Aerogel as high performance insulation?

Aerogel was invented 1931, it is a porous solid material that is strong and does not conduct heat.

Performance as an insulator:

Composed almost entirely of gas, which is a poor heat conductor, aerogel can almost nullify the three methods of heat transfer (conduction, convection and radiation). Boasting an R-value of 10 to 30, NASA has used the material to protect astronauts and equipment, such as the Mars Rover, from the extreme cold of space. As compared to conventional insulation material, the R-values of vermiculite, rockwool, fiberglass and cellulose are approximately 2.13, 3.1, 3 and 3.1, respectively. Silica aerogel is especially valuable because silica is also a poor conductor of heat.  A metallic aerogel, on the other hand, would be less useful as an insulator.

To read the full story click on InterNACHI link below.

Problem Roofing Materials

FireFree® Plus PMFC (Polymer Modified Fiber Cement) roofing, which is rated a Class A fire-rated material, is made from a blend of cement, cellulose fiber and aggregate materials.  The individual roof tiles are coated with a polymer resin that penetrates below the surface layer and encapsulates all six sides of the material.
The roofing shakes in question were manufactured between 1993 and 1997, and are now off the market.  The two product lines of FireFree® Plus roofing — Rustic Shake and Quarry Slate — were produced in a limited variety of colors.  The Rustic Shake line was molded to resemble rough-sawn or split cedar shake, and the Quarry Slate line was molded to resemble traditional slate roofing.
As with all cement-based products, FireFree® roofing products are subject to breakage due to the fact that the products cure longer than others.  This results in a slightly stiffer product that is more capable of withstanding breakage usually associated with shipping, delivery and roof loading.  However, the materials are more brittle, which presents breakage concerns during installation.
Because the tiles are tapered from the bottom edge to the top, they are more brittle at the top.  Breakage may occur if walked on, even by experienced roofing specialists or contractors.  Under common roofing conditions, this is not a problem as the top of the tile is covered by the next applied row.  However, a  edges can exist when the tiles are installed in a valley, which can leave the top edges and untreated cut exposed to the elements.    In order to positively identify problems, the tiles must be removed, and problem replacement or repair is rather difficult.  Photo  below was taken during a home inspection in Colorado Springs.Roof issues during Colorado Springs Home Inspection.  Pretty Typical

Woodruf™ roof shingles, a fiberboard roofing product, were a Masonite™ roofing product consisting of “pressure bonded fibers designed to resemble natural cedar roofing” sold in the United States into the 1990′s and have also been found installed on homes in Canada.

The roofing shingle product was produced in four-foot sections that were 12″ wide and with a nominal thickness of 7/16″. The actual thickness varies due to raised ridges that give Woodruf™ shingles the appearance of a wood shake or shingle.

Our sources indicate that Woodruf™ shingles were marketed with a 40 year life expectancy. As of this article’s last update (July 2010) there is no warranty service remaining on this roofing product.

 

Masonite Woodruf roofing on steep slope roof -

Masonite Woodruff roofing – Inspection Conducted Near Colorado Spring

The Woodruf™ shingle fiberboard was treated with a water repellant and a bonding agent to permit outdoor exposure. This product is softer than Masonite’s hardboard products and to remain durable required an installation that permitted good roof drying (similar to the requirement for wood shingles or shakes). This is particularly true because the factory edges as well as any cut edges made during installation were not sealed.

Masonite Woodruff roofing was intended for steep slope roofs and should not be installed on slopes lower than 4″ of rise in 12″ of run (a 4/12 roof). The shingles were to be installed over roofing felt on a sound roof deck, with a 9″ shingle exposure and requiring eight nails per roofing panel.

 

 

 

T Lock Shingles

T-lock shingle is an interlocking shingle that doesn’t have a tar strip but instead uses an interlocking design to hold them in place. T-Locks have been widely believed to be more wind-resistant than seal-down shingles because of the overlap system, but they are frequently assigned the same tested wind-resistance rating as a 3-tab or architectural shingle of the same warranty period. T-Lock shingles have been discontinued by the manufacturer and can no longer be repaired as material is no longer available. T-Lock shingles were discontinued in 2006 and as such trying to find replacement shingles for your roof is next to impossible.  Photo seen below was taken in Colorado Springs.

 

 

 

 

Maintaining Your Gutter System

Water from the roof reaches the ground through gutters and downspouts or by flowing directly off roof edges. Because downspouts create concentrated sources of water in the landscape, where they discharge is important. Downspouts should not discharge where water will flow directly on or over a walk, driveway or stairs. The downspouts on a hillside building should discharge on the downhill side of the building. The force of water leaving a downspout is sometimes great enough to damage the adjacent ground, so some protection at grade such as a
splash block or a paved drainage chute is needed.   Water that flows directly off a roof lacking gutters and downspouts can cause damage below. Accordingly, some provision in the landscaping may be needed, such as a gravel bed or paved drainage way.

The rule of thumb for downspouts: at least one downspout for each 40 feet (12 m) of gutter. For roofs with gutters, make sure that downspouts discharge so water will drain away from the foundation. Downspouts can be checked for size. Seven square inches is generally the minimum except for small roofs or canopies. There should be attachments or straps at the top, at the bottom, and at each intermediate joint. Downspout fasteners can rust, deform, fail or become loose. On buildings with multiple roofs, one roof sometimes drains to another roof. Where that happens, water should not be discharged directly onto roofing material. The best practice is to direct water from higher gutters to discharge into lower gutters through downspout pipes. Wooden gutters are especially susceptible to rot and deterioration and should be monitored. Pitched roofs in older buildings may end at a parapet wall with a built-in gutter integrated with the roof flashing. At this location, drainage is accomplished by a scupper (a metal-lined opening through the parapet wall that discharges into a leader head box that in turn discharges to a downspout). The leader head box should have a strainer. Check the scupper for deterioration and open seams. All metal roof flashings, scuppers, leader head boxes and downspouts should be made of similar metals.

Homeowner maintenance includes cleaning the leaves and debris from the roof’s valleys, gutters and downspouts. Debris in the valleys can cause water to wick under the shingles and cause damage to the interior of the roof. Clogged rain gutters can cause water to flow back under the shingles on the eaves and cause damage, regardless of the roofing material. This condition can occur with composition shingle, wood shake, tile or metal. In the winter if drainage systems are clogged this moisture that has wicked under the roof covering can create a ice dam and cause damage to your roof system.

