Mark: Hi it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here with David Fairbairn of FairbairnInspections.com in Vancouver and you can reach him at 604-395-2795. Today we’re talking about the gross stuff, we’re talking about mold. So how’re you doing today David?
David: I’m doing pretty good Mark. Mold’s not that gross – if you like blue cheese or if you like beer mold is pretty good. Penicillin if you like not getting sick. Mold is pretty helpful. It is gross and in some cases pretty helpful. I’d like to show you today what mold looks like – have you seen a lot of mold?
Mark: Unfortunately, I have.
David: Excellent, ok so I’ve got some photos for you. We’re talking about what mold looks like. So this is probably one of my top questions when it comes to mold related questions – somebody is standing there looking at something and going I think that might be mold, I can’t tell. What I want to start with is that it’s very important to note you can’t tell if something is mold or not just by looking at it. You can know what mold usually looks like and you can know different growth patterns, but if you’re not sure, you should sample it. Take a sample of the material and take it to a lab for testing because they’re actually going to be able to tell you if it’s mold or not. Even myself, doing mold for years, I’ve done testing and sampling and investigations and there’s still some cases where we find mold where it doesn’t look like mold or it doesn’t look like anything. What I’d like to do is show you how mold grows and this will give you a better idea about how it appears and what it might look like. So what we’re looking at now is a microscope slide of some mold. What we’ve got here is the structure of mold and you can see that it’s not just a blob of slime, it’s actually quite defined and that’s because mold is a plant. It’s part of the fungus family, so when you have mold you actually have fungus. Mushrooms, those are fungus. There’s different types of fungus and mold is a type of that. So it grows like any plant and when you look at it up close, you will notice that it has branches just like a tree or a plant and you’ve got the tips where you have the spore production (the circles). So if we look at what that actually is we’re looking at is called Mycelium. Mycelium is the structure of the mold – it’s in all the branches woven together. The branches are called Hyphae or Hypha individually. So this is how it spreads and grows and once mold sets up, it takes about 24-48 hours to grow in material and after a certain amount of time usually 10-14 days it’s ready to reproduce. So the mold decides to release some spores into the air and hopefully those spores settle and grow more mold. So when you hear about respiratory problems, people getting sick from mold, it’s the spores we’re talking about, it’s not the actual mold material, it’s actually the spores that are floating around in the air and you’re breathing them in because some spores are toxic.
So that’s the idea behind the growth. If we look at it here, it’s eating away at this bread – you’ve probably seen bread mold before, it usually doesn’t look this extreme, but this is just for illustration. We can see that the mold here has taken root, it’s feeding off the material, mold will grow in any organic material if the conditions are right. If it’s warm and wet it usually thrives and at one point or another we get spore production and this one is actually in full spore production mode.
So we’re looking at an attic now Mark, this is a fairly new construction building, this house is only… do you want to guess how old this attic is?
Mark: From the state of the OSB and some of the other clues I can see there, probably no more than 10 years old
David: Yeah, it’s actually 1 1/2 years old. So just as an aside, we perform home inspections, you should always get even if your house is a year and a half old. Get it inspected every single time. So this attic a year and a half old, terrible ventilation problems and they’re also using OSB which stands for oriented strand board, which has basically replaced plywood in most new construction and you can see that it’s made out of wood chips. It’s also a great surface for mold to grow on. I would conservatively say it’s about 150% more likely to grow mold than plywood or wood itself. So you have to be very careful with this material. And what we have here is – you can see the blotches and as you move up the the centre of the screen, you can see black blotches forming everywhere. This is the same attic here and we’ve got this growth pattern and as the blotches form, they start connecting together. So what’ve got is mostly black, in some areas it’s mostly white and in some areas it can turn blue. Mold can look like any of those and still be part of the same family of mold. So it’s very important to get it tested because you won’t be able to tell what type of material it is until you actually get it tested. Any idea what happened here Mark, want to hazard a guess? This is an attic as well.
Mark: A leak in the roof?
David: A leak in the roof. This is actually a marijuana grow operation.
Mark: So a leak from downstairs?
David: A leak from downstairs, exactly. So marijuana grow operations are very damaging, particularly to attics. Here the moisture was so high that the entire attic was just covered in a web of mold. This is actually post remediation – so they’ve actually gone through and cleaned all the mold out – this was what was left over, the staining – so you can imagine how bad it was before this. tThis is a type of mold called Penicillium which is related to Penicillin and it can be harmful. This is something you don’t want to play around with especially if you see it at this level. This is the same house, a grow operation where they had removed the growth and this is after thousands and thousands of dollars of removal. So you can imagine how thick that must of been before for it to take root that deeply that they weren’t able to get the lines out of the wood, the nails are rusted, they had a huge, huge amount of moisture going up into the attic. So that’s something we can see. So that’s what mold looks like.
What you should do – there’s two tests we offer. We can do sampling, so we can come in and actually test the mold stain to see if it actually is mold and if it’s alive or not and we can do an air quality test which is where we sample the air in the home and provide you with results of how many spores are floating around. So we have some different equipment to do that. This is our Zefon Bio Pump, this is some of the equipment we’re using. This actually sucks air through the top – that white disc at the top is called a spore trap and it will capture the spores floating around in the air and we break it open and put it on a microscope and we can tell if there are any indoor air quality issues.
So if you have something that looks like mold or you’re not sure – play it safe and get it tested. You can call us at 604-395-2795 and we can come out and determine if you have a mold problem, where it’s coming from and what to do about it.
Mark: Awesome. So I think we’ll . . . I don’t know if there’s anything more to say.
David: Mold can look like a lot of things. It can be fuzzy, it can be black webbing like that and as we go along with our next episode, I’ll bring some different shots of different things we have found in homes – everywhere from a wall that looked completely bare and it actually had mold on it, up to a room that was basically falling apart. We’ve got some good stuff coming up so stay tuned.
Mark: Awesome. So we’ve been talking with a building inspector, home inspector and mold specialist Mr. David Fairbairn of Fairbairn Inspections in Vancouver. You can reach him at fairbairninspections.com with tons of great information on the site or you can give him a call at 604-395-2795. Thanks David
David: Thanks Mark. Talk to you later.
Mark: Hi, it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here with Mr. David Fairbairn of Fairbairn Inspections in Vancouver talking about mold. How’re you doing today David?
David: Oh, Mark I’m ready to talk about mold today.
David: I hope you’re looking forward to some mold.
Mark: Mold sandwich. So the question you wanted and this is funnily enough, the question I asked you last week, is why is there mold on my windows?
David: Yeah, so we’re going to talk about mold on windows and so this is probably one of the most asked questions and yourself included, I think we were chatting before the hangout and you we’re actually saying, I’ve got some mold on my windows, what’s going on? So I said o.k., let’s do a talk on this and explain what’s actually happening. I’d like to maybe share the screen
Mark, is that o.k.?
David: o.k. I just going to pull up some photos, I actually have some photos from various places, so I’m just going to put it up on the full screen here. I don’t know if you can see that. . .
Mark: I can see that.
David: o.k. so we’ve got some mold on this window here. Now this is a photo of probably you’ve seen a lot of houses like this, so what’s going on with this? So this kind of mold can look kind of scary when you first pull back your drapes and you look at your window and you’re going, first of all its black and anybody who’s watched TV or read any articles on home improvement, you’re going to hear toxic black mold so I get asked this a lot. Is this black mold? The first thing I want to get out of the way is black mold is the wrong name for it. They are talking about a certain species of mold called Stachybotrys and it’s not always black, it can come in different colours, it can come in blue so I want to get out of the way, you actually can’t tell what kind of mold you have unless you actually take it to a lab and sample it. So we know what common types of mold we have indoors so we can usually guess it’s between three different species but if ever have any doubts just as a disclaimer, always call a certified mold specialist who can come out and assist you with your problem before you go jumping to any conclusions. So anyways, we’ve got this mold growing on a window here so basically what we have is, if you think about a house you’ve got a window which is going to be probably the coldest spot on your wall. So first of all it’s on your exterior walls, second of all, a lot of heat loss through windows, right? So this one here, we’ve got an aluminum window frame, I believe it’s an aluminum frame window so it’s probably a chilly day and we’ve got a high indoor either temperature and or humidity, right. So mold on windows, I’m going to go ahead right away and say 99% of the mold on windows problems is going to be coming from indoor humidity so you’ve got a lot of areas where humidity and moisture can originate in homes and the number one is going to be your shower, you’re showers can generate a lot of moisture and cooking, if you’re cooking pasta, you’re going to be sending a lot of water and steam and vapour into the air and your moisture floating around the air is going to settle on the coldest spot just like when you take a can of coke out of the fridge and it gets frosty, right so that’s the same concept here; we’re creating condensation and windows are hot spots for condensation because they’re so cold. So were looking at that and basically the first step you can do to prevent moisture on windows is to ventilate your house properly so this is point one, you’re going to ventilate the house properly. So how is the moisture getting out of the house? Is it clinging to the windows or is it being ventilated properly, so let’s look at a few options for ventilating the home.
