Environmental – CheckThisHouse https://www.checkthishouse.com Home maintenance, remodeling, repair, and improvement tips for your property Tue, 13 Apr 2021 22:28:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.17 3 Compelling Reasons to Go Green When Constructing Homes https://www.checkthishouse.com/9653/construct-green-home.html Fri, 11 Dec 2020 15:49:43 +0000 https://www.checkthishouse.com/?p=9653 There is now a growing awareness of the dire effects of climate change in many nations in the world. Since we are more intelligent and arguably the more destructive creatures on the planet, humans are assumed to have a greater responsibility in making sure that the problem does not get even worse. As a result, ... Read more]]>

There is now a growing awareness of the dire effects of climate change in many nations in the world.

Since we are more intelligent and arguably the more destructive creatures on the planet, humans are assumed to have a greater responsibility in making sure that the problem does not get even worse.

As a result, there is now clamor for environmentally friendly practices in almost everything, including home construction. 

However, there are those who resist such trends, saying that it is too inconvenient or expensive to go green.

What they don’t realize is that there are actually a lot of immediate benefits when we adopt green practices in building our homes:

1. Green Materials are Durable

Environmentally friendly homes are made of materials that are either naturally sustainable or recycled.

However, just because they are natural or recycled does not really mean that they wither easily.

Some of these materials last even longer than the ones that we are more accustomed to.

For example, decks that are made of recycled plastic and wood fibers can last five times longer than the usual wooden decks. Recycled-content decks don’t even need to be treated, so you save time and effort with them. 

The benefits of green materials are maximized if they are installed and prepared appropriately. This is why you need professional builders because they have the competence and experience needed for green projects.

2. Indoor Air Quality is Better in Green Homes

Green materials are most likely organic or naturally occurring. Hence, they don’t have the usual chemicals that give off pungent smells and ultimately pollute the air.

Some environmentally friendly materials even have the ability to cleanse the air.

For example, sheep wool that is now being used in insulating homes has been found to have the ability to take formaldehyde and sulfur dioxide out of the air. 

Breathing in cleaner air at home gives more benefits than what is obvious.

There are studies that show that dirty air does mess not only with the lungs but also with the brain, which leads to deficiencies in focus and productivity.

3. Green Practices at Home Lead to Savings

Admittedly, some methods of going green currently have high upfront costs.

However, using environmentally friendly materials and designs in homes can actually bring a significant amount of savings in the long run.

Particularly, the US Department of Energy estimates that if current structures are ‘greenified,’ the country could use up to $20 billion worth of energy annually. 

In addition, water bills can be greatly reduced by greener options.

For example, newer toilets that use only about one and a half gallons of water per flush are undeniably more efficient than units that use five to seven gallons per flush.

Final Word

Many people are hesitant to go green simply because they imagine the benefits to be far-flung and not that concrete, but this is actually far from the truth.

Environment advocates should direct their messaging on the more concrete and immediate benefits of going green.

This way, they might be able to convince people about the benefits of these practices for the planet.

How To Maintain Good Air Quality Inside Your Home https://www.checkthishouse.com/8626/how-to-maintain-good-air-quality-inside-your-home.html Fri, 19 Jun 2020 14:07:32 +0000 https://www.checkthishouse.com/?p=8626 Do you find yourself coughing more than usual at home? Do you smell something “funky” and can’t determine the source of the stinky scent? Are household members beginning to become sick? If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, your home might have poor indoor air quality. Weak health, cumbersome stenches and unclean surroundings ... Read more]]>

Do you find yourself coughing more than usual at home?

Do you smell something “funky” and can’t determine the source of the stinky scent?

Are household members beginning to become sick?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, your home might have poor indoor air quality.

Weak health, cumbersome stenches and unclean surroundings are a few of the many consequences of failing to maintain good indoor air quality.

So it should be in your best interest to continue reading to know five tips to improve air quality inside your abode.

Replace Air Filters

Air filters serve to catch particles, such as dust, mold, and pollen, from entering your home.

Clean filters do a relatively good job of preventing these substances from arriving uninvited into your house.

But filters can become dirty over time. Dirt and other substances can damage the component, causing unclean elements to weaken your home’s indoor air quality.

At this point, changing your air filter should become a top priority.

Changing the filter requires you to temporarily turn off the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Do this step first to reduce the risks of accidents and mishaps during the replacement process.

Next, locate the filter and determine the component’s size. Acquire the dimensions before purchasing a new filter for the HVAC system.

Once you have a new filter, remove the old unit. You may need to use tools like a screwdriver to remove the filter correctly.

Insert the new air filter carefully and turn on the HVAC system again. You should now enjoy fresh air inside your home.

If you find this task to be too challenging, you can always count on professional help to aid you in this regard.

Senior caucasian man changing a folded dirty air filter in the HVAC furnace system in basement of home

Keep The Floors Clean

If you think about poor indoor air quality, perhaps the first thought that enters your mind is airborne particles.

Consider thinking about sources of unclean particles around your home that may reduce indoor air quality.

On that note, think about your floors. Are particles floating into the air once you step on the flooring? These tiny things will mix with the breathable space, causing a heightened risk of household members inhaling these substances.

Therefore, clean your floors to improve your home’s indoor air quality. You can start by creating and maintaining a vacuum-cleaning schedule.

Use vacuum cleaners to ensure particles on the floor won’t become airborne. Also, use vacuums with HEPA filters to help reduce lead concentrations indoors.

The continuous absorption of lead by the body can cause health complications, such as decreases in cognitive and nervous functions.

Aside from using your vacuum cleaner regularly, don’t forget to mop the floor. Use a wet mop to pick up any remaining dust or debris that the vacuum leaves behind.

Open The Windows

Perhaps one of the cheapest ways to improve and maintain good air quality inside your home is to open the windows.

Do this to create breathable spaces around your abode. Also, opening these entryways can help reduce indoor humidity, an essential element for the survival of dust mites, molds, and mildew.

Keep in mind that this tip may not work for every household. Some properties might be nearby crowded streets.

Smoke from vehicles may enter the home if you open your windows. Hence, it might be better to keep your windows closed and use other techniques to improve indoor air quality.

Use Houseplants

Houseplants help maintain and improve indoor air quality by reducing harmful airborne components, such as formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide.

Consider the following houseplants the next time you’re looking for “green” ways to improve your home’s air quality:

  • Aloe Vera
  • Spider Plant
  • Gerbera daisy
  • Snake plant
  • Golden photos

Use Air Purifiers

If you don’t mind spending extra cash to maintain your home’s good air quality, you can purchase a reliable air purifier.

Air purifiers use internal fans to pull air from your home to a series of filters. These devices will then purify the captured air (hence the name) before returning it.

The process will repeat several times throughout the day, keeping the indoor environment as healthy as possible.

Purifying the air using these gadgets can also help reduce the risks of specific illnesses, such as:

  • Asthma
  • Allergy attacks
  • Lung disease
  • Mesothelioma
  • Leukemia


Don’t disregard the importance of maintaining good indoor air quality. Changing air filters, cleaning the floors, and opening the windows are only a few of the many techniques you should consider.

Follow these tips, and every household member should enjoy breathing fresh indoor air.

How to Identify Asbestos In Your Home? https://www.checkthishouse.com/8386/how-to-identify-asbestos-in-your-home.html Mon, 25 Mar 2019 16:38:04 +0000 https://www.checkthishouse.com/?p=8386 In the 19th and 20th centuries, it was standard practice to use asbestos in homes. It was a widely used building material because it is extremely strong and durable.  Asbestos material is inexpensive to manufacturers and possesses the ability to shield heat and protect your home from fire to a certain extent.  However, with all ... Read more]]>

In the 19th and 20th centuries, it was standard practice to use asbestos in homes. It was a widely used building material because it is extremely strong and durable. 

Asbestos material is inexpensive to manufacturers and possesses the ability to shield heat and protect your home from fire to a certain extent. 

However, with all these qualities, asbestos causes serious health risks. Let us discuss asbestos exposure in homes and its health risks in a step-by-step guide.

Exposure of Asbestos in Homes

It is impossible to determine that a material used in your home contains asbestos simply by looking at it. You will need the expertise of professionals to identify the exposure of asbestos in your home. A professional asbestos inspector will be able to examine your home and determine the best course of action if there is presence of the substance.

Asbestos exposure happens during swallowing and inhaling the fibers and tiny particles. These particles become airborne when the substance is disturbed and broken up. When asbestos is manipulated in any way or is broken, its fine tiny particles get released into the air, where it can be inhaled by people living around the area of exposure.

Generally, asbestos material is safe as long as they stay in one piece. However, if they are disturbed or broken by the demolition or renovation of a house, they can become airborne and threaten the health of those people in the indoor environment. 

The only and permanent solution to the asbestos problem is its safe removal from your home. However, this process is risky if not done properly. You should hire a professional contractor for this process.

Where Can Asbestos Usually Be Found?

Fortunately, the use of asbestos has been highly regulated during the past 2-3 decades. However, older homes and other commercial buildings may contain materials that were affected by asbestos fibers. 

If you are planning to renovate or demolish your house, it is very important to know where the material may be in your home and if you can prevent it from getting airborne. Some of the common places at home where you can find asbestos are the floor tiles, roofing, duct system, ceiling tiles, as well as embers & artificial ashes found in gas fireplaces.

