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Asbestos Healthy Home Lead

Important Safety Tips For Renovating Older Homes

Important Safety Tips For Renovating Older Homes

The season for renovations has arrived. DIYers are eager to get moving on home improvements, but if you live in a house built before 1978, there are a few important safety tips to think about before you start sanding walls and swinging that hammer.

  • Does your home contain lead paint?
  • What type of surfaces and materials will you disturb?
  • Is there chipping paint?
  • Do you have crumbling pipe insulation or tiles that may contain asbestos?
  • Will you disrupt any pipes that may leach lead into your water?

If any or all of the above apply, you’ll need to take some precautions. Why? You may be subjecting yourself and your family to possible health risks, caused by the very particles you’ve disturbed. So, take the proper precautions and renovate the right way. Here’s how:

Tip #1: Test for Lead Paint.

lead paint dangersIf your home was build prior to the ban of lead paint in 1978, you are likely to have it somewhere. When lead paint is kept in good condition, it does not pose a significant risk. If it is disturbed, however, it releases dangerous lead dust into the air, which is the leading cause of lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is shown to cause autism-like symptoms, ADHD, brain damage, lower IQ, and a host of other physical and mental issues.

Fact: A speck of lead dust the size of a grain of sand can cause lead poisoning, and irreversible damage to one’s health.

lead inspectionBEFORE you start the project, have a certified lead risk assessor test your home for lead paint. They can use an XRF spectrometer to look deep into pipes and the layers of paint on walls to determine if there is lead paint not only on the surface, but also underneath.

Did You Know? A lead testing swab will only tell you if lead paint is on the top layer.

If you wait until after you’ve disturbed these materials and discover that you have released toxins in the process, the clean-up can be very expensive. Worst of all, you may have subjected yourself and your family to serious health hazards.

So, Step One: call in an environmental testing company to have your home tested. If the test reveals toxic lead remnants, a lead inspector can tell you the exact locations lead was detected. Be sure you follow lead safe work practices, or hire a contractor certified in lead-safe work practices under the Renovation, Repair, and Paint rule (RRP).

Tip #2: Check for Asbestos.

asbestos survey Before any renovation or demolition, you need to know if you are about to disturb any materials containing asbestos. Asbestos is banned in certain forms because of its toxicity. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious, even fatal illnesses, including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Experts state that even a few hours’ exposure to the toxic fibers can be enough to trigger illness from 15–40 years down the road.

Asbestos is common in older homes, and you can be exposed to asbestos fibers through demolition of many items, most commonly:

  • Walls
  • Ceilings
  • Tile
  • Flooring materials
  • Roof shingles
  • Pipes
  • Insulation

Be smart – have an asbestos survey performed prior to your renovation project. An asbestos survey will determine if there are any materials containing this toxic substance that you are about to disturb. Something as simple as installing a ceiling fan, removing a boiler, or updating your bathroom could have serious implications.

Tip #3: Take Proper Precautions.

If a test confirms environmental hazards, take appropriate steps to keep yourself and your family safe. Follow these precautions:

1. Evacuate vulnerable family members.

renovation precautionsWhile you are working, be sure children, the elderly, pregnant women, and pets leave the premises for the day. They can return to the house after the work has stopped and the area is thoroughly cleaned.

 

 

 

2. Contain the offending area.

Close doors leading to the work area. Then use 4-6 mil plastic sheeting and painter’s tape to seal off the work area. Seal all ductwork, doors leading out, and windows with the sheeting. Your goal is to prevent toxins from contaminating the rest of the house.

3. Dress for the occasion.

RRPLook for a mask or respirator with an N95 rating or higher, which filters out very fine particles. And be sure you wear it for the entire time you are working and cleaning. Also, buy a Tyvek suit to protect your clothes. If the work takes more than a day, leave the Tyvek suit in the contained area. Be sure to cover your feet with booties, which also should never leave the contained area. Once you remove the Tyvek suit and the booties, head to your washing machine, strip, and wash your clothes.

4. Avoid sanding.

Lead dust accounts for most of the pediatric lead-poisoning cases a year. Sanding releases fine lead dust particles, which fly through the air, infiltrating the entire house. Unfortunately, these particles remain in the home for a long time. Therefore, sand as little as possible.

5. Clean up well.

First, sweep up as much of the dust and debris as you can and put it into a plastic bag, which you then should seal with painter’s tape. Use a HEPA vacuum to remove any remaining lead dust particles. Then use warm water and clean rags to wash all surfaces. Every exposed surface must be cleaned well. It’s a good idea to have your home tested post-renovation to ensure all toxic materials were properly cleaned.

Make sure your home is safe for you and your family – live well!

Categories
Flooding & Water Damage Asbestos Healthy Home Lead Mold Mold Testing

6 Mistakes People Make When Rebuilding After a Storm

6 Mistakes People Make When Rebuilding After a Storm

 

Many people are now realizing that Ida and Henri have caused a great deal of mold after the fact. Knowing what to do in the event that you have flooding and water damage is critical in preventing mold growth. Additionally, there are several things to know about rebuilding, which you may not be aware of. Whatever phase of the post-storm cleanup you are in, these tips can help you get your life back to normal.

