Tips for Checking for Mold Following a Wet Winter

Mold-in-basement2

Following this incredibly wet winter, it is a good idea to check to make sure that mold growth is not beginning inside or on your home. You may have noticed that the media has been talking about this on news programs of late.

Mold needs four things to thrive and liquid water is perhaps the most critical as it is the only one we have a chance of controlling. Having liquid water coupled with available oxygen, food and the temperature sweet spot, 41° to 104° F, is the perfect storm for mold growth. Here is what you should do:

  • Inspect your basement for damp walls or cracks where moisture can come in and seal them.
  • Fix plumbing leaks and other water problems as soon as possible. Dry all items completely. 
  • Scrub mold off hard non-porous surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely.
  • On porous surfaces, in addition to surface cleaning you need to completely dry the material in order to prevent its reappearance. If that can’t be done, you may need to remove the material.
  • Inspect the exterior of your home at ground level. If water is collecting there, divert it away from the foundation.
  • If you find mold, make sure to cover your face and hands to minimize exposure when cleaning the area. It is also important to put a fan in a window and blow air from the room out of the house when you are working around the mold or you may disturb it. If it is a significant area affected or if you begin to feel “allergy type” symptoms when working around mold, call an expert to clean it out.

What humans typically react to are the mold spores which become airborne when it is in its “happy place” with food, water, and a cozy temp or when the mold is physically disturbed.  

We’ve made a lot of changes to how we build in recent years in order to conserve energy and live more sustainably. Many of the things we’ve done to improve our habitat have unfortunately created an ideal environment for mold to thrive. The only chance we have to keep mold from becoming a full-time member of our households is to eliminate the presence of liquid water in or on the materials we use to construct the dwellings.

 

Spray Polyurethane Foam for Building Insulation Webinar

I was just reviewing plans for a YouthBuild USA project that together we will be renovating in Worchester, MA this year and I was struck by the reality that even in a rehab like this, we don’t use the same methods or systems for insulating that we traditionally have used.

Spray foam insulationWhen we insulate new or existing structures today there is no ‘one size fits all’. There is no one material that can be used in all places in a cost conscious manner. To be efficient and effective, we need to combine materials. One product that we reach for to control air leakiness in colder climates is spray foam insulation.

It’s important to understand the properties of spray foam if you are going to use them as part of a combined system to achieve the required performance. Before you choose a spray foam, get familiar with the material and how to combine it with other insulation products so that you can control heat flow without causing other problems.

If you are interested in learning more about spray foam insulations, I am conducting a webinar on this subject on Wednesday, April 23 from 3:00 – 4:00 PM EST. You can register right here. And this course qualifies for CEUs!

You will leave this webinar with the knowledge to:

  • Understand Polyurethanes Background – The History of Spray Foam Insulation -Insulation Applications
  • Compare the Differences of Spray Polyurethane Foam Insulation -Market Trends / Energy Efficiency Demands -SPF Overview -Open Cell / Closed Cell –Properties
  • Review Building Envelope Considerations
  • Distinguish the Differences Between Residential and Commercial Building Applications

Bring your questions – I will be ready!

 

Homeowner Trends: Remodeling is In

Screen shot 2014-04-14 at 3.38.39 PMHouzz indicates that the vast majority of homeowners prefer to remodel their home rather than move. In a webinar hosted by Qualified Remodeler magazine, Liza Housman from Houzz — an online remodeling and design platform —  provided an in-depth look into their annual Houzz & Home study, which included the participation of more than 155,000 homeowners. A few key highlights…

  • 91 percent of homeowners said that reviews and recommendations are a top priority in hiring a contractor. A valuable reminder that customer service should always be top of mind!
  • 5 percent of homeowners spent more than a year researching a remodeling project — a sign that remodelers might need to exercise more patience in closing the deal with some customers.
  • Top remodeling projects included kitchen (31%), bathroom (27%), and patio (22%).
  • The highest-ranking replacement projects involved flooring (26%), window and door (21%) and roofing (15%)
  • For kitchen and bath remodeling, more than 40 percent of projects entailed framing or structural work — which definitely caught our attention since any project that guts to the stud is a great time caulk, seal and insulate in addition to aesthetic improvements.

Overall, the survey uncovered great opportunities for growth potential. Let’s get to work!

The Art of Building Science Part II Webinar

Building Science fans, it’s time for Part II of the three part series on The Art of Building Science.  I hope that if you participated in the discussion last month on Heat Flow that you will join me for the next part of the series which will concentrate on Air Flow. If were not able to attend the first session that is not a problem.  These topics work collectively and individually.

The webinar will take place on Tuesday, April 8 from 5:30 – 7:00 pm EST to accommodate attendees who cannot participate during regular business hours.

