• 5 Things to look for when choosing a swimming pool cover

    Swimming pool covers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and general types. There are solar swimming pool covers that work to keep the water warm as well as warm the water using the suns heat. Safety pool covers do just what it says it does, it keeps the swimming pool safe from unwanted entry of the humans or animals. In ground and above ground winter swimming pool covers, keep dirt, debris, and animals out of your pool during the winter season. It also prevents growth on the inside of your swimming pool that can be caused by the winter elements.

     

    Here are a few things you should look for when shopping for a pool cover for your above ground or in ground swimming pool.

     

    1. Find a swimming pool cover that is strong and sturdy. The cover should not only keep your swimming pool clean, it should add safety as well for humans and animals alike. It should prevent accidental drowning and dirt and debris from entering the pool.

     

    2. Make sure the swimming pool cover conforms to state and local law requirements. Some areas require that a certain size and depth of pool be covered when not in use. There are specific requirements that these covers must meet. Check with your local authorities to ensure that your swimming pool cover meets the requirements needed.

     

    3. Make sure your chosen swimming pool cover comes with a good manufacturer’s warranty. In general, the swimming pool cover should come with a warranty of longer than 2 years. It should definitely have a full 2-year warranty for all defects and longer for limited warranties. You only want a pool cover that can be trusted and is safe with a full warranty for a lengthy amount of time. you also need to be sure the company stands behind their products.

     

    4. Make sure the pool cover has a good overlap length. You should buy a size that is a little larger than your pool. This will enable you to securely anchor the swimming pool cover without having to worry about not being able to cover your pool completely.

     

    5. Make sure the swimming pool cover comes with enough parts to securely anchor the cover without worry of slippage. Most larger swimming pool covers come with a strap or anchor for every four feet of cover. You definitely want a good amount of anchoring so the cover will continue to be secure each time you use it.

     

    There you have it! The top 5 things you should look for when you are buying a swimming pool cover for any size pool and for any material type. You can purchase quality swimming pool covers at your local swimming pool supply store or at any department store that sells swimming pool gear and supplies. Carefully read all instructions provided by the manufacturer and ensure that the cover meets all requirements in your local area. Always think safety first when you own a swimming pool.

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors

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  • Electrical Safety

     

    Electricity is an essential part of our lives. However, it has the potential to cause great harm. Electrical systems will function almost indefinitely, if properly installed and not overloaded or physically abused. Electrical fires in our homes claim the lives of 485 Americans each year and injure 2,305 more. Some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures and appliance defects, but many more are caused by the misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords.  Some safety tips to remember:

    • Never use anything but the proper fuse to protect a circuit.
    • Find and correct overloaded circuits.
    • Never place extension cords under rugs.
    • Outlets near water should be GFCI-type outlets.
    • Don’t allow trees near power lines to be climbed.
    • Keep ladders, kites, equipment and anything else away from overhead power lines.

     

    Electrical Panels

    Electricity enters the home through a control panel and a main switch where one can shut off all the power in an emergency. These panels are usually located in the basement. Control panels use either fuses or circuit breakers. Install the correct fuses for the panel. Never use a higher-numbered fuse or a metallic item, such as a penny. If fuses are used and there is a stoppage in power, look for the broken metal strip in the top of a blown fuse. Replace the fuse with a new one marked with the correct amperage. Reset circuit breakers from “off” to “on.” Be sure to investigate why the fuse or circuit blew. Possible causes include frayed wires, overloaded outlets, or defective appliances. Never overload a circuit with high-wattage appliances. Check the wattage on appliance labels. If there is frayed insulation or a broken wire, a dangerous short circuit may result and cause a fire. If power stoppages continue or if a frayed or broken wire is found, contact an electrician.

    Outlets and Extension Cords
    Make sure all electrical receptacles or outlets are three-hole, grounded outlets. If there is water in the area, there should be a GFCI or ground-fault circuit interrupter outlet. All outdoor outlets should be GFCIs. There should be ample electrical capacity to run equipment without tripping circuit breakers or blowing fuses. Minimize extension cord use. Never place them under rugs. Use extension cords sparingly and check them periodically. Use the proper electrical cord for the job, and put safety plugs in unused outlets.

    Electrical Appliances
    Appliances need to be treated with respect and care. They need room to breathe. Avoid enclosing them in a cabinet without proper openings, and do not store papers around them. Level appliances so they do not tip. Washers and dryers should be checked often. Their movement can put undue stress on electrical connections. If any appliance or device gives off a tingling shock, turn it off, unplug it, and have a qualified person correct the problem. Shocks can be fatal. Never insert metal objects into appliances without unplugging them. Check appliances periodically to spot worn or cracked insulation, loose terminals, corroded wires, defective parts and any other components that might not work correctly. Replace these appliances or have them repaired by a person qualified to do so.

    Electrical Heating Equipment
    Portable electrical heating equipment may be used in the home as a supplement to the home heating system. Caution must be taken when using these heating supplements. Keep them away from combustibles, and make sure they cannot be tipped over. Keep electrical heating equipment in good working condition. Do not use them in bathrooms because of the risk of contact with water and electrocution. Many people use electric blankets in their homes. They will work well if they are kept in good condition. Look for cracks and breaks in the wiring, plugs and connectors. Look for charred spots on both sides. Many things can cause electric blankets to overheat. They include other bedding placed on top of them, pets sleeping on top of them, and putting things on top of the blanket when it is in use. Folding the blankets can also bend the coils and cause overheating.

    Children
    Electricity is important to the workings of the home, but can be dangerous, especially to children. Electrical safety needs to be taught to children early on. Safety plugs should be inserted in unused outlets when toddlers are in the home. Make sure all outlets in the home have face plates. Teach children not to put things into electrical outlets and not to chew on electrical cords. Keep electrical wiring boxes locked. Do not allow children to come in contact with power lines outside. Never allow them to climb trees near power lines, utility poles or high tension towers.

    Electricity and Water
    A body can act like a lightning rod and carry the current to the ground. People are good conductors of electricity, particularly when standing in water or on a damp floor. Never use any electrical appliance in the tub or shower. Never touch an electric cord or appliance with wet hands. Do not use electrical appliances in damp areas or while standing on damp floors. In areas where water is present, use outlets with GFCIs. Shocks can be fatal.

    Animal Hazards
    Mice and other rodents can chew on electrical wires and damage them. If rodents are suspected or known to be in the home, be aware of the damage they may cause, and take measures to get rid of them.

    Outside Hazards

    There are several electrical hazards outside the home. Be aware of overhead and underground power lines. People have been electrocuted when an object they are moving has come in contact with the overhead power lines. Keep ladders, antennae, kites and poles away from power lines leading to the house and other buildings. Do not plant trees, shrubs or bushes under power lines or near underground power lines. Never build a swimming pool or other structure under the power line leading to your house. Before digging, learn the location of underground power lines.

