by Nick Gromicko, CMI®

Vermiculite insulation

 Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral composed of shiny flakes that resemble mica. When heated rapidly to a high temperature, this crystalline mineral expands into low-density, accordion-like strands. In this form, vermiculite is a lightweight, odorless and fire-resistant material that has been used in numerous applications, such as insulation for attics and walls.

Asbestos Contamination

Vermiculite forms over millions of years due to weathering of the mineral biotite. Unfortunately, biotite deposits are often in close proximity to deposits of diopside, which transform into asbestos due to the same weathering processes that create vermiculite. Asbestos can be easily inhaled because it tends to separate into microscopic particles that become airborne. Exposure to asbestos can result in lung cancer, mesothelioma, inflammation of the chest cavity, and a scarring disease of the lungs known as asbestosis. The risk of contracting these diseases generally increases with the duration and intensity of exposure to asbestos, and smokers may face an even greater risk of lung cancer.

The largest and oldest vermiculite mine in the United States was started in the 1920s near Libby, Montana. Although it was known that the vermiculite there was contaminated with tremolite, a highly toxic form of asbestos, the mine continued to operate until stiffer environmental controls finally forced it to close in 1990. Sadly, by this time, the damage had already been done; the asbestos-infused insulator had been installed in tens of millions of homes in the United States alone. As over 70% of all vermiculite sold in the U.S. from 1919 to 1990 originated from the Libby mine, it is safe to assume that all vermiculite insulation found in buildings is toxic.

IdentificationZonolite brand vermiculite is likely contaminated by asbestos

Vermiculite insulation is a pebble-like or rectangular, chunky product about the size of a pencil eraser, and usually gray-brown or silver-gold in color. Inspectors should be on guard for empty bags in the attic that bear the name Zonolite®, as this was the commercial name for vermiculite mined in the notorious Libby mine.

What should be done about asbestos found in homes?

Inspectors should advise their clients to never disturb vermiculite or any asbestos insulation. These products must be airborne to cause a health risk through inhalation, which most likely happens when they are removed or handled. The following are some additional tips that inspectors can pass on to clients with vermiculite issues:

  • Consider that contractors may track vermiculite into the house if they have to enter the attic.
  • Dispose of waste and debris contaminated with asbestos in tight containers.
  • Do not allow children to play in an attic.
  • Do not launder clothing exposed to vermiculite with family clothing.
  • Do not overreact. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA), asbestos-related illnesses are usually the result of high levels of exposure for long periods of time. Left undisturbed in the attic, asbestos is generally not a life-threatening situation. Furthermore, air generally flows into the attic from the house, and not the other way around.
  • Do not use the attic as a storage area.
  • Hire a professional asbestos contractor before remodeling or renovating if these processes may disturb the vermiculite.
  • Never use compressed air for cleaning around vermiculite. Avoid dry-sweeping, vacuuming, shoveling, or other dry clean-up methods. Wet methods are best.
  • Seal cracks and holes in attics, such as around light fixtures and ceiling fans, where insulation may pass through.
  • Use proper respiratory protection. Disposable respirators or dust masks are not appropriate for avoiding asbestos exposure.
In summary, vermiculite is a potentially hazardous mineral used as an insulator in buildings, but its dangers can be mitigated with some simple precautions. This article is courtesy of InterNACHI and can be found at https://www.nachi.org/vermiculite.htm.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Kenton Shepard

What is an expansion tank?
An expansion tank is a metal tank connected to a building’s water heating appliance designed to accommodate fluctuations in the volume of a building’s hot water supply system. These fluctuations occur because water expands in volume as it gets hot and loses volume as it cools.
Expanding water volume in a closed system can create dangerously high water pressure. As water is forced into the tank by expansion, it compresses air contained inside of a rubber bladder. Air is used as a cushion because it exerts less force on its container than water, which cannot be compressed.
The function of this bladder is to prevent air from becoming absorbed into the water, a process that could cause the expansion tank to lose its ability to act as a sort of shock absorber. If, over time, the bladder begins to leak some air, a Schrader valve, identical to the fill valve found on bicycle and car tires, can be used to add more air.
What does it look like, inside and out?
Expansion tanks are considerably smaller than water heaters, usually holding about two gallons in residential systems, although tank sizes vary in relation to the water volume of the hot water supply system they serve. The design pressure for which a tank is rated is marked on a label on the tank, commonly 150 pounds per square inch (PSI) for a residential tank.
InterNACHI inspectors should check that tanks are positioned high enough above the water heater that water will easily drain back down into the water heater tank.  It is best positioned near the water heater and may be installed vertically, either above or below the horizontal supply pipe, but can also be positioned horizontally. Horizontally-hung tanks will need additional support to reduce the stress on the copper piping.
The expansion tank should be inspected for proper location and support, corrosion and leakage. Although many jurisdictions now require an expansion tank to be installed at the same time that a water heater is installed, an expansion tank has not always been required in the past and may still not be required in some regions.
Not a Substitute for a Temperature Pressure Relief (TPR) Valve
If water heater controls fail and pressure in the system exceeds 150 PSI, or temperature exceeds 210° F, a temperature and pressure relief valve (TPR valve) installed on the side of the water heater tank will open, safely discharging water from the system. TPR valves are capable of reducing water pressure at a rate greater than the capacity of the water heater to raise it, thus eliminating the possibility that water will become superheated (greater than 212 degrees) and pose a serious threat. The importance of this valve cannot be overstated, and it is crucial that it is examined periodically for rust or corrosion, and the release lever should be exercised monthly by the homeowner, not by the inspector.
If a TPR valve fails to operate when it’s needed, the result can be catastrophic. Pressure will continue to build in the water heater tank as water temperature rises past the boiling point and water becomes superheated. Eventually, pressure in the tank will exceed the ability of the weakest part of the water heater to contain it and the tank will rupture, exposing the superheated water to air and causing an instantaneous and explosive expansion of steam. This situation can propel the water heater like a rocket or make it explode like a bomb, causing extensive property damage, personal injury or death.
In summary, the expansion tank should be inspected for proper location and support, corrosion and leakage. Although not required in every jurisdiction, they are quite crucial to the successful and safe operation of residential potable water systems. This article is courtesy of InterNACHI you can find the article at https://www.nachi.org/water-heater-expansion-tanks.htm.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI®

