Month: November 2017

Steps to a Healthy Home This Winter

The place to start on the path to a healthy home is looking at changes you may have recently made. How moisture and air move through your home can be affected by changes in furnace systems, windows, doors or insulation. Building additions and interior french drains can also change the nature of the indoor environment. If you had any of those changes to your home, you need to have a second look at the indoor environment.

Furnaces need checked by a qualified, expert furnace service professional or home inspector each heating season.

There is a reason for all the descriptive qualifiers in front of the word “service professional”. Many service companies will only check if the furnace turns on. They often do not check each of the critical issues relating particularly fossil fueled furnaces.

Have an Inspction for Peace of MInd and a Healthy Home

Checking a Furnace is One Step TO a Safe and Healthy Home This Winter 

Heat exchangers will eventually fail, gas leaks occur as the pipe sealant dries, condensate lines can leak and damage a furnace. Many times, the vent system has deteriorated or more amazingly, never been installed properly in the first place. Over the years, I have found countless furnaces that have had undiagnosed defective heat exchangers. I have walked into a furnace room and without even pulling out a single tool, observed gas leaks, sewer odor from defective condensate lines, and blocked or damaged vent systems. None of these are healthy conditions for residents 

When a mid-range efficiency furnace is installed that uses interior air as combustion air, gas hot water tank and gas dryer vent gases can be pulled back into the home from those venting appliances.

Gas hot water tanks are another common source of indoor environmental issues.

This is particularly true in cold weather. Oversized chimneys will not properly vent when cold. When a high efficiency furnace is installed, the hot water tank usually needs to be connected to a flue liner, which is a smaller vent. In as many as 20% of the new furnace installations that I have inspected, that change was not made. The reason is that the liner needs installed from the roof and costs time and money. Not installing that system makes it possible to give a lower bid on a furnace installation job. The true cost of that omission of the liner is flue gases staying in the home and presenting a health risk to the occupants of the building.

Stored materials are often a hazard.

 We often bring stored toxins into the home. The can of gasoline, the pesticide for your yard, the damp and moldy furniture cushions and the super-duper cleaners all make their way into the building envelope for storage in winter.

The simple recommendation is to not store any chemicals in the home, particularly when someone sensitive to these products lives there. An outside storage shed is one solution. Properly disposing of the products is another solution.

When cold weather comes, pests and other animals think of your home as a safe and warm place to live.

 Mice, rats, birds, bats and squirrels are some of the animals found in homes. I have also found ground hogs and shrews in homes. When animals pick your home as there winter retreat, your home becomes their bathroom. If they pass away, it can also become their mausoleum. The result is odor and contaminants that can make a home smell bad and unhealthy.

 The bottom line is that we are going to close our homes, schools and workplaces tight as a drum to save energy and stay warm. If you have the symptoms of sick building syndrome or notice an odor, look around for a problem. If you can’t find the cause, call a professional to help you. Good health is a precious gift that we do not want to squander.

Contact to find a qualified home inspector near you. 

Environmental Problems Can be Painful

Did you ever think that exposure to the environmental problems that make us sick is like hitting your thumb with a hammer……..but nobody can tell you what the hammer is?

Reacting to Did you ever think that exposure to the environmental problems that make us sick is like hitting your thumb with a hammer……..but nobody can tell you what the hammer is?

Hitting thumb with a hammer

Did you ever think that exposure to the environmental problems that make us sick is like hitting your thumb with a hammer……..but nobody can tell you what the hammer is?

We go and do so many different things and go so many places each day that it is often difficult to pinpoint what “is” or just as importantly what “is not” making us ill.

Making all of this figuring out whether something in our environment is making us ill more of a puzzle is the fact that we react to environmental stresses in “time delay”. The difficulty is “time delay” is not how our brain usually works.

Please let me explain: If we touch a burner on the stove, we feel pain. If we hit our thumb with hammer, we immediately feel the consequences of that action. Based upon that reaction, we each learn not to do those things. We learn in real time that for those actions there is a predictable, consistent and unpleasant reaction. We also figure out to not do those things again. However, I must admit that when I worked as a carpenter to get through college, that hitting fingers with a hammer happened a couple of times past the first. Before you judge that fact, I assure you that IT WAS NOT ON PURPOSE. Ouch.

Environmental exposures are more complicated because they not only happen in time delay, but they also often occur in combinations of events. Our minds do not do well at processing the complex conditions and events that trigger environmental reactions.

Keeping a diary of how you feel, where you are what you are doing and what you eat is probably the best tool for establishing health patterns that may predict sources of environmental reaction.

As an example, a diary could show that you become ill 6 to 10 hours after a visit to a particular building, riding in and automobile, eating a particular food or a host of other events occurs. This can be a life changing tool.

Based on that information, an assessment by a environmental specialist and testing of the area that appears to be the source of illness is the next step on the path to a return to good health

Mold is one of the most common triggers for health issues. Allergens are another very common trigger. Testing for these issues is a prudent first step in the process of narrowing sources of environmental stressors. Sending the tests to for quality evaluation and an easy to read report is the next step.

