Category Archives: Indoor Air Quality

The Four Letter Word that Frightens Realtors!

As a realtor you know how challenging it is to list a house and then try to find the right buyer for the client. So many things can show up during a home inspection that your client may become discouraged due to past flooding, ice dams, roof leaks, or a pipe that froze. Water intruded throughout some of these areas that now may have suspect mold growth.  Yes ‘mold’ that dirty four letter word that can frighten a buyer away!

 

Mold growth and contamination can cause damage to a house or building if not dealt with properly. There are people who are very sensitive to mold fungi and have allergic reactions, sinus infections, even respiratory problems. People with asthma in general struggle with air quality issues. Did you know that the EPA says, “We spend approximately 90 percent of our time indoors”!

 

Before listing a house it is important to ask questions about past flooding, roof leaks, ice dams, pipes from bathrooms or kitchens bursting etc.  How long did the water leak occur? Was water standing for more than 48hours or less? The best time to dry out excess water problems is within the 48  hour period. After a few days this is usually when mold growth tends to occur.  Do you see dried water stains or stains that are suspect for mold such as in the basement, attic, ceilings, walls, etc. Repairing the source of the problem of moisture and dampness is important to control mold growth from occurring.

 

What about those musty odors? Does the crawlspace or basement have a dirt floor? Has the source of the leak been repaired properly? Is the insulation drooping to the floor of the crawlspace because of excess moisture? Are dehumidifier(s) properly operating when needed? Controlling excess relative humidity is important to help mold growth from spreading. Excess Relative Humidity over 60% R.H. can fuel moisture for mold growth. It is important to install the right size dehumidifiers for the basement or crawlspace. Add quality grade vapor barrier sheeting to the entire dirt floor areas. Replace any drooping or excess moist fiberglass insulation; and of course clean and treat the mold where and if necessary.

 

The good news is that there are solutions to mold growth and contamination. Removal of mold physically  such as wallboard, contents, carpets, furniture, wet or damp insulation, etc. Clean and treat affected areas professionally from a trained and certified (current certifications) company to remediate the mold. You may want to have the person selling their house to consider a mold inspection and moisture assessment before they list the house. Home inspectors usually do the structural aspect of the house. (Beware of labs pushing untrained home inspectors to conduct mold inspections and testing!) Hire an independent professional who is trained, certified and experienced company who does not remediate mold to offer an objective viewpoint for your project.  I emphasize trained and certified because there is no federal state regulations in Massachusetts and other the New England states. Very few states require licensing for mold assessments and removal.

 

Andy Provitola -CMC

Environmental Resources LLC

www.airenvironments.com

781-248-9975

 

Freezing Cold Ice Dams Flooding Heat Loss

Ice Dams

Due to the extreme sub zero temperatures and the recent  Nor’easter” Double Bomb Cyclone” here in the Boston area and coastal region many homeowners have experienced flooding including power outages, loss of heat, bursting and frozen water lines. The septic water drain pipes are even freezing leaving homes and businesses to not have toilet facilities and running water.

Gear up for the ice dams next in the coming weeks! The temperatures will rise from sub-zero to up to 50 degrees or more in the Boston and coastal areas. The severe temperature swings will begin to cause ice dams creating damaging affects to your home or business.

People are discovering how cold there home or place of business has become because of the extreme cold swings. Oil fills ups in our area are seven to ten days behind so stay safe and check on your neighbors and pets.

The utilization of Thermal Infrared Camera helps to discover hidden areas of moisture or cold drafts due to temperature differential of the surfaces. It can even help with frozen pipes in the basement or crawlspace before they may burst.