USDA loans are housing loans that are backed through the Rural Housing Divisionof the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).The USDA offers competitive loans for borrowers in rural areas
Purpose
In the wake of the mortgage crisis in 2008 and 2009, lenders have become more cautious, so it’s harder for home buyers, especially first-timers, to secure financing, especially those with low incomes or little money for a down payment. In response, the USDA has enacted changes that made millions of borrowers eligible for their rural mortgage programs, which have been around for decades. These loans are primarily used to help low-income individuals and families purchase homes in rural areas, given the challenges faced in finding an affordable mortgage loan or deriving high income in sparsely populated areas. Funds can be used to build, repair, renovate or relocate a home, or to purchase and prepare sites, including providing water and sewage facilities. If the borrower defaults on payments, loan funds are still guaranteed to the lender.
Eligibility of Applicants
The following factors affect eligibility for USDA loans:
  • Loans are restricted to borrowers in rural areas, although many of the zip codes that qualify for USDA loans are in relatively typical suburbs of major cities.  The 2002 Farm Bill defines a rural area as “any area other than (1) a city or town that has a population of greater than 50,000 inhabitants, and (2) the urbanized areas contiguous and adjacent to such a city or town.”
  • Applicants for loans may have an income of up to 115% of the median income for the area. If an income exceeds the maximum mark, you may be able to make certain adjustments that will help you qualify.
  • Applicant families must currently be without adequate housing, but be able to afford the mortgage payments, including taxes and insurance. Copies of IRS tax filings from years prior may be required, especially if the prospective borrower is self-employed or has worked many jobs over the past few years.
  • Applicants must have reasonable credit histories. Late payments will appear on the credit history, as will bankruptcies, repossessions and  foreclosures.
  • The amount loaned will also depend on the number of dependents claimed by the applicant.
 Eligibility of Housing

Housing must be modest in size, design and cost. Also, houses constructed, purchased or rehabilitated must meet the building code adopted by the state and the Housing and Community Facilities Programs’ (HCFP) thermal and site standards. New manufactured housing must be permanently installed and meet the manufactured housing construction and safety standards of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), as well as the HCFP’s thermal and site standards.  Existing manufactured housing may not qualify unless it is already financed with an HCFP direct or guaranteed loan, or it is Real Estate-Owned (REO), formerly secured by an HCFP direct or guaranteed loan.

USDA Loans vs. Federal Housing Authority (FHA) Loans 
While the USDA and FHA both insure loans made by private lenders, the policies and eligibility requirements for each are quite different. The following are the principle differences:
  • Unlike loans offered by the FHA, USDA loans have no monthly mortgage insurance premium.
  • The FHA requires that an applicant invest 3.5% of the purchase price as a down payment, although this fee may be donated by an employer, a blood relative, or a non-profit organization that is approved by HUD.  The USDA does not require a down payment.
  • Both the USDA and FHA have similar appraisal requirements.  Both feature mortgage options for a fixed rate mortgage, and repayment terms of 15 years and 30 years.
  • FHA loans may be as high as $729,750, while USDA loans are limited to $300,000.
In summary, USDA loans are a good option for many prospective home buyers and borrowers living in (or moving to) rural areas. This article is courtesy of InterNACHI, you can find this article at https://www.nachi.org/usda-loans.htm.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI®

A VA loan is a mortgage loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA loans can be very helpful for veterans

Like FHA loans, VA loans are backed by the federal government in order to protect lenders against default, an assurance that removes barriers to home buying for prospective homeowners when they attempt to get a mortgage. This loan guarantee has its origins in the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (more commonly known as the G.I. Bill), passed by U.S. Congress in 1944 to provide a wide range of benefits for soldiers returning from WWII. Eligibility for VA loans – as well as unemployment compensation, vocational training, and other offerings of the G.I. Bill – have since been made available to veterans of subsequent wars and peacetime service.

VA loans serve two primary purposes:

  • to finance loans for eligible veterans in regions where private financing is not available, which are generally rural areas, and small cities and towns far from metropolitan and commuting areas of large cities; and
  • to help eligible veterans who lack sufficient funds for a down payment to purchase properties.

