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Super Storm Sandy Clean-Up Part 2

Welcome to the second installation of our series on dealing with damage caused by Super Storm Sandy. Yesterday we addressed general safety concerns, specifically when dealing with clearing trees and debris. Today we turn our attention to damage that may have occurred to your home or other buildings.

Any time that there is damage to your home there are two primary questions that will help you determine what needs to be done. The first question to consider is: Is the damage penetrating through the exterior envelope? Or, in other words, is the damage simply to the outside of the home, or has it broken through to the wall cavity? The second question is: did the damage impact lived-in areas of the home (as opposed to being contained to only a basement, crawl space, and/or attic-type area)? These two questions help determine not only the immediate clean-up needs, but also what may need to be done to prevent future issues such as insect damage, mold growth, and decay to building materials.

For the sake of this post, let’s assume that the water did penetrate through the exterior envelope and has impacted lived-in areas of the home. In that case, the first thing you need to be concerned about is mold growth. The best way to prevent mold is to dry the area in question as quickly as possible. 48 hours is the maximum amount of time that materials can be damp before mold starts to become a potential issue. Dehumidifiers can help to dry out these areas and prevent the onset of mold.

Building sciences have changed the way that closed walls and other inaccessible areas are to be treated for mold. Research shows that in almost 70% of closed walls that had water entry and were not opened and properly dried out, mold growth was found within six months after the initial damage. The same was found to hold true in circumstances where water got between a subfloor and the surface floor. In an effort to save money it is possible that insurance adjusters and others will tell you that walls do not need to be opened and dried, or later inspected for mold. We recommend doing thorough research, and if you have any questions or hesitations, having a qualified mold evaluator come to your home. Mold can cause significant health issues if left undiscovered and untreated.

Let’s say that you do open up a wall or floor cavity and find mold. DO NOT use Bleach to clean the mold unless you are absolutely certain it is located on a non-porous surface such as metal, plastic, or glass. Bleach works as a topical agent only, and while it may kill some of the surface spores, it can also release the rest into the air. Furthermore, most bleach solutions are approximately 70% water, which serves to feed the root mold particles and can cause additional growth in the long term. For this reason, industry standard no longer generally includes bleach treatments in remediation plans. Instead, wet or damaged Sheetrock should be removed and replaced, wood dried out with fans and heaters, and a proper mold-inhibition product applied.

Aside from mold and general decay to building materials, insects are a concern especially with storm-related damage. Many insects that can cause damage to your home, such as carpenter ants, look to nest in damp or softened wood. Wood that has been exposed to a large quantity of water, or that has been moist for a period of time, provides favorable conditions for these insects. The issue can be exasperated by downed trees in the area, due to the possibility that a downed tree (or one that is manually cut as part of the clean-up process) may have contained an ant nest, and those ants will then be searching for a new home. The best way to try and prevent this type of nesting is to dry out affected areas as quickly as possible, and if there is any question of insect entry or damage to have a professional complete a wood destroying insect inspection in your home.

Come back again tomorrow for the last installment of the post-Super Storm Sandy clean-up series. And remember, if you have questions about today’s post, or would like any additional information you can always email us at inspections@sherwoodinspection.com, or call our office at 866-646-9983.

Super Storm Sandy – Part 1

As most of you are all too aware, our region was recently impacted by Super Storm Sandy. Although a month has passed, the recovery efforts are in many cases just beginning, and there is a long road ahead for many. To all of those who were affected, our hearts go out to you. This series of posts is intended to provide information that will hopefully help you in your storm recovery efforts.

First a word of caution: with any catastrophic event emotions run high. People and organizations are stretched thin, overwhelmed, and often exhausted. In those moments it is easy to make snap decisions that may ultimately cause negative effects on your home, health, and safety. Please consider the information here to simply be a guide to help you, but understand that every home, and every type of damage is different, and consulting with experts specific to your needs is always recommended. Feel free to contact us at Sherwood Inspection Services, LLC., either via phone at 866-646-9983, or via email at inspections@sherwoodinspection.com if you have specific questions or would like any clarification or additional information.

