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Adjustable Steel Columns Adjustable steel columns, also known as screw jacks and beam jacks, are hollow steel posts designed to provide structural support. An attached threaded adjustment mechanism is used to adjust the height of the post. A few facts about adjustable steel columns: • They are usually found in basements. • In some parts of North America, adjustable steel columns are called lally columns, although this term sometimes applies to columns that are concrete-filled and non-adjustable. • They can be manufactured as multi-part assembles, sometimes called telescopic steel columns, or as single-piece columns. The following are potentially defective conditions: • The post is less than 3 inches in diameter. According to the 2012 International Residential Code (IRC), Section R407.3, columns (including adjustable steel columns)... "shall not be less than 3-inch diameter standard pipe." Poles smaller than 3 inches violate the IRC, although they are not necessarily defective. A 2½-inch post may be adequate to support the load above it, while a 4-inch post can buckle if the load exceeds the structural capacity of the post. Structural engineers -- not inspectors -- decide whether adjustable steel posts are of adequate size. • The post is not protected by rust-inhibitive paint. The IRC Section R407.2 states: "All surfaces (inside and outside) of steel columns shall be given a shop coat of rust-inhibitive paint, except for corrosion-resistant steel and steel treated with coatings to provide corrosion resistance." Inspectors will not be able to identify paint as rust-inhibitive. In dry climates where rust is not as much of a problem, rust-inhibitive paint may not be necessary. Visible signs of rust constitute a potential defect. • The post is not straight. According to some sources, the maximum lateral displacement between the top and bottom of the post should not exceed 1 inch. However, tolerable lateral displacement is affected by many factors, such as the height and diameter of the post. The post should also not bend at its mid-point. Bending is an indication that the column cannot bear the weight of the house. • The column is not mechanically connected to the floor. An inspector may not be able to confirm whether a connection between the post and the floor exists if this connection has been covered by concrete. • The column is not connected to the beam. The post should be mechanically connected to the beam above to provide additional resistance against lateral displacement. • More than 3 inches of the screw thread are exposed. • There are cracks in upstairs walls. This condition may indicate a failure of the columns. In summary, InterNACHI inspectors may want to inspect adjustable steel columns for problems, although a structural engineer may be required to confirm serious issues.
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Attic Pull-Down Ladders

Attic pull-down ladders, also called attic pull-down stairways, are collapsible ladders that are permanently attached to the attic floor. Occupants can use these ladders to access their attics without being required to carry a portable ladder.

Common Defects

Homeowners, not professional carpenters, usually install attic pull-down ladders. Evidence of this distinction can be observed in consistently shoddy and dangerous work that rarely meets safety standards. Some of the more common defective conditions observed by inspectors include:
• cut bottom cord of structural truss. Often, homeowners will cut through a structural member in the field while installing a pull-down ladder, unknowingly weakening the structure. Structural members should not be modified in the field without an engineer’s approval;
• fastened with improper nails or screws. Homeowners often use drywall or deck screws rather than the standard 16d penny nails or ¼” x 3” lag screws. Nails and screws that are intended for other purposes may have reduced shear strength and they may not support pull-down ladders;
• fastened with an insufficient number of nails or screws. Manufacturers provide a certain number of nails with instructions that they all be used, and they probably do this for a good reason. Inspectors should be wary of “place nail here” notices that are nowhere near any nails;
• lack of insulation. Hatches in many houses (especially older ones) are not likely to be weather-stripped and/or insulated. An uninsulated attic hatch allows air from the attic to flow freely into the home, which may cause the heating or cooling system to run overtime. An attic hatch cover box can be installed to increase energy savings;
• loose mounting bolts. This condition is more often caused by age rather than installation, although improper installation will hasten the loosening process;
• attic pull-down ladders are cut too short. Stairs should reach the floor;
• attic pull-down ladders are cut too long. This causes pressure at the folding hinge, which can cause breakage;
• improper or missing fasteners;
• compromised fire barrier when installed in the garage;

• attic ladder frame is not properly secured to the ceiling opening;
• closed ladder is covered with debris, such as blown insulation or roofing material shed during roof work. Inspectors can place a sheet on the floor beneath the ladder to catch whatever debris may fall onto the floor; and
• cracked steps. This defect is a problem with wooden ladders.
• In sliding pull-down ladders, there is a potential for the ladder to slide down quickly without notice. Always pull the ladder down slowly and cautiously.
Safety tip for inspectors: Place an "InterNACHI Inspector at work!" stop sign nearby while mounting the ladder.

