NY Metro ASHI News

                                                                                               February 2003


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

Published by John Gerardi (gerardi@att.net)


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

Date: Thursday, February 27, 2003, 6:00PM

Next Meeting's Program  

Gene Burch from Leadsafe Environmental will be the speaker and will tell us about inspecting for lead, asbestos and mold.

Guests are welcome at all meetings.  








Asbestos Bulk Sampling. - Lead in Paint – Soil – Dust – Water - Mold Investigations IAQ Surveys Residential & Commercial


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 by Victor J. Faggella


Slate Roofing Repairs


When the house you are inspecting has a slate roof, you should advise your client that it is normally wiser and less expensive to repair and maintain A SOUND slate roof, by replacing missing and broken slates and damaged flashing than to replace it with modern, less permanent material, such as asphalt shingles.  However, if a majority of the slates are crumbling or delaminating, it will not be possible to save the roof.   Such a roof has already passed its useful life either through normal aging or because the original installation utilized inferior, less expensive slates.  If there is even the slightest question as to the condition of the material, your client should be advised to have a professional slate roofer examine the roof.


However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a roofer who can evaluate, repair or replace a slate roof.  When an ordinary roofer says that a slate roof cannot be fixed and needs to be replaced with asphalt, what he may really mean is that HE cannot fix it. One of our advertisers does specialize in slate roofs and I frequently refer my clients to him when there is a question regarding a roof's condition.  I do not feel that there is any conflict of interest, as this is a continuing part of the inspection.


It is frequently necessary to replace individual slates because of breakage due to: natural deterioration of flawed slates; falling tree limbs; vandalism in the form of thrown rocks; tension on slate caused by a nail driven too tightly, or conversely, a nail not driven tightly enough which causes the shingle in the upper course to rest unevenly on the protruding nail head with the resulting pressure causing breakage.


I feel that as an inspector, if you know some of the procedures in repairing a slate root, it will make you better qualified to evaluate the condition of the roof you are inspecting. Most shingling procedures are similar whether the shingles are slate, wood or asphalt. However, when working with slate a few critical skills must be mastered which are peculiar to slate, such as: working on a brittle roof; driving nails properly; removing and replacing damaged shingles; etc.


In next month's column, I will show, step by step, the correct way to remove and replace a damaged slate.  By understanding the proper technique used in replacing slates, you will be better prepared to inspect such a roof.  Additional information can be obtained from the book, "Slate Roofs", available from Vermont Structural Slate Co., Fair Haven VT, 05743 or on the web at http://www.jenkinsslate.com.


The tool shown below is a ripper. It is an essential slater's tool. It is used to cut the nail which is holding the slate in place, without damaging adjacent slates.




(to be continued next month)


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BY NORMAN BECKER. P.E., Contributing Editor



Stone Garden Wall

I'd like to build a free-standing stone garden wall in my rear yard. Can you give me some tips?                  


There are two types of stone wall con­struction: a dry wall (built without mortar) and a wet wall (built with mortar).

With a dry wall, the stones can be quickly restacked if the wall is dam­aged. This wall needs no footing be­cause it floats with frost heave. The base of the wall should be about 6 in. below grade. Use the largest stones for the base. This avoids the need to lift and place them.

The mortar in a wet wall keeps the stones in place and makes the wall act like a monolithic structure. Such a wall needs a footing extending be­low the frost line to protect it from heaving caused by freeze/thaw cycles. Free-standing walls are usually no more than 4 ft. high and should be inclined from the vertical (battered) at a rate of 1/2 in. per foot of height.

For more information on building dry stone walls, see "Build A New England Stone Fence," on page 84, July'82.


Roofing Paper

Recently, I was approached by a homeowner who was concerned that his roof did not appear to have roofing paper between the asphalt roof shin­gles and the roof deck. He was told by the contractor that the shingles were designed not to require roofing paper between the shingles and roof deck.

