Considerations When Doing HVAC Ductwork

By | HVAC, Indoor Air Quality, Indoor Environmental Quality | No Comments

A space quite often forgotten and left unprotected during renovations is the HVAC ductwork or mechanical equipment. Sawdust is biodegradable but if it gets into the ductwork, it can become moist making it the perfect nutrient for mold growth. When the HVAC unit kicks on, it spreads the mold spores throughout the building.

If replacing the ductwork, avoid duct board and flex duct. When duct board becomes moist, mold will root into it. The best option to remove the mold is to remove the duct board so the roots are eliminated. Flexible ducts are not easily cleaned. Solid metal ducts are the best option.

Properly insulate ductwork in attics and crawlspaces. Otherwise, condensation may occur when there are changes in temperature. Moisture and dust in the ductwork create a perfect environment for the propagation of mold. Ductwork should be insulated on the outside of the ductwork, not the inside. Otherwise, it cannot be adequately cleaned.

Use filters recommended by the manufacturer. Initially, filters should be checked monthly to determine the replacement timing required for the building. All buildings will be slightly different depending on the use and occupancy of the building.

Before re-occupancy after renovations, consideration should be taken to have the HVAC system professionally cleaned.

Many IAQ investigations end in the identification of poor indoor air because of dirty or contaminated ductwork. Protecting the ductwork during renovations is crucial.

The amount of ventilation will be determined by the size of the area being renovated and the amount of construction dust and off-gassing that will occur. It is crucial to have the air pulled from the area and exhausted to the outdoors rather than forcing fresh air into the work area. Doing so will cause polluted air to enter areas adjacent to the work area. 

Cleaning should occur daily along with a deep cleaning after the demolition and a final deep cleaning upon completion of all construction and renovation. Proper deep cleaning must be employed, including HEPA vacuuming, damp wiping, and a final HEPA vacuuming, and when applicable, cleaning of the ductwork.

Material encapsulation is the process of placing a barrier between the material of concern and the indoor air. This reduces the number of gases or particles emitted into the indoor air from the building component or the products used to perform their installation. Although some encapsulation occurs automatically as a result of the work plan, it is usually safer to specify the use of materials that do not off-gas or that are low-VOC instead of attempting to encapsulate all surfaces.

Encapsulants typically include high-pressure plastic laminates, factory-applied coatings or films, and coats of water-based polyurethane lacquer.

So if you are planning to do ductwork anytime soon, keep these points n mind and contact Baxter Environmental Group, Inc. if you need help making sure your indoor air quality stays healthy!

To learn more or to join our BREATHE HEALTHY Initiative, visit baxtergroupinc.com.  Request a copy of our BREATHE HEALTHY ebook.

Is it time for a new roof? Here’s what you need to know!

By | Asbestos, Home Improvement | No Comments

Asbestos-containing roofing material… What is it?

Asbestos-containing roofing material, or ACRM, is any shingle, roof underlayment, caulks/sealants, flashing, or tar paper that would be over contain over 1% asbestos. It is important to be aware of what is this for the simple reason of contamination of items in your around your home.

To paint a picture imagine your getting a roof replacement the hired contractor is removing the existing roof and as they’re removing them a couple falls off the roof onto the back patio. The contractor goes to “clean it up” by picking up the shingles and sweeping up the dust. You, not knowing the hazard of what could be asbestos dust, walk out later to inspect the work they have done. At that point you have walked through the area with the “asbestos dust” and likely have or will track the “asbestos dust” into your home unknowingly.

That example happens way too often in the real world, and that is why it is important to always test to find out whether your roof has ACRM on it.

Don’t just stop there.

If you happen to have a roofing material that is asbestos-containing here are your options:

As a homeowner, you could repair or replace the roof yourself. We recommend you use the proper P.P.E which includes gloves, a NIOSH P100 rated respirator, safety glasses, and a disposable Tyvek suit. Also do not forget the use of a drop cloth, most states require the drop cloth to be 6 mil thick so it will not tear easily as well it is a good idea to double bag the trash bags of waste.

If you do not feel comfortable handling asbestos-containing material, then we recommend finding and using a licensed asbestos abatement contractor to perform removal and possible repair of the roof. 

To learn more or to join our BREATHE HEALTHY Initiative, visit baxtergroupinc.com.  Request a copy of our BREATHE HEALTHY ebook.