Inspect the downspouts to make sure they are clean, clogged downspouts will cause the same damage.If downspouts are underground, make sure the area of discharge is cleared of grass  and other plant material.  If the discharge area is blocked water can back up into the downspouts also creating an ice blockage and eventually into the gutters and cause the same ice dam issues as described above.

Ice dams can form on pitched roof overhangs in cold climates subject to prolonged periods of freezing weather, especially those climates with a daily average January temperature of 30º F (-1º C) or colder. Heat loss through the roof and heat from the sun (even in freezing temperatures) can cause snow on a roof to melt. As water runs down the roof onto the overhang, it freezes and forms an ice dam just above the gutter. The ice dam traps water from melting snow and forces it back under the shingles and into the building’s interior.  Watch the edge of the roof overhang for
evidence of ice dams and look at the eaves and soffit for evidence of deterioration and water damage. If the house has an attic, the underside of the roof deck at exterior walls can be checked for signs of water intrusion.

Safety:  Don’t forget about safety when cleaning your gutters.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that forms from incomplete combustion of fuels, such as natural or liquefied petroleum gas, oil, wood or coal.  Any fuel-burning appliances which are malfunctioning or improperly installed can be a source of CO poisoning.

Facts and Figures:

•    480 U.S. residents died between 2001 and 2003 from non-fire-related carbon-monoxide poisoning.
•    Most CO exposures occur during the winter months, especially in December (including 56 deaths, and 2,157 non-fatal exposures), and in January (including 69 deaths and 2,511 non-fatal exposures). The peak time of day for CO exposure is between 6 and 10 p.m.
•    Many experts believe that CO poisoning statistics understate the problem. Because the symptoms of CO poisoning mimic a range of common health ailments, it is likely that a large number of mild to mid-level exposures are never identified, diagnosed, or accounted for in any way in carbon monoxide statistics.
•    Out of all reported non-fire carbon-monoxide incidents, 89% or almost nine out of 10 of them take place in a home.

 

CO can poison slowly over a period of several hours, even in low concentrations. Sensitive organs, such as the brain, heart and lungs, suffer the most from a lack of oxygen.
High concentrations of carbon monoxide can kill in less than five minutes. At low concentrations, it will require a longer period of time to affect the body. Exceeding the EPA concentration of 9 parts per million (ppm) for more than eight hours may have adverse health affects. The limit of CO exposure for healthy workers, as prescribed by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration, is 50 ppm.

Colorado State Law States:

NOTWITHSTANDING ANY OTHER PROVISION OF LAW,  THE SELLER OF EACH EXISTING SINGLE-FAMILY DWELLING OFFERED FOR
SALE OR TRANSFER ON OR AFTER JULY 1, 2009, THAT HAS A FUEL-FIRED HEATER OR APPLIANCE, A FIREPLACE, OR AN
ATTACHED GARAGE SHALL ASSURE THAT AN OPERATIONAL CARBON MONOXIDE ALARM IS INSTALLED WITHIN FIFTEEN FEET OF THE ENTRANCE
TO EACH ROOM LAWFULLY USED FOR SLEEPING PURPOSES OR IN A LOCATION AS SPECIFIED IN ANY BUILDING CODE
ADOPTED BY THE STATE OR ANY LOCAL GOVERNMENT ENTITY.

During my Home Inspections,  testing Carbon Monoxide detectors is very important due to the safety concerns and because of Colorado State Law as noted above.

 

CO Detector Placement

Where not to CO Detectors:
•    directly above or beside fuel-burning appliances, as appliances may emit a small amount of carbon monoxide upon start-up;
•    within 15 feet of heating and cooking appliances, or in or near very humid areas, such as bathrooms;
•    within 5 feet of kitchen stoves and ovens, or near areas locations where household chemicals and bleach are stored (store such chemicals away from bathrooms and kitchens, whenever possible);
•    in garages, kitchens, furnace rooms, or in any extremely dusty, dirty, humid, or greasy areas;
•    in direct sunlight, or in areas subjected to temperature extremes. These include unconditioned crawlspaces, unfinished attics, un-insulated or poorly insulated ceilings, and porches;
•    in turbulent air near ceiling fans, heat vents, air conditioners, fresh-air returns, or open windows. Blowing air may prevent carbon monoxide from reaching the CO sensors.
Where to  place CO detectors:
•    within 15 feet of each bedroom door and near all sleeping areas, where it can wake sleepers. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) recommend that every home have at least one carbon monoxide detector for each floor of the home, and within hearing range of each sleeping area;
•    on every floor of your home, including the basement (source:  International Association of Fire Chiefs/IAFC);
•    near or over any attached garage. Carbon monoxide detectors are affected by excessive humidity and by close proximity to gas stoves (source:  City of New York);
•    near, but not directly above, combustion appliances, such as furnaces, water heaters, and fireplaces, and in the garage (source:  UL); and
•    on the ceiling in the same room as permanently installed fuel-burning appliances, and centrally located on every habitable level, and in every HVAC zone of the building (source:  National Fire Protection Association 720). This rule applies to commercial buildings.
In North America, some national, state and local municipalities require installation of CO detectors in new and existing homes, as well as commercial businesses, among them:  Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont and New York City, and the Canadian province of Ontario. Installers are encouraged to check with their local municipality to determine what specific requirements have been enacted in their jurisdiction.

Central Humidifiers

The winters in Colorado Springs can be very dry and the humidity levels in your home so low that wood floors and wood furniture will shrink or contract.  During My Home Inspections I come across many different types of humidifiers which are attached to the return air duct work at the furnace.  Humidifiers should have a damper which is closed during the summer season and opened during the winter season.

What is humidity?
Humidity refers to the amount of moisture in the air. “Relative humidity” signifies the amount of moisture in the air relative to the maximum amount of water the air can contain before it becomes saturated. This maximum moisture count is related to air temperature in that the hotter the air is, the more moisture it can hold. For instance, if indoor air temperature drops, relative humidity will increase.

How do central air humidifiers work?

Central air humidifiers are integrated into the forced-air heating system so that they humidify air while it is being heated.  The water that is used by the device is pumped automatically into the humidifier from household plumbing, unlike portable humidifiers, which require the user to periodically supply water to the device. Humidifiers are available in various designs, each of which turns liquid water into water vapor, which is then vented into the house at an adjustable rate.

Why humidify air?     