So the most obvious option here is we’ve got a bathroom fan and unless you live in a kind of an older house that’s never been updated or you’ve never renovated the bathroom, you probably have one of these in your home and basically we’re going to want to make sure that that fan is running not only when you have a shower but in some cases we’re going to want to have it run for quite a while after you have the shower. So if you go to a newer home, I think yours is actually quite new, you’ve got an eight year old home, we’re actually going to want to run that fan for I believe the building code actually requests that it run for eight hours in every twenty-four hour period. So you may actually have a timer on your fan or in some areas we may have the fan hard wired to run twenty-four hours a day. As the houses get newer the draft is reduced, you’ve got a tighter house, you got a more weather resistant house and there’s not as much in the way of fresh air flowing through the house. You’re going to have to mechanically ventilate it and that’s our number one way to do that.
This is a control that you see a lot in our area in Vancouver, this is a humidistat. So what this does, this was used a lot during the 90’s is that it will actually read the relative humidity inside the house and it will click on the bathroom fan to exhaust the air out of the house when it goes over a certain threshold so this one here is actually turned fully on, I don’t think they realized it was all the way on when they took the picture but the recommended setting for these that we usually see is about 40 to 50% relative humidity so you’re going to set it between 40 and 50 and when you shower and when you cook it’s naturally going to turn on the bathroom fan. Now these kind are extinct now in our area in new construction because our requirements are just a little bit higher and we’re actually having to run the fan for a set period of time.
So here’s a way you can avoid moisture problem windows, this mess of lines here, this is a cross section of what’s called a thermally broken window. Now in the old days we didn’t have what’s called a thermally broken window, it would just be you’ve got the glass sitting in a metal frame and there’s metal connected all the way through, underneath the glass and you’re transferring heat underneath the window very effectively outside and you’re cooling off the window. Same thing, you know, you put a spoon in a hot bowl of soup and the spoon gets hot, that’s convection you’re losing heat across the material, so now what we’re doing, we got our thermally broken windows, this is a newer style of window and we’ve actually got this Polyamide Thermal strips that are actually separating the frame and they’re actually broken, breaking the frame in half and they have very little thermal transfer so they are keeping the inside of window warm and the outside cold and you’ve got this break, so you can imagine the condensation would be a little bit lower on this style of window.
Just going to show you, this is a microscopic shot of some mold growing and the type of mold is called Cladosporium. Now Cladosporium is a very, very common indoor mold and when you see mildew and mildew is a type of mold, you know a lot of time you can get mildew and it’s going to be what’s called Cladosporium. Now Cladosporium grows anywhere that you’ve got warm sort of wet conditions, you see it a lot growing on towels, cheese, bread, and things like that, so it’s a common indoor mold and this is actually under a microscope. This is how they identify the type of mold you have.
So one last thing, I’m going to show you with our bathroom fans, if you’re going to install bathroom fans, it’s just a reminder, you don’t want to install too powerful of a bathroom fan because you can actually pull the heat out of your house and if you install a bathroom fan that’s oversize for your bathroom you can increase your heating bills quite a bit so the calculation that we use is take the square footage of the bathroom and multiply it by 1.07 which gives us, it’s usually slightly larger than the square footage of the bathroom. So if you had a 80 square foot bathroom you’re probably going to want to put a 90 CFM which is cubic feet per minute bathroom fan into the bathroom and that’s going to properly ventilate your bathroom so if I was to summarize what’s causing mold on windows, interior moisture conditions are going to account for almost all of it and if you can properly ventilate your home you can prevent that problem and the last thing I’ll leave you with is, if you need to remove any mold from your windows technically you should be calling a mold removal or abatement company but if you want to do it at home the CDC recommends one part bleach to ten parts water mixture and put that into a little spray bottle, spray it along the bottom edge of your window and clean it off and repeat as necessary and that is one way to remove the mold. Now if it returns then you should call somebody so that is what causes mold in windows. If you have a problem please give me a call, I’d be happy to take a look at it, we can do sampling, we can take a swab test, we can test the air in your home, there’s just a myriad of tests that we can actually do to make sure you that have a healthy home.
Mark: Awesome stuff David. So just to clarify, you’re a certified mold specialist as well as doing home inspections, is that right?
David: That’s correct, yes. So we do both residential, commercial inspections for property purchase and then of course the mold division where we do indoor air quality testing, we can do consulting if you have a leak or flood, you need post or pre remediation consulting, we can do that as well, just give us a call, we’d be happy to give you a quote.
Mark: Awesome, so one part bleach to ten parts water for window mold, to clean it up ourselves and get the fans running.
David: There you go Mark, yeah. You got a project for this afternoon I think, eh?
Mark: We’ve been running the fans a lot and it makes a big difference. So that pretty much sums it up. We’re going to explore mold a whole bunch more with David over the next few weeks, so come back and see us and if want to get hold of him FairbairnInspections.com, there’s tons of information on his website or give him a call 604-395-2795. Thanks a lot David.
David: Thanks Mark, talk to you soon.
David Fairbairn of Fairbairn Inspections gives insight into identifying a leaky condo in Vancouver, BC
Mark: Hi, it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here with David Fairbairn from Fairbairn Inspections in Vancouver. How are you doing today David?
David: Hey I’m good, how are you Mark?
Mark: I’m good. So we weathered the storm of the Google Hangout, unpredictability and now we’re going to talk about how to identify a leaky condo in Vancouver. So are there still leaky condos in Vancouver?
David: Very much so, although a lot of them have been remediated by now, however, yeah, there’s still a good number of them out there and if you’re buying a condo, you’ve got to be careful.
Mark: So what years of construction are at risk?
David: Typically with the leaky condo crisis we’re looking at buildings built between 1981, 82, somewhere around there until around 1998 and the reason for those years is a mix of, you know, you’ve got different issues, such as code issues, building construction, it’s architecture methods, it’s really a perfect storm and it lasted for sixteen, seventeen years and by the time they finally figured out what was going on a lot of buildings were experiencing problems, so we’ve got this huge span, 1981 all the way to 1998.
Mark: So what style of buildings are leaky condos?
David: Leaky condos, the ones that you see in the news, these are the ones that cost people their life savings; they failed on a huge level. We’re talking about wood frame, low rise buildings, usually a low rise building of four stories or less and we’re looking at buildings that are stucco predominately, stucco clad buildings and of course, if you look at them you’re going to see that sort of California style building which was very popular around the time they were built and of course that style came up from California and people like it. It looks nice; it just doesn’t work with your average rain fall of 1,500 millimeters a year as opposed to California’s, I’m going to guess around 400. You really have to be careful with these things. Typically low rise buildings, altho it’s not a hard and fast rule, we do see a lot buildings that are high rises that are also failed as well. If you go to Yaletown in Vancouver you’ll actually see quite a few buildings that were built as leaky condos that were remediated or actually some of them are currently undergoing problems so it’s not just low rise buildings, but those are probably the majority of them, the low rise stucco buildings.
Mark: So buildings built for the desert, originally designed for the desert, foolishly in my opinion architected without proper overhangs or proper screening to try and deal with someplace that has a minimum of four times as much rain and often a heck of a lot more given California probably hasn’t had rain in seven years right now and especially.
David: Yeah, exactly and I’m glad you brought up the overhang points, that’s the thing is that a lot of these buildings have absolutely no overhang and no eaves coming off the roof, you got these flat roofs, they’re built straight up and down, they’re often a big box and this is where the rain is getting into the walls, soaking in behind walls, it’s rotting the structure, you’ve got stains inside your condo unit, you’ve got mold problems. I was in one just last week, you wouldn’t believe the amount of damage that can be done, and it’s probably one of the worst building related crises we’ve ever had. It’s never happened up until this point.
Mark: So we’ve touched on, so what causes leaky condo syndrome?
