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3 Reasons Your Home May Be Making You Sick

  • Written by Nip Tuck Remodeling
Our homes are supposed to provide shelter and most would expect that keeping warm, dry and breathing healthy air while inside are a given. However, Mother Nature tests your home constantly, and in the winter months we are inside with the windows closed more often than not.  Your home can and will make you sick if not taken care of.  Just as you would not expect your car to run well without a tune up or for your teeth to be clean and healthy without a trip to the dentist, your home deserves attention to retain its value (it will surely devalue if dilapidated) and keep the inhabitants safe.  Below are the top three areas (in my opinion) to watch in your own home and some of the signs that you have a problem.

1.  Moisture – Where there is moisture, there is the potential for mold and mildew and the opportunity for water to damage your home. I, for one, get a terrible sore throat and the beginnings of a headache within about 10 minutes of entering a home with water issues that have resulted in mold.  More often than not, the inhabitants are typically not aware that this may be causing a health issue because they have gotten used to the smell and or they feel better once they get to work and forget about it. What are some of the tell-tale signs? Stains on bathroom floors, around the toilet and at the entrance to your tub or shower (some floors have pressboard which may contain formaldehyde); cracked or missing grout in showers; windows in shower areas have a high failure rate for leaks; sweating windows and doors; chimney flashing (you’ll need to look in the attic for this one); overflowing gutters and signs of rotting fascia board or soffits; cracked or peeling paint and drywall around windows usually means the exterior caulking has failed. Keeping your home dry is paramount to a healthy environment.  Make a habit of checking these areas regularly and address issues as soon as they arise to avoid costly repairs, not to mention being a trigger for asthma and many allergies.   Treating only half the issue will not fix the problem.  Hire a professional to do the tasks that are out of your expertise so that the work is warranted and the problem is eradicated.

2. Ventilation Fans – They don’t work if you don’t use them!  Some common reasons you may not be using them are because they sound like a small jet taking off, or they are just underpowered and do not work.

You will find ventilation fans in most homes in the kitchen, laundry room and the bathrooms.  Basically, anywhere there is moisture in the air, there should be a fan. If you live in an older home, you may be relying on a window to move air and might consider adding fans. One of the quickest ways mold and mildew collect are from hot water stagnating in a room and having no place to go. You may notice circles on the ceiling (yes this is mold whatever the color), drip stains on the walls and peeling paint on the ceilings.  In the kitchen, not only are you working with hot water/steam, pan frying and deep frying move grease into the air and without a collection device to move the air, you are breathing it.  You can reduce mold/mildew and improve your indoor air quality by addressing the fan issue and using them. I recommend installing Panasonic Whisper Fans with at least a 30 minute timer.

Ventilation fans must be vented to the outside, so if you are in the older home, check your attic to be sure it is not just sending hot air up there to collect. Consult your contractor or electrical supplier to properly size the fan for the size of your area and the application.

3. Drainage and Crawl Spaces – Water, basements and exposed dirt are a combination for extremely poor indoor air quality.  Every year, it is a good idea to inspect the exterior perimeter of your home for water issues.  You are looking for clogged downspouts, downspouts that drain towards the house and not away, landscaping that slopes towards your house and any standing water issues. Signs of an issue inside your home are wet carpets, the smell of mildew, cracks in the drywall or buckling millwork.  If your home smells musty or has an odor resembling the garden, you have a crawl space issue.  The crawl space should be completely covered with a vapor barrier and forced air ducting inspected to be sure it is sealed.  A dehumidifier may do wonders for removing the excess moisture from the air.  Contact your contractor or a waterproofing specialist to discuss and implement a full solution.

Your home is your haven.  If you are more aware of the obstacles, you are more likely to head them off at the pass.

Nip Tuck Remodeling is a woman owned and operated general contracting company located in Woodinville.

Enjoy the Snow! Check the Attic!

  • Written by Craig Hawkins, EnviroShield

Woodinville resembles a winter wonderland on a beautiful snow-filled day.  Like many local families, we are taking advantage of the rarity to have fun.  Regrettably for some, soon the snow will melt and life will return to normal. That is the time to be on top of any snow related mold and water issues.

We asked Craig to help us understand the potential risks when a lot of snow accumulates within a short period, especially to our roofs:

Question: If I have a typical pitched roof, all of the melted snow water should easily flow to my drainage system, correct?