Avoid These 6 Mistakes:

  1. Don’t Rebuild Too Quickly

Many people make the mistake of ripping out wet materials right away and not letting the area dry out completely before they rebuild. This can cause major hassles down the road, as mold will grow with a vengeance.

wet sheetrock

  1. Wet Sheetrock

Mold loves to grow on sheetrock, so you want to ensure everything near the new sheetrock is clean and dry. Be sure to clean wood framing before putting sheetrock back. Also make sure concrete floors are dry. If there is any moisture still left, you run the risk of regrowing your mold problem.

wet fiberglass

  1. Don’t Leave Wet Fiberglass Insulation in Walls

Wet fiberglass insulation left in wall cavities can turn into a hidden mold nightmare. Make sure you remove and replace any wet insulation before you restore the sheetrock. This can save you thousands in unnecessary repairs.

lead and asbestos hazards

  1. Disturbing Asbestos and Lead Paint

In a rush to put things back to normal, many people don’t realize that when they are ripping out wet and damaged materials, they may be inadvertently disturbing asbestos fibers and lead paint, which are both serious health hazards. The only way to know what you are about to unleash in your home is to have the area tested for lead and asbestos, especially if your home was built prior to 1980.

mold testing after a storm

  1. Test for Mold Before and After Remediation

Why test twice? Simple. The first test is to identify where the mold is, and map out what really needs to be removed and remediated. This can save thousands in unnecessary repairs.

The second test is called a clearance test which occurs after remediation, which is important for a few reasons. Primarily, you want to ensure that the mold was removed properly, as your health is at stake. Additionally, it’s important for future insurance claims. If your home floods again and mold returns, your insurance company may question whether the mold was caused by the new event. Without proof that your home was deemed mold-free after repairs were made, the insurance company might take the position that a new claim is not justified or that you have met your policy limit. Finally, if you are in an area prone to storms and flooding, when reselling your home, you may be asked to prove that your home is free from toxins.

wet carpet mold

  1. Don’t Keep Wet Flooring

Nobody wants to throw out a floor. But if water has made its way below the carpeting, tiles, or wood flooring, you may have mold growing where you can’t see it. Rebuilding the walls and ceilings above it without removing the affected area is a waste of money if you don’t fix the underlying issue. An independent mold test can tell you whether your flooring is salvageable.

An independent, certified testing company like RTK Environmental does not do remediation, and therefore, offers consumers an unbiased opinion about any contamination. If you have questions about recent water damage or restoration, call us at 800.392.6468.

 

Categories
Inspector's Notebook Asbestos Healthy Home Lead Weitz Advice

3 Things Architects Need to Know About Environmental Testing

3 Things Architects Need to Know About Environmental Testing

 

When you start a new project, there are a lot of people relying on you to ensure everything goes smoothly. Whether you are working for a customer directly or a builder, they are going to count on you to ensure the quality and safety of the job, and to ensure that all environmental testing required by law is complete. We’ve compiled a list of the top things’ architects should know about environmental testing.

 

  1. To help avoid liability issues, test for asbestos.

asbestos testingMany architects leave required pre-project asbestos testing up to the builder, which can be a mistake. Builders sometimes forgo asbestos testing to save time and money. But accidentally contaminating a building because walls, tiles, ceilings or other suspect material containing asbestos were ripped out without proper precautions being taken can contaminate a much larger area. Aside from that, testing for asbestos is a good idea in general to protect the health of workers on the job and avoid issues with OSHA. It can also shield you from further liability.

 

  1. Test for lead paint prior to starting work.

lead paint hazardsLead paint is another potential problem for architects. Be sure to test for lead paint before you start a renovation project. Home lead test kits are not enough, as they only test for lead on the surface. Be sure to hire an independent professional to conduct XRF lead paint testing, which will tell you if the underlayers of paint contain dangerous lead.

 

  1. Working with a qualified, unbiased testing company which does not do remediation can save you money.

independent environmental testingNot every environmental testing company is the same. There are those that do both testing and remediation, which is a clear conflict of interest. The more issues they say they find, the more they stand to make in the remediation or abatement to follow.

RTK Environmental only does testing and never remediation, so you can rest assured our results are unbiased and accurate. Additionally, RTK provides you with a plan for remediation, so you don’t waste money on areas that don’t need to be remediated. And with our fast turnaround times, you can move your project forward faster.

Contact RTK to schedule an inspection for your project today. Click here or call 800.392.6468.

 

Categories
Healthy Home Asbestos Lead Mold

4 Renovations to Make the Home Safer

4 Renovations to Make the Home Safer

 

The new year provides a perfect opportunity to start making sure that your house is in tip-top shape for the upcoming seasons. As the weather starts to get warmer, it’s important to make sure you don’t just cover the basics, but check that those out-of-sight, out-of-mind areas are on that to-do list too. Here are a few renovations for the home that will not only help make it safer but will also create a refresh for the new year.

