a water softener, prices are all over the place, but it is important to know that all ion exchange water softeners basically work the same way to soften the water. So, when shopping, focus on the quality of the equipment and its warranties.

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Protect Vacant Properties from Vandalism

By Rodney Twyford, NPI Franchise Owner, San Antonio, Texas

Modern Building + Landscaping_HorizontalMost rental and leased commercial properties will likely be vacant at some point between tenants. Not only are vacant properties losing income for landlords, but they also become a target for vandals. According to the FBI, an estimated loss of $15.5 billion in 2012 resulted from crimes related to vandalism. Real estate property and vacant property attracts vandalism like a magnet. There are, however a variety of ways that commercial building owners can deter vandals and protect their vacant property.

Maintain good curb appeal. Vacant property should be well maintained to not only attract new tenants, but also give the appearance of activity and security so vandals think the property is being watched. This should include lawn and landscaping maintenance, as well as the keeping gutters clean, clearing sidewalks and removing fliers stuck inside doors. A new welcome mat and seasonal decorations can also help the property appear inhabited.

Don’t advertise the vacancy. Understandably, a sign advertising the availability of a vacant commercial space is typical and expected from most real estate agents; however, people passing by do not need to see that the entire property is vacant. Blinds should be installed on all windows and closed to prevent exposing vacant interior spaces.

Neighbors can help. Neighbors living or working near a vacant property can help by parking one or more vehicles in the parking lot, randomly switching parking spaces on different days. Switching a few interior and exterior lights on two to three times a week is also a great deterrent and lets people know there is activity in the building. This can either be done by the landlord, a trusted neighbor or even a timer. Installing motion-activated exterior flood lights is also a great way to prevent vandalism.

Monitor the property. The best security is always a nosey neighbor or diligent landlord who visits the property at random times during each day. It is important for the time of your visits to be unpredictable, as crimes often occur after the property has been watched for routine activity.

Install a security system. Security systems can get expensive, but they are never more costly than the damage from vandalism or burglary. Security systems have become more sophisticated, with video monitoring that could help identify the intruders. These added features will not only help protect your property from vandalism, but they will also increase the overall value of the property and give you or the leasing agent additional features to promote.

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National Safety Month: Create a Safe Haven at Home

By Rodney Twyford, NPI Franchise Owner, San Antonio, Texas

Family + HouseWe like to think of our homes as a safe haven where we escape the dangers of the outside world, but it may surprise you to know that in the United States, more than 20,000 deaths, 7 million disabling injuries and 20 million hospital trips are reported to occur around the home front each year.

June is National Safety Month in the United States and Canada, so in light of those staggering statistics, here are the five leading causes of injuries around the home and some things to think about to help keep your family safe and prevent unintentional injuries.

Don’t Let Falls Trip You Up
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 8 million people are injured due to falls every year, and no it’s not the children and elderly. Falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries in people ages 25 to 54.

Here are some ways to help prevent falls at home:

  • Always use the proper tool in good condition for the job. A chair is not a ladder.
  • Always be aware of your pet, small children and related toys. A good percentage of falls are due to pets – and mainly dogs.
  • Be sure your throw rugs are in good condition and do not slip across the floor.
  • Avoid wearing socks on hardwood or like floor surfaces.
  • Keep rooms well lit, and consider installing motion-sensing switches if the light switch is not in a convenient location.
  • Consider installing grab bars and a nonslip mat inside and outside wet areas, such as showers and porches.
  • Always read the label on medications and how they react when combined with other drugs.
  • Keep your eyeglass prescription updated.

Secure Heavy Items
Another safety concern around the home is items falling and causing injury, such as furniture and mainly television sets. Quite often, TV sets are found to be sitting on top of a dresser or entertainment center that is not secured. If a dresser or other piece of furniture is used, it as well as the TV should be anchored to the wall. The fall typically occurs when a piece of furniture gets bumped during horseplay or as a result of a child’s naturally adventurous nature to climb.