Part One:

The biggest issue with any storm clean up is safety. It is imperative that equipment is used properly, and potentially unseen dangers are accounted for. One of the primary clean up issues we have seen in our area is the need to remove downed trees and other debris. When removing trees and brush, first ensure that your tools are in good, clean, operating condition. Chainsaws (and other tools) should always be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Electric chainsaws are not recommended for this type of clean up as the power cords can easily get caught in branches, fall into puddles or other sources of moisture, or arc at the connection of the extension cord. If you absolutely must you an electric chainsaw, please use the utmost caution and awareness with regards to the power source.

Another consideration for your equipment is size/power of the equipment as compared with the task at hand. Make sure that you are using tools that are built for the size of the task you are undertaking. If you think that your personal equipment is not up to standards, it is far better to wait and borrow the proper equipment, than to potentially injure yourself or others by pushing the equipment past its intended

As we said, safety should always be a top priority. Proper safety equipment such as goggles, gloves, and appropriate footwear will help to prevent unnecessary injury. Ensure that other people, children, and pets are clear of any area before you begin cutting trees or branches. Many emergency room visits that arise from storm clean-up efforts could be avoided with simple safety measures.

When the obvious and visible dangers are handled, it is time to consider unseen dangers. Super Storm Sandy resulted in many downed power lines. Even if your neighborhood is lacking power, assume that all power lines are live and charged and DO NOT approach or try to move them. Power can back-feed into lines from generators and other sources. Underground electrical cables for yard lighting, etc., also need to be taken into consideration. Make sure you are fully aware of any cables that might be under the ground before you dig in your yard. If needed you can contact your power and cable companies for this information.

Lastly, and possibly most difficult, try not to over-exert yourself. Emotions and adrenaline can run high in these situations, and over-working yourself in your clean up efforts can lead to additional exhaustion, stress, and even illness or injury due to lack of attention. Even if you want to get everything done remember, it’s better to rest and tackle it again when you’re up to it, than to push yourself to the point of not being able to work at all. You can’t get much accomplished from a hospital bed.

Check back tomorrow for information about damage to your home, and how to handle it.

Deck Safety: Part 1 – Stairs

Deck stairs with split stringer

Deck stairs with split stringer

Information on correctly and safely building a deck for your home is readily available, and yet many decks that we see are just an accident waiting to happen. As a homeowner it is important to ensure that your deck is safe, and to do your best to prevent potential risks to your family and loved ones. No one wants to have a tragedy occur during a backyard barbeque, but an unsafe desk poses just such a risk. There are a number of components that make up a deck, and that need to be maintained to ensure deck safety, however for the purposes of today’s article we are going to focus on the stairs.

Stairs or steps leading to a deck are often one of the most overlooked areas, and pose one of the largest risks. Of the homes that our company inspects that have decks, approximately 80% of the stairs to those decks are not installed or maintained properly. The following are a list of three simple things you can check, or have a contractor check, in order to ensure that your deck stairs are safe.
1. Check the deck stringers, and how they are attached to the treads. Often times these are installed with small deck screws or nails, and are typically installed without tapping or pre-drilling the stringer, which can cause splitting. When the stringer splits, the screw can pull loose, subsequently causing the tread to pop loose while in use. If the stringer is split on your stairs (see photo for example), you should have them replaced. When new treads are installed, make sure that the tread and stringer are pre-drilled so that a split will be less likely to occur again.
2. Check how the stringer is attached to the deck at the top of the stairs. The stringer should be bolted through the side of the deck joist or structural member. There are also designated ‘strong tie’ brackets that can be used to suspend the deck stringers. The stringer should never be toe nailed or screwed. If the stringer is not secured properly the likelihood of the stairs falling becomes very high, and should that occur while someone is walking up or down the stairs, injury is highly likely to occur.
3. The railing on a deck stairway is an incredibly important component, however simply having a railing does not completely mitigate the risk of falling. In order to best utilize your deck railing, it is important to make sure that the railing is graspable. What this means is that a person should be able to grip the rail with their thumb on one side, while still being able to wrap their fingers around the other side. The standard acceptable dimension on a circular railing is between 1-1/4 and 2” in diameter. As with the stringers above, it is also important to ensure that the deck railing is attached in a stable manner to the deck structure, and does not come loose upon having reasonable pressure applied.
The three issues listed above are the most common problems we see with deck stairs, however it is in no way meant to be an exhaustible list of potential safety hazards. It’s always best to have your deck periodically evaluated by a qualified contractor to ensure the highest level of safety for yourself and those who use your deck. With all this gorgeous weather a deck is a great place to spend time, just make sure you are safe while you relax!

