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Mold: Driving you up the wall?

Mold is most commonly caused by moisture, humidity and lack of ventilation. It stands to reason, therefore – what with the likes of plumbing leaks and badly insulated pipes – that walls commonly fall prey to this fungal fiend. Not only can this cause health problems but also structural ones, so definitely not something to ignore!

What else do you need to know?

Is it mold?

Some signs to look out for include:

  • Cracked or peeling paint
  • Discoloration
  • Black streaks
  • Bulging
  • Musty smell

Mold or mildew?

 Determine this before getting to work, as mildew won’t cause structural damage so may require less aggressive methods.

The material of your walls

must also be considered before acting. For example, certain walls, such as drywall, will most likely need to be replaced altogether after being affected by mold.

React

  • Always wear protective gear when tackling any type of mold – from rubber gloves to safety goggles – and remove as soon as you’re finished to prevent spreading spores throughout your home.
  • Ventilate the area before getting to work by opening windows, using a fan – or both!
  • Unless your walls are concrete* – DO NOT USE BLEACH as this can contribute further to the problem (not to mention the fact that it can permanently ruin your walls, too.).
  • Instead, try more natural methods, such as vinegar, to eliminate the deep root of mold, after using a soap and water spray first to get rid of superficial stains. Avoid using brushes as these can both release and spread the spores instead of containing them.
  • No matter what you use, dry the area afterwards with a soft cloth.
  • Call in the plumbers if the mold has been caused by leaky or badly insulated pipes.
  • Watch out for penetrating damp, which is where cracks or holes in an external wall is compromised, thus leaving a musty smell and cold temperatures indoors.

*Always test bleach on a small patch of wall before tackling it head-on

Prevent

  •  Specialized products, such as an anti-microbial spray or anti-mildew paint can help prevent spores from re-emerging.
  • A dehumidifier in badly affected areas can also work wonders in preventing mold long-term. Aim to keep humidity levels between 30% and 50%.
  • Invest in insulation. Walls that are properly insulated will be less affected by condensation and, therefore, mold.
  • Ventilate ventilate ventilate – especially after a shower and whilst cooking.
  • Dry items properly (yes, that means always hanging up towels after use!).
  • Check for leaks regularly and tackle immediately – as well as ensuring your roof is not compromised and your gutters are always clear.
  • Invest in double glazing.
  • Clean, dust and vacuum
  • Avoid drying your clothes indoors wherever possible.

Why Get a Home Inspection If You’re Buying “As Is”?

Some sellers – often, those working without an agent – want to sell their home “as is” so they don’t have to invest money fixing it up or take on any potential liability for defects.  There is nothing wrong with buying a home “as is,” particularly if you can buy it at a favorable price, but if you are considering buying an “as is” home, you should still hire a competent home inspector to perform an inspection.  There are several reasons for this.

First, you don’t know what “as is” is. Sure, you can walk through the home and get an idea of its general condition.  You may even spot some defects or items in obvious need of repair.  But you won’t obtain the same detailed information you will receive if you hire a home inspector.  Home inspectors are trained to look for things you are not likely to notice.  InterNACHI inspectors, for example, must follow InterNACHI’s Residential Standards of Practice and check the roof, exterior, interior, foundation, basement, fireplace, attic, insulation, ventilation, doors, windows, heating system, cooling system, plumbing system, and electrical system for certain defects.  Armed with a home inspector’s detailed report, you will have a better idea of what “as is” means regarding that home, which means you’ll be in a better position to know whether you want to buy it.  You may also be able to use information from the home inspection to negotiate a lower price.

Second, many states require the seller to provide you with written a disclosure about the condition of the property.  Sellers often provide little information, and a few even lie.  A home inspection can provide the missing information. If an inspector finds evidence that a seller concealed information or lied to you, that may be a sign that you don’t want to buy a home from that seller.

Finally, if you buy a home “as is” without hiring a home inspector and then later discover a defect, all is not lost.  A home inspector may be able to review the seller’s disclosure and testify as to what the seller knew or should have known about.  The inspector may find evidence that the seller made misrepresentations or concealed relevant information from you.  Even the seller of an “as is” home may be held liable for misrepresentation or concealment.

