Durning a recent home inspection here in San Diego a separated plumbing vent pipe was found venting into the attic space.

Amidst a wave of Chinese import scares, ranging from toxic toys to tainted pet food, reports of contaminated drywall from that country have been popping up across the American Southeast. Chinese companies use unrefined “fly ash,” a coal residue found in smokestacks in coal-fired power plants in their manufacturing process. Fly ash contains strontium sulfide, a toxic substance commonly found in fireworks. In hot and wet environments, this substance can offgas into hydrogen sulfide, carbon disulfide, and carbonyl sulfide and contaminate a home’s air supply.

 

The bulk of these incidents have been reported in Florida and other southern states, likely due to the high levels of heat and humidity in that region. Most of the affected homes were built during the housing boom between 2004 and 2007, especially in the wake of Hurricane Katrina when domestic building materials were in short supply. An estimated 250,000 tons of drywall were imported from China during that time period because it was cheap and plentiful. This material was used in the construction of approximately 100,000 homes in the United States, and many believe this has lead to serious health and property damage.

Although not believed to be life- threatening, exposure to high levels of airborne hydrogen sulfide and other sulfur compounds from contaminated drywall can result in the following physical ailments:

  • sore throat;
  • sinus irritation;
  • coughing;
  • wheezing;
  • headache;
  • dry or burning eyes; and/or
  • respiratory infections.
Due to this problem’s recent nature, there are currently no government or industry standards for inspecting contaminated drywall in homes. Professionals who have handled contaminated drywall in the past may know how to inspect for sulfur compounds but there are no agencies that offer certification in this form of inspection. Homeowners should beware of con artists attempting to make quick money off of this widespread scare by claiming to be licensed or certified drywall inspectors. InterNACHI has assembled the following tips that inspectors can use to identify if a home’s drywall is contaminated:
  • The house has a strong sulfur smell reminiscent of rotten eggs.
  • Exposed copper wiring appears dark and corroded. Silver jewelry and silverware can become similarly corroded and discolored after several months of exposure.
  • A manufacturer’s label on the back of the drywall can be used to link it with manufacturers that are known to have used contaminated materials. One way to look for this is to enter the attic and remove some of the insulation.
  • Drywall samples can be sent to a lab to be tested for dangerous levels of sulfur. This is the best testing method but also the most expensive.
Contaminated Chinese drywall cannot be repaired. Affected homeowners are being forced to either suffer bad health and failing appliances due to wire corrosion or replace the drywall entirely, a procedure which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. This contamination further reduces home values in a real estate environment already plagued by crisis. Some insurance companies are refusing to pay for drywall replacement and many of their clients are facing financial ruin. Class-action lawsuits have been filed against homebuilders, suppliers, and importers of contaminated Chinese drywall. Some large manufacturers named in these lawsuits are Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin, Knauf Gips, and Taishan Gypsum.
The Florida Department of Health recently tested drywall from three Chinese manufacturers and a domestic sample and published their findings. They found “a distinct difference in drywall that was manufactured in the United States and those that were manufactured in China.” The Chinese samples contained traces of strontium sulfide and emitted a sulfur odor when exposed to moisture and intense heat, while the American sample did not. The U.S. Consumer Safety Commission is currently performing similar tests. Other tests performed by Lennar, a builder that used Chinese drywall in 80 Florida homes, and Knauf Plasterboard, a manufacturer of the drywall, came to different conclusions than the Florida Department of Health. Both found safe levels of sulfur compounds in the samples that they tested. There is currently no scientific proof that Chinese drywall is responsible for the allegations against it.
Regardless of its source, contamination of some sort is damaging property and health in the southern U.S. The media, who have publicized the issue, almost unanimously report that the blame lies with imported Chinese drywall that contains corrosive sulfur compounds originating from ash produced by Chinese coal-fired power plants. Homes affected by this contamination can suffer serious damage to the metal parts of appliances and piping and lead, potentially leading to considerable health issues. While no governing body has issued regulations regarding contaminated drywall, it is advisable that home inspectors be aware of the danger it poses and learn how to identify it.

The following items are essential tools, but this list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to ask a home inspector from John Robinson’s Inspection Group during your next inspection about other tools that you might find useful. 

 
1.  Plunger
A clogged sink or toilet is one of the most inconvenient household problems that you will face. With a plunger on hand, however, you can usually remedy these plumbing issues relatively quickly. It is best to have two plungers — one for the sink and one for the toilet.