     

    Do not climb power poles or transmission towers. Never let anyone shoot or throw stones at insulators. If you have an animal trapped in a tree or on the roof near electric lines, phone your utility company. Do not take a chance of electrocuting yourself. Be aware of weather conditions when installing and working with electrical appliances. Never use electrical power tools or appliances with rain overhead or water underfoot. Use only outdoor lights, fixtures and extension cords. Plug into outlets with a GFCI. Downed power lines are extremely dangerous. If you see a downed power line, call the electric company, and warn others to stay away. If a power line hits your car while you are in it, stay inside unless the car catches fire. If the car catches fire, jump clear without touching metal and the ground at the same time.
    MORE SAFETY PRECAUTIONS :

    • Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring.
    • Hire an InterNACHI inspector. InterNACHI inspectors must pass rigorous safety training and are knowledgeable in the ways to reduce the likelihood of electrocution.
    • Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old and damaged appliance cords immediately.
    • Use electrical extension cords wisely and don’t overload them.
    • Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
    • Don’t allow children to play with or around electrical appliances, such as space heaters, irons and hair dryers.
    • Keep clothes, curtains and other potentially combustible items at least 3 feet from all heaters.
    • If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
    • Never overload extension cords or wall sockets. Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch, as well as lights that flicker. Use safety closures to childproof electrical outlets.
    • Check your electrical tools regularly for signs of wear. If the cords are frayed or cracked, replace them. Replace any tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out or gives off smoke or sparks.

     

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.

    This article was reprinted with the permission from the National Association of Cerfitied Home Inspectors.

     

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  • Health Effects From Biological Contaminants

     

    Some biological contaminants trigger allergic reactions, including hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic rhinitis, and some types of asthma. Infectious illnesses, such as influenza, measles and chicken pox, are transmitted through the air. Molds and mildews release disease-causing toxins. Symptoms of health problems caused by biological pollutants include sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, shortness of breath, dizziness, lethargy, fever and digestive problems.

    Allergic reactions occur only after repeated exposure to a specific biological allergen. However, that reaction may occur immediately upon re-exposure, or after multiple exposures over time. As a result, people who have noticed only mild allergic reactions, or no reactions at all, may suddenly find themselves very sensitive to particular allergens. Some diseases, such as humidifier fever, are associated with exposure to toxins from microorganisms that can grow in large buildings’ ventilation systems. However, these diseases can also be traced to micro-organisms that grow in home heating and cooling systems and humidifiers. Children, elderly people, and people with breathing problems, allergies, and lung diseases are particularly susceptible to disease-causing biological agents in the indoor air. Mold, dust mites, pet dander, and pest droppings or body parts can trigger asthma. Biological contaminants, including molds and pollens, can cause allergic reactions for a significant portion of the population. Tuberculosis, measles, staphylococcus infections, Legionella and influenza are known to be transmitted by air.

    Combustion Pollutants

    Combustion appliances are those which burn fuels for warmth, cooking or decorative purposes. Typical fuels are gas, both natural and liquefied petroleum (LP), kerosene, oil, coal and wood. Examples of the appliances are space heaters, ranges, ovens, stoves, furnaces, fireplaces, water heaters, and clothes dryers. These appliances are usually safe. However, under certain conditions, these appliances can produce combustion pollutants that can damage your health, or even kill you.

    What are Combustion Pollutants?

    Combustion pollutants are gases and particles that come from burning materials. The combustion pollutants come from burning fuels in appliances. The types and amounts of pollutants produced depend on the type of appliance, how well the appliance is installed, maintained and vented, and the kind of fuel it uses. Some of the common pollutants produced from burning these fuels are carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particles, and sulfur dioxide. Particles can have hazardous chemicals attached to them. Other pollutants that can be produced by some appliances are unburned hydrocarbons and aldehydes. Combustion always produces water vapor. Water vapor is not usually considered a pollutant, but it can act as one. It can result in high humidity and wet surfaces.

    Where do Combustion Pollutants Come From?

    Combustion pollutants found indoors include outdoor air, tobacco smoke, exhaust from car and lawn mower internal combustion engines, and some hobby activities, such as welding, woodburning and soldering. Combustion pollutants can also come from vented or unvented combustion appliances. These appliances include space heaters, gas ranges and ovens, furnaces, gas water heaters, gas clothes dryers, wood and coal-burning stoves, and fireplaces. As a group, these are called “combustion appliances.”

    Appliances

    Vented appliances are appliances designed to be used with a duct, chimney, pipe, or other device that carries the combustion pollutants outside the home. These appliances can release large amounts of pollutants directly into your home if a vent is not properly installed, or is blocked or leaking. Unvented appliances do not vent to the outside, so they release combustion pollutants directly into the home. Many of these problems are hard for a homeowner to identify. A professional is needed.

    What are the Health Effects of Combustion Pollutants?

    The health effects of combustion pollutants range from headaches and breathing difficulties to death. The health effects may show up immediately after exposure, or occur after being exposed to the pollutants for a long time. The effects depend on the type and amount of pollutants, and the length of time of exposure to them. They also depend upon several factors related to the exposed person. These include the age and any existing health problems. There are still some questions about the level of pollutants or the period of exposure needed to produce specific health effects. Further studies to better define the release of pollutants from combustion appliances and their health effects are needed.

    The sections below discuss health problems associated with some common combustion pollutants. These pollutants include carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particles, and sulfur dioxide. Even if you are healthy, high levels of carbon monoxide can kill you within a short time. The health effects of the other pollutants are generally more subtle and are more likely to affect susceptible people. It is always a good idea to reduce exposure to combustion pollutants by using and maintaining combustion appliances properly.

    Carbon Monoxide:

    Each year, according to CPSC, there are more than 200 carbon monoxide deaths related to the use of all types of combustion appliances in the home. Exposure to carbon monoxide reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Often, a person or an entire family may not recognize that carbon monoxide is poisoning them. The chemical is odorless, and some of the symptoms are similar to common illnesses. This is particularly dangerous because carbon monoxide’s deadly effects will not be recognized until it is too late to take action against them. Carbon monoxide exposures especially affect unborn babies, infants, and people with anemia or a history of heart disease. Breathing low levels of the chemical can cause fatigue and increase chest pain in people with chronic heart disease. Breathing higher levels of carbon monoxide causes symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and weakness in healthy people. Carbon monoxide also causes sleepiness, nausea, vomiting, confusion and disorientation. At very high levels, it causes loss of consciousness and death.

