What is Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis

Hypersensitivity pneumonitis can develop over time in patients who are sensitive to mold spores in the air. One of the most common types of hypersensitivity pneumonitis is known as “farmer’s lung.” Farmer’s lung is a serious allergic reaction to mold found in hay and other types of crop material. Because farmer’s lung is so often undiagnosed, it can cause permanent damage in the form of scar tissue on the lung. This scar tissue, called fibrosis, can worsen until the patient begins to have trouble doing simple tasks.

Once farmer’s lung progresses to a more chronic form, symptoms may become more severe than simple histamine reactions. Farmer’s lung patients may experience:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Blood-streaked sputum
  • Muscular pain

Those who work around potentially moldy crop materials on a regular basis should watch for early histamine reactions and seek treatment if they suspect farmer’s lung may be developing. While mold exposure is generally not deadly, increased exposure can make symptoms worse. Mold allergies are progressive. Over time the attacks become more severe. The key is to prevent moisture from building up by repairing any leaks in your home.

If you notice a water build-up in any part of your home, stop the leak immediately. When working in situations where outdoor mold may be present, wearing a face mask can drastically reduce your exposure to the allergen. Masks that will protect your respiratory system from being affected by mold spore exposure are available.

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Spring Checklist

Spring is finally here and we can pack away our winter clothes and the snow blower cause longer sunny days are here and summer is around the corner.  It’s also time for some home maintenance items that will help you avoid big repair bills later on.

Inspect Your Roof.  Whether you have shingles, tin or even concrete tiles, your roof is your home’s first line of defense against water damage. Now is the time to inspect and repair any water damage. If you delay, you could find yourself facing water damage inside your home, too.

Clean your gutters.   Gutters direct rain away from your roof and home, protecting both in the process. Clogged gutters, meanwhile, open your home to water damage—and there’s a good chance you won’t notice the damage until you need an expensive repair.

Clean or replace your HVAC filters.   You need to do this more often than once a year. A dirty filter forces your HVAC system to work harder, which in turn drains your wallet. It could also shorten the life of your blower motor.

Clean your dryer vent.  Not all lint is caught in the lint trap; some makes its way into the dryer vent. A clear vent will save you money by reducing the time your dryer has to run. A plugged vent not only wastes money, but could also cause a house fire.

Check the washing machine fill hose.  Look for cracks that could become leaks. A leaky hose under pressure can cause major damage in a short period of time.

Clean and repair your screens.  Trying to reduce your electric bills this summer? In many parts of the country, you can keep your house cool (at least at night) by opening windows. Gently scrub on a flat surface with soapy water. Also, patch small holes, as needed.

Clean decks, driveways, fences and other outside surfaces.  A pressure washer makes the work much easier. If you don’t have one, borrow one from a neighbor or rent one from a home center. While you’re cleaning, inspect for damage that needs mending.

Fix cracks in your walks, driveway and the outside of your home.  Unlike the human body, cracks in asphalt, concrete or stucco don’t heal themselves. Fortunately, most of these repairs are fairly easy if done immediately.

Repair any cracked or peeling paint.  A good paint job makes your home look nice, while providing a protective barrier from the elements. Touchup painting is easy to do and inexpensive.

Vacuum your refrigerator coils.  The coils you’ll find on the bottom or back of your refrigerator conduct the hot air from inside the unit. If they’re coated with dust, they do the job less efficiently and cause your fridge to work harder. That means a higher electric bill for you. Use a vacuum cleaner hose or a brush to clean the coils.

Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors.  You never know when you’ll need them. Sometimes, it’s a matter of life or death, so take the time to change the batteries now.

Prepare your lawn mower for summer.  Change the engine oil and sharpen the cutting blade. You’ll lengthen the life of the mower and improve the look of your lawn.

Check seals around windows and doors.  Winter weather can crack and harden caulk and other weather seals. Inspect them now and repair and replace as needed. You’ll reduce your air-conditioning bill and could prevent water from entering your home and causing damage.

Clear vegetation around your AC compressor. To work efficiently, the compressor needs good airflow. Prune any plant growth that could block it.

Drain your water heater.  Sediment builds up in your water heater tank. Use the spigot near the bottom of the heater to drain it. By doing so, you’ll prolong its life and reduce your electric bill.