VA loans offer eligible veterans a number of benefits that are not available to recipients of conventional loans. Note that not all of the following features are available to those receiving FHA loans. VA loan benefits include:

  • 100% financing on purchases and refinances. Loans are available up to $417,000 (as of 2009), although this amount is higher in some areas with a higher cost of living and/or inflated real estate markets, such as Hawaii, Alaska and California;
  • no Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). PMI is money paid to a lender to offset losses in the event that the borrower defaults and the lender cannot recover its investment after foreclosure;
  • fixed, competitive interest rates;
  • the loan is assumable, meaning that borrowers can sell their homes to non-veterans and pass along the benefits of the VA loan to the buyers;
  • forbearance, in which the federal government can extend leniency to veterans experiencing temporary financial hardship;
  • no prepayment penalty. Penalties are applied to conventional loans when borrowers choose to pay off their mortgages early, which then gives them the option of refinancing at a lower interest rate;
  • easy credit and low income standards, compared with conventional loans;
  • the builder of a new home is required to give the purchasing veteran a one-year warranty, protecting the borrower against construction that conflicts with VA-approved specifications. Also, the VA will compensate the borrower for correction of structural defects in the home within four years of the loan guarantee if the defects seriously affect livability. An InterNACHI inspector should be hired to inspect for structural defects;
  • the borrower may be charged only the fees and other costs that the VA considers appropriate;
  • the down payment may be financed. Closing costs and funding fees still apply, however; and
  • in California, veterans may be eligible to receive additional benefits from a Cal-Vet Home Loan, such as reusability (you can receive a new Cal-Vet loan whenever you purchase a property as long as you have paid off previous Cal-Vet loans), and earthquake, fire and mudslide protection plans.
In order to be eligible for a VA home loan, the borrower must obtain a Certificate of Eligibility by completing the VA Form 26-1880. Veterans, active-duty, guard, reserve, and military spouses potentially qualify for this certificate. Veterans and active military personnel need to have served for a designated duration, depending on war- or peacetime, in order to be considered eligible. The certificate states the entitlement amount, which is the portion of mortgage that the VA will guarantee for each serviceperson. Keep in mind that the Certificate of Eligibility, while necessary for the loan process, only allows an eligible individual to apply for a home loan, but it does not guarantee loan approval.
In summary, VA loans offer eligible veterans a variety of benefits that are not available to recipients of conventional or even FHA loans.  Article was courtesy of InterNACH you can find this article at https://www.nachi.org/va-loan-basics.htm.
Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.  If you are ready to schedule your home inspection do it online.

Ice dams can form on the overhangs of pitched roofs.  This happens in areas with prolonged periods of freezing weather.  Heat loss from the homes interior and solar heat from the sun can cause the snow on the roof to melt.  As the water reaches the cooler area of the overhang, it starts to freeze near the edge of the roof and forms an ice dam.   If the ice dam gets big enough it starts to trap water from the the melted snow.  As the water pools behind the ice dam it backs up under the shingles and enters the buildings interior.

To help prevent ice dams form forming there are several thing that you can do to help.  First make sure your attic is insulated properly for the climate you live in.  Make sure that your attic access fits properly and is insulated.  Make sure you are not losing heat through

ice damyour recessed lighting.  Don’t run your bathroom and kitchen vents into the attic, they should be direct vented to the outside of your home.  Your attic should be well ventilated to remove any heat and moisture out of the attic space.  Seal all penetrations that pass into the attic.  Finally, if the duct work is in the attic space, it should be sealed and insulated to prevent heat loss into the attic.  Taking these steps will prevent ice dams form forming on your roof.

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Schedule your home inspection today.

 

Exterior stairs that have more than three steps needs to have a handrail.  The handrail should be between 34 to 38 inches above the front edge of the stair tread.  Exterior stairs and walk ways that are 30 inches above adjacent grade need to have a guardrail.  The guardrail should be not less than 36 inches high and have intermediate rails that will not let a 4 inch sphere pass between them.  The stair riser heights should be uniform with no more than 3/8th of an inch difference between rises.  The rise should be no more 7 3/4″ and no less than 4″ and the run should be no less that 10″.

As a home owner your responsibility is to make sure your stairs and guardrail are in good repair and safe.  You should test the strength of your handrail and guardrail by pulling on them.  They should be able to withstand 200 pounds of a concentrated load applied along the top rail in any direction.  If the stairs and rails are made of wood they should be checked yearly for rot and loose fasteners.  Stairs and railing made from steel should be checked for rust and loose fasteners and make any repairs needed.

Red Horse Home Inspection of the Black Hills is proud to service Rapid City, Black Hawk, Piedmont, Sturgis, Whitewood, Belle Fourche, Spearfish, Lead, Deadwood, Custer, Hot Springs, Hill City, Keystone, Hermosa, Box Elder, and surrounding areas.  If you are buying or selling a home in the Black Hills have in inspected by Red Horse Home Inspection.  You can easily schedule online.  Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for maintenance and safety tips.

Here are some facts about the dangers lead exposure.

  •  Lead exposure can harm young children and babies even before they are born.
  •  Even children who seem healthy can have high levels of lead in their bodies.
  • You can get lead in your body by breathing or swallowing lead dust, or by eating soil or paint chips containing lead.
  • You have many options for reducing lead hazards. In most cases, lead-based paint that is in good condition is not a hazard.
  • Removing lead-based paint improperly can increase the danger to your family.

If you think your home might have lead hazards, read on to learn about lead and some simple steps to protect your family.