Crawlspace Moisture

Excess Moisture in Crawlspaces

This time of year in the summer months causes concerns for musty odors, excess moisture and mold growth on the surfaces. What’s that smell? Do you know what is going on down in your crawlspace? Does it have a dirt floor? Is the open fiberglass insulation in the floor joist drooped down into the floor? These are signs that excessive moisture and mold contamination growth may be occurring.
Mold spores can and will exacerbate with any excess moisture and excess relative humidity that will cause existing mold spores to travel and move around where new growth can occur. Excess relative humidity in a basement or crawlspace is like adding ‘gas onto the fire’ where spores will grow. The picture in this crawlspace has a vapor barrier over the dirt floor and stapled above the floor joist. Moisture was still dripping with excess moisture in the middle of winter with a relative humidity reading at 79%. There was no dehumidification operating in the crawlspace.
Conducting a thorough visual investigation of the musty odor or any source of water leak, excess moisture is very important. Relative humidity (RH) should be less than 60% or lower to help to control moisture (30% to 50% (RH) is the best range). When (RH) is above 60% or more this is not good for your basement, crawlspace, or living/working space where mold and other contaminants can grow; even causing wood rot and decay to the structural support of the wood beams and joists. To control excess moisture and humidity it is important to install the proper dehumidification system. Too often homeowners and business owners do not have the proper size dehumidifier(s) installed because the square footage or cubic area is too large and the unit does not cover this amount of ambient space.
Crawlspaces with dirt floors should have quality grade vapor barriers with minimal 6 Mil thicknesses or higher covering the entire dirt floor including part of the lower side walls or to the top. Quality grade dehumidification is recommended to help control moisture.
During the hot and humid months less moisture is probable when the outside vents of crawlspace are closed up. Climates are different throughout the country; the Northeast region is different from the Southeast and Southwest regions.
Insulate using foam pipe sleeves any copper pipes underneath the crawlspace or in the basement area. The cold water pipes usually condensate when excess humidity comes in contact with them. Insulate Well Tanks and Water Filter Tanks as well. Dehumidifiers need to drain properly operating on a 24/7basis when needed.
If chronic water leaks or water floods into the basement or crawlspace areas then quality grade sump pump(s) and/or drainage are recommended. Install vinyl grade cover over sump pump area. Sump pump is best installed in the ground and the bucket is deep enough to effectively pump and drain water. Add drainage around perimeter if necessary. A professional can provide the proper assessment with the proper tools to help to determine such factors as relative humidity, temperature, air flows, moisture meters, Thermal Infrared Camera, etc.

Environmental Resources is here to help identify problem areas. Also we provide solutions with products and quality air purification with several pounds of carbon to fight odors. We offer sampling if it is called upon. Call for a professional consultation of your home or business’ indoor air quality today.

Andy Provitola CMC-Certified Microbial Consultant
Environmental Resources LLC
316 Washington Street
Norwell, MA 02061
781-248-9975
www.airenvironments.com

Does it really matter the type of mold(s) in my house – building?

Often times when I arrive for a mold assessment/inspection the question often comes up, “Is this the ‘bad mold’ or the ‘good mold’?  My first response is I don’t know because I do not give a physical or verbal interpretation of what I am dealing with. In other words if people are concerned about the types of mold present then sampling will be conducted and sent to a qualified AIHA Microbiological laboratory to determine its species. There may be more than one species  in a suspected room or in the sampling. This is the value of the  lab because I am just the messenger assessing the physical aspects of the property and its building envelope.  it is best find out as much information of the properties history when it has come to past flooding, water leaks, roof leaks, ice dams, past mold contamination, etc.

Getting back to the question of good or bad mold type. My response, to the house or building it does not necessarily matter because the property does not have lungs where humans and animals breathe in the contaminated air.  The mold species are not saying to each other, ” Hey we’re Aspergillus, Cladosporium, Penicillium, or Stachybotrys ‘Black mold’, etc. You get my point. Mold fungi in buildings  will eat at the substrate and organic matter of porous materials such as wallboard, ceilings, cardboard, clothing, furniture, carpets, storage, etc. The source it needs is an excess moisture content such as flooding, water leaks (over 48 hours), excess relative humidity over 60%, etc.  Removing and treating the mold is important to prevent the property from devaluation irrelevant to the type of mold species. In many cases remodeling will also have to be conducted after proper professional cleaning of mold fungi. Remember, the key is to stop the source of the water-moisture problem before remediating.

The importance of good and bad mold to humans and pet is because we are breathing in these allergenic, pathogenic, and toxigenic type mold species. “The term ‘toxic mold’ is not necessarily accurate but there are certain mold fungi that can produce toxins (specifically mycotoxins), the mold themselves are not necessarily toxic or poisonous. ” (See – CDC Mold questions & Answer).

