Home Inspection News and Information from Interspec, LLC.

Water Damage

Posted: February 4th, 2010 | Author: rbaake | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Protect Your Property From Water Damage

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

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Safety Glass Information

Posted: February 4th, 2010 | Author: rbaake | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Safety Glass for Inspectors

by Nick Gromicko and Rob London
Safety glass is a stronger, safer version of ordinary glass. It is often used in locations where human harm due to breakage is likely, such as cars and low windows. It is found in the following two forms:
  • Laminated safety glass is commonly found in car windshields. It is produced by bonding a resin or a thin, transparent plastic film, known as PVB, between multiple sheets of ordinary glass. The effect of this process is that, when shattered, the glass will adhere to the plastic sheet and be held in place. Laminated safety glass blocks most ultraviolet radiation and sound, and is used in cutting boards, thermometers, and bullet-resistant bank windows.
  • Tempered safety glass fractures parallel to its edge rather than perpendicular, and when it shatters, it breaks into small, rounded, generally safe pieces. It is created by heating glass to a high temperature and then rapidly cooling it to produce compression stress fractures on the surface, while retaining tension in the center. The glass is several times stronger as a result of the process, and it can withstand significantly higher temperatures. Tempered safety glass is commonly found in rear and side car windows, computer monitors, and storm doors. Unlike laminated safety glass, it cannot be custom cut once it is formed.
Where in a home might you find it?
Laminated glass may be sometimes found in shower enclosures, but is generally uncommon in homes. Tempered glass appears more often and can be found in storm doors, skylights, sliding glass doors, and unsafe locations. Safety glass should be found in locations considered to be, according to the 2006 version of the International Residential Code (IRC), ?subject to human impact.? It describes these locations, as well as their exceptions, in
?R308.4 ? Hazardous locations? under
?Section R308 ? Glazing? as the following:
R308.4: The Following shall be Considered Specific Hazardous
Locations for the Purposes of Glazing:

1. Glazing in swinging doors except jalousies.

2. Glazing in fixed and sliding panels of sliding door assemblies, and panels
in sliding and bifold closet door assemblies.

3. Glazing in storm doors.

4. Glazing in all unframed swinging doors.

5. Glazing in doors and enclosures for hot tubs, whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms, bathtubs, and showers. Glazing in any part of a building wall enclosing these compartments where the bottom exposed edge of the glazing is less than 60 inches (1524 mm) measured vertically above any standing or walking surface.

6. Glazing in an individual fixed or operable panel adjacent to a door where the nearest vertical edge is within a 24-inch (610 mm) arc of the door in a closed position and whose bottom edge is less than 60 inches (1524 mm) above the floor or walking surface.

7. Glazing in an individual fixed or operable panel, other than those locations described in Items 5 and 6 above, that meets all of the following conditions:

7.1. Exposed area of an individual pane larger than 9 square feet (0.836 mm).

7.2. Bottom edge less than 18 inches (457 mm) above the floor.

7.3. Top edge more than 36 inches (914 mm) above the floor.

7.4. One or more walking surfaces within 36 inches (914 mm) horizontally of the glazing.

8. All glazing in railings regardless of an area or height above a walking surface. Included are structural baluster panels and nonstructural infill panels.

9. Glazing in walls and fences enclosing indoor and outdoor swimming pools, hot tubs, and spas where the bottom edge of the glazing is less than 60 inches (1524 mm) above a walking surface and within 60 inches (1524 mm) horizontally of the water?s edge. This shall apply to single glazing and all panes in multiple glazing.

10. Glazing adjacent to stairways, landings and ramps within 36 inches (914 mm) horizontally of a walking surface when the exposed surface of the glass is less than 60 inches (1524 mm) above the plane of the adjacent walking surface.

11. Glazing adjacent to stairways within 60 inches (1524 mm) horizontally of the bottom tread of a stairway in any direction when the exposed surface of the glass is less than 60 inches (1524 mm) above the nose of the tread.

Exception: The following products, materials and uses are exempt from the above hazardous locations:

1. Openings in doors through which a 3-inch (76 mm) sphere is unable to pass.

2. Glazing in Section R308.4, Items 1, 6, or 7, in decorative glass.

3. Glazing in Section R308.4, Item 6, when there is an intervening wall or other permanent barrier between the door and the glazing.

4. Glazing in Section R308.4, Item 6, in walls perpendicular to the plane of the door in a closed position, other than the wall toward which the door swings when opened, or where access through the door is to a closet or storage area 3 feet (914 mm) or less in depth. Glazing in these applications shall comply with Section R308.4, Item 7.

5. Glazing in Section R308.4, Items 7 and 10, when a protective bar is installed on the accessible side(s) of the glazing 36 inches ± 2 inches (914 mm ± 51 mm) above the floor. The bar shall be capable of withstanding a horizontal load of 50 pounds per linear foot (730 N/m) without contacting the glass and be a minimum of 1-1/2 inches (38 mm) in height.

6. Outboard panes in insulating glass units and other multiple glazed panels in Section R308.4, Item 7, when the bottom edge of the glass is 25 feet (7620 mm or more above grade, a roof, walking surfaces, or other horizontal [within 45 degrees (0.79 rad) of horizontal] surface adjacent to the glass exterior.

7. Louvered windows and jalousies complying with the requirements of Section R308.2.

8. Mirrors and other glass panels mounted or hung on a surface that provides a continuous backing support.

9. Safety glazing in Section R308.4, Items 10 and 11, is not required where:

9.1. The side of a stairway, landing or ramp has a guardrail or handrail, including balusters or in-fill panels, complying with the provisions of the handrail and guardrail requirements; and

9.2. The plane of the glass is more than 18 inches (457 mm) from the railing; or

9.3. When a solid wall or panel extends from the plane of the adjacent walking surface to 34 inches (86 mm) to 36 inches (914 mm) above the floor and the construction at the top of that wall or panel is capable of withstanding the same horizontal load as the protective bar.

10. Glass block panels complying with Section R610.

How do you identify safety glass?
If safety glass is not specifically labeled as such, there are often signs that aid in its identification. Unfortunately, it may be impossible to identify ordinary glass with certainty without breaking it.