Health Effects of Lead
  • Childhood lead poisoning remains a major environmental health problem in the U.S.
  • Even children who appear healthy can have dangerous levels of lead in their bodies.
  • People can get lead in their body if they:
    • put their hands or other objects covered with lead dust in their mouths;
    • eat paint chips or soil that contains lead; or
    • breathe in lead dust, especially during renovations that disturb painted surfaces.
  • Lead is even more dangerous to children than adults because:
    • babies and young children often put their hands and other objects in their mouths. These objects can have lead dust on them;
    • children’s growing bodies can absorb more lead; and
    • children’s brains and central nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
  • If not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from:
    • damage to the brain and nervous system;
    • behavioral and learning problems (such as hyperactivity);
    • slowed growth;
    • hearing problems; and
    • headaches.
  • Lead is also harmful to adults. Adults can suffer from:
    • difficulties during pregnancy;
    • other reproductive problems (in both men and women);
    • high blood pressure;
    • digestive problems;
    • nerve disorders;
    • memory and concentration problems; and
    • muscle and joint pain

Where is Lead Found?

In general, the older your home, the more likely it has lead-based paint.

Paint
Many homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint. The federal government banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978. Some states stopped its use even earlier. Lead can be found:
  • in homes in the city, country and suburbs;
  • on apartments, single-family homes, and both private and public housing complexes;
  • on the interior and exterior of the house;
  • in the soil around a home.  Soil can pick up lead from exterior paint and other sources, such as past use of leaded gas in cars;
  • in household dust. Dust can pick up lead from deteriorating lead-based paint and from soil tracked into a home;
  • in drinking water. Your home might have plumbing that uses lead pipes or lead solder. Call your local health department or water supplier to find out about testing your water. You cannot see, smell or taste lead, and boiling your water will not get rid of lead. If you think your plumbing might have lead in it:
    • Use only cold water for drinking and cooking.
    • Run water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking it, especially if you have not used your water for a few hours.
  • on the job. If you work with lead, you could bring it home on your hands or clothes. Shower and change clothes before coming home. Launder your work clothes separately from the rest of your family’s clothes;
  • in old (vintage or antique) painted toys and furniture;
  • in food and liquids stored in lead crystal, lead-glazed pottery and porcelain;
  • from lead smelters and other industries that release lead into the air;
  • with hobbies that use lead, such as making pottery or stained glass, or refinishing furniture.
  • in folk remedies that contain lead, such as “greta” and “azarcon” used to treat an upset stomach.

Where is Lead Likely to be a Hazard?

  • Lead from paint chips, which you can see, and lead dust, which you can’t always see, can be serious hazards.
  • Peeling, chipping, chalking and cracking lead-based paint is a hazard and needs immediate attention.
  • Lead-based paint may also be a hazard when found on surfaces that children can chew or that get a lot of wear-and-tear. These areas include:
    • windows and window sills;
    • doors and door frames;
    • stairs, railings and banisters; and
    • porches and fences.
Note: Lead-based paint that is in good condition is usually not a hazard.
  • Lead dust can form when lead-based paint is dry-scraped, dry-sanded, or heated. Dust also forms when painted surfaces bump or rub together. Lead chips and dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air when people vacuum, sweep or walk through it.
  • Lead in soil can be a hazard when children play in bare soil, or when people bring soil into the house on their shoes.

Checking Your Family and Home for Lead

  • Have your children and home tested if you think your home has high levels of lead.
  • Just knowing that a home has lead-based paint may not tell you if there is a hazard.

To reduce your child’s exposure to lead, get your child checked, have your home tested (especially if your home has paint in poor condition and was built before 1978), and fix any hazards you may have.

Your Family
  • Children’s blood lead levels tend to increase rapidly from 6 to 12 months of age, and tend to peak at 18 to 24 months of age.
  • Consult your doctor for advice on testing your children. A simple blood test can detect high levels of lead. Blood tests are important for:
    • children at ages 1 to 2;
    • children and other family members who have been exposed to high levels of lead; and
    • children who should be tested under your state or local health screening plan.

Your doctor can explain what the test results mean and if more testing will be needed.

Your Home
You can get your home checked in one of two ways (or both):
  • A paint inspection tells you the lead content of every different type of painted surface in your home. It won’t tell you whether the paint is a hazard or how you should deal with it.
  • A risk assessment tells you if there are any sources of serious lead exposure, such as peeling paint and lead dust. It also tells you what actions to take to address these hazards.
Have qualified professionals do the work. There are standards in place for certifying lead-based paint professionals to ensure that the work is done safely, reliably and effectively. Be sure to ask your InterNACHI inspector about lead paint during your next inspection. Trained professionals use a range of methods when checking your home, including:
  • a visual inspection of paint condition and location;
  • a portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) machine;
  • lab tests of paint samples; and
  • surface-dust tests.

Note: Home test kits for lead are available, but studies suggest that they are not always accurate. Consumers should not rely on these tests before doing renovations or to assure safety.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Family 
If you suspect that your house has lead hazards, you can take some immediate steps to reduce your family’s risk:
  • If you rent, notify your landlord of peeling or chipping paint.
  • Clean up paint chips immediately.
  • Clean floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces weekly. Use a mop, sponge or paper towel with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner, or a cleaner made specifically for lead.

REMEMBER: NEVER MIX AMMONIA AND BLEACH PRODUCTS TOGETHER, SINCE THEY CAN FORM A DANGEROUS GAS.

  • Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning dirty and dusty areas.
  • Wash children’s hands often, especially before they eat, and before nap time and bed time.
  • Keep play areas clean. Wash bottles, pacifiers, toys and stuffed animals regularly.
  • Keep children from chewing window sills and other painted surfaces.
  • Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from soil.
  • Make sure children eat nutritious, low-fat meals high in iron and calcium, such as spinach and dairy products. Children with good diets absorb less lead.
In addition to day-to-day cleaning and good nutrition, you can temporarily reduce lead hazards by taking actions such as repairing damaged amd painted surfaces, and by planting grass to cover soil with high lead levels. These actions, called “interim controls,” are not permanent solutions and will need ongoing attention. To permanently remove lead hazards, you must hire a certified lead-abatement contractor. Abatement (or permanent hazard elimination) methods include removing, sealing or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials. Just painting over the hazard with regular paint is not enough. Always hire a person with special training for correcting lead problems — someone who knows how to do this work safely and has the proper equipment to clean up thoroughly. Certified contractors will employ qualified workers and follow strict safety rules set by their state or the federal government. To be safe, hire an InterNACHI inspector trained in lead detection for your next inspection.
Are You Planning to Buy or Rent a Home Built Before 1978?
Many houses and apartments built before 1978 have paint that contains lead (called lead-based paint). Lead from paint, chips and dust can pose serious health hazards if not taken care of properly. Federal law requires that individuals receive certain information before renting or buying pre-1978 housing.
  • Residential Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Program
    • LANDLORDS have to disclose known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before leases take effect. Leases must include a disclosure form about lead-based paint.
    • SELLERS have to disclose known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before selling a house. Sales contracts must include a disclosure form about lead-based paint. Buyers have up to 10 days to check for lead hazards.
If not conducted properly, certain types of renovations can release lead from paint and dust into the air.
  • Pre-Renovation Education Program (PRE)
    • RENOVATORS have to give you a pamphlet titled “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home” before starting work.
  • Take precautions before your contractor or you begin remodeling or renovations that disturb painted surfaces (such as scraping off paint or tearing out walls).
    • Have the area tested for lead-based paint.
    • Do not use a belt-sander, propane torch, heat gun, dry scraper or dry sandpaper to remove lead-based paint. These actions create large amounts of lead dust and fumes.
    • Lead dust can remain in your home long after the work is done.
    • Temporarily move your family (especially children and pregnant women) out of the apartment or house until the work is done and the area is properly cleaned. If you can’t move your family, at least completely seal off the work area.
    • If you have already completed renovations or remodeling that could have released lead-based paint or dust, get your young children tested and follow the steps outlined to protect your family.  The original article can be found at  https://www.nachi.org/lead-consumer.htm
Follow Red Horse Home Inspection of Facebook and Instagram.

What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that can be positively identified only with a special type of microscope. There are several types of asbestos fibers. In the past, asbestos was added to a variety of products to strengthen them and to provide heat insulation and fire resistance. InterNACHI inspectors can supplement their knowledge with the information offered in this guide.
How Can Asbestos Affect Human Health?
From studies of people who were exposed to asbestos in factories and shipyards, we know that breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to an increased risk of lung cancer in the forms of mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the lining of the chest and the abdominal cavity, and asbestosis, in which the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue.

The risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma increase with the number of fibers inhaled. The risk of lung cancer from inhaling asbestos fibers is also greater if you smoke. People who get asbestosis have usually been exposed to high levels of asbestos for a long time. The symptoms of these diseases do not usually appear until about 20 to 30 years after the first exposure to asbestos.

Most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos, as we all are in our daily lives, do not develop these health problems. However, if disturbed, asbestos material may release asbestos fibers, which can be inhaled into the lungs. The fibers can remain there for a long time, increasing the risk of disease. Asbestos material that would crumble easily if handled, or that has been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder, is more likely to create a health hazard.

Where Would Asbestos Be Found, and When Can it Be a Problem?
Most products made today do not contain asbestos. Those few products made which still contain asbestos that could be inhaled are required to be labeled as such. However, until the 1970s, many types of building products and insulation materials used in homes contained asbestos.
Common products that might have contained asbestos in the past, and conditions which may release fibers, include:
  • steam pipes, boilers and furnace ducts insulated with an asbestos blanket or asbestos paper tape. These materials may release asbestos fibers if damaged, repaired, or removed improperly;
  • resilient floor tiles (vinyl asbestos, asphalt and rubber), the backing on vinyl sheet flooring, and adhesives used for installing floor tile. Sanding tiles can release fibers, and so may scraping or sanding the backing of sheet flooring during removal;
  • cement sheet, millboard and paper used as insulation around furnaces and wood-burning stoves. Repairing or removing appliances may release asbestos fibers, and so may cutting, tearing, sanding, drilling, or sawing insulation;
  • door gaskets in furnaces, wood stoves and coal stoves. Worn seals can release asbestos fibers during use;
  • soundproofing or decorative material sprayed on walls and ceilings. Loose, crumbly or water-damaged material may release fibers, and so will sanding, drilling or scraping the material;
  • patching and joint compounds for walls and ceilings, and textured paints. Sanding, scraping, or drilling these surfaces may release asbestos fibers;
  • asbestos cement roofing, shingles and siding. These products are not likely to release asbestos fibers unless sawed, dilled or cut;
  • artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces, and other older household products, such as fireproof gloves, stove-top pads, ironing board covers and certain hairdryers; and
  • automobile brake pads and linings, clutch facings and gaskets.
Where Asbestos Hazards May Be Found in a Home
  • Some roofing and siding shingles are made of asbestos cement.
  • Houses built between 1930 and 1950 may have asbestos as insulation.
  • Asbestos may be present in textured paint and in patching compounds used on wall and ceiling joints. Their use was banned in 1977.
  • Artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces may contain asbestos.
  • Older products, such as stove-top pads, may have some asbestos compounds.
  • Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves may be protected with asbestos paper, millboard or cement sheets.
  • Asbestos is found in some vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives.
  • Hot water and steam pipes in older houses may be coated with an asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape.
  • Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets may have asbestos insulation.