But the better choice, obviously, is to hire a home inspector first.  Remember:  The cost of a home inspection is a pittance compared to the price of the home.  Be an informed consumer, especially when buying an “as is” home, and hire Slab-2-Shingles professional home inspectors.

Attached Garage Fire Hazards

The purpose of this article is twofold. First we’d like you to take measures to keep your garage free from fire. Fortunately, there are ways this can be done, some of which are described below. Secondly, garage fires do happen, and we’d like you to make sure that a fire cannot not easily spread to the rest of your house. While you can perform many of the recommendations in this article yourself, it is a good idea to hire an inspector to make sure your home is safe from a garage fire.

Why do many garages pose a fire hazard?

  • Where are you most likely to do any welding, or any work on your car? These activities require working with all sorts of flammable materials.
  • Water heaters and boilers are usually stored in garages, and they can create sparks that may ignite fumes or fluids. Car batteries, too, will spark under certain conditions.
  • Oil and gasoline can drip from cars. These fluids may collect unnoticed and eventually ignite, given the proper conditions.
  • Flammable liquids, such as gasoline, motor oil and paint are commonly stored in garages. Some other examples are brake fluid, varnish, paint thinner and lighter fluid.

The following tips can help prevent garage fires and their spread:

  • If the garage allows access to the attic, make sure a hatch covers this access.
  • The walls and ceiling should be fire-rated. Unfortunately, it will be difficult for untrained homeowners to tell if their walls are Type X fire-rated gypsum. An inspector can examine the walls and ceiling to make sure they are adequate fire barriers.
  • The floor should be clear of clutter. Loose papers, matches, oily rags, and other potentially  flammable items are extremely dangerous if they are strewn about the garage floor.
  • Use light bulbs with the proper wattage, and do not overload electrical outlets.
  • Tape down all cords and wires so they are not twisted or accidentally yanked.

If there is a door that connects the garage to the living area, consider the following:

  • Do not install a pet door in the door! Flames can more easily spread into the living area through a pet door, especially if it’s made of plastic.
  • Does the door have a window? An inspector can inspect the window to tell if it’s fire-rated.
  • The door should be self-closing. While it may be inconvenient, especially while carrying groceries into the house from the car, doors should be self-closing. You never know when a fire will happen, and it would be unfortunate to accidentally leave the door open while a fire is starting in the garage.
  • Check the joints and open spaces around the door. Are they tightly sealed? Any openings at all can allow dangerous fumes, such as carbon monoxide or gasoline vapor, to enter the living area. An inspector can recommend ways to seal the door so that fumes cannot enter the living area.

Concerning items placed on the floor, you should check for the following:

  • Store your flammable liquids in clearly labeled, self-closing containers, and only in small amounts. Keep them away from heaters, appliances, pilot lights and other sources of heat or flame.
  • Never store propane tanks indoors. If they catch fire, they can explode. Propane tanks are sturdy enough to be stored outdoors.
In summary, there are plenty of things that you can do to prevent garage fires from spreading to the rest of the house, or to keep them from starting in the first place. However, it is highly recommended that you have your garage periodically examined by an inspector.

Inspecting the HVAC System for Duct Leaks and Energy Loss

Many homes are equipped with central forced-air systems that rely on ducts to transport heated or cooled air from the furnace or heat pump to the rest of the home. If the ducts are leaky, this can lead to poor HVAC performance and comfort problems through loss of heated or cooled air, creating a loss of air pressure in the ducts. Air leakage problems can be worst at the HVAC furnace or air handler cabinet, where air pressures are highest. Cabinet seams, holes, and junctions should be sealed to prevent air leakage. The only place air should be able to leave the supply duct system and the furnace or air-handling unit is at the supply registers. The only place air should be able to enter the return duct system and the furnace or air-handling unit is at the return grilles.

