Eastern Shore Radon Levels

How often do our clients ask about Radon? Here is some news you can share with them. These maps will be posted on our website for your future use and as a resouce for our clients.
What is Radon?

Radon is a cancer-causing natural radioactive gas that you can’t see, smell or taste. Its presence in a home can pose a danger to the occupents health. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America and claims more than 20,000 lives annually. Radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets into the air you breathe.

Maryland Radon LevelsDelaware radon

What do the colors mean? Good news – the Lower Eastern Shore of MD, DE, and VA has a low potential for Radon.

 

 Zone 1 counties have a predicted average indoor radon screening level greater than 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) (red zones) Highest Potential

 Zone 2 counties have a predicted average indoor radon screening level between 2 and 4 pCi/L (orange zones) Moderate Potential

 Zone 3 counties have a predicted average indoor radon screening level less than 2 pCi/L (yellow zones) Low Potential

In case you have a client who insist on testing here are some options:
NEHA Certified Radon Measurement Specialists

Company, Inspector, Phone, City & County
US Inspect, Frank DiFazio, (302) 540-2070, Lewes, Sussex

Cornerstone Home Inspection Service, Russell Sutton, (302) 537-6214, Ocean View, Sussex

Radon Detection & Consulting Services, James G. Stromberg, (410) 804-6924, Ocean View, Sussex

Rehoboth Roulette…Mold or Wood Destroying Fungus?

In our last blog we mentioned the while at a Rehoboth Beach, Delaware home inspection a customer mentioned wanting to treat his own mold problem. We thought it necessary to follow up with a blog on wood destroying fungus which many times gets mistaken for mold, leading to even more serious problems for the homeowner. Sussex County home inspectors run into this issue quite often.

When dealing with bio-growth in your home it is of the utmost importance to be sure to test the fungus to determine if you have mold or a wood destroying fungus. While both are serious threats, wood destroying fungus can actually jeopardize the structural soundness of your home. Wood destroying fungi causes more damage to structures than all the fires, floods, and termites combined!

Wood decaying fungus requires four fundamentals to survive which are oxygen, favorable temperatures, water, and food. However, since fungus is a plant that lack chlorophyll, it is unable to make its own food and so it feeds off of cells in the wood. The fungus secretes enzymes that break down the wood into usable food. Fungi will significantly reduce the strength of the wood, if untreated for a long period of time.

 

Once you have determined whether your home is suffering from a case of mold or a wood destroying fungus you can then proceed to treat. If you do find out that it is simply mold, you are not out of the woods yet. It must be treated immediately as the presence of mold indicates moisture levels sufficient enough for the growth of a wood destroying fungus. (Tips for treating mold)

There are different types of wood destroying fungus, each with identifying characteristics.

  • White rot – breaks down all major wood components and commonly causes rotted wood to feel moist, soft and spongy, or stringy and to appear white bleached.
  • Brown rot – leaves a brown residue of lignin and the affected wood is usually dry and fragile, and readily crumbles into cubes. Brown rot is generally more serious than white rot.
  • Soft rot – typically occurs in wood of high water content and high nitrogen content. Soft rot fungi look like brown rot. They are most commonly found in rotting window frames, wet floor boards and fence posts, etc.

Treatment of wood destroying fungus requires borates. Borates are highly destructive to all wood destroying organisms and, unlike other wood preservatives, they are non-volatile, odorless, and are less toxic than table salt. They do not discolor the wood, are non-corrosive, environmentally safe and effective in controlling more than 45 different species of wood destroying fungi.
After treatment has been completed the fungi will begin to die and dry up. Occasionally the dead fungi will emit an unpleasant odor as it decomposes. This will only last a couple of days and may be minimized with the circulation of fresh air.

Although borates will kill wood destroying fungi, it will not add strength to the damaged wood. The most effective and common method for moderate to severe damage is to replace the damaged wood. However, if only a small area is affected, borates and reinforcing the damaged wood are a cost-effective alternative.

Knob and Tube Wiring Found in a Salisbury Home Inspection

Knob and Tube (K&T) wiring was an early standardized method of electrical wiring which was extremely prevalent in the 1920’s and 30’s. While prevalent in the early part of the 19th century K&T was installed in some locations as late as the 1970’s. It was known that other methods such as better insulated wiring was safer and more effective but K&T could be installed for less.

