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HOUSECALL INSPECTIONS
(773) 296-6600

 
Hello! What a year this has been. Many great things have occurred this year, including the newest additions to the HouseCall staff, Kevin Buchar, and Peter Duvolackis. Steve and Peter completed the ITA inspection training course in January and February respectively, and joined the company after completing the State licensing exam.  Both certainly bring new insight to inspections, and will be well received by clients.
 
In this quarter’s newsletter, I thought I’d share with you updates on issues of new hot topic - MOLD. I’ve been getting my hands on lots of information, but opinions from the ‘experts’ still vary wildly. Here are some clips from a news article, and some comments of my own. I apologize if it sounds like a term paper, but hopefully it will address some of your client’s more pressing questions, and silence some of the hysteria.

Enjoy the warmer weather, and we’ll write again in the fall. We’ll have articles about paint, asbestos, and heating tips.

Sincerely,

Mark Lozeron, President

Effects of mold not fully known
By Jim Shamp:  The Herald-Sun  Raleigh, North Carolina August 16tth, 2003.

A leading national group of scientists is expected to unroll the best available evidence [regarding mold] sometime during the next four months, possibly offering guidance for future research and cleanup efforts.

"The bottom line is that we still do not know how much exposure it takes to which molds to produce significant health effects," said Dorr Dearborn, professor and director of the MaryAnn Swetland Center.

"It's not a simple thing like lead exposure, in which we can measure blood levels and know 'this much' will cause 'these sorts of problems.  Instead, we're dealing with multiple molds that may or may not be producing multiple toxins and may or may not be producing multiple health effects," said the pediatric pulmonologist, a lung specialist, who conducts mold research.

Scientists have known for a long time that molds can trigger allergies in sensitive people
"Institutions need to exercise prudence so people don't get sick," he said. "But they also don't necessarily

need to evacuate every building containing mold. We just don't have concrete data to tell people how to walk that line."

"They've been debating this for almost a year and a half, and they're coming up with a report on the current state of the art research on indoor air quality including mold toxicity.  There's a lot of published research information about the dangers to animals and humans in eating some toxic molds, he said. "But the current level of knowledge is inadequate regarding the usual inhalation of molds in living environments."   Whenever society doesn't have enough knowledge to establish safety standards in those kinds of situations, there's controversy, he added. "It can range from hysteria, being blown out of proportion by rather large lawsuits, for example, to the other extreme, of inadequate public health prudence."

Darryl Zeldin, a pulmonologist and investigator with the National Institute of Environmental Health Services says "You always want to be conservative about this sort of thing. But just because there's fungus in a building doesn't mean it will cause serious disease among people inhabiting that building. Before throwing millions of dollars at it, I'd want to get opinions from top experts."

Dearborn said modern building techniques have created "new ecologies" with new problems, in part because builders now use paper-covered gypsum board, called wallboard, rather than lath and plaster for wall surfaces.

"The gypsum part of the wallboard can hold water for a long time," he said, "so you then have moisture held into the paper covering it. Mold is normally not a problem because it's slow growing and requires continuous moisture to support it. But if you have a chronic moisture situation on a substrate such as this paper, you can have mold. And molds capable of producing toxins, such as the Stachybotrys chartarum [the black mold], that love to grow on wallboard."

Another modern building technique contributing to mold problems, especially in the United States, is improper air handling associated with heating and air conditioning, said Dearborn. It's been increasing during the past 30 years, fueled by energy consciousness.
In general, many buildings are sealed to prevent inefficient air leaks. But contractors don't then provide for the necessary exchanges of stale, moist indoor air with fresh air from outside  "Our position, from the practical standpoint, is that if you have mold, you have a moisture issue," said Herring. "And that has to be addressed.

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Here are some of the questions and answers that you, your clients (and your mother?) might most want to know.

What is MOLD?  How does it grow?

Mold is part of the natural environment. Outdoor mold naturally occurs - breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees.  Mold reproduce by means of tiny spores, invisible to the naked eye, floating through outdoor and indoor air. It begins growing indoors when these spores land on surfaces that are wet. There are many types of mold, and NONE will grow without WATER or MOISTURE.

How do I get rid of mold?

It is impossible to get rid of all molds and mold spores.  Some spores will be found floating through the air and in house dust. The mold spores will not grow if moisture is not present. Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture indoors. If there is mold growth, you must clean up the mold and repair the water problem. If you clean up the mold, but ignore the water problem, then most likely the mold problem will be back.

Can I prevent it?

The most important consideration to keep in mind for preventing toxic mold is that fungi and mold need a moist, wet, or damp environment in order to thrive. By maintaining a clean dry home, bad mold species cannot begin to grow.

Which mold is "bad" mold?

It is often extremely difficult to distinguish between toxic mold and those that don't pose a risk. Most types of mold appear quite similar---black or gray sooty patches. The good news is that even if toxic mold are in or around a home, most homeowners remove them through normal cleaning before they are able to grow to a size where they would pose any concern.  Regardless of the type of mold that is found in a particular home, the level of concern depends on the size of the mold manifestation. A concern occurs when mold reaches a size of roughly 2 square feet. Also of concern is if mold has infested household items like insulation, drywall, or carpet. If so, these materials should be immediately extracted and the source of the dampness or wetness should be repaired. When replacing these items, it is best to use a non-cellulose and low nitrogen replacement material.

