Using ancient secrets to sell your home faster !!  0

Posted on August 26th, 2012. About , Black Mold, For Sale By Owner, Home Improvement.
Using ancient secrets to sell your home faster
When a modern new skyscraper goes up in Taiwan, the owners routinely consult a feng-shui geomancer or xiansheng to determine the optimum position for the main entrance. Geomancy (feng-shui) is the branch of classical cosmology which helps man build his dwellings in optimum harmony with the elements of his or her natural environment. The Chinese exponents of feng-shui say that where you live and how you allocate and arrange the rooms or elements of your home or workplace can significantly affect the harmony of your health, wealth and happiness. By acknowledging and augmenting the all-prevalent life energy or Chi you can affect the whole tenor of your well-being. Move the furniture, change the color scheme, avoid the elemental conflicts such as placing water (i.e. the refrigerator) next to fire (i.e. the stove). Such conflicts encourage harmful Sha or the opposing force to Chi and thus must be avoided.Funk and Wagnalls Dictionary defines this ancient system as such:      

“Feng Shui is the art of locating tombs, cities and houses auspiciously. Mountains, hills, water courses, groves and neighboring buildings can be useful either in channeling the male Yang influences or in deflecting them.”

While feng-shui is thousands of years old and seemingly steeped in esoteric rules, it contains much common sense useful to and understood by anyone. For example, feng-shui says the best site for a home to take advantage of the vital Chi is to put that home on a south-facing slope and preferably between two hills of unequal size (the Azure Dragon and the White Tiger) to best channel the Chi. Ideally, a river will be running along one side of the structure. The river should then turn in front of the building and then disappear.

Looked at another way, such a home on the south slope gets the maximum hours of sunlight, is shielded from the chilly, health-sapping north wind and has a good supply of water for drinking and cleaning. By then conveniently disappearing under the ground and gravel, the river carries away effluents and other “dirty” water. (If the water doesn’t want to disappear, feng-shui says this requirement can be satisfied by using a small brick wall, or hedge or shrubs to screen the river as it passes the boundary.)

Even if the building’s owners don’t really believe in feng-shui, they will still follow the geomancer’s advice because they know perfectly well that many prospective buyers and renters will consult their own geomancers about the building prior to moving in. The xiansheng considers four factors: the Chi or “breath of life” potential of the neighborhood; the site orientation or the importance of the direction in which the building faces; the five elements — fire, water, wood, metal, earth — and their mutual influence upon a location; the power of water and its significance in relation to the property.

Over the years, several major new buildings in downtown Taipei have remained unoccupied and their owners have gone broke because they failed to follow the dictates of Chinese geomancy during construction.

One Chinese restaurateur endured heavy financial losses for two years, despite excellent food and service and massive advertising campaigns. Finally, in sheer desperation, he consulted a geomancer, who coolly informed him that the position of his main entrance caused money to flow out rather than into his restaurant. He spent a small fortune to tear down and reconstruct the entrance according to the geomancer’s instructions, and before long you couldn’t find a seat in the place at night! Even the massive Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall in downtown Taipei, with its extensive gardens and numerous gates, was all laid out according to the laws of Chinese geomancy to provide maximum harmony with the elements and spirits to the cosmos.

Conversely, other building fronts are unhappily positioned for easy ingress by sources of evil. The following are some basic laws of feng-shui necessary to avoid Sha:

  1. A straight road leading directly to the home, with people coming and going, or a small stream flowing in a straight course from it, dissipate the good influences.       

  2. The front entrance should not face the upstairs stairway.
  3. The front door should not have a view of the back door (through hallway).
  4. Heavy beams in the rec room are a burden and interfere with Chi.
  5. To have the right side low and the left side high are both unlucky signs. The Dragon should be on the left and the smaller White Tiger should be on the left, therefore be it a grave or a home, the hills to the left should be higher than those to the right.
  6. Houses or buildings on triangular plots of land are ill-omened as the strange shape attracts Sha.       