It is very important to do a thorough cleanup if you happen to have encountered a fire, flood, or any such event that causes damage your home. A government organization or a local health and environment department is always a good resource to utilize when you are not certain where the asbestos may present in your home. 

These professional organizations will also help with their Abatement-Policies for Asbestos that they apply in homes to alleviate asbestos exposure. It is important to choose a professional who is certified to do asbestos removal work. Many home repair contractors do not have this certification; so, make sure to choose a contractor who has completed a state-level Asbestos Safety-Course that includes comprehensive asbestos testing and removal skills.

Is Asbestos Dangerous For Health Inside Homes And How Much?

Asbestos is a deadly chemical that was used for centuries before people discovered that it causes a variety of dangerous diseases. However, the substance is a wonderful insulator for heat and sound and it was popularly used in homes up until the 18th century. Some people may associate it with a man-made poisonous chemical but it is a natural family of minerals. 

Learning where the substance may possibly exist in your home will help you protect the health and well-being of people around you. When a person inhales or swallows asbestos particles, they will start lining around the lungs as well as the heart and abdominal cavity.

More surprisingly, they will build over many years without showing any major symptom. In certain conditions, these fiber particles will cause scarring and cell changes in the tissues that will possibly cause cancer or can develop other serious illness.

Asbestos-related disease affects a number of people every year. So, it is very important to note the common symptoms like cold, flu and virus. These allow asbestos-related disease to progress beyond a certain stage. If you are exposed to these symptoms, then you are advised to have regular medical checkups including lung X-Ray.

Additionally, if you smoke and have been exposed to asbestos, it is wise to quit smoking immediately to save yourself from the chances of developing lung cancer. 

How Can A Homeowner Identify Asbestos?

Asbestos can be found anywhere in the home but it is very difficult to detect it at a first glance. In older homes, you can find it in cement, insulation, adhesives, vinyl flooring, sidings, roofing tiles, and textured paints. 

There are some common red flags to look out when working in your older homes especially those build prior the late 1980s.

Such Red Flags are:

  • Crumbling drywall
  • Broken shingles
  • Old and ridged cement roofing
  • Damaged siding
  • Worn building & piping insulation
  • Broken or discolored floor-tiles
  • Fragile ceiling outside layer and tiles 

Finding these materials in your home does not necessarily mean that asbestos is present. You can confirm it by testing the material in the laboratories because, as already mentioned, this can’t be seen by the naked eyes.

If you find something in your home that contains asbestos, do not touch it. The first rule is – Don’t Mess With It. Look for signs of wear and tear, damages and disturbing material and call a certified asbestos testing professional.

You should always take the help of a certified contractor rather than playing with it yourself. You can call your regional EPA Office or a department of Environmental-protection. The best way is to get your home tested and keep your family safe.

A number of government agencies and organizations have created guidelines and rules for handling asbestos exposure. For starters, remember to consult an asbestos specialist to confirm that it is asbestos or not. Also, remember that professional and certified asbestos removal contractors can be found throughout the country, only good research is needed. 


There goes our post on asbestos identification and exposure in your home, as well as its health hazards.

I hope this comprehensive guide will help you successfully check the presence of asbestos in your home.

My best advice for identifying and removing the asbestos from your home is to not panic and instead, call a professional. 

8 Great Ways To Beat The Heat With No Air Conditioner https://www.checkthishouse.com/8287/8-great-ways-to-beat-the-heat-with-no-air-conditioner.html Tue, 18 Sep 2018 16:08:20 +0000 https://www.checkthishouse.com/?p=8287 There’s nothing better than air conditioning to beat the summer heat, right? Well… not exactly. Air conditioning is one of the biggest culprits of your high energy costs, especially in the south. Estimates put our collective annual electric bill at about $200 per home, per household just to cool you down! And that’s in the ... Read more]]>

There’s nothing better than air conditioning to beat the summer heat, right?

Well… not exactly.

Air conditioning is one of the biggest culprits of your high energy costs, especially in the south. Estimates put our collective annual electric bill at about $200 per home, per household just to cool you down! And that’s in the North. In the south, it more than doubles, ballooning to $450.

Factoring in every home in America that uses an air conditioner, that’s about $30 billion a year in energy costs! And it has its cost for the environment, too. At our current usage rates, we’re releasing the equivalent to a half-billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air every year. That’s about the same tonnage as 140 coal-fired power plants!

But what can you do?

The summer is sweltering, and it’s not exactly healthy for us to overheat, either. Air conditioning seems like a great solution on a hot day, but it’s an awful lot of energy to heat one room, just to cool down a couple of bodies.

Fortunately, there are ways to tap into your body’s natural cooling methods. This list is full of great effective ideas to help you cool down naturally, whether you’re looking to cut down on energy costs, environmental impact or your A.C.’s just blown out (again.)

1. Eat something cold

To help regulate your body temperature, stick to colder meals in the summertime. Everybody loves a barbecue, but running your stove at home or standing over a hot grill is just going to expose your body to more heat.

Eating bigger meals also takes more energy and body heat, so take advantage of the summer months and eat light. Eating salads, wraps, fruits and veggies during the summer months can help cool you down internally, and not having to run the stove will keep the house nice and cool while you’re at it!

2. Drink more water

Obviously, there are plenty of good reasons to drink more water in the summertime. You sweat more, which means you dehydrate faster, and when your skin is exposed to sunlight, it needs all the moisture it can get to stay healthy. But it’s not just about health. Did you ever notice when you eat a watermelon, you really feel refreshed?

That’s because watermelon has a lot of water in it, and water is great for your body’s natural cooling processes. Like eating cold food, staying hydrated can actually lower your inner temperature. A lowered body temperature also means you use less energy overall, and stay cooler longer.

3. Loosen up… Your clothes, that is!

We all love our silky sheets, but for the summer time, you’ll want to dress your bed nice, light, breathable cotton. Not just your bed, either. Dressing for the weather doesn’t just mean a bikini. Your beach bod isn’t just about looking great. It’s actually beneficial to wear less clothes. If you’re someone who’s more on the modest side, though, you can choose loose, breathable fabrics like 100% cotton, in light colors that won’t absorb the heat from the sun. Keep your feet bare whenever possible.

Your feet carry a lot of pulse points, which makes them uniquely sensitive to temperature. It’s like in the winter, when you have cold feet, and your whole body feels cold. It’s painful when it’s cold out, but it can be a blessing in a sweltering summer heat.

4. Get yourself a screen door and window

Everybody wants to open their window in the summer, for those fresh summer breezes. Nobody wants the critters to come inside with the breeze. Invest in a screen door and screens on the windows, so you can keep a breeze blowing around the house.

A screened-in porch is great for summer night hangouts, and screens mean you can keep your windows closed during the hotter hours of the day, and open them up at night, when things cool down.

5. Get low – underground if you need to

Hot air rises. To beat the heat, you might want to pull a mattress pad to the floor when it gets bad. Another option is to hang out in the basement in the summer. If you’ve got a futon or sofa bed, use it.

The basement is bound to be a few degrees cooler than the rest of the house, and since most of us have bedrooms on the second floor of a two-story home, you’re bound to notice the difference.

6. Save your energy, and cool off

If you switch to CFLs or LEDs instead of incandescent light bulbs, your home will generate 200 degrees less heat per bulb! They also use a lot less energy. Another great way to save energy and avoid heat, is to turn off all of your appliances at night.

Even the stuff you’re not using can generate heat if it’s in sleep mode, so turn off or unplug everything you’re not using to cool down. Yes, that means your phone and tablet too!

7. Turn off the lights

This takes my last point a bit further. Turning off the light can help keep your home cool in the summer. Even LED and CLF lights generate some heat, which usually stays trapped inside.

Summer is a time for long days and short nights, so take advantage of the natural light while you can get it. You can even use light-colored curtains to block the sun’s rays from the window, and you should still be able to see just fine.

8. Get a cold water bottle

water being poured into a glass on a blue background

Remember what I said about keeping your feet cool? Get yourself a good hot water bottle. Fill it up. Stick it in the freezer. Voila! You have a cold pack to stick in bed to keep your feet, and the rest of your body nice and cool! Other options are to get a small bucket and fill it with cold water, so you’ll have something to dunk your feet in, even when you’re out of the pool.

There’s no denying our summers are getting hotter. No one loves the sticky summer nights. The climbing temperature can leave you tempted to hurry off to the nearest store and find the best window air conditioner money can buy.

But that leaves us in a terrible catch-22: The temperature is climbing because of global warming. The air conditioners release tons of greenhouse gases into the air every year. What options do we have?

As it turns out, plenty. As long as you’re willing to get creative and think outside the box, there are many ways to cool down your home, and even your own internal temperature, so you can keep cool without the added energy costs, and without sweating the cost to the environment.

What is Compost? Home Composting 101 https://www.checkthishouse.com/6361/what-is-compost-home-composting-101.html Thu, 08 Mar 2012 00:31:12 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=6361 Compost BinWhat is Compost? Compost is one of nature’s best mulches and easy way to add nutrients to your soil. Wouldn’t you like to have that beautiful garden or grow your own organic food? Since compost improves soil structure, texture and increases the soil’s water holding capacity, why buy and waste money on any commercial products or chemical fertilizers, if you can make all natural compost free… Home Composting 101 - How to make your own compost? It’s very easy,  free, and good for environment. You can use your kitchen scraps, organic or yard waste, and reduce your household waste away from garbage can by 30 [...]]]> Compost Bin

What is Compost?