Relevant Codes
The 2009 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) and the 2006 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) offer guidelines regarding attic access, although not specifically pull-down ladders. Still, the information might be of some interest to inspectors.
2009 IBC (Commercial Construction):
1209.2 Attic Spaces. An opening not less than 20 inches by 30 inches (559 mm by 762 mm) shall be provided to any attic area having a clear height of over 30 inches (762 mm). A 30-inch (762 mm) minimum clear headroom in the attic space shall be provided at or above the access opening.
2006 IRC (Residential Construction):
R807.1 Attic Access. Buildings with combustible ceiling or roof construction shall have an attic access opening to attic areas that exceed 30 square feet (2.8m squared) and have a vertical height of 30 inches (762 mm) or more. The rough-framed opening shall not be less than 22 inches by 30 inches, and shall be located in a hallway or readily accessible location. A 30-inch (762 mm) minimum unobstructed headroom in the attic space shall be provided at some point above the access opening.
Tips that inspectors can pass on to their clients:
• Do not allow children to enter the attic through an attic access. The lanyard attached to the attic stairs should be short enough that children cannot reach it. Parents can also lock the attic ladder so that a key or combination is required to access it.
• If possible, avoid carrying large loads into the attic. While properly installed stairways may safely support an adult man, they might fail if he is carrying, for instance, a bag full of bowling balls. Such trips can be split up to reduce the weight load.
• Replace an old, rickety wooden ladder with a new one. Newer aluminum models are often lightweight, sturdy and easy to install.
In summary, attic pull-down ladders are prone to a number of defects, most of which are due to improper installation.

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Dryer Vent Safety
by Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard

Clothes dryers evaporate the water from wet clothing by blowing hot air past them while they tumble inside a spinning drum. Heat is provided by an electrical heating element or gas burner. Some heavy garment loads can contain more than a gallon of water which, during the drying process, will become airborne water vapor and leave the dryer and home through an exhaust duct (more commonly known as a dryer vent).

A vent that exhausts moist air to the home's exterior has a number of requirements:
1. It should be connected. The connection is usually behind the dryer but may be beneath it. Look carefully to make sure it’s actually connected.
2. It should not be restricted. Dryer vents are often made from flexible plastic or metal duct, which may be easily kinked or crushed where they exit the dryer and enter the wall or floor. This is often a problem since dryers tend to be tucked away into small areas with little room to work. Vent elbows are available which is designed to turn 90° in a limited space without restricting the flow of exhaust air. Restrictions should be noted in the inspector's report. Airflow restrictions are a potential fire hazard.
3. One of the reasons that restrictions are a potential fire hazard is that, along with water vapor evaporated out of wet clothes, the exhaust stream carries lint – highly flammable particles of clothing made of cotton and polyester. Lint can accumulate in an exhaust duct, reducing the dryer’s ability to expel heated water vapor, which then accumulates as heat energy within the machine. As the dryer overheats, mechanical failures can trigger sparks, which can cause lint trapped in the dryer vent to burst into flames. This condition can cause the whole house to burst into flames. Fires generally originate within the dryer but spread by escaping through the ventilation duct, incinerating trapped lint, and following its path into the building wall.
InterNACHI believes that house fires caused by dryers are far more common than are generally believed, a fact that can be appreciated upon reviewing statistics from the National Fire Protection Agency. Fires caused by dryers in 2005 were responsible for approximately 13,775 house fires, 418 injuries, 15 deaths, and $196 million in property damage. Most of these incidents occur in residences and are the result of improper lint cleanup and maintenance. Fortunately, these fires are very easy to prevent.

The recommendations outlined below reflect International Residential Code (IRC) SECTION M1502 CLOTHES DRYER EXHAUST guidelines:
M1502.5 Duct construction.
Exhaust ducts shall be constructed of minimum 0.016-inch-thick (0.4 mm) rigid metal ducts, having smooth interior surfaces, with joints running in the direction of air flow. Exhaust ducts shall not be connected with sheet-metal screws or fastening means which extend into the duct.
This means that the flexible, ribbed vents used in the past should no longer be used. They should be noted as a potential fire hazard if observed during an inspection.
M1502.6 Duct length.
The maximum length of a clothes dryer exhaust duct shall not exceed 25 feet (7,620 mm) from the dryer location to the wall or roof termination. The maximum length of the duct shall be reduced 2.5 feet (762 mm) for each 45-degree (0.8 rad) bend, and 5 feet (1,524 mm) for each 90-degree (1.6 rad) bend. The maximum length of the exhaust duct does not include the transition duct.
This means that vents should also be as straight as possible and cannot be longer than 25 feet. Any 90-degree turns in the vent reduce this 25-foot number by 5 feet, since these turns restrict airflow.