What should I do when I find mold when I am renovating?

By | Indoor Air Quality, Indoor Environmental Quality, Mold, Renovation | No Comments

Many D-I-Yers that take on home renovation projects like interior painting, kitchen remodeling, bathroom renovation, floor replacement, and window replacement, rarely understand the risks of mold. Even if they do, they may not know how to ensure that the mold contamination is prevented from spreading throughout the home.

The biggest risk you encounter by doing the renovation yourself or hiring an inexperienced contractor is contamination, meaning the mold spores spread throughout the home. You need to contain the area where you find mold to prevent this from happening. Most importantly, prevent the spores from entering and contaminating your HVAC system and air ducts, which could spread spores throughout your home.

With this in mind, if you find mold during the teardown process of drywall, removal of carpet or flooring, and/or during the removal of bathroom fixtures such as the tub, shower liner, etc. your  FIRST STEP is to determine the extent of the problem. 

Before you continue with your project, determine what the underlying moisture issue is because mold only grows when there is moisture present. Further renovations and reconstruction should only resume once the cause of the moisture problem is identified and fixed. Failure to do this will result in future costly headaches if this step is not taken.

If you are seriously considering removing the mold yourself, contact an indoor environmental consultant for an educated assessment and further advice on how to tackle the issue.

It is worth getting a mold inspection and/or air quality test on your home before you decide to remove any mold yourself. It is better to be safer than sorry when you are dealing with mold because exposure can cause health issues.

If you decide to remove the mold yourself, make sure you keep these tips in mind:

  1. Prevent cross-contamination by setting up containment, using a polyurethane barrier at least 3 mil thick that you can get from your local hardware store. Also, be sure to cover any vents or shut down the HVAC system in the area of mold removal.
  2. Understand that mold can be life-threatening, so be safe. Wear safety glasses, rubber gloves, an N95 or equivalent respirator, and a disposable suit.
  3. Don’t just spray the mold-contaminated materials with bleach, praying your mold problem will go away. Bleach is not effective on porous materials, so it is best to properly dispose of contaminated ceiling tiles, carpet, drywall, etc. Be sure to use 3 mil thick trash bags and dispose of mold-contaminated materials properly, double bagging is recommended.
  4. Mold contamination on non-porous materials can be scrubbed or brushed off then possibly encapsulated with mold inhibiting paint. You may find a microband at your local hardware store or online that could be effective.
  5. To prevent mold spores from becoming airborne and spreading use a HEPA-equipped vacuum that filters up to 99.97% of contaminants.

To learn more or to join our BREATHE HEALTHY Initiative, visit baxtergroupinc.com.  Request a copy of our BREATHE HEALTHY ebook.

Do You Know The Most Dangerous Material In Your Pre-1980 Home?

By | Home Improvement, Indoor Air Quality, Renovation, Safety | No Comments

Do you know what it is?

And more importantly, do you know if you’re at risk?

Let’s say you’re deciding whether or not to go with a new look with your kitchen or bathroom this summer before the holidays. You’ve created a checklist of things like

  • New cabinets
  • Paint
  • Appliances
  • Flooring.

After doing some research and finding out what direction you want to go in, you now schedule to have a licensed contractor come and give a few estimates. During this inspection, he mentions your home has asbestos 9×9 tile in the kitchen.

Now you’re stuck wondering what to do next, how much it will cost, whether your health is in danger, and many other questions you will have along the way.

We have the information you need.

Our first recommendation is: Get it tested

Not all 9×9 tile is asbestos positive, but most 9×9 tile in a home built before 1980 is greater than 1% asbestos.

Our second recommendation: See if it is in good condition

If the tile is in good condition then don’t disturb it. Asbestos is only dangerous to your health once it is disturbed. In most cases, you can cover the existing floor with another layer of flooring material which lowers the risk of being exposed to asbestos fibers.

Our third recommendation: Take action if it’s in bad condition

In this case, you should think about contacting a licensed asbestos abatement contractor. The risk of exposure once the tile is disturbed, whether it be broken already or breaking the tile during removal, is extremely high and without proper P.P.E your health would be at risk. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the dangers of asbestos can be Asbestostis (chronic lung disease), Asbestos.com lists various types of cancer and also some nonmalignant diseases. Either way, it’s best to keep yourself educated to make sure you are doing everything possible to keep you and your family safe.

