NY Metro ASHI News

                                                                                              May 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.

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

Date: Thursday, May 29, 2003, 6:00PM

Next Meeting's Program A representative of G & S Associates will speak about Peerless Boilers. 

Guests are welcome at all meetings.

 

President's Message


 I have recently received an Email communication from ASHI concerning "ASHI Branding" which I would like to share with you.
The ASHI Public Relations Committee needs our help now to develop a list of successful communication practices.  Sandy Bourseau, who will be collecting this information for the PR committee requests the following information from our Chapter:


1) Has our Chapter used paid advertising to promote chapter members and activities?
2) Other types of external marketing or PR efforts we have used (not paid advertising)
3) Ideas you have had, which you would have liked to implement, but couldn't because of lack of resources.
4) Home inspector businesses, in our chapter, which have been successful at generating new customers.
5) Least and most successful methods of moving information within our membership.


Please give some thought to these questions so that we can discuss at our next meeting.

Sherman Price PE
President, Metro ASHI

 

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VIC'S (AD)VICE COLUMN

 

 

BITS & PIECES

by Victor J. Faggella

 

Attic Furnace: I did an inspection in December, 2 days after a heavy snow storm. The house was a six year old contemporary. As I pulled into the driveway, I noticed that the roof was clear, whereas every other house had at least 6 inches of snow on it. After completing my inspection of the exterior, I headed for the attic, which is my normal procedure. When I pulled down the attic stairway, I did not get the normal rush of cold air coming down it, which would be typical at this time of year. As I ascended the stairs the reason for the lack of snow on the roof and lack of cold air became immediately obvious.

The house had two zone forced warm air heat and one of the furnaces was located in the attic. This, in itself. is not unusual as I have inspected many homes where the furnace was located in the attic. What was unusual was the fact that the furnace was just sitting there in the middle of the attic with no attempt made to prevent heat loss into the large un-insulated, well ventilated attic. The attic was actually warmer than the basement.

But that was just the beginning. In addition, the following problems were noted with the installation. 1. The furnace was designed for upright installation but had been installed horizontally. As a result, the burner unit was vertical on one end while the heat exchanger was to the side of it not above it. 2. Due to its horizontal installation, the flue pipe came out one side and had to make two right angles as well as a 45 degree bend in order for it to vent through the roof. 3. The single walled flue pipe was strapped directly to a collar tie without benefit of any fireproofing. 4. The furnace was laying on two pieces of 2"x4" which rested on 1/2" plywood, again with out benefit of a fire mat.

I recommended that my client have a reputable heating company evaluate the installation and have the owner make the necessary corrections. He called me several days later to say that the heating "specialist" told him that there was nothing wrong. I did my job and my client said that he would have the necessary corrections made after he moved in.

Water Heater Expansion Tank: New homes are required to have back-flow preventers or check-valves installed on water mains. The purpose of these valves is to prevent contamination of the water supply from back feeding of water in the house. However, this has created a problem with discharge from the temperature, pressure relief valve on water heaters. Normally, when the water was heated and expanded, the excess pressure could bleed back into the water main. This it can no longer do. Therefore, we are now seeing X-trol expansion tanks installed on the feed line. These are smaller versions of the ones typically seen on boilers. However, according to information in the January Homeowners Clinic, written by our own Norman Becker and appearing in Popular Mechanics, we will soon be seeing a different type of expansion tank. It is manufactured by Watts and resembles an automobile muffler and is mounted in line with the tank feed line. Inside the housing is a rubber pipe which will expand as the water pressure increases and thus prevent water from discharging through the relief valve. For more information check Norm's column in the January, 2003 issue of Popular Mechanics or visit http://www.wattsreg.com.

 

 

 


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ELECTRIC HEAT TAPES

By Robert J. Festa

 

Electric heat tapes are used by thousands of homeowners, espec­ially mobile homeowners, to protect their water pipes from free­zing. Yet, if improperly installed or maintained, heat tapes could burn the house down.