According to the IRC, tempered glass must contain an identifying label. It states that a label must be ?acid-etched, sandblasted, ceramic-fired, laser-etched, embossed, or be of a type which, once applied, cannot be removed without being destroyed.? Tempered spandrel glass, an opaque glass found in commercial curtain walls, is exempt from this rule because an etched label can cause the entire panel to fracture. Of multipane assemblies containing safety glass, the IRC states the following:

R308.1.1 Identification of multipane assemblies. Multipane assemblies having individual panes not exceeding 1 square foot (0.09 m2) in exposed area shall have at least one pane in the assembly identified in accordance with Section R308.1. All other panes in the assembly shall be labeled “16CFR1201.”

Section R308.1 details identification as follows:

R308.1 Identification. Except as indicated in Section R308.1.1, each pane of glazing installed in hazardous locations as defined in Section R308.4 shall be provided with a manufacturer’s or installer?s label, designating the type and thickness of glass and the safety glazing standard with which it complies, which is visible in the final installation. The label shall be acid-etched, sandblasted, ceramic-fired, embossed-mark, or shall be of a type which, once applied, cannot be removed without being destroyed.

Country-specific laws similarly require a permanent label on most or all safety glass. In the UK, for instance, tempered glass must include a ?T,? and laminated glass must include an ?L.? New Zealand requires, according to Clause 303.7 of NZS 4223:Part3:1999, that all safety glass include a label at the bottom that includes the following information:

(a) the name, registered trademark or code of the manufacturer or supplier;
(b) the type of safety glazing material. This may be in the form of a code, such as T for Toughened glass, or L for Laminated Glass, as indicated by the relevant test Standard (refer AS/NZS 2208);
(c) the Standard to which the safety glazing material has been tested, e.g. AS/NZS 2208;
(d) if applicable, the classification relating to impact test behaviour, i.e., A for Grade A, B for Grade B, C for Grade C.
Laminated safety glass is often labeled, although codes do not always require it to be. An easy way to tell if unlabeled glass is laminated is by examining the reflection of your hand or some other object. As there are two pieces of glass, you should see two different images, but you must be careful to not confuse them with the inner and outer surfaces of a single sheet of ordinary glass. Laminated glass is also slightly thicker than ordinary glass, although this difference is difficult to discern without the aid of very precise measuring instruments.
Tempered glass can also be identified through polarized glasses when viewed from an angle. Black lines, a result of the heating and cooling process, should appear as your angle from the glass surface increases and you approach the glass?s side.
When uncertain, InterNACHI inspectors should always assume that glass is not safety glass.


Lead Facts

Posted: February 4th, 2010 | Author: rbaake | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Lead Facts

Did you know the following facts about lead?
FACT: Lead exposure can harm young children and babies even before they are born.
FACT: Even children who seem healthy can have high levels of lead in their bodies.
FACT: You can get lead in your body by breathing or swallowing lead dust, or by eating soil or paint chips containing lead.
FACT: You have many options for reducing lead hazards. In most cases, lead-based paint that is in good condition is not a hazard.
FACT: Removing lead-based paint improperly can increase the danger to your family.
If you think your home might have lead hazards, read on to learn about lead and some simple steps to protect your family.

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

Where is Lead Found?

In general, the older your home, the more likely it has lead-based paint.
Paint
Many homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint. The federal government banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978. Some states stopped its use even earlier. Lead can be found:
  • in homes in the city, country and suburbs;
  • on apartments, single-family homes, and both private and public housing complexes;
  • on the interior and exterior of the house;
  • in the soil around a home.  Soil can pick up lead from exterior paint and other sources, such as past use of leaded gas in cars;
  • in household dust. Dust can pick up lead from deteriorating lead-based paint and from soil tracked into a home;
  • in drinking water. Your home might have plumbing that uses lead pipes or lead solder. Call your local health department or water supplier to find out about testing your water. You cannot see, smell or taste lead, and boiling your water will not get rid of lead. If you think your plumbing might have lead in it:
    • Use only cold water for drinking and cooking.
    • Run water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking it, especially if you have not used your water for a few hours.
  • on the job. If you work with lead, you could bring it home on your hands or clothes. Shower and change clothes before coming home. Launder your work clothes separately from the rest of your family’s clothes;
  • in old (vintage or antique) painted toys and furniture;
  • in food and liquids stored in lead crystal, lead-glazed pottery and porcelain;
  • from lead smelters and other industries that release lead into the air;
  • with hobbies that use lead, such as making pottery or stained glass, or refinishing furniture.
  • in folk remedies that contain lead, such as “greta” and “azarcon” used to treat an upset stomach.

Where is Lead Likely to be a Hazard?

  • Lead from paint chips, which you can see, and lead dust, which you can’t always see, can be serious hazards.
  • Peeling, chipping, chalking and cracking lead-based paint is a hazard and needs immediate attention.
  • Lead-based paint may also be a hazard when found on surfaces that children can chew or that get a lot of wear-and-tear. These areas include:
    • windows and window sills;
    • doors and door frames;
    • stairs, railings and banisters; and
    • porches and fences.
Note: Lead-based paint that is in good condition is usually not a hazard.
  • Lead dust can form when lead-based paint is dry-scraped, dry-sanded, or heated. Dust also forms when painted surfaces bump or rub together. Lead chips and dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air when people vacuum, sweep or walk through it.
  • Lead in soil can be a hazard when children play in bare soil, or when people bring soil into the house on their shoes.