What Should Be Done About Asbestos in the Home?

If you think asbestos may be in your home, don’t panic.  Usually, the best thing to do is to leave asbestos material that is in good condition alone. Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers. There is no danger unless the asbestos is disturbed and fibers are released and then inhaled into the lungs. Check material regularly if you suspect it may contain asbestos. Don’t touch it, but look for signs of wear or damage, such as tears, abrasions or water damage. Damaged material may release asbestos fibers. This is particularly true if you often disturb it by hitting, rubbing or handling it, or if it is exposed to extreme vibration or air flow. Sometimes, the best way to deal with slightly damaged material is to limit access to the area and not touch or disturb it. Discard damaged or worn asbestos gloves, stove-top pads and ironing board covers. Check with local health, environmental or other appropriate agencies to find out proper handling and disposal procedures. If asbestos material is more than slightly damaged, or if you are going to make changes in your home that might disturb it, repair or removal by a professional is needed. Before you have your house remodeled, find out whether asbestos materials are present.
How to Identify Materials That Contain Asbestos
You can’t tell whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it, unless it is labeled. If in doubt, treat the material as if it contains asbestos, or have it sampled and analyzed by a qualified professional. A professional should take samples for analysis, since a professional knows what to look for, and because there may be an increased health risk if fibers are released. In fact, if done incorrectly, sampling can be more hazardous than leaving the material alone. Taking samples yourself is not recommended. If you nevertheless choose to take the samples yourself, take care not to release asbestos fibers into the air or onto yourself. Material that is in good condition and will not be disturbed (by remodeling, for example) should be left alone. Only material that is damaged or will be disturbed should be sampled.

Anyone who samples asbestos-containing materials should have as much information as possible on the handling of asbestos before sampling and, at a minimum, should observe the following procedures:

  • Make sure no one else is in the room when sampling is done.
  • Wear disposable gloves or wash hands after sampling.
  • Shut down any heating or cooling systems to minimize the spread of any released fibers.
  • Do not disturb the material any more than is needed to take a small sample.
  • Place a plastic sheet on the floor below the area to be sampled.
  • Wet the material using a fine mist of water containing a few drops of detergent before taking the sample. The water/detergent mist will reduce the release of asbestos fibers.
  • Carefully cut a piece from the entire depth of the material using a small knife, corer or other sharp object. Place the small piece into a clean container (a 35-mm film canister, small glass or plastic vial, or high-quality resealable plastic bag).
  • Tightly seal the container after the sample is in it.
  • Carefully dispose of the plastic sheet. Use a damp paper towel to clean up any material on the outside of the container or around the area sampled. Dispose of asbestos materials according to state and local procedures.
  • Label the container with an identification number and clearly state when and where the sample was taken.
  • Patch the sampled area with the smallest possible piece of duct tape to prevent fiber release.
  • Send the sample to an asbestos analysis laboratory accredited by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Your state or local health department may also be able to help.
How to Manage an Asbestos Problem 
If the asbestos material is in good shape and will not be disturbed, do nothing! If it is a problem, there are two types of corrections: repair and removal. Repair usually involves either sealing or covering asbestos material. Sealing (encapsulation) involves treating the material with a sealant that either binds the asbestos fibers together or coats the material so that fibers are not released. Pipe, furnace and boiler insulation can sometimes be repaired this way. This should be done only by a professional trained to handle asbestos safely. Covering (enclosure) involves placing something over or around the material that contains asbestos to prevent the release of fibers. Exposed insulated piping may be covered with a protective wrap or jacket. With any type of repair, the asbestos remains in place. Repair is usually cheaper than removal, but it may make removal of asbestos later (if found to be necessary) more difficult and costly. Repairs can either be major or minor. Major repairs must be done only by a professional trained in methods for safely handling asbestos. Minor repairs should also be done by professionals, since there is always a risk of exposure to fibers when asbestos is disturbed.
Repairs 
Doing minor repairs yourself is not recommended, since improper handling of asbestos materials can create a hazard where none existed. If you nevertheless choose to do minor repairs, you should have as much information as possible on the handling of asbestos before doing anything. Contact your state or local health department or regional EPA office for information about asbestos training programs in your area. Your local school district may also have information about asbestos professionals and training programs for school buildings. Even if you have completed a training program, do not try anything more than minor repairs. Before undertaking minor repairs, carefully examine the area around the damage to make sure it is stable. As a general rule, any damaged area which is bigger than the size of your hand is not considered a minor repair.

Before undertaking minor repairs, be sure to follow all the precautions described previously for sampling asbestos material. Always wet the asbestos material using a fine mist of water containing a few drops of detergent. Commercial products designed to fill holes and seal damaged areas are available. Small areas of material, such as pipe insulation, can be covered by wrapping a special fabric, such as re-wettable glass cloth, around it. These products are available from stores (listed in the telephone directory under “Safety Equipment and Clothing”) which specialize in asbestos materials and safety items.