Prevent Accidental Poisoning
The second leading cause of accidental death or injury in the home is poisoning. Nearly 5,000 people die each year from ingesting poisonous substances, overdosing or using prescription medicines improperly. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations for taking medicine, and avoid mixing medications with alcoholic beverages.

All medicine and poisonous substances — such as those for pest control, weed control and household cleaning supplies — should be stored in lockable cabinets for child safety. For more information or if you suspect accidental poisoning, call the Poison Help hotline at 800.222.1222.

Prevent Fires and Burns
Burn injuries are also high on the list, with nearly 3,000 lives claimed annually due to house fires. Fires in the home are typically caused by cooking, electrical circuits, dryer vents and poorly maintained water heaters and furnaces.

Never leave a cooktop unattended, especially when small children are present. If you experience lights flickering, a burning smell or suspect an electrical circuit is not working properly, you should consult a qualified electrician to evaluate the concern and address it as necessary to avoid possible fires. Dryer vents, especially those that run vertically, should be cleaned regularly, and all water heaters and furnaces should be properly serviced annually to be sure they are in good condition.

Your home should also be well-equipped with smoke alarms located inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and at least one on each story level. Test smoke alarms monthly to be sure they are working properly. Contact a certified inspector at National Property Inspections or Global Property Inspections to be sure your appliances meet all new safety standards.

Keep Kids Safe
Airway obstructions are next on the list with nearly 1,000 people each year suffering from choking, suffocation and strangulation in the home, most involving children. Always place infants in a crib free of stuffed animals and loose blankets. Older children should never sleep with small objects that can be swallowed.

Secure Pool and Spa Areas
The fifth leading cause of accidents around the home is drowning, with nearly 800 fatalities reported each year. The most vulnerable are children and the elderly — they should never be left unattended around pools and even bathtubs. Be sure your pool and spa areas are securely locked with a fence barrier at least 4-feet high. Contact a certified inspector at National Property Inspections or Global Property Inspections for more information regarding proper pool safety. A child can drown in as little as 1 inch of water, so just let the phone ring and don’t run off to answer the door — your child’s life may depend on it.

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Diving Into Summer Safety

Submitted by Rodney Twyford, NPI Franchise Owner, San Antonio, Texas

Pool_shutterstock_190087664Playing outside is a great way for kids to exercise and have fun. However, backyards can be full of potential dangers. Almost all tragic accidents that occur during summer fun with family and friends are a result of unsafe property conditions and lack of adult supervision. Nothing harms a relationship more than an injury or death while enjoying the festivities at your property. This article is intended to help identify unsafe conditions and equipment failure, and improve the overall safety of your guests.

As I am certain you have already guessed, swimming pools are a common safety risk that attracts kids like a magnet. According to the National Safety Council, drowning is the leading cause of death and injury of children under 5 years of age. So, if you or somebody you know has a swimming pool, below are some “quick safety tips” to prevent unintentional injuries.

  • Always practice constant adult supervision around any body of water, including pools, spas and, yes, even that little inflatable pool. Kids can drown in less than 2 inches of water in a matter of minutes.
  • All openings, including doors and windows, to the pool or spa area should be outfitted with an alarm to alert parents or guardians of children accessing hazardous areas.
  • All pools holding more than 24 inches of water are required to be surrounded by a proper barrier with self-closing and self-latching gates opening outward, as well as meeting all other current standards, to guard against unauthorized entry.
  • Be sure no rocks, furniture or other items are located around the outside barrier that kids could climb on to gain access to pool area. If you have an above-ground pool, the ladder should be removed and access to all decks around pool locked when not in use.
  • Have a designated and visible place near the pool for life-saving devices to include a through float, life-hook and portable telephone.
  • Twyford BlogMake sure drain covers are properly fitted and free of fractures. If the pool was built prior to 2007 and has a single bottom drain, then it may not have an anti-entrapment drain cover or other suction-release device installed. This is currently only regulated with public pools that are required to be in compliance with ANSI/ASME A112.19.8 2007; however, all necessary precautions should be taken to help prevent accidental entrapments.
  • Maintain a clean pool and adjust water chemistry as necessary for safe, healthy use. Improperly balanced water and chemical levels could cause eye and skin irritations. Spa water temperatures should be set to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to avoid elevated body temperature, which could lead to drowsiness, unconsciousness, heat stroke or even death.
  • Check all tiles, coping and other features around the pool for hazards. All components should be secure and free of sharp edges that could cause injury.
  • Be sure that all metal components, likely to become energized in the event of lightening and/or an electrical short, are properly bonded. Often, bonds can become loose or corroded and need to be repaired.
  • Set up all furniture out from around the pool edge to help prevent trips and falls that could result in liability risk to the property owner.
  • If you are grilling, have a designated grilling area as a “No Play Zone,” and keep youngsters and pets well away until grill equipment is entirely cool.
  • Do not allow any electrical cord devices or glass containers to be used around water. Be sure that all exterior electrical outlets are GFCI-protected.
  • It is always a good idea to post a “Pool Rules” sign for your guests to acknowledge and hopefully avoid any awkward enforcements.