David: Leady condo syndrome is caused by a number of factors; first of all the California style building. If you look at a building, you know in 1950’s, in 1960’s low rise condo building, we’re going to see a huge amount of overhang, right, you’re going to see the roof projecting out of the side of the walls and that’s actually protecting the top of the walls from moisture intrusion so in building sides we have what’s called an interface. Now an interface is a change in direction or it’s a change in material, a balcony would be a great example of an interface, so a lot of these buildings have exposed balconies made out of stucco and the water can just get in at these interfaces. You have an inside corner like this, you know and you’ve got the top of the wall cavity, you’ve got a little tiny flashing protecting a four story wall, you know, it may not do that, especially windows, windows are really hard yet. If you’re looking at what you might think is a leaky condo, look around the windows, especially on the top floors, see if there’s repair work around them. You’re probably going to see a point where they’ve done some stucco repairs around the windows and so all these interfaces, we’ve tripled the number of interfaces in our buildings and all of a sudden we have these points where water can get in and we started using this California style stucco and of course the stucco is installed in such a way that it’s, we’ve got our sheathing, wood sheathing for the building, we’ve got our building paper and then we’ve got our stucco, right against that and there’s no cavity behind the stucco so once water gets in, it’s going to get trapped in that wall cavity and it’s not going to leave on its own and we have very few periods of drying here in Vancouver so we don’t get a lot of sun, it’s kind of a big city and it’s going to get held in there so basically it starts to soak through and it can rot out your sheathing and cause all sorts of problems. So that’s a big thing, you’ve got a lot of interfaces and you’ve got a style of material that doesn’t really work well with our environment.
Mark: So, what’s a rain screen?
David: A rain screen is our solution to a leaky condo. So you’ve probably heard of this term, most people have, it’s on the news quite a bit. Rain screening is a process where we’re actually removing the stucco from the building in our exterior cladding and we’re installing it. You can use stucco but this time we’re actually going to put a drainage cavity behind the wall material so we’ve got these strips, and we’re going to put this cavity back there so if rain does get back there it’s going to be able to vent out or drain out and we’ve got these metal flashings at each fork and water’s going to be able to exit from each floor vs leaky condo, we call those face sealed buildings where it’s right up against the side. A face sealed building you would have, there’s not where for it to leak, it just keeps going down forever. I’ve seen a guy actually go down three stories before it even slows up. I’ve seen the water show up in a crawl space or basement and the whole basements rotted out and actually it started three stories up on a deck and that’s how insidious this problem is. It’s really quite problematic. So rain screenings going to give you that drying capacity and it’s also going to be a break between the floors and of course fresh air can come in there and dry out the wall cavity and rain screening as far as we know is working very well, so far, we haven’t had any real problems with it, of course it’s very expensive so if you have to take all the stucco off your building, rain screen your building, you can be looking at a few million dollars at least to get started with it and if you’re in a building with 38 units or 35 units, you’re going to split that three million dollars or two million cost by the 38 of you which I imagine is quite a financial hit.
Mark: Yeah, thus people walking away because they have a two hundred and fifty thousand dollar rain screen special assessment and their condo isn’t even worth that in some cases. That’s changed pretty radically over the last 10 years but when this first started that was a problem.
David: Absolutely, people just walked away from their mortgages. There is that one building in Port Moody, the bank basically bought it, we’ll do rain screening and resell it. I’ve heard stories about buyers back in the 90’s buying a condo for ninety thousand dollars and rain screening costs 150 so it doesn’t make financial sense so that’s why there was such an issue.
Mark: So, again identifying that leaky condo what are we looking for. Let’s just bring it back to what are the points that people should be looking for?
David: You’re looking at getting a quality home inspection, that’s number one, in some cases you know I actually have a blog post on my website that it actually shows you how to identify leaky a leaky condo from the street. The big thing would be to, if you’re standing on the street you’re looking at a condo, do you see three wall flashings between the floors; that’s a huge indicator that you may have a rain screen solve. You might want to, if you’re thinking about buying in the building, talk to the strata and say have you guys rain screened, is it a full rain screen. Sometimes they’ll just rain screen one wall of the building, for instance the east wall in our buildings fail first in almost in every case just due to our weather patterns and so ask them, have you guys just done one wall or are you planning to do the rest of the building. Is this a full rain screen, right? So that’s one of the things to look out for, another thing would be if you walk into the building and you see a bunch of repair work done to the stucco, very rare for a rain screened building to have any repair work to the stucco especially since they’ve been done recently and we haven’t really had a lot of failures. So if you see a bunch of repair work where the texture changes, the colour changes in some cases, you know that’s a big red flag and you want to ask about that with your real estate agent or your home inspector. Is this building at risk for a leaky condo? If you’re not sure make sure to ask, you know, this is a very important financial decision and it could end up saving you a significant amount of money.
Mark: So we’ve been talking with David Fairbairn from Fairbairn Inspections in Vancouver about leaky condos. Give him a call if you have any kind of questions about at the property you’re looking to buy. This guy knows just about everything, a lot of it so give him a call 604-395-2795. Thanks David.
David: Thanks Mark, talk to you later.
Talking home building safety with certified Home Inspector David Fairbairn
Mark: Hi, it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here with home inspector, David Fairbairn of Fairbairn Inspections in Vancouver, how are you doing today Dave?
David: I am good Mark, how are you?
Mark: I good, great. So we’re talking about safety issues in older homes in Vancouver, BC. Come on, there’s no problems here in Vancouver are there?
David: If there was no problems, guys like me would probably be unemployed right now but luckily for us there are a lot of issues, depends upon the type of building you buy but with the older homes there’s a lot to look out for so, I’ll be happy to go through those with you and tell you a bit about them.
Mark: Sure, is there asbestos in older homes in Vancouver?
David: Yes, most of the time and when I say older homes, we’re talking about houses that are pre 1950’s, you know those are your character homes, those are you’re really, really old homes but it could be anything pre 1970’s and asbestos is actually not quite as ancient as you think, you’ll actually see it more recently in buildings, you can actually find asbestos in homes up to 1996 which always surprises people. With the older homes as soon as you go back before about 1970, you’re going to see it in really obvious places and when you get a quality home inspection the inspector will go through and point out areas where you don’t necessarily have to do anything about it but you would want to know about it. For instance, I don’t know if you’ve ever gone into maybe a Vancouver special and taken a look at the furnace duct work, for your heating system and you’ve got this sort of white plaster tape on there, it almost looks like, you know, when you break your arm and get a cast, so you’ve got this wrapped around all your joints. Most of that material, we’re probably talking a range of about 95 to 98% of it has asbestos fibers in the actual tape. So that’s one of them, and in other areas especially in older homes, attics are a big one. If you go to an older home, I was in one from about 1941, 1942 the other day and the attic had what’s called vermiculite insulation and it kind of looks like almost like a silver popcorn, I describe it as light and fluffy but it’s actually almost like a mineral, very hard to explain unless you’ve actually felt it, but that material does contain asbestos as well and then there’s some other ones that aren’t really as obvious, sometimes with your flooring tiles, or even if you go to a finished in basement, the ceiling tiles could actually have asbestos and what I like to do is basically tell a client, you’re buying into a house that’s quite old, there’s a good chance you’ve got asbestos here and here but as long as you disturb it this may not be a safety hazard for you but, if you’re going to go in there and gut the whole place and reno the entire house then you’re definitely going to want to get this stuff tested so that’s going to add to your expenses because all of a sudden you’ve got to pay for disposal and having everybody wear respirators while you’re working and it’s going to send up your costs and the safety aspect as well for your family.
So to answer your question, yes there’s definitely asbestos in older homes. The inspector will point it out to you where it’s located.
Mark: Sure and that’s probably true right across North America.
David: Yes that’s true, it’s very similar. You go to the states, some areas in the states where they actually have some really, really old homes. The oldest home I’ve ever inspected was 122 years old. In certain areas of New England a lot of the houses, most of them are that old so if you down there they have similar problems as well.
Mark: So what about, talking about old technology, what about knob and tube wiring, do we have that in Vancouver?
David: Yeah, we’ve got a ton of knob and tube wiring, there’s a lot of knob and tube. I know your house was built in 2006 and you are not really at risk for that problem, you’ve got what’s called Lumex wiring which is your standard new construction wiring that we’ve been using since about the 50’s or 60’s and knob and tubing wiring was a very early version of electrical wiring where they actually sent the wire along and they hung it on a little ceramic knob on the side of the joist, usually you can see it in the attic and then when it goes through the joist they drill a hole and put a little tube, ceramic tube and it goes through the tube and it’s a series of knobs and tubes, you can probably guess where the name comes from, knob and tube and the problem with that is it can, the jacketing on it can actually fall apart and then you’ve got exposed conductors which poses not only a shock hazard but also a fire hazard, especially in older attics where they’ve buried the knob and tube in the insulation. So this is a big one, if I were to tally up all the major issues that I’ve found in older homes, knob and tube would probably be the number one issue that’s a real sticking point because the insurance companies don’t like them and if you do find knob and tube you have to get somebody who’s a qualified electrician or a qualified electrical inspector to come out and basically sign off saying, o.k. it’s either safe or it’s not safe and you have to do this much work to make it safe. So older homes definitely knob and tubes are probably one of the top concerns that home buyers have.
