NY Metro ASHI News

                                                                                              August 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 endorse or state a position for or against the content of the article.

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

Date: Thursday, August 28, 2003, 6:00PM

Next Meeting's Program   No specific program scheduled.  We will hold a round table discussion on topics of interest.

Guests are welcome at all meetings.


Summary of June 2003 Education Session


By Colin Albert

Wood destroying insects inspection


Pat Sposato from Parkway Exterminating gave a very informative presentation about wood destroying insects inspection and displayed several traps, bait stations etc.  Pat emphasized that, gone are the days where you just spray or put down some baits for the insects.  Present day elimination of insects requires a systematic approach called Integrated Pest Management because the insects can get smart and avoid the “bait”.  Sometimes a termite colony will sacrifice some members’ life in order to save the colony.  Baits stations for rodents can have two different types of bait in the same station to provide for the fact that the rodents have different taste preference depending on the time of year.


Three ways to eliminate/minimize the house vulnerability to wood destroying insects are: 1). Structural (e.g. termite shield) prevent the termite access to the house.  2). Control entry points by weather stripping, closing doors etc.  3). Control conditions such as dampness/leak etc.  Baiting system, you get a solid hit then you put the active ingredient. An active ingredient may be 1). Poison-kills the termite.  2). Growth regulator-prevents the termite from developing into adulthood.  3). Repellant-keeps the termite away from the house.  Note that swarming is a reproductive cycle that occurs during Spring time but the termites are there all year.  A satellite colony is one that lives above ground (e.g. in the attic).  Only a certain number of active bait stations are allowed per house.  If a house was treated before, it cannot be treated again unless there is active termite.  Always remove shelter tubes after treatment to see if they will be rebuilt.  If there is evidence of termites, assume that it is active unless there is proof of treatment.  Wood boring insects such as carpenter ants leave voids in the wood and “saw dust” like particles.  Termites do not.




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by Victor J. Faggella



CHIMNEYS: When I or one of my inspectors check a masonry or stone chimney, very careful attention is paid to the top of the chimney. When a coping is missing or improperly applied water can penetrate the mortar joints, freeze and expand during, cold weather, and result in deteriorated mortar joints and loose masonry units or stones. A properly installed coping will allow water to drip down away from the chimney thus eliminating this problem. See diagrams below.


The flashing at the base of the chimney is also carefully checked. A roof leaks where it starts, ends or changes direction. On a block of brick chimney, check to be sure that proper counter flashing exists to cover the step flashing. The counter flashing should be set into the mortar joints. If the step flashing has been itself installed so that it sets into mortar joints, then counter flashing is not needed except for cosmetic reasons. See diagrams below. On a stone and mortar chimney, due to the difficulty in setting flashing into the mortar joints, flashing is often omitted and the area sealed with roof mastic. This will require periodic reapplication to prevent leakage into the house.


A cricket should also be installed on chimneys 24" or wider, on the high side of a sloped roof. The purpose of the cricket is to channel the flow of water around the chimney and to prevent the build-up of ice and snow behind it. See diagrams below.





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The Environmental Corner

Submitted John Gerardi

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



What Is It?

Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling gas. It is widely used to manufacture building materials and numerous household products. Its most significant use in homes is as an adhesive resin in pressed wood products. There are two types of formaldehyde resins: urea formaldehyde (UF) and phenol formaldehyde (PF). Products made of urea formaldehyde can release formaldehyde gas; products made of phenol formaldehyde generally emit lower levels of the gas.

Where Is It Found?

Formaldehyde is an important industrial chemical used to make other chemicals, building materials, and household products. It is used in glues, wood products, preservatives, permanent press fabrics, paper product coatings, and certain insulation materials. Building products made with formaldehyde resins can “off-gas” (emit) formaldehyde gas. These products include particle board used as sub-flooring or shelving, fiberboard in cabinets and furniture, plywood wall panels, and foamed-in-place urea-formaldehyde insulation. Some sources that previously contained formaldehyde are either no longer used or have been reformulated to contain less formaldehyde. Incomplete combustion, cigarette smoking, and burning wood, kerosene, and natural gas also release formaldehyde.

What Are the Health Effects?

Formaldehyde is normally present at low levels, usually less than 0.06 ppm (parts per million), in both outdoor and indoor air. When present in the air at levels at or above 0.1 ppm, acute health effects can occur including watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose and throat; nausea; coughing; chest tightness; wheezing; skin rashes; and other irritating effects. Formaldehyde affects people in various ways. Some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde while others may have no noticeable reaction at the same level of exposure. Sensitive people can experience symptoms at levels below 0.1 ppm. The World Health Organization recommends that exposure should not exceed 0.05 ppm. Colds, flu, and allergies can cause symptoms similar to some of those produced by exposure to formaldehyde. Formaldehyde has caused cancer in laboratory animals and may cause cancer in humans; there is no known threshold level below which there is no threat of cancer. The risk depends upon amount and duration of exposure.

What Are the Solutions?

Exposure to formaldehyde may be decreased by the following measures:

*    Purchasing pressed wood products labeled as low-emitting or products made from phenol formaldehyde, such as oriented strand board or softwood plywood.

*     Increasing ventilation after bringing new sources of formaldehyde into your home.

*     Using alternate products such as lumber, metal, or solid wood furniture.

*     Avoiding the use of foamed-in-place insulation containing formaldehyde, especially urea-formaldehyde foam insulation.

*     Enclosing unfinished pressed-wood surfaces of furniture, cabinets, or shelving with laminate or water-based sealant.

*     Washing durable-press fabrics before use.

*     Ensuring combustion sources are properly adjusted.

*     Avoiding smoking indoors.

*     Maintaining moderate temperatures and low (30 to 50 percent) relative humidity levels.