Slate Roofs

slate roof 1

Today let’s talk about slate roofs. Slate roofs are unique to any
other roof-type, and in order to successfully inspect a slate roof it is
imperative that you first understand the various characteristics of the slate
itself, as well as the ways that those characteristics impact the use of slate
as a roofing material. Those characteristics are beyond the scope of this blog
post, instead we will focus on problems that are often seen with slate roofing.

One of the potential problem areas with slate roofs occur around
the points at which the slate is fastened to the roof. As the slate ages, these
fasteners can break free, something that often occurs during winter when snow and
ice weigh on the slate and add stress to the fasteners.

All slate roofs have snow and ice breaks on the roof, which helps
to slow the progress of snow and ice sliding down the roof, often referred to
as ‘ice bars’. During an inspection it is important to ensure that these bars
are inspected as well, as the pressure of snow and ice can cause them to become
loosened.
As slate roofs age, the need for annual maintenance increases, and can
become costly. The level of maintenance required is dependent on a number of
factors, including: the area of the country in which the house is located, the
size of the roof, the number of qualified slate roofing companies in your area,
and the type of slate that is used. Some slate-types have only a 20-30 year
expected life span. If you are considering purchasing a home with a slate roof,
you would be strongly encouraged to get additional information about the type
of slate roof particular to the home in question, and to talk with a qualified
roof inspector about the risks and potential costs inherent to that particular
type of slate.

 

The Importance of Chimney Protection

chimney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s talk about chimneys, masonry chimneys to be specific. At the top of the chimney there is intended to be a concrete top, called a “chimney cap” or “wash cap”.  The purpose of these caps it to allow water to drain over the top of the chimney, thus preventing it water from getting down into the masonry itself, which can cause significant damage. The issue of water flowing into the masonry is of particular concern when temperatures drop and the water freezes, as this can cause the chimney to heave, damaging the chimney and/or flue liner. Therefore, in order to protect the chimney from this kind of damage it is important to have a good chimney or wash cap, and to ensure that it is mortared at the seams to prevent leaking.

Above, you can see two photos of chimneys. In one of the photos, the chimney has a concrete wash cap and the mortar joints are sealed. In the other photo the chimney does not have a wash cap, and you can clearly see that the bricks have worn mortar joints, and some of the bricks themselves have shifted. To further complicate matters, the flue is not shown in this photo because the top of the flue is broken and now missing.  In this case, the flue did not have a flue cover. The purpose of a flue cover is to protect the flue from water leaking in, which can cause damage, as well as to prevent rodents or birds from entering the flue and nesting there. All chimney flues should have a proper cap that is high enough for good drafting, and screened to prevent animal entry.

 

Can New Roofs Leak?

Leaking Roof

 

 

 

The picture you see here is over a roof that was recently
installed on a house. The owners of the house believed that they had the roof
properly installed, and that everything was done to complete the installation.
They believed that since the roof was brand new, there could not possibly be
problems with the roof.  At the same
time, the owners of this house started to notice that when it was raining there
was water leaking into their house, and they were unable to determine where that
water was coming in. When they found themselves unable to solve the mystery,
our company was called in to do an inspection of the roof.

While inspecting the roof, we discovered that the chimney
had a brand new flashing done in conjunction with the roof installation. New
chimney flashings, if not installed properly, can be just as bad as a worn out
flashing, or even as bad as a worn out roof! As you can see in the related
photo, the upper edge of the flashing is resting against tar paper, and neither
the tar paper nor the flashing are secured into the chimney itself. This set up
leaves the top edge open to water, which drains down behind it and into the
house. In the words of a fellow inspector, “it’s like tucking your rain pants
into your rain boots, causing the water to leak into your boots and fill them
up.” Obviously no one walks around with rain gear tucked into their boots, and similarly
no one should have a chimney flashing and roof set up the way that we see in
this picture.

What can we learn from this? Perhaps the most important
lesson to take away is that even with a brand new roof installation, it makes
sense and is important to have an inspection done of the roof before the
warranty runs out. After all, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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