  7. Water is very important and its positioning is vital to good Chi and to confound Sha.

There are ways to rectify the defects:

Avoid building on the junction of a T-street or at the end of a cul-de-sac will be on the receiving end of the straight-flowing Sha; a dead-end street only traps the bad Sha. If the left is too low, plant trees to raise the height. Alter the stream or river to give it bends and curves. Don’t make the bends too sharp or the Chi will “run off” and dissipate. The vitality of water is best conserved in a gently meandering stream. A pool of water (aka a fishpond) is especially useful to conserve Chi. If your neighbor builds a house higher than yours, add to the height of yours so your view of the stars in not obstructed. (Of course, this could lead to some problems with the zoning authorities.) If the plot is triangular, placing the door on the side of the triangle rather than on the point will counter the ill-omen.

There are other ways to improve the natural benefits:

In properties which back onto a river, the entrance must be at the rear of allow Chi to gain entrance. If the ground slopes upward from the front of a building, then again the entrance should be at the back. Properties facing open space to the south (a valley, a section of land such as a heath or even the sea) are especially good as the resulting gentle winds from the south usher the Chi and allow it to enter unhindered.

The Chinese also believe that a house with a front slightly lower than the back is useful in dispersing the influence of Sha. Similarly, a large tree immediately opposite the front door is ill-omened as it deflects the entrance of wealth. Again, both of these concepts might seem strange to Western architecture and West Coast philosophy and has caused some problems in regards to new owners and the neighborhood’s dismay about sudden tree clearings.

The neighborhood also affects Chi in other ways. In a built-up area, the positioning of a home in relation to other properties can be very important. If a corner of a neighboring building such as a block of condos or terrace of homes “points” to the home in question, this “secret arrow” can direct harmful Sha straight into the home. These “arrows” supposedly also create an unhealthy environment in which illness is a constant factor.

Sharp angles can be especially unlucky on an office or commercial building as these angles and straight edges drive off money, whereas curves attract money. Then again, the flat edges of buildings which lead toward the front of your property are fine conductors of Chi. But then again, if there is a road in front of the place which turns at a sharp angle, this can bring about the same unhappy effect as a “secret arrow”. To counter this, a driveway leading up to a front door should always approach in a gentle sweep to so gentle in the good influences.

Whether you believe in it or not, feng-shui is seen by millions as an ancient science full of philosophy and practical wisdom. As such, it can’t be summed up in a few pages such as these. If interested in learning more, read (as we have done) the very fine book: The Way of Feng Shui: Harmony, Health, Wealth and Happiness by Philippa Waring.

Black Toxic Mold, Can Be Deadly to Animals, Study Says  0

Posted on July 22nd, 2012. About , Black Mold, For Sale By Owner, Home Improvement.
This article is about a report recently published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. This report shows that toxic black mold can be deadly to pets.A veterinary specialist in Marathon, Florida was performing a dental procedure on 2 cats from different homes. The vet started to notice that during the procedure there was frothy blood in the tubes used to supply the anesthesia for both cats. He immediately stopped the procedure. The one cat died the next day and the other died 2 weeks later.

Blood that had been drawn on the cats was tested and both came back showing levels of the toxin that is produced by stachybotrys chartarum, a toxic black mold.Exposure to this mold has been known to cause respiratory problems, pulmonary hemorrhage, and death. These have only been reported in humans up until now.

The two cats were considered healthy cats and recently been tested and shown to have no illnesses. The cats, however, both lived in homes that suffered water damage as a result of a hurricane in 2005. The cat owners were advised to check their homes for mold and sure enough they both discovered they had severe mold contamination from stachybotrys in their walls.

The toxin produced by stachybotrys weakens the capillaries making them very fragile and susceptible to bursting. The dental procedure was enough to make the fragile capillaries in the lungs of the cat burst. Both cats died from complications arising from pulmonary hemorrhaging.

Dr. Mader hopes that this study will spur animal owners affected by floods or hurricanes and water damage of any kind to check their houses for mold and if found, have the mold removed immediately.

