Dear Barry,

A home inspector recently went through my attic. He found mold on the wood framing and gave me an outrageous estimate to fix the problem. The estimate mentioned something about a foaming borade [sic] solution that would be put on the wood to kill and prevent future mold growth. I’m just wondering where I could get this stuff–if I can–or what other options I have. Any information on this would be greatly appreciated. – Donna

Dear Donna,

Your situation raises more issues than those involving mold. To begin, home inspectors who perform corrective work pursuant to their inspections are highly suspect and are operating in direct opposition to established industry standards governing the ethical conduct of home inspectors. The inherent conflict of interest is obvious to most people and should be equally clear to those who practice it.

It should also be noted that mold evaluations are not within the defined scope of a home inspection. Furthermore, the practice of mold abatement, when approached in a responsible manner, is highly specialized, requiring considerable knowledge of mold species, their respective health-related effects, familiarity with specific conditions that engender mold growth, and a practical understanding of the safest and most effective means of eradication. As such, this is not a practice to be undertaken as a sideline by home inspectors.

As to the proposed use of “foaming borate,” no one I’ve consulted seems to know what this mysterious substance is. The phrase does not exist on the Internet, as evidenced by a lack of results when a Google.com search was conducted. However, there are some cleaning products that contain borate compounds (i.e. Borax laundry detergent), and such products are sometimes employed in routine surface mold cleanup. But borate-containing cleaners are by no means a cure-all approach to mold abatement.

It should also be mentioned that innocuous forms of mold are often found on construction lumber, and this may be all that was observed by the home inspector who was in your attic.

For further information regarding mold issues, there is a highly informative Web site at http://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, both of which were not covered by the warranty. We paid for these repairs, but within a month the unit was again not working. Now the technician says we have a leaking refrigerant line and that this is also not covered by the warranty. According to the fine print in the policy, leaking lines are not listed as among the conditions that are not covered. We’ve tried contacting the warranty company, but they don’t return our calls. What should we do? – Mary

Dear Mary,

Since the warranty company is not returning your calls, it would be interesting to try the following: have the air conditioning system repaired by a licensed contractor of your choosing, and then take the warranty company to small claims court to recover your costs. But before you do this, a certified letter should be mailed to the warranty company informing them of the actions you plan to take if they do not address your situation in a forthright manner. If you’re lucky, this communication may spur the warranty company to action. Otherwise, small claims judges typically look with disfavor upon companies who conduct business in the evasive manner you have described.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

***

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