In other words all mold species should be treated the same with respect to health risks and removal, wether good, bad, or the ugly mold species. People with allergies, asthma, immune suppression are more susceptible to potential fungal infections. It is best to consult with an experienced physician when it comes to these type of health problems. Our job is to conduct a professional assessment and inspection not to give any medical advice (which we do not by the way).

One more point. I have heard realtors say to their clients or buyers client that this is not the bad mold!  Again, it is irrelevant to the type of mold in the property. If the property needs professional remediation, then it needs to be addressed professionally and with the proper standard of care. Let us do our job to help point you in the right direction. Environmental Resources does not remediate so we help all parties involved both the buyer and the seller when it comes to the transaction. It is best not to use a remedial company to test and inspect so there is no conflict of interest. Their job is to do the cleaning.  If there are no health concerns but mold is present you don’t always have to test but have the mold removed in a professional manner.

Andy Provitola-CMC

Environmental Resources LLC

http://www.airenvironments.com

 

 

 

 

 



 

Excess Moisture Relative Humidity in Basements-Crawlspaces

This time of year in the summer months causes concerns for musty odors, excess moisture and mold growth on the surfaces.  What’s that smell? These complaints are often called into my office and I ask a few questions such as: Have you been flooded due to the recent heavy rains last spring or prior years. How about roof leaks, pipe leaks, or ice dams? If water intruded into the building or house and flooding occurred, how effective was the cleaning, drying out process ? Did you get to the water early such as within 24 to 48 hours to help avoid potential mold growth problems?

If existing surfaces are spotted with mold spores because the areas were not cleaned out properly then the mold will not disappear! Mold spores can and will exacerbate with any excess moisture and excess relative humidity that will cause existing mold spores to travel and move around where new growth can occur. Excess relative humidity in a basement or crawlspace is like adding ‘gas onto the fire’ where spores will grow.

Conducting a thorough visual investigation of the musty odor or any source of water leak, excess moisture is very important.  Relative humidity (RH) should be less than 60% or lower to help to control moisture (30% to 50% (RH) is the best range). When (RH) is above 60% or more this is not good for your basement, crawlspace, or living/working space where mold and other contaminants can grow; even causing wood rot and decay to the structural support of the wood beams and joists. To control excess moisture and humidity it is important to install the proper dehumidification system. Too often homeowners and business owners do not have the proper size dehumidifier(s) installed because the square footage or cubic area is too large and the unit does not cover this amount of ambient space.

Crawlspaces and basements should have quality grade vapor barriers with minimal 6 Mil thickness or higher covering the entire dirt floor including part of the lower side walls or to the top. Quality grade dehumidification is recommended to help control moisture.  During the hot and humid months less moisture is probable when the outside vents of crawlspace are closed up. Climates are different throughout the country, the Northeast region is different from the Southeast and Southwest regions.

Insulate using foam pipe sleeves any copper pipes underneath the crawlspace or in the basement area. The cold water pipes usually condensate when excess humidity comes in contact with them. Insulate Well Tanks and Water Filter Tanks as well.

If chronic water leaks or water floods into the basement or crawlspace areas then quality grade sump pump(s) are recommended with vinyl covers over the top of recessed bucket. It is best in the ground and the bucket is deep enough to effectively pump and drain water. Add drainage around perimeter if necessary.  A professional can provide the proper assessment with the proper tools to help to determine such factors as relative humidity, temperature, air flows, moisture meters, Thermal Infrared Camera, etc.

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Environmental Resources is here to help identify problem areas. Also we provide solutions with products and quality air purification with several pounds of carbon to fight odors.  We offer sampling if it is called upon. Call for a professional consultation of your home or business’ indoor air quality today.
Andy Provitola  CMC-Certified Microbial Consultant
Environmental Resources LLC
316 Washington Street
Norwell, MA 02061
781-248-9975

www.airenvironments.como my office

Allergies and Indoor Air Quality

  • There are many types of air particulate that move around in our homes and offices. We buy products,furniture,home goods, and furnishings that most of us do not know what the materials or chemicals they are made from. It has also been said, “that we spend nearly 90% of our time indoors that can affect the quality of our indoor living lifestyles”. Particles like dust, pollen, mold, dander, fibers, odors, etc. can produce allergy triggers that can cause you discomfort. I often get calls from people who immediately think they have a mold problem. Why do you think you have mold? Usually mold is produced from water damage, water leaks, flooding, excess moisture and high relative humidity over 60%.