1.   Repainting the House

lead paint hazard

A quick way to refresh any room is a quick repaint. It’s important to note that before starting this project, testing for lead paint is key to making sure this project doesn’t become something massive. If your home was built before the 1978, it’s more likely than not that the home was decorated with lead paint. Before you sand down and prime your walls, scheduling a lead inspection can help you pinpoint problem areas before starting.

Additionally, a new coat of paint will provide an extra layer of protection from moisture. By preventing this moisture, you’re less likely to experience mold and mildew, which will cause more damage later on. If you’re considering a repaint, make sure to sand and prime, in order to create a layer that is both appealing and protective.

 

2.   Update Leaky Sinks

update leaky sinkLeaky sinks and tubs are a moisture haven if not treated properly. Similar to wall moisture, dampness that accumulates from underneath sinks can cause mold growth, which can, in turn, cause asthma, allergies, and other health issues. While bleach can be a useful short-term fix, it’s best to get to the root of the problem and treat mold with a permanent solution.

Update your bathroom with new sinks to not only match your current interior but also provide a clean slate to curb future repairs. Replacing your bathroom vanity with a model that provides aeration for your sink pipes will help you avoid the potential for loose plumbing joints, condensation, and leaks. You can also make sure your shower and bathtub are updated with new pipes to help decrease the chance of repair later.

 

3.   Lighting and Electrical Changes

updated lighting Keeping your house well-lit is a great way to ensure that your home feels like it’s received a refresh without doing too much work. If the lights are flickering, or you feel as though you’ve used your circuit breaker one too many times, updating light fixtures and adding extra outlets can keep your home up-to-date and safe. Adding these updates to your fixtures and your outlets, not only will potentially increase your home’s value but will also save you money on your electricity bills going forward – a win-win heading into the new year!

 

4.   Refresh your Floors

refresh floorsThere are two options when it comes to updating the floors in your home: refinishing them, if they’re not currently scratched up from years of wear and tear, or replacing them with something newer. If you currently have carpet, updating to hardwood could be a great solution to the health of your home, as well as the people you live with.

Health conditions like allergies and asthma can be triggered by dust that accumulates in old carpets, so updating with hardwood flooring can get rid of grime, allergens, dust particles, etc., that can exist, giving your home a more breathable “fresh” start. This renovation may take the longest, but when finished will provide a great advantage to you in the new year. It improves the functionality of space and will offer you the ability to adjust rooms as your lifestyle changes. Once you have installed new floors, you may want to consider an indoor air quality test to ensure they are not emitting volatile organic compounds, which can cause negative repercussions on your health.

Whatever adjustments you’re making as the winter season takes full effect, it’s important that you’re making sure to stay safe, not just trying to revamp your home design.

 

 

 

 

Categories
Inspector's Notebook Asbestos Indoor Air Quality & Radon Lead Mold

Landlord Responsibilities for Environmental Hazards in Rental Units

Rental Properties Often Harbor Environmental Hazards: Here’s What Landlords Should Know

Most buildings, whether residential or commercial, may contain one or more environmental or health hazards, often hidden from view. Hazards such as mold, asbestos, lead, radon, and even pests can pose serious risks to tenants who occupy these spaces. To protect your tenants and properties, it’s smart to familiarize yourself with the local laws, rules or ordinances to which you are subject. The laws governing landlord and tenant obligations vary from state to state, locality to locality. The following, found in Local Law 55-2018 in New York City, will give you a good idea about what you need to do to avoid issues stemming from environmental hazards and pests.

Landlord Responsibilities (NYC)

mold apartment landlordMold

  • Every year, landlords should inspect units for indoor allergen hazards such as mold, and respond to any complaints received directly from tenants.
  • Make sure vacant apartments are thoroughly cleaned and free of mold and pests before a new tenant moves in.
  • Provide the What Tenants and Landlords Should Know About Indoor Allergens and Local Law 55 fact sheet and a Notice with each tenant’s lease that clearly states the property owner’s responsibilities to keep the building free of indoor allergens.
  • A landlord has a responsibility to remediate mold in a tenant’s unit, just as they would with any other hazard. If the mold arises because of the tenant’s actions, however, the landlord may not be obligated to address it, and it may become the tenant’s responsibility. This would include things like accidentally overflowing bathtubs or trying to do plumbing work yourself.
  • Owners of residential properties with 3 or more units are required to hire a New York State Department of Labor-licensed mold assessor, like RTK Environmental, to assess conditions whenever there are more than 10 square feet of mold. After the assessment, landlords are responsible for hiring a separate remediation contractor. These two contractors must be completely independent of each other, as doing both the testing and remediation on the same job is a violation of the 2016 New York State mold law and would be a clear conflict of interest. A licensed mold contractor must also comply with New York City Administrative Code section 24-154 and New York State Labor Law Article 32. There may be penalties to a property owner for failure to comply with New York City requirements.
  • Safe work practices are required for mold removal, whether you hire a contractor or you do the work yourself or with your own staff. These practices include:
    • Hire a NYS certified microbial investigator, like RTK, to test for mold before and after remediation to identify the problem and ensure it was properly remediated.
    • Removing any standing water, and fix leaks or moisture conditions.
    • Isolating the work area with plastic sheeting and covering egress pathways.
    • Limiting the spread of dust. Use methods such as sealing off openings (e.g. doorways, ventilation ducts, etc.) and gently misting the molding area with soap and water before cleaning.
    • Cleaning mold with soap or detergent and water. Dry the cleaned area completely. If these areas are not dried completely, mold will likely return.
    • Removing and discarding materials that cannot be cleaned properly.
    • Throwing away all cleaning-related waste in heavy-duty plastic bags.
    • Cleaning any visible dust from the work area with wet mops or HEPA vacuums.
    • Leaving the work area dry and visibly free from mold, dust, and debris. 