Despite assurances by the contrac­tor, the homeowner remains skeptical that any such shingle exists. I would appreciate your comments.



I checked with the Roofing Industry Educational Institute, and they said they knew of no shingle as you de­scribe it. The type of shingle does not determine whether roofing paper is used, since the paper is supposed to provide additional protection against water penetration. Also, if a few shingles rip off in a windstorm, the paper is supposed to protect the roof deck. Most building codes re­quire roofing paper.

Two building industry trade groups disagree on the subject. The National Association of Home Builders says it is not necessary to use the paper, and the Asphalt Roof­ing Manufacturers Association says it is necessary.

According to NAHB, when many of the shingle companies closed their organic shingle plants and started making inorganic-based (fiberglass) shingles, they stopped making 15­pound felt (roofing paper) and start­ed making fiberglass-based roofing paper. Contractors said the new pa­per wrinkled if it got rained on or if it was left in the sun too long.

The Asphalt Roofing Manufactur­ers Association says roofing paper is necessary because it has a bearing on fire resistance. Shingles are fire-rat­ed as a component of a roof assembly that includes roofing paper and decking material. It also says the roofing paper helps shield the deck from wind-driven rain.

From the homeowner's point of view, I would recommend using roof­ing paper. It's worth it for the extra protection, and it may be required by the local building code.


Spalled Bricks

The exterior brick of our home is po­rous and is starting to crumble. We have had it tuck pointed and sprayed with a transparent water repellent. This has helped very little. Would painting the bricks with a vinyl or lu­cite paint stop the crumbling? Our home is 26 years old and otherwise in very good condition. Can you please help us?



Unfortunately, the only solution is to replace the deteriorated bricks. Wa­ter penetrates through cracks in the mortar joints. The water freezes and thaws, causing the bricks to spall.

Once the bricks spall, you cannot reverse the condition. You can only reduce further spalling by sealing cracked or open mortar joints.

Sealing the brick face with a clear, penetrating sealant is not recom­mended by the Brick Institute of America. It can cause more harm than good by trapping moisture that was present in the brick. This mois­ture freezes and causes the bricks to spall.

Painting the bricks is a stop-gap measure. The paint can act as an ad­hesive, keeping the crumbled pieces together. When the adhesive proper­ties of the paint reach their life cycle, and the paint peels off, the crumbled pieces will peel off with it.  PM


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By Carl Gerosa

According to the environmental protection agency (EPA), underground storage tanks can represent a significant environmental risk at a minimum, recommend that the tank be tested for leakage and soil contamination, prior to closing. In New York, tanks over 1,100 gallons are required to be tested every five years. In Connecticut, only commercial tanks are regulated, although many communities have individual regulations. Some towns have required tanks, above aquifers, be removed over time. If a working tank is removed, there are 3 alternatives -inside the home, into the ground, or above the ground. New in-ground tanks are equipped with cathodic anodes to detect leakage and to warn the home owner before the twenty-year limit. Approximate cost $2000. The above ground models have outer and inner tanks, called dual wall units, set upon a concrete slab with a cost of approximately $2500. The average cost of a new tank in the basement is $1000.


The following options are within the EPA approved guidelines:


Abandon in place - cost range from $1,500. On up depending on the size of the tank and the site work involved. The tank is scrubbed down, vacuumed out, and tested for hyrdo-carbons. It is then filled with an inert material such as sand, cement, or EPA approved foam.


Complete removal & disposal - cost range from $2000 on up depending on the size of the tank and exterior conditions. It is emptied of all liquid, cleaned, removed from the ground, the soil is tested and all materials are properly discarded.


Tank warranty - most area oil companies are providing tank warranty policies with reasonable fees for $100,000 of coverage for leaks and spills.


Volumetric precision test and insurance policy - the test cost approximately $450 to $650. The test in combination with an insurance policy is a very prudent way to approach the problem.



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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

The information may be copied and given to your customers.