There are several ways of detecting K&T wiring. One sign is that the circuit will have no electrical ground path. Also where ever the wire passes through lumber ceramic tubes are installed to insulate the wire from the wood. Ceramic knobs, which are displayed in the image, are also used as an insulator when the wiring is surface mounted in a building. The illustration displays the way K&T wiring is usually connected to homes. The best place to look for these signs is where ever the homes wiring is visible such as in the basement or in the attic rafters. Another sign that your home may have K&T wiring is the presence of old push button switches and two pronged outlets with no ground.

 

K&T wiring is insulated with a rubberized cloth. This insulation is prone to damage and was designed to be suspended in the air. The insulation breaks easily and deteriorates when over heated by modern appliances which expose the wire to damage. The insulation is also highly flammable. I have provided a link below that goes in to greater detail about the insulation of K&T wiring. 

 

 

 

 

 <——- Damaged insulation and wiring in contact with other material.

Rehoboth Beach Man Wants To Clean Up His Own Mold…A good Idea??

While at a home inspection in Rehoboth Beach we noticed some mold spots on the walls of the basement. The buyer stated that he would just take a rag with bleach to the area. In areas of wide spread bio growth this could be a big mistake.

Dealing with large areas of mold is no DIY project. It is a serious problem that if not properly treated can lead to severe health consequences. So how do you know if you need to call in a specialist to deal with your mold problem or if it’s something you can take on yourself? Well if the moldy area is 10 sq ft or less you can probably tackle the problem yourself but be sure to follow the proper guidelines.

  • First be sure to fix any plumbing leaks and other water problems that could be causing the mold as soon as possible and be absolutely sure to area is completely dry as the mold will continue to grow if there is moisture present. (This can be a big challenge for those in Rehoboth Beach, Bethany Beach, Lewis, Ocean City etc. as moisture issues are prevalent on the Eastern Shore) High Tech Home Inspections uses the latest technology to help our clients locate areas of un seen moisture.
  • Next wash the mold with bleach and water and dry completely. Never mix chlorine bleach solution with other cleaning solutions or detergents that contain ammonia because toxic fumes could be produced. Be sure to follow the EPA suggested guidelines while cleaning small areas of mold.
  • You may not be able to rid mold completely from some absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles and carpets since mold can grow in the tiny crevices making it impossible to remove. As a result you may have to replace certain affected areas.
  • It is important to always wear the proper protection when dealing with mold. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggest that you wear an N-95 respirator that fits properly to avoid any mold spore inhalation, as well as gloves and goggles.

You may suspect hidden mold if a building smells moldy or like mildew. Mold can hide in many places such as the backside of drywall, wall paper and paneling as well as under carpets and inside walls around leaking pipes. If you think you may have a hidden mold problem it is important that you call in a specialist. Removing materials with hidden mold is very dangerous as the mold spores can be made airborne.

It is also important to note that dead or dormant mold may still cause an allergic reaction in some people, therefore it is suggested to remove all mold, just killing it may not solve the problem.
Some things are just better left to the professionals and dealing with large areas of mold is definitely one of them.

New Voluntary Rule in Fireplace Safety to Take Effect January 2015

Fireplace manufacturers have agreed to add screens to the glass doors of gas fireplaces to prevent serious burns to an estimated 200 children ages 5 and younger each year. The new voluntary rule doesn’t come into effect until January 2015 yet companies are stepping up and providing customers with screens that can be purchased long before then in order to keep their children safe this winter season. Contact your gas-fireplace manufacturer to see if they sell a screen that fits their fireplace or if they can recommend one from an aftermarket maker.

 Safety consultant Carol Pollack-Nelson got the ball rolling on this when she sent the CPSC a petition asking them to require the industry to protect consumers from the glass. Approximately 11 million homes in the United States have gas fireplaces yet almost 6 million of these households were unaware of the doors’ burn risks.

 Always keep in mind these safety tips when around gas fireplaces, stoves or inserts

 • Supervise children, the elderly, disabled and pets when around a fireplace, stove or insert that was recently turned off
• Keep any remote control out of the reach of children
• Install a switch lock to prevent children from turning it on
• Make sure family members and guests are aware a gas fireplace, stove or insert’s glass panel can be very hot
• Wait for the appliance to cool down before allowing anyone near it (cooling down can take an hour or more)
• Be aware that metal surfaces, including door frames and grills, can also get hot
• Read the owner’s manual and follow instructions

Mold and Moisture on the Eastern Shore

Mold can be a big problem for many homeowners on the Eastern Shore. Many cases are never completely fixed because people don’t know the proper steps to take for treatment and removal. It is important to understand what mold is and how it thrives in order to properly protect your home.