Checking Your Family and Home for Lead

  • Have your children and home tested if you think your home has high levels of lead.
  • Just knowing that a home has lead-based paint may not tell you if there is a hazard.
To reduce your child?s exposure to lead, get your child checked, have your home tested (especially if your home has paint in poor condition and was built before 1978), and fix any hazards you may have.
Your Family
  • Children?s blood lead levels tend to increase rapidly from 6 to 12 months of age, and tend to peak at 18 to 24 months of age.
  • Consult your doctor for advice on testing your children. A simple blood test can detect high levels of lead. Blood tests are important for:
    • children at ages 1 to 2;
    • children and other family members who have been exposed to high levels of lead; and
    • children who should be tested under your state or local health screening plan.
Your doctor can explain what the test results mean and if more testing will be needed.
Your Home
You can get your home checked in one of two ways (or both):
  • A paint inspection tells you the lead content of every different type of painted surface in your home. It won’t tell you whether the paint is a hazard or how you should deal with it.
  • A risk assessment tells you if there are any sources of serious lead exposure, such as peeling paint and lead dust. It also tells you what actions to take to address these hazards.
Have qualified professionals do the work. There are standards in place for certifying lead-based paint professionals to ensure that the work is done safely, reliably and effectively. Be sure to ask your InterNACHI inspector about lead paint during your next inspection. Trained professionals use a range of methods when checking your home, including:
  • a vsual inspection of paint condition and location;
  • a portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) machine;
  • lab tests of paint samples; and
  • surface-dust tests.
Note: Home test kits for lead are available, but studies suggest that they are not always accurate. Consumers should not rely on these tests before doing renovations or to assure safety.
What You Can Do to Protect Your Family
If you suspect that your house has lead hazards, you can take some immediate steps to reduce your family’s risk:
  • If you rent, notify your landlord of peeling or chipping paint.
  • Clean up paint chips immediately.
  • Clean floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces weekly. Use a mop, sponge or paper towel with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner, or a cleaner made specifically for lead.

REMEMBER: NEVER MIX AMMONIA AND BLEACH PRODUCTS TOGETHER, SINCE THEY CAN FORM A DANGEROUS GAS.

  • Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning dirty and dusty areas.
  • Wash children’s hands often, especially before they eat, and before nap time and bed time.
  • Keep play areas clean. Wash bottles, pacifiers, toys and stuffed animals regularly.
  • Keep children from chewing window sills and other painted surfaces.
  • Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from soil.
  • Make sure children eat nutritious, low-fat meals high in iron and calcium, such as spinach and dairy products. Children with good diets absorb less lead.
In addition to day-to-day cleaning and good nutrition, you can temporarily reduce lead hazards by taking actions such as repairing damaged amd painted surfaces, and by planting grass to cover soil with high lead levels. These actions, called “interim controls,” are not permanent solutions and will need ongoing attention. To permanently remove lead hazards, you must hire a certified lead-abatement contractor. Abatement (or permanent hazard elimination) methods include removing, sealing or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials. Just painting over the hazard with regular paint is not enough. Always hire a person with special training for correcting lead problems — someone who knows how to do this work safely and has the proper equipment to clean up thoroughly. Certified contractors will employ qualified workers and follow strict safety rules set by their state or the federal government. To be safe, hire an InterNACHI inspector trained in lead detection for your next inspection.
Are You Planning to Buy or Rent a Home Built Before 1978?
Many houses and apartments built before 1978 have paint that contains lead (called lead-based paint). Lead from paint, chips and dust can pose serious health hazards if not taken care of properly. Federal law requires that individuals receive certain information before renting or buying pre-1978 housing.
  • Residential Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Program
    • LANDLORDS have to disclose known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before leases take effect. Leases must include a disclosure form about lead-based paint.
    • SELLERS have to disclose known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before selling a house. Sales contracts must include a disclosure form about lead-based paint. Buyers have up to 10 days to check for lead hazards.
If not conducted properly, certain types of renovations can release lead from paint and dust into the air.
  • Pre-Renovation Education Program (PRE)
    • RENOVATORS have to give you a pamphlet titled ?Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home? before starting work.
  • Take precautions before your contractor or you begin remodeling or renovations that disturb painted surfaces (such as scraping off paint or tearing out walls).
    • Have the area tested for lead-based paint.
    • Do not use a belt-sander, propane torch, heat gun, dry scraper or dry sandpaper to remove lead-based paint. These actions create large amounts of lead dust and fumes.
    • Lead dust can remain in your home long after the work is done.
    • Temporarily move your family (especially children and pregnant women) out of the apartment or house until the work is done and the area is properly cleaned. If you can’t move your family, at least completely seal off the work area.
    • If you have already completed renovations or remodeling that could have released lead-based paint or dust, get your young children tested and follow the steps outlined to protect your family.

Condensation in Double-Paned Windows

Posted: February 4th, 2010 | Author: rbaake | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Condensation in Double-Paned Windows