Compost BinCompost is one of nature’s best mulches and easy way to add nutrients to your soil. Wouldn’t you like to have that beautiful garden or grow your own organic food? Since compost improves soil structure, texture and increases the soil’s water holding capacity, why buy and waste money on any commercial products or chemical fertilizers, if you can make all natural compost free…

Home Composting 101 – How to make your own compost?

It’s very easy,  free, and good for environment. You can use your kitchen scraps, organic or yard waste, and reduce your household waste away from garbage can by 30 %.

There are different ways and options to start your compost;

  • you can just select a convenient spot on the ground and make your compost without a bin
  • you can build a bin from recycled materials like plywood or two-by-fours
  • you can always find commercial bin on the market.

The microbes responsible for breaking down your compost pile need both nitrogen and carbon in addition to oxygen and water.

  1. Nitrogen comes from “green materials” such as fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings and manure.
  2. Carbon comes from “brown materials” such as dead leaves, wood chips, hay shredded paper.

Compost Mix

In your compost use all fruits scraps and uncooked vegetables, any peelings or apple cores. Eggshells are great since they contain calcium but crush it first, do not add whole egg just eggshell. Coffee grounds are high in nitrogen and even if they are in paper filter just toss everything into your compost pile.

Any kind of tea; black or herbal, loose leaves or bags can be tossed it in as well. Wood ashes are good composting ingredient as well but don’t put ashes from any wood that contain petroleum. Paper, newspaper (don’t add glossy papers or magazines) or cardboard can also be added but remember to shred it first – this will speed up entire process.

If you have access to manure from horses, cows, chickens, ships, rabbits or goats it would be great, but composting can be done without it. Remember just one thing; do not use manure from dogs, cats, humans or any non-vegetarian animal.

Do not compost: meat or fish scraps or bones / any dairy products / coal or charcoal ash / treated wood or perennial weeds.

Compost Tumbler ClosedCompost Tumbler OpenGrass clippings can be left on the lawn so they will decompose naturally and they will enrich the soil. If you don’t want to do that you can put a thin layer in your compost, or you can mix grass clippings with other materials so they won’t clump together and block air circulation. That would cost unpleasant smell and take longer to decompose.

Compost pile can be layered in thin layers of alternating green and brown materials or you can throw everything together and mix it well; both ways will work fine, just remember to turn your compost about every two weeks to add fresh oxygen so it will break down faster.

When you add a new layer of materials moisten it lightly and put more water in as needed especially during the summer months – always keep your compost moist, but not soaked. Keep your compost covered, this will help retain moist and heat – compost decomposes best between 120° and 160°F. If the temperature is lower it will simply take longer time to decompose.

It can take anywhere from a month to a year to produce your finished compost, final product should look, feel, and smell like rich soil. One thing, an organism that can speed up the decomposing process are worms, they simply aerate the compost.

Composting is the best way to recycle your yard and kitchen waste, it is also the number one ingredient in organic farming.

How to Get Rid of Mold in Your Attic – Kill Stubborn Mold! https://www.checkthishouse.com/4081/mold-in-house-attic-how-to-kill-mold-how-to-clean-mold.html https://www.checkthishouse.com/4081/mold-in-house-attic-how-to-kill-mold-how-to-clean-mold.html#comments Tue, 04 Aug 2009 21:00:54 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=4081 How To Remove MoldLet me give you an advice on how to get rid of attic mold, something to consider before signing a contract with a mold remediation company.]]> How To Remove Mold

Getting rid of mold in the attic used to be one of the most “popular” concerns addressed by my clients after the home inspection. I’ve already covered why is black mold growing under the roof, and how to prevent or stop attic black mold from growing in my previous posts.

Now is time for getting rid of mold in your attic

Getting rid of mold in the attic - roof framing not contaminated, roof and decking replacement might be less expensive than mold remediationBut before I explain the “typical” way of getting rid of mold, let me give you a little advice, something to consider before you sign a few (if you lucky) thousand dollars contract agreement with a mold remediation company.

Getting rid of mold in the attic TIP (to consider):

  • Let’s assume that you are in the middle of a real-estate transaction, and the home inspector just revealed to you, that your entire house attic is contaminated with black mold. If you have a brand new roof, you can only blame yourself or try to blame the roofing contractor for not checking the attic before replacing the roof (he’ll laugh at you unless you’ve actually asked the guy to check the attic before the roof replacement). If you have an older roof, the importance of this getting rid of mold advice is even greater.
  • Call at least 2-3 mold remediation companies for an estimate – specify to the representatives, that you not only want to have the mold removed, but also attic ventilation system corrected / installed if necessary / ask if the attic insulation requires replacement. With the numbers from the mold remediation contractors, call 2-3 roofing contractors and ask them for a quote on the roof replacement cost including decking boards / plywood (ask the roofer to check the attic area), and your attic ventilation improvement.

Be cautious if they only suggest humidistat controlled power vent installation – without properly functioning soffit vents, any type of vents along the lower portion of the roof, or gable vents, this might not be an adequate solution.

  • If the attic insulation replacement is not required (it most cases it will not be possible to tell without laboratory testing), make sure it’s sealed with plastic foil before the roof and its decking replacement. Fold the foil sealing its contents after the contaminated decking has been removed, and dispose of as a regular waste (EPA recommendation)
  • If you only have a small area of attic contaminated with black mold, the roof replacement option would be more expensive. But instead of getting rid of mold from an entire attic by performing black mold remediation procedures, it might be cheaper (or even much cheaper) to remove all contaminated decking, install completely new roof and correct ventilation issues. I’ve seen $3,000.00 – $10,000.00 invoices for the attic black mold remediation process in approximately 1000 – 1200 square feet of attic area.

Benefits of getting rid of mold in your attic by replacing the roof

  • A few befits of the roof / decking replacement over the other types of getting rid of mold procedures:
  1. Roof and decking replacement might be cheaper than getting rid of mold be cleaning an entire black mold contaminated attic
  2. The house attic black mold that was killing your real-estate transaction is gone
  3. Attic ventilation improvement is much easier during the roof replacement and often handled with no additional or insignificant cost
  4. After getting rid of mold using this method the buyer gets a brand new roof

Even if the roof replacement price is slightly higher than getting rid of mold with a traditional mold remediation process, it is still worth to take it under the consideration because you’re gaining a valuable house update (new roof), that will be disclosed on a real-estate listing.

In some cases, the roof decking and framing are contaminated, and decking replacement only would not entirely solve the problem. In such case, you’d have to clean mold contaminated joists and / or trusses.

Killing attic black mold and getting rid of mold the typical way

This isn’t a black mold killing or mold cleaning case study, it is just an explanation based on my observations and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) recommendations.

Even if you’re dealing with a small mold contaminated attic area – 10′ x 10′ is the maximum area recommended by the  EPA to be treated by non-professionals, forget about getting rid of mold / killing mold by spraying it with bleach or other disinfectants. It ‘s been confirmed by laboratory testing that they don’t kill all of the spores and in most cases, you’ll be just making a mess.

The best way for getting rid of mold in the attic (black mold and any other mold) is to remove it from the surface it’s growing on, or remove the contaminated surface!

The following “getting rid of mold” / cleanup methods are recommended by EPA and all of them can be applied in the attic, assuming that it is a small area (up to 10 sq. feet).

  1. Get rid of mold-contaminated surfaces by using a wet vacuum – the type you can fill its tank partially with water to contain mold residue from the contaminated surface
  2. Wipe the surface with a damp sponge or rag – use clean water or wood cleaner
  3. Use a high-efficiency HEPA vacuum cleaner on thoroughly dried surfaces, and dispose of the picked-up contents in well-sealed plastic bags
  4. Remove all contaminated material, seal it in plastic and dispose of as regular waste. They recommend using HEPA vacuum after this, but in the attic you’d most likely have to remove the floor insulation (if contaminated). You can also cover the insulation with plastic foil, and fold the foil sealing its contents after the cleaning process.

You may or may not have any allergic reactions to the attic black mold. However, while getting rid of mold always use protective equipment, especially while working in the attic area where you are exposed to the insulation fibers and dust.

Also, as minimum protection, while getting rid of mold EPA recommends Gloves, N-95 respirator and eye protection (preferably fully enclosed goggles). As additional protection you can add a half-face respirator or full-face respirator with HEPA filter, disposable full-body clothing, headgear, and foot coverings.

Getting rid of mold in the attic if large section or an entire attic is contaminated

I personally wouldn’t even attempt to do it myself, so my suggestion is:

  • For getting rid of mold in a heavily contaminated attic use a professional mold remediation company – check their background and check it “manually” by calling their clients! Ask for clients who had their attic mold remediated approximately 1-2 years ago – it usually takes a winter for the mold to start growing again if the job wasn’t fully completed.

Getting rid of mold in the attic - remove it, do not encapsulate!Insist on removing the attic black mold completely instead of encapsulating it (Media Blasting methods give the best results). Encapsulation is simply a process of covering the mold-contaminated surface with paint (paint-like product) that contains (or at least some of them do) mold killing chemicals.

