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Side Note: Crawl Space

Wood + Water = BAD NEWS

Exposed earth contributes a lot of water vapor into the crawl space air.  The earth is damp and as that damp soil dries into the house.  In climates where there are dirt crawl spaces, you can never dry the earth, and this invisible stream of water vapor from the exposed earth in a crawl spaces continues forever.

There are several ways water gets into a house.  Groundwater seeps, leaks or could even rush into many crawl spaces.  It can enter under the footing, between the footing and the walls, right through block walls, and through cracks in poured walls.  After it seeps in, it just lays there in puddles, slowly evaporating upward into the house.

Some of the common symptoms of a crawl space moisture problem are:

  • Mold or moisture damage in the crawl space or living area
  • Musty odors in the living area
  • Condensation (“sweating”) on air conditioning duct work or equipment
  • Condensation on insulation, water pipes or truss plates in the crawl space
  • Buckled hardwood floors
  • High humidity in the living area
  • Insect infestations
  • Rot in wooden framing members

These symptoms are most often noticed in the humid spring and summer seasons but can occur at any time of the year. Often, the heating and air conditioning contractor is the first person the residents call to deal with the problem. Typically though, the problem is not due to a failure of the air conditioning system; it results from poor moisture control in the crawl space.

Keep up with our Side Note Series for more information on crawl spaces and how to maintain them.

 

Excerpts from Dry Basement Science – What to Have Done and Why by Lawrence Janesky

Side Note: Just Add Water

In this week’s Side Note, we switch gears from basements to crawl spaces. Since air flows upward into the upper levels of your home from the crawl space, it brings the humidity from the crawl space with it. The effects on your home include:

  • Dust Mites
  • Sticking (swollen) doors and windows
  • Smelly, Damp Carpets
  • Buckling hardwood floors
  • Frost or Condensation and mold on the inside of windows in cool weather
  • Increased energy bills

While damage in the crawl space itself can be obvious, the list above represents many of the effects that can happen UPSTAIRS that you may not associate with your wet or damp crawl space.

Fixing your crawl space is one home repair expense that you can’t afford not to make.

Keep up with our Side Note Series for more information on maintenance and repairs to your crawl space.

 

Simple Summer Tasks

Whether you’re cooling off indoors or working on your tan, take the time to perform some simple, routine home maintenance. Rising temperatures and sunny days make summer an ideal season for getting work done around the house. You’ll have a safer home if you catch problems and wear-and-tear before they become hazards.

 Keeping Cool Inside

Energy efficiency is a top priority when electricity bills climb as high as the temperatures outside. Hopefully you’ve had your air conditioning system checked in the spring, as repairmen are often busy in the summer and you may have to sweat it out until your appointment.

Ceiling fans provide an energy-efficient way of circulating cool air. Dust them if needed and balance any wobbly blades by tightening loose screws. For additional energy efficiency, check windows and doors for air leaks and seal with weather stripping or caulk as needed. You’re paying for the cool air, so take steps to be sure it’s not escaping outdoors.

Home Exterior Care and Landscaping

Take advantage of the warm weather and wash the outside of your windows and clean the siding. While it might be tempting to use a pressure washer, a garden hose is best to avoid potentially damaging the exterior of your home. Apply a coat of fresh paint if needed, and repair any damaged vinyl or aluminum siding.

Be aware of termites while you’re outside inspecting your home. Termites can easily go undetected until significant damage has been done. Look for telltale signs like flaking wood or mud buildup and tunneling systems in the exterior wood of your home. Professional pest control inspections are recommended if you have any suspicions of possible infestation.

Well-tended landscaping and a trim and tidy house are as welcoming to guests as the smells of a barbeque. Garden beds look their best when mulched and weeded. Summer annuals can be induced to produce more flowers and bloom longer when you deadhead them. Removing spent flowers also prevents the plant from going to seed. Check garden plants, trees, and shrubs for insect infestations. Unhealthy plants should be removed so that others may thrive.

Lush green grass is of course desirable; however, it is not always realistic or water-efficient. Encourage healthy grass growth with regular mowing, but remember: Keeping grass cut longer in the summer months will prevent roots from drying out as quickly.

Grass and plants should be watered in the morning to allow the water to soak through the soil throughout the day in order to completely nourish their root systems. Check to see if your municipality has water conservation restrictions before watering your lawn or garden.