Moist air  seems to soothe irritated, inflamed airways. For someone with a cold and thick nasal secretions, a humidifier can help thin out the secretions and make breathing easier.
Indoor air that is too dry can also cause the following problems:
•    damage to musical instruments, such as pianos, guitars and violins;
•    dry skin;
•    peeling wallpaper;
•    static electricity, which can damage sensitive electrical equipment, cause hair to stick up, and can be painful or annoying; and
•    cracks in wood furniture, floors, cabinets and paint.

Central Humidifier Dangers

Humidifiers can cause various diseases. The young, elderly and infirm may be particularly at risk to contamination from airborne pollutants such as bacteria and fungi. These can grow in humidifiers and get into the air by way of the vapor where it can be breathed in. Some of the more common diseases and pathogens transmitted by humidifiers are:
•    Legionnaires’ Disease. Health problems caused by this disease range from flu-like symptoms to serious infections. This problem is generally more prevalent with portable humidifiers because they draw standing water from a tank in which bacteria and fungi can grow;
•    thermophilic actinomycetes. These bacteria thrive at temperatures of 113° to 140° F and can cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which is an inflammation of the lungs; and
•    “humidifier fever,” which is a mysterious and short-lived, flu-like illness marked by fever, headache, chills and malaise, but without prominent pulmonary symptoms. It normally subsides within 24 hours without residual effects.
Other problems associated with humidifiers include:
•    accumulation of white dust from minerals in the water. These minerals may be released in the mist from the humidifier and settle as fine white dust that may be small enough to enter the lungs. The health effects of this dust depend on the types and amounts of dissolved minerals. It is unclear whether these minerals cause any serious health problems;
•    moisture damage due to condensation. Condensed water from over-humidified air will appear on the interior surfaces of windows and other relatively cool surfaces. Excessive moisture on windows can damage windowpanes and walls, but a more serious issue is caused when moisture collects on the inner surfaces of exterior walls. Moisture there can ruin insulation and rot the wall, and cause peeling, cracking or blistering of the paint; and
•    accumulation of mold. This organic substance grows readily in moist environments, such as a home moistened by an over-worked humidifier. Mold can be hazardous to people with compromised immune systems.


Designs and Maintenance

drum-type humidifier:  has a rotating spongy surface that absorbs water from a tray. Air from the central heating system blows through the sponge, vaporizing the absorbed water. The drum type requires care and maintenance because mold and impurities can collect in the water tray. According to some manufacturers’ instructions, this tray should be rinsed annually, although it usually helps to clean it several times per heating season.
•    flow-through or “trickle” humidifier:  a higher quality though more expensive unit than the drum-type, which allows fresh water to trickle into an aluminum panel. Air blows through the panel and forces the water to evaporate into the air stream. Excess water exits the panel into a drain tube. This design requires little maintenance because the draining water has a “self-cleaning” effect and, unlike the drum-type humidifier, there is no stagnant water.


Garage Door Safety

Garage doors are one of the heaviest moving objects associated with your home.  They are supported and operated by large springs and  openers which control the opening and closing of garage doors, either through a wall-mounted switch or a radio transmitter. Due to the strain that garage door components and openers regularly endure, they may become defective over time and need to be fixed or replaced. Defective components may create safety hazards as well as functional deficiencies to the garage door assembly.

The majority of the injuries caused by garage doors are the result of pinched fingers, although severe injuries and deaths due to entrapment occur as well. Sixty children have been killed since 1982 as a result of garage doors that did not automatically reverse upon contact.

The safety components of  the garage door system which should be inspected are:

  1.  Manual emergency release handle
  2.  photoelectric sensors or photo eyes
  3.  Auto reverse system
  4. Rollers, guides and hinges

Manual Emergency Release Handle:
All garage doors should be equipped with a manual emergency release handle, which will detach the door from the door opener when activated. It is vital during emergency situations, such as when a person becomes trapped beneath the door or when a power outage cuts electricity to the door opener. Activate the handle to make sure that it works, although you will have to reset the handle if it does not reset automatically. In order for the handle to be accessible and obvious, the handle should be red in color and hang no higher than 6’ above the garage floor.

Photoelectric Sensor:
Photoelectric sensors or Photoelectric eyes are located at the base of each side of the garage door and emit and detect beams of light. If this beam is broken, it will cause the door to immediately reverse direction and open. For safety reasons, photo sensors must be installed a maximum of 6 inches above the floor surface and should be tested periodically.

Automatic Reverse System:
This safety feature can be tested by grasping the base of the garage door as it closes and applying upward resistance. Use caution while performing this test because you may accidentally damage its components if the door does not reverse course.

Rollers, Guides and Hinges:
Door parts should be checked for loose door guides,rollers & hinges, because of extreme pressures on these parts the guides and hinges can become loose or the rollers worn. Make these inspections a part of your annual maintenance inspections or have a Certified Home Inspector conduct an Annual Home Inspection.

Asbestos Cement Siding

Asbestos cement is a composite material consisting of Portland cement reinforced with asbestos fibers.  Asbestos cement first came into use as an exterior cladding after 1907. By the 1920s, the National Board of Fire Underwriters recommended that asbestos cement replace wood as siding and roofing material because of its superior fire-resistant properties.  By the 1940s, hundreds of thousands of homes in the U.S. had been constructed using asbestos cement siding.

During the late 1960s and early ‘70s, however, the news media began to report on the health hazards associated with asbestos.  As reports increased, concern grew, so the federal government took action.  The EPA banned the use of asbestos in the manufacture of building products in 1973.

In the course of my Home Inspections In the Colorado Springs area I inspect many older homes that have Asbestos Cement siding.  I always inform the buyers of the advantages and disadvantages of this product, but as it was intended it provides a good fire barrier. Asbestos  siding photo

When trying to determine if you have Asbestos Cement siding, beware that other wood siding can look like Asbestos Cement siding, a simple pick test will let you know.  Use a sharp tool to test your siding, if you have wood siding you can gouge a small portion off, but if you have Asbestos Cement siding it will be similar to gouging your cement sidewalk.
Health Risks

Asbestos fibers are a proven health hazard if inhaled.  Asbestos dust is a known cause of a type of lung cancer called asbestosis.  Mesothelioma, another deadly form of cancer that attacks internal organs, can also be caused by exposure to asbestos.  However, asbestos cement siding that has been properly installed and is not in a state of decay presents no health risks as long as it remains undisturbed.  This is because the cement binds the asbestos fibers and prevents their release into the air, under normal use and maintenance.

