Home inspector violates standards

 
 
Posted5/8/2022 6:00 AM

Q: I'm selling my home, and the buyer's home inspector recently went through my attic. He found mold on the wood framing and said it was a health hazard. Then he gave me an outrageous estimate to fix the problem. The estimate mentioned something about applying a foaming borate solution onto the wood to kill and prevent future mold growth.

I'm wondering if I can just buy this stuff and do it myself. Any information you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

 

A: Before getting involved in an ill-advised do-it-yourself project, some clarity is needed regarding the home inspection itself.

First of all, home inspectors who perform corrective work pursuant to their inspections are violating ethical standards that govern the home inspection profession. Besides this, mold evaluations are outside the defined scope of a home inspection. Furthermore, the practice of mold abatement is highly specialized, requiring considerable knowledge of mold species, their health-related effects, conditions that promote mold growth, and a practical understanding of the safest and most effective means of eradicating mold infections. As such, this is not a practice to be undertaken as a sideline by home inspectors.

As for the proposed use of "foaming borate," no one I've consulted has ever heard of this mysterious substance, nor does it seem to exist on the internet. There are some cleaning products that contain borate compounds, such as Borax laundry detergent, and such products are sometimes used in routine surface mold cleanup. But borate-containing cleaners are not regarded as a cure-all approach to mold abatement.

Finally, there are harmless forms of mold, commonly known as "lumberyard mold," typically found on construction lumber, even before a house is built. This may be all that was observed by the home inspector who was in your attic. Appearing as black spots on rafters, joists and trusses, this type of mold is not regarded as a significant health risk. Most home inspectors are aware of this.

When in doubt, home inspectors should advise further evaluation by a qualified mold specialist, rather than making an assessment or submitting a bid for repairs.

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Q: In the middle of the night, my smoke detector went off for at least a full minute, waking everyone in the house until it finally shut off. Then in the morning, it happened twice again. What could be causing this malfunction? Does it need a new battery, or should it be replaced?

A: A weak battery probably is not the problem because that would cause intermittent beeping, rather than a continuous discord. One possibility is the smoke alarm is old and ready for replacement. Another possibility is a small spider or insect is living inside the device.

Within a smoke alarm is a small chamber in which a stream of subatomic particles is projected against a specialized receptor. If any small object, such as smoke molecules or a bug, should interrupt this transmission, the alarm is immediately triggered. Regardless of the cause, replacement of the your smoke alarm is recommended.

• Write to Barry Stone online at www.housedetective.com.

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