I see Mold… What should I do?

If the mold patch is small, it can be removed with a chlorine-bleach solution (1cup of bleach in 1gal. of water). The mold should come off with simple scrubbing (individuals should protect themselves with eye protection, rubber gloves and carbon filter respirators). Mold that has dried should not be scraped because this increases the chances of releasing toxin-carrying spores into the air.

Do you have any tips for us?

  • Clean the kitchen and bathroom regularly. These moist areas are ‘prime areas’ for mold growth.
  • Repair leaky plumbing.
  • Control temperature and humidity. Central air conditioning is best. Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity at 35-50%.Get a simple humidity gauge to regularly measure the humidity level.
  • Increase ventilation. While showering or using the dishwasher, use your exhaust fan to remove water vapor from the air.
  • Clean or remove water-damaged carpet or upholstered furniture.

    There is, of course, more to come as more research is conducted.  We’ll let you know more as it becomes available.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FIELD -ASK THE HOME INSPECTOR:

Gotta burning question? Email us: mark@housecallinspections.net
Dear HouseCall,

You recommended to a client of mine during an inspection (just as every home inspector has) that GFCI outlets be installed in outlets in the Kitchen and Bathroom. What does a GFCI do? I don’t have these in my home Should I be worried?

A: Worry? Nah No need. No one is going to come for you and demand your first born child. GFCI’s are safety enhancement, and we recommend all residences take full advantage of these advancements in technology by upgrading to one where recommended by the NEC. When a GFCI detects a problem, it instantly shuts off power to everything plugged into it. – Nifty eh?

The National Electrical Code began requiring GFCI installation in 1971 for Kitchen locations (for new construction or remodeling requiring a permit). Because of their effectiveness, however, this has since been expanded to include.

  • Bathrooms, Outlets serving a kitchen counter, Garages, Outdoor Locations, Unfinished Basements, Around pools / whirlpool bathtubs, Wet Bar areas (within 6 feet of the sink).

 

Dear HouseCall,

My client is interested in an older single family home with aluminum siding. The siding is in good shape – just UGLY... He wants to paint it. Can this be done?
 
A: Certainly. Get some friends, a pizza, beer, and... make sure they do the prep work. A power washer used with some trisodium phosphate solution will do the job. Wash it, and let it dry for a minimum of two days. The factory primer coating on most metal siding is usually sufficient. Use 100% acrylic paint. Oil based paint for this purpose is a no-no. Use a brush and roller. It’ll look good, but need to re-painted in about 6-10 years.
Dear HouseCall,
A handyman installed dimmers in my condo. They work beautifully, but the lights sometimes buzz. The installer didn’t know where the buzz was from. Do you?Yes. Dimmer switches work by interrupting the flow of power to the light. These interruptions cause little surges of power that can vibrate the filaments of the bulb – causing it to buzz. This is normal – but can be annoying – especially with Halogen type lighting. Try using 130 Volt bulbs, or ‘Rough Service’ bulbs. These bulbs have a sturdier filament that last longer, and don’t buzzzzzz….
 
Dear HouseCall,
I new vintage listing of mine has rust stains in the original bathtub. The bathroom is beautiful, with the exceptions of these stains. Should they plan to completely replace this tub, or can they use an enamel epoxy recoating over it.
A: If they are indeed rust stains, their removal should be relatively painless. Try a commercial remover available (CLR or Lime away both work). Are your clients adventurous or cheap??? If so, try this homemade solution – Mix lemon juice with salt, and scrub the stain. For vertical surfaces, you can dip the rag into the mixture and lay it over the stain. If all else fails, don your protective gloves and get busy mixing 1 part oxalic acid (in paint and hardware stores) with 10 parts water. Stir in cornmeal to make a paste and let it sit on the stain for 4 hours. Presto!
 
EMAIL YOUR QUESTIONS: mark@housecallinspections.net
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We’re working hard at HouseCall Inspections to be your partner. We’re striving for the ideal streamlined inspection process. Here’s what’s been done, and what were working on.
  • HouseCall Inspections has qualified for an extended insurance benefit. The NAAREP benefit protects the real-estate agent, and lender from liability resulting from an inspection. You are protected when you refer HouseCall Inspections to your clients. This additional coverage was granted by the insurance company after HouseCall met certain requirements by our Insurance provider. Were proud to offer you this additional protection to everyone – AT NO COST!

     

  • Our software is now structured so that TWO or more inspectors can work on a property simultaneously, using separate data fields for entry. Two inspectors working on large, time consuming inspections (large homes, multi-unit buildings, etc) mean that LESS of YOUR VALUABLE TIME is lost during an inspection. It impresses your client. NO EXTRA CHARGE.

     

  • Were close to the implementation of using PDA’s (pocket PC’s) for inspections. Our inspectors can input data on the fly, and will allow for streamlined efficient inspections. Some bugs still need to be worked out – but were expecting wonderful things.

     

  • Look for us to go completely wireless in 2005. No more klutzy wires, cables and wasted time setting our stuff up. We can get to work right away!

     

  • Were considering starting a website your clients can use for scheduling. What do you think?

     

Even with our progress, were not perfect. We know YOU have some ideas, and we need them to make our product even better. Email us – mark@housecallinspections.net  – or phone our office (773) 296-6600

We’re going to have the finest inspection product in Chicago. Guaranteed!