The EPA deems asbestos to be hazardous when it is in a friable state, meaning that it can be crumbled, crushed or pulverized by hand pressure.  Crushed asbestos in a powdery form can allow its particles to become airborne and inhaled, causing potential health problems.  Asbestos cement products that are not in a friable state are not considered hazardous.  The only potential danger is when the cement is disturbed in a way that causes the asbestos fibers to become airborne.

If mechanical activities performed on the siding, such as chipping, sawing, grinding or sanding, allow particles to become airborne, then the cement is considered in a friable state and, consequently, hazardous.  Deterioration can also lead to particles becoming airborne and potentially dangerous.Asbestos Siding photo from home inspection

Advantages

•    Asbestos cement siding is highly fire-resistant and will not burn or melt the way vinyl and wood siding will.
•    It resists termite damage.
•    It resists rotting.
•    It has been manufactured with textures intended to simulate the look of other cladding materials, such as wood grain.
•    It is fairly easy to clean and maintain.
•    Unlike more porous siding materials, such as wood clapboard, asbestos cement siding will not quickly soak up paint, which allows it to be painted more easily.

Disadvantages
•    Asbestos cement siding is very brittle and can be easily chipped, cracked or broken.
•    The use of a pressure washer for maintenance can crack the siding and lead to moisture intrusion, if the pressure setting is high enough.
•    Asbestos cement can be dangerous if pulverized by sawing, sanding, breaking, etc.
•    This product cannot be refurbished, however replacement siding is available.

Maintenance
Damage and deterioration can lead to structural and health issues, so proper maintenance of asbestos cement building materials is a primary concern.  Keeping the siding clean and performing minor repairs as soon as they become necessary are very important.  Asbestos cement siding is fairly brittle and has little resistance to cracking, chipping and damage from impact, which can cause asbestos particles to become airborne.  Damage to the siding can also lead to other damage related to moisture intrusion which can then lead to mold growth. Damaged areas that cannot be fixed but can be replaced with non-asbestos fiber cement by a professional.  Specific fiber cement materials have been manufactured for repairs that are intended to mimic the look of asbestos cement siding.

Should I Worry About Radon?

Based on the amount of a requests I receive for Radon Testing , homeowners and home buyers are becoming more concerned about Radon gas. I think it’s important for homeowners and buyers on radon and radon testing.  I’ve included a list of links at the bottom of this article.  Please reach out ot me if you have questions.

What is Radon?

Radon is a colorless and odorless radioactive gas that is produced by the radioactive decay of radium. Radium is a product of a decay chain beginning with uranium, a naturally occurring radioactive element. Radium is found in trace amounts in nearly all rocks,soils,and groundwater as well as building materials, plants,animals,and the human body.

Where is Radon Found?

Radon is a natural component of the air we breathe. Radon gas decays to solid particles called radon decay products. Inhaled radon decay products account for more than two thirds of the natural background radiation dose to members of the public. Scientists have long known about the radiation dose from radon, particularly to miners; however, the general public in the United States became aware of the potential risk of radon in homes in the 1980s.

The map below shows the concentration of mapped Radon zones. Notice Colorado notice we in Colorado are in the Highest  Zone 1.   Colorado Springs and Elpaso County have a very high incidence of Radon Gas.

EPA Map of Radon Zones.

Is Radon Harmful to Your Health?

According to the EPA, radon is the second most important cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking. Radon exposure is also considered the  primary cause of lung cancer in individuals who have never smoked. The majority of radon related lung cancers are attributable  to long-term exposures at low or moderate concentrations since most of the exposures occur at these lower concentrations. Adverse health  effects, other than lung cancer, have not been consistently demonstrated in epidemiological studies.

EPA chart (vertical number of Deaths - Horizontal Causes of Death)

 

How is Radon Measured?

Radon concentration is a measurable quantity that is related to the amount of radiation that would be emitted by radon and its decay products  in a liter of air.  Radon concentration in air is expressed in units of picocuries per liter (pCi/L).Higher radon concentrations and smoking habits are related to a higher potential for adverse human health effects. The concentration to which an individual is exposed can be influenced by that person’s lifestyle,such as time spent indoors, building construction,local geology, and other environmental factors.

What Level of Radon is Acceptable?

The U.S. EPA has established guidelines for exposure to radon in homes. At levels of 4pCi/L or more, the U.S. EPA encourages members of the public to take steps to reduce the radon concentrations and to consider action at levels above 2pCi/L. The Health Physics Society concurs with the U.S. EPA guideline of 4pCi/L. However, because 4pCi/L is not a definite line between safe and unsafe, the HPS also agrees with the EPA s recommendation to consider action at levels below 4pCiL. Recent residential epidemiological studies have demonstrated that there is a statistically significant increased risk of lung cancer at concentrations below the U.S. EPA s action level of 4pCi/L.

Radon Testing Guidelines

You should have your home or building tested by a Certified Radon Measurement Professional.   Closed house conditions are required 12 hours prior to deployment of the tests and for the 48 hours during the test.  Closed-house conditions means keeping all windows closed, keeping doors closed except for normal entry and exit, and not operating fans or other machines which bring in air from outside.  Fans that are part of a radon-reduction system or small exhaust fans operating for only short periods of time may run during the test.

How Long does Radon Testing Take?

Many different types of Radon Measurement Devices are available.  Short term tests require a minimum deployment tome of 48 hours to 7 days.  For the Radon tests I conduct I use either a Charcoal Liquid Scintillation which is two small vials of activated charcoal  or Activated Charcoal Adsorption container filled with activated charcoal and covered with a screen and filter.   Both of these types are deployed for 48 hours.  Long  term can be a Continuous Monitoring which could be in place for a year.

What if my Radon Levels are High?

For existing homes with radon concentrations at or above 4pCi/L, proper radon mitigation can almost always reduce levels to below 2pCi/L. Homeowners, or others responsible for a particular building, should contact a qualified radon mitigation specialist to determine the appropriate actions to be taken to reduce indoor radon concentrations. Confirmation tests should be made after mitigation to ensure that the system is working properly.

What if I Plan to Build a New Home?

For new construction, particularly in areas designated by the U.S. EPA or state radon programs as  having the potential for indoor radon concentrations exceeding 4 pCi/L, radon‐reducing features or a full mitigation system should be installed at the time of construction. Nationwide, the average cost of installing radon resistant systems in new construction is in the range of several hundred dollars, while the cost of mitigating an existing home often exceed $1,000.