I like to think of this as the second course of a three course meal. The webinar will run for 90 minutes so that we can consume the entrée part of this three course meal which is packed with valuable information and insight. We can’t eat the dessert until we finish the entrée.

Part II features a more in depth discussion on Air Flow and will provide you a deeper understanding of building science.  This session is approved for 1.5 AIA CEUs.

Register now, right here for The Art of Building Science Part II – Air Flow.

I look forward to continuing the dialogue on The Art of Building Science.

Understanding and Improving Indoor Air Quality Webinar

We, as a society, spend 90 percent of our time indoors. It is extremely important that the air inside our buildings, both residential and commercial, is providing the healthiest environment possible.

I will be hosting a webinar on Tuesday, April 8 from 3:00 – 4:00 pm EST on the topic of Understanding and Improving Air Quality.

This is a newly accredited program for us taking a deeper dive into the topic which is touched upon in other webinars that we have offer.  It is a more focused discussion on how to improve indoor air quality. 

We have talked about this topic and provided education on what indoor air quality is but this program will identify actual steps that can be taken to improve the quality of indoor air.

Let’s get together – inside – and explore the ways to improve our indoor air.  You can sign up right here for the webinar Understanding and Improving Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) – (GBCI Approved).

Come with questions and try to stump the presenter!

A Celebration of Architecture

 

Eaton Center

Eaton Center

Architects are like invisible magicians. They add long-lasting intrigue, beauty, comfort and convenience to our surroundings, yet the impact of their work is rarely a topic of daily discussion. Our fast-paced lives keep us mired in chaotic schedules and to-do lists that might preclude the diurnal appreciation of our surroundings — all the more reason to take a minute and take note of National Architecture Week, April 6-12.

Spearheaded by The American Institute of Architects, National Architecture Week is an annual commemoration that aligns with the birthday of our nation’s first architect, Thomas Jefferson. It’s designed to recognize the talent and innovation of architects along with the positive contributions they make in our communities. There’s a number of ways to get involved:

  • Follow #archweek14 on Twitter. Upload pictures of your favorite home or building and add comments to posts that grab your attention.
  • Visit the CertainTeed Facebook page to see our curated list of favorite projects.

And, for ongoing inspiration — well beyond National Architecture Week — we highly recommend Architizer for its amazing photography. Of course, you are always welcome and encouraged to spend time here on our blog — we like to hear your inspirational stories all year round!

Build Home Insurance Perks into Your Pitch

cit5glamourimagesmallWhether you’re a builder or an architect, you’re always looking for new ways to sell your homes to your clients. Here’s something unique to build into your pitch – the homeowners insurance benefits. Savings and extra perks go along with insuring a new house versus an old one. You can get a leg up on the competition by using a lesser known perk to your advantage.

To start off: simply buying new can help your clients save. Homes built within the last 10 years could qualify for a discount of up to 20%. Given that the average U.S. homeowners insurance premium exceeded $822 as of the end of December, the new discount could generate savings of up to $164 a year. Providers prefer new homes because they believe there is a lower risk of them incurring an expensive claim.

Other ways that new homes can earn your clients home insurance savings and help with your sales message include the following:  

New plumbing

Plumbing system failures are the leading source of home water losses, according to the Insurance Institute for Building and Home Safety (IBHS). It’s no wonder that home insurance providers wish to avoid plumbing malfunctions when the average claim per incident weighs in at more than $7,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Updated plumbing systems in new homes form a major part of a moisture management strategy and can therefore earn your clients preferred home insurance policies, which generally come with lower premiums.

A modern HVAC system

Heating and cooling systems can be testy. In fact, heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). To avoid the approximate $5.8 billion dollars in damage that heating systems cause in fire damage every year, insurance carriers consider new HVAC systems a major factor in determining whether a homeowner qualifies for a preferred policy. New HVAC systems also typically work more efficiently and can save your clients 20% or more in utilities costs.

More fire safety

From 2007 to 2011, the U.S. experienced nearly 50,000 fires due to electrical malfunction and $1.5 billion in direct property damage, according to the NFPA. The average fire claim costs insurers in excess of $33,000, according to the III. Again, new wiring is a factor in qualifying for a preferred policy. Other anti-fire measures in new homes include smoke detectors, which can win owners premium discounts of up to 5% ($41 on that average premium cited above).

Roof stability

Roof damage from wind and hail costs an average of $7,177 per claim, so home insurance providers favor sturdy roofs. If your building project involves roofs that the carrier qualifies as impact-resistant,—UL class 3 or higher—your clients could get preferred status and qualify for lower premiums. Some materials that qualify are metal and concrete tile.

None of these savings are one-time price breaks: They can extend for years, which should increase their appeal to buyers. In fact, homeowners who go 10 years without filing a claim can win a discount of up to 20% on their premiums. New homes make it much easier to reach that 10-year threshold.