Asbestos is a mineral fiber that was used commonly in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire retardant.


Where Is It Found?

Most products made today do not contain asbestos. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have banned several asbestos products, and manufacturers have voluntarily agreed to limit the use of others. Any products made that still contain asbestos are required to be clearly labeled. However, many types of building products and insulation materials made before the 1970s contain asbestos. These products include pipe and furnace insulation materials; asbestos and cement shingles, siding, and roofing; millboard; resilient floor tiles, the backing on vinyl sheet flooring, and floor tile adhesives; soundproofing or decorative material; patching and joint compound; fireproof gloves and stove-top pads; and automobile brake pads and linings, clutch facings, and gaskets.


What Are the Health Effects?

The most dangerous asbestos fibers are too small to be visible. They can become airborne when asbestos­ containing materials are disturbed or during improper removal. Once they are inhaled, the fibers can remain and accumulate in the lungs. Breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to an increased risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer of the chest and abdominal linings), and asbestosis (irreversible lung scarring that can be fatal). The risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma increases with the number of fibers inhaled. The risk of lung cancer is also greater to people who smoke. Symptoms of these diseases do not show up until many years after exposure begins. Most people with asbestos-related diseases were exposed to elevated concentrations on the job.


What Can Be Done?

Usually it is best to leave asbestos material that is in good condition alone. Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers. Try to prevent the material from being damaged, disturbed, or touched.


Periodically inspect the material for damage or deterioration. Properly dispose of damaged or worn asbestos gloves, stove-top pads, or ironing board covers. Check with appropriate officials on how to properly handle and dispose of those materials.


The only way to tell if an object contains asbestos by looking at it is if the material is labeled. Otherwise, you should have it sampled and analyzed by a qualified professional. Until you receive the results, treat the material as if it contains asbestos. Samples should be extracted only by qualified professionals. If improperly done, extracting samples can be more hazardous than leaving the material undisturbed.


If the asbestos material is more than slightly damaged, or if you are going to make changes in your home that might disturb the asbestos, repair or removal by a professional is needed. Repair usually means either covering or sealing the asbestos material. Covering involves placing a protective wrap over or around the material that contains the asbestos to prevent the release of fibers. Sealing involves treating the material with a sealant that either binds the asbestos fibers together or coats the material so fibers are not released. Repair is usually cheaper than removal, but may make it more difficult to remove later if the need arises.


Can I Do the Work Myself?

EPA recommends that when dealing with materials containing asbestos, whether it is to test, repair, or remove, you hire an asbestos professional to do the work for you. Improper handling of asbestos material can create more of a hazard than if it is left undisturbed. If you need to take corrective measures, you should use a different contractor than the one who tested for asbestos in order to avoid a conflict of interest.


Before you decide on an asbestos professional, ask potential contractors to document their completion of a federal or state-approved training program. Also, ask for references from previous clients to learn if they were satisfied. To guard against costly, hazardous, unnecessary removals, know what services are available and what procedures and precautions are needed to do the job properly.


If you need repairs or removal done, make sure the work area is clearly marked as hazardous. Keep household members and pets away from the area until the work is completed. Be sure that your contractor avoids spreading or tracking asbestos dust into other areas of the home, The work area should be properly sealed off from the rest of the house using plastic sheeting and duct tape. Also, the air conditioning and heating system should be turned off. Before asbestos removal, insist that the contractor apply a wetting agent to the asbestos material with a fme-mist hand sprayer. Wet fibers do not float as easily as dry fibers and are easier to clean up. The contractor should use wet mops, rags or sponges to clean the area. HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) vacuum cleaners can also be used. All asbestos materials and disposable equipment and clothing should be placed in marked and sealed leakproof bags and disposed of properly.


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A Membership Organization Dedicated to Protecting Life and Promoting Health

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Tel: (630) 285-1121; Fax: (630) 285-1315


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