Radon and Home Sales?

Radon testing is standard for many real estate transactions along the front range.   Because real estate sales happen quickly, there is often little time to mitigate for radon and this becomes a price negotiation item regardless of whether the buyer is actually concerned with radon or not. The best thing to do is to test for radon NOW and save the results in case the buyer is interested in them.  If there is a radon issue, I can recommend a mitigation company to resolve your issue and get on with the purchase or sale of your home.

 

Radon References:

EPA on Radon

El Paso County Colorado Radon Services

InterNACHI Radon Information

Or Contact me for your Radon Testing or other Home Inspection Needs

Inspections Done Right

Home Safety

From the perspective of 28 years in construction management (superintendent),  job site safety  was always foremost on my mind.  When an accident occurs on a job site it can be very costly in many ways.  First to the injured party who must suffer through the healing process, it also cost the project time due to possible re-staffing, time taken in investigating the accident and the insurance rates sometimes will go up.  In my Home Inspections I am not looking for things like household chemicals or plants, I concentrate on electrical issues or fall type hazards.  Just as a project superintendent would have a safety plan, so home owners should also have a plan in case of accidents of any kind.  Remember the faster you can respond to an accident the better for the victim (your loved one).

Buying a home is the first step, you have most likely had it inspected for structural and electrical problems hopefully by a Certified Inspector.  Don’t stop there, as you move into your new home keep in mind the safety of your family.  If you have small children consider cabinet latches and keep the poisonous plants out of reach. 

As I was considering  my own home safety, I was astonished at the number household items considered to be poisonous either by ingestion or inhalation.  Items we use sometimes daily but don’t stop to read the labels.  Safety does not stop with household chemicals, it also includes electrical, trip hazards and even house plants.  To my surprise I found the following list of indoor plants to be poisonous.

***English Ivy, Aloe Vera, (Burn plant), Poinsettia, Hydrangea, Jerusalem Cherry,
 Amaryllis, Azalea, Flamingo lily, Angels' wings, Chrysanthemums, Mums,
Kaffir Lily, Croton, Cyclamen, Angel's Trumpet, Dumb cane, Crown-of-thorns, 
Devil's Backbone,Ceriman, Swiss-cheese plant, Heart leaf philodendron, Philodendron***    The following link has more information on the individual plants and what parts are poisonous.     http://www.blankees.com/house/plants/poisonous.htm

Mums

Items in the kitchen considered poisonous: glass cleaner, antibacterial cleaner, dishwashing detergent, all-purpose cleaner, insect sprays, oven cleaner, and ant or roach baits.

Items in the bathroom considered poisonous: medicines, toilet cleaners, antibacterial cleaners, air fresheners, drain cleaners, mold and mildew remover.

Items in the garage considered poisonous: motor oil, windshield washer fluid, gasoline, paints, auto batteries, antifreeze, pesticides.

For a poison emergency in the U.S. call 1-800-222-1222
To Learn More About Chemicals Around Your House:
http://www.epa.gov/kidshometour/kitchen.htm#view
 

Tips on Poisoning
Don’t force to vomit immediately. Call poison control. Tell them what substance and how much was swallowed.
Take the bottle or package to the phone when you call. Directions on the container may not be up to date. Always follow the instructions given by the poison control center. Do not give the patient fluids or cause to vomit if unconscious or in convulsions. Call for emergency help.

Tips for MINOR BURNS
 Immediately cool the burn area by putting it under cool running water or in a sink filled with cool water for at least five minutes or until the pain subsides. Never apply butter, grease or ointment. Don’t open blisters or remove dead skin. Cover with gauze. If blisters break, apply a clean dressing. If the burn is on the face, covers an area bigger than your hand or if it blisters, call the doctor or emergency number.

Tips for Cuts
MINOR – Wash wound area with soap and water, not alcohol; cover with a sterile gauze bandage.
MAJOR – If blood appears to be gushing or spurting, follow these instructions and call for help. Take a clean
cloth or towel and press hard on the cut for 10 minutes. Do not remove pressure to see if it’s working. If possible, raise the cut above the level of the chest. After 10 minutes, if the bleeding has stopped, cover the cut with a bandage. If the bleeding hasn’t stopped, try pressing harder for five more minutes and seek medical help.

 

Make sure you have the following posted near your phone in case of an emergency.

 

 

    Inspections Done Right
 

Do I have Polybutylene Plumbing in My Home?

Polybutylene Plumbing – Be aware Home Owners and Home Buyers.

Polybutylene piping was a low-cost piping formed of plastic resin and is a very common negotiation strategy for home buyers looking for home in my part of Colorado.  It is commonly gray, white, blue, black and ivory  in color and is flexible as the photos show. Poly piping was used as a substitute for copper piping in both underground water mains and interior plumbing.  One of the easiest ways to identify this pipe is to locate the “PB” lettering on the printed label.  Because of the ease of installing poly piping, it was used in the construction of millions of homes throughout the U.S. between 1978 and 1995.  Not all polybutylene piping systems use polybutylene fittings; some use copper. Therefore, if you see copper fittings on a pipe, it does not mean that you do not have poly piping.  The following photos have been taken in my Home Inspections and are of Polybutylene piping.

Example of Polybutylene connection taken during home inspection in 80920 zip codePolybutylene in basement

Home Inspection Polybutylene discovered in basement during inspectionPolybutylene photo from home inspectionpolybutylene-piping example photos from inspection

It was discovered that as poly pipe ages and reacts with the oxidants in normal tapwater, it becomes brittle, sometimes scaling or flaking. This results in a fracturing of the interior surface of the pipe, which allows for more deterioration. Eventually the pipe will begin to leak, causing damage throughout a home. Poly pipe with plastic fittings or with metal fittings will eventually incur damage; poly piping is not a reliable piping under any circumstances. If a pipe has been leaking for some time without the knowledge of a homeowner, severe structural damage or Mold growth can result, making repairs extremely difficult.

Polybutylene piping was the subject of much attention because of the settlement of a multi-million dollar lawsuit.  Manufacturers of PB pipe have never admitted that it’s defective, but they have agreed to fund the class-action settlement.  Polybutylene pipe is no longer be manufactured and is no longer be available .   For more information visit The Polybutylene Pipe Settlement Fund     http://www.pbpipe.com/.      The Cox v. Shell settlement was one of the largest consumer settlements in United States history.