Craig: The majority of our service work after a snow storm has to do with what is called the stack effect; The system to constantly circulate heat/air from the main home to the attic and out an exhaust vent on top of the roof.  If the vents are blocked, moisture and dew can accumulate in the attic areas.

Question: What are some indicators that point to the potential of blocked vents?

Craig: In certain homes the moisture has accumulated in the attic, causing dripping water. An obvious sign is dripping water through upstairs can lights.

Question: Are their less-obvious signs of trouble?

Craig: It’s worth a trip to the attic to check for problems less easy to detect in the main house. We recommend that you open the attic access door to look for issues such as nails protruding from the roof, dripping water and otherwise wet nails.  Insulation can also be damaged by drips of water coming from the nails and or accumulating and dripping from the sheathing. Check for little holes and uneven changes in sheathing color.

Question: If I do discover a problem, how do I choose a water/mold damage company?

Craig: The first step is to call your insurance company and also a water damage company.

I would use this checklist:

1. Guarantee — Look for a company that provides a guarantee for mold remediation after the water dry out is complete.

2. Experience — Make sure that the water damage/mold remediation company that you choose has the training and the certifications that are necessary for the type of job they are doing for you.

3. Containment — A 1-inch by 1-inch area of mold creates millions of spores that are released into the air during the cleaning process, which can be very dangerous to the health of everyone in the home.

Only water damage companies that utilize what’s called a HEPA Negative Air System to direct the contaminated air should be the ones you use.

2012: Resolve to Have Fun With a Garden Journal.

  • Written by Molbak's

January is the perfect time to try something new. That’s why we’re planting this exciting little seed: Start a garden journal.

Creating a garden journal is a wonderful way to grow as a gardener, gather inspiration, avoid costly mistakes, and make the most of your time in the garden. Best of all, it’s easy to do. Just keep track of the things that matter to you, and organize them in a way that fits your style and keeps the project fun.

It’s up to you how much information, or how little, you keep. Here are some common things that are helpful to include in your journal:

•    Dates for planting, transplanting, pruning, harvesting

•    Notes on strong performing varieties, and areas of the garden that need improvement

•    Source and cost for plants and seeds

•    Weather particulars such as temperature, rainfall, hours of sunlight, frost dates and results

•    Plant characteristics, date of germination, date they emerge in spring, appearance of blooms, good companion plants

•    Date and type of fertilizer or other chemicals applied, and the results

Beyond the details, keep track of the things that inspire you:

•    Take photos of your favorite container garden designs at peak bloom so you can replicate them the following year.

•    Jot down your favorite websites, book titles, tips you’ve gleaned from fellow gardeners, and upcoming seminars you don’t want to miss.

•    Snap photos of your garden each month so you can  track what is blooming and when, and add or move plants as necessary.

•    Clip out helpful articles and keep track of good recipes to try at harvest time.

•    Keep a wish list of items and clip coupons so you’re prepared for your next trip to the garden store.

The next step is to decide how you want to organize your journal. Here are some options:

Diary-Style Garden Journal

A simple, traditional diary-style journal lets you jot down activities and observations, write as little or as much as you wish, and skip days without skipping pages.

Loose-Leaf Garden Binder

Prefer a versatile journal that allows you to reorder information, add pages, and tuck in seed packets as necessary? A garden binder offers great flexibility.

Online Garden Journal

If you like spending time on the Web and interacting with other gardeners in an online community, a Web-based garden journal is an excellent choice. There are numerous services available, and many are free.

Trusty Old Shoebox

If you want to invest minimal time in your journal, the shoebox is the answer. Jot down notes, toss in plant tags and photos, and dig in when you need an answer.

Ready to start your garden journal? Pick up a copy of Seattle Tilth’s “Maritime Northwest Garden Guide.” Molbak’s best-selling book, this essential month-by-month manual is filled with useful NW-centric information and inspiration to include in your budding garden journal. Have fun!

Start fresh in January

  • Written by Molbak’s
January is all about fresh starts and what better way to refresh and renew your home than with indoor plants?  Molbak’s is excited to offer a series of free Saturday seminars focusing on indoor plants during the month of January.  Topics include the many health benefits of indoor plants, designing indoor containers and terrariums, and easy care indoor plants.  All seminars are presented by local experts.