A couple of exceptions exist:
1. The IRC will defer to the manufacturer’s instruction, so if the manufacturer’s recommendation permits a longer exhaust vent, that’s acceptable. An inspector probably won’t have the manufacturer’s recommendations, and even if they do, confirming compliance with them exceeds the scope of a General Home Inspection.
2. The IRC will allow large radius bends to be installed to reduce restrictions at turns, but confirming compliance requires performing engineering calculation in accordance with the ASHRAE Fundamentals Handbook, which definitely lies beyond the scope of a General Home Inspection.
M1502.2 Duct termination.
Exhaust ducts shall terminate on the outside of the building or shall be in accordance with the dryer manufacturer’s installation instructions. Exhaust ducts shall terminate not less than 3 feet (914 mm) in any direction from openings into buildings. Exhaust duct terminations shall be equipped with a backdraft damper. Screens shall not be installed at the duct termination.
Inspectors will see many dryer vents terminate in crawlspaces or attics where they deposit moisture, which can encourage the growth of mold, wood decay, or other material problems. Sometimes they will terminate just beneath attic ventilators. This is a defective installation. They must terminate at the exterior and away from a door or window. Also, screens may be present at the duct termination and can accumulate lint and should be noted as improper.
M1502.3 Duct size.
The diameter of the exhaust duct shall be as required by the clothes dryer’s listing and the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
Look for the exhaust duct size on the data plate.
M1502.4 Transition ducts.
Transition ducts shall not be concealed within construction. Flexible transition ducts used to connect the dryer to the exhaust duct system shall be limited to single lengths not to exceed 8 feet (2438 mm), and shall be listed and labeled in accordance with UL 2158A.
Required support for lengthy ducts is covered by the following section:
M1502.4.2 Duct installation.
Exhaust ducts shall be supported at intervals not to exceed 12 feet (3,658 mm) and shall be secured in place. The insert end of the duct shall extend into the adjoining duct or fitting in the direction of airflow. Exhaust duct joints shall be sealed in accordance with Section M1601.4.1 and shall be mechanically fastened. Ducts shall not be joined with screws or similar fasteners that protrude more than 1/8-inch (3.2 mm) into the inside of the duct.

In general, an inspector will not know specific manufacturer’s recommendations or local applicable codes and will not be able to confirm the dryer vent's compliance to them, but will be able to point out issues that may need to be corrected.

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Water Quality
Drinking Water

The United States has one of the safest water supplies in the world. However, national statistics don’t tell you specifically about the quality and safety of the water coming out of your tap. That’s because drinking water quality varies from place to place, depending on the condition of the source water from which it is drawn, and the treatment it receives. Now you have a new way to find information about your drinking water if it comes from a public water supplier (The EPA doesn’t regulate private wells, but recommends that well. owners have their water tested annually.) Starting in 1999, every community water supplier must provide an annual report (sometimes called a "consumer confidence report") to its customers. The report provides information on your local drinking water quality, including the water’s source, the contaminants found in the water, and how consumers can get involved in protecting drinking water. You may want more information, or you may have more questions. One place you can go is to your water supplier, who is best equipped to answer questions about your specific water supply.

What contaminants may be found in drinking water?

There is no such thing as naturally pure water. In nature, all water contains some impurities. As water flows in streams, sits in lakes, and filters through layers of soil and rock in the ground, it dissolves or absorbs the substances that it touches. Some of these substances are harmless. In fact, some people prefer mineral water precisely because minerals give it an appealing taste. However, at certain levels, minerals, just like man-made chemicals, are considered contaminants that can make water unpalatable or even unsafe. Some contaminants come from the erosion of natural rock formations. Other contaminants are substances discharged from factories, applied to farmlands, or used by consumers in their homes and yards. Sources of contaminants might be in your neighborhood or might be many miles away. Your local water quality report tells which contaminants are in your drinking water, the levels at which they were found, and the actual or likely source of each contaminant. Some ground water systems have established wellhead protection programs to prevent substances from contaminating their wells. Similarly, some surface-water systems protect the watershed around their reservoir to prevent contamination. Right now, states and water suppliers are working systematically to assess every source of drinking water, and to identify potential sources of contaminants. This process will help communities to protect their drinking water supplies from contamination.

Where does drinking water come from?

A clean, constant supply of drinking water is essential to every community. People in large cities frequently drink water that comes from surface-water sources, such as lakes, rivers and reservoirs. Sometimes, these sources are close to the community. Other times, drinking water suppliers get their water from sources many miles away. In either case, when you think about where your drinking water comes from, it’s important to consider not just the part of the river or lake that you can see, but the entire watershed. The watershed is the land area over which water flows into the river, lake or reservoir. In rural areas, people are more likely to drink ground water that was pumped from a well. These wells tap into aquifers, the natural reservoirs under the earth’s surface, that may be only a few miles wide, or may span the borders of many states. As with surface water, it is important to remember that activities many miles away from you may affect the quality of ground water. Your annual drinking water quality report will tell you where your water supplier gets your water.