The video below explains getting rid of mold in the attic with the soda blast mold remediation process, and you can immediately see the results of this procedure.

After properly getting rid of mold in your attic and having all of the issues responsible for black mold growth corrected, which is even more important than mold removing, it will not re-grow / no need for encapsulating.

  • Hire a different contractor for mold testing and mold remediation to eliminate conflict of interest
  • Make sure that you perform an independent clearance test after the mold remediation process completion. The clearance test is to determine if there are any mold spores remaining in the previously contaminated area.

Getting rid of mold in the attic - partially encapsulated attic mold - your money wasted on poorly performed work. Always remove mold and correct moisture problem.Getting rid of mold in the attic - rotten section of mold contaminated roof deckingExtremely important! – personally examine the attic (or have somebody you can trust do it for you) after getting rid of mold / performing mold cleaning procedures. I’m not exaggerating – I’ve seen several attics after “professionally performed remediation”, they either didn’t know the correct way of getting rid of mold in the attic or they didn’t care (close to $10000 price tag!).

After getting rid of mold the wood surfaces should be perfectly clean (like brand new), unless there was some rotting that resulted from leaking roof or extremely humid conditions in the attic – those sections of wood should be either replaced or reinforced from underneath. You don’t want anyone to fall through the roof while servicing it or just inspecting.

This concludes getting rid of mold in the attic & killing mold in the contaminated attic but I highly recommend going a little deeper into the “attic” subject by reading my other posts in the “attic” category.

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Attic Black Mold and How to Prevent or Stop it from Growing https://www.checkthishouse.com/2138/how-to-stop-and-or-prevent-mold-from-growing-in-my-attic.html https://www.checkthishouse.com/2138/how-to-stop-and-or-prevent-mold-from-growing-in-my-attic.html#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2008 23:03:27 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=2138 If you had a chance to read “Attic Black Mold and Why is it Growing in Your Attic” (you can quickly watch the short video below), it’s now time to continue attic evaluation.

Attic black mold does not necessarily cause your house environment contamination, but under some conditions it might.

However, attic black mold usually becomes an issue when discovered during the home inspection. In addition, depending on the contamination extent, correcting the problem could make a significant hole in your budget.

In case the black mold has already contaminated your attic, I will show you how to stop it from further spreading. If there is no mold, just follow the same guideline to ensure that everything is the way it should be.

Remember – if you are not sure how to do it – find somebody else comfortable with accessing the attic. It is not worth the risk of getting seriously injured! The best time to inspect the attic and determine if it is functioning properly is during the coldest winter days.

Attic black mold - properly insulated attic access panel

How to prevent attic black mold #1

You should have attic access panel / pull down stairs insulated to minimize air transfer between the living area and the attic. Roof-decking section located above the attic entrance might be your first encounter with attic black mold.

Pre-cut piece of a blanket insulation glued to the hatch will do the job – if it has a paper facing (or any other vapor retarder type), apply paper to the hatch material surface. If using any other materials – make sure that they are not flammable and can be exposed.

For pull-down stairs, people sometimes make a square / hinged / insulated box that opens up into the attic after the stairs are open.

Attic black mold cause - missing kitchen vent section in attic areaAttic black mold cause - missing bathroom vent discharge pipeAttic mold cause - disconnected bathroom vent discharge pipeAll dryer / kitchen / bathroom vents must discharge to the house exterior and beyond the attic area – they are huge sources of warm, humid air, which feeds the attic black mold growth if trapped under the roof.

How to prevent attic black mold #2

If you are looking at the attic section located directly above the bathroom and / or kitchen with an exhaust fan discharging through the ceiling, you should be able to see some kind of a pipe/duct (galvanized steel, aluminum, or plastic – no plastic for the kitchen vent!) between the attic floor and the roof decking.

If there is no pipe, and you cannot see the fan enclosure itself, turn it on before you step into the attic, and try to locate it by following the sound, exhaust fan might be under the layer of insulation.

House attic black mold - bathroom exhaust fan discharging into the soffit causing mold growth on the roof deckingHouse attic black mold - bathroom exhaust fan discharging into the soffit causing mold growth on the roof deckingThere is a chance that vent discharge pipes are in the soffit or connected to the vent ports installed inside the soffit. Personally, I don’t recommend such installations and for one very simple reason – they are often responsible for the attic black mold growth.

During the cold season warm air will return to the attic through the soffit vents (some jurisdictions permit it and even recommend such installation). So, if there’s no pipe attached to the vent, or one discharging through the soffit appears to be causing black mold growth (stains / discoloration above the soffit area where the pipe enters), remove the vent pipe from the soffit.

Extend it through the roof using a dedicated port or at least install it close to the attic vent (just make sure that vent screen is clean).

Attic black mold - kitchen vent must have a dedicated port, attic roof vent should not be used for this purposeKitchen vents should have dedicated ports (don’t use attic ventilation ports), and smooth interior, single wall, galvanized steel pipes should be used for discharge, not plastic or aluminum flexible hoses.

How to prevent attic black mold #3

Disconnected dryer vent in attic area might result in attic black mold growthAttic black mold - lint contaminated dryer vent on roof surfaceA dryer vent discharging into the attic is a huge source of moisture and heat – requires its own dedicated port (just like the kitchen vent). Again, smooth interior wall metal pipe should be used (no plastic permitted and flexible aluminum not recommended).

Dryer vents require periodical cleaning

to remove accumulated lint from interior walls – when it becomes clogged, you’re just wasting precious energy and creating a fire hazard – if it penetrates the roof, it would probably be easier to separate the discharge pipe in the attic area (at roof vent connection) and clean pipe and roof vent screen from there.

Clogged dryer vent pipes overheat and if pipe connections have been sealed / secured with regular duct tape, they might eventually separate. This would allow for warm and moist air discharge into the attic, thus creating a perfect environment for attic black mold. Do not use screws on connections, they simply trap more lint inside, so plastic ties and heating ducts aluminum tape / aluminum foil tape + regular maintenance is the best choice.

How to prevent attic black mold #4

Missing skylight chase walls insulationAttic mold - missing attic floor insulation

Any missing insulation on skylight chases, walls / ceiling between the attic and living quarters should be installed – with blanket type insulation always put moisture barrier / vapor retarder (paper, plastic, aluminum, etc.) facing towards the heated area – never leave flammable paper exposed.

Improperly installed attic floor insulation - exposed flammable paper and double vapor retarderAttic mold - vapor retarder facing should be always applied toward heated areaIf you’re planning to install additional insulation on top of the existing one, make sure that there’s only one vapor retarder – example: if an existing insulation has a paper facing, you should not install another paper faced insulation layer on top of the old one.


Attic mold - open chase around the chimney at the attic floor penetration is a significant source of heat and should be properly sealed

There might be an open chase / empty wall space between the basement / crawlspace and attic area – seal it, from both sides if possible (around the chimney flue pipe – use metal fire-stop/radiation shield and proper clearances to framing and insulation). If it is a duct supplying combustion air to the furnace / utility room containing gas burning appliances – it must remain open and unobstructed.

How to prevent attic black mold #5
Attic black mold - cathedral ceiling insualtion without required 2 inch spacing to decking (cold climate)Attic mold - 2 inch separation between the insulation and roof decking for proper air circulationCathedral ceilings insulation – Cathedral ceilings insulation – it has to be installed with a proper clearance to decking surface (2″). Without that clearance that allows for air circulation, mold might start growing on the roof-decking surface.

How to prevent attic black mold #6

Plumbing vent pipe left open in attic area, and should continue through the roofPlumbing vents terminating in the attic area – extend them through the roof, repair or replace cracked plumbing vent pipes. Sewer gases vapor adds additional unwanted moisture to the attic which can condensate on decking, start dripping onto your ceiling, and become breeding ground for the attic black mold.

How to prevent attic black mold #7

Furnaces and water heaters installed in attic areas should be contained inside a separate and insulated room – code requirement in some jurisdictions. Any vent pipes discharging exhaust gases from the furnace, water heater, fireplace, and passing through the attic area must be double wall / B vent type or sometimes triple wall (manufacturer or local requirement in some jurisdictions).

How to prevent attic black mold #8

Missing, deteriorated insulation on attic installed air ductAttic mold - uninsulated forced air heating system ducts waste energy and release heat into the atticHeating ducts – insulate their surface to help your heating and air conditioning system perform more efficiently. Besides wasting expensive energy, heat released from the air ducts surface might condensate on the roof decking surface and cause mold growth.

How to prevent attic black mold #9

Attic mold caused by leaking roof surfaceLeaking roof – fix it as soon as possible because the mold feeds on moisture, and in this case will grow at any temperature.

And the number 10

I’m listing it as a last item, but it is actually the most important thing that causes attic black mold growth – lack of proper attic ventilation. Make sure that your attic has it and that it is properly balanced. It means that you should have a sufficient amount of attic ventilation ports split 50/50 between the upper and lower portion of the roof.

The above standard might work if everything else is perfect, but in reality, the attic vents will eventually become clogged with lint, insulation, bird nests, etc. When that happens, any combination of the first 9 items from my list increases chances for mold in your attic.

I hope that the above 10 paragraphs will help you to stop or prevent attic black mold from growing. I also highly recommend to check  my other attic black mold concerning posts for more valuable information on this subject.