Molds are forms of fungi that are found naturally in the environment. They produce tiny spores to reproduce which waft through the indoor and outdoor air continually. When these spores land on a damp spot indoors, they may begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods.

When excessive moisture or water accumulates indoors, or in your crawl space, mold growth will often occur, especially if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or un-addressed. This can be a big problem for those living in the Rehoboth, Ocean City, Bethany Beach and Salisbury areas where moisture and high humidity is often present. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the only way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.

It is important to dry water-damaged areas and items within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth. If mold is a problem in your home, clean up the mold and get rid of the excess water or moisture. Fix leaky plumbing or other sources of water. Wash mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely. Absorbent materials that become moldy may have to be replaced such as ceiling tiles and carpet. Have your crawl space inspected annually to detect plumbing leaks, clogged condensate lines, or damaged duct work.

Crawl space moisture often goes undetected for years. This client had annual HVAC services and was never told the condensate line should drain to the exterior.

Water in your home can come from many sources. Water can enter your home by leaking or by seeping through basement floors or foundation walls. Showers or even cooking can add moisture to the air in your home. Reduce indoor humidity to decrease mold growth by venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside; using air conditioners and de-humidifiers; increasing ventilation; and using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning.

Open doors between rooms to increase circulation, as circulation carries heat to the cold surfaces. Increase air circulation by using fans and by moving furniture from wall corners to promote air and heat circulation. Be sure that your house has a source of fresh air and can expel excessive moisture from the home. Proper attic venting is a key in allowing your home to breathe.

With out proper attic venting moisture can become trapped in the building envelope. In the cooler months condensation occurs and bio growth may follow.

Living with mold can be detrimental to your health. Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposures include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints. It is important to regularly check for signs of mold and immediately address any problems you may find.

Warranty Inspections and Settlement Problems

Settlement cracks in a home can be caused by a variety of factors. Some, like a problem with a footer supporting the foundation, can be difficult to diagnosis and repair. Others can be simple to figure out and fix, but equally destructive. We inspected a five year old home in Lewes, Delaware. The buyer was concerned about dry wall cracks over several doors, cracking grout in the kitchen tile and a pantry door that was rubbing on the floor.

 

 

 

 

 

When we went under the home it was quickly apparent what had caused the problem. Shims were used to support the beams on that section of the house. This is a normal practice, used when the support column does not fit precisely under the beam. In this case the framing guys used several very small pieces of wood to support the weight of a 2 story home that is designed to rest on three 2X10”s and masonry block piers. The shims were made of hard wood. Instead of the homes weight crushing the small pieces of hard wood the 3 pine beams settled ¾ of an inch around the shims. This created the issues noticed in what otherwise appeared to be a beautiful well constructed home.

 

 

 

 

 

Small details such as this are prime examples why even homes built buy the best custom builders should have a home inspection prior to settlement, no pun intended. Another warranty inspection should be done before the one year anniversary date.

 

Here is a picture of a proper use of shims. This was in a 40 year old home that has no settlement issues.

Five Good Reasons For a New Construction Inspection

Most builders work hard to provide a quality home for their buyers. In trying times reputation and repeat business are a primary concern. Unfortunately, even the most conscientious builder is only as good as his weakest sub contractor. Municipal inspectors and the builder often miss mistakes that are made at various points in the construction process. While most issues will show up shortly after move in, some will go un detected for years. Moisture issues, disconnected duck work, and missing insulation can raise utility bills and subject you to possible health risk. A thorough home inspection prior to settlement, performed by a licensed home inspector will save you the inconvenience of working around repairs and insure your new home is as safe and snug as you expect it to be.

The Areas of Concern Your High Tech Home Inspector See’s Most Often Are:

1. Crawl Space Issues: Problems in the crawl space can include areas of missing insulation, missing vapor barrier, and disconnected damaged or otherwise improperly installed duct work. Improperly installed dryer vents and HVAC condensate lines as well as plumbing leaks are also very commonly found. We inspected a 6 year old home in Rehoboth DE. this week with a sump pump that had been installed improperly. It had never worked once. In the crawl space issues left undiscovered can fester for years. Moisture issues can lead to bigger problems and any or all of these issues are likely to cost you money at some point, if not on a monthly basis.