How is drinking water treated?

When a water supplier takes untreated water from a river or reservoir, the water often contains dirt and tiny pieces of leaves and other organic matter, as well as trace amounts of certain contaminants. When it gets to the treatment plant, water suppliers often add chemicals, called coagulants, to the water. These act on the water as it flows very slowly through tanks so that the dirt and other contaminants form clumps that settle to the bottom. Usually, this water then flows through a filter for removal of the smallest contaminants, such as viruses and Giardia. Most ground water is naturally filtered as it passes through layers of the earth into underground reservoirs known as aquifers. Water that suppliers pump from wells generally contains less organic material than surface water, and may not need to go through any or all of these treatments. The quality of the water will depend on local conditions. The most common drinking water treatment, considered by many to be one of the most important scientific advances of the 20th century, is disinfection. Most water suppliers add chlorine or another disinfectant to kill bacteria and other germs. Water suppliers use other treatments as needed, according to the quality of their source water. For example, systems whose water is contaminated with organic chemicals can treat their water with activated carbon, which adsorbs or attracts the chemicals dissolved in the water.

What if I have special health needs?

People who have HIV/AIDS, are undergoing chemotherapy, take steroids, or for another reason have a weakened immune system may be more susceptible to microbial contaminants, including Cryptosporidium, in drinking water. If you or someone you know fall into one of these categories, talk to your healthcare provider to find out if you need to take special precautions, such as boiling your water. Young children are particularly susceptible to the effects of high levels of certain contaminants, including nitrate and lead. To avoid exposure to lead, use water from the cold tap for making baby formula, drinking and cooking, and let the water run for a minute or more if the water hasn’t been turned on for six or more hours. If your water supplier alerts you that your water does not meet the EPA’s standard for nitrates, and you have children under 6 months old, consult your healthcare provider. You may want to find an alternate source of water that contains lower levels of nitrates for your child.

What are the health effects of contaminants in drinking water?

The EPA has set standards for more than 80 contaminants that may be present in drinking water and pose a risk to human health. The EPA sets these standards to protect the health of everybody, including vulnerable groups like children. The contaminants fall into two groups, according to the health effects that they cause. Your local water supplier will alert you through the local media, direct mail, or other means if there is a potential acute or chronic health effect from compounds in the drinking water. You may want to contact them for additional information specific to your area. Acute effects occur within hours or days of the time that a person consumes a contaminant. People can suffer acute health effects from almost any contaminant if they are exposed to extraordinarily high levels (as in the case of a spill). In drinking water,microbes, such as bacteria and viruses, are the contaminants with the greatest chance of reaching levels high enough to cause acute health effects. Most people’s bodies can fight off these microbial contaminants the way they fight off germs, and these acute contaminants typically don’t have permanent effects. Nonetheless, when high-enough levels occur, they can make people ill, and can be dangerous or deadly for a person whose immune system is already weak due to HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy, steroid use, or another reason. Chronic effects occur after people consume a contaminant at levels over the EPA’s safety standards for many years. The drinking water contaminants that can have chronic effects are chemicals (such as disinfection byproducts, solvents, and pesticides), radionuclides (such as radium), and minerals (such as arsenic). Examples of these chronic effects include cancer, liver and kidney problems, and reproductive difficulties.

Who is responsible for drinking water quality?

The Safe Drinking Water Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the responsibility for setting national drinking water standards that protect the health of the 250 million people who get their water from public water systems. Other people get their water from private wells which are not subject to federal regulations. Since 1974, the EPA has set national standards for over 80 contaminants that may occur in drinking water. While the EPA and state governments set and enforce standards, local governments and private water suppliers have direct responsibility for the quality of the water that flows to your tap. Water systems test and treat their water, maintain the distribution systems that deliver water to consumers, and report on their water quality to the state. States and the EPA provide technical assistance to water suppliers and can take legal action against systems that fail to provide water that meets state and EPA standards.

What is a violation of a drinking water standard?