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Crawlspace Mold, Ventilation and Insulation https://www.checkthishouse.com/1537/crawlspace-inspection-part-eight-mold-ventilation-and-insulation.html Sat, 25 Oct 2008 02:33:15 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=1537 Crawlspace mold / Crawlspace Ventilation / Crawlspace Insulation

Let’s wrap it up – Crawlspace Mold, Ventilation and Insulation is the last of my Crawlspace Inspection posts and I’ll take care of the items 9 & 10 from my Top 10 list. They are somewhat correlated, at least partially.

Top TEN Crawlspace Problems:
1. Cracked foundation / possible structural problems
2. Leaking foundation
3. Drainage problems / flooding crawlspace
4. Plumbing components issues – leaking water supply lines, drain pipes, crawlspace water heater installation problems
5. Heating system issues
6. Electrical components issues
7. Floor framing and structure support issues
8. Structural pest infestation – those are Termites, Powder Post Beetle, and Carpenter Ants
9. Mold problems
10. Crawlspace ventilation and insulation

Crawlspace Mold Problems

Crawlspace mold on floor framing 2Crawlspace mold on floor structure caused by leaking plumbingCrawlspace mold on the floor framing 2Crawlspace mold on floor joists caused by leakage from exteriorCrawlspace mold, as many other problems described in previous sections of the crawlspace inspection tutorial, is strictly related to moisture presence. Because mold grows on pretty much anything and often takes different shapes and colors, you can expect to find crawlspace mold on pretty much every possible surface.

So look everywhere for crawlspace mold and pay special attention to areas along the foundation and under the bathrooms, kitchens, utility rooms containing water heaters, furnaces, and / or washers – any place that water leakage / moisture penetration might occur.

Crawlspace mold on main beam supporting columnIf you have a chronic moisture problem, maybe related to poor drainage around the house or a high water table (level of groundwater), the crawlspace mold might appear on the floor, walls, supporting columns and entire framing. If you notice discoloration or unusual residue / substance on any of the surfaces, have it tested by a professional. Unfortunately this is the only way to find out what it is and if it is confirmed to be crawlspace mold, determine if it is toxic.

Crawlspace mold and Crawlspace ventilation

Crawlspace mold - one of the ways to prevent mold from growing in your crawlspace is to provide correct ventilationProper ventilation of the crawlspace is crucial for a healthy house and to prevent crawlspace mold growth… well … not necessarily, or should I say – the science decided that not any more. As it often happens with some beliefs, new scientific developments change them to the complete opposite. However, the installation of 1 square foot of venting per 150 square feet of under-floor / crawlspace area is still a code requirement.

For our crawlspace mold / crawlspace ventilation inspection purpose:

Crawlspace mold / crawlspace ventilation - vents leaking water (exterior view), installed below the ground levelCrawlspace mold / crawlspace ventilation - vents leaking water to interior, installed below the ground levelIf you have any fuel burning appliances installed in the crawlspace area, you’ll need so called make-up air / combustion air, which is necessary for a proper / clean burning process. Unless those appliances have a sealed combustion chamber and use exterior air for combustion (most high efficiency furnaces do, but not all of them), you might need an air vent installed in the crawlspace area. If you’re not sure, have a licensed HVAC contractor check it for you

  • If you have a dry crawlspace, you are lucky! Your vents are most likely adequate (or you might not even have them at all) and there’s most likely no crawlspace mold presence (unless caused by plumbing leaks) – I personally wouldn’t touch it
  • Check areas around the foundation vents to ensure, that there’s no leakage – vents usually leak because they’re below the ground level on exterior, and you might need a small window well
  • For wet crawlspaces (leaking foundation, high water table, malfunctioning or missing drainage system) – once again: try to eliminate the source of moisture before it causes crawlspace mold growth, and read Venting or not – the Crawlspace dilemma (link below).

The crawlspace ventilation topic is quite large and there are a few scenarios and various options to consider. Therefore I’ll do my best to wrap it up and explain current scientific point of view in Crawlspace Venting or not…

Crawlspace mold / Crawlspace insulation

The crawlspace insulation improperly installed with exposed paper facing which is flammable and should be facing the warm part of the house (floor) or be covered with gypsum board other code approved materialsWarning message on the crawlspace insulation vapor retarder paper - highly flammable, and should never be left exposedCrawlspace mold / crawlspace insulation - loose, hanging batt insulation on the crawlspace ceilingDepending on the type of crawlspace you have under the house – above the ground, partially above the ground, below the ground level – you might have insulation installed or not.

If it’s there, and if it is a blanket type with a paper facing (also called “batt” insulation) installed on the crawlspace ceiling / your floor framing, remember that the paper (moisture barrier) has to be facing the warm side of the house. It is highly flammable, and leaving it exposed creates a fire hazard.

Another problem to watch for in humid / wet crawlspaces is possibility of crawlspace mold growing on insulation sheets, sometimes between the floor an insulation layer.

It is easier to install blankets between the floor joists by securing paper flaps along the edges, but without fire-rated material on top of such installation … you know, accidents happen. You might also have: the spray-on type of insulation on the foundation walls, Styrofoam sheets, aluminum foil faced blankets (this one conducts electricity, so be careful if it is in contact with electrical components in your crawlspace), or some other materials – secure them if they fall off / separate from the surface they were attached to.

That covers basics of crawlspace mold, crawlspace ventilation and crawlspace insulation.

Asbestos in Your Home, Part Two https://www.checkthishouse.com/963/asbestos-in-your-home-part-two.html Sat, 30 Aug 2008 00:03:15 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=963 If this is where you are beginning Asbestos in Your Home "adventure", you may want to go back to Asbestos in Your Home Part One in order to get the full picture. ]]>

Second part of Asbestos in Your Home

If this is where you are beginning asbestos in your home “adventure”, you may want to go back to “Asbestos in Your Home, Part One“, in order to get the full picture.

The asbestos fibers are one of those dangers that we can’t see without special equipment, and symptoms of asbestos exposure usually takes 20 – 40 years to develop … but they’re almost always fatal.

So, getting yourself some basic education about asbestos in your home now may be very rewarding in a couple of decades …

#4 Asbestos in your home (first 3 are in part one) – Transite pipe

Transite pipe is a non friable type of asbestos in your home – you can easily recognize one by removing the register cover in the slab section of your house. It looks like a cement pipe and will most likely have a very rough, uneven edge around the opening (just like on the pictures).

Asbestos in your home - open air vent register exposing transite pipe HVAC ductAsbestos in your home - rough edges of the transite pipe cut-out opening might release asbestos fibers into the airThose rough edges are one problem – might release airborne fibers into the air; another is that Transite pipes are not flexible and often crack under or inside the slab, creating more rough surfaces and airborne fibers.

If you suspect this type of asbestos in your home (air ducts made out of asbestos containing cement), have a professional take a sample and laboratory test it – this is the only full-proof way to determine if it contains asbestos and what kind of asbestos is it.

Asbestos in your home - Transite pipe chimney heavily deteriorated 1Asbestos in your home - Transite pipe chimney heavily deteriorated 2Asbestos in your home - Chimney exterior enclosure made out of metal with suspect asbestos panels attached 2Asbestos in your home - Chimney exterior enclosure made out of metal with suspect asbestos panels attached 1Another Transite pipe application is the chimney flue or its insulation. As an insulation it performs well unless significantly deteriorated or falling apart, just like on the pictures. This often happens if used on exterior parts of the chimney / exposed to extreme weather conditions.

A transite pipe used as a primary chimney flue, with no metal liner inside, creates a problem when it cracks and starts leaking exhaust fumes into the attic or living area. Therefore, all vent pipes that pass through the house living areas and the attic are now required to be double-walled, galvanized metal, or Type-B. I highly recommend replacing the Transite pipe and disposing of it correctly.

Asbestos in your home - Suspect asbestos paper wrap on the water heater vent pipe#5. Asbestos in your home – paper wrap insulation (friable)

Paper wrap insulation on heat vent flue pipe joints – when it comes to water heater or furnace replacement, its vent pipe might need to be disassembled – if it is asbestos, this process should be done by an asbestos professional.

#6. Asbestos in your home – Vermiculite insulation (friable)

Vermiculite is a silver-gold to gray-brown mineral that is flat and shiny in its natural state and puffed and dull in its expanded shape (EPA).

Asbestos in your home attic area - Vermiculite insulation in the attic 1Asbestos in your home attic area - Vermiculite insulation in the attic 2Asbestos in your home attic area - Vermiculite insulation in the attic 3Tons of this Vermiculite based material is still insulating the Chicago land homes, usually in the attics and wall cavities, and some of it might be heavily contaminated with asbestos.

This mineral was discovered near the town of Libby, Montana (Grace mine) in 1881, mined from the early ’20s to the early ’90s (records indicate that 70- 80 percent of all vermiculite sold in the world during that time came from the contaminated Libby, Montana mine), and distributed under the name of “Zonolite”.

With or without asbestos, Vermiculite looks very much the same, and cannot be distinguished without laboratory testing. So if you recognize a material in your home that looks like one of the pictures, make sure that you have it evaluated by a professional.