Trees provide shady ambience and should be well cared for to avoid potential damage to your home. Keep their branches pruned and at a safe distance from your home to avoid storm-related damage. Inspect trees for signs of decay, such as cracks or hollowed limbs, and keep branches clear of your home and power lines. Arborists or tree care professionals can assist with the cutting and removal of large or high limbs.

Also, before planting additional trees and shrubs in your yard, take into consideration the plant’s size when mature and whether or not roots might intrude upon underground pipes or paved surfaces such as sidewalks and driveways.

Garage Upkeep

Hazardous materials such as paint and solvents should be disposed of properly. Don’t store heat-sensitive or combustible materials in the garage, as the temperature will be rising throughout the season. Inspect the floor for grease spots from leaking car fluids, and have your car serviced promptly if you find any.

If you have children, instruct them not to go in the garage unaccompanied. Store your hand tools and power tools behind a lock and key. Fertilizers, weed-killers, and pesticides should be stored out of a child’s reach or behind a locked cabinet. You might also consider organic gardening, which employs nontoxic alternatives to these poisonous chemicals.

Driveways And Walkways

Inspect the pavement for cracks and holes, and remedy them. This goes a long way in preventing accidental slips, trips, and falls. It also works to avoid larger repairs or resurfacing in the future. If you see weeds popping up between cracks in the pavement, resist the urge to pull them up. You’ll remove the upper part of the weed, but the root system will remain intact and new growth will return within a few weeks. For a cost-effective and chemical free solution, boil water in a kettle, carefully carry the kettle outside, and pour the water on any weeds to kill them off for the season.

 

7 Signs of Drainage Issues

colorful gutters on houseYou don’t need to be an inspector to know that puddles in the basement or a lake on the front lawn are signs of drainage trouble. But not all drainage problems are so obvious. Some can be hard to spot unless you know what to look for. Here’s how the pros read seven of the more subtle signs of potential water damage, and why you’ll save big bucks if you tackle these problems now instead of later.

1. Malfunctioning gutters

Rain cascading over the edge of a gutter means that dead leaves and debris are blocking the flow. But that’s not the only sign of malfunctioning gutters. Mud spattered on siding or paint peeling off the house in vertical strips are other indications. If left unchecked, overflowing gutters can rot siding, ruin paint jobs, even cause structural damage.

Best case: Leaves are clogging the downspout, and you just need to clear them out or hire a pro to do it (about $75).

Worst case: Gutters are undersized or improperly pitched and need to be replaced or reinstalled. That could run a few thousand dollars, but it’s still cheaper than new siding.

2. Downspouts that dump

Each inch of rain that falls on 1,000 square feet of a house produces more than 600 gallons of runoff, enough to fill 10 bathtubs to the brim. Dumping that much water too close to the foundation can send it right into the basement, where it can ruin furnishings and flooring and damage mechanical equipment.

Best case: You can add gutter extensions (about $10 for a 10-foot length) to carry the water at least five feet away from the house.

Worst case: The downspouts drop straight down behind large shrubs or other obstacles. An installer may be able to relocate the downspouts (about $150 for each one moved). If not, you’ll need to uproot landscaping to add extensions or underground piping—a sacrifice worth considering if you’ve got water infiltrating the basement.

3. Water stains in the basement

Depending on where the stain appears, you can tell whether the problem is caused by surface water, which can be easy to deal with, or water traveling underground, a more complex situation.

Best case: Stains are high on the foundation wall, indicating that the water is coming (or once came) from an overflowing gutter or surface water directed at the house.

Worst case: The stain extends in a line around the basement, indicating a high-water mark that may recur when heavy rains hit, either because of underground water or because the basement floor lies below the level of municipal storm drains that back up. In that case, an interior drain system and sump pump (around $3,000) are essential for getting the water out if the problem can’t be resolved some other way.

4. Cracks in the foundation

Hairline cracks, as thin as thread, are just cosmetic. Bigger cracks may or may not spell trouble. It depends on the width of the crack, how deep it penetrates, and whether it’s growing.

Best case: A crack appears where the builders finished installing one load of concrete and began pouring the next. Such cracks usually don’t penetrate all the way through. And even if they do, as long as they’re stable you can patch them with hydraulic cement or polyurethane caulk for less than $20.

Worst case: Cracks are continuing to widen, indicating that a drainage problem may be ruining the foundation. Call a structural engineer (not a contractor or waterproofing expert) to diagnose the problem, assess the risk, and suggest a repair.

5. Flaking and deposits on walls

If you see areas of white or gray crust on the basement walls, that’s efflorescence, mineral deposits left behind by evaporating water. Or the wall may be flaking off in big patches, a condition called spalling.