Drinking water suppliers are required to monitor and test their water many times, for many things, before sending it to consumers. These tests determine whether and how the water needs to be treated, as well as the effectiveness of the treatment process. If a water system consistently sends to consumers water that contains a contaminant at a level higher than EPA or state health standards regulate, or if the system fails to monitor for a contaminant, the system is violating regulations, and is subject to fines and other penalties. When a water system violates a drinking water regulation, it must notify the people who drink its water about the violation, what it means, and how they should respond. In cases where the water presents an immediate health threat, such as when people need to boil water before drinking it, the system must use television, radio and newspapers to get the word out as quickly as possible. Other notices may be sent by mail, or delivered with the water bill. Each water suppliers’ annual water quality report must include a summary of all the violations that occurred during the previous year.

How can I help protect my drinking water?

Using the new information that is now available about drinking water, citizens can be aware of the challenges of keeping drinking water safe and take an active role in protecting drinking water. There are lots of ways that individuals can get involved. Some people will help clean up the watershed that is the source of their community’s water. Other people might get involved in wellhead protection activities to prevent the contamination of the ground water source that provides water to their community. These people will be able to make use of the information that states and water systems are gathering as they assess their sources of water. Concerned citizens may want to attend public meetings to ensure that their community’s need for safe drinking water is considered in making decisions about land use. You may wish to participate when your state and water system make funding decisions. And all consumers can do their part to conserve water and to dispose properly of household chemicals.
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15 Tools Every Homeowner Should Own

The following items are essential tools, but this list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to ask an InterNACHI inspector during your next inspection about other tools that you might find useful.

1. Plunger
A clogged sink or toilet is one of the most inconvenient household problems that you will face. With a plunger on hand, however, you can usually remedy these plumbing issues relatively quickly. It is best to have two plungers -- one for the sink and one for the toilet.

2. Combination Wrench Set
One end of a combination wrench set is open and the other end is a closed loop. Nuts and bolts are manufactured in standard and metric sizes, and because both varieties are widely used, you’ll need both sets of wrenches. For the most control and leverage, always pull the wrench toward you, instead of pushing on it. Also, avoid over-tightening.

3. Slip-Joint Pliers
Use slip-joint pliers to grab hold of a nail, a nut, a bolt, and much more. These types of pliers are versatile because of the jaws, which feature both flat and curved areas for gripping many types of objects. There is also a built-in slip-joint, which allows the user to quickly adjust the jaw size to suit most tasks.

4. Adjustable Wrench
Adjustable wrenches are somewhat awkward to use and can damage a bolt or nut if they are not handled properly. However, adjustable wrenches are ideal for situations where you need two wrenches of the same size. Screw the jaws all the way closed to avoid damaging the bolt or nut.

5. Caulking Gun
Caulking is the process of sealing up cracks and gaps in various structures and certain types of piping. Caulking can provide noise mitigation and thermal insulation, and control water penetration. Caulk should be applied only to areas that are clean and dry.

6. Flashlight
None of the tools in this list is of any use if you cannot visually inspect the situation. The problem, and solution, are apparent only with a good flashlight. A traditional two-battery flashlight is usually sufficient, as larger flashlights may be too unwieldy.

7. Tape Measure
Measuring house projects requires a tape measure -- not a ruler or a yardstick. Tape measures come in many lengths, although 25 feet is best. Measure everything at least twice to ensure accuracy.

8. Hacksaw
A hacksaw is useful for cutting metal objects, such as pipes, bolts and brackets. Hacksaws look thin and flimsy, but they’ll easily cut through even the hardest of metals. Blades are replaceable, so focus your purchase on a quality hacksaw frame.

9. Torpedo Level
Only a level can be used to determine if something, such as a shelf, appliance or picture, is correctly oriented. The torpedo-style level is unique because it not only shows when an object is perfectly horizontal or vertical, but it also has a gauge that shows when an object is at a 45-degree angle. The bubble in the viewfinder must be exactly in the middle -- not merely close.

10. Safety Glasses / Goggles
For all tasks involving a hammer or a power tool, you should always wear safety glasses or goggles. They should also be worn while you mix chemicals.

11. Claw Hammer
A good hammer is one of the most important tools you can own. Use it to drive and remove nails, to pry wood loose from the house, and in combination with other tools. They come in a variety of sizes, although a 16-ounce hammer is the best all-purpose choice.

12. Screwdriver Set
It is best to have four screwdrivers: a small and large version of both a flathead and a Phillips-head screwdriver. Electrical screwdrivers are sometimes convenient, but they're no substitute. Manual screwdrivers can reach into more places and they are less likely to damage the screw.
13. Wire Cutters
Wire cutters are pliers designed to cut wires and small nails. The side-cutting style (unlike the stronger end-cutting style) is handy, but not strong enough to cut small nails.