    Nitrogen Dioxide:

    Breathing high levels of nitrogen dioxide causes irritation of the respiratory tract and causes shortness of breath. Compared to healthy people, children, and individuals with respiratory illnesses such as asthma, may be more susceptible to the effects of nitrogen dioxide. Some studies have shown that children may have more colds and flu when exposed to low levels of nitrogen dioxide. When people with asthma inhale low levels of nitrogen dioxide while exercising, their lung airways can narrow and react more to inhaled materials.

    Particles:

    Particles suspended in the air can cause eye, nose, throat and lung irritation. They can increase respiratory symptoms, especially in people with chronic lung disease or heart problems. Certain chemicals attached to particles may cause lung cancer, if they are inhaled. The risk of lung cancer increases with the amount and length of exposure. The health effects from inhaling particles depend upon many factors, including the size of the particle and its chemical make-up.

    Sulfur Dioxide:

    Sulfur dioxide at low levels of exposure can cause eye, nose, and respiratory tract irritation. At high exposure levels, it causes the lung airways to narrow. This causes wheezing, chest tightness, and breathing problems. People with asthma are particularly susceptible to the effects of sulfur dioxide. They may have symptoms at levels that are much lower than the rest of the population.

    Other Pollutants:

    Combustion may release other pollutants. They include unburned hydrocarbons and aldehydes. Little is known about the levels of these pollutants in indoor air and the resulting health effects.

    What do I do if I suspect that combustion pollutants are affecting my health?

    If you suspect you are being subjected to carbon monoxide poisoning, get fresh air immediately. Open windows and doors for more ventilation, turn off any combustion appliances, and leave the house. You could lose consciousness and die from carbon monoxide poisoning if you do nothing. It is also important to contact a doctor immediately for a proper diagnosis. Remember to tell your doctor that you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning is causing your problems. Prompt medical attention is important. Some symptoms from combustion pollutants — including headaches, dizziness, sleepiness, coughing, and watery eyes — may also occur because of common medical problems. These medical problems include colds, the flu, and allergies. Similar symptoms may also occur because of other indoor air pollutants. Contact your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

    How can I reduce my exposure to combustion pollutants?

    Proper selection, installation, inspection and maintenance of your appliances are extremely important in reducing your exposure to these pollutants. Providing good ventilation in your home and correctly using your appliance can also reduce your exposure to these pollutants. Additionally, there are several different residential carbon monoxide detectors for sale. These detectors alert consumers to harmful carbon monoxide levels in the home. They may soon be widely available to reduce deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning.

    Appliance Selection

    • Choose vented appliances whenever possible.
    • Buy only combustion appliances that have been tested and certified to meet current safety standards. Examples of certifying organizations are Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and the American Gas Association (AGA) Laboratories. Look for a label that clearly shows the certification.
    • All currently manufactured vented gas heaters are required by industry safety standards to have a safety shut-off device. This device helps protect you from carbon monoxide poisoning by shutting off an improperly vented heater.
    • Check your local and state building codes and fire ordinances to see if you can use an unvented space heater, if you are considering purchasing one. They are not allowed to be used in some communities, dwellings, and certain rooms in the house.
    • If you must replace an unvented gas space heater with another, make it a new one. Heaters made after 1982 have a pilot light safety system called an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS). This system shuts off the heater when there is not enough fresh air, before the heater begins producing large amounts of carbon monoxide. Look for the label that tells you that the appliance has this safety system. Older heaters will not have this protection system.
    • Consider buying gas appliances that have electronic ignitions rather than pilot lights. These appliances are usually more energy-efficient and eliminate the continuous low-level pollutants from pilot lights.
    • Buy appliances that are the correct size for the area you want to heat. Using the wrong size heater may produce more pollutants in your home and is not an efficient use of energy.
    • All new wood stoves are EPA-certified to limit the amounts of pollutants released into the outdoor air. For more information on selecting, installing, operating, and maintaining wood-burning stoves, write to the EPA Wood Heater Program. Before buying a wood stove, check your local laws about the installation and use of wood stoves.

    Ventilation

    To reduce indoor air pollution, a good supply of fresh, outdoor air is needed. The movement of air into and out of your home is very important. Normally, air comes in through cracks around doors and windows. This air helps reduce the level of pollutants indoors. This supply of fresh air is also important to help carry pollutants up the chimney, stovepipe or flue to the outside.

    • Keep doors open to the rest of the house from the room where you are using an unvented gas space heater or kerosene heater, and crack open a window. This allows enough air for proper combustion, and reduces the level of pollutants, especially carbon monoxide.
    • Use a hood fan if you are using a range. They reduce the level of pollutants you breathe if they exhaust to the outside. Make sure that enough air is coming into the house when you use an exhaust fan. If needed, open a door or window slightly, especially if other appliances are in use. For proper operation of most combustion appliances and their venting systems, the air pressure in the house should be greater than that outside. If not, the vented appliances could release combustion pollutants into the house rather than outdoors. If you suspect that you have this problem, you may need the help of a qualified person to solve it.
    • Make sure that your vented appliance has the vent connected and that nothing is blocking it. Make sure there are no holes or cracks in the vent. Do not vent gas clothes dryers or water heaters into the house for heating. This is unsafe.
    • Open the stove’s damper when adding wood. This allows more air into the stove. More air helps the wood burn properly, and prevents pollutants from being drawn back into the house instead of going up the chimney. If there is isible smoke or a constant smoky odor inside the home while using a wood-burning stove, this is a sign that the stove is not working properly. Soot on furniture in the rooms where you are using the stove also tells this. Smoke and soot are signs that the stove is releasing pollutants into the indoor air.

    Correct Use of Appliances

    • Read and follow the instructions for all appliances so that you understand how they work. Keep the owner’s manual in a convenient place to refer to when needed. Also, read and follow the warning labels because they tell you important safety information that you need to know. Reading and following the instructions and warning labels could save your life.
    • Always use the correct fuel for the appliance.
    • Use only water-clear ASTM 1-K kerosene for kerosene heaters. The use of kerosene other than 1-K could lead to a release of more pollutants in your home. Never use gasoline in a kerosene heater because it can cause a fire or an explosion. Using even small amounts of gasoline could cause a fire.
    • Use seasoned hardwoods (elm, maple, oak) instead of softwoods (cedar, fir, pine) in wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. Hardwoods are better because they burn hotter and form less creosote, an oily, black tar that sticks to chimneys and stove pipes. Do not use green or wet woods as the primary wood because they make more creosote and smoke. Never burn painted scrap wood or wood treated with preservatives, because they could release highly toxic pollutants, such as arsenic or lead. Plastics, charcoal, and colored paper, such as comics and wrapping paper, also produce pollutants. Never burn anything that the stove or fireplace manufacturer does not recommend.
    • Never use a range, oven or dryer to heat your home. When you misuse gas appliances in this way, they can produce fatal amounts of carbon monoxide. They can produce high levels of nitrogen dioxide, too.
    • Never use an unvented combustion heater overnight or in a room where you are sleeping. Carbon monoxide from combustion heaters can reach dangerous levels.
    • Never ignore a safety device when it shuts off an appliance. It means that something is wrong. Read your appliance instructions to find out what you should do, or have a professional check out the problem.
    • Never ignore the smell of fuel. This usually indicates that the appliance is not operating properly or is leaking fuel. Leaking fuel will not always be detectable by smell. If you suspect that you have a fuel leak, have it fixed as soon as possible. In most cases, you should shut off the appliance, extinguish any other flames or pilot lights, shut off other appliances in the area, open windows and doors, call for help, and leave the area.