Please understand this is not a pool inspection checklist and does not even begin to scratch the surface of all areas inspected by National Property Inspections and Global Property Inspections. To contact your local inspector, click here in the United States or click here in Canada.

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Gas Pipe Awareness

Submitted by Rodney Twyford, NPI Franchise Owner, San Antonio, Texas

TwyfordFor decades, rigid schedule 40 black iron pipe was the most popular choice for natural gas distribution to appliances such as furnaces and water heaters in both residential and commercial buildings. Iron pipe is known for its durability; however, due to the numerous threaded joints that occur at each intersection during installation, it is also prone to leaks as a result of poor installation or failed joint compound. The rigid iron pipe has also been known to break and/or become distorted as a result of structural movement in the event of an earthquake or other significant damage to structures.

Corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST) is a flexible gas pipe that was first developed in Japan and used to supply and distribute natural gas or propane gas in residential and commercial buildings. According to some manufacturers, it was developed to solve the dangers of broken rigid gas piping in earthquakes, and then brought to the United States by American Gas Association and the Gas Research Institute as an alternative gas piping solution to eliminate the difficulties and dangers of rigid gas piping. The cost of CSST is higher than iron pipe; however, due to the ease of installation, the labor cost is much lower, making it more cost effective to install.

The yellow version of CSST was introduced to the United States around 1988 and has become the preferred and most widely used gas piping product among construction trades. However, due to its inability to effectively resist or withstand the electrical charge produced by a direct or indirect lightning strike, it could be pierced by an arc during electrical storms, causing stimulated fires to occur.

Yellow CSST has been blamed for causing stimulated fires in more than 140 homes involving lightning strikes, some of which have resulted in death, and has been banned by local authorities in some areas. The CSST is approximately 10 times thinner than the traditional black iron gas pipe used for many years. Studies have shown that high voltage produced by lightning strikes can cause metal components to arc, resulting in perforation of the thin CSST wall and therefore cause gas to leak, resulting in fuel-fed fires.

Whether you are building a new home or buying an existing property, it is recommended to consult a licensed electrician who is familiar with CSST piping and the current codes governing the proper installation, including specific bonding requirements. Code enforcement organizations, such as the National Fuel Gas Code, National Fire Protection Association and National Electric Code are constantly improving the standards for proper installation of building materials, but even when CSST is properly installed per current code requirements, it is not guaranteed to resist damage caused by a direct or indirect lightning strike.

A new type of CSST has hit the market and can be recognized by a black coating and branded as Counter Strike, Omega Flex, Trace Pipe or Flash Shield. The black CSST product is constructed with a continuous bond between the tubing and a black jacket that helps protect the product. Studies have shown black-jacketed CSST to be more resistant to the effects of an indirect lightning strike; however, due to the unpredictable, violent nature of lightning, there are no guarantees that it will be unharmed in the event of an electrical storm. Some manufacturers of the black-jacketed CSST products claim that no additional bonding is required. However, local and/or international codes governing building construction are controlling and may differ from the manufacturer’s requirements.