To learn more or to join our BREATHE HEALTHY Initiative, visit baxtergroupinc.com.  Request a copy of our BREATHE HEALTHY ebook.

What is one of the most dangerous long term effects of a Basement Renovation?

By | Home Improvement, Radon, Renovation | No Comments

The simple answer is exposure to radon gas, which is the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

The bigger question is why. There is a variety of answers to that question so we’ll provide some background.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer according to the EPA. Radon gas is inert, colorless and odorless. Radon is naturally in the atmosphere in trace amounts. Outdoors, radon disperses rapidly and, generally, is not a health issue. Most radon exposure occurs inside homes, schools, and workplaces.

Radon is a soil gas that is formed from the Polonium and Uranium in the soil around your home that tends to seep through the imperfections in your basement retaining wall. Imper

fections may include plumbing or electrical penetrations through below-grade walls that aren’t sealed properly, cracks in slab floor or below grade walls, and possibly an unsealed sump. It is recommended to test for radon before and after the renovation project to assess whether the radon level is higher than the EPA recommends.

To learn more or to join our BREATHE HEALTHY Initiative, visit baxtergroupinc.com.  Request a copy of our BREATHE HEALTHY ebook.

Mrs. H isn’t feeling too well… Here is another story on the importance of safe renovations

By | Indoor Air Quality, Indoor Environmental Quality, Mold | No Comments

The early 21st century home was in immaculate shape, nothing seemed wrong from the looks of it as I walked up to the front door and knocked on it. I was greeted by Mr. H and he explained to me that Mrs. H hasn’t been feeling the best. I asked if she was doing anything out of the ordinary. He replied with no, she works from her new home office which is next to the newly remodeled and installed bathroom.

We proceeded to the basement where the remodel had taken place and as I walked down the hallway I started to smell a musty odor as we got closer to the bathroom and office. As we went into the bathroom the odor got worse and I asked if it has always smelled like that, he replied with no and we started investigating.

The ceiling was made up of a grid with 2×4 ceiling tiles and one had a vent to vent out moisture. As I pulled up one of the tiles I felt it was really soft and somewhat mushy on the corners, I was told it was completely out of the track and it was covered with mold on the other side. I peeked my head through the rest of the drop ceiling and 75% of the ceiling tiles in the bathroom and the adjacent office were covered in mold, along with the top 12-16 inches for the backside of the drywall that separated the two rooms. He asked me why this happened, I replied with a lack of ventilation and moisture building on the tile. He said that they use the exhaust fan every time they shower and he didn’t understand why it would build up if the fan is on.

After further investigation, we found out the duct the fan was connected to wasn’t coupled correctly causing a leak which is pushing hot moisture-filled air out of the bathroom and above the drop ceiling causing the issue.

What I take away from this experience, and what I want you to take away from this story, is to never underestimate the unseen. There are so many things behind walls and under floors and tiles that it is not always easily apparent when there is an issue.

If you suspect that something is causing sickness, it is worth it to allow us to assess your situation thoroughly and use our experience to remediate the area and protect your family once and for all.

To learn more or to join our BREATHE HEALTHY Initiative, visit baxtergroupinc.com.  Request a copy of our BREATHE HEALTHY ebook.

5 Tips To Safely Renovating A Damp Or Wet Basement

By | Basement Dewatering, Basement Water Control, Wet Basements | No Comments
  • Tip #1: Ask yourself how wet is my basement? Is your basement damp, stuffy, or humid…. Is there a lake in my basement? Regardless of how wet your basement could be it is always good to get consulting, to understand your options. Whether you need a sump pump or not there are many methods for keeping water from intruding into your basement.
  • Tip #2: Ask yourself how frequently is water showing up and is it staying? As concrete is very porous material water likes to pass through very easily so your problem may be because the water table around your home is so high that the easiest path of travel for water is your basement.
  • Tip #3: Ask yourself how long has the water been in the basement? This is a very important question to ask because in most cases if the water has sat in the basement for an extended period of time there could be mold growth.
  • Tip #4: Dry It Up. If you have a damp or wet basement, you have to fix it before you start any finishing work. The good news is that most water problems can be remedied by two measures: grading the soil to slope away from the foundation and adding or repairing gutters and downspouts. If these steps don’t work, you’ll have to take more extreme measures which we are happy to assess and review. Eliminating water problems is critical to prevent a moldy and ruined finished basement.