In high-performance homes, all HVAC equipment, including the furnace or heat pump air handler and any ducts, should be located within the thermal envelope of the home. When the air handler is located within the conditioned space, it is tempting to think that sealing the cabinet is not that important because conditioned air will leak into the home rather than being lost to an attic or crawlspace. However, sealing cabinet air leaks is still very important for maximizing the performance of the HVAC equipment because it helps to ensure maximum air flow to the ducts. In a central forced-air system, the highest air pressures are experienced at the air handler, with pressures increasing the closer one gets to the air-handler fan. It is common for air pressures in the supply and return plenum at the air handler to equal or exceed 0.5-inch water column (125 Pascals). Therefore, it is critical to seal up the knockouts, seams, and slots in the air-handler cabinet.

Gas- or oil-fired furnaces are typically equipped with an add-on refrigerant coil (called the evaporator coil) to provide cooling during the summer months (see Figure 1 below). The connection between the evaporator coil cabinet and the furnace cabinet is likely the highest point of pressure in the system and can be a large source of leakage if care is not taken to seal this juncture properly during installation. Refrigerant coil cabinets do not always fit directly on top of the furnace; many coil cabinets have a larger footprint than the furnace, so the seam between the two boxes is uneven. The coil cabinet should be sealed to the furnace using mastic or an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 181-approved foil tape. For larger gaps (greater than 3/8-inch) mastic and fiberglass mesh tape should be used.

Figure 1. Air seal all holes and seams in the furnace cabinet with mastic, foil tape, or putty. Pay special attention to sealing the junction between the furnace cabinet and the evaporator coil cabinet.

Air handlers (see Figure 2 below), furnaces, and evaporator coil cabinets come from the factory with holes in the form of knockouts, penetrations, and slots for installing piping and wiring. These holes are there for ease of installation and service. However, when installation is completed, any unused holes should be sealed, along with any gaps around wiring and piping. Holes where the condensate line and refrigerant lines penetrate the evaporator coil cabinet will be the next highest pressure point, and depending on the model, these may be a point of negative pressure. Seal around these lines with non-hardening putty. Use non-hardening putty to seal around pipes, tubing, and conduit penetrations in the air-handler cabinet as well. This putty comes in strips, slugs, and cords (see Figure 3) and does not dry out but remains pliable so it can be removed and reapplied. Seal unused electrical and piping knockouts with mastic.

The third point of high (negative) pressure is the area of the cabinet that houses the indoor blower fan. With respect to indoor air quality, this may be considered the most concerning area for air leakage, especially if the furnace is located in a garage or any other area where chemicals are stored or where there is exposure to carbon monoxide. Any seams or unused holes should be sealed with mastic.

The connections with the supply and return plenums are additional areas that experience high pressures. These seams and other cabinet seams should be sealed with mastic, mastic and fiberglass mesh tape, or UL-approved tape.

There are some penetrations in a furnace cabinet that are not considered leakage points. The furnace in Figure 1 is a condensing gas furnace. The penetrations for the condensate line for the condensing gas furnace, vent pipes, gas line, and high voltage wiring (not shown) are not connected to the conditioned air stream and therefore are not areas of concern for leakage.

Regarding cabinet panels that must be periodically removed for routine maintenance of the HVAC equipment, some HVAC technicians suggest using cloth-backed duct tape to seal the panel seams because it is easy to remove or cut through.

Figure 2. Air seal a heat pump or air conditioner air-handler cabinet at all seams, holes, and junctions.

Figure 3. Non-hardening removable putty can be used to seal around wiring holes in the HVAC cabinet.
How to Air Seal the HVAC Cabinet

The furnace or air handler and all associated ducting should be installed within the conditioned space of the home. An air handler should be selected that has a manufacturer’s designation showing that air leakage is no more than 2% of the design air flow rate when tested in accordance with ASHRAE 193 (per 2012 IECC R403.2.2.1).

