October, 2010
News in Brief
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Client Resources and More


Share Home Protection Resource with Clients

Safestronghome.com is a new website created by Simpson Strong-Tie Company Inc. that offers consumers a wealth of information on how to protect their homes. From Structural Safety 101 in the Introduction section through preparing a home for earthquakes or high winds and hurricanes and concluding with a section on building a safe, strong deck, visitors to this website find interactive illustrations and step-by-step information on how to make their homes stronger and safer. Home inspectors may want to take advantage of the following free literature available for downloading: "Seismic Retrofit Guide," "5 Steps to a Safer, Stronger Home: High Wind" and "Deck Framing Connection Guide."

Simpson Strong-Tie is an ASHI Affiliate Gold member and regularly advertises in ASHI publications.

Working for a Fire-Safe America

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, an estimated 1,800 fatal residential building fires occur annually in the United States, resulting in an estimated average of 2,635 deaths, 725 injuries and $196 million in property loss.

The leading cause of fatal residential fires is smoking (19 percent) and the leading areas of fire origin are bedrooms (27 percent) and common areas such as living and family rooms (23 percent).

In addition, fatal residential fires, which tend to be larger, cause more damage and have higher injury rates than nonfatal residential fires, occur most frequently in the late evening and early morning hours, peaking from midnight to 5 a.m. Finally, these types of fires are more prevalent in the cooler months, peaking in January (13 percent)."

The good news is that "fire losses today represent a dramatic improvement from more than 20 years ago. In 1971, this nation lost more than 12,000 citizens and 250 firefighters to fire. USFA has helped reduce fire deaths by at least half — making our communities and our citizens safer."

One of the most popular publications available from the USFA is "Protecting Your Family From Fire" (FA-130). It provides the information families need to decide what they must do to protect their members from fire. Topics include children, sleepwear, older adults, smoke detectors, escape plans and residential sprinklers.  To order it or other popular publications, visit the U.S. Fire Administration's online catalog at www.usfa.dhs.gov or call USFA's Publications Center at 800-561-3356 from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST/EDT.

EPA Recognition of Lead Test Kits

In the 2008 Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Program (RRP) rule, the Agency described criteria for lead test kits that detect lead in paint.

Currently, a lead test kit can be EPA-recognized if it meets the negative response criterion of no more than 5 percent false negatives, with 95 percent confidence for paint containing lead at or above the regulated level, 1.0 mg/cm2 or 0.5 percent by weight. The recognition of such kits will last until EPA publicizes its recognition of the first test kit that meets both the negative response and positive response criteria outlined in the 2008 Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule.

To date, EPA has recognized three lead test kits for use in complying with the false negative response criterion of the RRP rule. They are the LeadCheck®, the State of Massachusetts kit and D-Lead®.

LeadCheck®. EPA recognizes that when used by a certified renovator, the LeadCheck lead test kit can reliably determine that regulated lead-based paint is not present on wood or ferrous metal (alloys that contain iron). This kit is not recognized for use on plaster and drywall. Certified renovators seeking to use the LeadCheck kit for purposes of meeting requirements in the RRP Rule can purchase the LeadCheck kits from either LeadCheck directly or from certain retail outlets. LeadCheck® is manufactured by Hybrivet Systems, Inc.

State of Massachusetts. EPA recognizes that, when used by trained professionals, the State of Massachusetts lead test kit can reliably determine that regulated lead-based paint is not present on wood, drywall and plaster; it is not recognized for use on ferrous metal (alloys that contain iron).

D-Lead®. Based on the results of the Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) study of vendor-submitted lead test kits, EPA recognizes that when used by a certified renovator, the D-Lead Paint Test Kit manufactured by ESCA Tech, Inc. can reliably determine that regulated lead-based paint is not present on wood, ferrous metal (alloys that contain iron), drywall and plaster surfaces. Certified renovators seeking to use the D-Lead Paint Test Kit for purposes of meeting requirements in the RRP Rule can purchase it from certain distributors and retail outlets.