by Nick Gromicko, Rob London and Kenton Shepard
Condensation is the accumulation of liquid water on relatively cold surfaces.
Almost all air contains water vapor, the gas phase of water composed of tiny water droplets. The molecules in warm air are far apart from one another and allow the containment of a relatively large quantity of water vapor. As air cools, its molecules get closer together and squeeze the tiny vapor droplets closer together as well. A critical temperature, known as dew point, exists where these water droplets will be forced so close together that they merge into visible liquid in a process called condensation.
Household air is humidified from high levels of water vapor in human and animal exhalation, plant transpiration, and fixtures such as showers and dryers. This humidity can rise significantly higher than outside air because of the insulative design of a house. Cold indoor surfaces can cool the surrounding air enough to force vapor to condense. This often happens on single-pane windows because they lack the necessary thermal insulation available to better windows. Double-pane windows have a layer of gas (usually argon or air) trapped between two panes of glass and should be insulated enough to prevent the accumulation of condensation. If this type of window appears misty or foggy, it means that its seal has failed and the window needs to be replaced.
Silica Desiccant
A desiccant is an absorptive material designed to maintain dryness within its vicinity. A common type of desiccant is silica gel, a porous plastic used to prevent spoilage in various food products. A tightly packed assortment of silica pellets is contained inside the aluminum perimeter strip of a window to dehumidify incoming household air that was not stopped by the window?s seal. If not for this substance, incoming air could condense on the glass.
Silica gel has an immense surface area, approximately 800 m²/g, which allows it to absorb water vapor for years. Eventually, the silica pellets will become saturated and will no longer be able to prevent condensation from forming. A double-paned window that appears foggy has failed and needs to be repaired or replaced.
Why Double-Paned Windows Fail – Solar (Thermal) Pumping
Although double-paned windows appear to be stable, they actually experience a daily cycle of expansion and contraction caused by ?thermal pumping.? Sunlight heats the airspace between the panes and causes the gas there to heat up and pressurize. Expanding gas cannot leave the chamber between the panes and causes the glass to bulge outward during the day and contract at night to accommodate the changing pressures. This motion acts like the bellows of a forge, pumping minute amounts of air in and out of the airspace between the panes. Over time, the constant pressure fluctuations caused by thermal pumping will stress the seal and challenge its ability to prevent the flow of gas in and out of the window chamber. Incoming humid air has the potential to condense on the window surface, if it is cold enough.
Can Failed Windows be Repaired?
Inspectors should be aware that there are companies that claim to be able to repair misty windows through a process known as ?defogging.?
This repair method proceeds in the following order:
  1. A hole is drilled into the window, usually from the outside, and a cleaning solution is sprayed into the air chamber.
  2. The solution and any other moisture are sucked out through a vacuum.
  3. A defogger device is permanently inserted into the hole that will allow the release of moisture during thermal pumping.
Inspectors should know that there is currently a debate as to whether this process is a suitable repair for windows that have failed or if it merely removes the symptom of this failure. Condensation appears between double-paned windows when the seal is compromised and removal of this water will not fix the seal itself. A window ?repaired? in this manner, although absent of condensation, might not provide any additional insulation. This method is still fairly new and opinions about its effectiveness range widely. Regardless, ?defogging? certainly allows for cosmetic improvement, which is of some value to homeowners. It also removes any potential damage caused by condensation in the form of mold or rot.
Window condensation will inevitably lead to irreversible physical window damage. This damage can appear in the following two ways:
Riverbedding ? Condensed vapor between the glass panes will form droplets that run down the length of the window. Water that descends in this fashion has the tendency to follow narrow paths and carve grooves into the glass surface. These grooves are formed in a process similar to canyon formation.
Silica Haze ? Once the silica gel has been saturated, it will be eroded by passing air currents and accumulate as white ?snowflakes? on the window surface. It is believed that if this damage is present, the window must be replaced.
Thermal Imaging as a Detection Tool
The presence of condensation in double-paned windows means that they have failed, but the absence of condensation does not mean the window is functional. This latter fact is especially true in hot, dry environments, and when the temperature inside of a house is the same as the temperature outside. A method has recently developed that uses infrared (IR, thermal) imaging to provide a better determinant of faulty windows.
Home inspectors can become trained to use thermal imaging cameras to test for heat transfer through windowpanes (and other interior locations). In InterNACHI?s thermal imaging course, John McKenna explains how an IR camera can be used to identify failed windows by imaging unusual temperature gradients. Even the slightest entry of cold, outside air into the home that would ordinarily go unnoticed will stand out as a dark blue haze in an IR image. A trained inspector can either stand outside or inside the house and watch for the escape of warm air or the entrance of cool air, respectively. A trained inspector will compare images of individual windows in a residence and look for anomalies.
In summary, condensation in double-paned windows indicates that the window has failed and needs to be replaced. Condensation, while it can damage windows, is itself a symptom of a lack of integrity of the window?s seal. A failing seal will allow air to transfer in and out of the window even if it is firmly closed. Inspectors should be aware of this process and know when to recommend that clients? windows be replaced.

Important Facts about Carbon Monoxide

Posted: February 4th, 2010 | Author: rbaake | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Detectors

By Nick Gromicko and Rob London
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that forms from incomplete combustion of fuels, such as natural or liquefied petroleum gas, oil, wood or coal.

Facts and Figures

  • 480 U.S. residents died between 2001 and 2003 from non-fire-related carbon-monoxide poisoning.
  • Most CO exposures occur during the winter months, especially in December (including 56 deaths, and 2,157 non-fatal exposures), and in January (including 69 deaths and 2,511 non-fatal exposures). The peak time of day for CO exposure is between 6 and 10 p.m.
  • Many experts believe that CO poisoning statistics understate the problem. Because the symptoms of CO poisoning mimic a range of common health ailments, it is likely that a large number of mild to mid-level exposures are never identified, diagnosed, or accounted for in any way in carbon monoxide statistics.
  • Out of all reported non-fire carbon-monoxide incidents, 89% or almost nine out of 10 of them take place in a home.

Physiology of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

When CO is inhaled, it displaces the oxygen that would ordinarily bind with hemoglobin, a process the effectively suffocates the body. CO can poison slowly over a period of several hours, even in low concentrations. Sensitive organs, such as the brain, heart and lungs, suffer the most from a lack of oxygen.

High concentrations of carbon monoxide can kill in less than five minutes. At low concentrations, it will require a longer period of time to affect the body. Exceeding the EPA concentration of 9 parts per million (ppm) for more than eight hours may have adverse health affects. The limit of CO exposure for healthy workers, as prescribed by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration, is 50 ppm.   Potential Sources of Carbon Monoxide
Any fuel-burning appliances which are malfunctioning or improperly installed can be a source of CO, such as:

  • furnaces;
  • stoves and ovens;
  • water heaters;
  • dryers;
  • room and space heaters;
  • fireplaces and wood stoves;
  • charcoal grills;
  • automobiles;
  • clogged chimneys or flues;
  • space heaters;
  • power tools that run on fuel;
  • gas and charcoal grills;
  • certain types of swimming pool heaters; and
  • boat engines.

PPM

% CO
in air

Health Effects in Healthy Adults

Source/Comments

0

0%

no effects; this is the normal level in a properly operating heating appliance

35

.0035%

maximum allowable workplace exposure limit for an eight-hour work shift

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

50

.005%

maximum allowable workplace exposure limit for an eight-hour work shift OSHA

100

.01%

slight headache, fatigue, shortness of breath,
errors in judgment

125

.0125%

workplace alarm must sound (OSHA)

200

.02%

headache, fatigue,
nausea, dizziness

400

.04%

severe headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, confusion; can be life-threatening after three hours of exposure

evacuate area immediately

800

.08%

convulsions, loss of consciousness;
death within three hours.

evacuate area immediately

12,000

1.2%

nearly instant death

CO Detector Placement
CO detectors can monitor exposure levels, but do not place them:

  • directly above or beside fuel-burning appliances, as appliances may emit a small amount of carbon monoxide upon start-up;
  • within 15 feet of heating and cooking appliances, or in or near very humid areas, such as bathrooms;
  • within 5 feet of kitchen stoves and ovens, or near areas locations where household chemicals and bleach are stored (store such chemicals away from bathrooms and kitchens, whenever possible);
  • in garages, kitchens, furnace rooms, or in any extremely dusty, dirty, humid, or greasy areas;
  • in direct sunlight, or in areas subjected to temperature extremes. These include unconditioned crawlspaces, unfinished attics, un-insulated or poorly insulated ceilings, and porches;
  • in turbulent air near ceiling fans, heat vents, air conditioners, fresh-air returns, or open windows. Blowing air may prevent carbon monoxide from reaching the CO sensors.