    Inspection and Maintenance

    Have your combustion appliance regularly inspected and maintained to reduce your exposure to pollutants. Appliances that are not working properly can release harmful and even fatal amounts of pollutants, especially carbon monoxide. Have chimneys and vents inspected when installing or changing vented heating appliances. Some modifications may be required. For example, if a change was made in your heating system from oil to natural gas, the flue gas produced by the gas system could be hot enough to melt accumulated oil-combustion debris in the chimney or vent. This debris could block the vent, forcing pollutants into the house. It is important to clean your chimney and vents, especially when changing heating systems. Always hire an InterNACHI inspector to perform your home inspections, as they all must pass the most comprehensive, rigorous training program available.

    What are the Inspection and Maintenance Procedures?

    The best advice is to follow the recommendations of the manufacturer. The same combustion appliance may have different inspection and maintenance requirements, depending on where you live. In general, check the flame in the furnace combustion chamber at the beginning of the heating season. Natural gas furnaces should have a blue flame with perhaps only a slight yellow tip. Call your appliance service representative to adjust the burner if there is a lot of yellow in the flame, or call your local utility company for this service. LP units should have a flame with a bright blue center that may have a light yellow tip. Pilot lights on gas water heaters and gas cooking appliances should also have a blue flame. Have a trained service representative adjust the pilot light if it is yellow or orange. Before each heating season, have flues and chimneys inspected before each heating season for leakage and for blockage by creosote or debris. Creosote buildup or leakage could cause black stains on the outside of the chimney or flue. These stains can mean that pollutants are leaking into the house.

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.

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  • Before You Move

     

    Protect yourself by hiring a Licensed Home Inspector to inspect your potential new home. If you identify problems, have the landlord or seller correct them before you move in, or even consider moving elsewhere.

    • Have professionals check the heating and cooling system, including humidifiers and vents. Have duct lining and insulation checked for growth.
    • Check for exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens. If there are no vents, do the kitchen and bathrooms have at least one window in each room? Does the stovetop have a hood vented outside? Does the clothes dryer vent outside? Do all vents exhaust to the outside of the building, and not in attics or crawlspaces?
    • Look for obvious mold growth throughout the house, including attics, basements and crawlspaces, and around the foundation outside. See if there are many plants close to the house, particularly if they are damp and rotting. They are a potential source of biological pollutants. Downspouts from roof gutters should route water away from the building.
    • Look for stains on the walls, floor or carpet (including any carpet over concrete floors) as evidence of previous flooding or moisture problems. Is there moisture on windows and surfaces? Are there signs of leaks or seepage in the basement?
    • Look for rotted building materials, which may suggest moisture or water damage.
    • If you or anyone else in the family has a pet allergy, ask if any pets have lived in the home.
    • Examine the design of the building. Remember that in cold climates, overhanging areas, rooms over unheated garages, and closets on outside walls may be prone to problems with biological pollutants.
    • Look for signs of cockroaches. (Carefully read instructions for use and any cautionary labeling on cleaning products before beginning cleaning procedures.)
    • Do not mix any chemical products. Especially, never mix cleaners containing bleach with any product (such as ammonia) which does not have instructions for such mixing. When chemicals are combined, a dangerous gas can sometimes be formed.
    • Household chemicals may cause burning or irritation to skin and eyes.
    • Household chemicals may be harmful if swallowed or inhaled.
    • Avoid contact with skin, eyes, mucous membranes, and clothing.
    • Avoid breathing vapor. Open all windows and doors, and use an exhaust fan that sends the air outside.
    • Keep household chemicals out of reach of children.
    • Rinse treated surface areas well to remove all traces of chemicals.

    Correcting Water Damage

    What if damage is already done? Follow these guidelines for correcting water damage:

    • Throw out mattresses, wicker furniture, straw baskets and the like that have been water damaged or contain mold. These cannot be recovered.
    • Discard any water-damaged furnishings, such as carpets, drapes, stuffed toys, upholstered furniture, and ceiling tiles, unless they can be recovered by steam cleaning or hot-water washing and thorough drying.
    • Remove and replace wet insulation to prevent conditions where biological pollutants can grow.

    Reducing Exposure to Biological Contaminants

    General good housekeeping, and maintenance of heating and air-conditioning equipment, are very important. Adequate ventilation and good air distribution also help. The key to mold control is moisture control. If mold is a problem, clean up the mold and get rid of excess water and moisture. Maintaining the relative humidity between 30% to 60% will help control mold, dust mites and cockroaches. Employ integrated pest management to control insect and animal allergens. Cooling-tower treatment procedures exist to reduce levels of Legionella and other organisms.

    Install and use exhaust fans that are vented to the outdoors in kitchens and bathrooms, and vent clothes dryers outdoors. These actions can eliminate much of the moisture that builds up from everyday activities. There are exhaust fans on the market that produce little noise, an important consideration for some people. Another benefit to using kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans is that they can reduce levels of organic pollutants that vaporize from hot water used in showers and dishwashers. Ventilate the attic and crawlspaces to prevent moisture build-up. Keeping humidity levels in these areas below 50% can prevent water condensation on building materials.

    If using cool mist or ultrasonic humidifiers, clean appliances according to the manufacturer’s instructions and refill with fresh water daily. Because these humidifiers can become breeding grounds for biological contaminants, they have the potential for causing diseases such as hypersensitivity pneumonitis and humidifier fever. Evaporation trays in air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and refrigerators should also be cleaned frequently.

    Thoroughly clean and dry water-damaged carpets and building materials (within 24 hours, if possible), or consider removal and replacement. Water-damaged carpets and building materials can harbor mold and bacteria. It is very difficult to completely rid such materials of biological contaminants.