The only way to eliminate the possibility of problems that can come from deteriorating polybutylene piping is to replace the pipe itself.  Fortunately, this procedure is relatively inexpensive and can usually be performed by a certified plumber or  re-pipe specialist.
A reputable plumbing company can install water supply piping professionally, but can they do the whole job for a fair price and at the least inconvenience to me?   A few general plumbing companies will do the whole job by subcontracting the drywall and paint, but a re-pipe specialist is your best. They have the personnel to give you a quality job, and they will do it more efficiently, with less damage and inconvenience, and most importantly, for less cost.
In general, real estate agents tell us that homes with polybutylene piping sell for less and take longer to sell. Generally, a home inspector flags the problem, and the pipes are replaced before closing.  But we do not know how many prospective buyers simply ignore homes with poly because they recognize it as a potential problem from the start.
So if you discover your home has Polybutylene piping have it replaced, the possibility of a leak or rupture occurring will only increase with time. Make sure your home inspector is aware.  Contact me if you have any questions.

 

      Inspections Done Right

There’s Never a Good Reason to Avoid Paying for a Home Inspection

I read an article from David Myers of the Chicago Daily Herald entitled , “There’s Never a Good Reason to Avoid Paying for a Home Inspection” (The was old and eventually removed but I kept a PDF copy.)  Mr. Myers debates with a reader about  whether a home inspection is worth the money or not.  In the article, Myers responds to a reader that asks, “is a home inspection a waste of money?”

Home Inspectors find Undisclosed Defects

Mr. Myers corrects the reader stating that the seller only has to disclose ‘KNOWN” defects and that a professional home inspector knows how to FIND these defects (my emphasis) – well worth a few hundred dollars since a professional home inspection is “Cheap Insurance.”  A home inspection (or commercial property inspection) is both cheap insurance and a powerful price negotiation tool for both the buyer and seller of a home worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. It can keep you out of court where your you may or may not collect damages for property defects.

Example of Undisclosed Defect Identified During an Inspection

“For example, say you purchased a house without ordering an inspection, and it slid off the foundation when the first rainstorm arrived, the only way you could collect damages from the seller would be to prove that he knew about the problem – or at least should have known – and failed to disclose. At best, you would have to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees and countless hours in court pursuing a claim with an uncertain outcome.
Had you instead hired a professional inspector, it’s likely that the inspector would have noticed telltale signs, such as fissures or buckling in the cement, that the foundation was giving way. You then could have negotiated with the seller to have the necessary repairs made, or simply use the contract’s inspection contingency to cancel the sale and get your deposit back.”
Like he said, “cheap insurance.”  It certainly makes me feel pretty good about my career choice and the value that I can provide my clients with my years of construction and inspection experience. I know that I have helped people avoid some major problems in buying or selling a home and I am proud to be a NACHI Certified Home Inspector. Remember all “Home Inspectors” are not created equal, find a Certified NACHI Inspector to get the best value for your money.

Here is a little more current article that discusses the return on the investment that you get from using a certified Home Inspector entitled, “Ten Reasons You Shouldn’t Skip a Home Inspection“.

 

Inspections Done Right

Carpeted Bathrooms is it a Good Idea?

Probably 30% of the homes I inspect have at least one bathroom that has carpet. Here are some things to think regarding bathroom flooring.  Carpet or not?

Advantages of a Carpeted bathroom:

  • Carpet provides a non slip surface when exiting the shower or tub
  • Carpet is warmer to your feet  in the winter
  • Carpet is less expensive and quicker to install than Ceramic Tile
  • Carpet has a warmer look to the bathroom.

Disadvantages of a Carpeted bathroom:

  • Carpet and padding can act as a sponge and hold water
  • Carpet can be more difficult to clean when soiled
  • Carpet can hold urine and be undetected
  • carpet can hold moisture from exiting the shower or tub
  • Wet carpet can be a hiding place for mold

When left to grow mold can create structural damage, because mold can deteriorate a wood sub-floor or drywall and cause structural damage which can lead to costly repairs.  Carpet has a tendency to hold or foster bacteria which is one reason it is against code to carpet a commercial bathroom.

Precautions you should take if you have carpet in your bathrooms

moldy subfloor

  • Check often for moisture
  • Make sure you have proper ventilation
  • Make sure toilet is not leaking
  • Carpet in bathrooms should be cleaned on a regular basis

The photo  is of a bathroom that was tiled but moisture  invaded the ceramic tile and went unchecked mold growth occurred and lead to costly repairs.

 

 

Inspections Done Right    Inspections Done Right

 

Instructions for Home Occupants Prior to Radon Test

Radon Testing Checklist

 Testing for radon is not complicated.  Improper testing may yield inaccurate results and require another test.  Disturbing or interfering with the test device, or with closed-house conditions, may invalidate the test results and is illegal in some states.  If the seller or qualified tester cannot confirm that all items have been completed, take another test.

Before Conducting a Radon Test

•    Notify the occupants of the importance of proper testing conditions. Give the occupants written instructions or a copy of this Guide and explain    the directions carefully.

•    Conduct the radon test for a minimum of 48 hours; some test devices have a minimum exposure time greater than 48 hours.

•    When doing a short-term test ranging from 2-4 days, it is important to maintain closed-house conditions for at least 12 hours before the beginning of the test and during the entire test period.

•    When doing a short-term test ranging from 4-7 days, EPA recommends that closed-house conditions be maintained

•    If you conduct the test yourself, use a qualified radon measurement device and follow the laboratory’s instructions.  Your state may be able to    provide you with a list of do-it-yourself test devices available from qualified laboratories.

•    If you hire someone to do the test, hire only a qualified individual.  Some states issue photo identification (ID) cards; ask to see it.  The tester’s ID number, if available, should be included or noted in the test

•    The test should include method(s) to prevent or detect interference with testing conditions or with the testing device itself.

•    If the house has an active radon-reduction system, make sure the vent fan is operating properly.  If the fan is not operating properly, have it (or ask to have it) repaired and then test.

During a Radon Test

Closed-house conditions means keeping all windows closed, keeping doors closed except for normal entry and exit, and not operating fans or other machines which bring in air from outside.  Fans that are part of a radon-reduction system or small exhaust fans operating for only short periods of time may run during the test.

