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Daniel Friedman

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    Building Failuires Researcher

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  1. Just to be clear on Gary's comments: It is not my opinion that home inspectors SHOULD be inspecting for mold. It is my opinion that a home inspector, if s/he WANTS to inspect for mold, will do a better job than some other highly-specialized "experts" who don't understand how buildings work. Also I expect home inspectors to be more ethical, not selling scare, or un-needed tests and services. By contrast there are plenty of "turnkey" mold companies who do it all - testing (no real inspecting), cleaning, and then post-remediation clearance testing - the fox watching the hen house so to speak./ Certainly an inspector who decides to offer "mold testing" should make sure the test is both appropriate (we don't normally test small areas of mold less than 30 sqft as professional and costly cleaning are not needed anyway) and that its method is valid (say a tape sample to a decent lab) (please don't send them to my lab). The most important part of any mold inspection, however, is not the "test" it is the "inspection" for leaks, leak history, moisture, moisture history, what building areas got wet, where did water go, therefore where are the risks, and where is there visible mold. This is much more important, and more fundamentally sound than going into a building and doing a "mold test"
  2. Well Gary thanks for the debate on what I, Dan Friedman, call myself (other than expletives) I would say that I offer mold inspection and testing services, but I am hardly a "mold inspector" in that no decent inspector simply goes into a building looking at or for only one IAQ problem source (if that's the topic). Haven't many of you fellows found cases where a client is in a panic about a trivial amount of mold, nothing deserving professional analysis or cleanup, but you see that the gas fired heater flue is dumping flue gases into the living space or some other much more serious concern. Heck, just loose railings and falling down the stairs is a more frequent source of lost work than mold related illness. I'd like to think I'm a building diagnostician, or building failures researcher, and also am trained in some specialties like mycology and forensic microscopy, but all those words are so fancy as to sound pretentious and thus embarrassing. How about "building diagnostician" or "failures analyst" or something. What's in a name?
  3. In reply to the writer who points out that I list myself as someone to hire to investigate mold problems, Of course I list myself - I'm serous and trained - faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health, McCrone institute of microscopy in Chicago, various PAAA spore camp seminars etc. Frankly I think that a home inspector trained in mold and mycology makes a better mold investigator than most industrial hygienists (who don't know much building science). Pete is also very well qualified and we've enjoyed some classes together. ANY qualified inspector with training and exprience (not a weekend class or a for-pay diploma) is very welcome to add his or her listing - there is no fee, just contact Dan Friedman with the particulars.
  4. That should read, "I couldn'tid="maroon"> care less..." Very common slip. Thanks to Gary Randolph for referring readers to my mold information website - its home page is www.inspect-ny.com/sickhouse.htm I agree that it's difficult to read and believe various credentials offered to and by "mold inspectors" - there are some (I list one at my bio as an example at www.inspect-ny.com/danbio.htm) that you can obtain by just sending money, others for a weekend class. A combination of these things in an inspector's background may be useful in choosing an inspector: - experience as a home inspector or building inspector - since knowing how to recognize high moisture, leaks and leak history is a key factor in knowing where to look for mold - familiarity with building materials - some are much more mold friendly than others, e.g. drywall is rather mold friendly whereas plaster is less so - lower but not zero risk - basic understanding of mycology - not all mold is harmful, some is just cosmetic: some unambiguous cases of "cosmetic only" mold that ANY astute inspector can figure out with NO tests whatsoever are at http://www.inspect-ny.com/sickhouse/Not ... m#cosmetic More important, an inspector needs to know how to recognize mold that can be hard to see, and s/he needs to understand that if conditions are right to produce mold in a building, there is likely to be more than one problem area and more than one kind of mold present. One of the most egregious problems I find is hygienists (they are often the worst building inspectors) "testing" for mold using an air sample (very unreliable), finding some mold problem, and then cleaning up the "wrong" area - say cleaning visible cosmetic or low-issue but easy to see mold, and leaving a serious but hard to see problem (say moldy fiberglass insulation). Because I operate a building forensic lab and specialize in identifying biological particles like mold, I have been able to do more tests than most of us could otherwise afford (my lab, my tests) - it's made me a bit opinionated about what kinds of mold inspection and mold "tests" are more or less valid. Did you know that only 10% of all molds on earth will grow on any culture media under any condition? So a mold culture as a building screen for mold is 90% WRONG the moment you open the "home test kit" - how bout them apples! Best wishes to you fellows chatting about this topic. I welcome questions about my website content - my contact info is at my website www.inspect-ny.com Dan