Mark: Alright, so when you mentioned insurance doesn’t like it as in you’re probably not going to get house insurance.
David: There’s a pretty good chance that could happen. In some cases they will actually grandfather you in; let’s say someone’s been living there for ten years and they have somebody sign off saying it’s safe, there’s a pretty good chance that you might be able to get insurance from the same company. There’s no guarantees and insurance companies are in the business of making sure that they don’t pay out on a huge fire or flood and rightfully so. So these are the kinds of things that I warn the clients about and I say get somebody to check it out before you proceed with the purchase and every once in a while they say the electrician actually said we’ve got to rewire the top floor and it’s going to cost 8 thousand to 10 thousand dollars, yeah, so definitely that’s something that you’re going to want find out if you’re buying pre 1950. This is probably one of the most important things and I’ll talk about some of the other issues later but this is probably the single most important to look out for.
Mark: Alright, so again another kind of old technology that isn’t banned at this point, what about lead paint?
David: Lead paint, yeah, a huge one. We see lead paint pre 1978, so obviously if you’re going into a house that has been painted a number of times and it’s still got the original plaster or the original drywall or what have you, there’s a pretty good chance that if you scrape away the layers of paint you’ll come across some old lead paint. That was just a fact of life back then, some of it was leaded and the big thing to know about lead paint and I always tell the customers is that unless you are destroying it in some way or removing it in some way it’s really not a serious hazard because it’s buried usually behind other layers of paint or you may have wall paper on top of it or it just may be sitting there not doing anything; if you start removing the paint, steaming the wall paper off, things like that, you will definitely want to test for lead paint, actually get a lead paint test kit. I think Home Depot sells one right now and you can just do a test right there in your home, so definitely very common, in terms of being a huge, huge safety concern, probably not top on the list but definitely something that I get asked a lot about; I try to let them know that probably there is something here if it’s a certain age.
Mark: So these last three really are big concerns if you’re the fixeruper or you’re buying something that you’re going to remodel a whole of stuff because none of these are going to be obvious to you.
David: Yes, that’s right, exactly and if I’m a general contractor and I’m going to come in, you call me in to reno your kitchen I’m going to find these things if the home inspector didn’t tell you, I’m going to find these things I’m going to go in there and say o.k. you’ve actually got asbestos in your ducts and in your walls and we’re going to test your plaster and maybe your plaster has asbestos, so the thing is to just know about it before you start planning and if you have concerns about it, there’s a number of companies that will come out and do asbestos testing and we can actually get the air cleared in your home. They can actually test for asbestos fibers and my company offers some basic testing services as well. So a lot of inspectors will find vermiculite in the attic and say well it might have asbestos, we do have the ability to take a sample and process it 24 hours later, we’ll actually get a result saying it is or it isn’t and that probably 40 or 50 % of inspections where there’s vermiculite I will do the test for the customer. We charge a small fee for it but it’s a great service.
Mark: So what about, this one’s probably a lot hard to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for or you don’t have the proper equipment to check for; what about oil tanks.
David: Oil tanks, yeah, a huge one. I put this under the safety category and I’ll explain why. They a safety hazard but not necessarily to the inhabitants of the home so I think in past Hangouts we’ve talked about oil tanks and their sort of effect on property so just a short introduction, you’ve got in the olden days you were going to heat your home with heating oil, right, we’re going to have oil fired furnace and boiler and we’re going to have either an above ground oil tank or buried oil tank and a truck will come by and refill the oil and that was before natural gas came to the lower mainland. So in certain areas you see a lot of them, East Vancouver there’s quite a few, quite a few on the North Shore, very few in Richmond, you won’t see any, hardly at all, it’s so marshy that you can’t put an oil tank in the ground, they keep on sinking and in some areas it’s not really a risk. What can happen is as they get abandoned, the owner of the house gets natural gas service and just kind of abandon it and either they fill it with sand or with cement in some cases and they just kind of forget about it, sits out in the yard and if there’s oil in the bottom of the tank that hasn’t been used and that thing rusts all of a sudden you’ve got soil contamination so that oil is leaching into the actual soil and ground water and it can actually be a huge problem. Let’s say you decide to build a shed out back or a garage and you’re digging and all of a sudden you find this oil tank, well you know what you are going to test the soil and say we’ve actually got contamination here, we need an environmental company to come start cleaning up the soil and removing soil and replacing it and you can imagine that gets extremely expensive. So with every home inspection you should always have a qualified, like an actual professional full time oil tank removal company come an scan the property and they will issue a certificate to you saying there is a tank or we don’t think there’s a tank here and I recommend almost every time you buy a home past a certain date especially in some high risk areas and so it’s more of a financial safety than a safety for the home but it can be environmental problems.
Mark: Alright and the last one on our list here is what about pests, how can they be a safety issue.
David: Yeah so pests, no surprise, we live in a rain forest and we have a lot of; racoons, we’ve got squirrels, mice, rats, bees, ants, you know I could probably sit here all day and name different animals that I’ve found in houses. But from a safety stand point there’s a couple of different reasons that pests are really important to check for and if you were to go to maybe a hundred houses you would actually find in about 20 to 30 houses, you’d find a good deal of maybe a mice infestation or maybe racoon activity or ants, you know, sometimes carpenter ants but safety concerns are with droppings and disease, so if you go up to an attic or crawlspace and you got a big rat problem there, rats eventually die and rats bodies rot and smell bad and they attract other vermin, right and then you’ve got droppings, they’ll urinate and they’ll actually sit in your insulation and it could be a pretty big safety concern and it mice and rats should never be in contact with people because they carry diseases and it’s also unpleasant, it’s unclean, it’s a hygiene thing. You don’t want rats running around your attic so this is the kind of thing we’re always checking for and there’s a few different trademarks we’re looking for especially with mice in attics, they’ll actually carve little paths through the insulation so if you go to an attic and you see a bunch of fibre glass insulation up there and there’s pathways, but no droppings, you don’t see the droppings but you see little pathways and that’s usually a pretty good sign something’s been running around up there, whether it’s a chipmunk, mouse or rat and we always recommend calling a qualified pest control company to check it out before you go out and move in. If you’re moving your family in you want to make sure it’s safe.
Mark: So that’s the core safety issues in older homes, pretty much in North America, let alone Vancouver, is there anything else you would like to include or finish off with?
David: No, I can’t recommend strongly enough is to hire somebody who has experience in older homes, you get it inspected every time, if you’re getting a great deal from your uncle and you’re buying his house, it doesn’t matter, you should always get a home inspection done by somebody who is familiar with these issues because you can save a lot more than inspection costs. If you spend $500 on a home inspection and you save $10,000 on fumigating the attic and removing asbestos somewhere, that’s a pretty good return, right? So always hire a qualified home inspector and the last thing I’ll say is please give us a call for your next home inspection. My number is at the bottom of the screen.
Mark: So folks, we’ve been talking with David Fairbairn, he’s a certified home inspector in Vancouver and he deals with the whole metro Vancouver area from Coquitlam right to West Van, Richmond, Surrey you name it, he goes there so he’s a good guy and he knows his stuff. David Fairbairn at FairbairnInspections.com. Give him a call 604-395-2795. Thanks David.
David: Thanks Mark, talk to you later.
Mark: Hi, it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here with David Fairbairn. David is a building and home inspector here in Vancouver. How’re you doing today David?
David: I’m great Mark, how’re you doing?
Mark: Good, really good actually. So we’re getting down to the nitty gritty, how does one go about choosing the right home inspector in Vancouver?
David: Well Mark, there’s a couple things you’re going to want to do before you start picking home inspectors, you need to understand how the home inspection industry works in BC. In BC all home inspectors are required to be licensed so you’re probably not going to be able to find a home inspector who’s not licensed and if they don’t have a license you’re going to want to run away from them. It would be similar to going to a dentist who doesn’t have his license. This should be someone who’s a trained professional, obviously anyone who doesn’t have on, that’s the biggest thing but of course in BC all home inspectors are required to be licensed so when you’re choosing an inspector, they may tell you, well I’m licensed, well you know it kind of puts us all on similar ground. What you should do, there’s a couple ways you can find a home inspector, one is to speak to your real estate professional. In Vancouver, I don’t know if it’s common in other areas but in Vancouver the real estate agent will actually give you three names usually, three inspectors that they trust and then you can do your research on that, call them, find out what they offer and pick one of the three. So that’s probably the most common way to find it is to speak to your real estate agent or of course going on the web, Google or having a look around and seeing if there’s a website of an inspector that you trust and it’s someone who appears to offer a good selection of services at a good price. So those are usually the two ways is either the internet or through a real estate agent.
