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.

Aluminum wiring in homes

One item I inspect in my home inspections  is for the use of single strand aluminum wiring that was used in place of copper wiring  between 1965 and 1973 .

This is a serious fire hazard. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), “Homes wired with aluminum wire manufactured before 1972 [‘old technology’ aluminum wire] are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach “Fire Hazard Conditions” than is a home wired with copper.” Here is a good reference on repairing aluminum wiring.

The presence of single-strand aluminum wiring may void a home’s insurance policies.
for more information on aluminum wiring go to   http://www.nachi.org/aluminum-wiring.htm

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.

 

 

 

 

InterNACHI Home Energy Score

Initially launched in November 2010, the DOE’s Home Energy Scoring Program is aimed at “…giving American families the tools they need to invest in home energy upgrades,” according to Vice President Joe Biden. The program’s ultimate goals include putting less demand on public utilities and natural resources, and helping homeowners save money on their energy bills, which will potentially make them eligible for discounts on home supplies and even insurance coverage.

The Home Energy Score will be a quick way for homeowners to understand how their home’s energy performance compares to that of others in the same region. And, the Home Energy Score will be more than just a simple number or label. Along with the score will come customized recommendations for simple energy upgrades, intensive energy audits, as well as an estimate of how much energy improvements can reduce the homeowner’s utility bills.

InterNACHI Energy Ratings Will Benefit Homeowners
Homeowners often find that energy improvements can dramatically improve the comfort and integrity of their homes, so it makes sense for homeowners to act as soon as possible to enhance their quality of life. Using the InterNACHI Energy Rating, home inspectors can assess areas in the home for energy improvement and make specific, cost-effective recommendations to clients so that they can develop a specific plan of action to address their home’s energy deficits.  Whether they’ve lived in their home for years or have just moved in, all homeowners and prospective homeowners can benefit from a home energy inspection.

By getting an InterNACHI Energy Rating performed by a specially trained InterNACHI inspector, homeowners can quickly learn how to save energy and money, while also seeing how their home ranks compared to others in the area.  After the homeowner makes energy improvements, the home’s energy efficiency is likely to increase.  So, similar to radon testing that is performed both before and after mitigation, homeowners can ask their contractor to include a post-upgrade assessment as part of the energy improvement package to compare pre- and post-upgrade scores.

An InterNACHI Energy Rating can help homeowners understand how to integrate energy upgrades into a home renovation project or addition. When done as part of a larger project, it makes sense to have the home inspected before and after work is done so the homeowner can verify that the home’s energy performance has improved. The Rating serves as a way to document these improvements, thereby enhancing the home’s appeal and value when it’s ready to sell.

To perform a Home Energy Inspection, the inspector conducts a brief walk-through of the home and collects 45 data points related to home energy.

The inspector then enters the data into a web-based energy calculator developed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy to:

  • estimate the home’s yearly energy usage;
  • pinpoint potential energy inefficiencies;
  • calculate a score based on these estimates; and
  • develop recommendations for energy improvements.
The house is scored on a scale from 1 to 100.  A 100 would represent a home with perfect energy performance whereas a 1 would represent a home that needs significant energy upgrades. This score can be used to compare homes.

A higher score generally means a lower energy bill and a more efficient home (with less of an environmental impact).

 

 

 

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.

Pre-Listing Inspection

Pre-Listing Inspection or some times called a Seller Inspection or Move-in-Certified Inspection has many advantages for ;

1. Seller

2.  Buyer

3.  Realtor

Check out this link which provides a lot of information on this type of Inspection in the Colorado Springs area, Also visit my website https://tomcampinspectionservices.com for other services I provide