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.

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

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