14. Respirator / Safety Mask
While paints and other coatings are now manufactured to be less toxic (and lead-free) than in previous decades, most still contain dangerous chemicals, which is why you should wear a mask to avoid accidentally inhaling. A mask should also be worn when working in dusty and dirty environments. Disposable masks usually come in packs of 10 and should be thrown away after use. Full and half-face respirators can be used to prevent the inhalation of very fine particles that ordinary facemasks will not stop.
15. Duct Tape
This tape is extremely strong and adaptable. Originally, it was widely used to make temporary repairs to many types of military equipment. Today, it’s one of the key items specified for home emergency kits because it is water-resistant and extremely sticky.

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Ice Dams
by Nick Gromicko

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow from draining. As water backs up behind the dam, it can leak through the roof and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation and other areas.

How do ice dams form?

Ice dams are formed by an interaction between snow cover, outside temperatures, and heat lost through the roof. Specifically, there must be snow on the roof, warm portions of the upper roof (warmer than 32° F), and cold portions of the lower roof (at freezing or below). Melted snow from the warmer areas will refreeze when it flows down to the colder portions, forming an ice dam.

Although the primary contributor to snow melting is heat loss from the building's interior, solar radiation can also provide sufficient heat to melt snow on a roof. For example, in southern Canada, enough sunlight can be transmitted through 6 inches (150 mm) of snow cover on a clear and sunny day to cause melting at the roof's surface even when the outside temperature is 14° F (-10° C), with an attic temperature of 23° F (-5° C).

Gutters do not cause ice dams to form, contrary to popular belief. Gutters do, however, help concentrate ice from the dam in a vulnerable area, where parts of the house can peel away under the weight of the ice and come crashing to the ground.

Problems Associated with Ice Dams

Ice dams are problematic because they force water to leak from the roof into the building envelope. This may lead to:
• rotted roof decking, exterior and interior walls, and framing;
• respiratory illnesses (allergies, asthma, etc.) caused by mold growth;
• reduced effectiveness of insulation. Wet insulation doesn’t work well, and chronically wet insulation will not decompress even when it dries. Without working insulation, even more heat will escape to the roof where more snow will melt, causing more ice dams which, in turn, will lead to leaks; and
• peeling paint. Water from the leak will infiltrate wall cavities and cause paint to peel and blister. This may happen long after the ice dam has melted and thus not appear directly related to the ice dam.
• Keep the entire roof cold. This can be accomplished by implementing the following measures:

o Install a metal roof. Ice formations may occur on metal roofs, but the design of the roof will not allow the melting water to penetrate the roof's surface. Also, snow and ice are more likely to slide off of a smooth, metal surface than asphalt shingles.
o Seal all air leaks in the attic floor, such as those surrounding wire and plumbing penetrations, attic hatches, and ceiling light fixtures leading to the attic from the living space below.
o Increase the thickness of insulation on the attic floor, ductwork, and chimneys that pass through the attic.
• Move or elevate exhaust systems that terminate just above the roof, where they are likely to melt snow.
• A minimum of 3" air space is recommended between the top of insulation and roof sheathing in sloped ceilings.
• Remove snow from the roof. This can be accomplished safely using a roof rake from the ground. Be careful not to harm roofing materials or to dislodge dangerous icicles.
• Create channels in the ice by hosing it with warm water. Because this process intentionally adds water to the roof, this should be done only in emergencies where a great deal of water is already flowing through the roof, and when temperatures are warm enough that the hose water can drain before it freezes.
Prevention and Removal Methods to Avoid
• electric heat cables. These rarely work, they require effort to install, they use electricity, and they can make shingles brittle.
• manual removal of the ice dam using shovels, hammers, ice picks, rakes, or whatever destructive items can be found in the shed. The roof can be easily damaged by these efforts, as can the homeowner, when they slip off of the icy roof.
In summary, ice dams are caused by inadequate attic insulation, but homeowners can take certain preventative measures to ensure that they are rare.

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Barn Inspection

A barn is an agricultural building, typically located on a ranch or farm (or former ranch or farm), and used for a variety of purposes, including:
• the storage of farming vehicles, equipment and supplies;
• housing livestock;
• storing hay and other livestock food supplies; and
• as a covered work area.
Inspectors who work in rural areas may be asked to inspect a barn, but, before they do, they should consider the following two questions:
1. Is the barn in a northern climate where it snows?

In snowy climates, long, unsupported spans and a lack of interior structural support can make barn roofs vulnerable to collapse. Melted snow can also cause ice dams and structural issues related to moisture intrusion, as well as mold growth.
2. In a property sale, are the buyers going to use the barn for the same purpose as the sellers or current occupants?