Asbestos

popcorn ceiling landlordThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires owners of buildings constructed before 1981 to place warning labels, train staff, and notify employees or outside contractors who are working in areas that might contain asbestos.

  • To establish that there is no asbestos on your property, you must have a licensed inspector, like RTK, test for it. You have a duty to take reasonable precautions to protect tenants from asbestos as this material has been linked to an elevated risk of lung cancer and other health issues.
  • If the landlord is planning a renovation or repair in a pre-1981 building that will disturb suspect asbestos containing material, they need to test for asbestos and remove it prior to any work being performed.

Lead

lead paint landlordA federal regulation now requires landlords of “target housing” (most housing built before 1978) to disclose any known lead paint hazards to prospective tenants. New York City landlords and residents also must follow Local Law 31 to avoid costly fines and penalties. Here’s the breakdown of Local Law 31:

  • X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) inspections are now required for all surfaces in every rental unit for “multiple dwelling” buildings built prior to 1960 (as well as for buildings built between 1960 and 1978 with known lead-based paint).
  • XRF lead inspections must take place within 5 years of the effective date of the law (by August 9, 2025) or within one year if a child under the age of 6 resides in or moves into the unit.
  • Inspections must be conducted by a third-party, EPA-certified lead inspector or risk assessor, independent of the owner or any firm hired to perform lead-based paint remediation.
  • Home improvement contractors must show evidence that they are EPA-certified and follow RRP lead-based safety standards.
  • On December 1, 2021, the definition of lead-based paint changed from paint that has a lead content measured at 1.0 mg/cm2 or greater as determined by laboratory analysis or by an instrument called an X-ray florescence analyzer (XRF) to be defined as paint that has a lead content measured at 0.5 mg/cm2 or greater as determined by laboratory analysis or an XRF instrument with an approved PCS and programmed at a testing action level of 0.5 mg/cm2.
  • Federal regulations also require that prospective tenants be given a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pamphlet, Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home, about residential lead poisoning hazards.

The older the housing, the more likely it is that it contains lead paint, that can cause lead poisoning, especially when the paint is disturbed.

  • Lead poisoning can occur from lead dust the size of a grain of sand (dust from lead paint can be released when a painted surface is disturbed). Lead poisoning can lead to serious, irreversible brain damage, neurological reproductive and behavioral issues, autism-like symptoms, and more.
  • Test for lead to be sure you are protected.

Radon

radon landlordNo laws actually require landlords to identify radon or remove it from their property, despite radon’s association with lung cancer. Radon has been detected everywhere in the United States, so it is a hazard that should be on a landlord’s radar for testing.

  • When radon is trapped in homes that have poor or inadequate insulation or ventilation, it can become a severe health hazard.
  • In areas where there is rocky terrain, like the Northeast, there are substantial amounts of radon, caused by the high concentrations of uranium in the soil and rock.

In the end, the goal of both tenants and landlords is the same – to keep everyone healthy and protected. The best way to prevent further issues and potential contamination is to have the property tested for environmental toxins. This way, there is a clear path to what needs to be done to ensure everyone’s safety. And be sure to test after the remediation or abatement is complete to ensure the work was properly completed. Call RTK at 800.392.6468 to schedule an environmental inspection today.

To learn more about tenant responsibilities, click here.

Categories
Flooding & Water Damage Asbestos Healthy Home Lead

Post-Hurricane Cleanup Guide

Post-Hurricane Cleanup Guide

Flooding and water damage from storms and hurricanes can be devastating. Knowing what to do in the event that you’ve experienced an indoor water intrusion is critical in preventing and stopping mold growth. Additionally, there are several things to know about rebuilding, which you may not be aware of. Whatever phase of the post-storm cleanup you are in, these tips can help you get your life back to normal.