  • Tip #5: A calcium chloride test. In a calcium chloride test, which is usually conducted in three locations for every 1000 square feet of flooring, you’ll place carefully weighed calcium hydroxide into a container, which is covered by a plastic seal. After 72 hours, you can weigh the container again. Any extra weight in the container is due to water evaporation, usually from a concrete basement floor.

To learn more or to join our BREATHE HEALTHY Initiative, visit baxtergroupinc.com.  Request a copy of our BREATHE HEALTHY ebook.

Mrs. B’s Anxiety . . . Another true story advocating safe renovations . . .

By | Renovation | No Comments

Mrs. B’s anxiety was running rampant… Another true story advocating SAFE RENOVATIONS!

The mid-1950s home was located in a quiet Western Maryland neighborhood.  Moving boxes were on the front porch.  A dumpster sat in the driveway full of old cabinets and shelving.  The sound of a saw and hammers resounded from within the home. I was greeted by a friendly face, but I could tell in her expression she was uneasy. We walked in her residence as she explained to me that she just bought the home and was planning on removing a wall and opening up the kitchen space.  She painted a picture of the renovated kitchen with a center island, stylish cabinets, and rustic colors.

Mrs. B explained that she had not been able to sleep after seeing a news report about potential hazardous building materials in older homes.  In looking around at the kitchen I shared the fact that she may be disturbing lead-based painted components and asbestos-containing floor tile and mastic currently in her kitchen.  Her face signaled dismay as she asked, “Why would you think these materials are hazardous?”

Quality paints produced prior to 1979 typically contained lead-based paint.  When knocking out the wall, the disturbance to the painted surfaces would release lead dust into the building.  I highly recommended that she have it tested prior to renovations.  If it is lead-based paint, then she would want to protect herself and the environment from the spread of lead dust.  An XRF Analyzer would indicate the concentration of lead in the paint to help her plan to remove the wall safely.  She asked me to take a reading of the paint.  The analyzer instantly have me a reading of 1.1 mg/cm sq. In Maryland anything at or above 0.7 mg/cm is considered lead-based paint and the proper precautions should be taken when removing.

Then she asked about the floor tile.   The only way to know for sure if the tile contained asbestos is to have it sent to a lab for analysis. We found that it contained 3% Chrysolite.

After a few simple tests, Mrs. B was now able to put a renovation plan in place that includes safe renovation practices that would protect her, her helpers, and her neighborhood.

If you would like more information on lead-based paint or asbestos-containing materials in homes and buildings, please email jm@baxgergroupinc.com for free literature.

To learn more or to join our BREATHE HEALTHY Initiative, visit baxtergroupinc.com.  Request a copy of our BREATHE HEALTHY e-book.

 

What are carbon straps and why are they important in a basement renovation project?

By | Basement Water Control | No Comments

Many contractors, homeowners and do-it-yourselfers are eager to pull the trigger on renovating their basement but there could be one major issue on your hands if you miss this very important step. I am talking about a weakened or cracked foundation retaining wall. Just image if you sunk 10s of thousands dollars into the prefect mancave or hobby room that you have always dreamed about and boom . . .  water leakage. Now before you get mislead these carbon reinforcing straps themselves will not stop the water from entering your basement, but they are an essential part of the preventive measures to stop your nightmare from coming true.

At its core, a carbon reinforcing strap is a carbon fiber-based material that is woven and boned together by an epoxy based coating. The purpose they serve is to reinforce your building’s concrete retaining wall so that the soil pressure over time does not cause new or further cracking of the retaining wall. This is important in keeping the structural integrity in your building, as well as controlling water penetration into the basement. They are installed by cleaning the existing concrete block and applying a heavy duty epoxy coating to the wall.  Then, applying additional pressure when the strap is in place. It is also very important to seal exiting cracks that have formed in the wall with a polyethene base caulk or with the same heavy duty epoxy used to secure the strips on the wall. This is a critical step in ensuring that your home or building is safe.