To learn more about CSST visit,

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Perplexed About PEX Plumbing? We Have Answers

Submitted by Rodney Twyford, NPI Franchise Owner, San Antonio, Texas

PEXModern plumbing as we know it has only been around during the last 100 years and has vastly improved over the years. Initially, the first water distribution pipes were made of clay, wood and lead. In the 1950s, most indoor water pipes were made of galvanized steel, followed by copper. During the expansion of the economy, the need for better, corrosion-resistant materials and ease of installation became a necessity.

During the early 1960s, plastic piping was introduced and offered as a great alternative to metal materials. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride) were successes where others such as polybutylene piping were failures.

So, What Is PEX?
PEX is an acronym for cross-linked polyethylene. As early as the 1930s PEX materials were being developed, in the late ’50s, scientists worked on the structure of the polyethylene to strengthen the connections between the polymer chains by developing ways to create additional ties between the PE molecules through covalent or chemical bonding.

During the late ’70s, PEX was mainly used for radiant floor heating; however, PEX is now a recognized alternative to other materials and is predominantly used for domestic water distribution in most residential homes.

Advantages of PEX

  • PEX costs approximately 25 percent less than alternative plumbing systems and takes less time to install, resulting in reduced labor costs.
  • PEX is a flexible and easily adaptable plumbing system that can be bent around most wide-radius turns without the use of elbow fittings, saving time and materials.
  • PEX typically provides greater water pressure at each fixture with fewer transition fittings that cause turbulence resulting in pressure drop.
  • PEX can be connected to almost all other types of plumbing materials, making it a popular choice for repair and remodeling projects.
  • PEX is suitable for hot and cold water. It is more resistant than other materials to freezing and high-pressure expansion conditions, and it is resistant to corrosion.
  • PEX can be installed with a manifold system, making it convenient to shut off individual fixtures without the need to shut off all plumbing.

Disadvantages of PEX

  • PEX can be damaged from chemicals such as pesticides and even by pests themselves.
  • PEX cannot be installed near high-heat locations, such as recessed lights and water heater flues.
  • PEX cannot be used outdoors with direct exposure to sunlight. Most PEX products have a limited UV resistance and must be protected during storage, while on the construction site and during long transports. How many times have you seen a pickup truck carrying rolls of red, blue or white PEX plumbing and wonder if they are just transporting it short term or has it been on their truck for months just waiting to be used in someone’s home?

Not All PEX piping Is Created Equally
PEX piping is required to have a four-digit material designation code. This numeric code is located after the brand name printed lengthwise on the pipe. The codes are tested in accordance with and defined by the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM).

ASTM F2023 is the standard required for testing for chlorine resistance. The first digit in the code is the designation for chlorine resistance. A 5 rating as the first digit is the highest classification for chlorine resistance and indicates that the PEX pipe has been tested and meets the requirements for minimum chlorine resistance at end use conditions 100 percent of the time at 140°F (60C). A 3 rating indicates 50 percent, and a 1 rating indicates 25 percent of the time at the same temperatures. A digit of zero indicates that the pipe has not been tested or rated and should not be used for drinking water.

ASTM F2657 is the standard required for evaluating the UV exposure of PEX. The second digit in the code determines the limits to UV exposure. For example, PEX with a 5106 code has a “1” in the second digit, and indicates that the tubing material meets the minimum UV resistance requirements for a period of only 30 days. A code 5206 has a “2” in the second digit, indicating the tubing meets the minimum requirements for 90 days. The highest and best exposure is a code such as 5306; this is typically a multilayer tubing and meets the minimum requirements for UV exposure of still only 180 days.

The third and fourth digits are for hydrostatic design stress (HDS) as tested in accordance with the Plastics Pipe Institute (PPI) Technical Report TR-4. A digit of 06 indicates that the PEX piping has an HDS of 73°F (23°C) at 630 pounds per square inch (psi). A digit of 08 indicates that the PEX piping has an HDS of 73°F (23°C) at 800 psi.

