Maintaining the home’s HVAC system is vital to keep it running efficiently and holding down energy costs. But is cleaning out the ductwork part of that strategy? It may surprise some homeowners and a few home inspectors to learn that the answer is a firm “maybe, maybe not.” Having the ductwork professionally cleaned may be an appropriate course of action if the system has been contaminated by moisture or mold, but, absent these issues, it may create more issues than it solves. A general amount of airborne dust in a home is normal; homeowners shouldn’t try to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. But before making any recommendations to your clients, read more about it in our six-part article series: The Home Inspector’s Guide to Air Duct Cleaning.
The U.S. and Gulf Coast and Atlantic regions are seeing unprecedented storm activity this year. Homeowners must do what they can to prepare for damage and flooding, but they should also take certain precautions afterward. Read more in our latest article: For Homeowners and Inspectors: Re-Entering a Flooded Home.
The majority of new home construction is deadline-driven, which means that, sometimes, minor but essential work may be performed haphazardly or not at all. This is especially true of sealing around exhaust fans and ductwork. If the opening cut for the installation of the fan box or duct leaves large gaps around the unit, air can escape into unconditioned spaces and create airflow and moisture problems that don’t reveal themselves until they become critical. Proper installation at the outset can help prevent such issues. Inspectors can read more about them in Inspecting for Air Sealing at Kitchen and Bathroom Exhaust Fans.
Insulation can help regulate temperature, ventilation and moisture control in crawlspaces. Read about some important installation guidelines and inspection tips in Inspecting Insulation of Existing Crawlspace Floors.
Moisture intrusion is one of the most serious problems a home can experience. It can lead to rapid deterioration of many structural components. Home inspectors can familiarize themselves with the best practices for installing some basic roof components that will help prevent water damage by reading Inspecting Step and Kick-Out Flashing at Roof-Wall Intersections.
Home inspectors are about to be convinced of how easy it is to up-sell mold testing, as well as why it’s a sound business practice that can actually protect you. Read How Home Inspectors Can Up-Sell Mold Testing before your next inspection.
Most homes are built using green lumber, which is just another term for wood that is still wet. The problem is that when wet wood dries it’s going to shrink, and when parts of your house shrink it can mean trouble. Nail pops are sometimes caused by wood shrinkage, although this isn’t a serious problem. Mold, however, can easily grow on green lumber and infest the wood before it’s even used in construction. For more information, take a look at our new article on green lumber.
“The conditions that contribute to the health risk were summarized as follows.
- Microorganisms are ubiquitous. Microbes propagate rapidly wherever water is available. The dust and dirt normally present in most indoor spaces provide sufficient nutrients to support extensive microbial growth. While mould can grow on all materials, selection of appropriate materials can prevent dirt accumulation, moisture penetration and mould growth.
- Microbial growth may result in greater numbers of spores, cell fragments, alergens, mycotoxins, endotoxins, β-glucans and volatile organic compounds in indoor air. The causative agents of adverse health effects have not been identified conclusively, but an excess level of any of these agents in the indoor environment is a potential health hazard.
- Microbial interactions and moisture-related physical and chemical emissions from building materials may also play a role in dampness-related health effects.
On the basis of this review, the following guidelines were formulated.
- Persistent dampness and microbial growth on interior surfaces and in building structures should be avoided or minimized, as they may lead to adverse health effects.
- Indicators of dampness and microbial growth include the presence of condenation on surfaces or in structures, visible mould, perceived mouldy odour and a history of water damage, leakage or penetration. Thorough inspection and, if necessary, appropriate measurements can be used to confirm indoor moisture and microbial growth.
- As the relations between dampness, microbial exposure and health effects cannot be quantified precisely, no quantitative health-based guideline values or thresholds can be recommended for acceptable levels of contamination with microorganisms. Instead, it is recommended that dampness and mould-related problems be prevented. When they occur, they should be remediated because they increase the risk of hazardous exposure to microbes and chemicals.
- Management of moisture requires proper control of temperatures and ventilation to avoid excess humidity, condensation on surfaces and excess moisture in materials. Ventilation should be distributed effectively throughout spaces, and stagnant air zones should be avoided.
- Building owners are responsible for providing a healthy workplace or living environment free of excess moisture and mould, by ensuring proper building construction and maintenance. The occupants are responsible for managing the use of water, heating, ventilation and appliances in a manner that does not lead to dampness and mould growth. Local recommendations for different climatic regions should be updated to control dampness-mediated microbial growth in buildings and to ensure desirable indoor air quality.
- Dampness and mould may be particularly prevalent in poorly maintained housing for low-income people. Remediation of the conditions that lead to adverse exposure should be given priority to prevent an additional contribution to poor health in populations who are already living with an increased burden of disease.
- The guidelines are intended for worldwide use, to protect public health under various environmental, social and economic conditions, and to support the achievement of optimal indoor air quality. They focus on building characteristics that prevent the occurrence of adverse health effects associated with dampness or mould. The guidelines pertain to various levels of economic development and different climates, cover all relevant population groups and propose feasible approaches for reducing health risks due to dampness and microbibial contamination. Both private and public buildings (e.g. offices and nursing homes) are covered, as dampness and mould are risks everywhere. Settings in which there are particular production processes and hospitals with high-risk patients or sources of exposure to pathogens are not, however, considered.
- While the guidelines provide objectives for indoor air quality management, they do not give instructions for achieving those objectives. The necessary action and indicators depend on local technical conditions, the level of development, human capacities and resources. The guidelines recommended by WHO acknowledge this heterogeneity. In formulating policy targets, governments should consider their local circumstances and select actions that will ensure achievement of their health objectives most effectively.”
Few bathrooms are installed with carpet, and for good reason – bathroom floors are exposed to urine and large amounts of moisture. Moisture can lead to the growth of mold, which can cause structural damage as well as health problems. Urine, well, we don’t need to go into that, but you know you don’t want to touch it. Carpet traps these things and makes them less obvious, so they don’t get cleaned as often. To find out more about the dangers associated with carpet installed in bathrooms, check out our new article on carpeted bathrooms for inspectors.
If you want to know more about bathroom fans and how their ducts should be properly installed, please visit our new article on bathroom ventilation systems. There, you will find information on ways to avoid mold growth, duct materials, and more.
I hope you find this information useful