Feng Shui  0

Posted on August 20th, 2008. About , Black Mold, For Sale By Owner, Home Improvement.

Feng Shui is an age-old practice that embraces the idea of living in harmony and balance with our environment. This ancient Chinese art stretches back over at least 7000 years. It is not only profoundly creative and intuitive, but it is also a science employing diagnostic equipment, mathematical formulas and specialized language.

Feng Shui literally means wind and water, two of the most fundamental forms of life’s energy.

The practice of Feng Shui embodies a belief that there are subtle forces in our surroundings that can impact upon our lives. It provides a framework for understanding the secrets of how energy moves in our surroundings and how the landscape, the style of our buildings and their interiors affect us at a subtle level. By applying the principles of this art, it is possible to make our living and working environments healthier and more attuned to the life forces which surround us. It is also possible to enhance our prosperity and minimize obstacles and misfortune.

“Traditional” or “Classical” Feng Shui has been used effectively by Feng Shui Masters for centuries. This method of Feng Shui involves a scientific, yet practical and common sense approach to creating balance to bring health, wealth and good fortune to a building’s occupants. The many formulas and techniques that are associated with this method are closely guarded secrets of the Masters and are traditionally handed down word of mouth from Master to student to keep the information pure. My teacher and mentor – Grand Master Yap Cheng Hai – has also developed proven systems for application and interpretation of these formulae through his many years of experience.Traditional Feng Shui considers the influence of direction, time, use of space and the influence of the external environment on the occupants. Recommendations are made to maximize the potential of the building and the environment to support and enhance the success of the occupants to help them reach their true potential.


Feng Shui is commonly applied to existing homes or businesses, but can also be extremely valuable when:

  • Selecting a home or business property;
  • Designing a building;
  • Designing an extension &/or renovating;
  • Placing furniture and or special objects in a room;
  • Selecting the best room for each occupant;
  • Selecting colors;

The way of Feng Shui is complex, yet it has the potential to significantly improve your life.


Feng Shui is commonly applied to existing homes or businesses, but can also be extremely valuable when:

  • Selecting a site for a home or business;
  • Establishing the best orientation for a building;
  • Designing a building;
  • Designing an extension;
  • Placing furniture and or special objects in a room;
  • Selecting the best room for each occupant;
  • Selecting colours;
  • Designing a garden.

The way of Feng Shui is complex, yet it has the potential to significantly improve our lives.


Posted on August 16th, 2008. About , Black Mold, For Sale By Owner, Home Improvement.

You can find a lot of information on mold, but trying to understand it may be difficult to those who didn’t take biology and chemistry. Even after stumbling through the pronunciation of these words, not everyone can comprehend what was meant by the statement.

“Satratoxin, a low-molecular weight non-volatile organically derived agent, belongs to the macrocyclic trichothecene class of mycotoxins generated from fungal microorganisms.”

  As an aid to the homeowner, this overview is intended to explain a few bad products of mold in a less scientific manner. It will focus on those types of mold that have been considered as problematic to the “indoor mold issue” and does not address other fungal organisms which may behave differently. Analogies presented are not intended to be scientifically accurate, but rather to illustrate complex behaviors in more simple terms.




For mold, the root system is made up of hyphae (high-fee). As hyphae grows into a mass during the vegetative state,it becomes a mycelium (my-sill-ee-um). The spores, designed for reproduction, are similar to seeds.

Like a weed, mold needs food and water to survive (yes, both need more than that, however, we are simplifying things here). For mold, the food of preference is organic matter (things that once were living). Indoors, those things are wood, paper, organic dust and dirt, leather, skin flakes, body oils, etc.

When mold spores that are floating around in the air land on a food source, they sit there patiently waiting for water. If the item they land on should contain sufficient moisture, or water comes from another source (leaks, etc.), the spore germinates and hyphae grows. The hyphae branch out, secrete enzymes to breakdown the food, form the mycelium, and absorb nutrients to grow. As long as the food and water hold out, colonies will continue to grow. Note that individual hyphae and spores are very, very small and few can see them without a microscope. When you see visible mold, you are generally seeing that mass of mycelium.