Do place CO detectors:

  • within 10 feet of each bedroom door and near all sleeping areas, where it can wake sleepers. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) recommend that every home have at least one carbon monoxide detector for each floor of the home, and within hearing range of each sleeping area;
  • on every floor of your home, including the basement (source:  International Association of Fire Chiefs/IAFC);
  • near or over any attached garage. Carbon monoxide detectors are affected by excessive humidity and by close proximity to gas stoves (source:  City of New York);
  • near, but not directly above, combustion appliances, such as furnaces, water heaters, and fireplaces, and in the garage (source:  UL); and
  • on the ceiling in the same room as permanently installed fuel-burning appliances, and centrally located on every habitable level, and in every HVAC zone of the building (source:  National Fire Protection Association 720). This rule applies to commercial buildings.

In North America, some national, state and local municipalities require installation of CO detectors in new and existing homes, as well as commercial businesses, among them:  Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont and New York City, and the Canadian province of Ontario. Installers are encouraged to check with their local municipality to determine what specific requirements have been enacted in their jurisdiction.

How can I prevent CO poisoning?

  • Purchase and install carbon monoxide detectors with labels showing that they meet the requirements of the new UL standard 2034 or Comprehensive Safety Analysis 6.19 safety standards.
  • Make sure appliances are installed and operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions and local building codes. Have the heating system professionally inspected by an InterNACHI inspector and serviced annually to ensure proper operation. The inspector should also check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections, and loose connections.
  • Never service fuel-burning appliances without the proper knowledge, skill and tools. Always refer to the owner’s manual when performing minor adjustments and when servicing fuel-burning equipment.
  • Never operate a portable generator or any other gasoline engine-powered tool either in or near an enclosed space, such as a garage, house or other building. Even with open doors and windows, these spaces can trap CO and allow it to quickly build to lethal levels.
  • Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space and provides instructions for safe use in an enclosed area.
  • Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent.
  • Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
  • Never use gas appliances, such as ranges, ovens or clothes dryers to heat your home.
  • Never operate un-vented fuel-burning appliances in any room where people are sleeping.
  • During home renovations, ensure that appliance vents and chimneys are not blocked by tarps or debris. Make sure appliances are in proper working order when renovations are complete.
  • Do not place generators in the garage or close to the home. People lose power in their homes and get so excited about using their gas-powered generator that they don’t pay attention to where it is placed. The owner’s manual should explain how far the generator should be from the home.
  • Clean the chimney. Open the hatch at the bottom of the chimney to remove the ashes.  Hire a chimney sweep annually.
  • Check vents. Regularly inspect your home’s external vents to ensure they are not obscured by debris, dirt or snow.

In summary, carbon monoxide is a dangerous poison that can be created by various household appliances. CO detectors must be placed strategically throughout the home or business in order to alert occupants of high levels of the gas.


Attic Pull-Down Ladders

Posted: February 4th, 2010 | Author: rbaake | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Attic Pull-Down Ladders

By Nick Gromicko and Rob London
Attic pull-down ladders, also called attic pull-down stairways, are collapsible ladders that are permanently attached to the attic floor. Occupants can use these ladders to access their atticsAttic pull down ladder without being required to carry a portable ladder.
Common Defects

Homeowners, not professional carpenters, usually install attic pull-down ladders. Evidence of this distinction can be observed in consistently shoddy and dangerous work that rarely meets safety standards. Some of the more common defective conditions observed by inspectors include:

  • cut bottom cord of structural truss. Often, homeowners will cut through a structural member in the field while installing a pull-down ladder, unknowingly weakening the structure. Structural members should not be modified in the field without an engineer?s approval;
  • fastened with improper nails or screws. Homeowners often use drywall or deck screws rather than the standard 16d penny nails or ?? x 3? lag screws. Nails and screws that are intended for other purposes may have reduced shear strength and they may not support pull-down ladders;
  • fastened with an insufficient number of nails or screws. Manufacturers provide a certain number of nails with instructions that they all be used, and they probably do this for a good reason. Inspectors should be wary of ?place nail here? notices that are nowhere near any nails;
  • lack of insulation. Hatches in many houses (especially older ones) are not likely to be weather-stripped and/or insulated. An uninsulated attic hatch allows air from the attic to flow freely into the home, which may cause the heating or cooling system to run overtime. An attic hatch cover box can be installed to increase energy savings;
  • loose mounting bolts. This condition is more often caused by age rather than installation, although improper installation will hasten the loosening process;
  • attic pull-down ladders are cut too short. Stairs should reach the floor;
  • attic pull-down ladders are cut too long. This causes pressure at the folding hinge, which can cause breakage;
  • improper or missing fasteners;
  • compromised fire barrier when installed in the garage;
  • attic ladder frame is not properly secured to the ceiling opening;
  • closed ladder is covered with debris, such as blown insulation or roofing material shed during roof work. Inspectors can place a sheet on the floor beneath the ladder to catch whatever debris may fall onto the floor; and
  • cracked steps. This defect is a problem with wooden ladders.
  • In sliding pull-down ladders, there is a potential for the ladder to slide down quickly without notice. Always pull the ladder down slowly and cautiously.

Safety tip for inspectors: Place an “InterNACHI Inspector at work!” stop sign nearby while mounting the ladder.

Relevant Codes

The 2009 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) and the 2006 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) offer guidelines regarding attic access, although not specifically pull-down ladders. Still, the information might be of some interest to inspectors.

2009 IBC (Commercial Construction):

1209.2 Attic Spaces. An opening not less than 20 inches by 30 inches (559 mm by 762 mm) shall be provided to any attic area having a clear height of over 30 inches (762 mm). A 30-inch (762 mm) minimum clear headroom in the attic space shall be provided at or above the access opening.

2006 IRC (Residential Construction):

R807.1 Attic Access. Buildings with combustible ceiling or roof construction shall have an attic access opening to attic areas that exceed 30 square feet (2.8m squared) and have a vertical height of 30 inches (762 mm) or more. The rough-framed opening shall not be less than 22 inches by 30 inches, and shall be located in a hallway or readily accessible location. A 30-inch (762 mm) minimum unobstructed headroom in the attic space shall be provided at some point above the access opening.