It's not uncommon for clients to purchase a property for its pastoral and rustic setting because it includes a barn but then not use the structure for its original purpose of housing animals. The buyer may be unaware that the barn was protected from freeze-thaw cycles by the body heat provided by the animals that the barn may have formerly housed, and the absence of animals and the natural warming they provided can lead to foundation and structural problems brought on by cold weather. If a barn is to be converted from a structure that houses livestock to living space for the family, homeowners can expect to make certain modifications beyond those meant merely for aesthetics and convenience.

While inspecting barns, inspectors should wear the appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE), including boots, gloves and respirators, especially if the structures are older or poorly ventilated. Some inspectors are surprised by how dirty barn air can be, reporting that one can almost taste ammonia or dust in the air. These may be the result of lingering animal waste, a failure to properly clean and maintain the interior of the structure, and/or a failure to make repairs to the structure itself.

Hazards to Look For

In and around the barn, inspectors can look for the following issues:
• kick damage from horses or livestock;
• manure piles deposited too close to the exterior of the barn;
• excessive dust. Primarily originating from hay, dust can irritate the eyes and respiratory systems of both humans and livestock;
• exposed nails, sharp edges and splinters;
• non-GFCI protected lights and electrical receptacles;
• extension cords. An older barn may not have an updated electrical system, including a lack of receptacles or outlets. Extension cords may overload the system and can also pose a tripping hazard;
• exposed electrical wires that may be reached by inquisitive animals or children;
• a lack of ventilation or shade in the livestock pens, which can cause animals to overheat;
• insufficient room at the feed rack for animals to eat;
• farm implements, such as ladders and hand tools, and farm machinery stored too near animals or in the path of people; and
• fire hazards that are particular to outbuildings and farm structures.
Barns contain both natural and man-made flammables. For this reason, barn fires can be devastating and get out of control in a few seconds, especially if the property is located far away from first-responders.

Some of these fire hazards include:
• excessive cobwebs on ceilings and walls, especially near light or heat sources;
• hay stored near sources of light or heat;
• plastic and chemical items that can potentially lead to a fire, if not stored properly. Such items include plastic water buckets, nylon hay bags, nylon saddlebags, plastic stall signs, and chemical flammables, such as weed killers and insecticides;
• no lightning rod. Barns are often built in fields away from trees and other structures, making them prone to lightning strikes and subsequent fires;
• no fire extinguishers; and
• an unmaintained or unmowed field around the barn.
Recommendations for Owners

Inspectors can recommend that owners exercise the following precautions to ensure a safe barn area for both people and animals:
• Loose tools and implements can cause injury, so they should be secured or stored out of the way of pens and footpaths.
• Feed bags and buckets should be emptied and stowed to prevent injury and to avoid creating an easily accessible food source for rodents and other unwelcome pests, which are natural inhabitants on farms anyway. The same goes for water and food bowls for cats and dogs on the farm.
• Water hoses should be drained, coiled and hung off of the floor.
• Exposed splinters and nails should be removed or hammered in, and sharp edges should be sanded smooth, with broken boards replaced.
• Electrical wires should run through conduits and not be in plain sight.
• Gasoline, oil and other chemicals should be stored in appropriate sealed containers and out of the feed and animal areas to prevent accidental poisoning or contamination.
• ABC-type fire extinguishers, which can put out wood, fire and hazardous chemical fires, should be placed every 75 feet, according to the University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension.
• Hay is extremely flammable and should be stored in a separate building, if possible. Hay should be dried before storage, as wet hay produces heat and can spontaneously combust.
• Light sources should be covered with a protective covering. Jelly-jar fixtures are a common installation in barns.
• Doors should be self-latching to prevent the escape of barned animals and the entry of intruders.
• Portable electric heat sources should be turned off and unplugged before leaving the barn, as well as away from any potential fuel.
• Wood stoves should be properly ventilated, with their fuel kept in a safe container and at a safe distance so as to prevent accidental ignition.
• Skylights and windows should be checked for moisture intrusion and signs of mold growth.
• Whitewashing the interior brick or cement walls every year or so can decrease the incidence of moisture intrusion and mold growth.
• Animal waste should be evacuated from the interior at least daily.
• Conveyor belts used for feeding or for removing waste should be checked regularly to ensure that they are free of oil and dust buildup, which can lead to accidental fire as well as malfunction.
• Dry, tall grass can act as kindling, so a moderate defensible space around outbuildings should be maintained.
• If firewood is used in the home, it should be stored a safe distance from any outbuildings to prevent pest infestation and fire hazards.
• Jute mats should be placed at the barn's entrances to wipe off boots before entering the barn in order to keep its floors as dry and clean as possible to prevent slip hazards.
• Barns should be mucked out and swept daily, and more often during times of increased activity, not only to keep floors free of slip hazards but also to keep unwanted pests and odors in check.