Rules for confirmed and suspect asbestos in your home:

  • don’t disturb it (no vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, etc)
  • if sweeping / cleaning is necessary, wet it first to make sure that no dust is produced during this process
  • stop any remodeling process during which Vermiculite was discovered or that may cause Vermiculite disturbance

#7. Asbestos in your home – Sprayed on Texture Ceilings (friable)

Some of us love it, mainly because it hides surface imperfections; yet many more hate it. When it comes to remodeling, you should test it for asbestos presence because using a traditional scraping method will produce plenty of dust.

#8. Asbestos in your home – Cement asbestos roofing and siding (non friable)

No danger under normal conditions, but it could add several thousands of dollars to your remodeling or demolition project if it would require removing of asbestos containing material.

#8. Asbestos in your home – Fireproofing (friable and not friable)

Asbestos containing panels of various types (some resembling cement boards or thick, cardboard-like paper) can be found above the furnaces, surrounding furnace / water heater room, inside the furnaces and boilers (I’ve seen some inside the old forced air furnaces used a liner of a heat exchanger enclosure walls), and as a furnace or water heater insulator.

Your local jurisdiction might require that you perform an inspection when applying for a demolition or construction / remodeling permit, to determine presence of asbestos in your home so check with them first – this site might be helpful – Jurisdiction Database Asbestos Information at (Environmental Protection Agency site

If you still didn’t check it, now is the time to go back to Asbestos in your home Part 1

Asbestos in Your Home, Part One https://www.checkthishouse.com/915/asbestos-in-your-home-part-one.html https://www.checkthishouse.com/915/asbestos-in-your-home-part-one.html#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2008 23:08:58 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=915 First Part of Asbestos in Your Home Does a statement “you have asbestos in your home” sound scary? As usual, many of the “scary” things in our homes are scary because we don’t have any background / knowledge about them. One of those “things” is ASBESTOS - a mineral made out of microscopic fibers. Exposure to a high concentration of asbestos airborne fibers puts us at a great risk of developing asbestos related diseases, and no safe level of asbestos exposure has yet been determined. Those diseases are: Lung, colon, and stomach cancer Mesothelioma – A rare form of cancer of the chest lining and [...]]]>

Does a statement “you have asbestos in your home” sound scary?

As usual, many of the “scary” things in our homes are scary because we don’t have any background / knowledge about them. One of those “things” is ASBESTOS – a mineral made out of microscopic fibers.

Exposure to a high concentration of asbestos airborne fibers puts us at a great risk of developing asbestos related diseases, and no safe level of asbestos exposure has yet been determined.

Asbestos in your home - Suspect asbestos containing basement floor tiles 1

Those diseases are:

  • Lung, colon, and stomach cancer
  • Mesothelioma – A rare form of cancer of the chest lining and the abdominal cavity. Fatal.
  • Asbestosis – The lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue, which reduces their capacity.

But … having asbestos in your home doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to get cancer – REMEMBER – just because you do have asbestos in your home (as an material containing asbestos fibers) does not mean that your body has been contaminated and you’re going to get cancer – asbestos is not radioactive! So, please relax, look at the pictures, and let me do some explaining.

I’ll start from the things that you SHOULD NOT DO when dealing with materials containing asbestos in your home (any material suspect of containing asbestos should be treated as such, unless otherwise proofed by the laboratory testing):

1. Don’t scrape, drill, sand, saw, break, crush or damage in any way materials containing or suspect of containing asbestos in your home

2. Don’t use abrasive pads, brushes, powers strippers on an asbestos floor, especially on dry surfaces

3. Don’t attempt to level asbestos flooring or its backing by sanding its surface down

4. Don’t sweep / vacuum debris that might contain asbestos in your home

5. Don’t place any asbestos containing materials in your garbage can

There are several materials in our homes that might contain asbestos fibers, and there are more chances of contamination from some than from the others. Asbestos containing materials can be divided in two groups:

  • friable – when dry, can be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder by hand pressure
  • non-friable which cannot be reduced to powder by hand pressure

#1. Asbestos in your home – Asbestos floor tiles (non-friable)

Asbestos in your home - Suspect asbestos containing basement floor tiles 2Asbestos in your home - Suspect asbestos containing basement floor tiles 3Asbestos in your home - Suspect asbestos containing basement floor tiles 4

Full bouquet of colors – most popular 9″x9″ (almost 100% of those have a high percentage of asbestos) but other sizes too.

Theyʼre often used in older basements, multi unit buildings, and many other places – they were cheep and easy to maintain. Other flooring materials reinforced with asbestos fibers are sheet linoleum and glue used to secure it to the sub-floor.

Undamaged, properly secured material doesn’t present any health hazard, but it might become problematic and quite expensive to deal with if we decide to remove it (assuming that a professional is doing it safely for you). But wait, if it is not absolutely necessary to remove it, there is another way to deal with this type of asbestos in your home – it can be sealed (encapsulated), and another type of flooring material installed over this surface, which should save you some money.

Any servicing of a material containing asbestos in your home (repair or removal) should be performed only by a professional trained to handle asbestos safely.

#2. Asbestos in your home – Acoustic ceiling tiles (friable)

Asbestos in your home - Suspect asbestos containing acoustic ceiling tile 1

Asbestos in your home - Suspect asbestos containing acoustic ceiling tile 2This is another popular basement decorative element which might contain asbestos fibers. It mainly applies to the tiles permanently secured to the ceiling, and not likely to the removable (suspended ceiling) tiles made of fiberglass or cellulose. The same principle applies to this suspect asbestos in your home: if it’s not damaged, it will not cause any harm.

#3. Asbestos in your home –  Insulation (friable)

This group of asbestos in your home contains some types of insulation on:

  • water pipes
  • hot water / steam heating system pipes
  • forced air systems air ducts
  • furnaces and boiler insulation

Asbestos in your home - Suspect asbestos containing insulation on heating system pipe 1Asbestos in your home - Suspect asbestos containing insulation on heating system pipe 2Asbestos in your home - Suspect asbestos containing insulation on heating system pipe 3Asbestos in your home - Suspect asbestos containing insulation on water pipe

On water and hot water / steam heating system pipes, asbestos may be installed along the straight sections and / or elbows only – for as long as it’s intact, there is no danger.

However, because of condensation, leaks and physical impact, damage may occur. If you see deteriorated, flaking or powdery material falling off the pipes, you should get a professional to sample it and perform either removal or repairs if necessary.

Asbestos in your home - Metal air duct insulated with a suspect asbestos containing paper 1Asbestos in your home - Metal air duct partially insulated with a suspect asbestos containing paper

Forced air heating system ducts are critical for a very important reason – some of them might have interiors (or sections) lined with thin asbestos containing paper, or thick, cardboard-like paper has been used as a duct wall.

If it is damaged or deteriorating it will produce asbestos airborne fibers; every time your forced air system is activated, asbestos fibers will be picked up by your air circulating system. This makes it 100% asbestos in your home item!

Before hiring a duct cleaning company, it would make sense to ensure that there’s no asbestos containing material inside the air ducts!

Asbestos Information at EPA.gov (Environmental Protection Agency)

Another potential risk is with the air ducts embedded into the concrete slab. There are a few types of pipes used for this purpose and one of them is called a Transite Pipe.

For more on asbestos follow this link to Asbestos in your home Part 2.

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Can an Oil Tank or Oil Heating System Kill Your Home Sale? https://www.checkthishouse.com/587/oil-tank-or-oil-heating-system-could-kill-your-home-sale.html https://www.checkthishouse.com/587/oil-tank-or-oil-heating-system-could-kill-your-home-sale.html#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2008 23:01:42 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=587 There are still communities in the Chicago land area with houses utilizing oil fueled heating or converted to gas heating appliances with oil tanks remaining on premises. I’ve seen several abandoned oil tanks in basements and crawlspaces (in a few thousands of properties I’ve evaluated, not one had an active oil fueled heating system, but ... Read more]]>

There are still communities in the Chicago land area with houses utilizing oil fueled heating or converted to gas heating appliances with oil tanks remaining on premises.

I’ve seen several abandoned oil tanks in basements and crawlspaces (in a few thousands of properties I’ve evaluated, not one had an active oil fueled heating system, but I was lucky to accidentally discover a couple of underground tanks), and in some of those situations, property owners didn’t even know about them (at least that was my impression).

For underground oil tanks, spotting one would be an accident, pure luck, or curiosity – unexplained old pipe(s) above the ground or in the basement wall, unpleasant oil smell, indent in the ground, and/or dying vegetation in just one area.

Oil tank in the basement – it’s obvious, you can’t miss it, and for crawlspaces – it’s just another proof that we don’t care what’s in it.

Any above the ground oil tank is easy to evaluate and significantly cheaper to remove (if you’re forced to do it by a potential buyer of your property) than an underground oil storage tank.

Because there’s always a chance that oil has leaked through one of the pipe connections, filter, shutoff valve or corroded tank body, the surrounding area should be carefully evaluated for oily stains – don’t forget to examine the bottom portion of the tank, where most of the leaks occur. There might still be a gauge installed on top of the oil tank showing the amount of fuel inside (assuming that it’s functional). You can also try tapping on the oil tank walls and listening to the sound pitch change – it should be different on full and empty section.

If top of the oil tank is accessible and there’s a removable cap, you can insert a long stick into it to determine amount of fuel inside the tank. Leaking oil tanks are definitely an environmental hazard. Oil should be disposed of at an EPA approved landfill – PLEASE don’t dump it into the drain!

