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Intruder Alert: Moisture!

Unchecked moisture intrusion can lead to structural defects in a home over time, as well as health problems for the home’s family.

Some common moisture-related problems include:

  • Structural wood decay
  • High indoor humidity and resulting condensation
  • Expansive soil, which may crack or undermine the home’s foundation, or softened soil, which may lose its ability to support an overlying structure
  • Metal corrosion
  • Ice dams, which form in roof gutters that are undersized or obstructed and water isn’t allowed to drain properly
  • Mold growth.  Mold can only grow in the presence of high levels of moisture. People who suffer from the following conditions can be seriously or even fatally harmed if exposed to elevated levels of airborne mold spores: asthma, allergies, lung disease and/or compromised immune systems.

Note that people who do not suffer from these ailments may still be harmed by elevated levels of airborne mold spores.

How does moisture get into the house?
Homeowners should have a basic understanding of how moisture may enter a home and where problems are commonly found.

Moisture or water vapor moves into a house in the following ways:

  • Air infiltration. Air movement accounts for more than 98% of all water vapor movement through a building’s cavities. Air naturally moves from high-pressure areas to lower ones by the easiest path possible, such as a hole or crack in the building envelope. Moisture transfer by air currents is very fast—in the range of several hundred cubic feet of air per minute. Replacement air will infiltrate through the building envelope unless unintended air paths are carefully and permanently sealed.
  • Diffusion through building materials. Most building materials slow moisture diffusion to a large degree, although they never stop it completely.
  • Leaks from the roof, such as those caused by aging materials needing repair or replacement, storm damage, or deteriorated or unsealed areas around a chimney, skylight, or other roof penetration.
  • Plumbing leaks.
  • Flooding, which can be caused by seepage from runoff or rising groundwater.  It may be seasonal or catastrophic.
  • Household activities, including bathing, cooking, dishwashing, and washing clothes. Indoor plants, too, may be a significant source of high levels of indoor humidity.  Excess humidity that isn’t allowed to dissipate through adequate ventilation can build up into condensation, which can lead to moisture problems indoors.

Monitoring indoor humidity, introducing fresh air, providing adequate ventilation, and performing regular, seasonal home maintenance—in addition to having annual home inspections—will help homeowners monitor the different areas of the home that may harbor unwanted moisture intrusion and all the problems it can introduce.

The above InterNACHI article is brought to you by Epilogue Home Inspection

An Introduction to Mold

What Is Mold?
Mold is classified as a fungus and is part of the natural environment.  Outdoors, molds are essential for breaking down dead organic matter, such as fallen leaves and dead trees.  But indoors, mold growth should be prevented.  Not only is it unpleasant, as evidenced by its musty odor and unsightly staining, but it can cause significant and irreparable damage to a home’s structural components, as well as furnishings and carpeting.

How does it grow?
Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores, which are invisible to the naked eye and float through the air.  Mold may begin growing indoors when its spores land on surfaces that are wet.  There are many types of mold, but none of them will grow without water or moisture, which is why mold prevention begins by maintaining clean and dry surfaces wherever possible.

Health Effects of mold
Molds have the potential to cause health problems by producing irritants, allergens (which are substances that can cause allergic reactions), and even potentially toxic substances called mycotoxins.  Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals and even in those not generally allergic.  These reactions can include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, a runny nose, watery eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis).  Allergic reactions to mold are common, and they can be immediate or delayed.  Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold.  Very serious respiratory ailments can result from prolonged exposure to mold.

How do I get rid of mold?
The key to mold control is moisture control.  If mold is a problem in your home, you should clean up the mold promptly and fix the moisture problem, because mold cannot grow unless it has a water source, which usually means a plumbing leak or some structural damage that’s allowing water intrusion from the outside.  If you discover a leak or have experienced flooding, it’s important to completely and thoroughly clean and dry any water-damaged areas and items within 24 to 48 hours to prevent the onset of mold growth.  Surfaces and materials should be treated with an antimicrobial. Some severely water-damaged items that cannot be fully dried out or cleaned may need to be disposed of, such as books and rugs.  Be aware that it’s impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors.  Some mold spores may be found floating through the air and in household dust.  This is normal.  But mold spores will not grow into mold if moisture is not present.   If you clean up the mold but don’t fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will recur.  If mold damage is extensive, professional intervention may be required.  The easiest way to prevent mold growth indoors is by keeping your home clean and dry and monitoring indoor humidity levels.

