NY Metro ASHI News

                                                                                              April 2003

 

A Publication of the NY Metro Chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors

Edited by John Gerardi (gerardi@att.net)

Articles published in the NY Metro ASHI News are the sole opinion of the author and we publish these articles for educational purposes only and not to indorse or state a position for or against the content of the article.

April Meeting
Tino’s Steak House
Route 100, Hawthorne, NY

Date: Thursday, April 24, 2003, 6:00PM

Next Meeting's Program Al Padovani from Yorktown Environmental Lab will be speaking about water quality testing. 

Guests are welcome at all meetings.

 

President's Message


The New York State Property Condition Disclosure Act
(Information taken from an article in the NEW YORK TIMES METRO Friday, February 28, 2003-B10)

Under this law, sellers are required to fill out a form, which consists of six pages, and to answer "to the best of their knowledge" 48 questions about defects like water damage, pest infestation, the presence of asbestos. The form must be delivered before a contract is signed. The law does not apply to co-ops or condominiums.

The home seller has two options in complying with this New York State Law. One is to inform buyers about defects in the property (by filling out the form noted above) or take off $500 from the selling price.

I believe that it would be prudent for a Home Inspector to understand this law and understand that a seller, by taking off $500 from the selling price, does not have to disclose defects. Further and when possible I would recommend that the inspector inquire of his client whether the Disclosure Form was received and if so could it be seen.

The article referred to above also discusses a lawsuit involving this law brought by a buyer in Staten Island, Judge Straniere's Decision and comments by Assemblyman Brodsky. For those interested, I would recommend reading this whole article.

Since a Home Inspection Law is now being discussed in the NY State Legislator, I would suggest that a provision be included in this bill, if feasible, to make the present disclosure law more definitive and effective and that a Home Inspector making an inspection be given a copy, if such was made.

Sincerely,

Sherman S. Price
NY Metro ASHI, Chapter President

 

 

Vice President's Message


Note to all Officers, Board Members & Committee Chairs:

Due to your position of responsibility in the Chapter; your participation at Board  & Chapter meetings is very important. If unable to attend, please call the President or Vice President with news/information of your Committee.

Thank you, Carl Gerosa

 

 


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VIC'S (AD)VICE COLUMN

 by Victor J. Faggella

 

EFFLUENT FILTERS?

 

While attending the ASHI Conference in Orlando, I visited the National Small Flows Clearinghouse's booth and filled out a registration form. The National Small Flows Clearinghouse is a non-profit organization which provides free and lost cost materials on private water supplies and on-site waste disposal systems. Since registering, I have received much valuable information.

 

One of the publications which I received was the Small Flows Quarterly magazine. In this publication there was an article on "Effluent Filters." In all my years of doing home inspections, I had never previously heard of such a device. As you should already know, a septic tank's contents separate out into three levels. At the bottom is the "sludge" which is composed of those solid particles which settle out. At the top is the "scum," which is composed of those materials which are lighter than water and float to the top. In between these two layers is the wastewater effluent, which goes into the disposal area. However, the effluent is not a clear liquid. Instead it a colloidal suspension of those particles which are not heavy enough to sink to the bottom and form sludge or light enough to float to the top and form scum.

 

It is these small suspended particles which will eventually clog the pore spaces in the drain or leach fields, reduce its percolation rate and finally result in a failure of the system. According to the article, one way to minimize the passing of these particles into the disposal area is to install a filter on the outlet of the septic tank. As with any properly designed filter, they do remove solid particles from the effluent and prolong the life of the disposal area. However, there is a downside. In doing its job, the filter will eventually become clogged, making it necessary to replace it or clean it. Failure to do so will cause the tank to overflow and back-up into the home.

 

The article does not mention how often these filters (there are several types) require replacement or cleaning. Although an effluent filter sounds good in theory, it may be a different matter in actual practice. If the home owner performs maintenance on the filter with the same regularity which we see maintenance performed on other components in the house, the cure may be worse than the disease. As we are only doing a limited visual inspection, and have no way of knowing whether such a filter has been installed, we will continue to advise our clients to have an open system inspection on all on-site waste disposal systems.

 

For additional information, write The National Small Flows Clearinghouse, West Virginia University, P.O. Box 6064, Morgantown, WV 26506-6064, or visit their Web Site at:  http://www.nsfc.wvu.edu/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"Codes Corner"

by Evan Grugett, CCA, ASHI #169

Application of the Codes for the Home Inspector

The Building Codes of New York State are state law that must be employed as the minimum standard for construction. A municipality can have its own Building Laws (i.e., The City of New York, or City of White Plains), but they can only be more restrictive than the Code Series of NY State, not less. 