Get a Plan Together

Hurricane Flooding DamageDon’t rush repairs after water damage occurs. Improper demolition or renovation may not only cost you thousands more in unnecessary repairs, it can also send a host of toxins into parts of your home that were not affected, including mold spores, lead dust, and asbestos. The first step is to get an independent environmental inspection from a company like RTK Environmental Group. The independent inspection can protect your financial interests by pinpointing exactly what needs to be removed, what’s salvageable, and which environmental hazards are present.

Why is “independent” important?Have damage, but haven’t done anything yet? Here’s what you need to do first.

  • Inspect the damage. Be sure to take video and photos of everything for insurance purposes.
  • If more than 24 – 48 hours has passed, contact an independent inspection company like RTK Environmental to do a mold assessment, as mold has likely grown during that time.
  • Contact FEMA and your insurance company to find out what benefits and help may be available to you.
  • Call 800.392.6468 and have RTK pinpoint the extent of the repairs needed, and identify any health hazards like moldleadasbestos, and bacteria from sewage.
  • Check for roof and window damage, which may have caused leaks and mold.

Decide Whether to Hire a Remediation Firm or Do the Work Yourself

Mold remediationWhether you choose to do the work yourself or hire a contractor will depend on the size and scope of the damage, and the potential environmental hazards involved. Once you have the results of independent mold, lead, and/or asbestos testing, you will have a good idea as to whether you can handle it or not. Remember: Beware of any contractor who both tests for environmental hazards and performs the repairs. It’s a conflict of interest, and they stand to make money remediating any “problems” they find. 

If you decide to do the work yourself, here’s what to know first:

  • If the area is more than a 3’x3’ area, the EPA does not recommend you remove the mold yourself. Anything larger should be handled by a professional.
  • Please be aware that contaminants, from sewage to bacteria, reside in floodwater. These are serious health hazards, and can cause severe illness.
  • Know that if your house was built before 1980, it may contain asbestos and lead, which when disturbed are serious, even deadly, health hazards. Be sure to test for lead and asbestos before doing any demolition that may cause the fibers and dust to become airborne so you know how to prepare.
  • asbestos warningHave an RTK certified microbial investigator test the area after you’ve completed the work to ensure that you haven’t missed anything during the repair process.
  • Keep the RTK inspection report in a safe place so you have proof of proper repair should you decide to sell your home.
  • Call RTK Environmental Group at 800.392.6486 if you have any questions. We’re happy to help.

Following any removal and remediation, here are some things to consider:

Test Before and After You Rebuild

If you rebuild before the area is completely dried out, you will be sealing mold into your walls. The mold will grow back and cause major damage. This happened quite often during Sandy, and RTK saw hundreds of mold regrowth cases over the next several years. Walls that were rebuilt had to be taken down, mold remediation was performed again, and homes were rebuilt a second time. And, it has been determined that potentially thousands of demolition projects occurred without proper testing for asbestos or lead paint.

Test your home for mold before you rebuild to make sure you know where the problem is. Test your home after you rebuild to be sure the job was done correctly, the mold was cleaned up properly, and there are no remaining lead or asbestos hazards present.

Protect Yourself with Proper Documentation

test before you rebuildAn independent environmental testing company will provide you with a detailed report, documenting that your home is safe or is cleared to be rebuilt and has a safe environmental toxin level (mold, lead, asbestos, radon, bacteria, and other toxins). This documentation will be critical when you sell your home or for insurance claims. To ensure that your document will hold up in possible legal situations or in court, make sure the company that performs the testing is certified, licensed, insured, and does not perform remediation, which could result in a conflict-of-interest claim.

Reselling Your Home

home sale adviceFuture homebuyers may be asking tough questions about whether your home was flooded or struck by falling trees during any of the noteworthy northeast storms so you’ll want to be able to prove via documentation that your home was properly repaired afterwards. Otherwise, doubtful purchasers might cause you to have to lower the sale price, and you might run the risk of a potential lawsuit from the new owner who could claim that you knowingly sold them a home with post-hurricane environmental contamination like mold, lead, asbestos, and bacteria from sewage.

Future Insurance Hassles

Mold InsuranceIf your home floods again and mold returns, your insurance company may question whether the mold was caused by the new event and not from Henri. Without proof that your home was deemed mold-free after repairs were made, the insurance company might take the position that a new claim is not justified or that you have met your policy limit. 

Independent Testing Companies vs. One-Stop Shops

Free Mold TestingSome companies offer mold testing on the cheap and then conveniently offer their own remediation services to fix the problem. This is a clear conflict-of-interest, with the result that the problem is not often remediated – if it exists at all. The consumer may be paying thousands of dollars for bloated repair estimates or an improper and ineffective remediation. Contact RTK for an independent, unbiased test.

Why Choose RTK?

– Leading Independent Environmental Testing Company

– No Conflict-of-Interest Policy

– Accurate and Unbiased

– Certified Microbial Investigators

– Over 25 Years’ Experience

– Building and Construction Backgrounds

– Results in as little as 24-hours

– In-Depth Report Returned in 2-4 Days

– State-of-the-Art Equipment and Technology

– Extensive, Multi-Room Testing to Ensure Accuracy

Call us at 800.392.6468.