 

A heat tape consists of two wires enclosed in plastic insulation. When plugged into an outlet, it emits heat from electrical current passing through the cable. Heat tapes are usually installed in crawl spaces and in the substructure of mobile homes and other dwell­ings where exposed water and drain pipes could freeze during the winter. The products are often plugged in year-round and are activated by a thermostat when the outdoor temperature approaches freezing.

 

When installing heat tapes, home owners should consider the follow­ing precautions:

 

Buy the proper tape for the proper pipe. Know the diameter and length of the pipe to be protected, then buy the heat tape recom­mended for that size by the manufacturer.

 

Buy heat tape that meets voluntary standards and is listed by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as UL.

 

Follow the manufacturer's instructions for installing heat tape. heat tape should not be lapped over itself around the pipe unless specifically permitted in the manufacturer's instructions.

 

Wrap the heat tape directly over the pipe to be protected, on top of the thermal insulation covering a pipe.

 

Don't cover the heat tape with insulating materials unless so ad­vised by the manufacturer. If you insulate the tape, it must be a non-flammable insulating material such as fiberglass.

 

Never use more insulation than recommended by the manufacturer. Over-insulation can cause a fire.

 

Since many of these considerations require knowledge of the manufac­turer's specific instructions for a particular product, a home inspector is not able to confirm proper installation in many cases. If a noted installation appears suspect, however, recommend that it be checked against the manufacturer's recommendations.

 

Any heat tapes with damaged or cracked insulation of course, should be replaced immediately.

 


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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

 

Lead

 

What Is It?

Lead is a highly toxic metal that produces a range of adverse health effects particularly in young children,

 

Where Is It Found?

There are many ways in which humans are exposed to lead: through deteriorating paint and dust, air, drinking water, food, and contaminated soil. Airborne lead enters the body when you breathe or swallow lead particles or dust once it has settled. Lead can leach into drinking water from certain types of plumbing materials (lead pipes, copper pipes with lead solder, and brass faucets) and can also be found on walls, woodwork, and the outside of your home in the form of lead-based paint. Lead can be deposited on floors, windowsills, eating and playing surfaces, or in the dirt outside the home.

About two-thirds of the homes built before 1940, and one-half of the homes built from 1940 to 1960 contain lead-based paint. Some homes built after 1960 but before 1978 may also contain lead paint. Most paint made after 1978 contains no intentionally added lead, since it was banned from use on the interior and exterior of homes.

Even though leaded gasoline is seldom used today, high levels of lead found in soil can be attributed to past emissions.

Children can swallow harmful amounts of lead if they play in the dirt or in dusty areas (even indoors) and then put their fingers, clothes, or toys in their mouths, or if they eat without first washing their hands.

 

What Are the Health Effects?

Exposure to excessive levels of lead can cause brain damage; affect a child's growth; damage kidneys; impair hearing; cause vomiting, headaches, and appetite loss; and cause learning and behavioral problems, In adults, lead can increase blood pressure and can cause digestive problems, kidney damage, nerve disorders, sleep problems, muscle and joint pain, and mood changes.

Fetuses, infants, and children are more vulnerable to lead exposure than adults since lead is more easily absorbed into growing bodies, Also, the tissues of small children are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead,

Exposure to lead is estimated by measuring levels in the blood (micrograms per deciliter). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has set a level of concern at 10 micrograms per deciliter, The COG recommends testing children at their one-year checkup or at six months if the child is at risk of high-dose exposure,

 

How Can I Test to Determine If My Home Contains Lead-Based Paint?

The most accurate way to determine if your home has lead-based paint is to hire a lead inspector to test the paint. Lead inspectors use XRF (x-ray) instruments to determine content of lead in paint immediately, Another way is to hire a risk assessor who will take samples from several locations in your home and have them analyzed at a lab for lead content. If an individual is concerned about a specific area in a home and wants to take a simple paint chip, dust, or soil sample themselves, they can mail the sample directly to a certified laboratory and have it analyzed. Taking a sample without an assessor is easy and may be less expensive, but it only tests the area from which the paint, soil, or dust sample was taken. A house may contain several layers of paint from different periods so one or two samples may not be representative of the entire residence.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency has not approved and does not recommend do-it-yourself lead test kits. These kits, which do not require lab analyzation, are not very accurate in determining the existence of lead paint. For more information, or to locate lead-based paint inspectors, risk assessors and certified laboratories call (800) 424-5323.