Standard plunger

2.  Combination Wrench Set

One end of a combination wrench set is open and the other end is a closed loop. Nuts and bolts are manufactured in standard and metric sizes, and because both varieties are widely used, you’ll need both sets of wrenches. For the most control and leverage, always pull the wrench toward you, instead of pushing on it. Also, avoid over-tightening.

3.  Slip-Joint Pliers

Use slip-joint pliers to grab hold of a nail, a nut, a bolt, and much more. These types of pliers are versatile because of the jaws, which feature both flat and curved areas for gripping many types of objects. There is also a built-in slip-joint, which allows the user to quickly adjust the jaw size to suit most tasks.

4.  Adjustable WrenchCaulking gun

Adjustable wrenches are somewhat awkward to use and can damage a bolt or nut if they are not handled properly. However, adjustable wrenches are ideal for situations where you need two wrenches of the same size. Screw the jaws all the way closed to avoid damaging the bolt or nut.

5.  Caulking Gun
Caulking is the process of sealing up cracks and gaps in various structures and certain types of piping. Caulking can provide noise mitigation and thermal insulation, and control water penetration. Caulk should be applied only to areas that are clean and dry.
6.  Flashlight
None of the tools in this list is of any use if you cannot visually inspect the situation. The problem, and solution, are apparent only with a good flashlight. A traditional two-battery flashlight is usually sufficient, as larger flashlights may be too unwieldy.
7.  Tape Measure
Measuring house projects requires a tape measure — not a ruler or a yardstick. Tape measures come in many lengths, although 25 feet is best.  Measure everything at least twice to ensure accuracy.
8.  Hacksaw
A hacksaw is usefu for cutting metal objects, such as pipes, bolts and brackets. Torpedo levelHacksaws look thin and flimsy, but they’ll easily cut through even the hardest of metals. Blades are replaceable, so focus your purchase on a quality hacksaw frame.

9. Torpedo Level
Only a level can be used to determine if something, such as a shelf, appliance or picture, is correctly oriented. The torpedo-style level is unique because it not only shows when an object is perfectly horizontal or vertical, but it also has a gauge that shows when an object is at a 45-degree angle. The bubble in the viewfinder must be exactly in the middle — not merely close.

10.  Safety Glasses / Goggles
For all tasks involving a hammer or a power tool, you should always wear safety glasses or goggles. They should also be worn while you mix chemicals.

11.  Claw Hammer
A good hammer is one of the most important tools you can own.  Use it to drive and remove nails, to pry wood loose from the house, and in combination with other tools. They come in a variety of sizes, although a 16-ounce hammer is the best all-purpose choice.

12.  Screwdriver Set
It is best to have four screwdrivers: a small and large version of both a flathead and a Phillips-head screwdriver. Electrical screwdrivers areWire cutter sometimes convenient, but they’re no substitute.  Manual screwdrivers can reach into more places and they are less likely to damage the screw.

13.  Wire Cutters
Wire cutters are pliers designed to cut wires and small nails. The side-cutting style (unlike the stronger end-cutting style) is handy, but not strong enough to cut small nails.

14.  Respirator / Safety Mask
While paints and other coatings are now manufactured to be less toxic (and lead-free) than in previous decades, most still contain dangerous chemicals, which is why you should wear a mask to avoid accidentally inhaling. A mask should also be worn when working in dusty and dirty environments. Disposable masks usually come in packs of 10 and should be thrown away after use. Full and half-face respirators can be used to prevent the inhalation of very fine particles that ordinary facemasks will not not stop.

15.  Duct Tape
This tape is extremely strong and adaptable. Originally, it was widely used to make temporary repairs to many types of military equipment. Today, it’s one of the key items specified for home emergency kits because it is water-resistant and extremely sticky.  -by Nick Gromicko and Rob London

Carpeted bathroom floors are excellent breading grounds for mold and bacteria growth. However, some home owners choose to install carpet in their bathrooms because they like the way it looks. The home inspectors at John Robinson’s Inspection Group highly recommend avoiding carpets in bathrooms and encourage the use of traditional floor surfaces, such as tile or vinyl.

Advantages of carpets in bathrooms:
  • They make bathrooms appear more warm and inviting.
  • They are softer than tile and many people find them comfortable on bare feet.
  • Bathroom slip hazards are reduced. It’s easier to slip on hard bathroom surfaces, such as tile, than on carpet.
  • Installation is generally quick and inexpensive.home inspector san diego
Disadvantages of carpets in bathrooms:
  • The pad beneath the carpet may soak up large amounts of moisture. Some of the common ways that carpets may come into contact with moisture in bathrooms include:
  1. Steam from the shower will condense on the carpet.
  2. Water splashes from the tub or shower.
  3. Water sheds from the shower/tub occupants as the step onto the carpet.
  4. Water splashes out of the sink.
  5. Water drips from the vanity.
  6. Water leaks from the toilet.

