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Experts please help- Vermiculite attic insulation


DP
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Hi All:

I bought my house back in 2003 and recently was told that I have vermiculite insulation in the attic by a comfort advisor who came to give me an estimate for a HVAC system. I was totally shocked because my inspector who is very reputable in my area never mentioned it to me or in his report. I have questions for all the experts here:

1. Are houses with vermiculite insulation resalable?

2. Does home owner have to remove it before listing?

3. Is my inspector liable for his errors & omissions?

4. What's the cost for removing vermiculite?

5. What are my recourses?

Thanks [?]all for your help.

DP

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Hi,

1. Yes they are sellable - I've inspected hundreds of homes with vermiculite in the attics and very few of those transactions did not go through. In fact, one of my clients who bought one is an attorney who specializes in mesothelioma cases. Go figure. Unless someone goes into the attic or cuts into the ceiling without clearing the stuff off the ceiling first and dumps a bunch of it into the house, how would anyone be exposed to it?

2. You don't have to remove it unless there's some kind of cockamamie law in CT that says you must. Whether you will want to remove it is going to depend on cost to do so and whether it really is a serious impediment to a sale in your area.

3. What error or omission? Don't they have licensing of inspectors in CT? If so, is there a state standard of practice that says that an inspector must report stuff like vermiculite, lead, radon, etc.? If he inspected to some association's (ASHI, NAHI, etc.) standard of practice, did the association's SOP mandate that he report on that kind of thing? Look at your contract - is there a clause in there that says he won't be doing any environmental testing and if you're interested in doing that you should hire a reputable indoor air quality firm? There is in mine.

4. Around here it can be about $5k to $8K depending on complexity of the project. Most folks just blow a thick layer of cellulose (mulched newsprint) insulation in on top of the vermiculite to encapsulate it and go on with their lives.

5. Dunno, talk to a real estate attorney that's licensed and experienced in CT practices.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Not all vermiculite contains asbestos. You'll have to take a sample to a lab and have it tested. Even if it does contain asbestos does not mean it has to or should be removed. Often the best thing to do it just leave it alone - undisturbed. You'd want to have it removed it you were to disturb it, like opening a ceiling.

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Not all vermiculite contains asbestos. You'll have to take a sample to a lab and have it tested.

Lab testing of vermiculite is something HIs should not be recommending. I've posted that fact a number of times here. The method of sampling is severely flawed and lab results using current methods are inaccurate. Since 80% of all vermiculite (before 1990) came from the contaminated Montana mine, It's best to treat it the same as known asbestos containing materials.

http://www.oldhouseweb.com/how-to-advic ... stos.shtml

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I want to know what a comfort adviser is. Sounds like a good gig.

As far as the vermiculite, I see it all the time. I don't think I've had any customer yet that balked at the stuff.

I wouldn't sweat it, and I wouldn't necessarily be po'd @ my inspector. While there's been information on this for several years, it didn't start getting wide distribution in the HI world until about 6-7 years ago, right about the time the guy did your inspection.

Point being, I do not think he was grossly negligent; maybe a little behind on current info, but not grossly negligent. If you got an inspection in 2010 and your guy didn't talk about it, I'd kinda think he was out of touch and not well informed.

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Terry,

Really? I've yet to meet someone who lived in a house with one of those who didn't evangelize about them for several minutes. I think they're a great idea. Why are you advising against using them?

Jimmy

Here's what I don't like about them . . .

I turned one on once (Three words in a row that begin with "on." Surely I get some sort of prize for that.), let it run for thirty or forty seconds, and told myself, "Dat works." I moseyed around on the second level where the fan was for a while, then had to head back down to the main level to get a tool or something.

When my foot touched the lowermost stair, I had one of those rare moments when it seems as if you've left your own dimension and entered another. Everything in the living room was covered with soot, and tiny bits of gray swirling matter were dancing around the room as if I were inside a snow globe that had just been shaken.

I immediately realized what had happened. The fireplace flue had been open, and when I turned on the fan . . .

The cost of having the messed cleaned up by ServPro, in case you're curious, was about six hundred bucks.

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Terry,

Really? I've yet to meet someone who lived in a house with one of those who didn't evangelize about them for several minutes. I think they're a great idea. Why are you advising against using them?

Jimmy

All of the fans I see are the type that are cut into the ceiling with a set of dampers. These types suck air from the home and pressurize the attic. There is only so much air that can escape through the limited openings in the attics of older homes (blowing up a balloon). It ends up being a huge fan which, for the most part, does nothing more that kicking up all that nasty dust and dirt in an attic. I always wear a mask going up in attics because, just the processes of walking around in an attic, stirs up a ton of dust - just look at the beam of your flashlight. Now picture an attic filled with vermiculite. Do you really want a fan kicking up all this crap? For those that are prone to pulmonary problems this is something they can do with out. A happy attic is one that is sealed off and not disturbed.