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Wood-Burning Stoves

A wood-burning stove (also known as a wood stove) is a heating appliance made from iron or steel that is capable of burning wood fuel. Unlike standard fireplaces, wood stoves are typically contained entirely within the living space, rather than inset in the wall.
Wood stoves come in many different sizes, each suited for a different purpose:
• Small stoves are suitable in single rooms, seasonal cottages or small, energy efficient homes. These models can also be used for zone heating in large homes where supplemental heating is needed.
• Medium-size stoves are appropriate for heating small houses or mid-size homes that are intended to be energy-efficient and as inexpensive as possible to maintain.
• Large stoves are used in larger homes or older homes that leak air and are located in colder climate zones.
To ensure safe and efficient use of wood-burning stoves, inspectors can pass along the following tips to their clients:
• burn coal. Coal burns significantly hotter than wood, posing a fire hazard;
• burn materials that will emit toxic chemicals, such as wood that has been pressure-treated or painted, colored paper, gift wrap, plastic, plywood, particleboard, or questionable wood from furniture;
• burn wet wood. Generally speaking, it takes six months for cut, stored wood to dry out and be ready for use in wood-burning stoves;
• burn combustible liquids, such as kerosene, gasoline, alcohol or lighter fluid;
• let small children play near a lit wood-burning stove. Unlike standard fireplaces, the sides of which are mostly inaccessible, all sides of wood stoves are exposed and capable of burning flesh or clothing; or
• let the fire burn while the fire screen or door is open.
• use a grate to hold the logs so that they remain secured in the stove and the air can circulate adequately to keep the fire burning hot;
• keep the damper open while the stove is lit;
• dispose of ashes outdoors in a water-filled, metal container;
• check smoke alarms to make sure they are working properly; and
• periodically remove the stovepipe between the stove and the chimney so that it can be inspected for creosote. Homeowners may want to hire a professional to perform this service.
Efficiency and Air Pollutants
While federal and state governments crack down on vehicle and industrial emissions, they do relatively little to limit the harmful air pollution emitted from wood stoves. The problem is so bad that, in many areas, such as Chico, Caifornia (pictured at right), the smoke from wood stoves is the largest single contributor to that city's air pollution. Smoke from wood stoves can cause a variety of health ailments, from asthma to cancer.
To mitigate these concerns, the EPA sets requirements for wood-stove emissions based on the design of the stove: 4.1 grams of smoke per hour (g/h) for catalytic stoves, and 7.5 g/h for non-catalytic stoves. Some state laws further restrict airborne particulates, and many new models emit as little as 1 g/h. These two approaches -- catalytic and non-catalytic combustion -- are described briefly as follows:
• In catalytic stoves, the smoky exhaust passes through a coated, ceramic honeycomb that ignites particulates and smoke gasses. Catalysts degrade over time and must eventually be replaced, but they can last up to six seasons if the stove is used properly. Inadequate maintenance and the use of inappropriate fuel result in an early expiration of the catalyst. These stoves are typically more expensive than non-catalytic models, and they require more maintenance, although these challenges pay off through heightened efficiency.
• Non-catalytic stoves lack a catalyst but have three characteristics that assist complete, clean combustion: pre-heated combustion air introduced from above the fuel; firebox insulation; and a large baffle to create hotter, longer air flow in the firebox. The baffle will eventually need to be replaced as it deteriorates from combustion heat.
The following indicators hint that the fire in a wood-burning stove suffers from oxygen deprivation and incomplete combustion, which will increase the emission of particulates into the air:
• It emits dark, smelly smoke. An efficient stove will produce little smoke.
• There is a smoky odor in the house.
• There is soot on the furniture.
• The stove is burning at less than 300º F. A flue pipe-mounted thermometer should read between 300º F and 400º F.
• The flames are dull and steady, rather than bright and lively.
To ensure efficiency, practice the following techniques:
• Purchase a wood-burning stove listed by Underwriters Laboratories. Stoves tested by UL and other laboratories burn cleanly and efficiently.
• Burn only dry wood. Wood that has a moisture content (MC) of less than 20% burns hotter and cleaner than freshly cut wood, which may contain half of its weight in water.
• Burn hardwoods, such as oak, hickory and ash once the fire has started. Softwoods, such as pine, ignite quicker and are excellent fire starters.
• Make sure the stove is properly sized for the space. Stoves that are too large for their area burn inefficiently.
• Burn smaller wood rather than larger pieces. Smaller pieces of wood have a large surface area, which allows them to burn hotter and cleaner.
In summary, wood-burning stoves, if properly designed and used appropriately for the space, are efficient, clean ways to heat a home.

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