Generally, if the municipality had its own Building Code in effect prior to the enactment of the Uniform Code in 1984, and the latest Code Series of the State of NY in 2002, they can enact a local law, approved by the State Legislature,
amending the Building Code for their "local enhancements." 
Much of these new codes are based on the same referenced standards, and accepted practices, as the "Uniform Code" (1984), and the 1977 State Building Code.  NFPA, UL, ASTM, ASHRAE, are among the familiar standards that the codes and manufacture of equipment are based on. The are also based on the International Model Codes Series of the ICBO, but not in every respect.  NY State made many enhancements in their code series that are not in the International Code Series.

The three new codes that would most directly affect a Home Inspector are the RCNYS (the Residential Code of New York State), the FCNYS (the Fire Code of New York State), and the PMCNYS (the property Maintenance Code of New York State). The latter two are applicable to all buildings, including one and two family dwellings, at all times. A permit application is not required to apply these standards to the building. 

The RCNYS applies to new construction, not renovations. Appendix K of the RCNYS covers rehabilitation of existing structures.  These requirements are triggered by the permit process.  As a Home Inspector, you may not know that the municipality that the building you are inspecting is in has any such local enhancements. You don't have to. The Uniform Codes that would apply to a dwelling, the RCNYS, the FCNYS and the PMCNYS, are the minimum standards. 

If what you are seeing on your inspection does not meet those three codes, it certainly then cannot meet any local code.  It should be called out in your inspection report as possibly deficient, not installed to manufacturer's specifications, not a
warranted installation, a safety hazard, or something which may not provide its normal service life.  Stay away from using terms such as "nonconforming" or "violation," or "illegal" in your reports.

 

 


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The Environmental Corner
By John Gerardi

The following information was extracted the National Safety Council Fact Sheet Library web site: http:/ /www.nsc.org/library/facts

 

Sick Building Syndrome

 

What Is Sick Building Syndrome?

 

Sick building syndrome (SBS) is a situation in which occupants of a building experience acute health effects that seem to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified. The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may be widespread throughout the building.

 

Frequently, problems result when a building is operated or maintained in a manner that is inconsistent with its original design or prescribed operating procedures. Sometimes indoor air problems are a result of poor building design or occupant activities.

 

What Are the Symptoms of SBS?

 

Building occupants complain of symptoms associated with acute discomfort. These symptoms include headaches; eye, nose, and throat irritation; a dry cough; dry or itchy skin; dizziness and nausea; difficulty in concentrating; fatigue; and sensitivity to odors. With SBS, no clinically defined disease or specific chemical or biological contaminant can be determined as the cause of the symptoms. Most of the complainants feel relief soon after leaving the building.

 

SBS reduces worker productivity and may also increase absenteeism.

 

What Causes SBS?

 

While specific causes of SBS remain unknown, the following have been cited as contributing factors to sick building syndrome. These elements may act in combination or may supplement other complaints such as inadequate temperature, humidity, or lighting.

 

· Chemical contaminants from outdoor sources: Outdoor air that enters a building can also be a source of indoor pollution. Pollutants from motor vehicle exhausts, plumbing vents, and building exhausts (bathrooms and kitchens) can enter the building through poorly located air intake vents, windows, and other openings. Combustion byproducts can also enter a building from a nearby garage.

 

· Chemical contaminants from indoor sources: Most indoor air pollution comes from sources inside the building For example, adhesives, upholstery, carpeting, copy machines, manufactured wood products, cleaning agents and pesticides may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including formaldehyde Research shows that some VOCs can cause chronic and acute health effects at high concentrations and some are known carcinogens.  Low to moderate levels of multiple VOCs may also produce acute reactions in some individuals.  Environmental tobacco smoke and combustion products from stoves, fireplaces, and unvented space heaters all can put chemical contaminants into the air.

 

· Biological contaminants: Biological contaminants include pollen, bacteria, viruses, and molds These contaminants can breed in stagnant water that has accumulated in humidifiers, drain pans, and ducts, or where water has collected on ceiling tiles, insulation, or carpel. Biological contaminants can cause fever, chills, cough, chest tightness, muscle aches, and allergic reactions.  One Indoor air bacterium, Legionella, has caused both Pontiac Fever and Legionnaire's Disease.

 

· Inadequate ventilation: In the 1970s the oil embargo led building designers to make buildings more airtight, with less outdoor air ventilation, in order to improve energy efficiency. These reduced ventilation rates have been found to be, in many cases, inadequate to maintain the health and comfort of building occupants.

 

What Are the Solutions to Sick Building Syndrome?

 

Solutions to SBS problems usually include combinations of the following measures:

 

· Increasing the ventilation rates and air distribution is often a cost-effective means of reducing indoor pollutant levels. At a minimum, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems should be designed to meet ventilation standards in local building codes. Make sure that the system is well maintained to ensure that the design ventilation rates are attained. If possible, the HVAC system should be operated to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASH RAE) Standard 62-1989. If there are strong pollutant sources, air may need to be vented directly to the outside. This method is especially recommended to remove pollutants that accumulate in specific areas such as restrooms, copy rooms, and printing facilities.