Mark: So I guess there’s some sort of association that you guys have?
David: Yes, basically in BC to get our license we have to be a member of an association and there’s a number of associations in Canada that you can belong to that satisfies that requirement to get a license, so you may hear inspectors talking about different associations; I like to think that it’s not really about which association you belong to, however, there are pros and cons of each one. I’m a member of the Canadian National Association of Certified Home Inspectors. There’s another one called Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors also known as CAHPI, there’s ASTTPBC so there’s actually quite a few and I guess the upshot there is if they really try to force one Association on you versus another I would probably steer clear of that because it doesn’t always guarantee that you’re going to get a quality inspector. You should be looking at the inspector on their merits alone and not their association.
Mark: What are the qualifications that I should be looking for?
David: You can take the course, you could go out right now and take some courses and become a certified home inspector but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have real world experience and I think this is one of the things people find is that the home inspector that they’re choosing does not have any prior contracting experience or any engineering experience. In some cases the person was maybe working in an office before and now they’re all of a sudden out and inspecting homes and while that’s well and good, I like to believe that the education is good enough to get you up to speed to do a proper quality job, however in some cases the person doesn’t have the background to identify problems that they may not have been exposed to in a classroom. Ideally if you can find a home inspector who has engineering or contracting experience prior to being a home inspector, for me that’s a huge thing. Of course I have, shameless plug, I have engineering experience and contracting experience as well prior to becoming a home inspector.
Mark: So if I could sum that up it, just because you watch building shows on TV don’t make you a contractor.
David: That’s correct, as much as I love HGTV it’s a lot of fun to watch, it may not actually be realistic in terms of what you’ll see in the real world and a lot of time there is actually a lot of bad information on those shows, I probably call it one error per show. So take it with a grain of salt, its entertainment, right?
Mark: Yes. So what’s the best way to find an inspector? You kind of outlined a couple of them, what else would be your advice in that regard?
David: Look for somebody, I always say take a look at two things which is the sample report so if you can get a copy of the home inspection report from your inspector and see what kind of product you’re going to get because you’ll get everywhere from a paper checklist that’s one page long with a bunch of x’s on checkboxes or the longest I’ve ever seen one was a 100 page report with 200 plus photos and descriptions of everything. So there’s everything in between but take a look at the report because this is the kind of report you’re going to be getting and if you don’t understand it or it doesn’t make sense to you, you’re probably going to want to hire a different home inspector because it’s going to be just as useful on the house you’re buying as it is with the sample report, so get a copy of the sample report and also find out, one of the things would be is how long the inspection takes. If you find an inspector who says he can do it in an hour, he can but he can’t do a good job in an hour. I’m not aware of any home inspector who can do a quality job in one hour. Most of our inspections take about three hours, sometimes four depending upon the square footage. We try to keep it around three and I find that’s a good split between doing a quality job and being efficient at the same time.
Mark: So we’ve been talking with Mr. David Fairbairn. He’s a home inspector in Vancouver. For a trusted, quality job, he’s the guy to call. You can reach him at 604-395-2795 or go to his website at fairbairninspections.com. Thanks David.
David: Thanks Mark, talk to you later.
Exploring home inspection frequently asked questions with David Fairbairn in Vancouver, BC
Mark: Hi, it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here with David Fairbairn of Fairbairn Inspections in Vancouver, BC and we’re going to be answering some of the common questions that people have about home inspections this morning. How’re you doing David?
David: I’m good Mark, how’re you doing today?
Mark: Good, so what’s included in a home inspection?
David: Well, Mark there’s a set of standards that home inspectors have to use that is considered the bare minimum that home inspectors can look at during an inspection and these are considered a bare minimum but they typically include the major systems of the house. So you’re looking at your structure, your plumbing, your roof, the heating, ventilation, electrical, things like this, so that’s the major systems of the property and almost any home inspectors going to do that and in BC you have to abide by those standards but you can also go above and beyond those, so for instance one of the things that home inspectors actually are not required to inspect, is appliances and they’re not required to use any specific tools, they’re not required to do moisture testing or in fact, as far as I know they’re not even required to have a plug tester which I find funny, but that’s the bare minimum of what’s included in a home inspection.
Now, our home inspection includes more than that but we’ve got the basic major systems of the property, we’re going to give you an overview condition of the building, but we’re also going to give a little bit more than that.
Mark: So do you inspect everything, like what about fences or a big one for me and I think for anybody in the Vancouver area is drainage because we get a lot of rain here, outbuildings, all the sort of stuff, do you look at those as well?
David: Yes, interesting that you should ask that because the standards actually say that home inspectors are not required to look at fences, sheds, any sort of drainage whatsoever aside from the maybe three inches of drain tiles sticking up from the garden bed so what we’re doing with our home inspections is we’re obviously limited by what we can see but we’re going to give you an overview of the whole property so what I like to do is during the inspection I’ll show up and walk the entire property, corner to corner and this is for a number of reasons, you know, if you have a lot, maybe it’s predominately a flat lot but there’s a slope on one side of it and it maybe direct water onto one side of the home where you get pooling in your yard, you might have, this is actually when I find a lot is where there’s a big retaining wall back of the property that you need to sort of go way back and hack through the bushes, take a look, you know you’ve got some types of problems with the retaining wall. That can be really expensive, a retaining wall right now, to rebuild it, a concrete retaining walls between $25 to $35 a square foot so it’s thousands of dollars to actually rebuild a retaining wall. You can’t really shift them back into place, you have to tear them up and rebuild them. So it can actually be a huge item. So retaining walls, that’s a big one, inspecting drainage; what I like to do is actually open up manhole covers if I can find them, pop them open, have a look and we can actually see a little bit of our perimeter drainage, storm drainage system, right. There’s been a couple times I’ve opened up inspection chamber in the front yard, those turquoise lids you see in the front yard, there’s one red one, there’s one turquoise one, never open the red one because that’s sewage and turquoise one is rain water, so if you ever see a red one you’re probably not going to want to touch it. But the green one, you pop it open, you have a look and you can see, there has been a couple times you can see it backing up from the connection from the lateral to the city, so those are the things that be curious, that’s what we’re doing, you know the curious guy we go around the property, take a look at everything we can and if the sheds about to fall; I saw a shed in Coquitlam the other day, the shed was leaning so much that the door wouldn’t open any more, the door was actually seized, so you know, that’s going to be a safety hazard if they move in, start using that shed it’s going to fall over so this is kind of basic stuff that’s it’s not technically required but it’s going to create the impact of the use of the property so all inspections that we do include these areas.
Mark: So what about in the ceiling or above the ceiling in the attic area or whatever you want to call it in that space area, I know that if you just stick your head up you see one view and if you actually walk on the framing members and work your way around you might see a whole different picture, like junction boxes buried in the ceiling and where nobody’s ever going to find them and all kinds of interesting things or different kinds of wiring, aluminum or all kinds of old, old wiring because we have some old houses in the Vancouver area merged with new wiring because part of the house was renovated or . .
David: that’s usually the case, yeah, you know hey this panel looks great and all of a sudden you go up to the attic and it’s tied into a bunch of tubing and electrical tape. Yeah, that’s really a good point and home inspectors are required to go and look at the attic, doesn’t say how so I could technically open the attic hatch, poke my head in there, shine a flashlight around and come back down in three seconds and that would meet the requirements of what I’m supposed to do but that’s not good enough. I always say if we can get into the attic, if I can fit myself into the attic, unless it’s a Vancouver special, now a Vancouver special they have incredibly low attics, they’re almost universally impossible to get into but for a standard house, if you can get into the attic there’s a lot of stuff you can find up there. One of the really common problems I find in attics is somebody’s gone and put in recessed lighting and they’ll put like pot lights all over the upstairs ceiling and they’re really proud of themselves but they actually put in a style that potlight that can’t be in contact with insulation and the manufacturer specifically says that and it’s called a non IC rated light, it’s insulation contact light and this kind of fixture you would have to actually have to build a small box around it or have the insulation not touching it and that can be a big job so that’s a pretty common mistake and you wouldn’t know unless you actually went into the attic or you pull the pot lights down from below which I’m probably not going to start doing.
Mark: So, what don’t you inspect?