When speaking with potential buyers about the benefits of buying new, add home insurance discounts to your toolbox. You can get your clients focused on protecting their homes, while adding the benefits of lower monthly premiums. Doing so can help persuade clients to buy new – and to buy with you.

Guest Blogger Carrie Van Brunt-Wiley has been Community Manager for HomeownersInsurance.com since 2007. She is a native New Yorker with a background in journalism and professional writing.

 This guest blog post does not necessarily reflect the opinions of CertainTeed Corporation.

Tips for Inspecting Low or Steep Slope Roofing Systems

Two of the things you should do every spring and fall are clean your gutters and inspect your roof.  Whether it is a steep slope or low slope roof you need to get up close and inspect for any defects or damage to the roof system.  If you have the safety equipment and training then get up there  and do it but if you don’t, call your roofer and schedule a time for them to take a closer look for you.

This has been a rough winter – record snow and record cold in most parts of the country.  From the additional deflections that have occurred under that snow load to the extreme expansion and contractions that have taken place due to the wild temperature swings, our roofing systems have undergone more wear and tear than usual. 

So, before those legendary April showers begin, make sure your roof drainage is open and not blocked.  While you have someone up there, look for problems, look for failures, and look at where things meet and in the corners. A little bit of maintenance NOW can prevent a lot of tear-off later.

I will be presenting a webinar on Wednesday, March 26, at 2:00 pm EST on the topic of Self Adhering Membrane Roof Systems.  There are many types of systems with new techniques and products to make maintenance and replacement much easier and cost effective.

If you are in need of updated techniques and tips for your roofing systems, please join me for the webinar.

The Sound Around You

HIPHN_El Paso Corp_Cafe_1_2000Improving acoustical performance in interior spaces is part of our everyday discussion, and raising awareness of the impact of noise on people has become a leading passion of mine. In the architectural and building industries, research provides clear evidence that exposure to noise impacts healing and productivity. This research influences how we design buildings for the people who spend the majority of their time in these places — the students in a classroom, patients in a hospital, or employees in an office. However at a personal, individual level, there is great value in better understanding acoustics in our daily lives.

Most interior environments should be safeguarded against decibel levels that would harm your ability to hear, however, how does excessive noise affect your ability to concentrate and overall stress level?

Measuring the decibel level of activities throughout the day is quite easy to do by simply installing a mobile app on your smartphone, such as Decibel 10th. I encourage you to use one of these tools to monitor fluctuations in the noise around you throughout the day and take note of how you respond. Do your muscles tense while struggling to have a conversation in a loud restaurant (or does your dinner-mate wonder why you are screaming at them over a simple decision as to what wine to select)? Are you more focused at work wearing sound-canceling headphones or “squatting” in an unoccupied conference room?

As you experience different noise levels, take note of how the sounds around you measure up to these average decibel levels:

Decibel Level (dB) Activity
0 Threshold of what a healthy ear can hear
10 Soft wind
20 A peaceful apartment in the city
25-35 Leaves rustling in the wind
40 Typing on a keyboard
50 Talking in a low voice
60 Conversation
65 Sitting in a small car with motor idling; normal office noise
75-90 Traffic noise

Taking an inventory of excessive noise in our daily lives is the first step toward a more productive and healthy society. For example, a study by the Danish Cancer Society that monitored the effect of traffic noise reports that for every 10-decibel increase, the risk of heart attack went up 12 percent with increases in risk starting at only 40dB. This is one statistic of many that are shedding light on the impact of noise in our lives. How does excessive noise or poor acoustics impact your daily life? We encourage you to share your story at www.nonoisenow.com.

The Art of Building Science – Soup to Nuts Webinar Series

We are trying something new that we hope is helpful for those of you who would like to take a deeper dive into Building Science but can’t take time out of a nutty work day to do so.

Because I live Building Science every day, I occasionally lose sight of the fact that not everyone sees how all of this information works and fits together.  Sadly we live in a bullet point world so let’s give the big picture the opportunity to talk. Let’s give the silent masses the opportunity to ask questions and engage with folks who work with this knowledge on a daily basis in real world scenarios.

The early evening timeframe for this series may have particular value for younger architects and building professionals who do not get to take time out of billable hours but could jump online at the end of the day.

We are offering the opportunity to see the Big Picture of Building Science through a series of three webinars starting at 5:30 pm EST over the next three months that will take you through topics such as Heat Flow, Moisture Flow, Air Flow, Indoor Air Quality, Evaluating HVAC or Mechanical Systems in the Building Envelop and Sound Control Problems.

Be forewarned, each webinar is a half hour longer than the last.  It is like a three course meal that will leave you both full and wanting more.

The first session will be held on Wednesday, March 12 from 5:30 – 6:30 pm EST.  If you are looking to expand your knowledge of Building Science, this accredited course is for you!

Register and join me for The Art of Building Science Part I.