 

 

Categories
Healthy Home Asbestos Dust Lead Mold

Brand New Life: How to Remodel Your Old House

Brand New Life: How to Remodel Your Old House

By Jennifer Monroe

Breathing fresh air into your old house can sometimes be accomplished simply with a fresh coat of paint, but at others, it requires a remodel. At some point, every house requires a remodel, no matter how much TLC it was given over the years. The difficulty is knowing where and how to begin the process. There are so many different options for changing aspects of your old house, so it largely depends on what you want out of the remodel. In this article, there will be five tips to get you started on the process of remodeling your old house.

Plan it All Out

remodeling adviceBefore beginning your remodel, it is best to plan out what you want to be done and how you want the final product to look. This is because when you begin, you can get bogged down and lose sight of what you actually want, and change your mind halfway through. It is also advisable to consider why you are doing the remodel, if it is for you then you can really change it to suit all of your needs, however, if it is for an investment then it is better to look into popular trends before starting your project.

Have a Budget

remodeling budgetDeciding how much money you have available to you for the remodel will definitely influence what you want to be done and how you’ll do it. Knowing your budget before you start is one of the best things you can do, otherwise, you could end up spending a lot more than you have available to you. Your budget will determine how much you can do, whether you will need to do the remodel in stages, and what materials you will have at your disposal.

Test for Hazardous Materials

When remodeling an older home, toxins will be lurking where you least expect them. Before you start tearing into walls and removing flooring or tiles, have your home tested for asbestos and lead, both dangerous health hazards. If you unknowingly disturb these materials during the remodel process, you could also be looking at a hefty price tag for the clean-up. Lead causes permanent cognitive damage, violent behavior, autism-like symptoms, loss of IQ and more. Asbestos causes lung-related disease like mesothelioma. Best to have a blueprint of where hazardous materials are so you can take proper precautions.

Do Your Research

When planning to remodel your home it is important that you delve into research; ask those around you who you trust and have done something like this previously for advice and look at the prices and different styles that could potentially be what you want your house to look like at the end. By researching there is a higher chance that you won’t have the wool pulled over your eyes and will feel more confident in your choices. It also helps in the sense that you will have others to tell you what will work and what won’t before it is built instead of going ahead with your vision then realizing it doesn’t have the impact you would want it to.

Think About What Needs to Stay

renovation adviceWhen remodeling your home, it is wise to investigate what can’t be moved from where it currently is. This is particularly true for things like a load-bearing wall because you will be unable to knock this down even if it is the main thing that you want to accomplish. It is also good to keep your small devices so you don’t have to spend extra money on buying new ones. Sometimes there will be ways around it, which is another way your research will come in handy, but otherwise, some things won’t be able to be adapted as you may want them to, so you’ll need to work the remodeling around this.

Contact a Professional

If you want something done in a specific way, or you feel that a job is beyond your skill set, it is best to call in a general contractor. Contacting a professional early on in the process can be handy as well because they can advise you of any pitfalls that may occur in both the planning and building stages. This is where doing research by talking to others who have already been there can come in handy, as they will either have recommendations or be able to tell you who to avoid, which is important as you will need to be able to trust the people who will be spending that much time in your home.

Final Thoughts

So, before you even begin any work, it is important that you look into the different points above. There is no reason that you won’t be able to accomplish the plans you want, but you need to be aware of all the work that is needed in the process of remodeling so that you aren’t caught off guard by anything.

Categories
Healthy Home Asbestos Dust Flooding & Water Damage Lead Mold

Environmental Issues: Is Your Home Trying to Tell You Something?

Is Your Home Trying to Tell You Something?

environmental home issues

We are attuned to listening to the steady messages of our loved ones, our coworkers, and even our bodies. The question is, do you pay attention to the subtle signs your home may be telling you about an issue? Probably not. Often, many unhealthy environmental toxins in the home come with warning signs – you just have to know what they are.

Here are the Top 5 Signs of a Potential Environmental Issue:

  1. Musty Odor

musty odor moldIf you smell something afoul, don’t ignore it. A musty odor may indicate a mold or mildew problem, which can cause serious health issues. In addition to allergy like symptoms, trouble breathing, and rashes, mold can also cause headaches, fatigue and dizziness.

If you catch a whiff of that musty odor, you should schedule a mold test. An independent mold test (from a company that does not also remediate) can help you to find hidden mold and pinpoint the problem. This will enable you to hire a reputable contractor to remove the mold precisely, and save you thousands of dollars on unnecessary repairs.

  1. Chipping Paint & Dust Window Panes

leaded window

If you see dust around your window sills or chipping paint in your home that was built before 1978 (the year lead paint was banned), it should be a red flag. Chipping lead paint is a big source of lead poisoning, which is extremely dangerous, especially for children, older adults, and pets. Lead poisoning can cause a serious host of issues including neurological and cognitive deficits, autism-like symptoms, mood swings, and even violent behavior.