The oil tank interior can be cleaned professionally and then it becomes just a large, useless piece of metal – scrape it and make some money. Some of those tanks are larger than any openings in your basement and were probably welded together from a few sections on the spot. If necessary, they can be cut into smaller pieces and then recycled.

Although the state of Illinois (in general) does not require single family home and duplex owners to remove abandoned oil tanks, some local communities might enforce such laws, so give them a call if you’re in doubt. For underground oil tanks, any action you decide to take will have a slightly higher price tag, because of the accessibility and possibility of soil contamination.

If an underground oil storage tank (short name – UST) has been previously emptied, it poses no environmental hazard and your local authorities are not enforcing mandatory removal, I would recommend to have it filled with an absorbing foam or another approved filler (like sand or concrete), which might be cheaper than digging it out.

Corrosion of an old, underground oil storage tank might eventually cause it to collapse and you wouldn’t like to be standing on the top of it. However, if soil (or sometimes water, if you have your own well) testing confirmed contamination, you would most likely have to make oil tank removal and remediation arrangements.

Illinois EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has a special program for the underground storage tanks removal … but unfortunately it doesn’t cover residential and farm heating oil tanks, and the money comes out of your own pocket.

These 3 Q&A’s below have been taken from the Illinois EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and you can read entire FAQ section here.

Q. Is my residential heating oil tank regulated by the Illinois EPA’s Leaking UST Program?

A. No, residential and farm heating oil tanks (that is, tanks used to store heating oil for consumptive use on the premises where stored and which serve a farm or residential unit) are not, by definition, USTs and, therefore, are not subject to the Leaking UST Program regulations.

Q. If there is a release from my 100-gallon UST, am I required to follow the Leaking UST Program regulations?

A. No, any UST system whose capacity is 110 gallons or less is excluded from the Leaking UST Program requirements.

Q. I have an aboveground storage tank (AST) on my property. Is it regulated by the Illinois EPA’s Leaking UST Program?

A. No, ASTs are exempt from the Leaking UST Program requirements. The Office of the State Fire Marshal’s (OSFM) Division of Fire Prevention regulates the operation and maintenance of ASTs.

To deal or not to deal with it … if you’re selling your property and already know about some abandoned oil tank, or you have an existing, oil fueled heating system, I’d say it will most likely become an issue. Even if marginal, nobody wants to deal with a possibility of purchasing a home with a system or system component that will present a potential problem in the future.

Also, some of the financial institutions / lenders, might condition buyersʼ loan request upon upgrading this oil heating system (appraiser will most likely make a note of it) …

So, who you gonna call?

Well, I’ve searched Internet for Illinois Oil Tank removal company, and there isn’t many to choose from, actually there’s only one that pops out in every search: Cicero Oil Company so if you need a professional to answer your oil tank questions, give them a call … and let me know if there’s any other established company on Illinois market digging out oil tanks.

More information about oil tanks on Illinois EPA website … actually most of that stuff concerns commercial oil tanks. Residential concerns should be addressed to Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal (OSFM).

InspectApedia is also a very good website packed with plenty of detailed information concerning oil tanks (and many other things), but with NY area orientation.

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Radon the #1 Cause of Lung Cancer Among Non Smokers https://www.checkthishouse.com/577/radon-the-1-cause-of-lung-cancer-among-non-smokers.html Sun, 03 Aug 2008 18:22:53 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=577 With new laws invading our lives on an every day basis, the Illinois Radon Awareness Act became one of them in the Real Estate business starting January 1, 2008. It’s just another form to sign, attached to the transaction contract called “Disclosure of Information on Radon Hazards.” This law only applies to residential properties containing ... Read more]]>

With new laws invading our lives on an every day basis, the Illinois Radon Awareness Act became one of them in the Real Estate business starting January 1, 2008. It’s just another form to sign, attached to the transaction contract called “Disclosure of Information on Radon Hazards.”

This law only applies to residential properties containing between one and four dwelling units (single family, two flat, 3 flat, and 4 flat buildings).

The Radon concern is a very serious one, and since January 2008 I’ve encountered many homeowners asking for additional information and suggestions.

Since I’m not licensed to perform such testing, I will only relay some basic information about Radon and direct you to other places containing more in-depth studies concerning this problem… of course, only if you need more.

Continuous monitoring Radon Gas Detectors

For your own protection, continuous monitoring Radon Gas Detectors can be purchased and are fairly inexpensive (about $120.00), but to give you an “honest” reading, they should be calibrated by a manufacturer every year (that’s another $60.00 each time).

There are also other, commonly available, “do-it-yourself” types of Radon tests (short and long term), which require sending a used detection device to the laboratory for final analysis.

What is Radon?

Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, radioactive gas product of uranium and radium decay, which naturally occurs in soil or rock, and according to EPA estimates – it’s the #1 cause of lung cancer among non smokers (responsible for 10% of lung cancers in US).

Because rock is one of the Radon sources, 4 flat building limitations might become a concern for some home owners- concrete, concrete products (if made from uranium mine tailings), and various building materials (one of them is granite) containing radium might release Radon directly into your house, and although they produce significantly low levels, and are not the most common sources, such releases may occur.

The most common points of Radon entry into the building are:

  1. Holes in the foundation
  2. Gaps around foundation and basement slab penetrations (around service pipes, floor drains, pump wells)
  3. Gaps between foundation and slab
  4. Foundation / slab material itself
  5. With water drawn from well (dissolves in well water)
  6. Unsealed sump pump well covers

Radon levels vary throughout the United States so you can find out if you’re located in high / medium, or low concentrated area by checking this map on the EPA web site, or this Illinois Status Report.

However, this map will only give you a general idea about the concentration levels, and because our (human) senses cannot detect this gas, we have to utilize current technology (EPA list 12 radon measurement methods and 3 radon decay product measurement methods) . If you are signing a home purchase contract, time limitations (usually 5 business days) will only allow for short term testing (48 hours), usually performed by a licensed Radon specialist.

If results are below 4.0 pCi/L (Radon levels measurement units), your house annual average would likely be also within that level. With readings above 4.0 pCi/L you should perform follow-up testing, and consider steps to reduce Radon levels (Radon reduction, mitigation). The problem with short term testing is that results might be sometimes very inconclusive. It requires so-called closed-house conditions, which you can’t control on somebody else’s property.

Also, Radon gas levels vary, sometimes significantly, on a day-to-day and seasonal basis, which unfortunately cannot be predicted. Therefore, long time (minimum 90 days), or continuous, Radon testing is recommended, especially in higher risk areas.

If you already own a property and the performed testing reveals elevated Radon levels, you should contact a Radon-Reduction (Mitigation) Contractor. According to EPA, an average cost of a mitigation procedure is around $1200.00 ($800.00 – $2500.00), and even high levels of Radon gas can be lowered utilizing simple methods and equipment (involves active ventilation either in the basement or below the slab of the house).

On following pictures, couple of samples of a typical radon mitigation equipment installed in homes. Both systems utilize power exhaust fan (mounted on exterior or in the house attic), and PVC suction piping.

The Liquid filled gauge visible on one of the images tells you that exhaust fan is operating, and it’s called suction indicator (constant operation of this vent is crucial). You can also check this diagram of a typical radon mitigation system installation here.

Mold is Everywhere and Some of it Could be Toxic https://www.checkthishouse.com/568/mold-is-literally-everywhere-but-some-of-it-might-be-nasty.html https://www.checkthishouse.com/568/mold-is-literally-everywhere-but-some-of-it-might-be-nasty.html#comments Sun, 03 Aug 2008 18:08:54 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=568 I’ve been fighting my personal allergies for years now and – unfortunately – come up with rather poor results. Crawling in mold contaminated attics, crawlspaces, and basements doesn’t help much after all my treatments and extends the entire immunization process … so believe me – I do understand your mold concern.

Hopefully, what’s below will help you to understand house mold a little better. So … mold is a type of organism called fungi, which will flourish, spread and reproduce by making spores in a damp, humid, dark, preferably warm environment (interior and exterior).

Many (there’s no known number of mold species, but estimates are in hundreds of thousands) molds are commonplace, and pose no threat to our health, but unfortunately, some of them are toxic and represent a serious health threat if they share our living environment.

A few of the most dangerous molds are named: stachybotrys mold or black mold, penicillium, and aspergillus; and they have been associated with respiratory illness, skin rashes, memory problems, and brain damage. Diseases that are also associated with toxic mold exposure: kidney cancer, esophagus cancer, leukemia, and liver cancer. – source: Allergyescape.com,

But on the other hand – the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states: “At present, there is no test that proves an association between Stachybotrys chartum (Stachybotrys atra) and particular health symptoms.”

Mold covered finished basement walls 3

I have to tell you, that some extreme cases of Stachybotrys mold (often develops after flooding) that I saw could be easily mistaken for artistic painting, just take a look at the pictures. By the way, I felt sick after spending couple of hours in that contaminated house, so I personally disagree with CDC opinion.

  • Because mold can grow on basically anything with favorable conditions, we should concentrate our efforts on lowering humidity level in our homes, providing constant air circulation specially for below the ground, basement / crawlspace sections and attic, extra attention to closets / storage compartments located along the foundation walls and any exterior wall.
  • Window curtains, drapes, and blinds should be pulled back as frequently as possible, to release trapped, moist air and prevent or lower amount of condensation on window panes and frames – critical during the cold season.
  • On the house exterior, all surrounding grounds and hard surfaces should always slope away from the structure to provide positive drainage.
  • Vegetation should be kept a minimum of twelve inches away from the structure for the general welfare of the walls and foundation.