  5. Regarding Originally posted by mridgeelk "I found these Zinsco panels in a commercial setting today. They are 60+/- years. Are Zinsco panels of this vintage problematic/unsafe as the more recent versions?" Reply from Daniel Friedman: Zinsco panels or "Zinsco-Sylvania" models have bus arcing problems and can fail to trip - a latent safety hazard. We do not have as big a data base of field reports nor independent research on this item as we do on FPE Stab-Loks or some other hazards, but Zinsco Panel Hazards are discussed in depth at http://www.inspect-ny.com/electric/Zinsco.htm Experts estimate that less than 2% - that's right - two percent - of electrical failures are reported to any authority who might keep records or perform research. So even a small number of field failure reports may be significant. By the way, if you or your clients are replacing a Zinsco electrical panel you can ask them to contribute to research - there's no cost but shipping - contact me for more information. We recommend that Zinsco electrical panels be replaced. Image Insert: 71.68 KB
  6. I thought I'd start a separate thread about this FPE Stab-Lok issue and explain some of the more technical aspects. THE FPE Stab-Lok HAZARD The hazards of Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab-Lok panels have been studied and documented thoroughly, have been the subject of national home inspection seminars and conferences, published in newsletters, and published in the Journal of Light Construction. Basically we have circuit breakers that fail to trip at a rate thousands of times worse than normal industry standards, a bus that can fail to retain the circuit breakers, and possibly other defects that extended across the product life of this line. FPE Stab-Lok PANELS SHOULD BE REPLACED Because an FPE Stab-Lok circuit breaker has a very unusually high rate of failure to trip (and because there are other bus and panel design defects and failures) these electrical panels should be replaced. Period. FPE RESEARCH More than 20 years of independent research and field reports as well as US Government documents(from the SEC) and a recent court finding in New Jersey confirm that the the company acted fraudulently and that the FPE Stab-Lok hazard is a real one - breakers fail to trip in response to an overcurrent, up to 60% of the time. Home inspectors and owners should see: The FPE Hazards Website http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpepanel.htm Inspectors are welcome to print hard copies of any pages of this website that they wish to provide to their clients, home owners, realtors, or their state authorities. FPE REPORT The latest FPE Stab-Lok Panel technical report is in .pdf format and can be downloaded directly using the link just below. If you are having trouble accessing this file just shoot me an email using the address at the bottom of this post and I'll send a copy to you directly. http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/FPECircui ... 070525.PDF If the .PDF form is too slow to download, an older copy of this report is at http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpestlouis.htm Home inspectors anywhere are invited to print the technical report and/or pages from the website to give to clients in homes where an FPE Stab-Lok electrical panel is found. FIELD REPORTS OF FPE Stab-Lok failures See http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpefire.htm HOW TO IDENTIFY FPE STAB-LOK EQUIPMENT See http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpeid.htm FIELD INSPECTIONS/ELECTRICIANS "OK" No visual inspection and in fact not even electrical testing in the field can reliably identify the hazards at a specific panel. Worse, testing these panels in the field is dangerous and can actually INCREASE the risk of a future breaker's failure to trip. This problem, added to lack of familiarity of the issue among some electricians, is why it is unreliable to ask for and rely on an electricians "inspection" of an FPE Stab-Lok electrical panel. A list of electricians who are indeed familiar with and can replace FPE panels is maintained at http://www.inspect-ny.com/pointers.htm#electric - listings are free to qualified electricians. UP TO NOW OUR FPE PANEL HAS BEEN FINE The observation by some owners that "up to now we've never had a problem" is unreliable. Most circuit breakers are never called-on to trip due to an overcurrent. It's like riding in a car with a seatbelt connected just by a thread. Up to now everything seems just fine, but then, you've not been in a crash which would call on the seatbelt for protection. The panel does not itself initiate a problem; rather it is likely to fail to protect the