Another problem is what John has mentioned. Fans suck air from everywhere. It will pull air right down a chimney causing backdraft of the hot water tank. Will it be enough to make people sick, probably not however it is going against how things are meant to operate.

All in all not a great idea although I understand why folks do it when they don't have A/C.

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Humph!

I'll see that Humph an raise you two-

[;)]

With regards to the LA comment Jimmy, are you referring to the pilot of Hot In Cleveland (assuming that it broadcast outside of Cleveland)? If so the shot of the skyline was for real but I think the rest of it was shot in LA lol...

Never mind, slow on the updraft. B-ball. Friggin Cavaliers - In my next life I want to come back as a pro sports player or weather forecaster.

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I grew up in a house that had no attic insulation, no air conditioning, a 'whole house' fan in the laundry room ceiling for cooling and space heaters in the bath and living room for heat. This is coastal Louisiana and we worshipped that fan in the summer, sometimes sleeping on the laundry room floor. To cool a room, open the window and the fan pulled air through it.

Marc

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I want to know what a comfort adviser is. Sounds like a good gig.

As far as the vermiculite, I see it all the time. I don't think I've had any customer yet that balked at the stuff.

I wouldn't sweat it, and I wouldn't necessarily be po'd @ my inspector. While there's been information on this for several years, it didn't start getting wide distribution in the HI world until about 6-7 years ago, right about the time the guy did your inspection.

Point being, I do not think he was grossly negligent; maybe a little behind on current info, but not grossly negligent. If you got an inspection in 2010 and your guy didn't talk about it, I'd kinda think he was out of touch and not well informed.

I think ASHI standards require you to "Observe insulation" which means report on the insulation which means REPORT WHAT TYPE OF INSULATION IS PRESENT. Not reporting the type of insulation is negligent and may indicate the inspector didn't look in the attic.

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From the ASHI standards:

11.1 The inspector shall:

inspect:

1. insulation and vapor retarders in unfinished spaces.

2. ventilation of attics and foundation areas.

3. mechanical ventilation systems.

describe:

1. insulation and vapor retarders in unfinished spaces.

2. absence of insulation in unfinished spaces at conditioned surfaces.

11.2 The inspector is NOT required to disturb insulation.

See 13.2.A.11 and 13.2.A.12.

13.2 General exclusions:

Inspectors are not required to determine:

11. the presence of potentially hazardous plants or animals including, but not limited to wood destroying organisms or diseases harmful to humans including molds or mold-like substances.

12. the presence of any environmental hazards including, but not limited to toxins, carcinogens, noise, and contaminants in soil, water, and air.

From the Connecticutt law - verbatim:

Sec. 20-491-11. Insulation and ventilation

(a) The inspector shall inspect the insulation and vapor retarders in unfinished spaces; the ventilation of attics and foundation areas; and the mechanical ventilation systems.

(b) The inspector shall describe the insulation and vapor retarders in unfinished spaces and the absence of insulation in unfinished spaces at conditioned surfaces.

© The inspector is not required to disturb insulation or vapor retarders or determine indoor air quality.

(Added effective July 30, 2002.)

Sec. 20-491-13. General limitations and exclusions

(d) The inspector is not required to determine the following:

(11) the presence of potentially hazardous plants or animals, including, but not limited to, wood destroying organisms or diseases harmful to humans;

(12) the presence of any environmental hazards, including, but not limited to, toxins, carcinogens, noise, and contaminants in soil, water, and air, with the exception of radon, asbestos, lead paint, or lead solder;

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I don't know what the original inspector had in his report regarding insulation descriptions. Does Richard?

Apparently, there wasn't anything in there about vermiculite having a possible asbestos twist, which is what I thought we were talking about.

So, I'll stick with what I said until we know more.

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Hi All:

I bought my house back in 2003 and recently was told that I have vermiculite insulation in the attic by a comfort advisor who came to give me an estimate for a HVAC system. I was totally shocked because my inspector who is very reputable in my area never mentioned it to me or in his report. I have questions for all the experts here:

1. Are houses with vermiculite insulation resalable?

2. Does home owner have to remove it before listing?

3. Is my inspector liable for his errors & omissions?

4. What's the cost for removing vermiculite?

5. What are my recourses?

Thanks [?]all for your help.

DP

The assumption here is that the "comfort advisor"(WTF is that?) has correctly identified the insulation.

Don't condemn the HI so quick.

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Yes, the stuff that Esch posted is a soil amendment, not insulation.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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