Hyphae can intertwine into the fibers of the substrate, penetrating the pores. As it consumes the substrate, it can also create it’s own route by dissolving pathways into the material. This is one of the reasons it is so difficult to kill and/or clean up mold on organic substrates. If you remove the surface growth, those bits of hyphae within the substrate are ready for re-growth upon the return of moisture.

As the organism matures, it develops spores intended for reproduction. Spores vary in size, shape, weight and methods of distribution. Some are light and buoyant so they float easily through the air. Others are wet and sticky and may cling to insects, rodents, etc. as a mode of travel.

Volatile Organic Compounds

As mold “consumes” it’s food, the chemical reactions of enzymes, substrates and mold growth produce carbon dioxide, water, and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). Because these items are a result of actions essential to the growth of the organism, they are classified as primary metabolites.

For mold, many types of VOC’s are produced and typically include aldehydes, alcohols, keytones, and hydrocarbons. They have complex structures and names like “2-methyl-1-propanol”, so if you are going to dig deeper into VOC’s, get ready for chemistry class.

They are called volatile in that they evaporate easily at room temperature and pressure. Fortunately, this volatility aids in dilution with fresh air to minimize concentrated build-up of these chemicals. Testing for VOC’s is often accomplished by using vacuum cylinders to obtain samples of the air with laboratory analysis obtained from sophisticated test instruments (gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer).

When you smell a “musty-moldy” odor, it’s generally the VOC’s you are noticing. VOC’s are often considered irritants to mucus membranes, however, are also capable of both short-term and long-term adverse health effects. If you do smell these odors, it’s a sure sign the mold is consuming and growing and you need to take action. (Note that VOC’s may also be derived from non-mold sources including natural materials used in cleaning agents.)


Many molds are capable of producing compounds called mycotoxins which are toxic to other organisms, including people. Mycologists believe these toxins are produced as protection against competing organisms and therefore, humans are simply caught in the cross-fire of this fight for survival.

Since these toxins are not essential for growth, they are classified as secondary metabolites. Toxic secondary metabolites require extra work on the part of the organism so production does not occur at all times, or, with all types of mold.

Scientists have identified over 400 mycotoxins and unlike VOC’s, these compounds are usually non-volatile (don’t evaporate easily at room temperature and pressure). One strain of mold may produce multiple toxins and one type of toxin may be produced by multiple strains of mold. Research has indicated that the type of substrate (nutrients), the growing conditions, together with the species of mold, will impact which toxins are created.

Some of these toxic substances are considered extremely hazardous to people, unfortunately, quantified human dose-response data is limited. Lab and field studies have shown these compounds to produce severe toxic effects in both animals and humans and therefore, the general recommendation is to minimize exposure to potentially toxigenic mold. Symptoms from toxic exposure range from flu-like symptoms, skin rashes and lesions, bleeding, fatigue, difficulty breathing, depression, etc. to longer-term nerve and organ problems, altered immunity, and cancer.

Not all secondary metabolites are considered bad for people…the antibiotics such as penicillin have beneficial use. However, from the mycological standpoint, antibiotics are considered mycotoxins since they too are generated by mold to ward off microorganisms (i.e. competing bacteria).

When the organism is producing toxins, the toxins are known to be present in the cell wall of spores and hyphae. It’s relatively easy to test for spores and hyphae, however, testing these components to see if they contain toxins is significantly more complex. Whereas a single spore can be viewed under a microscope, identifying what compounds are contained in the cell wall is difficult.

In order to identify these toxic compounds, laboratories must have a sufficient quantity of toxin-containing spores and carefully process them through sophisticated and expensive equipment that is capable of isolating chemicals down to billionths of an gram (remember, mold spores are microscopic so what is contained within it’s cell wall is extremely small). This testing is made even more difficult since there are a few hundred toxins to analyze and the behavior of mold is such that a toxin-producing mold in the field doesn’t necessarily produce the same type and quantity of toxins in the lab.

