Monthly Archives: December 2020

Termite Inspection For Property Preservation

No homeowner likes the presence of termites or the white ants because they are linked to massive property disaster when left to work their own destruction. This is the reason why termite inspection must be done as a way to keep buildings safe from termite infestation. Interference to termite activity is a proactive approach.

Requesting the pest control experts to determine if an area is infested by termites is by far the most sensible action to make, especially if you live in Australia. This region supports termite life well due to the kind of climate that Australia has. In the Sunshine Coast, the weather is mostly humid, with at least seven hours of sunshine most days and there is plenty of rain in the area.

Where do termites like to inhabit? They are primarily social insects, so they live together as one big happy family with their queens and kings called the reproductives, the workers and the soldiers. The subterranean termite is most common in Australia so they are frequently noticed in mounds and trees, which are actually their nests. The northern part and the coastal areas are most prone to subterranean termite presence and infestation, they can also be found all throughout the country.

Why get natural pest control? Termite inspection is an ocular checking of an area where termites can access. They may be the inside of homes, buildings, exteriors, in basements and in attics. Termite infestation is a serious threat but you can prevent them from living around and inside your structures. You will not incur additional termite treatment costs along the road.

What signs can be detected with termite presence? If you are not keen, you will not notice any sign of a termite infestation around your area unless you see a big mound of them outside. They can definitely live underground, hence the subterranean descriptive for these termites. As they make their nest mostly underground, these insects are also capable of creating their colonies above ground.

They seek their food in secret, evading the observation of humans. Yet if you can see discarded wings that are of the same sizes, then it is mostly from winged termites. If you can tap wood that sound hollow, expect that termites are living inside that block of wood. They can also create mud tubes which serve as their passage in transporting food and larvae. A mud tube is constructed from termite saliva. Termite droppings look like sawdust, so if you notice little brown specks where they shouldn’t be, there must be a termite colony nearby. However, they do not only eat wood but other types of materials such as leather, plastic, fabric and paper among a few.

Requesting for your property to be inspected for termites and be applied with natural pest control can bring several advantages. It prevents future infestations by applying organic prevention techniques on the area where you want to build a house or building. Inspection by professionals can also help verify the extent of termite infestation such as how much area was destroyed and how big is the threatened area these termites are about to destroy, if not interrupted.

To Vent Or Not To Vent? That Is A Crawl Space Question

During the course of doing home inspections we come across dark and dirty spaces underneath many homes. These spaces are known as crawl spaces. Likely called this because they are often so short that crawling on ones hands and knees are all you can do in there. These spaces are vented to the exterior and sometimes not. This article will discuss conditions in which venting or not venting is advised.

These spaces are often vented to the exterior with the use of small screened vents at various points on the foundation. These openings allow air to pass through so that any dampness can be removed with the air movement.

This venting is often required by the local authority in charge of building codes. Home inspectors are not code inspectors. Codes change and vary from city to city and between the various counties. Required or not at time of building does not mean that it is absolutely the best thing to do for the home.

Here is what can happen in a vented space under a home. During the hot and humid months the exterior air is warm and therefore able to hold more water vapor. Once that humid air enters the crawl space the air temperature falls and that air temperature at times reaches the dew point. The dew point is the temperature where the air is not longer warm enough to “support” as much water vapor. When this temperature is reached condensation begins to form and will settle on the joists, pipes and the ductwork. This now high moisture level environment is a conducive condition for molds, fungus, and rotting of structural elements of the home.

Wood is typically needs a moisture content of twenty percent to be at risk of deterioration. The formation of condensation easily can get the wood to that level of moisture and higher.

So what should one do? First all water entry in the crawl space must be stopped. The exterior of the home should slope so as to direct liquid water away from the home. Gutters and downspouts should be kept clean and have extensions that take the water as far as reasonable away from the home. These two things will do the most good in keeping crawl spaces dry. Even if these things have been done there can still be moisture entry in to the crawl space. Moisture can enter the crawl space and home as moisture vapor by passing through the soil under the home. To reduce this it is important to have a vapor barrier on the soil trapping the vapor under it before it can get access to the home structure. The vapor barrier is typically a simple sheet of thick plastic that lays on the soil. Ideally it is sealed at the edges and the sections of plastic overlap and are sealed as well.

