Tag Archives: home inspection

MOLD – The Dreaded Four Letter Word

Remember, back in the day, when the scariest thing about mold that we had to worry about was accidentally biting into a piece of bread that had “gone green?” It was something you grew in your refrigerator for the science fair. Heck, we even learned that scientists made life-saving penicillin from mold! How bad could it be, right? Well, in more recent years, we have LEARNED how bad it can be. The EPA has estimated that over 100 million Americans live in toxic indoor air environments, and that more than 100,000 types of mold exist. Varieties of mold can cause illness, depression, irritate asthma, and, in extreme cases, be related to death. (And they let us grow this stuff for the middle school science fair?!) No matter who you are, or where you live, everyone needs to reduce the amount of mold and mildew in the air they are breathing in. If you smell a musty odor in your home or workplace, there is a good chance that it’s probably mold or mildew. Of course, once you actually see mold in your home or office, then you know you have a problem. The bad news is, most of the toxic mold floating around in our air is actually invisible to the naked eye, but it still may be seriously affecting your health. Basements are often a culprit. They act as a catch basin for rain and melting snow, and are often damp, in general. Wet or damp basements can cause mold to grow and, subsequently, affect your family’s health, without your even knowing about it. Bathrooms, which, by their very definition and use are creators of warm moisture, are another culprit. Ironically, efforts by well-meaning homeowners can often exacerbate mold growth instead of fixing it. Most of us learned over the years that bleach is the enemy of mold. Bleach does remove TOPICAL mold, but it does not address the underlying moisture problem. Not only that, but since most of us would be using a mixture of bleach and WATER . . . . well, therein lies the problem. Likewise, using UV lights or high-heat drying only provides temporary benefits. Oh, and, by the way . . . . “mold-resistant” does NOT mean “mold-proof.” So do not be lulled into a false sense of security about the products used in your basement!

If you suspect that your home might be damp, mildewed, or moldy, here are a few things you can do:

• First of all, investigate your home for moisture leakage. If you find any moisture leaks, clean them up with a dry towel immediately and find the source of the leak. If it is a plumbing issue, get it taken care of.  Moisture breeds mold, so controlling moisture leaks in your home or place of work will reduce the mold’s ability to thrive. Be sure to check window and skylights for leaks.

• Mold LOVES warm and wet places! Invest in a high-quality dehumidifier and test your home for mold over-growth. If you can, invest in a good quality air purification system that employs both a HEPA filter and UV & negative ion technologies.

• VENTILATE!!! Temperatures above 75° F, as well as poorly lit rooms and unmoving air, can actually create more mold. Keep fresh air moving in your home, as well as bright sunlight coming in through your windows. This will help reduce toxic mold. Open a window while you take a shower, if possible.

• Change air filters regularly in heating and air-conditioning vents. This is something we often forget to do, but it can be so important! Make sure your clothes dryer has an anti-humidity vent, as well.

• Keep your home at a moderate temperature, at around 68 – 72 degrees during the day, and keep the humidity level low.

• Check closets for mold growth. This is especially important if you have ever placed wet or damp clothing in your closets. If you find mold in your closet, wash ALL of your clothes immediately to help clean any possible mold spores, and do not return those clothes to the closet until after it is cleaned.

• If you will be cleaning up or removing active or dead mold, be absolutely sure to protect yourself! Wear a mask, eye protection, and protective gloves that filter mold. When cleaning, slightly wet the mold to lessen the amount of airborne spores in the breathing atmosphere while you are cleaning. This can be done with a wet cloth. Scrub hard surfaces infested in mold with a non-ammonia soap. Non-toxic, organic soap is best for the environment. Porous surface cannot be cleaned of mold. Things like moldy carpeting, drywall, wallpaper, fabric, or other porous surfaces, must be completely removed and replaced. If you have mold on the structural support of your home or office building, it may not be cleaned out by scrubbing alone. It may have to be sanded. Don’t forget to wear the appropriate protective coverings.

• Remember, the best prevention for mold is to KEEP THINGS DRY and always use a good air purification system!

And, if you have a serious mold problem, don’t fool around with it! Call a professional! Mold can be tough. But you’re tougher! Just a few preventive measures, and small clean-ups, can keep you and your family safe, and protect the investment that is your home. And, hey, if the kids want to grow some mold for the science fair, let ‘em. Just keep it contained and controlled. The world doesn’t really need one more erupting tabletop volcano, anyway. And let’s make the world a better place by banishing Mold – The

 

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How To Deal With Termites In Your New Jersey Home

Termite DamageWe’ve all seen them in the old cartoons.  Cute little animated creatures with smiling faces and swirly antennae, that with a whirring sound and a cloud of speedy dust,  eat an entire home from basement to attic, leaving nothing but the bricks from the chimney.  But the real ones are far less cute, and, honestly, who cares if they’re smiling?  They are resilient, can survive in basically any environment, are blind, and actually eat . . . . yes,  EAT . . . consume . . . the wood your home is made of.  There may be no cartoon whirring noise, and the roof might not fall down around you with seconds of their arrival, but the damage can be very palpable.