Molbak’s kicks off the series on January 7, 10-11 a.m., with Bastyr University’s naturopathic doctor and author, Jenn Dazey.  Dazey will focus on the many benefits of indoor plants.  “Several easy-to-grow houseplants have proven to be incredible air purifiers,” states Dazey.   Curious which are the most effective?  Join Dazey as she presents “Year-Round Benefits of Indoor Plants” and explains how indoor plants detoxify the air, reduce stress and ease depression. Plus, learn about the power of aromatherapy and the joy of incorporating indoor plants into your home.

Dazey will be followed from noon-1 p.m. by Jodi Burkland, a talented Molbak’s designer, who will share her favorite indoor plant combinations and demonstrate how to balance color, blooms and texture when designing indoor containers.  Burkland will provide easy tips on caring for indoor containers and how to keep them looking great all year long by adding a colorful blooming plant each season.

January 14, 10-11a.m. will feature Molbak’s indoor plant expert Robert Allan.  Allan will discuss his top 10 hard-to-kill indoor plants and inspire confidence in those new to indoor plants as well as those who have been unsuccessful in the past.  Convinced you’re cursed with a “black” thumb when it comes to indoor plants?  Then this is the seminar for you!  Come break the spell and discover which indoor beauties are the most resilient and forgiving.

Burkland will return on January 21, 10-11 a.m. with “Inspired Terrariums and Aeriums.” Terrariums and aeriums are the hottest trend in indoor gardening!  These lovely miniature landscapes bring the natural world indoors and require surprisingly little care.  Burkland will show examples of stunning terrariums, demonstrate how to create a terrarium and provide design tips.  Attendees will walk away inspired and with the knowledge needed to design their own contained landscapes.

For the younger crowd, Molbak’s is offering a hands-on workshop “Create a Mason Jar Terrarium” on January 21.  Two sessions are available (Session 1: 12-12:30 p.m. and Session 2: 1-1:30 p.m.).  Molbak’s plant expert, Steffany Neuschaefer will lead the workshop. Registration is $15 per child and includes all supplies needed. Kids will walk away with a terrarium of their own creation and an understanding of how plants grow, how to care for their terrarium and how the water cycle works.  Recommended for children ages 6+. Pre-registration is required and available on-line at molbaks.com/events.  Space is limited and all children must be accompanied by an adult.

Visit www.molbaks.com/events.html for more information seminars and workshops.

2011 Year in Review — Helping Woodinville/Puget Sound Communities Live Safer

  • Written by Craig Hawkins, EnviroShield

State-of-the-art mold removal technology to help homeowner breathe easier; prevent bank employees from harm re: foreclosed homes; and build safe environment for abused kids

The community of Woodinville is special.  The people who live and work here genuinely care about their neighbors and business associates. There are too many examples of community service on behalf of students, parents and company owners to list.

Question: I was moved by a story on your website concerning a homeowner whose life literally changed as a result of the work of your team. What strikes you regarding Rita Rhinehart?

Answer:  This woman had severe respiratory issues for two years and knew something in the home was the culprit.

No one had been able to help. We were able to confirm mold in her crawl space and use our leading technology to ensure the maximum amount of mold spores were eliminated.

Rita commented that it was the first time she could breathe without effort in a long time.

Question: Many local bankers continue to deal with foreclosed homes and businesses.

Maybe unknowingly, entering a home could be dangerous to their health.  You are able to help ensure they don’t enter a potential hazard. What are some warning signs?

Answer:  The main concern is how long these homes and businesses remain vacant? What if the owner neglected to turn off the water main or worse? What if they did something on purpose as a last gesture to the bank?  We can help bank employees determine warning signs upon entering the property and most important prior to entering what could be a dangerous environment.

Question: As a member of the Woodinville and Puget Sound business community, community service is an important part of your company.

What was a highlight this year?

Answer: I’ve had a special place in my heart for abused kids for a long time.

While working as a paramedic, I witnessed first-hand the crisis for kids that didn’t have a safe place to live.  We were able to play an important role to help build Jacob’s Well.

The facility located in Shoreline will initially house 12 families, a crisis center, program space, counseling and after school programs.