    Keep the house clean. House dust mites, pollens, animal dander, and other allergy-causing agents can be reduced, although not eliminated, through regular cleaning. People who are allergic to these pollutants should use allergen-proof mattress encasements, wash bedding in hot water (130° F), and avoid room furnishings that accumulate dust, especially if they cannot be washed in hot water. Allergic individuals should also leave the house while it is being vacuumed because vacuuming can actually increase airborne levels of mite allergens and other biological contaminants. Using central vacuum systems that are vented to the outdoors, or vacuums with high efficiency filters may also be of help.

    Take steps to minimize biological pollutants in basements. Clean and disinfect the basement floor drain regularly. Do not finish a basement below ground level unless all water leaks are patched and outdoor ventilation and adequate heat to prevent condensation are provided. Operate a dehumidifier in the basement, if needed, to keep relative humidity levels between 30% to 50%.

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.

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  • Are you concerned about the effects on your health that may be related to biological pollutants in your home? Before you discuss your concerns with your doctor, you should know the answers to the following questions. This information can help the doctor determine whether your health problems may be related to biological pollution.

    • Does anyone in the family have frequent headaches, fevers, itchy and watery eyes, a stuffy nose, dry throat, or a cough? Does anyone complain of feeling tired or dizzy all the time? Is anyone wheezing or having difficulties breathing on a regular basis?
    • Did these symptoms appear after you moved into a new or different home?
    • Do the symptoms disappear when you go to school or the office or go away on a trip, and return when you come back?
    • Have you recently remodeled your home or done any energy-conservation work, such as installing insulation, storm windows, or weather stripping? Did your symptoms occur during or after these activities?
    • Does your home feel humid? Can you see moisture on the windows or on other surfaces, such as walls and ceilings?
    • What is the usual temperature in your home? Is it very hot or cold?
    • Have you recently had water damage?
    • Is your basement wet or damp?
    • Is there any obvious mold or mildew?
    • Does any part of your home have a musty or moldy odor?
    • Is the air stale?
    • Do you have pets?
    • Do your house plants show signs of mold?
    • Do you have air conditioners or humidifiers that have not been properly cleaned?
    • Does your home have cockroaches or rodents?

    Infectious diseases caused by bacteria and viruses, such as the flu, measles, chicken pox, and tuberculosis, may be spread indoors. Most infectious diseases pass from person to person through physical contact. Crowded conditions with poor air circulation can promote this spread. Some bacteria and viruses thrive in buildings and circulate through indoor ventilation systems. For example, the bacterium causing Legionnaire’s Disease, a serious and sometimes lethal infection, and Pontiac Fever, a flu-like illness, have circulated in some large buildings.

    Toxic reactions are the least studied or understood health problem caused by some biological air pollutants in the home. Toxins can damage a variety of organs and tissues in the body, including the liver, the central nervous system, the digestive tract, and the immune system.

    Checking Your Home

    There is no simple or cheap way to sample the air in your home to determine the level of all biological pollutants. Experts suggest that sampling for biological pollutants is not a useful problem-solving tool. Even if you had your home tested, it is almost impossible to know which biological pollutant(s) cause various symptoms or health problems. The amount of most biological substances required to cause disease is unknown and varies from one person to the next. Does this make the problem sound hopeless? On the contrary, you can take several simple, practical actions to help remove sources of biological pollutants, to help get rid of pollutants, and to prevent their return.

    Self-Inspection: A Walk Through Your Home

    Begin by touring your household. Follow your nose, and use your eyes. Two major factors help create conditions for biological pollutants to grow: nutrients and constant moisture with poor air circulation.

    1. Dust and construction materials, such as wood, wallboard and insulation, contain nutrients that allow biological pollutants to grow. Firewood also is a source of moisture, fungi and bugs.
    2. Appliances, such as humidifiers, kerosene and gas heaters, washers and clothes dryers, dishwashers and gas stoves, add moisture to the air.

    A musty odor, moisture on hard surfaces, and even water stains, may be caused by:

    • air-conditioning units;
    • basements, attics and crawlspaces;
    • bathrooms;
    • carpets;
    • heating and air-conditioning ducts;
    • humidifiers and dehumidifiers; and
    • refrigerator drip pans.

    What You Can Do About Biological Pollutants

    Before you give away the family pet or move, there are less drastic steps you can take to reduce potential problems. Properly cleaning and maintaining your home can help reduce the problem and may avoid interrupting your normal routine. People who have health problems, such as asthma, or who are allergic, may need to do this and more. Discuss this with your doctor.

    Moisture Control

    Water in your home can come from many sources. Water can enter your home by leaking or by seeping through basement floors. Showers and even cooking can add moisture to the air in your home. The amount of moisture that the air in your home can hold depends on the temperature of the air. As the temperature goes down, the air is able to hold less moisture. This is why, in cold weather, moisture condenses on cold surfaces (for example, drops of water form on the inside of a window). This moisture can encourage biological pollutants to grow.

    There are many ways to control moisture in your home:

    • Fix leaks and seepage. If water is entering the house from the outside, your options range from simple landscaping to extensive excavation and waterproofing. (The ground should slope away from the house.) Water in the basement can result from the lack of gutters or a water flow toward the house. Water leaks in pipes and around tubs and sinks can provide a place for biological pollutants to grow.
    • Put a plastic cover over dirt crawlspaces to prevent moisture from coming in from the ground. Be sure crawlspaces are well-ventilated.
    • Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens to remove moisture to the outside (not into the attic). Vent your clothes dryer to the outside.
    • Turn off certain appliances (such as humidifiers and kerosene heaters) if you notice moisture on windows and other surfaces.
    • Use dehumidifiers and air conditioners, especially in hot, humid climates, to reduce moisture in the air, but be sure that the appliances themselves don’t become sources of biological pollutants.
    • Raise the temperature of cold surfaces where moisture condenses. Use insulation and storm windows. (A storm window installed on the inside works better than one installed on the outside) Open doors between rooms (especially doors to closets which may be colder than the rooms) to increase circulation. Circulation carries heat to the cold surfaces Increase air circulation by using fans and by moving furniture from wall corners to promote air and heat circulation. Be sure that your house has a source of fresh air and can expel excessive moisture from the home.
    • Pay special attention to carpet on concrete floors. Carpet can absorb moisture and serve as a place for biological pollutants to grow. Use area rugs, which can be taken up and washed often. In certain climates, if carpet is to be installed over a concrete floor, it maybe necessary to use a vapor barrier (plastic sheeting) over the concrete and cover that with sub-flooring (insulation covered with plywood) to prevent a moisture problem.
    • Moisture problems and their solutions differ from one climate to another. The Northeast is cold and wet, the Southwest is hot and dry, the South is hot and wet, and the Western Mountain states are cold and dry. All of these regions can have moisture problems. For example, evaporative coolers used in the Southwest can encourage the growth of biological pollutants. In other hot regions, the use of air conditioners which cool the air too quickly may not be left running long enough to remove excess moisture from the air. The types of construction and weather for the different climates can lead to different problems and solutions.