David: The only thing, there’s a few things that are difficult for us to inspect, anything that’s not visible, right so we have to remember it’s a visual inspection so anything that we can’t see so if I walk into a room and it’s packed with storage items I may not be able to inspect that room so that ties in with how to prepare for the home inspection. If you have an inspection you are going to want to make sure that they haven’t taken one of the basement rooms and filled it storage items because they’re moving, it’s packed with boxes. I’ll give it a shot, I’ll try to pull back the boxes and take a look behind it if we can or if we can reasonably move some items out of the way but if we can get everything visible then I can inspect more of the property, actually that’s one of the big things I can’t inspect is anything that’s not visible, locked doors, we’ve had a couple mystery rooms this month where you know, it’s locked, nobody knows where it goes and I have to say, you know what, I can’t get in there, I don’t know. Attics if they’ve got shelving installed overtop the attic hatch, I can’t go up to the attic, so you just want to make sure we have access to all the areas and one more thing I don’t inspect is the security system of the house. We’re finding a lot of these newer homes, they come with installed security systems but they don’t, sometimes they’re half way there, maybe you don’t have your sensors in, maybe you don’t have your control box, so there’s a few different steps to get a security system up and running and I leave that up to the security experts so that’s one thing I don’t inspect and I also don’t want to set off any alarms while I’m in the home otherwise I get a call from the homeowner asking why the fire truck was there this afternoon so but everything that I can see we can reasonably test is on there. We can even sometimes if you go to a garage you can see the central vac, it’ll have a on/off switch, I can actually test that out. If the buyer wants a test on anything else specifically let me know, I’ve even tested a stereo system one time, it was quit or leave the house. It was a nice one too. We had some tunes going through there so . .
Mark: So what about like you mentioned the stuff you can see, now you do have some tools that you use that can look behind the walls, infrared basis.
David: That’s right, what we’re seeing is that tools aren’t really . . . but I have a great collection of tools and I constantly get people asking about what I’m using and some of these tools are just really cutting edge and they’re great for determining if there’s a hidden problem that we’d never find otherwise so for instance a possible gas leak detector, it’s basically a gas . . . ., you can use it on your gas meter, you can use it on your furnace gas piping, you can use it on your homes anywhere you have gas piping, you can actually test the joints and see if there’s a pin hole leak and sometimes it’s so fine it takes a lot of looking before the repair man can actually determine where it is so I actually have to circle it and say actually you know, this joint needs to be resealed and so that’s a big safety thing. There’s a moisture meter, a pretty standard home inspector will have a moisture meter with you to determine if there’s moisture behind the shower walls or if there’s some wet drywall and then of course the thermal camera. The thermal camera is going to give you that image of, sometimes you can see the studs, you know wet insulation, find gyproc with that so all my tools we include that with a standard home inspection, the only difference is that the thermal camera, if you would like a whole building scan done we offer a thermal imaging package which depends on the size of the property but it’s very affordable.
Mark: Awesome, sounds pretty thorough and from what you keep finding and surprising us on your posts, thorough which is great, which I appreciate, I’m kind of a bit anal about this. I just had my drains scoped actually.
David: Excellent, so how’d they look?
Mark: They looked great, very happy, so . .
David: That’s great; you’re one of the few that actually will do it. I’ve gone in houses you know, the owners have lived in there thirty years and like, what are perimeter drains? Literally they had no idea, right, and you’re going o.k. this is the old tile from the 80’s. It’s corrugated, how much junk is in that drain tile, right, yeah you’re a good home owner, I look forward to inspecting your home one day.
Mark: Alright, thanks David. It’s been great talking with you. We’ve been talking with David Fairbairn from FairbairnInspections.com in Vancouver; give him a call 604-395-2795. Buy a house you can trust. Give David a call; he’ll look after you – 604-395-2795. Thanks Dave.
David: Thanks Mark.
Mark: Hey, Mark Bossert here from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re talking mold with Mr. David Fairbairn of Fairbairn Inspection Services in Vancouver. How’re you doing today David?
David: I’m good Mark; just as excited as you are about talking about mold.
Mark: So, toxic black mold; myths and facts. So what are the myths and facts about toxic black mold?
David: Toxic black mold, you know we’ve talked about it before Mark. You hear about it in the news, see it on TV, toxic black mold, everyone’s scared of it, nobody wants it in their house, but what is it? I’d like to show you exactly what it is, where it comes from and what it’s actually called because there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of the actual name of the mold so, again I’m going to try screen sharing here, just let me know if you see the pictures come up on your screen, just give me a second here, try this again, o.k. in about three seconds you should see the photo come up on the screen.
Mark: it hasn’t come up yet. You’ve got a bit of connection – here we go.
David: So the first thing I want to talk about with toxic black mold is that it’s not actually called toxic black mold. You ask a scientist, you know, what’s toxic black mold, they’re probably going to say, oh you’re talking about Stachybotrys, I’ve got the word up on the screen on the top left there, it’s called Stachybotrys. Now Stachybotrys is the genus of mold. Mold is broken down into genus which is the family of mold, and it’s also subdivided at that point into different species. So we’ve got Stachybotrys which is the genus of mold and there’s about 50 different types of it. Now it is notable for two things, it’s extremely slimy and grows in extremely wet conditions so if we see Stachybotrys in a home, usually we have a fairly major moisture problem, it’s not just a little bit of shower mold, we’re talking about floods, huge roof leaks, nasty ventilation problems, grow ops, things like that that there are actually going to cause this to grow. So this is the worst of the worst; there’s 50 different types of it and the one that we’re talking about today in particular that is called toxic black mold by the media is called S. Chartarum and the S stands for Stachybotrys. Stachybotrys is the genus and Chartarum is the species, it’s a particular type of mold that has a very bad reputation in homes. So S. Chartarum, exceedingly slimy, it is black, in some cases it’s actually not black, I’ve seen it where it is sort of a fuzzy gray colour, it also shows up blue sometimes. This picture was taken in Surrey, it’s a shed that was leaking for about 15 years and they closed the doors and sealed it all up and we can see the amount of heavy visible growth growing in what should have been the ceiling. O.k. so this came back as S. Chartarum. You can see that we also have another type of mold which tested as a different type. We can see it’s sort of white and fluffy at the bottom of this luggage, o.k. so there’s some pretty heavy growth here.
The history of toxic black mold is, that in the 1990’s, the early 90’s, it got a very bad reputation when I believe an infant actually died in the United States of I believe it was pulmonary hemorrhaging and they did an autopsy and found that the infant had breathed in some S. Chartarum spores and that’s why the alarm was sent up that this is a particularly toxic type of mold and ever since then it’s had a terrible reputation. Now the CDC weighted their study that said actually we found no link between Stachybotrys Chartarum spores and hemorrhaging but nobody’s taking a chance and if you have this type of mold you need to remediate it, basically you don’t want to take any chances with this because it is technically toxic and so this is a close up of the S. Chartarum, see the spore cluster where it’s releasing spores into the air and as mold has evolved over the years it is getting more and more aggressive because there are other types of mold that has to compete it. This is basic evolutionary biology where the strongest wins and what mold has done particularly Stachybotrys is that it has evolved what is called mycotoxins. Mycotoxins were originally intended to kill off other types of competing molds but in some cases and in this case, particularly true that it will cause problems in humans, so it’s actually toxic to people.
What we’re finding is that we’re getting respiratory problems; it’s been in very loose ways it’s been connected to cancer, although I don’t know if that’s actually been confirmed or not so the CDC’s been doing studies on this, you should educate yourself on this. It’s been linked to cancer; it’s been linked to a lot of allergy problems, respiratory problems, itchy, watery eyes, skin infections and a host of other health problems.
So usually we see this where we have a mold situation, a flood situation so we’ve had a lot of water leakage. This is actually an addition, a room built onto the back of a house in Burnaby and what happened here was they built on the side of a hill and basically the slope of the soil directed all the water into the wall cavity and it basically rotted out the room from the outside in and they also left it sealed up all summer so this had no ventilation at all. Mold like this really thrives in very stale, damp air and this is what the conditions that were actually created in this home were perfect for Stachybotrys growth. You can see the amount of damage to the drywall sort of at the top interior and exterior where it’s taken deep roots and I mean the drywall is so soft you can just push your finger right through it so at this point we need a full remediation done.
Now when we talk about remediation, we’re talking about a couple things, you know if you hire a contractor who’s not familiar with molds they may just go and remove the visible molds but they might not completely remove, you know the source of the moisture leak, they might not remove the invisible molds and they may not do a job that will last a long time. So you have to be very, very careful once you see this, especially if you’ve tested it and it comes back as Stachybotrys that you call a mold remediation company who is certified and has a lot of experience with dealing with this.
So the answer is, now normally I say o.k., you know if you have a bit of mold growth in one spot, you’re going to want to remove it with a store bought product, if we come across Stachybotrys we need to actually call a professional, we don’t want you to hurt yourself, it’s not worth the potential health risks to you and your family by living in the house, you don’t want to be playing around with this stuff. It’s really, really nasty mold.