    No signs of water damage or leaks, no chemical smells, but the house is full of dust, insect and mice droppings, old storage and furniture with films of dust found in all the hidden places behind & underneath furniture, headboards, tops of picture frames, door frames, top sides of ceiling fan paddles, and very high shelves that rarely get cleaned. The vacuum cleaner is rarely used because we are all legitimately busy and continue to remind ourselves with notes that we will get around to eventually cleaning the areas of concern.

    Before spending money having all kinds of testing conducted indoors which can get expensive, I have a few suggestions as pro-active preventative measures:

    A Good General House Cleaning

    Clean from top to bottom. Use a soap or detergent. Some use an anti-microbial disinfectant cleaner which can combat, mold, bacteria, odors, virus, etc.

    Use a Quality HEPA Vacuum

    Vacuum the floors, carpets, difficult areas and high spaces. Remember, if you hire a cleaner have them use your vacuum. You don’t know where there vacuum has been! I have had cases where clients had severe allergy triggers the next day after the house cleaner arrived the day before.

    Dust Thoroughly the entire House

    Use a good Swiffer or Dust Rag. Dust the difficult high places such as shelves or cabinets and hidden places underneath or behind bureaus, furniture. Tops of ceiling fan paddles, picture frames, and where necessary.

    Invest in Quality HEPA Air Purification
    To help clean the air in your space of dust, allergens, mold, fibers, dander, odors, etc. Use them often and move them around because they work!

    A good general cleaning of the basement once a year is recommended. Dust can accumulate fast. While you’re at it some of that storage may need to got hats been sitting there for years. Give it away, have a yard sale or donate it to a local charitable cause

    Should there be some chronic problem with your indoor air quality then it is recommended to call a professional who is trained, certified with experience.

    Andy Provitola CMC,IEP
    Environmental Resources
    316 Washington Street
    Norwell, MA 02061
    781-294-7071
    www.airenvironments.com

    Real Estate and Mold – Moisture Assessments

    Mold growth and contamination has become a popular yet hidden subject when it comes to buying and selling a home. What has caused a mold assessment to become more frequent in the past 10 years? Several areas to consider for concern include:

    1. The foreclosure crisis in 2008 and 2015 historic ice dams in Massachusetts.
    Homes and building were left unattended with nobody overseeing the property when it was vacant. The banks lost enough so why spend more money! Contractors and investors bought many houses with excess mold contamination due to floods, pipes bursting and leaking roof leaks etc. causing mold to grow. Although house were renovated the crucial question was whether the house or affected room were professionally cleaned and treated by a certified trained mold remediation company? The renovations look good but the musty odors are awful.

    2. The Ice Dams and water damage of the Winter 2015 in Southern NE brought new challenges and the Storms of the past 10-15 years has brought much awareness due to hurricanes, flooding, nor’easter storms and even the ice dams. Ask questions if flooding, ice dams, leaky roofs or plumbing occurred with the history of the house. Ask if mold contamination and growth was a problem? Ask if proper repairs were properly corrected by removal versus just painting over or putting a ‘band aid’ over the existing problem. If mold remediation was conducted and renovations properly completed (repairing the source of water leaks) and documented.

    3. Indoor air quality in general is a growing concern and if you have asthma and/or allergies this may affect your health and breathing! Some people are more sensitive and have a weaker immune system when it comes to mold or excess moisture and excess relative humidity. properly installed dehumidification and sump pumps with drainage where necessary are important.

    Remember purchasing or owning your own home is a lifetime investment and the castle you will live inside for numerous hours. Mold contamination can affect your property value and your health. It is wise to ask questions and address the above issues to allow you to breathe easier in the comfort of your home.

    For Better Health,

    Andy Provitola – CMC

    If you would like more information please go to:
    Environmental Resources LLC
    Norwell,MA
    www.airenvironments.com

    Ice Dams-Roof Leaks and Mold



    Did you know that ice dams can cause mold problems?