Generally speaking, identifying a mold type that is known to be capable of producing toxins is sufficient information to warrant precautions and avoid exposure without submitting for toxic analysis. However, if trying to confirm specific adverse health effects, obtaining an analysis of both VOC’s and toxins can be beneficial but often expensive.

Randy Penn is an independent licensed real estate inspector (Texas #5491) who specializes in mold testing and specimen recovery. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering, is a member of the Indoor Air Quality Association, has invested hundreds of hours in researching and training on fungal microorganisms, has completed IAQA’s workshop on mold remediation and has provided mold related presentations to homeowners and real estate professionals.

Cabinet Boxes – Behind the Cabinet Door  0

Posted on August 15th, 2008. About , Black Mold, For Sale By Owner, Home Improvement.


First you should understand what lies behind the cabinet door—the cabinet box. Your response may be a smug, Duh! But cabinet construction can get complicated rather quickly. There’s more going on than you might think. It breaks down by:

  • Framed construction

  • Frameless construction

In framed cabinets, wood joinery holds the parts together. Horizontal rails and vertical stiles secure the door to the box. In frameless cabinets, special hardware fittings do both jobs. Because no rails or stiles block the way, frameless cabinets offer slightly easier access to their interiors.

You might be surprised to learn that solid wood rarely forms the cabinet box. It’s more often used in face frames and doors than in the larger side panel parts. That’s because it tends to warp—a special concern in the kitchen where the moisture level changes frequently. But in the doors, using multiple strips of lumber in a variety of sizes can reduce the warp factor. A “floating” panel might also be used. The panel floats because instead of being glued to the doorframe, its edges sit between wooden grooves, allowing the wood to move more freely with changes in the kitchen’s humidity.

Box materials typically contain wood chips, other wood by-products, and synthetic additives to make them especially strong and warp resistant.

Your options for box material include:

  • Plywood

  • Particleboard or furniture-grade flakeboard

  • Medium-density fiberboard

All have solid reputations for durability and screw-holding power, particularly plywood. Medium-density fiberboard has gained a following for its ability to be formed into door and drawer heads and other decorative features. Furniture-grade flakeboard offers a stronger alternative than particleboard, which you’ll pay the least for.

Often the door and box will be constructed of different materials. A cabinet door might be solid maple and the sides plywood covered with a maple veneer. The same finish would be applied to both, unifying the look. Or you may decide you want different tones on the door and the sides to add contrast.

You’ll want to make sure you know if the finish you like requires a certain base material, and you’ll want to check out examples of your manufacturer’s work. Beware of staples! Staples will pull apart. You want cabinets with thick panels that have been corner blocked and glued or fastened with screws.



Flooring Preparation  0

Posted on August 15th, 2008. About , Black Mold, For Sale By Owner, Home Improvement.


The installer must be the final judge as to whether the sub-floor meets the following requirements. Not doing so may jeopardize the success of the installation.

  • The floor must be clean and free of any defects such as loose boards and squeaks due to improper installation of plywood on joists.
  • Concrete floors must be fully cured and dry. (Calcium Chloride count of ’3′ or less is recommended)
  • Moisture content in wood sub-floors must be 12% or LOWER.
  • Floor should be sound and flat with no voids greater than 3 inches. High spots must be ground off and low spots filled to make the floor flat (1/8″ in a 48″ length)
  • Moisture barrier should not be used over a wood or a wood product sub-floor.

Existing Flooring:

Flooring may be installed over most types of existing flooring such as linoleum, vinyl, wood, concrete or tile floors and ¼” non-padded direct glue-down commercial carpet. Wall-to-wall carpet should be removed and the sub-floor examined and repaired, if necessary, prior to installation. Please note the following:

  • If installing over vinyl, ensure that the vinyl is secure. Perimeter-glued vinyl should be inspected and stapled/secured to the sub floor to ensure integrity.
  • If installing over an existing wood floor, install the laminate flooring at right angles to the wood floor.
  • Creaking and loose floorboards must be secured by using screws.
  • Never use the foam underlayment with moisture barrier on wood floors or wood sub-floors.