Calling your InspectorLab testing and inspection professional can be your first step on the path to good health.  You can find the contact information at   They can help identify the source that causes the contamination and test to identify the molds that can be the source of health problems for you or the ones you love.



The Indoor Environment Can Cause the Winter Blues

Imagine that winter’s approach is just another country music song. The song goes like this: “The temperature drops, the windows close, doors slam shut and all I got were those yucky, wheezy winter blues”.  The indoor environment can become a problem in winter.

Winter weather can cause environmental hazards

Winter weather can be the start of indoor air pollution as we tighten up homes


There’s a very good reason that this happens. Closing up the house really is a big part of it all. The winter induced end of fresh air coming into your home is what concentrates the contaminants that can make you ill.

The old time environmental experts explained that “the solution to pollution is dilution”. Sounds hokey, but it is a simple principal. That process of dilution in summer is that if there is a contaminant or odor in the home, the fresh air will disperse and dilute it.

Another factor that effects indoor air quality in winter is that the operation of heating systems elevates and spreads airborne contaminants. Most people think of heating systems as spreading heat through the home. Today, we need to think about heating systems as distributing mold, allergens, formaldehyde, sewer gas and whatever else is in the building. Even hot water heat systems create convection to distribute the contaminants

If you are wondering whether we are talking about your home, you will have hints that there is something wrong when you have environmental problems. Our bodies try to protect us by issuing those warnings. If something does not taste good, smell good or feel good, it is usually not good for us. Many times, our pets react to toxins before we do and give us the “heads up” that there is a problem. We should pay attention to the warnings.

Signs of an environmental problem in your home, school or workplace can include:

  • Odor
  • Not feeling well
  • Burning eyes, nose throat
  • Sneezing, coughing, hacking
  • Skin irritation
  • Nasal or sinus congestion
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Memory issues
  • Mood changes
  • Asthma attacks

By the way, not everyone in a home may notice the symptoms. That does not mean that there is not a problem. What it means is we are each different in our genetic makeup, current health and health history and the sum of all the exposures you receive in each of the places you spend time. As an example, some children can have severe reactions to peanuts. Most kids could live on PB&J. That is just “how it is.” We are each different in how we react to exposures.

The beauty of winter can bring environmental hazards

Winter can be the start of serious health problems as we close our homes up tight

This may be the time for you to contact InspectorLab and find a professional to test your home or workplace environment For more information,



The Story on Petri DIsh Mold Testing Kits

We often get asked about the petri dish mold test kits you find in hardware stores, grocery stores and the like. You’ve seen these hanging on racks at the end of aisles. They are the colorful packages showing gross mold pictures calling your name to come purchase. Just to add insult to injury, the plastic packs they come in will require a machete and crowbar to open.

Moldy Petri Dish Tells us Very Little About Mold Conditions in an Building

Petri Dish Testing Tells us Very Little About Mold Conditions in an Building

They are inexpensive. Actually, let’s call it as it is, as compared to a professional mold assessment they are downright cheap.

The problem is that they provide as little useful information as they cost.

There are a bunch of reasons why they are useless (except to the people selling them as this is a multimillion dollar business).

Only about 10% of all molds will grow on any single culture medium in a petri dish. Many molds will only grow on specific cultures. There are literally hundreds of culture media mycologists have developed to try to coax mold to grow in the laboratory. When we order cultures, we are offered have pages of choices for use in hundreds of situations. What this means is that you are potentially missing 90% of the molds that could be growing in the area being tested. You’ve heard the old saying, “you don’t know what you don’t know” and that may be essential information to correct the mold issue in your property.

The rate and area that mold spores fall is irregular and not representative of the area being tested. When a Petri dish culture is set out, the character of the air currents and ability of different size and shape spores to travel is not predicable or certain. Think of it like the spore population gets on an airplane, but you do not know where they are going to land and can’t predict what gate in which city they are going to land. In that case, you can’t place the Petri dish where it needs to be to meet the spore traps “at the gate”

The Petri Dish sample does not tell you how much of a mold is in the area. Last year I sowed zinnias in 3 separate pots, side by side. They were sitting on the patio with the same amount of light, water and temperature. The Zinnias grew at different rates in each pot. The variable was the soil in each. One had fresh soil and the others I had not changed the soil in the pots from the previous year. The amount of time that the Petri dish spends in the store and your home before use, and the temperature can affect the growth rate. The suitability of the agar for each mold growing in the Petri dish will also affect growth rate.

Zinnias growing at very different rates

Three pots of zinnias grow at the same time, in the same area, with the same water. The difference was the soil that was used. This is the problem with selecting a type of petri dish for the type of mold

Simply put: How much and what type of mold is present is critical to understanding if there is a problem in a building that requires remediation and to determine the type of appropriate remediation scope and products. The mold professional also needs to understand the materials and methods of construction and location of the underlying causes of the mold contamination to make sure that the mold does not come back.

Conclusion: Contact InspectorLab to find a mold professional to properly test your home, school  or business

Don’t waste the $10.00 for the test kit and $30.00 and up lab fee.

A site assessment and air testing are critical to resolving mold issues so that they do not return. The “Do-It-Yourself” kit does not reliably offer you any of that information. We want your home to be healthy and stay that way.  

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