The presence of moisture in the pad will lead to the growth of decay fungi on the wood or orineted strand board (OSB) sub-floor. The sub-floor will be decayed and weakened by mold. Mold also releases spores that can cause respiratory ailments, especially for those with certain health problems. The home inspectors at John Robinson’s Inspection Group use moisture meters to determine if there is excess moisture around these areas beneath the carpet.

  • In addition to potential mold growth beneth the carpet, bacteria can accumulate in carpeting that surrounds the toilet. Bacteria are contained in urine, which can be accidentally deflected onto the carpet.
Recommendations for those of you who are experiencing urine or moisture related problems with their bathroom carpet”
  • Clean the carpet regularly to remove any mold or urine that may be present.
  • Keep the carpet as dry as possible. Various devices exist that prevent water from bypassing the shower curtain.
  • Install a bathroom fan, if one is not installed already. If a fan is installed, operate it more often.
  • Contact John Robinson’s Inspection Group to schedule an inspection. Our home inspectors can inform you about why you are experiencing problems.

 

In summary, capets installed in bathrooms can trap moisture and urine, substances that can cause structural damage and health problems.

Home improvement projects don’t need to be difficult, and with the right tools and attitude, they can be exciting as you watch your house transform. Summer is the perfect time to look at your home to-do list and get going. Here are some easy ideas you can get started on today.

Outdoors: siding, deck and doors make a house stand out.

Painting the home exterior, sheds, fences or decks can be a challenging task. However, doing a good job now will make your entire home look great for years to come.

 

To ensure a good result, begin by removing dirt and other items such as leaves from the surface to be painted. Look for areas where paint is chipped or bubbled and remove with a wire brush or wide-blade putty knife. Using an electric sander can also be helpful.

When painting, use tools that are made specifically to help ease and expedite the process. The Wagner Power Painters featuring EZ Tilt helps tackle a variety of projects like painting a house, shed or fence and produces quality results. The paint sprayer applies a professional grade paint application. Any way you look at exterior painting, you can’t beat the coverage, speed and finish you get by spraying.

While you already have all your painting supplies out, grab a brush and update small details like the front door and trim.

On a beautiful sunny day, painting your house can be a joy. Throw a painting party and invite your friends over to help out. After the project is done, eat a nice dinner together to show your appreciation. Now for the rest of the year you have a beautiful house to enjoy, inside and out.

Indoors: look at walls, ceilings and furniture.

The first step is to take a look at the inside of your home and analyze which rooms need a facelift. Look at the walls for chipped or dirty paint and the ceiling for stains. Painting is an easy and cheap way to brighten your house fast.

When choosing paint colors, it’s best to look at the furniture and other pieces in the home and try to coordinate appropriately. When in doubt, light colors work best and always brighten a room. If you are feeling daring, think about trying one of the deep and beautiful colors that are popular right now in the color palettes at many paint companies.

Fill in holes and nicks with putty. Sand and prime those areas before painting. Priming helps ensure a professional looking paint job that lasts longer so it is worth your time. After walls have been primed, it’s time to apply paint.

Rollers are the preferred tool for many people because they apply an even coat and hold a lot of paint. If you are painting the ceiling, you will need a roller with an extended handle to reach the high areas and help relieve arm tension.

One roller that really saves you time when painting is Wagner’s TurboRoll battery powered roller. The TurboRoll holds paint in the handle and easily reaches 8-foot ceilings. One fill of the tube can paint an area 10 feet by 7 feet in size. It also has “Power Trigger” technology that allows the user to supply paint directly to the roller by squeezing a trigger so that they don’t have to make repeated trips to the paint tray to load up with paint. This saves time and gets the job done fast with an excellent finish.

After the paint has dried, looking at the floors is the next step. Hard flooring needs to get washed and carpets should be cleaned. Renting a carpet cleaner from your local hardware store is very economical and provides a deep clean. Get the whole family to help out and make cleaning a fun activity you all participate in.

A quick clean and perhaps reorganization of furniture, and you just gave your home an easy facelift for little cost and not a lot of time.

Home improvement and painting your house can be a joy. You can also take pride in the fact that you did it yourself. And better yet – you saved money. After the project is done, invite your friends over to showcase your great accomplishment. Now for the rest of the year you have a beautiful house to enjoy, inside and out. For more information visit www.WagnerSprayTech.com. – (ARA)