When all exterior water is kept from entering the crawl space and moisture vapor is prevented from entering there should no need to vent a crawl space to the exterior. It is still important to periodically inspect these areas in the event that water does somehow sneak in or your plumbing gets a leak. With all crawl spaces regular inspection is important.

The Home Inspection: Cavemen, Home Inspectors, And The Way It’ll Always Be

In prehistoric times, when a family was considering a move to a different cave (Hey… who wants to stay in the same old cave their whole life?), they probably communicated with their cave-dwelling neighbors to get an opinion as to whether or not their new cave was up to par… whether or not their potentially new abode was in satisfactory condition… whether it was prone to leak… or to leave them out in the cold.

There were likely some fellow cavemen that had a bit more experience with the evaluation of caves than others. So, they were sought out to give their opinion even though that opinion might have been delivered through a series of gestures and grunts… since they didn’t have any hand-held PDA’s, touch-screen computers, or highly developed language to convey their thoughts and findings.

And, no doubt, there were various levels of professionalism among the acknowledged and preferred cave assessors that led the cave-dwelling masses to choose one assessor over another in their search for new shelter… some combination of combined experience and ability to effectively communicate (Arghghhh… Urgghh… Hyrpthmblomsit) that separated them from some other creature. It’s the same way today with modern Home Inspectors… although most can communicate in their native dialect and most use computers, some sans the touch-screen, of course. Some are good, some are not so good, and some are, well… pretty darned good.

While a fairly high percentage of most all modern Home Inspectors do a reasonable job of assessing the physical condition of a home, they can be generally divided into 5 categories or types:

  • The Nit-Wit Inspector – This is the inspector that advertises the cheapest prices (sometimes referred to a Cheap Charlie) and gives the least value to his clients. They speak as little as possible (perhaps out of necessity), deliver their poor hand-written reports in a week or so after being repeated prompting, and rarely engage in anything approaching a high degree of critical thought process beyond how to get home as quickly as possible. Often, they often have little knowledge or concern about the rules and standards that pertain to their field of work. The Nit-Wit inspector is sort of like the cockroach on the wedding cake… and is best avoided by everyone.
  • The Gloved Inspector – This is the inspector who, while perhaps technically competent, has no intention whatsoever of reporting on anything that might damage their chance of future client referrals. They perform the ole’ soft-shoe routine, dancing around any potentially troubling issues, and deliver their candy-coated findings in such a way as to offend nobody at the sometimes partially disguised expense of inferiority. This inspector should be avoided almost as much as the Nit-Wit inspector
  • The Alarmist Inspector – This is the inspector who just can’t seem to control themselves when it comes to describing issues. Their description is usually accompanied with flailing arms, a red-faced demeanor along with the occasional emotional fit, and a general tendency to scare the ever-lovin’ bejeebers out of everyone within a three block radius including the home-buyer, the real estate agents, the home-seller, and the guy standing on the corner down the street. Everything’s a disaster just waiting to happen and they’re really eager to be credited for saving someone from certain and impending doom. Be careful with this type of inspector because they may burst into flames at any time
  • The Professorial Inspector – This is the inspector who is technically competent, is probably a reasonably effective communicator, and knows what they are supposed to do… but insists on relating, to anyone within earshot, everything they know about everything they’ve ever had the occasion to learn about anything. Sometimes, too much information is, well, too much information. Form your own opinion about this inspector… although, you may actually end up getting a pretty thorough Home Inspection
  • The Professional Inspector – Not to be confused with the Professorial Inspector above, this is the inspector that will provide the very best value to their clients even if their clients have to a pay a bit more to get that value. They’ll fully and calmly explain what they are going to do, how they are going to do it, why they’re going to do it a particular way, do it, and then explain what it is that they have done. They’ll welcome client questions and participation, and they’ll understand that the amount of time it takes to inspect the home is time for which the client is providing payment and not the other way around. They won’t participate in alarmist reporting practices. They won’t try to impart a lot of information that is not pertinent to the Home Inspection and the home being evaluated. They’ll be courteous to all those present and they’ll be fair to the home; they won’t inspect or report upon a 100 year old house as if it were somehow expected to be brand new, and they’ll possess a thorough knowledge and understanding of their profession. They’ll be an active member of a national Home Inspectors organization such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).They’ll accurately convey the findings of their inspection, in accordance with their applicable Standards of Practice, in an even-keeled and informational manner while making reasonable and proper recommendations based upon their observations. And, they’ll convey their findings in a good, readily understandable Home Inspection report

Some things never change and so it likely goes with Home Inspectors. Home Inspectors, as with any other types of professional service providers now or as it likely was in the day of the caveman, will vary widely insofar as their knowledge, level of education, communications skills, inspection methodologies, and the delivery/explanation of their findings are concerned; it’s always been that way and it’ll likely always be that way.

