September, 2005
News in Brief
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Small Business and Health Care

EDITED BY ASHI STAFF

Health Savings Account Basics

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), created as part of the Medicare reform in December 2003, are tax-free savings accounts that can be used to pay for medical expenses incurred by individuals, their spouses or their dependents.

Individuals, their employers or both can contribute funds each year to HSAs. Contributions are tax-free. Interest and investment earnings are tax-free. With-drawals for qualified medical expenses are tax-free.

HSAs can save their owners up to 40 percent in out-of-pocket medical expenses. HSAs will make it easier for small business owners to purchase health insurance for their employees, resulting in lower premiums.

HSAs offer choice: Participants can spend their money on health care services that they want, when they want them. No one can tell them how to spend their HSA money or what doctor can treat them.

HSAs are portable, so a worker does not have to depend on a particular employer to enjoy the benefits of having an HSA. Like Individual Retirement Accounts, HSAs are owned by the individual, not the employer. If a worker changes jobs, the HSA account goes with him or her.

To set up an HSA account, a worker or his employer must first obtain a high-deductible insurance policy to cover major medical expenses. The premiums for such high-deductible plans are much lower than traditional plans, but they provide coverage for surgery, hospital stays and other large expenses. Having obtained coverage for major medical bills, workers can cover routine medical expenses—such as visits to the doctor or over-the-counter drugs—by setting up an HSA of up to $2,600 for an individual, or $5,150 for a family (indexed annually for inflation).
Source: Small Business Association

Would you like to know more about wood floors?

Flooring represents the single largest horizontal surface area in any home, and wood flooring is the fastest growing segment of the floor covering industry. So says the Reco Market Intelligence Report in the May 30, 2005, issue of Floor Covering Weekly, a business newspaper representing the floor covering industry. According to the report, hardwood is the industry’s fastest growing floor covering product category, representing 27.4 percent of the market. In 2003 alone, 843 million square feet of hardwood flooring was sold in the United States. On top of all the existing wood floors already installed decades or even hundred of years ago, this represents a lot of flooring.

With the wide variety of wood flooring products on the market, all of which react differently in different geographic areas and climates, detecting problems can be difficult. For example, a solid domestic red oak floor installed over a concrete slab using a moisture barrier in southern Florida will react quite differently than the same floor, installed under the same conditions, in northern Wisconsin. Likewise, that same solid domestic red oak floor installed over a concrete slab using a moisture barrier in Southern Florida will react quite differently than an engineered domestic red oak floor installed under the same conditions next door. Introduce a different species altogether, like Brazilian cherry, wenge or bamboo, and expectations will be different yet again.

How can a home inspector become knowledgeable about wood flooring to know what is acceptable under specific conditions, and what is not?

Specialized training on conducting wood flooring inspections is available through the National Wood Flooring Association Certified Professionals (NWFACP) training program. NWFACP Wood Flooring Inspector schools are offered several times throughout the year, at various locations throughout the country. The curriculum was developed to identify knowledge and competency in five key areas, including substrates; maintenance; identifying problems, causes and cures; installation, sand and finish methods; and report information gathering and writing. Knowledge in these areas is determined with a written exam that includes 360 multiple-choice and true or false questions. Once a candidate has completed the written exam successfully, he or she is required to complete and submit five written inspection reports to the NWFACP Wood Flooring Inspector Review Panel. After these reports are reviewed and approved, full NWFACP Wood Flooring Inspector status is awarded.

For more information about the Certified Wood Flooring Inspector program, visit www.nwfa.org and click on the Certification link, or contact NWFACP at 866-418-5408 (toll-free) or 636-728-1922 (local and international).