•    Maintain closed-house conditions during he entire time of a short term test, especially for tests shorter than one week in length.

•    Operate the home’s heating and cooling systems normally during the test. For tests lasting less than one week, operate only air-conditioning units which recirculate interior air.

•    Do not disturb the test device at any time during the test.

•    If a radon-reduction system is in place, make sure the system is working properly and will be in operation during the entire radon test.

After a Radon Test

•    If an elevated level is found, fix the home. Contact a qualified radon-reduction contractor about lowering the radon level.  EPA recommends that you mitigate the home when the radon level is 4 pCi/L or more.

•    Be sure that you or the radon tester can demonstrate or provide information to ensure that the testing conditions were not violated during the testing period.

Leo     Inspections Done Right

Should My FPE Stab-Lok Panel be Replaced?

Home Inspection Electrical Issues

I see electrical issues frequently during home inspections. FPE Stab-Lok electrical panels are typically found in homes built in the 1960s. From Home Inspector Pro software and am able to advise homeowners quickly on this and other electrical problems uncovered during their inspection. Here’s the verbiage that goes on the inspection report:

FPE Stab-Loc Circuit Breaker Photo from taken during Home Inspection

FPE Stab-Loc Circuit Breaker Photo from taken during Home Inspection

 “ Federal Pacific Stab-Lok model panels are known to have a high rate of failure of circuit breakers. Failure of circuit breakers can result in a fire and/or electrocution. I strongly recommend the Federal Pacific “Stab-Lok” main electric panel be replaced by a qualified electrical contractor.”

Another narrative from Inspectopedia: 
“*** Safety Warning*** I have observed a Federal Pacific Electric “Stab-Lok” service panel in the house. This panel is a latent fire hazard: it’s circuit breakers may fail to trip in response to an overcurrent or a short circuit. Failure of a circuit breaker to trip can result in a fire, property damage, or personal injury. A circuit breaker that may not trip does not afford the protection that is intended and required. Simply replacing the circuit breakers is not a reliable repair. The panel should be replaced, and significant expense may be involved.

Since I see these fairly frequently during home inspections, I did some further research on these panels from the experts..  In a class action lawsuit, a New Jersey State Court ruled that the Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Company “violated the Consumer Fraud Act because FPE knowingly and purposefully distributed circuit breakers which were not tested to meet UL standards.   An expert who investigated the potential hazards of Federal Pacific Electric panels stated under UL 489 test conditions, that FPE panels fail to trip at a much higher rate than standard panels.  Using UL 289 test conditions, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found that Federal Pacific Electric panels may be unfit for homes. The materials used to construct the breakers may be weak. As a result, the breakers may not trip, and the panel could be susceptible to catching on fire.

Most breakers in a home are never called upon to trip, and the homeowner’s perception is that ‘the breakers work fine.’ The same observation could generally be made if there were no breakers (or fuses) at all, just a hardwired system. In the event of an electrical malfunction, however, our safety may depend on proper operation of the circuit breakers.

Electrical Safety Defect

The presence of a Federal Pacific panel in a home should be classified as a ‘Safety Defect.’ The Federal Pacific breakers are primary safety devices of questionable operating reliability. The breaker’s function is to stop certain electrical sequences that could, if allowed to proceed, lead to fire in the building. If an electrical fire hazard develops somewhere in the building, the breaker is supposed to trip and minimize the possibility of fire ignition. If the breaker is defective, fire is more likely to result.

“There is no question but that the Federal Pacific Stab-Lok® panels should be replaced. There is no practical and safe alternative.”
Dr. Jesse Aronstein, BME, MSME, PhD
Consulting Engineer Specializing in Mechanical and Materials Engineering

There appear to be two options for correcting the hazards of having this panel in your home, First is total replacement and second is an Adjustable Retrofit Kits produced by Eaton Corp., Cutler Hammer Products (E-CH) are a patented design new electric panel interior designed to replace aging electrical panels in residential and light commercial applications.
Here is a website with lots of information on the Federal Pacific / Stab-Loc panels .  Please contact me if you have any questions or need an experienced home inspector to help you with your home purchase or sale.

Inspections Done Right

TIME TO WINTERIZE

Living in Colorado Springs has some challenges when going about the annual duty of winterizing your home.  The following tips you will find helpful especially for this environment, some of these tips come from personal and sometimes expensive experiences.

Colorado Springs is a GREAT place to live and the winters are not as brutal as the North Eastern states, in fact we can have days in the 60’s in the middle of winter.  With that in mind please read carefully the tips I propose, they are laced with problems I have seen in my Home Inspections.

DOORS and WINDOWS

Check the weather striping on your doors and windows, bad gaskets or weather striping can let in cold air and also moisture.  On the exterior of doors and windows check the caulking around the trim and especially the tops.  In winter snow can set on top of the trim for extended periods of time, if the caulking is deteriorated moisture can be introduced into walls or deteriorate trim and siding.

exterior trim1exterior trim2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ROOF GUTTERS

Clean your roof gutters and down spouts of leaves and debris, clogged gutters can cause ice dams to form along roof edges and force moisture under roof shingles or behind facia and other trim.  This can lead to moisture inside the attic space or deteriorate trim which can be costly to repair.  Make sure down spouts drain roof water away from foundation and the ground itself is draining away from foundations, unlike the photo below.

clogged gutter1clogged gutter2foundation drainage2

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPRINKLER SYSTEM

You should drain or blow out your irrigation system (especially if it is PVC) after the growing season and hard frosts start to occur.  The bad part of frozen and broken pipes is they don’t appear until spring when you re-energize your system.  Poly piping is more flexible and forgiving but still should be blown out.  If you don’t have an air compressor and the knowledge call a professional, it can be cheaper in the long run.

YARD MAINTENANCE

Yard maintenance in Colorado Springs in winter can be challenging, the winter temperatures can vary from blizzard to spring conditions within a week.  In dryer winters you should water lawns and young trees a few times, or when spring arrives you find a lot of dead grass or trees.  With that in mind, when you do water make sure to disconnect your hoses from the hose bibs after use.  Hoses left connected can cause hose bibs to freeze and rupture, when thawing occurs and you hear water running inside your walls you will remember, I should have disconnected that hose.
Flower beds close to your house should be cleaned, lots of dead leaves is a great food source for mold which can lead to mold spores which can invade your home.

