(Excerpt from the Newsletter by Carson Dunlop. For full version, please click on the picutre)
Reno 911: The Hidden Hazards of Homeownership
Spring has sprung, and with it comes more than just the pitter-patter of raindrops on your roof. As we begin to see the temperature consistently above zero, and climbing, many homeowners will dive into their next home renovation project
If you're one of the many homeowners undertaking a spring project, consider the following: Renovations can be a disruptive activity and it's important to be aware of what it is you're disrupting. Some projects create a mess of dirt and debris, while some create, or rather expose, more dangerous substances.
Prior to the mid-1980s, asbestos was commonly used in many household items like flooring, insulation, and around pipes. Asbestos minerals tend to separate into microscopic particles that become airborne and are easily inhaled. As long as it is undisturbed, neither the asbestos fibers nor the dust will be released into the air. However, when it is disturbed, it becomes dangerous. Exposure to asbestos can cause individuals to develop several types of life-threatening diseases, including lung cancer. Like any hazards, length and intensity of exposure are major factors in the risk of asbestos-related respiratory illness.
If the renovations that you're doing involve areas or items that may contain asbestos, it's important to have an asbestos inspection performed. An asbestos inspection includes:
- A complete visual inspection of the entire home for materials suspected to contain asbestos
- A sampling of materials that are suspected to contain asbestos - according to O. Reg. 278/05
- A report summarizing the results of the sampling and investigation
If there are materials that contain asbestos which are going to be damaged, disturbed or removed by the renovation, the safest approach is to have the materials removed by a qualified contractor.
Think this is a DIY project? Think again! Disposable respirators or dust masks are not appropriate or sufficient for asbestos. Always hire a professional. Never do this work on your own.
You can't rely on the naked eye, to identify moulds and their health risks. Home test kits can be unreliable: not only are you not an expert but the tools can often be faulty if not used correctly.
Since it's normal for mould to be present in the air and in buildings, its mere existence is not necessarily a cause for alarm. However, if indoor air levels of mould are higher than outdoor air levels, or if a significant mould colony is growing on building surfaces, it could be a cause for concern. For this reason, we advise homeowners to have a mould inspection performed if there is any indication that a substantial amount of mould is present in the home. A mould inspection includes:
- A complete visual inspection of the entire home from the basement to the attic for signs of water intrusion and mould growth
- Moisture readings collected throughout the home
- Two indoor air samples and one outdoor air sample (for reference)
- A report, which summarizes the results of the sample and investigation
An environmental specialist will help to identify the type of mould in your home, its concentration, and advise you on remediation costs and approaches.
How we can Help Home Buyers & Homeowners
The scope of a Home Inspection, as defined by both the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors and the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors, does not include environmental testing. This means that items like asbestos and mould are not covered in a Home Inspection as these materials require sampling and testing that Home Inspectors are not equipped to perform. In addition, they are usually hidden behind walls or under carpet, completely out of sight, so a non-invasive inspection would not encounter them.
We recognize that even though they aren't included in a Home Inspection, mould and asbestos can be a major concern for homeowners. We offer environmental testing through our partners that can be scheduled at any time through our service centre. We have even redesigned our Buyers Home Inspections to include the option to have clients get their new home tested for hazardous materials at the same time as we do a regular Home Inspection.
An environmental assessment can be performed prior to the Home Inspection, during the inspection, or several years after the inspection has taken place. If you are planning on undertaking a renovation this season and haven't had your property assessed for hazardous materials, we'd encourage you to do so.