 

· Removal or modification of the pollutant source is the most effective approach to solving a known source of an indoor air quality problem when this solution is practicable. Ways to do this include routine maintenance of HVAC systems; replacing water-stained ceiling tiles and carpets; banning smoking or providing a separately ventilated room; venting contaminant source emissions to the outdoors; using and storing paints, solvents, pesticides, and adhesives in closed containers in well­ ventilated areas; using those pollutant sources in periods of low or no occupancy; and allowing time for building materials in new or remodeled areas to off-gas pollutants before occupancy.

 

· Air cleaning has some limitations, but it can be a useful addition to source control and ventilation. Air filters are only effective at removing some, not all, of the pollution.

 

· Education and communication are important parts of any air quality management program. When everyone associated with the building, from occupants to maintenance, fully understands the issues and communicates with each other they can work more effectively together to prevent and solve problems.

 

Related Links

 

NSC Environmental Health Center Indoor Air Quality Program

EPA Sick Building Syndrome

Ohio State University

New York University NIEHS

See other Fact Sheets.

 

 

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INSPECTION FREEZE

By Ernie Borsellino

All Pro Home Inspections

Maplewood, NJ

 

Don't let the cold weather freeze your mind and stop you from doing a good inspection.

 

This cold spell has made our exterior inspections very uncomfortable to perform, especially when our clients are shivering with chattering teeth along side us and are not attentive to what we are telling them. We almost fell like saying after 5 minutes, “OK the exterior looks good, let’s go inside to warm up.

 

Well, here I was all alone inspecting the detached garage while waiting for my client to show up. In the garage was a new electrical sub panel neatly installed with a GFCI breaker with a 2001 final approval sticker ­by the town.  My fingers numb from the 9 degree weather was telling me please don't take me out of your pockets to open this panel. My bad side conscience was telling me “No one is around, you don’t need to open this town approved panel”. My good side conscience was telling me “No pain, no gain. Now open the panel".  At that very moment a fellow inspector called me on my ce1l phone to consult about another panel he had just opened to inspect that had problems. Even though his panel was in the interior where it was nice and warm, I said to myself “OK, open the panel”.

 

This panel had a 30 amp main disconnect breaker and the 4 slots for breakers had two 15 amp breakers and one GFCI breaker.  The service cable from the house consisted of a black, a red, a white and a bare copper. The black and red wires where connected to the panel’s main disconnect breaker, the white wire connected the neutral bar and bare wire connected to the equipment grounding conductor bar.

 

Three of the four set screws fell to the ground as I removed them because my fingers where too numb to feel them. After placing the cover on the floor it did not take more than a second to see several problems in the sub panel.

1. The grounding wires (bare) and the grounded wires (neutral, white) were terminated together on the same bus bar.

2. The bonding strap was still in place between the neutral bar and the metal enclosure.

    3. Even with plenty of spare screws they seem to fit 3-4 wires under the same screws on the

    neutral bar.

    4. The panel was not bonded to a grounding electrode at the garage.

    5. Two of the four breakers had two wires under the single set screw on the breaker because they home-runned all the outlet and lighting wires back into the sub panel.

6. The GFCI breaker was tripped to test its operation.  The wall outlets stayed live and only    the light fixture turned off.

7. Not all the romex wiring entering the panel were secured with clamps.  The nonmetallic sheathed cable’s (Romex, NM cable) outer jacket was extended into the panel almost right up to the breaker connections.

8. The last thing to mention is the first thing I saw and what the cell phone call was in reference to.  The panel was enclosed on all four sides by a nice painted white piece of plywood cut out for the panel opening to match the rest white finished walls.  When they spray painted the plywood white, some of the paint was over sprayed into the panel that apparently was not covered at that time.

 

 

 

Several days after the inspection, the home owner called to tell me that after consulting with his electrician that all of the issues will be taken care of. I asked him why didn’t his electrician wire this panel correctly in the first p1ace and how did it pass inspection. His reply was that he wired the panel not his electrician and the inspector must not have opened the panel. So the story goes.

 

Tip of the month:  Receptacle outlets shall be computed at not less than 180 volt-amperes for each single or mu1tiple receptacle. Computing this out, the maximum number of outlets permitted on a 15- and 20- ampere branch circuit is 10 and 13 respectively. (VA = 15A x 120V = 1800VA/180VA = 10) (VA = 20 x 120V = 2400VA/180VA = 13.33) This restriction does not apply to outlets connected to general lighting.

 

Question: When is a length of electrical conduit considered a nipple?  Answer: 24” or less in length.

 

Note: Ernie Borsellino is a licensed electrician, ASHI member and Garden State ASHI treasurer.

 


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