FIREPLACE

Fireplace chimneys should be cleaned every year to prevent build-up and chimney fires.  Make sure your damper is working freely, after you start a fire and the room fills with smoke is not the time to remember your damper.  Make sure your spark arrester is in good condition and vent cap is attached well.  Spark arresters are important especially in areas such as Colorado Springs due to the dead and often times dry foliage  in the winter time.  Brush fires are fairly common in winter in Colorado Springs and the surrounding area.

fireplace cap

FURNACE

Furnaces should also undergo an annual cleaning by a professional, this can prolong the life of a furnace and makes the furnace more cost effective to run.
Keep your furnace filter cleaned and make sure you have plenty on hand, they are inexpensive and can save money on your utility bills.  Make sure your venting is well attached to your furnace and water heater.  If blizzards occur check to make sure your roof vent is clear to prevent carbon monoxide from building up inside your house.  If you have an old thermostat consider changing to a programmable thermostat  the wiring is usually lo-voltage and color coded the same as your old thermostat and easy to install.

CARBON MONOXIDE & SMOKE DETECTORS

One issue i come across a lot during my home inspections which can be a show stopper when selling your house is the absence of Carbon Monoxide detectors.  Change the batteries in detectors and if you don’t have Carbon monoxide detectors consider replacing your old smoke detectors with the new combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector.  Many deaths have been attributed to Carbon Monoxide.  The new detectors are about $45.00, what is a life worth?

Building a Tamper Resistant Radon Test

 

I too struggled on the best approach to a tamper resistant and affordable method to deploy my Radon Gas Detectors from Pro-Lab.  I took a trip to my favorite home improvement center and took with me a Radon Gas Detector bottle.  I went to the plumbing department with an idea of what I wanted to build.  The following is a list of items with photos and approximate costs to put this together.

2- 1 1/2” OD Crumb Cups         about $4.00
1 stick of aluminum angle         about $8.00
2- 1 1/4” PVC Couplings           about $1.00
2- 1 1/4” PVC Plugs                  about $2.00
1 bag cable ties                        about $3.00
1 cheap Tripod                         about $5.00

Parts needed for Radon Bottle HoldersCrumb Cup

Aluminum AnglePVC CouplingPVC Plug

 

You could substitute the Aluminum angle for some other product ( I just had the aluminum on hand) and the Tripod I found at Goodwill ( part of an old portable projection screen ) for about $5.00.

I cut the angle to 30” long to maintain the appropriate distance between the Radon bottles.  I drilled a hole in the center of the PVC plug the size of the pop rivet I used and attached one plug to each end of the angle.  Then using clear PVC glue, glued the couplings to the plugs.

I drilled a hole in the center of the angle to attach it to the tripod and also drilled opposing holes near the top of the couplings for the cable ties.  Take one cable tie and attach the Crumb Cup (upside down) to the top of the coupling.
 

Rado InspectionRadon Inspection In Progress

 When assembled and ready to deploy the Radon Gas Detector bottles, with the tripod setup, remove the caps and place them in the bottom of the coupling.  This will allow the top of the bottle to be level with the top of the coupling.  With the caps below the bottles you never wonder where you put them.   Place the Radon Gas Detector bottles in the couplings and install the other cable tie.  If you notice I have used red cable ties which I purchased in an electronics store, which the general public is not aware.  It would be difficult to block air flow to the Radon bottles.

  To retrieve the Radon Bottles use a small pair of side cutters and cut the long cable tie, (the short tie acts as a hinge) replace the caps and don't forget to fill out the rest of your "chain of custody report".  After I retrieve the samples I remove the bolt which holds the angle to the tripod so indeed it is very compact.

These stands are very compact, light, affordable and easy.

Don’t forget  to give the occupants good instructions on the closed house conditions required 12 hours prior to test and 48 hours for testing period.
 

Sprinkler Systems and Wood Siding

Sprinkler systems are very convenient and the newer timers have many programing features and options.  What about the sprinklers in relation to your structures?

If your house or building structures are made of wood or wood products and the sprinklers are not correctly adjusted,  the siding can become saturated and lead to decay or even produce mold growth.  After all the main ingredient needed for mold to grow is water.  As part of the INTERNachi Standards of Practice  I  examine the siding or exterior wall coverings for water damage or intrusion in all my inspections.

Even with masonry or brick exterior walls with a good paint or sealer, over time miss-adjusted sprinklers can create an avenue for water intrusion into your home or building, which if nothing else can lead to a maintenance nightmare.

My recommendation is to check the coverage of your sprinkler heads once a month and adjust as necessary to prevent  a large repair bill.  A little maintenance now can save you $$.

The photos below show the results of prolonged exposure to miss-adjusted sprinkler heads. This siding will have to be replaced and repainted (it sure is easier to adjust heads).

Winter is fast approaching the Front Range of Colorado, make sure you have your system drained by a professional  or if you have an air compressor and the knowledge you can do it your self (MAKE SURE YOU KNOW HOW).

 

deteriorated sidingdeteriorated siding

Concrete Movement at your Driveway

 

Colorado Springs has a variety of soils, the Briargate area has lots of sand while other areas have lots of clay.  Sand allows rain water to peculate or drain easily while clay does not and some clays are expansive or swells when wet.  In my Home Inspections it is not unusual to to find concrete drives that have a elevation difference of an inch or more and is considered a trip hazard.  This elevation difference is usually because water has found its way under the concrete or in some cases due to improper compaction when the house was built.  For the sake of this article we will say because of water intrusion.  When the house is built there is a joint between the garage floor slab and the drive slab, typically an expansion joint material, which is a fibrous material is placed between the concrete for a separation.  The problem is over time this fibrous material will deteriorate which will allow water under the concrete slab and if the soil is expansive then you get movement of the slabs.

In Commercial projects these joints are caulked with a polyurethane two part caulk which remains flexible when cured, you have no doubt seen these joints while walking into the malls or doctors office.  The same type caulk is available to home owners in a one part which can be purchased from your home improvement centers.  The caulk is available which will fit into a standard caulk gun and it comes in many colors but concrete Gray is the most common for this use.  By caulking the joints you can extend the life of your concrete by many years.  The photos below from a recent Home Inspection shows a condition in which most of the fibrous material has deteriorated and will lead to concrete movement.  If you are not handy with caulking of this type (it is tricky) call a caulking professional it will save you money in the long run.

Tom Camp

 

This joint is not as deteriorated, but needs to be replaced.Deterioration found during home inspection in Briargate