The most common cause of lead poisoning is lead dust, which is created every time you open or close a lead painted window, or through improper renovations. Lead dust can spread throughout a home and even into the soil surrounding your home. Unfortunately, most of the time you cannot see lead particles in dust or soil, so unless you test for it, you may not even know that this hazard exists.

  1. Smelly or Discolored Water

polluted waterIf your water is not running clear or smells funny, you likely have a problem, either with your well or older pipes. Bacteria, heavy metals, and other contaminants can cause your water to be less than fresh, and sometimes dangerous.

You may mistakenly believe that because drinking water comes from a well, it’s pure and safer than water from reservoirs or city supplies. However, well water can contain a host of contaminants, including coliform bacteria, uranium, lead, arsenic, E. coli, nitrates, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) radon, pesticides, and MtBE (a gasoline compound), which can cause a wide variety of health problems, including skin problems; damage to the brain, kidneys, and neurological system; gastro-intestinal illness; hair loss; and immune deficiencies.

If you have town or city water and you still notice something off, it may be your pipes. Older pipes can leach lead or other heavy metals into your water supply, causing discoloration, odors, and even a fine grit. If something is off with your water, have it tested. Most of these issues are easily fixed.

  1. Leaky Roof

leaky roof moldIf you go running for a bucket and towels every time it rains, your problem is likely larger than a leaky roof. When water intrusion occurs, like a leaky roof, mold can grow within 24 – 48 hours. And, if you let it go, it can literally grow. And grow. And grow. Mold colonies can be hidden under roof tiles, behind ceilings, sheetrock, and inside walls. And every time it rains, spores will grow larger. If that’s the case, by not addressing the issue, you could be causing structural damage, not to mention the many adverse health effects mentioned earlier.

  1. Chemical Smells

vocOften, that “new car smell” is caused by off-gassing from volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. VOCs are toxic vapors that are off-gassed from man-made materials and everyday household (and workplace) items. VOCs cause poor indoor air quality, which can cause headaches, dizziness, listlessness, depression, and much more. Common causes of poor IAQ are cleaners and disinfectants, new furniture or carpeting, candles, electronics, and paints. If your indoor air isn’t quite right, or if you are experiencing unexplained symptoms, have an indoor air quality test. This can pinpoint or rule out mold and VOCs, and help you breathe easier.

If you suspect that your home is trying to tell you something, please don’t wait. Your health, and that of everyone in your home, may be at risk. Call RTK today to schedule an environmental inspection at 800.392.6468.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Healthy Home Asbestos Health Lead Mold Soil and Water

First Time Homebuyers: What You Need to Know About Environmental Toxins

First Time Homebuyers: What You Need to Know About Environmental Toxins

 

The coronavirus pandemic has urbanites fleeing the city in droves and moving into their first house. Many are snatching them up at a quick glance, not realizing that the house comes with more than just additional space and fresh air. Environmental hazards like mold, asbestos, lead and radon may be lurking in your new home, and without a proper environmental inspection, you may not know until health symptoms develop.

Homes, anywhere and at any time, can harbor mold, asbestos, lead, or radon, and contain poor indoor air quality, polluted water, or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), any one of which can threaten one’s health. That is why investing in environmental testing services prior to purchase or once you’ve made the investment is a good idea.

5 Environmental Hazards to Watch Out For:

Mold

mold behind cabinetsMold can be visible or hidden behind walls, ceilings, or floors, under carpets, and even in HVAC systems. Mold can cause serious health issues including trouble breathing, allergies, headaches and dizziness. Mold can also be present and affecting your health even if no symptoms present themselves – everyone if affected differently. Testing for mold can pinpoint the source of the problem so that proper steps can be taken to remediate the issue.

Lead

lead soilLead is found in most homes built prior to 1978, the year lead paint was banned for residential use. Lead dust is the most common cause of lead poisoning, as lead dust can spread throughout a home and even into the soil surrounding your home. Unfortunately, most of the time you cannot see lead in dust or soil, so unless you test for it, you may not even know that this hazard is present. Lead poisoning can cause serious host of issues including neurological and cognitive deficits, autism-like symptoms, mood swings, and violent behavior.

Asbestos

Asbestos is commonly found in older homes in pipe insulation, tile, and attic or wall insulation, among dozens of other places. Breathing in asbestos fibers can cause serious health implications. At the least, asbestos is a breathing irritant. At worst, asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a serious cancerous condition that can lead to debilitating health problems and usually death.

Radon

radon testingRadon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is extremely hazardous to your health. It’s the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US. It is an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas produced when uranium naturally decays in soil and water. Since 90 percent of the land in the Northeast is likely to have elevated radon levels, every home should be tested for radon.

Poor Indoor Air Quality

indoor air quality testingVolatile organic compounds, or VOCs, and mold make up almost 90% of indoor air quality issues. VOCs are toxic fumes that are off gassed from many building and everyday materials including new flooring or carpeting, paint, cleaners and detergents. Poor indoor air quality can cause headaches, nausea, allergies, difficulty breathing, and rashes, just to name a few.