Termite infestations cause more than a billion dollars worth of damage every year in the United States.  Since termites eat wood from the inside out, you can’t always tell just by looking at beams or floor joists whether or not you’ve got them in your home.  But there are a number of ways to determine if they are there, eating your home silently from the inside out.  And searching for them is a routine part of any home inspection.

Sometimes pencil-thin hollow mud tubes can be seen snaking up foundation walls .  These tubes usually act as pathways from their nest to their feeding area, and as protection from the elements. Poking at suspected termite feeding grounds with a screwdriver can also bring you answers, but be sure you are prepared to face those answers when you are standing there with the screwdriver still in your hand.  (Ick!). Believe it or not, some experts actually listen to beams and joists with a stethoscope to listen for the sounds of chewing termites.  (Again, ick!)   Of course, there is the less-recommended method of simply waiting for the wood damage to become evident and perhaps irreversible in your home.

Once you now you’ve got them, there are several ways to eliminate termites.  By far, the most common method is injecting a termiticide, a slow-acting poison, into the ground around the house at intervals, to form a sort of barrier.  The unsuspecting and unseeing termites walk through it, getting it on their bodies in the process. Then, when they go back to the nest and come into contact with other termites, the poison is passed around to unsuspecting family members, eventually wiping out the entire colony. Exterminators may also bury bait stations in holes dug around the house, with believe it or not, bits of wood as bait, to help in their monitoring of exactly where the feeding and nesting stations are.  They can then inject the termiticide into bored holes more directly connected with feeding stations.

Unfortunately, termite exterminations are not exactly cheap.  Depending on the type of treatment and the size of the property being treated, the cost can run from $1,000 to $2,000. Of course, it would probably cost even more than that to pay Grandma’s medical bills when she falls through the hole in the floor that the termites have eaten.  So it’s all relative.  Not to mention the fact that you are also buying peace of mind, and preventing feeling the heebie-jeebies every time you walk into your basement to do laundry, knowing you are not alone and are greatly outnumbered.  It’s definitely NOT a problem to be ignored, but it’s also not insurmountable.  Just remember – it’s YOUR house, and you are mightier than the termite!

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We Live in NJ. – Sometimes We Have Gas!

radon test new jersey real estateToday is Home Inspection Day for my Sellers, and one of the tests the Buyers’ Home Inspector will be doing is a test for Radon. Here in New Jersey, there is a particularly uranium-rich geological formation, called the Reading Prong, which stretches from Pennsylvania through northwestern New Jersey into Southern New York State. Testing of homes built along this formation, as well as homes in other areas on NJ, have revealed elevated levels of Radon, so testing is now standard.

Many of my clients are not familiar with Radon, or have “heard of it” but are not quite sure what it is, and what elevated levels might mean for the sale of their home. Radon gas is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that can pose a serious health risk if it becomes trapped under your house. It comes from the breakdown of naturally occurring uranium in soil and rock, and typically enters the home through underground crawl spaces, sump pump pits and gaps in the basement foundation. The presence of elevated Radon is a concern because it can pollute your indoor air with its toxic vapors, and is held responsible for more than 20,000 lung-disease-related deaths every year. Radon is assumed to be present in millions of American homes.

How do you detect the presence of radon gas, and how can you reduce its presence and influence if it is found in your home? First, have your home tested by a professional. It is important to hire one who is licensed or certified by state and/or local agencies. They will conduct diagnostic testing to determine if radon gas is at acceptable levels (BELOW 4.0 pCi/L of radon) (see http://www.epa.gov/radon/ for more info) If levels are determined to be elevated, the contractor can mitigate by installing a radon reduction system.

The mitigation system most commonly used is a sub-slab depressurization system. This system uses venting and sealing to lower radon levels in the home. A pipe is installed that runs from below the basement flooring to above the roofline, with a fan at the top that draws radon out from under the slab. Cracks and openings in the foundation are sealed, and the radon is vented through the pipe to the outside, where it is quickly diluted. This is a relatively inexpensive mitigation, typically around $1500 and does not require any major changes to the home. If a system is put in place, make sure the company checks the house after the system is installed, to verify that it is reducing the radon levels and that the issue has been resolved.

So, fear not. In most homes, the Radon level will be under the 4.0 pCi/L level that requires action, and in the instances where a home does have elevated levels of Radon, the remediation is not too difficult to perform! The most important step is to hire a licensed and qualified inspector!

To learn more about Radon and view the US Radon Map, visit http://www.epa.gov/radon/states/newjersey.html

Flickr Creative Commons Photo Attribution: Birdies100

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