UL-approved gaskets, mastic, mastic plus embedded fiberglass mesh fabric, or UL 181 A or B tape should be used to seal all cabinet seams and junctures between the air handler or furnace cabinet and the evaporator coil cabinet, the supply plenum, and the return plenum.
Putty should be applied around all conduit and wiring holes.
All unused conduit knockouts should be sealed with UL-listed tape or mastic. Seal all fixed seams in the cabinets, and all seams between the cabinet and the supply or return plenums with mastic or mastic and fiberglass mesh fabric.
A sealing putty should be used to seal the inside of the high-voltage wire conduit termination point in the air handler after the wiring has been installed.
Check the insulation inside the air handler where the conduit enters. If the insulation has been compromised, it should be repaired with approved spray glue and additional insulation.

A duct blower tester could be conducted to test the airtightness of the air-handler/furnace cabinet and ducts. The duct system could be verified to meet code or program airtightness requirements.

Code Reference
The 2015 IRC M1601 says that the ductwork joints, seams and connections must be securely fastened and sealed gaskets, welds, mastics, mastics with fabric systems, liquid sealants or tapes.
Summary
Leaky ducts can dump conditioned air into attics and crawlspaces, or pull in air from these same types of spaces. Both outcomes waste energy and reduce the amount of heated or cooled air that reaches its destination, and can cause other problems with odors and contaminants. Home inspectors can check that professionally sealed comfort-delivery systems are well sealed at all seams and connections with approved sealing tape or mastic, a type of paint-on adhesive, before they are insulated. To help get air where it is needed, at the correct temperature and without contaminants from the crawlspace or attic, check the air sealing at the HVAC cabinet and duct seams.

How Your Smart Home Can Help You Prepare for the Next Big Storm

As high-tech as our modern homes have become, we’re still at the mercy of Mother Nature every time the next big storm rolls through. While there’s not much you can do to put a stop to strong winds, power outages, and flooding, the right smart home tech can give you a leg up in keeping your home protected in the midst of an emergency.

As you put together your disaster kit and emergency plan, consider these smart home recommendations — they could make all the difference between a short-term inconvenience and a long-term disaster.

Stay Connected Even When the Grid Goes Down

Before you invest in several smart home tools, you’ll want to make sure you have the power you need to keep those tools going when you need them the most. Invest in an uninterrupted power supply (or UPS) to keep your Internet connection and WiFi operational during the next power outage. A UPS can kick in the second the power drops, and even a mid-range device can keep your critical systems running for 12 hours or more.

If you live in an area that’s prone to hurricanes or other natural disasters that can cause long-term outages, consider investing in a small generator that can power your tech for days and keep essential appliances (like the refrigerator, HVAC system, and medical devices) up and running.

Keep an Eye on Your Property, Wherever You Are

Whether you’re stuck inside riding out the storm, or you’re hundreds of miles away and worried about your property from afar, a few wireless smart cameras can give you a full view of a storm and help you immediately know the difference between just a few broken branches or a devastating weather emergency.

Today’s WiFi cameras are affordable and easy to install.  Although they’re intended for general home security, their motion-based recording and night-vision capabilities can make them valuable allies the next time bad weather descends on your town.

Many of these cameras are battery-run (allowing them to function when the power goes out), and their recordings can also come in handy for filing claims with your insurance company. You can check footage right from your mobile device from anywhere. They’re great for keeping your family safe and informed every day, but, more importantly, they can be a lifesaver in the event of an emergency.

Get Alerts When Water Gets In

As you outfit your house with smart home tools, grab a few water sensors to put in key areas, such as the basement and near the patio doors, where there’s a high risk of water leaks or flooding. These battery-powered sensors are inexpensive and work with almost any smart home hub, making them a valuable addition.

As long as your home’s wireless network is running, a water sensor can send your smartphone or tablet a notification the instant a water emergency is detected, helping you stop a leak in a matter of minutes and avoid a potentially disastrous water emergency in the process.

The Simplicity of Staying Storm-Safe

These devices are simple to use and set up — they can be integrated into one system with a smart home hub set up by your local cable or Internet service provider. The right smart home upgrades will not only have a dramatic impact on your daily productivity, but they will also provide a critical safety net that can keep your family safe, and save you thousands of dollars in the midst of a weather emergency — and possibly save you even more on your homeowner’s insurance policy. There’s no smarter way to be prepared in any type of weather.