 

How Can I Reduce Lead Exposure?

. If your home has lead paint, do not try to remove the lead from your home yourself. Improper removal often makes the situation worse. Hire a qualified contractor to do the work. In some states, landlords may be required by law to remove lead-based paint from homes where children have been poisoned. Check with local health officials. To locate trained lead service providers, including lead­based paint inspectors, risk assessors and abatement (lead removal) contractors in your area, call (888) LEAD-LIST or visit http://www.lea.dJi_tir1g.9rg.

 

. Since lead can come from the solder or plumbing fixtures in your home, water from each faucet should be tested. Call the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791 for information on laboratories certified to test for lead.

. Mop floors and wipe window ledges and other areas with soapy water. If available, tri-sodium phosphate or lead-specific cleaning products can be used.

. Keep the areas where children like to playas clean and dust free as possible.

. Keep children away from areas where paint is chipped or peeling. Stop children from chewing on windowsills or other painted surfaces.

. Make sure everyone washes their hands before meals, naptime, and bedtime.

. If your child's bottle or pacifier falls on the floor, wash it before giving it back to your child.

. Wash toys, stuffed animals, and bedding regularly.

. Send children and pets to a relative's or neighbor's house if you plan to renovate your house. Infants, children, and pregnant women should not be in the home while renovations are under way. Exposure to lead dust is hazardous.

. If you are pregnant, take as much care to avoid exposing yourself to lead as you would for your child. Lead can pass through your body to your unborn baby and cause health problems.

. Do not let your children eat sand, dirt, or paint chips. Encourage your children to play in grassy areas of the yard or playground. Plant grass in areas where children play if possible. Make sure children remove and wipe their shoes and wash their hands whenever they come inside after playing outdoors

. Try to make sure your children eat a balanced diet with plenty of foods that contain iron and calcium. A child who gets enough of these minerals will absorb less lead. Foods rich in iron include eggs; lean red meat; and beans, peas, and other legumes. Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are also recommended for their high calcium content.

. Do not store food or drink in containers made from crystal, because some crystal contains lead.

 

What Is the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act?

The Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992, known as Title X, requires that most home buyers and renters will receive known information on lead-based paint hazards during sales and rentals of housing built before 1978. Sellers and landlords are required to provide a lead-based paint disclosure form and a federal pamphlet, titled Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home, to the buyer or renter before the sale or lease of certain property. Landlords are also required to disclose information regarding lead-based paint to pre-existing tenants if the property was built prior to 1978. Congress passed Title X to protect families from exposure to lead by requiring disclosure of lead-based paint hazards in residential property. Title X became effective for all residential property built before 1978 on December 6, 1996.

 

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A Membership Dedicated to Protecting Life and Promoting Health

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

 

June 23, 2000

 


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Condensation and Windows

 

Submitted by Carl Gerosa

 

What is condensation?

Condensation is the fog that suddenly appears in cold weather on the glass of windows and sliding doors. It can block out the view, drip on the floor, freeze on glass.  ...it's annoying. It's natural to blame the windows, but you shouldn't.

 

What causes condensation?

Window condensation is the result of excess humidity in your home. The glass only provides a cold surface on which humidity can visibly condensate. The fog on your windows is a form of condensation; so is the water that forms on the outside of a glass of iced tea in the summer and on the bathroom mirrors and walls after someone takes a hot shower. Condensation usually occurs first on windows because glass surfaces have the lowest temperature of any of the interior surfaces in the house.  When the warm moist air comes in contact with the cooler glass surfaces, the moisture condensates.

Foggy windows and sliding doors are the indicators, the warning signs, that humidity could be damaging your home.

 

How can my have indoor humidity?

Humidity is water vapor, or moisture, in the air. All air contains a certain amount of moisture. Even indoors.