Best case: The efflorescence points to a place where moisture is condensing. It doesn’t cause structural problems, but you may want to scrape off the crust if it looks ugly.

Worst case: The wall is spalling because water is getting inside the masonry. Spalling can be just superficial, but if it’s deep and widespread, it may be a sign of freeze/thaw damage that could progressively weaken the foundation.

6. Mildew in the attic

The attic might seem like a strange place to look for drainage problems, but mildew on the underside of the roof can be a tipoff to serious trouble at the ground level.

Best case: Bathroom fans are spewing hot air directly into the attic, where it condenses on the cold back side of the roof and causes mildew. Venting the fan through an outside wall or the roof (about $200) solves the problem.

Worst case: Moisture from the basement or crawl space is rising through the house and condensing on the underside of the roof. In that case, you’ve got to find and stop the source of the dampness under the house. Then you may have to replace roof sheathing and shingles, a job that runs $6,000 to $9,000 for the typical house.

7. Migrating mulch

When soil doesn’t drain properly, rain may run off in sheets, carving gulleys in the landscape, dumping silt on pathways, and carrying piles of mulch or wood chips where they don’t belong.

Best case: For a few hundred dollars, you can hire a landscaper to create a simple berm (a soil mound) or swale (a wide, shallow ditch) to redirect the water flow away from the house. 

Worst case: You notice the problem when your concrete patio cracks, or paving stones start popping up, because the gravel or sand base material has washed away. After redirecting the water, you’ll need to excavate the patio and start again.

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/articles/drainage-warning-sides/#ixzz1Ymku9vbH

Mold Problems

Mold Health Problems – Getting Sick From Mold

When you first see mold in your home, you may be immediately repulsed by the look of the green or black fuzzy fungus. Growing rampant over walls, ceilings or even on the bathroom tile, mold spores can make your skin crawl. But beyond the ‘ick-factor’ of mold is a much more serious threat, one that affects the health of your family. Mold health problems can be experienced well before you actually find evidence of mold in your home. Since mold spores can be airborne, you may be breathing in these toxic spores for months before you understand what’s happening. Since many signs of mold health problems can be attributed to other illnesses, you may not even realize that the cure to your illness lies not in a physician, but in a mold removal contractor. Mold is considered a biotoxin since it is a biological organism and can be toxic. In order to live, mold breaks down and destroys whatever organic material it invades. This process then releases microtoxins in the spores, which are airborne and travel through your home finding more places to infest. You and your family easily inhale these airborne spores as you sleep, eat, watch television and enjoy your home. The inhalation and possible physical contact with spores leads to a long list of complications and health problems. Understanding these problems and realizing that the symptoms you are experiencing could be due to exposure to mold gives you a clear direction toward the resolution.

Some symptoms and complications of mold health problems:

Respiratory complications including:

  • Persistent cough
  • Nose and/or throat irritation
  • Nasal and/or sinus congestion
  • Aspergillosis (when mold begins to grow in the lungs)

Neurological disorders including:

  • Mood swings
  • Memory loss
  • Headaches Suppression of the immune system including:
  • Chronic body aches and pain possibly leading to a Chronic Fatigue or Fibromyalgia diagnosis
  • Allergies to food
  • Skin rashes and/or irritation
  • Eye irritation

If you and your family are experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be time for you to contact a mold removal contractor to inspect your home. HIP is the right contractor for you.  We can help you rid your home of mold and prevent these mold related health problems from worsening or developing into chronic conditions. It is important during the mold removal process that you follow the instructions of your mold removal contractor. While professionally removing mold, often more health issues can occur if not taken the proper safety measures. The cleaning process creates more airborne spores, containment and proper protective gear are imperative in preventing further mold health problems. We provide local mold removal and remediation to make your home safe is again.  Contact us today to learn more and find out how we can help you.

Mold Basics

Mold Basics

  • 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 water problem.
  • It is important to dry water-damaged areas and items within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.

Mold growing outdoors on firewood.

Molds come in many colors; both white and black molds are shown here.

Magnified Mold Spores

Magnified mold spores

Molds gradually destroy the things they grow on. You can prevent damage to your home and furnishings, save money, and avoid potential health problems by controlling moisture and eliminating mold growth

Why is mold growing in my home?

Molds are part of the natural environment.  Outdoors, molds play a part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees, but indoors, mold growth should be avoided.  Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air.  Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet.  There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture.

Can mold cause health problems?

Molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing.  Molds have the potential to cause health problems. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins).  Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.  Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Allergic reactions to mold are common.  They can be immediate or delayed.  Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people.  Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold.  Research on mold and health effects is ongoing.  This post provides a brief overview; it does not describe all potential health effects related to mold exposure. For more detailed information consult a health professional.  You may also wish to consult your state or local health department.

How do I get rid of mold?

It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors; some mold 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 in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem.  If you clean up the mold, but don’t fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will come back.

Detecting Mold within Your Home

Mold, at times, can be tricky to detect, but, by following a few easy tips, you can often times detect a mold problem without having to call a professional.

How do I tell if I have a mold problem?  The most practical way to find a mold problem is by using your eyes to look for mold growth and by using your nose to locate the source of a suspicious odor. If you see mold or if there is an earthy or musty smell, you should assume a mold problem exists. Other clues are signs of excess moisture or the worsening of allergy-like symptoms.

  • Look for visible mold growth (may appear cottony, velvety, granular, or leathery and have varied colors of white, gray, brown, black, yellow, green). Mold often appears as discoloration, staining, or fuzzy growth on the surface of building materials or furnishings. When mold is visible, testing is not recommended.
  • Search areas with noticeable mold odors.
  • Look for signs of excess moisture or water damage. Look for water leaks, standing water, water stains, condensation problems. For example, do you see any watermarks or discoloration on walls, ceilings, carpet, woodwork or other building materials?
  • Search behind and underneath materials (carpet and pad, wallpaper, vinyl flooring, sink cabinets), furniture, or stored items (especially things placed near outside walls or on cold floors). Sometimes destructive techniques may be needed to inspect and clean enclosed spaces where mold and moisture are hidden; for example, opening up a wall cavity.

Should I test for mold?  No.  It is not recommend that homeowners test for mold themselves. Instead, simply assume there is a problem whenever you see mold or smell mold odors and call a professional. Testing should never take the place of visual inspection and it should never use up resources that are needed to correct moisture problems and remove all visible growth.  Sometimes, mold growth is hidden and difficult to locate. In such cases, a combination of air (outdoor and indoor air samples) and bulk (material) samples may help determine the extent of contamination and where cleaning is needed. However, mold testing is rarely useful for trying to answer questions about health concerns.

Click here for more information about Mold and here for Tips on Mold Clean-Up and Removal.

If, at any time, you are concerned about your home and would like a Mold Inspection done by Home Inspection Professionals, please contact us anytime at 1-800-HIP-3200 or click here to Request an Inspection via the web.

Mold Clean-Up and Removal Tips

It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors; some mold spores will be found floating through the air and in house dust.  Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture indoors.  The mold spores will not grow if moisture is not present.  If there is mold growth in your home, just remember that you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem.  If you clean up the mold, but don’t fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will come back.

How do I clean up the mold?   To clean up and remove indoor mold growth, follow these steps, as they apply to your home.

1.  Identify and Fix the Moisture Problem – the most important step in solving a mold problem is to identify and correct the moisture sources that allowed the growth in the first place. Common indoor moisture sources include:

  • Flooding
  • Condensation (caused by indoor humidity that is too high or surfaces that are too cold)
  • Movement through basement walls and slab
  • Roof leaks
  • Plumbing leaks
  • Overflow from tubs, sinks, or toilets
  • Firewood stored indoors
  • Humidifier use
  • Inadequate venting of kitchen and bath humidity
  • Improper venting of combustion appliances
  • Failure to vent clothes dryer exhaust outdoors (including electric dryers)
  • Line drying laundry indoors
  • House plants – watering them can generate large amounts of moisture

To keep indoor surfaces as dry as possible, try to maintain the home’s relative humidity between 20-40 percent in the winter and less than 60 percent the rest of the year. You can purchase devices to measure relative humidity at some home supply stores. Ventilation, air circulation near cold surfaces, dehumidification, and efforts to minimize the production of moisture in the home are all very important in controlling high humidity that frequently causes mold growth in our cold climate.

2.  Begin Drying All Wet Materialsas soon as possible, begin drying any materials that are wet. For severe moisture problems, use fans and dehumidifiers and move wet items away from walls and off floors. HIP offers services for emergency flood Check with equipment rental companies or restoration firms to see if you can rent fans and dehumidifiers.

  • Run your sump pump. If you don’t have one, it would be helpful to get one now to drain your basement of any leftover water. If your basement has a floor drain, mop all the water to the drain. If your basement does not, mop up the excess water.