The above InterNACHI article is brought to you by Epilogue Home Inspection

Barbecue Safety

With barbeque season already here, homeowners should heed the following safety precautions in order to keep their families and property safe.
Propane grills present an enormous fire hazard, as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is aware of more than 500 fires that result annually from their misuse or malfunction. The following precautions are recommended specifically when using propane grills:
Store propane tanks outdoors and never near the grill or any other heat source. In addition, never store or transport them in your car’s trunk.
Make sure to completely turn off the gas after you have finished, or when you are changing the tank. Even a small gas leak can cause a deadly explosion.
Check for damage to a tank before refilling it, and only buy propane from reputable suppliers.
Never use a propane barbecue grill on a terrace, balcony or roof, as this is dangerous and illegal.
No more than two 20-pound propane tanks are allowed on the property of a one- or two-family home.
To inspect for a leak, spray a soapy solution over the connections and watch for bubbles. If you see evidence of a leak, reconnect the components and try again. If bubbles persist, replace the leaking parts before using the grill.
Make sure connections are secure before turning on the gas, especially if the grill hasn’t been used in months. The most dangerous time to use a propane grill is at the beginning of the barbeque season.
Ignite a propane grill with the lid open, not closed. Propane can accumulate beneath a closed lid and explode.
When finished, turn off the gas first, and then the controls. This way, residual gas in the pipe will be used up.
Charcoal grills pose a serious poisoning threat due to the venting of carbon monoxide (CO). The CPSC estimates that 20 people die annually from accidentally ingesting CO from charcoal grills. These grills can also be a potential fire hazard. Follow these precautions when using charcoal grills:
Never use a charcoal grill indoors, even if the area is ventilated. CO is colorless and odorless, and you will not know you are in danger until it is too late.
Use only barbeque starter fluid to start the grill, and don’t add the fluid to an open flame. It is possible for the flame to follow the fluid’s path back to the container as you’re holding it.
Let the fluid soak into the coals for a minute before igniting them to allow explosive vapors to dissipate.
Charcoal grills are permitted on terraces and balconies only if there is at least 10 feet of clearance from the building, and a water source immediately nearby, such as a hose (or 4 gallons of water).
Be careful not to spill any fluid on yourself, and stand back when igniting the grill. Keep the charcoal lighter fluid container at a safe distance from the grill.
When cleaning the grill, dispose of the ashes in a metal container with a tight lid, and add water. Do not remove the ashes until they have fully cooled.
Fill the base of the grill with charcoal to a depth of no more than 2 inches.
Electric grills are probably safer than propane and charcoal grills, but safety precautions need to be used with them as well. Follow these tips when using electric grills:
Do not use lighter fluid or any other combustible materials.
When using an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the amperage required by the grill. The cord should be unplugged when not in use, and out of a busy foot path to prevent tripping.
As always, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Safety Recommendations for General Grill Use
Always make sure that the grill is used in a safe place, where kids and pets won’t touch or bump into it. Keep in mind that the grill will still be hot after you finish cooking, and anyone coming into contact with it could be burned.
If you use a grill lighter, make sure you don’t leave it lying around where children can reach it. They will quickly learn how to use it.
Never leave the grill unattended, as this is generally when accidents happen.
Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby.
Ensure that the grill is completely cooled before moving it or placing it back in storage.
Ensure that the grill is only used on a flat surface that cannot burn, and well away from any shed, trees or shrubs.
Clean out the grease and other debris in the grill periodically. Be sure to look for rust or other signs of deterioration.
Don’t wear loose clothing that might catch fire while you’re cooking.
Use long-handled barbecue tools and flame-resistant oven mitts.
Keep alcoholic beverages away from the grill; they are flammable!
In summary, homeowners should exercise caution when using any kind of grill, as they can harm life and property in numerous ways.

by Nick Gromicko

The above InterNACHI article is brought to you by Epilogue Home Inspection

New Tool for Brokers and Buyers Makes Repair Addendums Easy

I want to let you know about a new feature that will help protect agents and their buyers from liability when they use Epilogue Home Inspection. You are now able to create a Repair/Request List for your Repair Addendum directly from my inspection report! It’s easy and fast to do and has many advantages. For instance, agents and buyers can go over the request list over the phone while the agent helps guide the buyer on what to request. It removes liability by standardizing the process, so all parties are on the same page. No more re-typing from the inspector’s report or re-wording the inspector’s comments. It’s an exciting time for us and this feature is only available when you use Epilogue Home Inspection.

Extending the Life of Your Water Heater

We’ll call this the maintenance “5-minute”, because you’re probably going to invest more than a minute flat in draining your water heater- but the good news is that you don’t have to drain it completely as your manual may suggest to get most of the benefit from draining the tank.  Over time, any type of water heater tank will build up sediment- which has three harmful effects on your home’s hot water system.  First, the sediment takes up space, effectively making your water heater smaller.  Second, the sediment can insulate the bottom of the tank in a gas water heater where much of the flame’s heat is absorbed into the water, or even cover a lower element in an electric water heater causing a reduction in heating efficiency.  Third, the sediment scratches the glass lining of water heater tank, resulting in exposed metal – which leads to rust and eventual tank failure.

You can extend the life of the tank and increase the efficiency of the system by simply draining a couple gallons of water off the bottom of the tank.  First, shut the unit down, either by turning the gas valve to “pilot” or “off”, or flipping of the breaker to an electric unit.  Second, turn off the cold water supply line, usually located on the right side as you face the unit.  Attach a garden hose to the drain valve on the water heater tank, and run it to a drain or to the exterior of the home.  Turn on a hot water faucet somewhere in your home to allow the water to flow, (I recommend the tub filler) and then open the drain valve toward the bottom of the tank.  Check the color of the water that drains- at first it may appear dark, but after just a few gallons it will become clear.  At that point, you can close the drain.  Turn the cold water supply back on, and then turn off the hot water faucet you had turned on previously.  Turn the power or gas supply back on, and you’re done!

The next time you turn on a hot water faucet, there may be a couple air pockets, so don’t worry if you hear a bit of noise.