Missing insulation in new Bethany Beach Home

2. Drainage and foundation protection: Way to often proper drainage away from the foundation is simply overlooked. Low spots are found that allow water to seep into the basement or crawl space and rain gutters are some time not installed or installed improperly. Crawl space entrances should be above grade or have a well and cover installed. All utility penetrations through the foundation wall should be sealed to prevent ground water penetration. We inspected a new town house in the West Bethany Beach Area and all of the crawl spaces had 6 inches of water because the grade was sloped back to the foundation. The problem was compounded by the decks that had already been installed.

3. Plumbing Issues: While most new construction plumbing issues are minor and easy to fix, such as the time we found hot water coming out of hose bib in a Salisbury area home inspection that is not always the case. Plumbing leaks which damage dry wall or cabinets can be a huge incontinence if not discovered prior to settlement. We inspected a home in Fenwick Island in which the drain pipe was disconnected at the upstairs bath. Fortunately there was ample time for the builder to make repairs prior to settlement.

Moisture damage and bio. growth occurring before occupancy. What would this look like in a few years?

4. HVAC problems: HVAC issues in new construction are often related to duct work and condensate lines. A new home we inspected in West Ocean City MD. had the condensate line for the upstairs air handler dumping on top of the center beams in the house. This was easy to find as the water was running across the beam and seeping down the exterior foundation wall.

Condensate line dripping on center beam in new Ocean City Home

5. Electrical Issues: Loose and improperly grounded outlets are commonly found in new construction. On occasion such as the time we found a damaged main service wire in a brand new Fruitland home the consequences can be more serious and could result in increased power consumption.

Damaged service feed, overlooked during final electrical inspection

House Check service provided by High Tech Home Inspections

Save your self the worry and a trip.  Who better to trust your home or boat with then trained professionals. Our clients have valued our integrity and enlisted our expertise in home inspections and home maintanance for years. What better choice for post storm or regular home checks then a proven, trusted, and insured, full service home inspection company. Our mission is to give you peace of mind while you are away from your residence. If you have a second home in the area that you leave vacant during the winter months, orr are you planning a trip for business or pleasure and would like to have someone check on your house in your absence, High Tech Home Inspections can be “your eyes and ears” while you are out of town. After a storm, or while your away on vacation we will inspect your home and or boat and send you time and date stamped photos. We look for water and moisture damage, wind damage, roof leaks, damaged shingles, structural damage, and much more.

 

After huricane Irene we were out on Sunday checking our clients homes. As soon as traffic was allowed into Ocean City we were beginning our house checks. Fortuantly we did not discover any major damage. A few clients who take advantage of our interior inspection packages did have water penetration issues.  One showed up in a Fenwick Island home through a visual check . There was a roof leak that was causing damage to the dry wall in the laundry room. We used our infrared camera to locate the exact spot of the leak in the attic.

We were quickly able to locate the roof leak during a post Irene house check.

 

A post storm check found this ceiling damage for a client in Fenwick Island

 

In a Ocean City water front home we detected a water leak under a window that was only visible with infrared scanning. The leak was confirmed with moisture testing. Our clients recieved a same day report including photos, a description of the damage and our  suggested course of action. In both cases substantial damage could have occured over time, but with our timely discovery repairs were limited.

 

This moisture could not be observed but was confirmed with a moisture meter

Wind drive rain may have gotten under this bowed siding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If a claim needs to be filed our reports are respected for their accuracy and detail by insurance companies. You can also arrannge to have us securely store photos of your home taken at the time of contract that make it difficult to deny a claim due to previous damage.  Contact us today to enroll in one of our plans or to develop an individualized plan that will meet your expectations and the needs of your property. Plans and pricing details can be found on this web site under the House Check tab at the top of the page .

High Tech Home Inspections- Reliable and Thorough Inspection Services.   

 

Creepy Critters: A Halloween Tribute to Some Frightfully Surprising Inspection Guests

Bat

Home inspectors frequently encounter dangerous animals, birds, reptiles, and insects. Whether it be aggressive raccoons, venemous snakes, poisonous spiders, or, as seen above, a curious bat, the directive is always the same. Do not risk personal injury. Move away slowly and deliberately, continuing your inspection elsewhere.

We chose this time of year to blog about these nuisance critters in honor of the Halloween holiday, but not a month goes by that we don’t receive pictures from the field of many different types of potentially deadly encounters.

The message we’d like to communicate is to always err on the side of safety. We, as inspectors, somewhat expect to encounter these animals, usually in attics, crawlspaces, and on roofs. However, you, the homeowner or real estate agent listing or showing a property, may not. Be very careful when proceeding into unknown territory. Better yet, let us do it for you. We will then bring it to your attention and give you the best advice for handling the situation.