Mold contaminated siding wall

All interior and exterior exposed areas, which we have easy access to, should not present any difficulty in spotting discoloration or the appearance of an unusual substance on some surfaces. From this point, it is a matter of our choice if we decide to take any steps, test this substance to determine if it’s toxic or not, and then treat it if test results are positive (confirming toxic mold presence). Another factor which will certainly stimulate our decision (and probably shouldn’t) is whether this particular mold species is in any way affecting our health.

  • For some people there might be no immediate reaction, but even strong immune system could eventually fail, and if exposed to toxic mold for a long period of time, future consequences might be severe – if there is even a possibility of a remote risk, remove it as quickly as possible, particularly if small children or people with known, mold related allergic reactions occupy property.

Cleaning/remediation process can be rated as “simple and easy” if we only have a small area to take care of (

EPA recommends to hire professional for areas larger than approximately 10 square feet), and becomes “difficult and sometimes very expensive” if we don’t make a proper judgment at the right moment or simply are not aware of what is happening in some parts of our house.

“Simply and easy” by the book would go like that:

  • to minimize possibility of inhaling airborne spores and contaminating your eyes / skin while cleaning, wear a mask (at least dust type, but surgical recommended), gloves and protective goggles
  • locate and eliminate moisture source … well, this part might be as easy as replacing a cracked, leaking pan under the flower pot, or dripping faucet … and as expensive as it is hard to imagine, but for our 10 square feet clean-up area I’ll stick with a faucet. Anyway – make sure that you completely eliminate moisture source, otherwise no matter how good you’ll perform next steps, mold will grow back.
  • Use soap and water for scrubbing mold off surfaces???
    This might not be what you’ve expected me to say, but scientific approach to some things changes with time, and;

Laundry Bleach has been determined to be not an effective mold killing agent for wood-based building materials and not effective in the mold remediation process

If you decide to use chlorine bleach solution, NEVER mix it with other cleaning solutions or detergents that contain ammonia because toxic fumes could be produced. Dead mold may still cause allergic reactions in some people, so it is not enough to simply kill the mold, it must also be removed.

  • dry washed surfaces completely, and provide proper air circulation porous types of surfaces, and such that absorb moisture will be hard or impossible to clean, may have to be thrown away (contaminated drywall section, ceiling tiles, paneling, wooden boards, carpet / carpet padding, fabrics)
  • do not paint or caulk mold covered surfaces, they have to be free of contamination and dry for the paint and caulking to adhere properly and prevent it from peeling

Contaminated drywall section frontContaminated drywall section back, after removing of paneling

One more thing to remember: the mold you see on the surface (for ex. section of a drywall sheet), might be only a small portion of an entire mold colony spreading on the other side of the wall – it might be well worth it to remove that little piece of a contaminated material and examine other side

(visible on pictures both sides of contaminated drywall, darker side was covered with paneling).

As I’ve mentioned earlier, that there are some critical areas of the house where mold can grow and spread without us even noticing it. Sometimes, I have an honor to be the first one to ever visit it, and it is scary, but your house health and maybe your own may depend on it. So please take my good advice – if it is accessible, examine it periodically or ask your good neighbor to do it for you. If there’s no access but house structure / shape suggests such space exists, try to make it accessible.

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What is Attic Black Mold and Why it’s Growing in Your Attic https://www.checkthishouse.com/549/do-you-know-why-is-mold-growing-in-your-attic.html Sun, 03 Aug 2008 17:30:03 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=549 attic black moldThere are actually several different reasons that might be responsible for the mold to appear under the house roof... and sometimes compromise your real estate transaction. That is why attic evaluation and attic mold treatment (if you’re out of luck) should be performed before even putting your house on the market, and on regular basis.]]> attic black mold

That is why attic evaluation (and attic black mold treatment if you’re out of luck) are such an important component of house maintenance and should be performed before even putting your house on the market, and on regular basis.

Why is attic black mold growing under your roof?

Watch Home Maintenance videos on Youtube.com – Black Mold in Attic

Attic black mold caused by inadequate ventilation

In search for attic black mold pictures I went through just a couple of hundreds files from my recent home inspections. And… I’m overwhelmed with a number of homes contaminated with attic mold. While inspecting I’ve never realized that, but this is just another proof that house attic is one of those completely off limits house areas for many homeowners.

Therefore, I decided to bring a little House Attic Black Mold awareness into your daily routines, and hope you’ll find it helpful. You can find more about mold in your house by following this link – household mold , and this post will deal strictly with pointing out conditions responsible for attic black mold growth.

Many factors can cause attic black mold to grow on your roof decking, and unfortunately the only way to find out is to go there. Below are the 10 main reasons responsible for the black mold growth in your attic:

Attic black mold and frost caused by missing soffit vents#1. cause of attic black mold growth in cold climates is an inadequate attic ventilation – check under the “House Attic Problems” category and Roof / Attic Ventilation Inspection post for more details about types of available venting and venting requirements

#2. The reason responsible for attic black mold contamination is improperly designed attic ventilation – a combination of vents that instead of exchanging the air between exterior and interior, they trap, create pockets of “dead air” which condensates on roof decking during the cold season. Attic ventilation design depends on the shape of your roof, its complexity. Some combination of attic / roof vents might work, some will not – if your attic is suffering from improperly designed ventilation, and you don’t know what to do, send me some pictures and I’ll help you with making this decision.

#3. Dryer / kitchen / bathroom vents discharging into the attic are often responsible for condensation, frost and attic black mold growth on the decking surface. Although condensation and frost buildup conditions would only apply to cold climates, all of the exhaust fan types from within your house should discharge to the exterior.

Attic black mold - missing insualtion on the attic floor allows for heat transfer#4. Inadequate / missing attic floor insulation and vapor retarder (moisture barrier) – allows for heat and moisture transfer from your house into the attic area. Bouncing back to the cold climate – it will often result in attic black mold growth.

Vapor retarder definition – it is a  material or system which adequately retards the transmission of water vapor.

#5. Poor / improper cathedral ceiling insulation and skylight chase walls insulation may also be responsible for attic black mold contamination.

#6. Furnaces and water heaters produce significant amount of heat and if installed in a poorly ventilated attic  (not contained within a dedicated  / enclosed area – attic closet), especially in a cold climate, could be responsible for condensation buildup and mold growth.

#7. Plumbing vents open into the attic discharge moisture saturated sewer gases into the attic.

#8. Uninsulated forced air heating system ducts – in cold climates, they waste precious energy and increase chances for attic black mold.

Attic mold - HVAC air ducts and plumbing pipes chase open into the attic. Uninsulated house interior walls allow for temp. exchange, moisutre buildup in cold atticAttic mold - gaps around the plumbing vent stack at the attic floor penetration allow warm air to enter the atticAttic mold - opening in the attic floor continues to the basement allowing house warm air to travel into the cold attic#9. Poorly insulated ceiling penetrations, attic access panels, kitchen soffits open into the attic, etc. It all adds up and the results are sometimes pretty dramatic. I’ve seen chimney and plumbing pipe chaises open at the lowest floor of the house, in a basement or sometimes flooded crawlspace, continuing through the house’s floor or two, and into the attic. Imagine the amount of warm, humid air transferred into the attic space and how much attic mold this can produce.

#10. Leaking roof – mold in the attic caused by the failing house roof protecting surface will be usually concentrated in leakage area and below it. However, poor attic ventilation could significantly accelerate mold growth.

Combining just first two items from the list of t he 10 main reasons responsible for the attic black mold growth could transform your attic into the steamy, mold-contaminated room during the cold season.
Any warm air trapped under the roof will cause condensation to form on framing, decking surfaces, and roofing nails creating mold nesting habitat.

Some homes have more than one attic and upper one, usually located above the bedrooms and bathrooms is always more susceptible of being contaminated with black mold. Warm air from lower parts of the house will naturally rise up, transfer through the ceiling and all its penetrations into the attic.

Attic mold solution has two parts and both should be executed at the same time:

  1. Attic mold removal
  2. Correction of factors responsible for attic mold – without it, attic mold will most likely re-appear within one season

Black attic mold and frost covered nailsBlack attic mold contaminated decking and framingOnce everything is properly fixed, you won’t have to worry about any attic mold growth. However, I still highly recommend to periodically monitor the attic.

Since you already know, why is the black mold growing in the attic it is time to do some investigation above the ceiling. Be extremely careful, if you don’t feel comfortable with accessing the attic, find somebody else to do it for you!

Pictures of mold in attic - roof decking covered with mold Pictures of mold in attic - contaminated decking surface visible directly above the attic access panelPick a cool day for this trip, powerful flashlight and dust mask. Attic access might be as easy as pulling down folding attic stairs, but sometimes it is a challenge as far as size of an opening and its location.

Shine your light beam above your head and onto the roof decking / framing surface, check carefully areas where attic floor meets the roof, because that’s where attic black mold usually starts appearing (samples of what you might see are on the pictures).

If you see no discoloration, clean wood surface with no mold residue on it, than everything should be OK .