For the very best Home Inspection experience, actively seek out a Home Inspector with the demeanor, education, experience, and professionalism that will provide you with the highest level of comfort and confidence.

Urghh… Arguff… Hyrpthmblombsit!

Foundation Wall Cracks, Cause, Effect and Solution

There are no perfect houses and that would include its foundation. Whether you have a new home or one that’s a hundred years old, house foundations crack. Houses shift and settle after construction. Houses will have cracks in either the cosmetic finishes or structural components. Most of these cracks have no structural significance. The common types of cracks in foundation walls will include;

Vertical (or near vertical) cracks; Just because a wall has cracked doesn’t mean that it has failed or that corrective action is required. If the crack is narrow (1/8 inch or less), is nearly vertical, has no lateral separation between the adjacent portions of the wall, and no water is leaking through the crack, no action generally is required. This is a shrinkage crack and occurs as moisture in the wall evaporates causing the wall to shrink into the voids created by the escaping water. This type of crack is controlled, or minimized but not eliminated by, using horizontal reinforcement steel, which helps distribute the stresses in the wall. If horizontal steel is present, you are more likely to get several very small cracks instead of one or two much wider cracks. Another method of limiting shrinkage cracks is to control the amount of water used in the concrete mix.

Reentrant Cracks; Whenever a concrete element has a sharp angle, there is a concentration of stress. This almost always results in a crack called a reentrant crack that emanates from the inside corner. It may be vertical, horizontal, or diagonal as it exits the corner. This phenomenon exists in nearly all materials. Round openings can dissipate the stress but this is not practical in concrete wall construction. The typical remedy to reduce this type of crack is the placement of steel reinforcement in the corners. It will not eliminate these crack but keep they tight and controlled.

Horizontal cracks; Horizontal cracks require greater scrutiny. Most residential foundation walls are designed to span from the footing or floor slab to the connection of the floor structure above. An 8-inch concrete wall in normal soil conditions usually is strong enough to withstand the forces exerted on the wall with no vertical reinforcement. Exceptions include areas with high ground water conditions or in expansive soil conditions. If there is vertical reinforcement in the wall, a horizontal crack is probably not a concern. An expert should be consulted when a horizontal crack appears to evaluate whether there is a structural risk.

These cracks typically result from one or more of the following;

1. Soil settlement beneath the footing resulting in downward movement of the footing, and shifting is common to most newly constructed homes.

2. Alteration of the local water table whenever a new home is built. Specifically, the soil beneath the home dries; the resultant soil shrinkage causes minor settlement of the footing which can result in hairline cracking in the foundation walls.

3. A new home, without of furniture and effects, does not impose a significant load on the foundation. Once all of your furniture and appliances are moved in, the weight borne by the foundation, and the structure in general, increases and causes some flexing (or movement) of structural members throughout the building. This increased load can cause hairline cracks in the foundation.

4. Drying shrinkage. While poured concrete is dries and hardens, it will shrink. The major factor influencing drying shrinkage is the total water content of the concrete. As the water content in poured concrete increases, the amount of shrinkage increases. Significant increases in the sand content and significant reductions in the size of the coarse aggregate used in poured concrete increase shrinkage because total water content is increased and smaller size coarse aggregate provide less internal resistance to shrinkage.

5. Thermal expansion and contraction of concrete. Concrete poured during high daytime temperatures will contract as it cools during the night, this can be sufficient enough to cause cracking if the concrete is restrained.

6. Restraint; The restriction of free movement of fresh or hardened concrete subsequent to the completion of placing (pouring of concrete) in formwork or within an otherwise confined space; restraint can be internal or external and may act in one or more directions.

7. Subgrade settlement or movement. The dropping of soil or the footing due to their mass, the loads imposed on them, or shrinkage or displacement of the underlying support.