A Traditional Home Inspection Isn’t Enough

Home inspections are obviously necessary for the sale or purchase of a home. But what many buyers are realizing is that these inspections usually do not take into consideration mold infestation, lead, asbestos, and water quality. Most home inspectors lack the knowledge and certifications necessary to test for potentially toxic substances.

What Is an Environmental Home Inspection?

renovation adviceMold testing, lead inspection, asbestos testing, water testing, and indoor air quality testing may all be performed during an environmental inspection. Environmental home inspections can vary depending on the age and condition of the home. Such inspections should be scheduled with a certified, independent testing company – even before your sign a contract. It’s important that the company you hire doesn’t perform both testing and remediation, as that is a conflict of interest.

Not all environmental hazards are obvious, and they can cause serious health issues. To detect them requires expertise, licensure, technology, and experience. If you would like more information on what types of environmental inspections may be right for you, please feel free to call us at 800.392.6468. Live well!

 

Categories
Asbestos Healthy Home Lead

Renovate Right: Top 3 Tips for DIYers

Renovate Right: Top 3 Tips for DIYers

This is the time of year many of us DIYers are eager to get moving on home improvements. But before you start sanding and swinging that hammer, there are a few important things to think about:

What type of surfaces and materials will you be disturbing? Is there chipping paint? Crumbling pipe insulation? Smell of mildew?

If any or all of the above, you’ll need to take some precautions. Why? You may be subjecting yourself and your family to possible health risks, caused by the very particles you’ve disturbed. So, renovate the right way. Here’s how:

Tip #1: Know the composition of the materials you disturb before you even begin – have your home tested!

environmental testing nyc

Mold that you cannot see may be lurking behind your walls. Pipe insulation may contain asbestos fibers. Layers of old paint beneath more recent paint may contain lead. When you disturb these materials, dust and spores from these toxic materials may be released in the air. Then, they may travel through your home’s HVAC system. Once that happens, you’ve contaminated your indoor environment. So, BEFORE you start the project, have a certified microbial inspector do some tests. If you wait until after you’ve disturbed these materials and discover that you have released toxins in the process, the clean up can be very expensive. Worst of all, you may have subjected yourself and your family to real health hazards.

So, Step One: call in an environmental testing company to have your home tested, especially if you live in a pre-1978 built home. If the test reveals toxic lead remnants, be sure you follow lead safe work practices, or hire a contractor certified in lead-safe work practices under the Renovation, Repair, and Paint rule (RRP).

Tip #2: Take proper precautions.

If a test confirms environmental hazards, take appropriate steps to keep yourself and your family safe. Follow these precautions:

– Evacuate vulnerable family members. While you are working, be sure children, pregnant Protect Childrenwomen, and pets leave the premises for the day. They can return to the house after the work has stopped and the area is thoroughly cleaned. Even a speck of lead dust can cause irreversible damage to one’s health.

– Contain the offending area. Close doors leading to the work area. Then use 4-6 mil plastic sheeting and painter’s tape to seal off the work area. Seal all duct work, doors leading out, and windows with the sheeting. Your goal is to prevent toxins from contaminating the rest of the house.

– Dress for the occasion. Look for a mask or respirator with an N95 rating or higher, which mold inspection nycfilters out very fine particles. And be sure you wear it for the entire time you are working and cleaning. Also, buy a Tyvek suit to protect your clothes. If the work takes more than a day, leave the Tyvek suit in the contained area. Be sure to cover your feet with booties, which also should never leave the contained area. Once you remove the Tyvek suit and the booties, head to your washing machine, strip, and wash your clothes.

– Avoid sanding. Lead dust accounts for most of the 500,000 pediatric lead-poisoning cases a year. Sanding releases fine lead dust particles, which fly through your air, infiltrating the entire house. Unfortunately, these particles remain in the home for a long time. Therefore, sand as little as possible.home renovation tips ny

– Clean up well. First, sweep up as much of the dust and debris as you can and put it into a plastic bag, which you then should seal with painter’s tape. Use a HEPA vacuum to remove any remaining lead dust particles. Then use warm water and clean rags to wash all surfaces. Every exposed surface must be cleaned well.

Tip #3: Protect your family from unnecessary health risks.

When the work is done, be sure to have a second environmental inspection performed by a certified testing company to be sure your home has been properly cleaned from lead, asbestos, mold, and other toxins. Otherwise, the health affects can be devastating.

Lead poisoning is shown to causHealthy Familye autism-like symptoms, ADHD, brain damage, lower IQ, and a host of other physical and mental issues. Mold causes asthma, allergies, and other serious respiratory ailments. Asbestos is a carcinogen that can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis and other serious respiratory ailments. Most asbestos-related diseases don’t arise until years after exposure.

Make sure your home is safe for you and your family. Test today.