Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Guest Blog: Asbestos and Contaminant Control

A critical part of any renovation or construction project is ensuring that workers and occupants are not exposed to exposed to dangerous contaminants.  LEED for homes recognizes this in section EQ 8: "Contaminant Control".  However, when the project involves a gut / rehab it can introduce exposure to products currently banned such asbestos.  Below is a guest post written by Brian Turner from the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance on the dangers and proper handling of asbestos.

Dangers of Home Renovations and Exposure to Asbestos

Homeowners can save thousands of dollars on their home renovations if they decide to do the work themselves.  If you are planning to complete a do-it-yourself renovation project, you have to consider the scope of the project and plan accordingly.  If you are lucky, you may have friends and family members that are willing to lend a hand for larger weekend projects that require heavy lifting or more hands.  But what many homeowners do not prepare for when they are doing their own renovations is coming into contact with asbestos.  Many older homes, especially those between 1930 and 1950, were built with the mineral material asbestos.  As you may know, the material has been banned and may no longer be used in homes, schools, or commercial buildings.  Before you start tearing out walls or remodeling the kitchen, find out where asbestos can be found and how to dispose of it properly by reading on.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that was used in the construction industry quite frequently in older homes.  The only way to properly identify asbestos fiber is to use a microscope to look at the fiber pores.  While this material was very popular in the industry, it has since been banned because it is a very serious health hazard.  If you have asbestos in your home, you need to take the proper steps to remove it or it could be dangerous to your health.  

How Can Asbestos Harm You?

Breathing in asbestos fibers can lead to forms of cancer, including mesothelioma.  Because the fibers are carcinogens, when fibers are inhaled it can lead to respiratory infections and an increased risk of lung cancer.  It has been found that when left undisturbed, asbestos is not very harmful in small doses.  It is when the material is disturbed and the fibers are released into the air that there is a cause for concern.  

Where You Should Look Out for Asbestos When You Are Renovating?

You might assume that the only time you need to worry about asbestos in the home is when you are removing walls and refacing the exterior of your home.  In actuality, asbestos has been used for a number of different home applications.  Here are just some of the areas asbestos has been used in older homes:

*  Furnace ducts
*  Floor tiles such as vinyl
*  Soundproofing materials
*  Cement roofing
*  Insulation
*  Joint compounds

How to Properly Dispose of Asbestos

If you know what steps to take, you can handle the removal of asbestos properly.  Make sure to take the following steps to ensure fibers are not released into the air:

*  Wear goggles, disposable gloves, disposable shoes, disposable clothes, and a respirator.
*  Spray down the material you are removing with water to prevent the fibers from entering the air when they are being removed.  
*  Dispose of the asbestos in the proper bags.
*  Keep the areas and bags wet.
*  Store bags in storage bins that are sealed and labeled.
*  Take bags to a landfill that accepts asbestos.

Finding out there is asbestos in your home can be scary.  The idea of living in a space where cancerous fibers dwell is not comforting.  Make sure that you take time to plan the abatement of your asbestos materials properly and get started on the fun work once it is gone.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Proficiency Toilets - 18 months later

It has been a while since my last post.  Between family, work, renovations and the blog, the blog often finished last. The good news is that the renovations kept moving forward with good progress on several fronts.  I am hoping to starting posting on a regular basis so that the blog can catch up and share all that news.  But to get back in the rhythm, I figured I would make this a quick and simple follow-up to my review on the Proficiency toilet (or Stealth as it is sold in the states).

One concern I had when writing my original post was that my initial impressions may not reflect long term performance.  Now that we have 18 months of use under our belt, I am much more confident stating that this toilet exceeded all my expectations.

As a reminder or for those that did not read the initial post, at 3L per flush this toilet is arguably the most efficient flush toilet on the market.  It uses 77% less water than our old toilet and 25% less than most other very high efficiency toilets.

Has it clogged? Yes.  But under conditions that would have stymied our old 13L as well.  We have a toddler in the house and it is amazing what ends up in our toilet bowl.  But under regular conditions it has performed virtually flawlessly.  We did have one issue early on when there was a significant reduction in performance.  For several flushes it seemed sluggish and struggled to clear the bowl.   Even though water was flowing, we plungered the bowl and the performance returned to normal.  I believe what happened was that there was an obstruction in the vacuum tube.  Without the vacuum assist is was just 3 litres of water trying to clear the bowl.

One of the most telling things about the toilet: we get no comments.  We have had numerous house guests and visitors filter through in the last year and a half and no one comes out of the bathroom perplexed: it looks like a conventional toilet (including the size of the water spot) and it performs like a conventional toilet . It just quietly and consistently does it job, which to be honest is all we were asking of it..