How Can I Measure Formaldehyde Levels?

In cases where accuracy of results is important, only trained professionals should measure formaldehyde because of the difficulty of obtaining good data and interpreting the results. Do-it-yourself formaldehyde measuring devices are available. The results should be interpreted with caution, however, because weather conditions, ventilation rates, and other factors can affect the results. Such devices should be used according to the instructions.


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The following article was printed in a recent issue of the Journal News.

Difference between home inspection agencies

By Victor J. Faggella


This is in response to an article in the June 14-15 real estate section, "Inspect inspectors before you hire," by Noreen Seebacher. As an inspector with 35 years' experience and one of those quot­ed in the article, I would like to com­mend Ms. Seebacher on writing an ex­cellent article on a very complicated sub­ject.

However, I would like to offer clarifi­cation on some of the items covered in the article.

Ms. Seebacher appears to put NACHI (National Association of Certified Home Inspectors) on a par with ASHI (Ameri­can Society of Home Inspectors), which is not accurate. ASHI was the first and is now the foremost and largest interna­tional professional organization for home inspectors. It was founded in 1975, and its membership exceeds 8,000. NACHI is a recently formed organiza­tion with limited membership. (The ar­ticle stales that there are 14 local mem­bers.) ASHI membership requires pass­ing an intensive and extensive two-part written exam, administered by an inde­pendent national testing company. NACHI's exam is on-line (basically an open-book test), which enables the in­spector to look up answers while taking the test. Unfortunately, an inspector does not have that "luxury" when per­forming an on-site inspection.

Further, the article states "that an ex­ceptionally thorough inspection will check for environmental hazards in the neighborhood." While a thorough in­spector will look for such potential haz­ards as overhead power lines, an envi­ronmental assessment is not and never has been part of a home inspection. There are home inspectors who will per­form separate environmental assess­ment inspections for a separate fee, but not as part of a basic home inspection.

Finally, I would like to add the follow­ing question to the excellent list Ms. Seebacher includes at the end of her ar­ticle: Ask how long the inspector has been performing inspections. Despite any degrees, training, certifications, pro­fessional licenses or organizational affil­iations, there is no substitute for experi­ence. This is a "hands on" business. De­spite my extended time doing home in­spections, I still learn something new on an almost daily basis.

The writer is president of Centurion Home Inspections Inc. and past president, publicity chairman and publicity director of New York Metro ASHI.

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Radiant barriers

by Joan P. Crowe, AlA




Consumers in warm U.S. climates use significant amounts of electricity to cool their houses. And the price of electricity dramatically has increased because of higher costs to produce it and short supply. In response to these problems, government agencies are looking for ways to conserve energy by improving houses' energy efficiency. One approach some states are advocat­ing is the use of radiant barriers.

Studies by the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) have shown cooling costs can be reduced if houses use radi­ant barriers. However, NRCA has some concerns about the effects radiant bar­riers may have on roof assemblies.


Heat transfer

Radiant barriers work according to the principles of heat transfer. Heat trans­fer is when heat moves from a warm area to a cold area. There are three modes of heat transfer: conduction, convection and radiation.


Conduction occurs when two objects are in contact and heat directly moves from one object to the other. Convec­tion happens when heat is transferred through a gas or liquid. Radiation occurs when heat travels as an energy wave in a straight path; the energy wave heats any object it contacts along its path.



There are many radiant barrier prod­ucts available to consumers. Following are the most familiar products:

. Foil sheets (aluminized plastic films)-Foil sheets are laminated to a backing material, such as polypropylene, kraft paper or polyethylene.


. Foil-faced roof sheathing­ -Oriented strand board or plywood sheets are lami­nated with foil on one side.



The U.S. Depart­ment of Energy (DOE) and Oak Ridge National Lab­oratory (ORNL), Oak Ridge, Tenn., offer a fact sheet about radiant barriers on ORNI’s Web site. The fact sheet contains consumer information and installation recommendations. In gen­eral, the recommended placement for radiant barriers is under a roof deck. If using foil sheets, the sheets should be draped between rafters or trusses to create an air space. Foil sheets also can be placed on top of attic floor insu­lation; however, dust and dirt can accu­mulate on them and eventually impair their performance. In all cases, the reflective side should face the attic space. The same applies to foil-faced roof sheathing; the reflective side should be facing down toward the attic.

It also is important to note the Reflective Insulation Manufacturers Association (RIMA) and ORNL advise that a radiant barrier will be most effective if used in an attic that is prop­erly ventilated and has the appropriate amount of insulation.


Effects on a roof

A concern when using radiant barriers is possible detrimental effects on roof­ing materials. RIMA conducted a study about the effects of a radiant barrier on roofing materials, specifically asphalt shingles. The results showed the instal­lation of a radiant barrier increased shingle temperature by 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) to 5 degrees Fahrenheit ( 3 degrees Celsius).

In 2002, RIMA issued these results in a tech­nical bulletin, TB103, and stated the use of radiant barriers should not reduce asphalt shingle life. The bul­letin also contains a list of roofing material manufacturers that claim their warranties will not be affected by installing radiant barriers. The bulletin can be found in the technical information section on RIMA's Web site.



NRCA's position

NRCA does not recommend the use of radiant barriers in roof assemblies. The FSEC study showed the use of radiant barriers increases the temperature of roofing materials and roof decks. Although a several degree increase does not sound excessive, higher tem­peratures increase the potential for premature aging of roofing materials.


Consumers who use radiant barriers should be aware they may be reducing the service lives of their roof assemblies as a trade-off for reduced energy bills.


Joan P. Crowe is an NRCA manager of technical services.


To learn more about radiant barriers and for links to ORNL's, DOE's, RIMA's and FSEC's Web sites, logon to http://www.professionalroofing.net.


Professional Roofing June 2003