    Where Biological Pollutants May Be Found in the Home

    • dirty air conditioners;
    • dirty humidifiers and/or dehumidifiers;
    • bathroom without vents or windows;
    • kitchen without vents or windows;
    • dirty refrigerator drip pans;
    • laundry room with an unvented dryer;
    • an unventilated attic;
    • carpet on damp basement floor;
    • bedding;
    • closet on outside wall;
    • dirty heating/air-conditioning system;
    • pets; and
    • water damage (around windows, the roof, the basement).

    Maintain and Clean All Appliances that Come in Contact with Water

    • Have major appliances, such as furnaces, heat pumps and central air conditioners, inspected regularly by a professional InterNACHI inspector. Change filters on heating and cooling systems according to manufacturer’s directions. (In general, change filters monthly during use.) When first turning on the heating or air conditioner at the start of the season, consider leaving your home until it airs out.
    • Have window and wall air-conditioning units cleaned and serviced regularly by a professional, especially before the cooling season. Air conditioners can help reduce the entry of allergy-causing pollen. But they may also become a source of biological pollutants if not properly maintained. Clean the coils and rinse the drain pans, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, so water cannot collect in pools.
    • Have furnace-attached humidifiers cleaned and serviced regularly by a professional, especially before the heating season.
    • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using any type of humidifier. Experts differ on the benefits of using humidifiers. If you do use a portable humidifier (approximately 1- to 2-gallon tanks), be sure to empty its tank every day and refill it with distilled or demineralized water, or even fresh tap water, if the other types of water are unavailable. For larger portable humidifiers, change the water as recommended by the manufacturer. Unplug the appliance before cleaning. Every third day, clean all surfaces coming in contact with water with a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide, using a brush to loosen deposits. Some manufacturers recommend using diluted household bleach for cleaning and maintenance, generally in a solution of one-half cup bleach to 1 gallon of water. With any household chemical, rinse well to remove all traces of chemical before refilling the humidifier.
    • Empty dehumidifiers daily and clean often. If possible, have the appliance drip directly into a drain. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and maintenance. Always disconnect the appliance before cleaning.
    • Clean refrigerator drip pans regularly, according to manufacturer’s instructions. If refrigerator and freezer doors don’t seal properly, moisture may build up and mold can grow. Remove any mold on door gaskets, and replace faulty gaskets.

    Clean Surfaces

    • Clean moist surfaces, such as showers and kitchen counters.
    • Remove mold from walls, ceilings, floors and paneling. Do not simply cover mold with paint, stain, varnish, or a moisture-proof sealer, as the mold may resurface.
    • Replace moldy shower curtains, or remove them and scrub them well with a household cleaner, and rinse them before rehanging them.

    Dust Control

    Controlling dust is very important for people who are allergic to animal dander and mites. You cannot see mites, but you can either remove their favorite breeding grounds or keep these areas dry and clean. Dust mites can thrive in sofas, stuffed chairs, carpets and bedding. Open shelves, fabric wallpaper, knickknacks, and venetian blinds are also sources of dust mites. Dust mites live deep in the carpet and are not removed by vacuuming. Many doctors suggest that their mite-allergic patients use washable area rugs rather than wall-to-wall carpet.

    • Always wash bedding in hot water (at least 130° F) to kill dust mites. Cold water won’t do the job. Launder bedding at least every seven to 10 days.
    • Use synthetic or foam rubber mattress pads and pillows, and plastic mattress covers, if you are allergic. Do not use fuzzy wool blankets, feather or wool-stuffed comforters, and feather pillows.
    • Clean rooms and closets well. Dust and vacuum often to remove surface dust. Vacuuming and other cleaning may not remove all animal dander, dust mite material, and other biological pollutants. Some particles are so small, they can pass through vacuum bags and remain in the air. If you are allergic to dust, wear a mask when vacuuming and dusting. People who are highly allergy-prone should not perform these tasks. They may even need to leave the house when someone else is cleaning.

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.

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  • Outdoor air pollution in cities is a major health problem. Much effort and money continue to be spent cleaning up pollution in the outdoor air. But air pollution can be a problem where you least expect it, in the place you may have thought was safest — your home. Many ordinary activities, such as cooking, heating, cooling, cleaning and redecorating, can cause the release and spread of indoor pollutants at home. Studies have shown that the air in our homes can be even more polluted than outdoor air. Many Americans spend up to 90% of their time indoors, often at home. Therefore, breathing clean indoor air can have an important impact on health. People who are inside a great deal may be at greater risk of developing health problems, or having problems made worse by indoor air pollutants. These people include infants, young children, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses. Many factors determine whether pollutants in your home will affect your health. They include the presence, use and condition of pollutant sources, the level of pollutants both indoors and out, the amount of ventilation in your home, and your overall health.

    What are Biological Pollutants?

    Biological pollutants are or were living organisms. They promote poor indoor air quality and may be a major cause of days lost from work and school, and of doctor and hospital visits. Some can even damage surfaces inside and outside your house. Biological pollutants can travel through the air and are often invisible. Some common indoor biological pollutants are:

    • animal dander (minute scales from hair, feathers, or skin);
    • dust mite and cockroach parts;
    • infectious agents (bacteria and viruses); and
    • pollen.

    Some of these substances are in every home. It is impossible to get rid of them all. Even a spotless home may permit the growth of biological pollutants. Two conditions are essential to support biological growth: nutrients and moisture. These conditions can be found in many locations, such as bathrooms, damp or flooded basements, wet appliances (such as humidifiers and air conditioners), and even some carpets and furniture. Modern materials and construction techniques may reduce the amount of outside air brought into buildings, which may result in high moisture levels inside. Using humidifiers, unvented heaters, and air conditioners in our homes has increased the chances of moisture forming on interior surfaces. This encourages the growth of certain biological pollutants.

    The Scope of the Problem

    Most information about sources and health effects of biological pollutants is based on studies of large office buildings and surveys of homes in the northern U.S. and Canada. These surveys show that 30% to 50% of all structures have damp conditions which may encourage the growth and buildup of biological pollutants. This percentage is likely to be higher in warm, moist climates. Some diseases and illnesses have been linked with biological pollutants in the indoor environment. However, many of them also have causes unrelated to the indoor environment. Therefore, we do not know how many health problems relate only to poor indoor air.

    Health Effects of Biological Pollutants

    All of us are exposed to biological pollutants. However, the effects on our health depend on the type and amount of biological pollution and the individual person. Some people do not experience health reactions from certain biological pollutants, while others may experience one or more of the following reactions:

    • allergic;
    • infectious; and/or
    • toxic.