You’ll probably need to dedicate a couple days to complete the list, but don’t look at them as chores. View them as crucial preventative measures—ones that will help you save on your utility bills and avoid big repairs later on. It could be the highest paid work you’ll do this week!

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Building Materials & Fire Part 1

Building fires, which normally reach temperatures of about 1000 ºC, can affect the loadbearing capacity of structural bearing elements in a number of ways. Apart from such obvious effects as charring and spalling, there can be a permanent loss of strength in the remaining material and thermal expansion may cause damage in parts of the building not directly affected by the fire. In assessing fire’s effects, the main emphasis should be placed on estimating the residual load-carrying capacity of the structure and then determining the remedial measures, if any, needed to restore the building to its original design for fire resistance and other requirements. Obviously, if weaknesses in the original design are exposed, these should be corrected.

Making an analysis of the damage and assessment of the necessary repairs may be possible within a reasonable degree of accuracy, but final acceptance may depend on proof by a load test, where performance is generally judged in terms of the recovery of deflection after load removal.

Timber

Timber browns at about 120 to 150 ºC, blackens around 200 to 250 ºC, and emits combustible vapors at about 300 ºC. Above a temperature of 400 to 450 ºC (or 300 ºC if a flame is present), the surface of the timber will ignite and char at a steady rate. Table A-2 shows the rate of charring.

Analysis and Repair
Generally, any wood that is not charred should be considered to have full strength. It may be possible to show by calculation that a timber section or structural element subjected to fire still has adequate strength once the char is removed. Where additional strength is required, it may be possible to add strengthening pieces. Joints that may have opened and metal connections that may have conducted heat to the interior are points of weakness that should be carefully examined.

Masonry

The physical properties and mechanisms of failure in masonry walls exposed to fire have never been analyzed in detail. Behavior is influenced by edge conditions and there is a loss of compressive strength as well as unequal thermal expansion of the two faces. For solid bricks, resistance to the effects of fire is directly proportional to thickness. Perforated bricks and hollow clay units are more sensitive to thermal shock. There can be cracking of the connecting webs and a tendency for the wythes to separate. In cavity walls, the inner wythe carries the major part of the load. Exterior walls can be subjected to more severe forces than internal walls by heated and expanding floor slabs. All types of brick give much better performance if plaster is applied, which improves insulation and reduces thermal shock.

Analysis and Repair
As with concrete, it is possible to determine the degree of heating of the wall from the color change of the mortar and bricks. For solid brick walls without undue distortion, the portion beyond the pink or red boundary may be considered serviceable and calculations should be made accordingly. Perforated and hollow brick walls should be inspected for the effects of cracks indicating thermal shock. Plastered bricks sometimes suffer little damage and may need repairs only to the plaster surfaces.

 

Building Materials & Fire Part 2

Steel

The yield strength of steel is reduced to about half at 550 ºC. At 1000 ºC, the yield strength is 10 percent or less. Because of its high thermal conductivity, the temperature of unprotected internal steelwork normally will vary little from that of the fire. Structural steelwork is, therefore, usually insulated.

Apart from losing practically all of its load-bearing capacity, unprotected steelwork can undergo considerable expansion when sufficiently heated. The coefficient of expansion is 10-5 per degree Celsius. Young’s modulus does not decrease with temperature as rapidly as does yield strength.

Cold-worked reinforced bars, when heated, lose their strength more rapidly than do hot-rolled high-yield bars and mild-steel bars. The differences in properties are even more important after heating. The original yield stress is almost completely recovered on cooling from a temperature of 500 to 600 ºC for all bars but on cooling from 800 ºC, it is reduced by 30 percent for cold-worked bars and by 5 percent for hot-rolled bars.

The loss of strength for prestressing steels occurs at lower stressing temperatures than that for reinforcing bars. Cold-drawn and heat-treated steels lose a part of their strength permanently when heated to temperatures in excess of about 300 ºC and 400 ºC, respectively.

The creep rate of steel is sensitive to higher temperatures and becomes significant for mild steel above 450 ºC and for prestressing steel above 300 ºC. In fire resistance tests, the rate of temperature rise when the steel is reaching its critical temperature is fast enough to mask any effects of creep. When there is a long cooling period, however, as in prestressed concrete, subsequent creep may have some effect in an element that has not reached the critical condition.