O.k. so the answer is usually a full remediation, so we’re bringing in the crew who have respirators, they’re N95 respirators that filter out microbiological spores and things like that. We’ve got our suits on and what we’re actually doing as we go, we’re encapsulating the mold so we’re sealing off the area, we are sealing every bit of material coming out of that room, we’re completely sealing it off and disposing of it safely. We are testing as we go. We are removing all this mold and we come back and we do a post remediation air test. We test the air, we find out if there’s still some spores left over after a certain period of time, we need to go even further, just wipe it out and that usually involves just more moisture testing, just more material removal. So in many cases we’re actually removing a good section of the building to replace it and in some cases it is treatable with certain products that usually at this point, you know, these are professional products that you’re not going to find at a hardware store, you’re going to have this company come in and do it properly.
O.k. so that’s basically what we’re going to do with Stachybotrys and that’s sort of an introduction to this material so just to sort of drive the point home, if you have this material, get it tested, find out what you have in your home. If it is Stachybotrys you need to call a certified mold company – call us 604-395-2795. We can assist with the issue and the number one is safety so don’t cut corners and don’t take any chances if you do see it. Call us right away and we can not only assist with testing and sampling, we can also come back later in the job, make sure that it’s completely gone and make sure that you’re not breathing anything nasty.
Mark: Awesome job David. So one of the things to drive home is that this is not treatable by your little spray bottle or bleach and bleach solution and pretending like you can just wipe it away. This is nasty, health injurious stuff that you need to have professionals look after for you and like David was saying, his company is certified in mold remediation so they’re the guys to call. FairbairnInspections.com call them at 604-395-2795. Thanks a lot David.
David: Thanks Mark, see you later.
Mark: Hi it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation we’re talking with David Fairbairn, he’s a home inspector here in Vancouver. How are you doing today David?
David: I’m doing great Mark, how are you?
Mark: I’m good… so we’re going to talk about commercial building inspections – so what’s different?
David: What’s different from a standard home inspection is probably what you’re wondering, with commercial building inspection there are quite a few differences from a standard home inspection. Most of has to do with the complexity of the building itself, when you have a commercial building, the equipment you’re going to come across and the building designs that you’re going to come across. If you’re a first time commercial property buyer or if you’re leasing a commercial property and you don’t have experience with them, there can be a lot of things that you don’t understand. So you need somebody who has experience with these buildings and is trained in these systems. First thing is complexity; we see a lot of industrial things, you’ve got a completely different structure design. If you’re buying a restaurant, you’re going to see industrial kitchen equipment and with a lot of these things you may need an education in – that’s the big thing with commercial buildings. The next thing that’s different about commercial building inspections versus a standard home inspection is the type of report that we would provide to you. When you’re getting a commercial building inspected, you are hopefully getting a report that you’re going to give to your lender. They have pretty specific guidelines of what they’re looking for. One of those things that we don’t really see with a standard home inspection, that we do see in the commercial world, is cost estimated. So on the inspection report, you’re actually going to get cost estimate for the work. Usually I give a range of it’s going to be between this much and this much to correct this defect. You’re actually going to have cost estimating on the summary breakdown at the end of the inspection report. So that’s a huge difference as well.
Mark: So, how long does it take?
David: It can be anywhere from a few hours to an entire day and it really depends on the size of the property and the type of property. for instance, if you need a warehouse inspected – they’re large but they’re fairly simple structures. So they’re not going to take the time to measure it in square feet right, so they’re going to be a shorter inspection depending on what’s in there. If you have an office building and you need every single office evaluated then obviously that’s going to take a bit of time – there are a lot of things and furnishings to work around. It really depends on the type of building and the use of the building. Of course, if you have a vacant commercial building, that’s going to be a lot faster to inspect because you don’t have to work around staff and furnishings and equipment. Sometimes with commercial buildings, the customer will actually request it to be at night. This actually happens when there is an existing business and they don’t want interruption during their day to day operations – so we bring in an inspector over night. This does happen once in a while, of course, we try to be flexible to accommodate that.
Mark: How long until I get the report on my building?
David: If we do the inspection, we usually provide you with a digital report as well as an optional printed copy within 48 hours of the inspection. It’s a fully typed out narrative report with photos, and of course, there’s a bit of time in there – and most of that time is based on the calculation of all the costs. If we find an older building that maybe needs a new roof, or there’s some facade work at the front of the building, we’re going to have to work out the cost per square foot and you disposal costs and things like that and put it into a usable number for you. That’s usually where the time frame comes in. Some buildings that are simple and there’s not a huge amount of work to be done, we can get the report a little bit faster than that as well. We try to do as quickly as possible, but it’s usually 48 hours.
Mark: So what about cost?
David: Cost varies. The best way to get a cost on a commercial building inspection is to call us directly. It varies, not only in the number of square feet, which is one of the things you find in a home inspection – it’s almost always based on square footage – if there’s a lane way house in the backyard, we’ll charge a little bit extra. We approach it in the same way but if you’ve got a vacant building and depending on the use of the building – if you’ve got a metal plating facility obviously we’re going to have to bring in some contractors to take a look a little more in depth. It really depends on the use of the building. Best way is to call us for a quote. Usually for a small restaurant you’re probably looking at around $1200, for a larger warehouse it could be $1000 depending on the size of the building and what it’s being used for.
Mark: What about things like soil contamination or water ingress or those sorts of things? Are you looking at that as well or compliance with building codes?
David: What we do in terms of the soil contamination, I’m glad you mentioned that because a lot of the time when you’re purchasing commercial property you’re going to hire someone to do a Phase One Environmental Site Assessment or a Phase One ASA. A Phase One ASA is basically an evaluation of possible contaminants on the site – soil conditions, things like asbestos, lead – they would cover a few of those issues as well. For that reason, the commercial building inspector wouldn’t address those issues directly, we would leave it up to the Phase One ASA. We can help arrange that for you but typically it’s done through a different company. Water ingress is one of the most important concepts in building inspections, especially in the lower mainland. So we’re obviously going to take a close look at water ingress issues, we’re going to have a look at the roof. We use thermal imaging on the commercial building inspections, scanning flat roofs, checking lot grading. It’s equally as important if not more important than with a standard home inspection to avoid water ingress.
Mark: Awesome. So we’re been talking with David Fairborn, he’s a Vancouver building inspector and home inspector. You can reach him at 604-395-2795. Thanks a lot David.
David: Thanks Mark
We’re talking with David Fairbairn certified home inspector, about Mold – what does it look like, is it toxic, how do I get rid of it?
Mark: Hi, it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation and we’re here this morning with David Fairbairn from Fairbairn Inspections in Vancouver BC. David’s a certified home inspector and we’re going to be talking about is there mold in my home. How you doing this morning David?
David: Doing great Mark – how you doing?
Mark: I’m great. So, tell me what does mold look like?
David: The biggest myth about mold that you’re going to find is that it actually is visible. In most cases, if you have mold in your home you may not be able to see it. Mold can grow on walls, it can grow on countertops, it can grow on an surface but it may not be the fuzzy black stuff that you see on HGTV – and everybody says, ‘oh my gosh here’s some toxic black mold. So that’s the biggest myth about mold is that you can see it all the time. Now if you can actually see it, usually it’s pretty bad. If you see a lot of dark stains, fuzzy stuff mold growth – usually you’ve reached a point where the mold is what’s called viable. There are two states of mold: there’s non viable which is dead mold and there’s viable which means it’s going to release spores in the air and it may be harmful. So if you see mold growth that’s heavy, it may be viable and you need a qualified home inspector or mold inspector to come and check it out to determine the state of it. But in general, it takes on a few different forms – you see a black sort of furry growth, sometimes I’ve actually seen white, I’ve seen blue. So the thing is, if you suspect mold in the home, the first thing you should do is test it or call somebody who knows about mold to come and test it for you because you may not be able to tell if you have mold or not just by looking.
Mark: Ok, so now I’m freaked out… so is there mold in my home?