    Except for the spread of infections indoors, allergic reactions may be the most common health problem with indoor air quality in homes. They are often connected with animal dander (mostly from cats and dogs), with house dust mites (microscopic animals living in household dust), and with pollen. Allergic reactions can range from mildly uncomfortable to life-threatening, as in a severe asthma attack. Some common signs and symptoms are:

    • watery eyes;
    • runny nose and sneezing;
    • nasal congestion;
    • itching;
    • coughing;
    • wheezing and difficulty breathing;
    • headache; and
    • fatigue.

    Health experts are especially concerned about people with asthma. These people have very sensitive airways that can react to various irritants, making breathing difficult. The number of people who have asthma has greatly increased in recent years. The number of people with asthma has gone up by 59% since 1970, to a total of 9.6 million people. Asthma in children under 15 years of age has increased 41% in the same period, to a total of 2.6 million children. The number of deaths from asthma is up by 68% since 1979, to a total of almost 4,400 deaths per year

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.

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  • The internet has given us the ability to control many of our electronic systems remotely. Even when we are not at home, we are now able to adjust settings from afar. Video recording devices, for example, can now be set to record your favorite TV shows using an app on your smart phone. Therefore, it makes sense that you should be able to apply this technology within the field of home security.

    After all, home security is used to protect your property when you are away from your house. Therefore, having the ability to access a security system remotely is ideal. This is now commonly available from a number of home security providers, with companies such as Securitychoice Baltimore and other areas offering the ability to switch your home security system on or off using your computer, web-enabled cell phone, or tablet device. This type of remote security is perfect for occasions when you might accidentally leave home without without enabling your security settings. However, should you need to give access to a guest while you are not at home, this is also a great way to disarm your home security system temporarily.

    However, this type of remote access can let you do more than simply alter your home security system settings. More advanced remote access systems will also allow you view real-time video recordings from cameras around your home. Not only is this useful when you’re away from the house, but it can also allow you to see who is outside your property, without opening the door.

    Since you are more likely to be near to your phone, even when your are not inside your home, many remote systems also offer security alert features. Whereas you may usually be alerted about emergency conditions while you’re inside your house, the remote home security system allows you to be notified about potential threats, even when you’re away from your property. This can include burglary, fire and carbon monoxide monitoring around the clock, as well as water sensors, which can help to alert you if your home might be at risk from water damage.

    You can even customize your remote security settings to suit your individual needs and preferences. Receive alerts which will let you know when your children have arrived home from school, or tell you how long your housekeeper has spent at your property. Remote security is the perfect way to receive complete reassurance about the security of your home, even when you can’t be there yourself.

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.

  • With barbeque season already here, homeowners should heed the following safety precautions in order to keep their families and property safe.

    •Propane grills present an enormous fire hazard, as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is aware of more than 500 fires that result annually from their misuse or malfunction. The following precautions are recommended specifically when using propane grills:

    ◦Store propane tanks outdoors and never near the grill or any other heat source. In addition, never store or transport them in your car’s trunk.

    ◦Make sure to completely turn off the gas after you have finished, or when you are changing the tank. Even a small gas leak can cause a deadly explosion.

    ◦Check for damage to a tank before refilling it, and only buy propane from reputable suppliers.

    ◦Never use a propane barbecue grill on a terrace, balcony or roof, as this is dangerous and illegal.

    ◦No more than two 20-pound propane tanks are allowed on the property of a one- or two-family home.

    ◦To inspect for a leak, spray a soapy solution over the connections and watch for bubbles. If you see evidence of a leak, reconnect the components and try again. If bubbles persist, replace the leaking parts before using the grill.

    ◦Make sure connections are secure before turning on the gas, especially if the grill hasn’t been used in months. The most dangerous time to use a propane grill is at the beginning of the barbeque season.

    ◦Ignite a propane grill with the lid open, not closed. Propane can accumulate beneath a closed lid and explode.

    ◦When finished, turn off the gas first, and then the controls. This way, residual gas in the pipe will be used up.

    •Charcoal grills pose a serious poisoning threat due to the venting of carbon monoxide (CO). The CPSC estimates that 20 people die annually from accidentally ingesting CO from charcoal grills. These grills can also be a potential fire hazard. Follow these precautions when using charcoal grills:

    ◦Never use a charcoal grill indoors, even if the area is ventilated. CO is colorless and odorless, and you will not know you are in danger until it is too late.

    ◦Use only barbeque starter fluid to start the grill, and don’t add the fluid to an open flame. It is possible for the flame to follow the fluid’s path back to the container as you’re holding it.

    ◦Let the fluid soak into the coals for a minute before igniting them to allow explosive vapors to dissipate.

    ◦Charcoal grills are permitted on terraces and balconies only if there is at least 10 feet of clearance from the building, and a water source immediately nearby, such as a hose (or 4 gallons of water).

    ◦Be careful not to spill any fluid on yourself, and stand back when igniting the grill. Keep the charcoal lighter fluid container at a safe distance from the grill.

    ◦When cleaning the grill, dispose of the ashes in a metal container with a tight lid, and add water. Do not remove the ashes until they have fully cooled.

    ◦Fill the base of the grill with charcoal to a depth of no more than 2 inches.

    •Electric grills are probably safer than propane and charcoal grills, but safety precautions need to be used with them as well. Follow these tips when using electric grills:

    ◦Do not use lighter fluid or any other combustible materials.

    ◦When using an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the amperage required by the grill. The cord should be unplugged when not in use, and out of a busy foot path to prevent tripping.

    ◦As always, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

    Safety Recommendations for General Grill Use

    •Always make sure that the grill is used in a safe place, where kids and pets won’t touch or bump into it. Keep in mind that the grill will still be hot after you finish cooking, and anyone coming into contact with it could be burned.

    •If you use a grill lighter, make sure you don’t leave it lying around where children can reach it. They will quickly learn how to use it.

    •Never leave the grill unattended, as this is generally when accidents happen.

    •Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby.

    •Ensure that the grill is completely cooled before moving it or placing it back in storage.

    •Ensure that the grill is only used on a flat surface that cannot burn, and well away from any shed, trees or shrubs.

    •Clean out the grease and other debris in the grill periodically. Be sure to look for rust or other signs of deterioration.

    •Don’t wear loose clothing that might catch fire while you’re cooking.

    •Use long-handled barbecue tools and flame-resistant oven mitts.

    •Keep alcoholic beverages away from the grill; they are flammable!

    In summary, homeowners should exercise caution when using any kind of grill, as they can harm life and property in numerous ways.

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.