Tips that inspectors can pass on to their clients:

  • Do not allow children to enter the attic through an attic access. The lanyard attached to the attic stairs should be short enough that children cannot reach it. Parents can also lock the attic ladder so that a key or combination is required to access it.
  • If possible, avoid carrying large loads into the attic. While properly installed stairways may safely support an adult man, they might fail if he is carrying, for instance, a bag full of bowling balls. Such trips can be split up to reduce the weight load.
  • Replace an old, rickety wooden ladder with a new one. Newer aluminum models are often lightweight, sturdy and easy to install.

In summary, attic pull-down ladders are prone to a number of defects, most of which are due to improper installation.


Chinese Drywall Facts

Posted: February 4th, 2010 | Author: rbaake | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Chinese Drywall

by Nick Gromicko, Rob London and Kenton Shepard
Amidst a wave of Chinese import scares, ranging from toxic toys to tainted pet food, reports of contaminated drywall from that country have been popping up across the American Southeast. Chinese companies use unrefined ?fly ash,? a coal residue found in smokestacks in coal-fired power plants in their manufacturing process. Fly ash contains strontium sulfide, a toxic substance commonly found in fireworks. In hot and wet environments, this substance can offgas into hydrogen sulfide, carbon disulfide, and carbonyl sulfide and contaminate a home?s air supply. 

The bulk of these incidents have been reported in Florida and other southern states, likely due to the high levels of heat and humidity in that region. Most of the affected homes were built during the housing boom between 2004 and 2007, especially in the wake of Hurricane Katrina when domestic building materials were in short supply. An estimated 250,000 tons of drywall were imported from China during that time period because it was cheap and plentiful. This material was used in the construction of approximately 100,000 homes in the United States, and many believe this has lead to serious health and property damage.

Although not believed to be life- threatening, exposure to high levels of airborne hydrogen sulfide and other sulfur compounds from contaminated drywall can result in the following physical ailments:

  • sore throat;
  • sinus irritation;
  • coughing;
  • wheezing;
  • headache;
  • dry or burning eyes; and/or
  • respiratory infections.
Due to this problem?s recent nature, there are currently no government or industry standards for inspecting contaminated drywall in homes. Professionals who have handled contaminated drywall in the past may know how to inspect for sulfur compounds but there are no agencies that offer certification in this form of inspection. Homeowners should beware of con artists attempting to make quick money off of this widespread scare by claiming to be licensed or certified drywall inspectors. InterNACHI has assembled the following tips that inspectors can use to identify if a home?s drywall is contaminated:
  • The house has a strong sulfur smell reminiscent of rotten eggs.
  • Exposed copper wiring appears dark and corroded. Silver jewelry and silverware can become similarly corroded and discolored after several months of exposure.
  • A manufacturer?s label on the back of the drywall can be used to link it with manufacturers that are known to have used contaminated materials. One way to look for this is to enter the attic and remove some of the insulation.
  • Drywall samples can be sent to a lab to be tested for dangerous levels of sulfur. This is the best testing method but also the most expensive.
Contaminated Chinese drywall cannot be repaired. Affected homeowners are being forced to either suffer bad health and failing appliances due to wire corrosion or replace the drywall entirely, a procedure which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. This contamination further reduces home values in a real estate environment already plagued by crisis. Some insurance companies are refusing to pay for drywall replacement and many of their clients are facing financial ruin. Class-action lawsuits have been filed against homebuilders, suppliers, and importers of contaminated Chinese drywall. Some large manufacturers named in these lawsuits are Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin, Knauf Gips, and Taishan Gypsum.
The Florida Department of Health recently tested drywall from three Chinese manufacturers and a domestic sample and published their findings. They found ?a distinct difference in drywall that was manufactured in the United States and those that were manufactured in China.? The Chinese samples contained traces of strontium sulfide and emitted a sulfur odor when exposed to moisture and intense heat, while the American sample did not. The U.S. Consumer Safety Commission is currently performing similar tests. Other tests performed by Lennar, a builder that used Chinese drywall in 80 Florida homes, and Knauf Plasterboard, a manufacturer of the drywall, came to different conclusions than the Florida Department of Health. Both found safe levels of sulfur compounds in the samples that they tested. There is currently no scientific proof that Chinese drywall is responsible for the allegations against it.
Regardless of its source, contamination of some sort is damaging property and health in the southern U.S. The media, who have publicized the issue, almost unanimously report that the blame lies with imported Chinese drywall that contains corrosive sulfur compounds originating from ash produced by Chinese coal-fired power plants. Homes affected by this contamination can suffer serious damage to the metal parts of appliances and piping and lead, potentially leading to considerable health issues. While no governing body has issued regulations regarding contaminated drywall, it is advisable that home inspectors be aware of the danger it poses and learn how to identify it.

Winterization Steps for Homeowners

Posted: February 4th, 2010 | Author: rbaake | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Home Winterization

by Nick Gromicko, Rob London and Kenton Shepard

Winterization is the process of preparing a home for the harsh conditions of winter. It is usually performed in the fall before snow and excessive cold have arrived. Winterization protects against damage due to bursting water pipes, and from heat loss due to openings in the building envelope. Inspectors should know how winterization works and be able to pass this information on to their clients

Plumbing System

Water damage caused by bursting pipes during cold weather can be devastating. A ruptured pipe will release water and not stop until someone shuts off the water. If no one is home to do this, an enormous quantity of water can flood a house and cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. Even during very small ruptures or ruptures that are stopped quickly, water leakage can result in mold and property damage. Broken water pipes can be costly to repair.

  • All exposed water pipes in cold areas, such as attics, garages, and crawlspaces, should be insulated. Foam or fiberglass insulation can be purchased at most hardware stores.  Insulation should cover the entirety of a pipe.
  • Plastic is more tolerant of cold expansion than copper or steel. Houses in colder climates might benefit from the exclusive use of approved plastic plumbing.
  • Water supply for exterior pipes should be shut off from inside the house and then drained.
  • Sprinkler systems are particularly vulnerable to cracking due to cold-weather expansion. In addition to turning them, it helps to purge the system of any remaining water with compressed air.
  • Homeowners should be aware that much of the plumbing system travels through areas that are significantly colder than the rest of the house. Because it is impossible to monitor the temperature of every portion of the plumbing system, indoor air temperature should be kept high enough throughout the winter to keep pipes in any unheated places from freezing.