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Working With and Around Lead Paint: Part III in a Series on Lead

Submitted by Rodney Twyford, NPI Franchise Owner, San Antonio, Texas

Lead IIFederal EPA Laws (RRP)
If you own a home built before 1978 and plan to renovate for resell, or if you are a contractor who has been hired to perform work on a home built before 1978, then there are federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) laws that went into effect in April 2010. This regulation is called the Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Program and requires contractors to follow the RRP rules if they disturb more than 6 square feet of interior paint or 20 square feet of exterior paint.

The older your home, the more likely it contains lead-based paint. For example, 87 percent of homes built before 1940 have some lead-based paint, while 24 percent of homes built between 1960 and 1978 have some lead-based paint.

Lead-based paint may be present in private single-family homes or apartments, government-assisted, or public housing, and in urban, suburban or rural settings. The EPA recommends that you assume your pre-1978 home contains lead-based paint and take the appropriate precautions. The simplest and safest approach is to hire a certified professional to check for lead-based paint. A certified risk assessor can conduct a risk assessment that will tell you whether your home currently has any lead hazards from lead in paint, dust or soil. The risk assessor can also tell you what actions to take to address any hazards. For help finding a certified risk assessor or inspector, call the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323).

A number of lead test kits are available for consumer purchase in most retail hardware stores; however, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) states that consumers should exercise caution when using these test kits to evaluate consumer products for potential lead exposures. The EPA has recognized three test kits, but recognition only applies for use by Lead-Safe Certified renovators. As of Sept. 1, 2010, the EPA will continue to recognize 3M LeadCheck™, the State of Massachusetts lead test kit, and the newly recognized D-Lead® kit.

Hiring a Renovation Firm
When hiring a renovation firm, confirm the firm’s EPA certification, and request proof that at least one person supervising your project completed certified training in lead-safe practices. Before any work begins, the contractor must provide you with the EPA’s “Renovate Right” lead hazard pamphlet. Be wary if they don’t do this on their own.

Here is an example of the precautions that should be followed:

  • The contractor must completely contain the work area in plastic sheeting.
  • Furniture should be moved out or completely covered.
  • Doors, windows and heating/cooling vents should be sealed off.
  • Pets and nonworkers must be prevented from entering the work area.
  • For exterior jobs, plastic sheeting must extend at least 10 feet in all directions from the point where paint is disturbed.
  • If the work takes place within 10 feet of the property line, then extra precautions, such as vertical containment, must be used to protect neighbors.
  • Any grinding, scraping or sanding must be done with tools equipped with a shroud and HEPA vacuum attachment.
  • Wet sanders and misters should be used to minimize dust.
  • No open-flame burning or torching is allowed, and heat guns cannot be used at temperatures higher than 1,100 degrees.
  • The contractor must properly clean the work site daily, taking special care before removing the plastic, use a HEPA vacuum to clean all dust and debris and wet-wipe and wet-mop all surfaces.

Although the RRP rule does not apply to homeowners renovating, repairing or painting their own homes, do-it-yourself projects can easily create dangerous lead dust. Protect your family and home setup safely, control the dust, and clean up completely.

Follow these safeguards to prevent lead dust from spreading throughout your home:

  • Remove all furniture, area rugs, curtains, food, clothing, and other household items until cleanup is complete.
  • Items that cannot be removed from the work area should be tightly wrapped with plastic sheeting and sealed with tape.
  • Cover floors with plastic sheeting.
  • If working on a larger job, construct an airlock at the entry to the work area.
  • Turn off forced-air heating and air conditioning systems.
  • Cover vents with plastic sheeting and tape the sheeting in place with tape.
  • Close all windows in the work area.
  • If disturbing paint, when using a hand tool, spray water on lead-painted surfaces to keep dust from spreading.

Get the Right Equipment
It is important to get the right equipment to protect you and your family from lead exposure:

  • Use a NIOSH-certified disposable respirator with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, and use a HEPA filter-equipped vacuum cleaner.
  • Wet-sanding and clean up equipment.
  • Use heavy-duty plastic sheeting and heavy-duty plastic bags, tape and protective clothing. If reusable garments are used, clean work clothes and launder separately.