Analysis and Repair
In general, a structural steel member remaining in place with negligible or minor distortions to the web, flanges,
or end connections should be considered satisfactory for further service. Exceptions are the relatively small number of structures built with cold-worked or tempered steel, where there may be permanent loss of strength.
This may be assessed using estimates of the maximum temperatures attained or by on-site testing. Where necessary, the steel should be replaced, although reinforcement with plates may be possible. Microscopy can be used to determine changes in microstructure. Since this is a specialized field, the services of a metallurgist are essential.

Concrete

Concrete’s compressive strength varies not only with temperature but also with a number of other factors, including the rate of heating, the duration of heating, whether the specimen was loaded or not, the type and size of aggregate, the percentage of cement paste, and the water/cement ratio. In general, concrete heated by a building fire always loses some compressive strength and continues to lose it on cooling. However, where the temperature has not exceeded 300 ºC, most strength eventually is recovered.

Because of the comparatively low thermal diffusivity of concrete (of the order of 1 mm/s), the 300 ºC contour may be at only a small depth below the heated face. Concrete’s modulus of elasticity also decreases with temperature, although it is believed that it will recover substantially with time, provided that the coefficient of thermal expansion of the concrete is on the order of 10-5 per degree Celsius (but this varies with aggregate). Creep becomes significant at quite low temperatures, being of the orders of 10-4 to 10-3 per hour over the temperature range of 250 to 700 ºC, and can have a beneficial effect in relaxing stresses.

Termites vs. Water Damage

Homeowners can easily confuse termite damage and water damage. Termites create high-moisture nests, signs of termite damage are often similar to signs of water damage. For example, both problems can cause paint to bubble and peel. Homes constructed primarily of wood are not the only structures threatened by termite activity. Homes made from other materials may also host termite infestations, as these insects are capable of traversing through plaster, metal siding and more. Termites then feed on cabinets, floors, ceilings and wooden furniture within these homes.

Water damage to wood often creates square-shaped “cells” in the wood. This pattern can be called “cubicle rot,” referring to the cube-shaped square cells. It also is called “alligatoring,” because the square-shaped cells resemble an alligator’s back. These square-shaped cells are created because the wood expands and cracks with the increased water content. When subterranean termites consume wood, they eat along the softer spring-wood and leave the harder summer-wood. If you look at a cross section of a tree, the lighter-colored rings are spring-wood and the darker-colored rings are summer-wood. In a cross section of subterranean termite-damaged wood, summer-wood has a honeycomb appearance after the spring-wood has been eaten. Length-wise, summer-wood looks like thick sheets of paper after the spring-wood has been eaten.

When drywood termites consume wood, they eat along and across the grain. They excavate large galleries for their nests, and they connect these galleries with tunnels. Due to their smaller colony size, drywood termites typically do not damage wood as much or as quickly as subterranean termites. Some species of termites, including dampwood termites, only feed on wood that has already been damaged by water. In this case, you would need to address the water issue and termite infestation simultaneously, before repairing the damage.

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Checking Your Attic

An attic is the one room of the home that often is overlooked.  Because most attics are not used and some are just for storage, it becomes one of those “out of sight, out of mind,” kind of things.  But checking your attic from time to time is quite important especially because it is an early indicator of several issues that may effect your home.  First, checking your attic for any leaks will allow you to see if there’s any issues with your roofing or chimney.  The first stage of water infiltration from the roof will penetrate the attic and then the interior ceilings of the home.  Secondly, checking that all fans are in working condition allows you to monitor the humidity, and hence, check to see if you have any mold issues.  Mold remediation in attics is a very expensive and an extensive project that takes any where from several days to a couple of weeks depending on the size of the attic and costs thousands of dollars.  If the attic is susceptible to water damage or high humidity, then mold growth is very likely.  Third, making sure your insulation is not compromising the eaves is also vital to air flow and prevents high humidity.  It’s easy to see if there is a problem with your eaves because if you do not see sunlight coming from the exterior at the far edge of the attic, then your eaves need clearing or your insulation needs adjustment.

So remember, just because your attic may not be a room that you use every day or even at all, doesn’t mean that it should be ignored.  Checking the insulation, looking for any holes or leaks in the roof and monitoring the humidity can save you money from costly water damage and mold remediation in the future.

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