15 Tools Every Homeowner Should Own (Part 3)

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 flathead and a Phillips-head screwdriver. Electrical screwdrivers areWire cuttersometimes 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 style (unlike the stronger end-cutting style) is handy, but not strong enough to cut small nails.

14.  Respirator / Safety Mask
While paints and other coatings are now manufactured to be less toxic (and lead-free) than in previous decades, most still contain dangerous chemicals, which is why you should wear a mask to avoid accidentally inhaling. A mask should also be worn when working in dusty and 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 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.

15 Tools Every Homeowner Should Own (Part 2)

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
A hacksaw is useful 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 the 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.

What Is A Wind Mitigation and Why You NEED It

 WHAT IS A WIND MITIGATION INSPECTION AND WHY YOU NEED THIS INSPECTION FOR YOUR HOME IN SOUTH WEST FLORIDA

(NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, BONTIA SPRINGS & ESTERO)

State of Florida Building Code

In 2001 the State of Florida adopted the 2001 Florida Building code.  This code set forth more stringent requirements for the construction of a new home in order to withstand a hurricane. This new building code became effective on March 1, 2002 for any home that had a building permit issued after that date. Therefore, this is especially important for coastal cities such as Naples, Marco Island, Bonita Springs and Estero. Per the new laws, a Wind Mitigation Inspection performed by a licensed Inspector can save homeowners thousands off their insurance premiums.

 

Wind Mitigation For House Insurance

The State of Florida created the Uniform Wind Mitigation Inspection Form. A licensed inspector completes the Uniform Wind Mitigation Form while performing the Wind Mitigation Inspection. A wind mitigation inspection measures your home’s ability to withstand a hurricane. Consequently insurance companies will use your wind mitigation inspection to evaluate discounts applied to your insurance premium.

View a copy of the Florida Uniform Wind Mitigation Form

Wind Mitigation Form

 

A Wind Mitigation Inspection evaluates seven different components of your house.  The insurance companies use the answers on your wind mitigation report to determine the discount.

Factors A Home Inspector Considers For A Wind Mitigation:
  • What year was the house constructed?
  • What year was the roof installed?
  • How is the roof deck attached to the roof trusses?
  • How are the roof trusses attached to the house walls?
  • What is the geometry or shape of the roof?
  • Does the roof sheathing have Secondary Water Resistance protection?
  • What type of wind and missile protection do the windows, doors and garage doors have?

 

The seven wind mitigation components are not rated equally. When determining your insurance discount, each component has a different rank. Certain components are more important than other components in a Wind Mitigation Inspection.

 

Discounts For Wind Mitigation’s

The State of Florida adopted the new 2001 Florida Building Code, which became effective on houses that were permitted for construction on or after March 1, 2002. The new codes imposed more stringent building requirements on the construction of all new homes and roof coverings. Therefore, any house permitted for construction after March 1, 2002 will receive more discounts than a house permitted for construction prior to that date.

 

Since the 2001 Code was adopted, the State of Florida has adopted numerous modifications to its Building Code.  These modifications require that additional hurricane protections be installed in every new home permitted after the effective date of the new Florida Building Code.  The main addition, to the 2004 Florida Building Code, is the requirement that all glass openings in a house be protected by impact rated windows and doors or that all glass openings be protected by impact rated shutters.

 

Therefore to qualify for a discount on a homeowner’s insurance policy, a state licensed wind mitigation inspector must conduct the wind mitigation inspection. For twenty years, Slab-2-Shingles has performed thousands of home inspections in Southwest Florida. Slab-2-Shingles’ licensed inspectors are available to service homes in the Naples, Marco Island, Bonita Springs and Estero areas. Call 1-239-262-0058 now to schedule your wind mitigation with one of our friendly and professionally licensed inspectors and start saving on your home insurance today!

 

We hope this information has helped explain the importance of having a wind mitigation inspection and how this service coupled with certain component of your home effect your homeowner’s insurance rates. You can find more information on Wind Mitigation inspections and other important information concerning related inspections for your home such as radon inspections, mold inspections, home inspections and home watch servies at our web site Slab2shingles.com.