Removal is usually the most expensive method and, unless required by state or local regulations, should be the last option considered in most situations. This is because removal poses the greatest risk of fiber release. However, removal may be required when remodeling or making major changes to your home that will disturb asbestos material. Also, removal may be called for if asbestos material is damaged extensively and cannot be otherwise repaired. Removal is complex and must be done only by a contractor with special training. Improper removal may actually increase the health risks to you and your family.
Asbestos Professionals: Who Are They and What Can They Do?
Asbestos professionals are trained in handling asbestos material. The type of professional will depend on the type of product and what needs to be done to correct the problem. You may hire a general asbestos contractor or, in some cases, a professional trained to handle specific products containing asbestos.
Asbestos professionals can conduct inspections, take samples of suspected material, assess its condition, and advise on the corrections that are needed, as well as who is qualified to make these corrections. Once again, material in good condition need not be sampled unless it is likely to be disturbed. Professional correction or abatement contractors repair and remove asbestos materials.
Some firms offer combinations of testing, assessment and correction. A professional hired to assess the need for corrective action should not be connected with an asbestos-correction firm. It is better to use two different firms so that there is no conflict of interest. Services vary from one area to another around the country.
The federal government offers training courses for asbestos professionals around the country. Some state and local governments also offer or require training or certification courses. Ask asbestos professionals to document their completion of federal or state-approved training. Each person performing work in your home should provide proof of training and licensing in asbestos work, such as completion of EPA-approved training. State and local health departments or EPA regional offices may have listings of licensed professionals in your area.

If you have a problem that requires the services of asbestos professionals, check their credentials carefully. Hire professionals who are trained, experienced, reputable and accredited — especially if accreditation is required by state or local laws. Before hiring a professional, ask for references from previous clients. Find out if they were satisfied. Ask whether the professional has handled similar situations. Get cost estimates from several professionals, as the charges for these services can vary.

Though private homes are usually not covered by the asbestos regulations that apply to schools and public buildings, professionals should still use procedures described in federal or state-approved training. Homeowners should be alert to the chance of misleading claims by asbestos consultants and contractors. There have been reports of firms incorrectly claiming that asbestos materials in homes must be replaced. In other cases, firms have encouraged unnecessary removal or performed it improperly. Unnecessary removal is a waste of money. Improper removal may actually increase the health risks to you and your family. To guard against this, know what services are available and what procedures and precautions are needed to do the job properly.

In addition to general asbestos contractors, you may select a roofing, flooring or plumbing contractor trained to handle asbestos when it is necessary to remove and replace roofing, flooring, siding or asbestos-cement pipe that is part of a water system. Normally, roofing and flooring contractors are exempt from state and local licensing requirements because they do not perform any other asbestos-correction work.

Asbestos-containing automobile brake pads and linings, clutch facings and gaskets should be repaired and replaced only by a professional using special protective equipment. Many of these products are now available without asbestos.
If you hire an InterNACHI® inspector who is trained in asbestos inspection:
  • Make sure that the inspection will include a complete visual examination, and the careful collection and lab analysis of samples. If asbestos is present, the inspector should provide a written evaluation describing its location and extent of damage, and give recommendations for correction or prevention.
  • Make sure an inspecting firm makes frequent site visits if it is hired to assure that a contractor follows proper procedures and requirements. The inspector may recommend and perform checks after the correction to assure that the area has been properly cleaned.

If you hire a corrective-action contractor:

  • Check with your local air pollution control board, the local agency responsible for worker safety, and the Better Business Bureau. Ask if the firm has had any safety violations. Find out if there are legal actions filed against it.
  • Insist that the contractor use the proper equipment to do the job. The workers must wear approved respirators, gloves and other protective clothing.
  • Before work begins, get a written contract specifying the work plan, cleanup, and the applicable federal, state and local regulations which the contractor must follow (such as notification requirements and asbestos disposal procedures). Contact your state and local health departments, EPA regional office, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s regional office to find out what the regulations are. Be sure the contractor follows local asbestos removal and disposal laws. At the end of the job, get written assurance from the contractor that all procedures have been followed.
  • Assure that the contractor avoids spreading or tracking asbestos dust into other areas of your home. They should seal off the work area from the rest of the house using plastic sheeting and duct tape, and also turn off the heating and air conditioning system. For some repairs, such as pipe insulation removal, plastic bags may be adequate. They must be sealed with tape and properly disposed of when the job is complete.
  • Make sure the work site is clearly marked as a hazardous area. Do not allow household members or pets into the area until work is completed.
  • Insist that the contractor apply a wetting agent to the asbestos material with a hand sprayer that creates a fine mist before removal. Wet fibers do not float in the air as easily as dry fibers and will be easier to clean up.
  • Make sure the contractor does not break removed material into smaller pieces. This could release asbestos fibers into the air. Pipe insulation was usually installed in pre-formed blocks and should be removed in complete pieces.
  • Upon completion, assure that the contractor cleans the area well with wet mops, wet rags, sponges and/or HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) vacuum cleaners. A regular vacuum cleaner must never be used. Wetting helps reduce the chance of spreading asbestos fibers in the air. All asbestos materials and disposable equipment and clothing used in the job must be placed in sealed, leakproof, and labeled plastic bags. The work site should be visually free of dust and debris. Air monitoring (to make sure there is no increase of asbestos fibers in the air) may be necessary to assure that the contractor’s job is done properly. This should be done by someone not connected with the contractor.

