QDEAR BARRY: A home inspector recently went through my attic and found mold on the wood framing. He gave me an outrageous estimate to fix the problem. The estimate mentioned something about a "foaming borade" that would be put on the wood to kill and prevent future mold growth. I am wondering where I could get this stuff or what other options I have. Any information on this would be greatly appreciated. -- Donna
ADEAR DONNA: Your situation raises issues beyond those involving mold. First, home inspectors who perform corrective work pursuant to their inspections are highly suspect and are operating in direct opposition to established industry standards of ethical conduct. The conflict of interest is obvious to most people.
Additionally, mold evaluations are not within the defined scope of a home inspection. Mold abatement, when approached responsibly, is highly specialized. It requires considerable knowledge of mold species, their health-related effects, familiarity with specific conditions that engender mold growth, and a practical understanding of the safest and most effective means of eradication. This is not a practice to be undertaken as a sideline by home inspectors.
As to the proposed use of "foaming borade," no one I have consulted seems to know what this substance is. (And Google finds no mention of it on the Internet.) However, there are some cleaning products that contain borate compounds (i.e., Borax detergent), and such products are sometimes employed in routine surface mold cleanup. But borate-containing cleaners are by no means a cure-all for mold.
It should also be mentioned that innocuous forms of mold are often found on construction lumber, and this may be all that your inspector saw.
For further information regarding mold, there is a highly informative Web site at www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/ts/IAQ/Got_Mold.html.
DEAR BARRY: When we bought our home, the seller provided a home warranty for the first year. When the air conditioner stopped working, we filed a claim. The technician they sent tested the unit and said it merely needed cleaning and some additional freon, neither of which were covered by the warranty. We paid for these repairs, but within a month the unit stopped working. Now the technician says we have a leaking refrigerant line and that this is also not covered by the warranty. The fine print in the policy does not list leaking lines among the conditions not covered. We have tried contacting the warranty company, but it doesn't return our calls. What should we do? -- Mary
DEAR MARY: If the warranty company is not returning your calls, it would be interesting to try this: Have the air-conditioning system repaired by a licensed contractor of your choice, and then take the warranty company to small-claims court to recover your costs. But first, you should mail a certified letter to the warranty company informing it of what you plan to do if it does not address your situation. If you're lucky, the letter may spur the warranty company to act. Otherwise, small-claims-court judges typically look with disfavor upon companies that conduct business in the evasive way you have described.
Barry Stone is a professional home inspector. If you have questions or comments, contact him through his Web site, www.housedetective.com, or send mail to 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93401.
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