 

Where does the moisture come from?

There are many things that generate indoor moisture;  humidifiers will, heating systems, even plants.  Cooking three meals a day adds four or five pints of water to the air.  Each shower contributes ½ pint. In fact, every activity that uses water (like dishwashing, mopping floors, doing laundry) adds moisture to the air.

 

How much indoor humidity is too much?

The householder can use the windows as a guide to the proper humidity level within the house.  If objectionable condensation occurs on the inside surface of the windows, the humidity level is too high.

To avoid excessive condensation, the following winter humidities are recommended in the house:

 

Outside temperature     Inside relative humidity

-20f                            15 to 20%

-10f                            15 to 20%

   0f                            20 to 25%

+10f                           25 to 30%'

+20f                           30 to 35%

(The indoor humidity can be checked with a humidistat)

 

Will reducing the humidity in my home during winter help control condensation?

Eliminate the excessive humidity and you will eliminate most ….possibly all…. Of the condensation.

 

How can i reduce the humidity in my house?

Control the sources of moisture and increase ventilation.

 

As a temporary measure to an acute problem, open a window in each room for just a few minutes. Opening windows allows the stale, humid air to escape and fresh dry air to enter.  After a shower, for example, open the bathroom window, or turn on the exhaust fan, so steam can go outside instead of remaining in the house.

 

Vent all gas burners, clothes dryers, etc to the outdoors.  Install kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans. If there are large numbers of plants in tile house during winter, concentrate them in one sunny room and avoid over watering.

 

Keep basements as dry as possible by waterproofing floors and walls. Run a dehumidfier if necessary. Make sure attic vents are open and unobstructed.

 

Opening the windows slightly throughout the house for a brief time each day will go far toward allowing humid air to escape and drier air to enter.  The heat loss will be minimal.  Installation of storm windows will often relieve condensation on the prime house windows by keeping the interior glass warmer.

 

Does condensation occur more often in particular climates or type of homes?

Absolutely!  Condensation is more apt to occur in climates where the average january temperature is 35f or colder because there will be greater extremes between indoor and outdoor temperatures affecting the glass surfaces in the home.

 

During the summer and fall, all parts of a house pick up moisture from damp air. In the fall, when the windows are closed and the heat is on, this moisture will pass into the air of the house and for a week or two there is likely to be condensation.

 

During the first year after construction or remodeling. It is likely a house will have more condensation present because of the massive amount of moisture in the building materials used.  Building materials need about one year to dry out, so excessive condensation can be expected in the first heating season. Even after the first year, if the humidity levels is too high, condensation may still be a problem because today's homes are much “tighter" (in the interests of energy efficiency) than older homes.  New materials and techniques in weatherstipping, insulation, vapor barriers. Etc., which are intended to keep out cold air, also lock moisture inside. As a result, moisture created by bathrooms, kitchens, laundries and occupants no longer flows to the outside, unless mechanically ventilated.

 

Are there any cases where window condensation is only temporary?

Yes, there are primarily three:

New construction or remodeling

The beginning of each heating season

Quick changes in temperature.

 

Wood, plaster, cement, and other building materials used in new construction and remodeling produce a great deal of moisture. During the heating season, there may be a certain amount of temporary condensation. During the humid summer your house will have absorbed some moisture. After the first few weeks of the heating it will dry out and you'll have fewer condensation troubles.

 

Sharp, quick drops in temperature can also create temporary condensation problems during the heating season.

 

Why, if my old windows did not have condensation do my new windows have it now?

One of the reasons you probably replaced your old windows was because they were drafty, and when the wind wasn't blowing in, those slight cracks allowed the excessive humidity within your house to escape to the outdoors.  Now that your windows are tight that excess humidity that is in your house is unable to escape, and therefore, it is showing itself on the glass. This is your first indication that you have too much humidity in your home.

 

You say I should have less humidity, but I have been told that more humidity is healthier.