building wiring (and thus the building and its occupants) when an overcurrent (that should trip the breaker) occurs. Properly put we call this a LATENT SAFETY HAZARD. REPLACEMENT FPE STAB-LOK CIRCUIT BREAKERS Are not recommended. See the discussion at http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/FPEBreakers.htm for more details. REPLACEMENTS FOR FPE STAB-LOK ELECTRICAL PANELS The typical cost to cure - a new electrical panel - is a miniscule portion of the value of a home and in no circumstances should be considered a "show stopper" in a real estate transaction. Further, home inspectors should have no position about who should pay for such a repair (such is unethical). The panel should be replaced, no matter who pays for it. Replacement options at http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpereplace.htm include methods that for some cases can cut the typical replacement cost in half. CANADIAN FPE Federal Pioneer Stab-Lok circuit breakers and panels were and may still be sold (under Schneider Electric) in Canada. I have definitely had failure reports from the Canadian version of this product but reports have been few compared with in the U.S. We don't know if this is due to differences in the product (there has been one FPE recall in Canada and Schneider engineers declined to comment on whether or not they'd made improvements or changes to the Canadian product) or due to differences in Canadian electrical installation practices or other factors. Candian Federal Pioineer Panels are discussed at http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/FederalPioneer.htm FEDERAL PACIFIC ELECTRIC PANELS Fires Waiting to Happen - article by DF - see http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpe.html CONFLICTS OF INTEREST The ONLY source of claims that there is "no hazard" with this product have in my experience originated with folks with a serious conflict of interest: an attorney charged with protecting FPE's remains (the company is long out of business) and EXXON against a product liability suit, and secondarily, some real estate agents and some real estate sellers, wishing to avoid a possible safety issue being raised regarding a home have made the (unsupportable) claim that the product is not defective. I am an independent building failures researcher who has studied this topic for many years and like active home inspectors, I'm required to be without conflict of interest in reporting (I have no financial relationship with the product nor with its replacement).
  7. I've been inspecting and testing septic systems for about 30 years. Early on I found that there was no common guideline on just what to do and what to report, so I've made a project out of figgering out what we need to do, including reviewing laws, texts, and course material. I have an ongoing project website on the inspection, diagnosis, maintenance, and repair of septic systems at: http://www.inspect-ny.com/septbook.htm Since questions and critique make the data more accurate and more complete, I welcome questions from inspectors about septic systems, and I especially appreciate any critique or content suggestions regarding the septic information website above. Respectfully
  8. For a long time I've been collecting photos and text on how to evaluate foundation cracks and movement. The current project is at http://www.inspect-ny.com/structure/foundation.htm and it's rather extensive across most foundation types and types of damage. I'd much welcome comments, critique, content suggestions, or questions about the content, and I'm hopeful that some of the material may assist readers in this forum with diagnosing foundation problems. My summary opinion about attacking foundation questions is to ask a basic question or two: What is the apparent (for non engineers) total extent of foundation damage, and is there evidence that the building is at risk (such as extreme movement threatening collapse or threatening to have pulled apart building connections). The answer depends on not only the total movement but its type, cause, history, and on the building materials involved. Some problems move slowly, some risk sudden precipitous collapse (such as broken bond courses in brick). The size, shape, location, pattern of cracking, for example, are very diagnostic when combined with identification of the materials and an examination of the site. What has been the impact so far on the building? What is the apparent cause and what needs to be done to correct that? What are the foundation materials and how resistant are they to serious or sudden damage (reinforced concrete vs. unreinforced masonry block)? These (and more detail in my web article) help us decide what action is probably needed when. For fellows who are not foundation engineers, you are entirely capable of making the same sorts of basic physical inspection that a mason or foundation repair contractor (also not a P.E.) would make. You are further obligated to be skilled enough to recognize when an engineer is needed (say to design a beam or a reinforcement plan), but be sure your engineer is one who is a specialist in foundations, not a generalist who may lack the needed experience.
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