Archive for November, 2009

It’s just an ABS pad, right?

November 24, 2009

This past week, the Ohio Manufactured Home Commission held a hearing on revised changes to Ohio Rule 4781.  This law is the one that dictates among other things how manufactured homes are installed in the State of Ohio.  If you install any manufactured home in Ohio, whether you are moving the home from one place to another or purchasing it new, or whether it is being installed in a manufactured home park or on private property, this law is the one that the installers and inspectors must follow when installing it.  Interestingly, most manufactured home owners are not even aware of it–until they move the home and try to have the power hooked up.  That is when the power company is going to ask for proof of the required inspections.

The changes in the rule were initiated to align it with the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) model codes, which dictated the minimum requirements for all states’ laws.  Ohio initially developed its rule before HUD finalized its model code, by more than a year.  However, when HUD’s model code was passed into law, Ohio needed to align its rules with HUD’s, and that was the purpose of the hearing.

One particular part of the rule change had me concerned.  It was the part where acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) pads were going to be allowed for all installations in place of a concrete footing required in the current rule.  The foundations of many manufactured homes differs from stick-built homes in that the home is supported on a series of piers as opposed to a wall foundation.  Typical manufactured homes have a pair of steel I-beams running the length of each section of the building.  When set, these beams will sit atop the piers, which are spaced about eight to ten feet apart.  Some manufactured homes do have foundation wall structural systems.  But, even these homes have a series of piers under the home in places.

Piers supporting a manufactured home are usually constructed with some kind of footing and a stack of concrete and wood blocks.  Until now, footings were a minimum of 6″ of concrete and usually were constructed in strips that either ran the length of the home or across the width of the home.  These footings were also required to be at frost depth, which is 30″ in our area.  Additionally, footings that are installed for concrete block perimeter walls for homes that have them are tied together with strip footings that run across the home’s width.  Tieing all of the footings together makes for a very solid foundation base.

The proposed rule change would allow ABS pads to be used in place of concrete footings for ALL installations.  So, what is an ABS pad.  They are a square or oval ABS plastic pad, that is about 1/2″ thick.  The dimensions of the pad that is used depends on how much weight the soil can bear.  Whereas, with concrete footings, a trench needs to be excavated, forms possibly installed and the soil compacted, ABS pad only require the lot to be cleared of debris and vegetation, reasonably leveled, soil compacted if needed and then piers erected.  Do these two installation even sound equivalent?

We at Criterium-Cincinnati Engineers did not think so.  In fact, we know so based on inspections of over 500 manufactured home installations that are qualifying for FHA loans.  These were homes with all kinds of foundation systems, on all kinds of soil types, in many different topographies and both single and double-wide structures.   I was there to try to persuade the cognizant Commission to leave the rule the way it was with NO ABS pads allowed.  Our conviction was that allowing ABS pads was not good for home owners who would not know otherwise.

Although I could not find any logical explanations for why the pads were being allowed, I have heard over and again the term affordable housing.  But, is housing affordable if the structural system fails due to the foundation sinking into the soil?  When this happens, the homeowner could either lose his or her investment in the home or incur large expense to fix the home.  In our opinion, affordable housing should be sensible affordable housing.

Surprisingly, I was the only one to testify against the ABS pads.  With the support of a couple of Commission members, who surprisingly are installers, the Commission voted to at least not allow pads to be used for all multiple section homes unless they are being temporarily set.  ABS pads will still be allowed for single-wide homes, not matter whether they are installed in parks or on private property.  We did not get a full victory; but I am happy with the result.  Multi-section homes are those purchased for long-term housing where the homeowner expects the property to gain in value.  Once set, these homes will likely not be moved, whereas single-wide homes often get moved.

And that is where the rule is at.  I, once again solely, applauded the Commission after the vote for their good work.

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It's not a mold problem-It's a moisture problem

November 8, 2009

This is the first post to my blog and I have been thinking about what would be a good first post.  I have been thinking that it should be related to mold, because it is a subject I know well and which has a lot of confusion surrounding it.  Yesterday, I attended one of those “conferences” where the “presentations” are basically sales pitches for the presenter’s much more expensive trainings seminars.

One of these guys, who claimed to be a “mold expert” because he was certified for taking the EPA Mold Course, claimed that he could reduce any foreclosed property’s sales price by taking a mold test.  Yes, he was right that a person could pretty much find mold in any house and develop an expensive remediation plan for it.  Even if the house is squeaky clean, if it has been around a couple of years, all the person collecting an air sample has to do is set the thermostat’s fan switch to ON and whack the duct leading to the area.  That will generate a good amount of material for the sample.

Now, by passing this information I do not want to say that I am recommending that people collect samples this way.  What I am trying to say is that a lot of ignorance exists around mold sampling, what the sample results mean and whether a mold problem exists.  And, that last point is where I want to begin.

When does a mold problem exist in a building?  Straight out, a mold problem exists only when the mold growth is or potentially can be a health hazard to the people occupying the building.  These are the cases that require immediate and sometimes drastic remediation, which can be expensive.  In most cases, mold is a nuisance to people and not a true health hazard, although some would argue that nuisances are health problems.  But, that may be a subject for a future blog post.

Mold growth in a building is always a symptom–of a moisture problem.  Mold contaminants are pretty much common in all buildings.  However, mold growth is not.  For mold to grow, adequate moisture must be present.  A person cannot get rid of the mold growth without first understanding and getting rid of the moisture problem.  Cleaning up the mold problem without resolving the moisture problem will end up with more mold growth.  The exception is those cases where the moisture problem was an unusual event, such as a flood.

To bring this blog post to an end and keep under my self-imposed 500 word limit, I want the reader to take away this point:  the problem is not a mold problem; it is a moisture problem.  To bring it around to my original point about the banks, if the bank personnel were a little wiser about this point, they would not be so easily duped by a mold problem report, which could save them thousands of dollars.


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