At one time it was believed that humidifiers helped people stay healthy during the winter months. Recent tests have shown that for usually healthy people, this is not the case. In fact, humidifiers may actually cause health problems.  Additionally, the association of home appliance manufacturers makes no medical claims for humidifiers because an association spokesman said "We do not have evidence of medical benefits”.  However the association said  "Manufacturers do maintain that humidifiers help plants and furniture only".

Does the amount of condensation depend on the type of window?

Sometimes. Recessed windows like bay or bow windows usually experience more condensation than other window styles. This is because air circulated around those windows types is usually more restricted, and since they hang away from the insulated house wall, bays and bows could be a few degrees cooler in temperature. To diminish excessive condensation, the smart installer will insulate under the seat and head of the unit. As a secondary measure, placing a common electric fan near the window to produce air circulation may also be helpful.

 

Do drapes and window shades cause window condensation?

Drapes and other window coverings don't cause window condensation, but they can contribute to the problem by restricting the flow of warm room air over the glass surface. Therefore, condensation is more apt to occur when the drapes are closed and shades are pulled down. Today's heavily insulated tighter shades can contribute to the problem even more.

 

Remember...windows do not cause condensation:

Therefore, there cannot be a window which will eliminate condensation, however, certain materials used in the manufacture of windows will be more condensation free than others.

 

Sources:

The Condensation Problem; Canadian Builder  Vol. XIII, No.7.

Condensation Problems In Your Home, Dept of  Agriculture #373

Technical bulletin #1, Ethyl Corporation

The Condensation Answer Book, Anderson

 

 

 


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APRIL EDUCATION SESSION

 

by Victor J. Faggella

 

The education session at the April meeting dealt with water testing and filtration and treatment systems. AI Padovani, the owner of Yorktown Medical laboratory, was the speaker. Rather than make a formal presentation AI used an open question and answer format. A summary of the session follows.

 

In response to a question on lead testing AI responded that there were two protocols, one for a "first draw" sample and one for a normal usage sample. The first test must be drawn not less than eight hours after water has been used and is typically done first thing in the morning. The other sample is drawn as we would typically do for a bacterial test. If the house has been empty for a period of time the system must be first flushed by letting the water run slowly overnight to prevent getting a false high reading. You must then wait eight hours before drawing the sample to allow any lead which is going to leach into the water to do so.

 

Several questions had to do with filtration and purification systems. Reverse Osmosis filters were discussed. These purify by the use of a permeable membrane which removes contaminants as well as ALL mineral and trace elements from the water producing what he referred to as "DEAD' water. It was his personal concern (not based on any scientific studies) that drinking such water could result in the leaching of mineral and trace elements from the body and cause them to be excreted. Charcoal filters were also discussed. These work on the principle of adsorption (not absorption) which means that impurities cling to the surface of the charcoal rather than penetrating it. His concern with activated charcoal filters, is that he does not believe that those mounted on the faucet are large enough to do an effective job. Further, if charcoal filters are not replaced on a regular basis, they actually promote the growth of bacteria, as charcoal is an excellent culture medium.

 

In response to a question on wells, he noted that anytime a well is opened it must be chlorinated to remove any contaminants which may have entered. Chlorination is also recommended, anytime a well tests positive for total coliform. It should then be retested. It was noted, that newer well caps are available which are sealed and will prevent contamination from outside sources such as insects and mice.

 

The Langerlier's scaling index and its relation to corrosiveness was briefly discussed. This index is used to determine whether or not water has the capability to either deposit or dissolve scale. A thin layer of scale forms a protective layer that resists the corrosive effects of water. However, some studies show that a layer that is too thick, can actually promote corrosion through electrochemical reaction. The Langerlier Scaling index is not a direct measurement of water's corrosion capability but rather a measure of its tendency to form a protective scale layer or to dissolve a scale layer and is thus an indirect assessment of water's corrosiveness.

 

For more information on any of the preceding, contact AI at Yorktown Medical Laboratory, at (914) 245-2800. NOTE: Previous newsletter articles covered some of the preceding material.

 

We are looking for a member to write up future Education Session presentations. We can use your help and you will also receive 2 MRC’s for each write-up. Anyone so interested should call me at (845) 628-0941

 

 

 


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