Radiant Heat Sub-floors:

Flooring can be installed over all types of subfloors containing radiant heating systems if these guidelines are followed:

  • Follow the directions provided by the supplier or manufacturer of the floor heating system.
  • The concrete must be cured a minimum of 6 weeks.
  • Foam underlayment with moisture barrier must be used.
  • The heating system must be in operation 2 weeks prior to installation. Turn off the system or lower the temperature to between 55 and 65 degrees for two days prior to the installation of the floor.
  • Forty-eight hours after the installation, the heat may be gradually increased to the operating level desired, but not to exceed 85 degrees.
  • Moisture Barrier must always be used with concrete substrate.

Kitchen, Bath and other Potentially Wet Environment Installations:

Lay the foam underlayment and, if applicable, tape the edges together with duct tape. For installations over concrete, use the underlayment with moisture barrier which has a flap of plastic membrane on one edge. Lay the first row of foam with moisture barrier so that the plastic membrane flap extends out onto the sub floor. Then lay the second row of foam over the extended flap and tape the entire edge together with duct tape to provide a moisture barrier between the foam sections. Repeat this process as you continue the installation. It is very important to ensure that an adequate moisture barrier exists when installing Laminate over a concrete sub floor.

When installing the laminate flooring in a potentially wet environment (bath, kitchen, utility room, etc.), use color coordinated perimeter sealant to seal all of the cut edges and the expansion space. Cut the perimeter sealant tube applicator tip to obtain a ½” bead. Apply the sealant in a smooth, continuous bead around the perimeter of the floor. All cutouts (toilet flange, pipes, etc.) should be sealed, as well. Once the sealant has been applied, wet your finger and force the sealant into the expansion space and the other cutouts. If correctly applied the sealant should be approximately 1/16″ above the surface of the flooring. The installer should ensure that all exposed core surfaces are covered. Allow to dry for 72 hours.

Important Installation Tips:

  • Generally, a more beautiful installation can be achieved by installing the planks parallel to incoming light. In narrow rooms, install planks parallel to longer walls, regardless of the direction of the light.
  • Rooms larger than 1,000 square feet or 40 lineal feet must be installed with T-Molding near the center to allow for proper expansion. As the area of installation increases, additional expansion space needs to be allowed.
  • To minimize chipping, cut the planks so the saw teeth travel into the decorative face as they cut.
  • NOTE: The sawdust from cutting the planks contains Aluminum Oxide from the wear layer. This material can scratch the surface. If possible, do not saw the material in the same room as the install.
  • If properly glued, the planks should go together easily. Use the tapping block to help get the plank together but do not “bang” the boards together. Chipping or raising of the edges can occur if too much force is used.
  • Always work safely, taking precautions with power tools and other hazards.
  • Caution! Wood Dust! Sawing, sanding or machining wood products can produce wood dust that can cause a flammable or explosive hazard. Wood dust may cause lung, upper respiratory tract, eye and skin irritation. Some wood species may cause dermatitis and/or respiratory allergic effects.
  • Avoid contact with ignition sources.
  • Sweep or vacuum dust for recovery or disposal.
  • Avoid breathing of wood dust.
  • Avoid dust contact with eyes and skin.

FIRST AID: If inhaled, breathe fresh air immediately. In case of contact, flush eyes and skin with water. If irritation persists, call a physician.

Use of Transitions:

  • A transition is required in rooms larger than 1,000 square feet or if the floor is 40 or more lineal feet in length.
  • A transition should be used between rooms that have different environments, for example, between a kitchen and a utility room.
  • Use trim track for transitions that are attached to the sub floor to ensure adequate expansion. Do not nail secured transitions directly to the subfloor.
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