Caution!

 

Do not dust, sweep or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos. These actions will disturb tiny asbestos fibers and may release them into the air. Remove dust by wet-mopping or with a special HEPA vacuum cleaner used by trained asbestos contractors. https://www.nachi.org/asbestos.htm

Red Horse Home Inspection LLC is proud to service the Black Hills of South Dakota.  If you are buying or selling a home in the Black Hills or the surrounding area please schedule your inspection online.

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

by Nick Gromicko, CMI®

 

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 an InterNACHI Certified Professional Inspector®. https://www.nachi.org/as-is.htm

If you’re buying a home being sold “as is” schedule your home inspection with Red Horse Home Inspection.

Water may be essential to life, but, as a destructive force, water can diminish the value of your home or building. Homes as well as commercial buildings can suffer water damage that results in increased maintenance costs, a decrease in the value of the property, lowered productivity, and potential liability associated with a decline in indoor air quality. The best way to protect against this potential loss is to ensure that the building components which enclose the structure, known as the building envelope, are water-resistant. Also, you will want to ensure that manufacturing processes, if present, do not allow excess water to accumulate. Finally, make sure that the plumbing and ventilation systems, which can be quite complicated in buildings, operate efficiently and are well-maintained. This article provides some basic steps for identifying and eliminating potentially damaging excess moisture.

Identify and Repair All Leaks and Cracks 
The following are common building-related sources of water intrusion:
  • windows and doors: Check for leaks around your windows, storefront systems and doors.
  • roof: Improper drainage systems and roof sloping reduce roof life and become a primary source of moisture intrusion. Leaks are also common around vents for exhaust or plumbing, rooftop air-conditioning units, or other specialized equipment.
  • foundation and exterior walls: Seal any cracks and holes in exterior walls, joints and foundations. These often develop as a naturally occurring byproduct of differential soil settlement.
  • plumbing: Check for leaking plumbing fixtures, dripping pipes (including fire sprinkler systems), clogged drains (both interior and exterior), defective water drainage systems and damaged manufacturing equipment.
  • ventilation, heating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems: Numerous types, some very sophisticated, are a crucial component to maintaining a healthy, comfortable work environment. They are comprised of a number of components (including chilled water piping and condensation drains) that can directly contribute to excessive moisture in the work environment. In addition, in humid climates, one of the functions of the system is to reduce the ambient air moisture level (relative humidity) throughout the building. An improperly operating HVAC system will not perform this function.
Prevent Water Intrusion Through Good Inspection and Maintenance Programs
Hire a qualified InterNACHI inspector to perform an inspection of the following elements of your building to ensure that they remain in good condition:
  • flashings and sealants: Flashing, which is typically a thin metal strip found around doors, windows and roofs, are designed to prevent water intrusion in spaces where two building materials come together. Sealants and caulking are specifically applied to prevent moisture intrusion at building joints. Both must be maintained and in good condition.
  • vents: All vents should have appropriate hoods, exhaust to the exterior, and be in good working order.
  • Review the use of manufacturing equipment that may include water for processing or cooling. Ensure wastewater drains adequately away, with no spillage. Check for condensation around hot or cold materials or heat-transfer equipment.
  • HVAC systems are much more complicated in commercial buildings. Check for leakage in supply and return water lines, pumps, air handlers and other components. Drain lines should be clean and clear of obstructions. Ductwork should be insulated to prevent condensation on exterior surfaces.
  • humidity: Except in specialized facilities, the relative humidity in your building should be between 30% and 50%. Condensation on windows, wet stains on walls and ceilings, and musty smells are signs that relative humidity may be high. If you are concerned about the humidity level in your building, consult with a mechanical engineer, contractor or air-conditioning repair company to determine if your HVAC system is properly sized and in good working order. A mechanical engineer should be consulted when renovations to interior spaces take place.
  • moist areas: Regularly clean off, then dry all surfaces where moisture frequently collects.
  • expansion joints: Expansion joints are materials between bricks, pipes and other building materials that absorb movement. If expansion joints are not in good condition, water intrusion can occur.
Protection From Water Damage
  • interior finish materials: Replace drywall, plaster, carpet and stained or water-damaged ceiling tiles. These are not only good evidence of a moisture intrusion problem, but can lead to deterioration of the work environment, if they remain over time.
  • exterior walls: Exterior walls are generally comprised of a number of materials combined into a wall assembly. When properly designed and constructed, the assembly is the first line of defense between water and the interior of your building. It is essential that they be maintained properly (including regular refinishing and/or resealing with the correct materials).
  • storage areas: Storage areas should be kept clean. Allow air to circulate to prevent potential moisture accumulation.
Act Quickly if  Water Intrusion Occurs
Label shut-off valves so that the water supply can be easily closed in the event of a plumbing leak. If water intrusion does occur, you can minimize the damage by addressing the problem quickly and thoroughly. Immediately remove standing water and all moist materials, and consult with a building professional. Should your building become damaged by a catastrophic event, such as fire, flood or storm, take appropriate action to prevent further water damage, once it is safe to do so. This may include boarding up damaged windows, covering a damaged roof with plastic sheeting, and/or removing wet materials and supplies. Fast action on your part will help minimize the time and expense for repairs, resulting in a faster recovery. https://www.nachi.org/waterdamage.htm