Consider Hiring a Certified Lead Abatement Contractor or Inspector
In light of all the necessary precautions to take when renovating a pre-1978 home, it is highly recommended to hire a certified lead abatement contractor. You can reduce the risk of lead exposure in your home by hiring a certified lead inspector to check to see whether there is lead paint in the area of your work. If lead is present, then have a trained and certified lead abatement contractor perform an abatement to remove the lead from the area before you begin work. Lead can also sometimes be found in soil, water, household dust, pottery, toys and traditional cosmetics.

For more information about lead-based paint and safety precautions that should be known before starting any home improvement projects on older homes, please visit the EPA’s website.

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The Dangers of Lead Paint: Part II in a Series on Lead

Submitted by Rodney Twyford, NPI Franchise Owner, San Antonio, Texas

Family in living roomA large percentage of people living in older homes have been contaminated with lead and do not even realize it until medical tests have been run for an assumingly unrelated issue. There are a wide variety of symptoms for lead poisoning that range from physical, intellectual, emotional and behavioral disorders, such as the following.

Lead Poisoning Symptoms
Newborns: Babies who are exposed to lead before birth may experience the following:

  • Learning difficulties
  • Slowed growth

Children: The signs and symptoms of lead poisoning in children may include the following:

  • Developmental delay
  • Learning difficulties
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sluggishness and fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Hearing loss

Adults: Although children are primarily at risk, lead poisoning is also dangerous for adults. Signs and symptoms in adults may include the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Decline in mental functioning
  • Pain
  • Numbness or tingling of the extremities
  • Headache
  • Memory loss
  • Mood disorders
  • Reduced sperm count
  • Abnormal sperm
  • Miscarriage or premature birth in pregnant women

If you think you or your child has been exposed to lead, see your doctor or contact your local public health department. A blood test can help determine blood lead levels.

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Getting the Lead Out: Part I in a Series on Lead

Submitted by Rodney Twyford, NPI Franchise Owner, San Antonio, Texas

Lead ILead contamination is still a concern in older homes and although it was used in the manufacturing of toys, pottery and plumbing components, it is most commonly found to be problematic in paints.

Lead pigments where used in paints to increase durability, speed up drying, resist moisture and improve longevity over the years through all types of weather. In the early 1900s, when millions of people died from the Spanish flu pandemic, the medical community advised people to wash their walls to help prevent spreading of the disease. The lead-based paint was also very easy to keep clean and maintained its luster through repeated washing.

Federal and state organizations claimed lead-based paint was the best choice for house painting and encouraged its use between 1920s and the 1970s. Several public housing projects built by President Roosevelt’s Public Work Administration in the mid-1930s used the lead-based paint for its known durability reported by government paint experts. For years, professional painters preferred the reliability of lead-based paints over other paints, and due to the widely adopted preference by other professional painters and home owners, lead was used in the manufacturing of nearly all paints.

No health issues were suspected until 1933, when the American Public Health Association wrote a publication responding to reports of childhood lead poisoning and recommended discontinuing use of lead-based paint on baby toys, beds and carriages. However, it also said it had other uses, such as house paint. Then in 1949, a Baltimore public health investigation identified lead-based paint as a potential health risk to children due to peeling and chipping paint in poorly maintained homes. In some countries, lead continues to be added to paint intended for domestic use; however, lead has been banned from household paints in the United States since 1978.

If you are looking to purchase an older home built before 1978, you have a legal right to be made aware of and test for the possibility of lead-based paint within the home you are planning to buy before executing a contract or lease. The current federal law requires the seller, property manager or landlord of a home to provide an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved pamphlet titled “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home,” which provides information about lead-based paint hazards. The owner is also obligated to disclose any known presence of lead in the home and provide a 10-day period for allowing a buyer to have an EPA-certified inspector perform a lead-based paint assessment. Language should be in the contract that confirms the seller has complied with all the notification requirements.

It is often found that most buyers waive these rights and do not have the home inspected for the potential of lead-based paint. I think the main reason for this is because the buyer either has a pretty good idea that lead based paint is present, or they would just assume not know and do not see it as a big issue. It should always be assumed that any house built before 1978 could contain lead-based paint somewhere, and all occupants should be aware of the potential hazards associated with it.

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