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  • Attic pull-down ladders, also called attic pull-down stairways, are collapsible ladders that are permanently attached to the attic floor. Occupants can use these ladders to access their attics without being required to carry a portable ladder.

    Common Defects

    Homeowners, not professional carpenters, usually install attic pull-down ladders. Evidence of this distinction can be observed in consistently shoddy and dangerous work that rarely meets safety standards. Some of the more common defective conditions observed by inspectors include:

    •cut bottom cord of structural truss. Often, homeowners will cut through a structural member in the field while installing a pull-down ladder, unknowingly weakening the structure. Structural members should not be modified in the field without an engineer’s approval;

    •fastened with improper nails or screws. Homeowners often use drywall or deck screws rather than the standard 16d penny nails or ¼” x 3” lag screws. Nails and screws that are intended for other purposes may have reduced shear strength and they may not support pull-down ladders;

    •fastened with an insufficient number of nails or screws. Manufacturers provide a certain number of nails with instructions that they all be used, and they probably do this for a good reason. Inspectors should be wary of “place nail here” notices that are nowhere near any nails;

    •lack of insulation. Hatches in many houses (especially older ones) are not likely to be weather-stripped and/or insulated. An uninsulated attic hatch allows air from the attic to flow freely into the home, which may cause the heating or cooling system to run overtime. An attic hatch cover box can be installed to increase energy savings;

    •loose mounting bolts. This condition is more often caused by age rather than installation, although improper installation will hasten the loosening process;

    •attic pull-down ladders are cut too short. Stairs should reach the floor;

    •attic pull-down ladders are cut too long. This causes pressure at the folding hinge, which can cause breakage;

    •improper or missing fasteners;

    •compromised fire barrier when installed in the garage;

    •attic ladder frame is not properly secured to the ceiling opening;

    •closed ladder is covered with debris, such as blown insulation or roofing material shed during roof work. Inspectors can place a sheet on the floor beneath the ladder to catch whatever debris may fall onto the floor; and

    •cracked steps. This defect is a problem with wooden ladders.

    •In sliding pull-down ladders, there is a potential for the ladder to slide down quickly without notice. Always pull the ladder down slowly and cautiously.

    Relevant Codes

    The 2009 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) and the 2006 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) offer guidelines regarding attic access, although not specifically pull-down ladders. Still, the information might be of some interest to inspectors.

    2009 IBC (Commercial Construction):

    1209.2 Attic Spaces. An opening not less than 20 inches by 30 inches (559 mm by 762 mm) shall be provided to any attic area having a clear height of over 30 inches (762 mm). A 30-inch (762 mm) minimum clear headroom in the attic space shall be provided at or above the access opening.

    2006 IRC (Residential Construction):

    R807.1 Attic Access. Buildings with combustible ceiling or roof construction shall have an attic access opening to attic areas that exceed 30 square feet (2.8m squared) and have a vertical height of 30 inches (762 mm) or more. The rough-framed opening shall not be less than 22 inches by 30 inches, and shall be located in a hallway or readily accessible location. A 30-inch (762 mm) minimum unobstructed headroom in the attic space shall be provided at some point above the access opening.

    Tips that inspectors can pass on to their clients:

    •Do not allow children to enter the attic through an attic access. The lanyard attached to the attic stairs should be short enough that children cannot reach it. Parents can also lock the attic ladder so that a key or combination is required to access it.

    •If possible, avoid carrying large loads into the attic. While properly installed stairways may safely support an adult man, they might fail if he is carrying, for instance, a bag full of bowling balls. Such trips can be split up to reduce the weight load.

    •Replace an old, rickety wooden ladder with a new one. Newer aluminum models are often lightweight, sturdy and easy to install.

    In summary, attic pull-down ladders are prone to a number of defects, most of which are due to improper installation.

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.

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  • Attached Garage Fire Hazards

    The purpose of this article is twofold. First, at Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh, we’d like you to take measures to keep your garage free from fire. Fortunately, there are ways this can be done, some of which are described below. Secondly, garage fires do happen, and we’d like you to make sure that a fire cannot not easily spread to the rest of your house. While you can perform many of the recommendations in this article yourself, it is a good idea to hire a licensed home inspector to make sure your home is safe from a garage fire.

    Why do many garages pose a fire hazard?

    •Where are you most likely to do any welding, or any work on your car? These activities require working with all sorts of flammable materials.

    •Water heaters and boilers are usually stored in garages, and they can create sparks that may ignite fumes or fluids. Car batteries, too, will spark under certain conditions.

    •Oil and gasoline can drip from cars. These fluids may collect unnoticed and eventually ignite, given the proper conditions.

    •Flammable liquids, such as gasoline, motor oil and paint are commonly stored in garages. Some other examples are brake fluid, varnish, paint thinner and lighter fluid.

    The following tips can help prevent garage fires and their spread:

    •If the garage allows access to the attic, make sure a hatch covers this access.

    •The walls and ceiling should be fire-rated. Unfortunately, it will be difficult for untrained homeowners to tell if their walls are Type X fire-rated gypsum. A licensed home inspector can examine the walls and ceiling to make sure they are adequate fire barriers.

    •The floor should be clear of clutter. Loose papers, matches, oily rags, and other potentially flammable items are extremely dangerous if they are strewn about the garage floor.

    •Use light bulbs with the proper wattage, and do not overload electrical outlets.

    •Tape down all cords and wires so they are not twisted or accidentally yanked.

    If there is a door that connects the garage to the living area, consider the following:

    •Do not install a pet door in the door! Flames can more easily spread into the living area through a pet door, especially if it’s made of plastic.

    •Does the door have a window? A licensed inspector can inspect the window to tell if it’s fire-rated.

    •The door should be self-closing. While it may be inconvenient, especially while carrying groceries into the house from the car, doors should be self-closing. You never know when a fire will happen, and it would be unfortunate to accidentally leave the door open while a fire is starting in the garage.

    •Check the joints and open spaces around the door. Are they tightly sealed? Any openings at all can allow dangerous fumes, such as carbon monoxide or gasoline vapor, to enter the living area. An InterNACHI inspector can recommend ways to seal the door so that fumes cannot enter the living area.

    Concerning items placed on the floor, you should check for the following:

    •Store your flammable liquids in clearly labeled, self-closing containers, and only in small amounts. Keep them away from heaters, appliances, pilot lights and other sources of heat or flame.

    •Never store propane tanks indoors. If they catch fire, they can explode. Propane tanks are sturdy enough to be stored outdoors.

    In summary, there are plenty of things that you can do to prevent garage fires from spreading to the rest of the house, or to keep them from starting in the first place. However, it is highly recommended that you have your garage periodically examined by a licensed home inspector.

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.

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