Leaks in the Building Envelope

Leaky window frames, door frames, and electrical outlets can allow warm air to escape into the outdoors.
  • Windows that leak will allow cold air into the home. Feeling for drafts with a hand or watching for horizontal smoke from an incense stick are a few easy ways to inspect for leaks. They can be repaired with tape or caulk.
  • On a breezy day, a homeowner can walk through the house and find far more leaks than they knew existed. Leaks are most likely in areas where a seam exists between two or more building materials.
Insulation
  • Because hot air rises into the attic, a disproportionately larger amount of heat is lost there than in other parts of the house. Like a winter hat that keeps a head warm, adequate attic insulation will prevent warm indoor air from escaping. Attic insulation should be 12 inches thick in cold climates.
  • Storm doors and windows should be installed to insulate the house and protect against bad weather.
Heating Systems
The heating system is used most during the winter so it?s a good idea to make sure that it works before it?s desperately needed. The following inspection and maintenance tips can be of some help to homeowners:
  • Test the furnace by raising the temperature on the thermostat. If it does not respond to the adjustment quickly it might be broken.
  • Replace the air filter if it?s dirty.
  • If the furnace is equipped with an oil or propane tank, the tank should be full.
Cooling Systems
  • Use a hose to remove leaves and other debris from the outdoor condensing unit, if the home is equipped with one. Protect the unit with a breathable waterproof cover to prevent rusting and freezing of its components.
  • Remove and store window air conditioners when they are no longer needed. Cold air can damage their components and enter the house through openings between the air conditioner and the windowpane.
  • Ceiling fans can be reversed in order to warm air trapped beneath the ceiling to recirculate. A fan has been reversed if it spins clockwise.
Chimneys and Fireplaces
  • The chimney should be inspected for nesting animals trying to escape the cold. Squirrels and raccoons have been known to enter chimneys for this reason.
  • The damper should open and close with ease. Smoke should rise up the chimney when the damper is open. If it doesn’t, this means that there is an obstruction in the chimney that must be cleared before the fireplace can be used.
  • A chimney-cleaning service professional should clean the chimney if it has not been cleaned for several years.
  • The damper should be closed when the fireplace is not in use. An open damper might not be as obvious to the homeowner as an open window, but it can allow a significant amount of warm air to escape.
  • Glass doors can be installed in fireplaces and wood stoves to provide an extra layer of insulation.
Roofs
  • If debris is left in gutters, it can get wet and freeze, permitting the formation of ice dams that prevent water from draining. This added weight has the potential to cause damage to gutters. Also, trapped water in the gutter can enter the house and lead to the growth of mold. For these reasons, leaves, pine needles, and all other debris must be cleared from gutters. This can be done by hand or with a hose.
  • Missing shingles should be replaced.
Landscape
  • Patio furniture should be covered.
  • If there is a deck, it might need an extra coat of sealer.
Adequate winterization is especially crucial for homes that are left unoccupied during the winter. This sometimes happens when homeowners who own multiple properties leave one home vacant for months at a time while they occupy their summer homes. Foreclosed homes are sometimes left unoccupied, as well. The heat may be shut off in vacant homes in order to save money. Such homes must be winterized in order to prevent catastrophic building damage.
In addition to the information above, InterNACHI advises the following measures to prepare an unoccupied home for the winter:
  • Winterize toilets by emptying them completely. Antifreeze can be poured into toilets and other plumbing fixtures.
  • Winterize faucets by opening them and leaving them open.
  • Water tanks and pumps need to be drained completely.
  • Drain all water from indoor and outdoor plumbing.
  • Unplug all non-essential electrical appliances, especially the refrigerator. If no electrical appliances are needed, electricity can be shut off at the main breaker.
In summary, home winterization is a collection of preventative measures designed to protect homes against damage caused by cold temperatures. These measures should be performed in the fall, before it gets cold enough for damage to occur. Indoor plumbing is probably the most critical area to consider when preparing a home for winter, although other systems should not be ignored.Ste

Tools for Homeowners

Posted: February 4th, 2010 | Author: rbaake | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

15 Tools That Every Homeowner Should Own

By Nick Gromicko and Rob London Standard plunger
The following items are essential tools but this list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to ask an InterNACHI inspector during your next inspection about other tools that you might find useful.
1.  Plunger
A clogged sink or toilet is one of the most disturbing problems that you will face. With a plunger on hand, however, you can usually remedy these troubling plumbing issues relatively quickly. It is best to have two plungers — one for the sink and one for the toilet.
2.  Combination Wrench Set

One end of a combination wrench set is open and the other end is a closed loop. Nuts and bolts are manufactured in standard and metric sizes and because both varieties are widely used, so you?ll need both sets of wrenches. For the most control and leverage, always pull the wrench toward you, instead of pushing on it. Also, avoid over-tightening.

3.  Slip-Joint Pliers

Use slip-joint pliers to grab hold of a nail, a nut, a bolt, and much more. These types of pliers are versatile because of the jaws, which feature both flat and curved areas for gripping many types of objects. There is also a built-in slip-joint, which allows the user to quickly adjust the jaw size to suit most tasks.

4.  Adjustable WrenchCaulking gun

Adjustable wrenches are somewhat awkward to use and can damage a bolt or nut if they are not handled properly. However, adjustable wrenches are ideal for situations where you need two wrenches of the same size. Screw the jaws all the way closed to avoid damaging the bolt or nut.

5.  Caulking Gun
Caulking is the process of sealing up cracks and gaps in various structures and certain types of piping. Caulking can provide noise mitigation and thermal insulation, and control water penetration. Caulk should be applied only to areas that are clean and dry.
6.  Flashlight
None of the tools in this list is of any use if you cannot visually inspect the situation. The problem, and solution, are apparent only with a good flashlight. A traditional two-battery flashlight is usually sufficient, as larger flashlights may be too unwieldy.
7.  Tape Measure
Measuring house projects requires a tape measure, not a ruler or a yardstick. Tape measures come in many lengths, although 25 feet is best.  Measure everything at least twice to ensure accuracy.

8.  Hacksaw
These are great for cutting metal objects such as pipes, bolts and brackets. Torpedo levelHacksaws look thin and flimsy, but they?ll easily cut through even the hardest of metals. Blades are replaceable, so focus your purchase on a quality hacksaw frame.

