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Environmental Testing

Household and Environmental Hazards

This  list of terms covers most of the common household dangers likely to be  encountered by InterNACHI  inspectors. 
  • algae: microorganisms that may grow to  colonies in damp environments, including certain rooftops. They can discolor  shingles; often described as fungus.
  • alligatoring:  a condition of paint or  aged asphalt brought about by the loss of volatile oils, and the oxidation  caused by solar radiation; causes a coarse, “checking” pattern characterized by  slipping of the new paint coating over the old coating to the extent that the  old coating can be seen through the fissures. “Alligatoring” produces a pattern  of cracks resembling an alligator hide, and is ultimately the result of the  limited tolerance of paint or asphalt to thermal expansion and contraction.
  • asbestos:  a common form of  magnesium silicate which was commonly used in various construction  products because of its stability and resistance to fire. Asbestos  exposure, caused by inhaling loose asbestos fibers, is associated with various  forms of lung disease. Asbestos is the name given to certain inorganic  minerals when they occur in fibrous form. Though fire-resistant, its extremely  fine fibers are easily inhaled, and exposure to them over a period of years has  been linked to cancers of the lung and the lung-cavity lining, and to  asbestosis, a severe lung impairment. Asbestos is a naturally occurring  mineral fiber sometimes found in older homes. It is hazardous to your health  when a possibility exists of exposure to inhalable fibers. Homeowners should be  alert for friable (readily crumbled or brittle) asbestos, and always seek  professional advice in dealing with it.
  • bleeding:  the migration of a liquid to  the surface of a component or into/onto an adjacent material.
  • blister:  an enclosed, raised spot  evident on the surface of a building. They are mainly caused by the expansion of  trapped air, water vapor, moisture or other gases.
  • blue  stain:  a bluish or grayish  discoloration of the sapwood caused the growth of certain mold-like fungi on the  surface and in the interior of a piece, made possible by the same conditions  that favor the growth of other fungi.
  • bubbling:  in glazing, open or closed  pockets in a sealant caused by the release, production or expansion of gasses.
  • buckling:  the bending of a building  material as a result of wear and tear, or contact with a substance such as  water.
  • carbon  monoxide (CO):  a colorless, odorless,  highly poisonous gas formed by the incomplete combustion of carbon.
  • cohesive  failure:  internal splitting of a  compound resulting from over-stressing of the compound.
  • condensation:  water condensing on walls,  ceiling and pipes; normal in areas of high humidity, usually controlled by  ventilation or a dehumidifier.
  • corrosion:  the deterioration of metal  by chemical or electrochemical reaction resulting from exposure to weathering,  moisture, chemicals and other agents and media.
  • crater:  pit in the surface of  concrete resulting from cracking of the mortar due to expansive forces  associated with a particle of unsound aggregate or a contaminating material,  such as wood or glass.
  • crazing:  a series of hairline  cracks in the surface of weathered materials, having a web-like appearance;  also, hairline cracks in pre-finished metals caused by bending or forming; see  brake metal.
  • cupping:  a type of warping that  causes boards to curl up at their edges.
  • damp-proofing:  a process used on  concrete, masonry and stone surfaces to repel water, the main purpose of  which is to prevent the coated surface from absorbing rainwater while still  permitting moisture vapor to escape from the structure. Moisture vapor readily  penetrates coatings of this type. Damp-proofing generally applies to surfaces  above grade; waterproofing generally applies to surfaces below grade.
  • decay:  disintegration of  wood and other substances through the action of fungi.
  • distortion:  alteration of viewed images  caused by variations in glass flatness or in homogeneous portions within the  glass; an inherent characteristic of heat-treated glass.
  • drippage:  bitumen material that drips  through roof deck joints, or over the edge of a roof deck.
  • dry  rot:   see fungal wood rot.
  • feathering  strips:   tapered wood filler strips placed along the butt edges of old wood shingles to  create a level surface when re-roofing over existing wood shingle roofs; aso  called “horsefeathers.”
  • fungal  wood rot:  a common  wood-destroying organism which develops when wood-containing material is exposed  to moisture and poor air circulation for a long period of time (six-plus  months); often and incorrectly referred to as “dry rot.”
  • fungi  (wood):   microscopic plants that live in damp wood and cause mold, stain and decay.
  • incompatibility:  descriptive of two or more  materials which are not suitable to be used together.
  • lead-based  paint:   Lead is a highly toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in  and around homes. Lead may cause a range of health problems, from behavioral  problems and learning disabilities, to seizures and death. Children age 6 and  under are most at risk because their bodies are growing quickly.
  • migration:  spreading or creeping of a  constituent of a compound onto/into adjacent surfaces; see  bleeding.
  • mud  cracks:   cracks developing from the normal shrinkage of an emulsion coating when applied  too heavily.
  • mushroom:  an unacceptable occurrence  when the top of a caisson concrete pier spreads out and hardens to become wider  than the foundation’s wall thickness.
  • photo-oxidation:  oxidation caused by rays of  the sun.
  • ponding:  a condition where water  stands on a roof for prolonged periods due to poor drainage and/or deflection of  the deck.
  • pop-out:  see stucco  pop-out.
  • radon:  a naturally-occurring,  radioactive gas which is heavier than air and is common in many parts of the  country. Radon gas exposure is associated with lung cancer. Mitigation measures  may involve crawlspace and basement venting and various forms of vapor barriers.
  • scrap  out:   the removal of all drywall material and debris after the home is “hung out”  (installed) with drywall.
  • seasoning:  removing moisture from green  wood in order to improve its serviceability.
  • settlement:  shifts in a structure,  usually caused by freeze-thaw cycles underground.
  • sludge:  term for the waste material  found in sump pump pits, septic systems and gutters.
  • spalling:  the chipping and  flaking of concrete, bricks and other masonry where improper  drainage and venting and freeze/thaw cycling exists.
  • splitting:  the formation of long cracks  completely through a membrane. Splits are frequently associated with lack of  allowance for expansion stresses. They can also be a result of deck  deflection and a change in deck direction.
  • ultraviolet  degradation:  a reduction in certain  performance limits caused by exposure to ultraviolet light.
  • UV rays:  ultraviolet rays from the  sun.
  • veining:  in roofing, the  characteristic lines or “stretch marks” which develop during the aging process  of soft bitumens.
  • warping:  any distortion in a  material.
  • water  vapor:   moisture existing as a gas in air.
InterNACHI  inspectors are trained in detecting these and other common household dangers. 

From  Household and Environmental Hazards – InterNACHI

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