To learn more or to join our BREATHE HEALTHY Initiative, visit baxtergroupinc.com.  Request a copy of our BREATHE HEALTHY e-book.

 

PROTECT Yourself & Your Team from the Health Risks of Remodeling!

By | Renovation | No Comments

PROTECT Yourself & Your Team from the Health Risks of Remodeling!

 

POTENTIAL HEALTH RISKS OF REMODELING AN OLDER HOME

By RE Resources Team

February 10, 2017 at 3:38 PM

If you’ve recently purchased a fixer-upper and a home remodel is on your agenda, beware of potential health risks. Older homes are notorious for harboring numerous hazards like lead, asbestos, radon, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). Mold and mildew are often another problem when opening up walls during demolition, which allows dangerous pollutants to fill the air you and your family breath. Respiratory problems (or worse) can become serious health issues when you don’t manage these pollutants properly. However, if you’re aware of the risks, you can take measures to minimize the effects these hazards might have both during and after your home remodel. Start by learning what hazards to look for and where they might hide in older houses.

Lead Paint

Lead paint is one of the two most well-known hazards. Prior to the ban of lead paint in 1978, lead was used as a pigment and drying agent for painting homes. Thus, you can assume any house built before the ban probably has lead paint present, though it may be hidden underneath several layers of lead-free paint.

Lead paint was actually banned in Staten Island and throughout New York City in 1960. NY authorities caution homeowners not to remove paint by dry scraping or sanding in homes older than 1960, because dust from lead-based paint is the most common cause of lead poisoning in children.

Certification by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required of any firm performing a home remodel where lead-based paint will be disturbed. Each renovator must also be certified and taught by EPA-approved trainers. Rules for properly disposing of lead-based paint debris varies by municipality, so contact local authorities before disturbing old paint.

Asbestos

Asbestos is the other most well-known hazard and another common problem in older homes. You may find asbestos in old insulation, pipes, floor coverings, cement siding, roofing, ceiling tiles, spackling compound, adhesives and more. Again, contractors or renovators must have EPA accreditation and be fully trained and qualified in the safe removal of asbestos.

The greatest danger from this pollutant is when it becomes airborne, which can happen if you disturb it during a home remodel. Inhaled or ingested asbestos particles can cause lung disease and various cancers, and the symptoms might not even surface for years.

Insulation and pipe coverings are often the most likely and most dangerous source of asbestos in older homes, because the dried material crumbles easily and releases asbestos freely. While asbestos in floor tiles and roof shingles is less likely to become airborne, they should still be handled appropriately.

Keep Dust Down

In most home remodel projects, dust isn’t just the biggest nuisance, it’s also one thing both lead and asbestos have in common. Both pollutants become harmful or even toxic when disturbed and their dust particles present the most danger. It’s important you and your contractor have a dust control plan for every project that produces dust. This could include isolating the area you’re working on from the rest of the house, removing or covering furnishings and sealing all doors and air ducts. While dust is a natural part of the renovation process, capture and minimize dust as much as possible to protect you, your workers and family members.

Avoid Mold Growth

Damp or wet conditions can lead to mold growth. Older homes have had numerous opportunities for various water-related incidents. Leaking roofs, busted pipes, broken water heaters, backed up drains and flood water all leave behind moisture. If each drenching wasn’t properly cleaned up, mold could lurk underneath carpets or other flooring, in the attic or basement and/or behind walls.

Removing flooring or opening up walls with mold contamination can release harmful mold spores into the air. The most toxic is black mold, which is greenish-black and typically slimy, but can appear powdery when it dries out. Respiratory problems and irritation to the mucous membranes are common when you’re exposed to black mold, but it could lead to worse health issues.

Many of the potential health risks associated with remodeling an older home can be serious, chronic or even fatal. Hazardous materials you might encounter could cause balance and coordination issues, breathing difficulties, central nervous system problems, eye irritation, fatigue, frequent cough, frequent headaches, lead poisoning, liver and kidney damage, lung cancer, Mesothelioma, nausea, nose and throat irritation, skin rash and more. Approach any home remodel with caution and order appropriate testing of substances you’re unsure whether they pose a potential threat to your health, because you never know what might be lurking in your home.

To learn more or to join our BREATHE HEALTHY Initiative, visit baxtergroupinc.com.  Request a copy of our BREATHE HEALTHY e-book.