David: Well, the answer is yes. Almost always yes. For instance, if you leave a loaf of bread out on your counter and you leave it over night, you will have mold growth by morning. Where do you think that mold came from? Well, it actually came from spores that were already in the air. Right now I’m sitting outside on this beautiful day and I’m actually breathing in quite a few types of mold right now. I’m breathing in something called ganoderma, which is actually a type of fungus – it’s a mushroom – and I’m breathing in those mold spores but they’re not toxic and they’re not going to harm me. Just walking around in the woods or in your own home you’re going to be breathing in different types of mold spores. But the stuff we’re actually worried about is toxic mold and that’s mold spores that are floating around in the air that contain mycotoxins and a mycotoxin is molds way of destroying other molds in order to win the evolutionary mold race. So those are the things that sometimes can be harmful to people. So the answer is yes, there is mold in your home but generally we don’t see harmful mold unless there is a significant amount of water damage, that’s the first thing that usually causes a mold outbreak. If mold doesn’t have moisture – it won’t grow. If you get rid of the moisture, you’ll get rid of the mold. We see this a lot, especially in home inspections where somebody has had a flood in the basement, we’ve had a leaking shower, we’ve had a plumbing leak somewhere. These are the kind of situations that usually lead to mold growth if the drywall and the wood is just left wet and mold sets up and starts growing. This is where we really serious problems.
Mark: So, how do you get rid of mold?
David: The best way to get rid of mold is to get rid of the moisture first because if you remove the moisture and that means humidity, moisture in the air, moisture in the materials – if you get rid of those things mold will basically die off. But you should remove all the material that’s been affected. So if you have mold growth all over some drywall, you’re going to need to remove that drywall and replace it. That’s the best way to do it, to dispose of the damaged product. Now, lets say you have mold in an attic it may not be prudent to just to replace your entire roof and I don’t think anybody’s actually done that unless it’s been really extreme cases. So what we’re probably going to want to do is treat the mold. There is a few different ways you can treat the mold. You can blast it with dry ice, this is a new method they’re using right now where they basically take a sand blaster and shoot dry ice against the wood and it sterilizes the wood. The other method is chemical treatments and of course the best way is to replace the wood.
MarK: You inspect a lot of houses every week, are you seeing a lot of this?
David: Absolutely. I would probably say about 25% of homes that I inspect in Vancouver have some level of mold in them that’s visible. It’s really common in bathrooms. Bathrooms are actually a really under rated source for mold; they are extremely humid, there’s usually poor ventilation – either the bathroom fan doesn’t work or nobody runs the bathroom fan so you don’t have that exhaust going on; and they’re used quite a bit and are usually left wet all day – somebody showers in the morning and then they go to work and leave a soaking wet room. You can get a lot of mold growth in a bathroom very quickly. I’ve actually seen entire houses that are full of mold and they all stem from one bathroom. It’s extremely common. Another really common area for mold is attics – we see it in a lot of attics especially if you have poor ventilation in the attic. Another area where we see it is where there has been a past flood or leak, especially basements. Basements are a huge source of mold, so get it checked out. If you smell something funny you might have a mold situation.
Mark: Thanks a lot David. We’ve been talking with David Fairbairn from Faribairn Inspections. You can reach him at 604-395-2795 or at www.fairbairninspections.com. He’s got a ton of information on his website – again 604-395-2795. Thanks a lot David… have a great day.
David: You too Mark, thanks
Mark: Hi, it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here with David Fairbairn from Fairbairn Inspections in Vancouver. David how’re you doing today?
David: I’m great Mark, how’re you doing?
Mark: Good. So we’re going to be talking about thermal imaging and how does thermal imaging help you in doing home inspections?
David: Well, Mark someone mentioned relatively, I’m not going to say new technology, it’s actually be around for a while but the concept is that we can actually get to the point now where we can read heat signatures on dry wall, ceilings, walls, things like that we can actually determine if there’s hidden moisture or if there’s hidden, you know sometimes we find missing insulation, sometimes we can find electrical overheating, so it’s just really nice technology and we’re sort of seeing this come into the home inspection industry and to be honest with you Mark we’re getting a lot of people asking for it. We offer thermal imaging as a package with our home inspections and it’s getting a lot of interest from potential home buyers who basically want to get that extra level of seeing what our eyes can’t see. Now a thermal camera is basically a camera that can read infra-red light; infra-red light is given off by objects in proportion to how much heat energy they have, so if we had an object that, maybe we have a cold spot in a wall, we might not be able to see that with our own eyes but that could be a leak, it could be something where we’ve got some water running down the inside the wall and it’s on the back of the dry wall and you know we may not be able to see that during standard visual home inspections, so the thermal imaging just gives us that extra insight into the property and I like to say it’s the most detailed inspection you can get. So my advice would be if you’re looking for a home inspector try to find somebody who can offer the thermal imaging and if you want the best inspection out there get the thermal imaging package because it’s going to give you that extra insight into the property and most of the time, I’m not going to say all the time, but most of the time it ends up paying for itself in terms of saving you on repair costs.
Mark: So, when you’re looking and finding say a cold spot in a place where it shouldn’t be or a hot spot, but let’s just talk about a cold spot, what does that lead you to look for further, like how does that help you to do a better job?
David: Yeah, it helps us to a better job because we might not have caught that otherwise, you know if I’m walking through with a flash light, looking at your walls and looking at your ceilings and I’m going, you know what, it looks pretty good, I don’t see any signs of moisture coming through the wall, I have no idea if there’s insulation in the wall but with the thermal camera, and I’ll give you an example Mark. A new construction home, the builder asks to get all the insulation in, wheels leave the driveway and all of a sudden these guys leaves the insulation out, falls out, we’ll just give them the benefit of the doubt, we can take an image of that wall and see there’s actually heat loss maybe in one of the stud bays, so we can actually tell, o.k. you may not actually have insulation here, let’s do some further review. In which case we’re going to recommend a contractor come in, so an example would be a house I did in south Surrey a little while ago. They had a vaulted ceiling so there was no attic space to actually see with our eyes so what we did, we thermally scanned that ceiling and sure enough we see a big drip coming right down the middle of the ceiling and it wasn’t showing through the dry wall yet, it was running on the top of the vapour barrier and we recommended a roofer come out and sure enough after they did water test, there was actually water in the ceiling. It was a relatively new roof and they didn’t know it leaked yet and we actually surprised the home owners. They had no idea.
Mark: And it saved the buyers probably a ton of money in terms of not buying something that they would have to repair after the fact.
David: That’s right. I think they save about four or five hundred dollars on that one. It was a failed flashing. The thermal imaging package, I think they paid about 79 bucks for it, so it’s a pretty good return on their investment.
Mark: So does this increase the time it takes you to do an inspection? Like how long does it take?
David: It does, it takes a little bit longer but one of the main things we want to do in order to get a quality thermal image, Mark is to heat up the house or alternately, depending on the outdoor air temperature, we might run the air conditioning and we’re going to run the heating/cooling system to get those interior conditions just right to get the best image possible so that takes a little bit more time, a little bit more intrusive but you know I feel it’s worth it and usually it only adds about thirty minutes to the whole inspection time. In a condominium it might add about fifteen minutes to the whole inspection. It can be done fairly easily and of course the buyers really enjoy seeing it. We take it out and we scan the, in one case a little while ago, we could actually see the dry wall screws everywhere in the ceiling so we can actually tell the nailing pattern that they’ve done and of course we can tell where the joists are; if you want to remove a load bearing wall, we may not know it’s a load bearing wall, we can actually see, o.k. well we’ve got a beam here, we’ve got a couple trusses here and you can actually see the structure of the building. It’s quite cool.
Mark: So how much does it cost?
David: For condominiums, the thermal imaging package is $39 plus tax, in addition to the cost of the inspection, for a home depending on the size it can run anywhere from about $79 to $99 extra for the thermal image package. That includes electrical panel scanning, that includes ceilings, walls, floors; we’re going to check for missing insulation, and there’s a few other important things that we’re going to check for that’s really specific for instance if you have a two story building and you’ve got some bathrooms on the second floor, you’ll notice I actually have some drywall on me right now, we actually just did a thermal scan of a house in Coquitlam this morning and the bathtub had not been used in twenty years, it actually leaked into the ceiling and we scanned of course and we found a big leak in the ceiling, cut it out and water came out. So this is the kind of thing we’re finding with thermal imaging, we have no idea otherwise. They’re saving about a thousand bucks on that one, so the 79 or 99 is a pretty good deal.
Mark: Well I think for me, the money saved is nice but not having the wonderfulness of moving into a brand new home to you, new to you home, and then having all kinds of problems happening that you did not expect, surprise, that takes all the joy out of, hey, we love our new home.
David: That’s right. We try to make the inspection a fun part of the home buying process where, you know what, we are just there to find, to make sure there’s no surprise when you move in and it’s also an education on the house so we’re going to identify the defects plus identify what you do have there, positive points in the house so you have that well rounded knowledge and the biggest things is when you move in there’s no surprise, that’s right.
Mark: Awesome. So, we’ve been talking about thermal imaging and how it helps in home inspections and it sounds like it’s a pretty important part of your tool kit these days. Thanks a lot David.
David: Thanks Mark.
Mark: Talk to you next week.