For any questions pertaining to the recognition of these kits, contact Sam Brown of EPA at 202-566-0490 or by e-mail at brown.sam@epa.gov.

LintAlert Monitors Dryer Lint Build-up

Considering the stakes involved and the frequency of residential dryer fires, the topic of dryer venting deserves more attention than it gets.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration:

  • Clothes dryer fires account for about 15,600 structure fires, 15 deaths and 400 injuries annually.
  • Eighty percent of clothes dryer fires in structures occur in residential buildings.
  • Annually, 12,700 clothes dryer fires occur in residential buildings, resulting in 15 deaths and 300 injuries.
  • "Failure to clean" is the leading factor contributing to clothes dryer fires in residential buildings.
  • New-home construction trends place clothes dryers and washing machines in more hazardous locations away from outside walls such as bedrooms, second-floor hallways, bathrooms and kitchens.

Besides the danger of fire, lint build-up prolongs drying times, wastes energy and contributes to additional lint build-up.
The LintAlert® is a home safety device that monitors and displays the back pressure levels found in the exhaust conduit of the dryer. Pressure levels found in the dryer duct typically increase over time due to lint build-up, animal nests or vent hoods that become inoperable. LintAlert is ETL-Certified.


The LintAlert features an innovative and responsive digital pressure sensor. Coupled with a programmable integrated circuit, the device can determine if your dryer is on, and what levels of pressure exist. When the pressure reaches an unsafe level, the alarm state will activate, indicating maintenance is required. The alarm state is displayed as: LED light bar flashes on and off alternating with blue logo, with buzzer beeping. Prior to the alarm state, a slow progression of the LED Blockage Indicator will display fractional buildup.

Disguised as a simple night light and pass-through plug, the LintAlert exhibits a steady blue light under normal operation.

Learn more at www.lintalert.com.

Mold, Pet Dander and Odors

As we face what we hope is a busy fall real estate season, I thought I'd share with you some details from a few indoor air quality investigations that I conducted during the past year.

Property #1: Built in 1799, this house has been in the same family for three generations. However, the couple presently living there had moved into a relative's house because the wife suddenly started experiencing throat and lung tightness, headaches and fatigue whenever she spent time in the house. The husband, a property manager, had overseen a thorough basement remediation, but his wife still became symptomatic from the moment she stepped into the first floor.

I found mold growth on the bottom of the dining room set that the couple had just inherited. Off the dining room was an unheated family room located over a crawl space. The couple used that room a lot. They usually sat on the couch, which contained widespread Aspergillus mold growth on the bottom and behind, and in the couch cushions. After dealing with the basement, the husband operated an air scrubber in the family room in an effort to "clean" the air in the house.

Unfortunately, the air scrubber created airflows that disturbed the mold growth on the furniture, and mold spores in the family room were aerosolized.

Home inspectors take note: Mold problems can develop in inadequately conditioned rooms built over crawl spaces.

Property #2: A fellow who was allergic to pet dander experienced asthma symptoms in the master bedroom of the house that he had just purchased. Having the room thoroughly cleaned and the carpet shampooed didn't make a difference.
I found that the bedroom carpet was still full of mold and pet dander, and I recommended that the man have the carpet removed (no amount of cleaning can eliminate all the allergens and irritants captured between carpet fibers). After the carpet was removed, the owner discovered that the subfloor was stained and reeking of dog urine.

I suggested that he either replace the stained subfloor sections or cover it all with Dennyfoil — a foil-paper-foil laminate that, by virtue of the metal foil, prevents the diffusion of all odors. Then the man could either have new carpet or laminate flooring installed over the Dennyfoil.

Home inspectors take note: Pet urine that has soaked into wood creates lingering odors.

 — Jeff May, May Indoor Air Investigations LLC, www.mayindoorair.com