    Frozen ice and snow on top of roofs and gutters are creating havoc for homes in New England and the greater Boston area. With cold temperatures in freezing climates then an unexpected 40 to 60 degree day causes a lot of melting of the ice and snow which enables mold growth, roof deterioration of the plywood, wood rot in the fascais boards behind the gutters. The water and moisture can travel through the attic area, dormers, wall cavities and down into lower levels even down into the basement and first floor.

    Some ways to detect mold: 

    1. See if water spots and dark stains are noticed and perhaps wet.

    2. Look for visible stains such as mold on the surfaces of the ceiling, walls of the living areas, floors, carpets, attic plywood sheathing, attic sidewalls,  floor joist, wet insulation, and excess moisture or humidity

    3. Check for moisture or high relative humidity over 65% and higher.

    4. Smelling unusual irritable odors such as musty or moldy where wall cavities or insulation can be wet inside the walls, but dry on the outside wall. High relative humidity or moisture may be the culprit.

    5. Other ways to detect mold is to hire a competent professional with the right tools such as conducting mold sampling the air or visible mold with tapes, swabs, or bulk.

    6. Utilizing moisture meters, Thermal Infrared Imaging camera, boroscopes, etc.


    For a professional mold inspection and mold assessment call:

    Andy Provitola CMC-Certified Microbial Consultant
    Environmental Resources LLC
    Headquarters
    316 Washington Street
    Norwell, MA 02061
    781-248-9975

    www.airenvironments.com

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    Musty Damp Odors

    This time of year brings in many calls with some nasty irritable odors. After a dry, but an unusually high hot and  humid summer, the Fall season here in the Greater Boston area has brought some rain fall with the same type of humidity; but now it is getting a bit colder. This means the windows have to be closed and air quality tends to get stale or odors are more noticable.

    What’s that smell? These complaints are often called in and I ask a few questions such as: Have you been flooded due to the recent heavy rains last spring or prior years. How about roof leaks? How effective was the cleaning, drying out process and did you get to the water early such as within 24 to 48 hours to help avoid potential mold growth problems.  What type of smell are you experiencing such as is this a chemical smell, foul smell, a rotten decomposed smell such as a dead rodent, or a strong musty mold smell.

    Not all odors are mold or due to water damage, so an investigation requires a rule out process. Taking a few samples for mold is not necessary the solution, it may help in the ruling out process.

    Conducting a thorough visible investigation of the odor or where the smell appears to originate is a beginning is important. Some odors can be on the second or third floor but have originated from the basement. The basement flooded out months prior and now the relative humidity “fuels the fire” for the odor and the draft from the stack pipe or plumbing drift up to the upper levels. A professional can provide the proper assessment with the proper tools to help to determine such factors as relative humidity, temperature, air flows, moisture meters, Thermal Infrared Imaging, cannisters, etc.

    In a recent odor investigation of a bathroom-Laundry area in an antique home 150 + years on the north shore, the smell was overwhelmingly strong. It did not necessarily have the odor of mold but strong in this area to say the least. After a plumber, contractor, and even a pest control company, the odor was not solved up to this point. This can be frustrating and costly. I don’t like to use the term “witch hunt”, but at times professionals can go on a witch hunt and it can end up being very costly in the hundreds if not thousands of dollars with no solution in sight. The key is the scope of work conducted has to be a rule out process and talk about a budget that you may be willing to spend before the work begins. There is no guarantee for discovering the odor problem, even after paying for this type of service. To sum up this antique house, a dead rat was trapped behind the lower wallboard behind the washing maching shut off valve. This was even after a company inspected this area. Again, sniffing odors can be hard to find even when they are right under our nose!

    Most odors are caused by ventilation issues in general. It is best to open windows until the odor can be discovered. HVAC systems, pet, rodent odors, dampness, mold, the trash can, refrigerator, etc. Sampling can help as an inidcator, however, a thorough visible inspection with the right tools from a professional is an excellent start if you have come to your wits end as to finding this irritable odor.

    Environmental Resources is here to help identify problem areas. Also we provide solutions with products and quality air purification with several pounds of carbon to fight odors.  We offer sampling if it is called upon. Call for a professional consultation of your home or business’ indoor air quality today.

    Andy Provitola CMC-Certified Microbial Consultant
    Environmental Resources LLC
    Headquarters
    316 Washington Street
    Norwell, MA 02061
    781-248-9975

    www.airenvironments.com

    Continue reading