  • Turn on a few large fans and a dehumidifier to dry out the basement. Typically this will take at least 24 hours, but you’ll be too busy to notice. It is important to quickly dry your basement to prevent mold, mildew and extra bacteria growth. Bacteria love moist areas. 

3.  Remove and Dispose of Mold Contaminated Materials – items which have absorbed moisture (porous materials) and which have mold growing on them need to be removed, bagged and thrown out. Such materials may include sheet rock, insulation, plaster, carpet/carpet pad, ceiling tiles, wood products (other than solid wood), and paper products. Likewise, any such porous materials that have contacted sewage should also be bagged and thrown away. Non-porous materials with surface mold growth may be saved if they are cleaned well and kept dry.

Take Steps to Protect Yourself – the amount of mold particles in air can increase greatly when mold is disturbed. Consider using protective equipment when handling or working around mold contaminated materials. The following equipment can help minimize exposure to mold:

  •  
    • Rubber gloves
    • Eye goggles
    • Outer clothing (long sleeves and long pants) that can be easily removed in the work area and laundered or discarded
    • Medium-efficiency or high-efficiency filter dust mask (these can be found at safety equipment suppliers, hardware stores, or some other large stores that sell home repair supplies) — at a minimum, use an N-95 or equivalent dust mask
    • Take Steps to Protect Others – plan and perform all work to minimize the amount of dust generated. The following actions can help minimize the spread of mold spores:
      • Enclose all moldy materials in plastic (bags or sheets) before carrying through the home
      • Hang plastic sheeting to separate the work area from the rest of the home
      • Remove outer layer of work clothing in the work area and wash separately or bag
      • Damp clean the entire work area to pick up settled contaminants in dust

Haul up soggy and destroyed belongings while the basement dries. This is the hardest part of a flood cleanup effort. Always lift with your legs because wet boxes and belongings way much more than dry ones.

  • Discard anything that cannot be properly sanitized. Paper products like books, boxes and cards should get thrown away. Anything that can be hosed down with bleach and water, place in your yard or driveway to clean later.
  • Scrub the walls and floors that got wet with a solution made of 1 cup of bleach and 5 gallons of water. Be sure to wear rubber gloves and work clothes.
  • Run the fans and the dehumidifier once again. Again, this could take 24 hours or more. Although the moisture in your basement is now clean moisture, you don’t want it to attract bacteria. Your basement should no longer look or feel moist and humid.
4.  Clean Surfaces – surface mold growing on non-porous materials such as hard plastic, concrete, glass, metal, and solid wood can usually be cleaned. Cleaning must remove and capture the mold contamination, because dead spores and mold particles still cause health problems if they are left in place.
  • Thoroughly scrub all contaminated surfaces using a stiff brush, hot water and a non-ammonia soap/detergent or commercial cleaner
  • Collect excess cleaning liquid with a wet/dry vacuum, mop or sponge
  • Rinse area with clean water and collect excess rinse water

5.  Disinfect Surfaces (if desired) – after cleaning has removed all visible mold and other soiling from contaminated surfaces, a disinfectant may be used to kill mold missed by the cleaning. In the case of sewage contamination, disinfection must be performed. Contact your home inspector for advice.

  • Mix 1/4 to 1/2 cup bleach per gallon of water and apply to surfaces where mold growth was visible before cleaning. The solution can be applied with a spray bottle, garden sprayer, it can be sponged on, or applied by other methods.
  • Collect any run-off of bleach solution with a wet/ dry vacuum, sponge or mop. However, do not rinse or wipe the bleach solution off the areas being treated — allow it to dry on the surface.

Always handle bleach with caution. Never mix bleach with ammonia — toxic chlorine gas may result. Bleach can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. Provide fresh air (for example, open a window or door). Protect skin and eyes from contact with bleach. Test solution on a small area before treatment, since bleach is very corrosive and may damage some materials.

6.  Remain on Mold Alert – Continue looking for signs of moisture problems or return of mold growth. Be particularly alert to moisture in areas of past growth. If mold returns, repeat cleaning steps and consider using a stronger solution to disinfect the area again. Regrowth may signal that the material should be removed or that moisture is not yet controlled.

When can we rebuild after mold clean-up and removal?  Rebuilding and refurnishing must wait until all affected materials have dried completely. Be patient it takes time to dry out wet building materials. 

Click here for more information about Mold and here for Tips on Detecting Mold.

If, at any time, you are concerned about your home and would like a Mold Inspection done by Home Inspection Professionals, please contact us anytime at 1-800-HIP-3200 or click here to Request an Inspection via the web.