9. Torpedo Level
Only a level can be used to determine if something, such as a shelf, appliance or picture, is correctly oriented. The torpedo-style level is unique because it not only shows when an object is perfectly horizontal or vertical, but it also has a gauge that shows when an object is at a 45-degree angle. The bubble in viewfinder must be exactly in the middle, not merely close.

10.  Safety Glasses / Goggles
For all tasks involving a hammer or a power tool, you should always wear safety glasses or goggles. They should also be worn while you mix chemicals.

11.  Claw Hammer
A good hammer is one of the most important tools you can own.  Use it to drive and remove nails, to pry wood loose from the house, and in combination with other tools. They come in a variety of sizes, although a 16-ounce hammer is the best all-purpose choice.

12.  Screwdriver Set
It is best to have four screwdrivers: a small and large version of both a flat-head and a Phillips- head screwdriver. Electrical screwdrivers areWire cutter sometimes convenient, but they’re no substitute.  Manual screwdrivers can reach into more places and they are less likely to damage the screw.

13.  Wire Cutters
Wire cutters are pliers designed to cut wires and small nails. The ?side-cutting? (unlike the stronger “end-cutting” style) style is handy, but not strong enough to cut small nails.

14.  Respirator / Safety Mask
While paints and other coatings have become less toxic (and lead-free) over time, most still contain dangerous chemicals, which is why you should wear a mask to avoid accidentally getting them in your lungs. A mask should also be worn when working in dusty or dirty environments. Disposable masks usually come in packs of 10 and should be thrown away after use. Full and half-face respirators can be used to prevent the inhalation of very fine particles that ordinary facemasks will not not stop.

15.  Duct Tape
This tape is extremely strong and adaptable. Originally, it was widely used to make temporary repairs to many types of military equipment. Today, it?s one of the key items specified for home emergency kits because it is water-resistant and extremely sticky.
In summary, the above is a list of tools that every homeowner should have.

Polybutylene Information

Posted: February 4th, 2010 | Author: rbaake | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Polybutylene for Inspectors

by Nick Gromicko, Rob London and Kenton Shepard

Polybutylene (PB) is a plastic manufactured between 1978 and 1994 for use as piping in home plumbing systems. It offered plenty of advantages over other materials such as flexibility, ease of installation, resistance to freezing, and it was inexpensive. Pipes made from polybutylene were installed in 6 to 10 million homes in the Unites States during that period. Despite its strengths, production was ceased in 1994 after scores of allegations surfaced claiming that polybutylene pipes were rupturing and causing property damage. In the homes that still contain this material, homeowners must either pay to have the pipes replaced or risk a potentially expensive plumbing failure.

How Does Polybutylene Fail?
Although it has never been scientifically proven, many believe that oxides from chlorine in public water react with the polybutylene and cause it to flake apart. Small fractures deepen over time and eventually work their way to the pipe exterior, allowing the water to escape. PB manufacturers such as Shell Oil and Dupont De Nemours maintain that the leakages reported are a result of improper installation, rather than the presence of any defects in the material itself. Manufacturers cite the fact that the majority of leaks occur at joints and unions, which is where a leak would likely appear if a pipe were improperly installed. Regardless of the cause, class action lawsuits filed against PB manufacturers have been successful and resulted in immense payouts to homeowners. The largest such claim was a $1 billion settlement paid by Shell Oil to select homeowners.
Polybutylene Pipes Should Be Replaced
Although no regulations require the replacement of polybutylene pipes with those made from other materials, many plumbers recommend this action, which can cost several thousand dollars. Leakage happens without warning and results in flooding and serious damage to a home?s interior if it is not immediately stopped. PB pipes behind sheetrock can leak unnoticed for long periods of time and cause mold and water damage. InterNACHI believes it is far cheaper to replace polybutylene pipes before they fail and release their contents onto floors, appliances and furniture. They can also reduce a home?s value or prolong its time on the market. Homeowners might face higher insurance premiums or be denied coverage entirely.
Identifying Polybutylene
An inspector can use the following tips to identify polybutylene plumbing. Polybutylene pipes are:
  • usually stamped with the code ?PB2110?;
  • flexible and sometimes curved, unlike rigid piping materials such as copper;
  • not used for waste, drain or vent piping;
  • most commonly grey in color, but they can also be white, silver, black or blue. Blue PB is used primarily outdoors and should only be used to carry cold water. Inspectors should be aware that black or white pipes might not be polybutylene (they might be polyethylene or PVC, respectively). Also, PB color is somewhat region-dependant. For instance, experienced home inspectors in California might never come across grey PB, while it is quite common elsewhere;
  • ½? to 1? in diameter.

Polybutylene pipes can be in a home?s interior or exterior in any of the following locations:

Interior:
  • protruding from walls to feed sinks and toilets;
  • running across the ceiling in unfinished basements;
  • near the water heater.

Exterior:

  • entering the home through the basement wall;
  • at the water meter;
  • at the main water shut-off valve.
Note:
  • An inspector should note the presence of polybutylene, but no actual inspection for weaknesses should be performed. Any deterioration of polybutylene pipes happens from within and cannot be detected without turning off the water and dismantling the pipe, which is far beyond the standards of practice of home inspection.
  • Inspectors should check an entire pipe for PB, not just a portion of it. Some copper piping systems have been found to use PB at junctures. A common example of this union is where PB pipe links with copper ?stub outs? that feed bathroom fixtures.
Other piping materials not to be confused with PB:
  • PEX (pictured at right) ? Common in radiant-heating systems, this cross-linked polyethylene can be black, blue or red. It is more easily coiled and more flexible than PB. It can withstand higher temperatures than polyethylene.
  • PVC ? A popular building material commonly used in residential plumbing. CPVC is derived from PVC and is also used in plumbing. Both appear white or off-white and can be flexible or rigid.
  • Polyethylene ? This material is flexible and black.
  • Copper ? Copper is a metal that should never be confused with PB.

In summary, PB pipes are substandard and inspectors should note their presence within residences. Clients should be made aware of the potential hazards posed by pipes made from this chemical. It might be difficult to identify PB by its color alone, so inspectors should also take into account other factors such as flexibility, location within the home, and identifying labels. If in doubt, a licensed plumber can be contacted to determine whether or not a pipe is made from PB.