Most foundation cracks are minor and insignificant; they are common to both poured concrete and block foundations. Structural cracks (horizontal) in residential foundations are usually the result of settlement and/or horizontal loading. They can be the result of hydrostatic pressure or the use of heavy equipment next to the foundation. The possible implication of cracks in your foundation is moisture penetration, moisture that can ruin finished wall coverings, floor coverings and furniture.

Water will leak through a foundation crack if there is enough hydrostatic pressure to force water through the crack. If a waterproofing system was installed during construction, the basement may not leak even if there is a large crack. Keep in mind that waterproofing is not the same as damp-proofing. Installing an exterior waterproofing system after the wall has been backfilled can be cost prohibitive. The best solution is the use of an epoxy injection system. It will adhere to the side of the cracks and actually may strengthen the wall. These systems can be DIY but is it highly recommended that they be applied by a professional.

If you take anything away from this article…take this. All foundations crack, your foundation, my foundation and most of these cracks are insignificant and have no structural implications. If you do have a concern about the size and type of crack call a professional to evaluate.

Disaster Cleanup Services

Every year millions of households are affected by disasters, natural and otherwise causing billions of dollars in damages. It is vital to understand all of the types of disasters that can occur to a residence and the dangers associated with each. Furthermore it is extremely important to the homeowners and their families that these damages be properly restored before occupation of the residence continues. This article will outline some common household disasters and health risks associated with the damages from those disasters. Finally this piece will explain how to choose the best damage restoration specialist for homeowners and their families to ensure health risks are eliminated and the structural integrity of the home is maintained.

Sewage backup is unfortunately fairly common and is also one of the most dangerous disasters which can occur within a home. Sewage, by definition, is any material originating beyond the trap. Any liquid or material backing up from this region should be considered hazardous whether it comes up through a floor drain or other locations in the house such as a toilet. Sewage contains both organic and inorganic contaminants such as wastes breeding Salmonella, E. Coli, toxic basic and acidic drain cleaners and other chemicals which can cause serious heath issues and life threatening illness. Aside from the solid contaminants sewage can produce methane or hydrogen sulfide gases which can be a fire hazard as well as ammonia and other potentially toxic gases. Due to the health risks involved it is important that when a substantial backup is discovered that a professional be called to assess the situation because often times the backup can travel under the home and go unnoticed. Sewage backup if untreated can potentially damage a structure, rotting out the foundation and in serious cases can put the structure at risk of collapse. Failure to properly restore sewage damage, among other health risks can lead to another dangerous household disaster, mold.

There are a variety of mold species that can come to colonize a home which introduce a wide range health risks to the occupants. Some toxic strains include Alternaria, Chaetomium, Cladosporium, Mucor and several others. These toxic molds have been linked to a variety of short term effects such as hives, trouble breathing, headaches, general fatigue and others. Long term effects of mold exposure can be much more severe. Long term mold exposure has been linked to respiratory infections, some cancers, heart problems, nervous system problems and other serious risks. There are many disasters that can strike a household which make it more vulnerable to toxic mold growth such as flooding and foundation cracks and leaks caused by earthquakes, frost wedging or other forms of erosion. There are other factors which can lead to mold growth such as high humidity and poor air circulation. Is is important to call an expert as soon as mold growth is discovered because lab tests are necessary to determine if there is a serious threat present and the person called to restore a house can make all the difference in this situation.

There are a few ways to tell if the contractor called is knowledgeable and skilled enough to eliminate the health risks brought on by mold growth, flooding or sewage backup. Researching a business’ history is one way to determine if those called upon are up to the job. Is is important that the person or associated company be experienced in the specific field disaster restoration. Inexperience can lead to improper restoration which can potentially lead to illness or if some damages go unnoticed much greater future costs for a proper restoration. Possibly the best way to verify that the technician is an authority on restoration and mold remediation is look for certification. There are many national certifications which ensure that technicians are trained to deal with all of the risks involved in restorations such as The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) and the very stringent Antimicrobial Mold Remediation Technician (AMRT) Certification. Disasters are most always unexpected and so are health issues or structural collapses that can result from improper damage restoration. Homeowners can prevent the latter two scenarios by calling on certified restoration technicians to protect their homes and families.