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  1. #1
    Bill Spatafore's Avatar
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    Default Coal in crawl space

    House was built in 1920. Used to have coal furnace. That has been removed and the house now has a gas furnace. The crawl space in the basement is full of coal. Not sure how much but the space is 10' long and about 6' high. It's about half full of coal. Do inspectors see this often in older homes? Is this something you write up as a safety hazard? Does it need to be removed before house is sold?

    Thank you..

    Bill

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Coal in crawl space

    I see it (I'm also in coal country), but not usually in the quantity that you describe (which sounds like what I'd call a coal bin in the -presumably dirt floored - cellar). If I had that much, I'd either sell it or give it away to the first person to come get it.

    While I'm not aware of anything requiring the coal to be removed (people still heat with coal in my area and store it by the ton in their cellars), coal dust is pervasive and gets into everything, including the gas furnace ductwork. But, having said that, if this house has been using coal until recently, there already is coal dust in everything. In terms of being a fire hazard, I'd say not really, and far less than the wood framing or a pile of old boxes or newspapers. It takes effort to get coal to burn, so a stray spark won't light it, but it will burn for a long time if it gets going. A pile of lumber or firewood is a far greater fire hazard (in my opinion).

    What part of WV are you in? I do a lot of work in Mineral County and some in Hampshire.

    Mark Fisher
    Allegany Inspection Service - Cumberland MD 21502 - 301-722-2224
    Home Inspections, Mold Testing, Thermal Imaging

  3. #3
    Bill Spatafore's Avatar
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    Default Re: Coal in crawl space

    Mark thanks for the reply. This is a house that I am fixing up to sell and I didn't know what to do about the coal. I'm also training now to be an inspector and in my studies thus far I haven't run across coal bins. Btw, I'm in Harrison County about 30 min south of Morgantown.

    Thanks again

    Bill


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Coal in crawl space

    I'm an hour east of MoTown. Let's Go Mountaineers!

    Put a sign up "Free Coal" or call the local energy assistance office; they may be able to find someone who needs it. Since you are trying to fix/clean it up to sell, get rid of it.

    I was grandfathered in on my MD inspector's license, so I didn't need to do a training course. I did get a home study course way back when, but the houses I see, which are probably very similar to the ones you will see, are very different from what they were talking about. I doubt they will talk about coal bins, plank framing, gravity furnaces, or gas-light piping used for electrical conduit. When I was involved in the regional ASHI affiliate, they focused on code issues, like a lot of guys on here, that simply don't come up on the typical houses in my area. Hell, my county didn't even adopt a building code until about 1998.

    Good luck. Cover my expenses and I'll inspect your 20's house to show you what to look for

    Mark Fisher
    Allegany Inspection Service - Cumberland MD 21502 - 301-722-2224
    Home Inspections, Mold Testing, Thermal Imaging

  5. #5
    Bill Spatafore's Avatar
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    Default Re: Coal in crawl space

    I know the kind of houses you have in your area ase very similar to what we have here. For the last 15 years I worked in sales and spent ALOT of time in Cumberland and Keyser. I really like it there, nice people. Really miss the friends I made there...and miss some of your local eats...D'Atris, Oscars, and The Oxford House are my faves!

    I do have ques on codes on these older houses. For instance this house we're talking about has a basement garage under living space. The garage ceiling is not drywalled. I know code states that it has to be fire rated drywall etc. I assume that on your report you would say that the ceiling would need drywalled, mudded & taped?

    Thanks

    Bill


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Coal in crawl space

    Fire separation of garage from living space has been discussed here numerous times. Try searching the archives. I imagine in your area, you would have plenty to keep you busy just making houses reasonably safe, without even getting into the code books.

    Is Cumberland Gap a town or just a junction? It makes me think of moonshiners racing down Thunder Road with the headlights off.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Coal in crawl space

    Who managed the Asbestos mitigation with the removal of the coal burning system? Post remediation testing? Inspect/converted the chimney?

    Familiar with the "Questons from Home Owners, Home Buyers and DIYers" section of the forum?


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Coal in crawl space

    It is very risky, in my experience and opinion, to use the words "codes" and "old houses" at the same time. What I say is 'highly recommend installing fire rated drywall to current standards' or some such. I use that a lot for health and safety related things.

    Technically we are supposed to report defects. When that house was built, that was not a defect. It is an obsolete design, acceptable at the time, with since-determined life safety implications that we would be remiss in not reporting as a highly recommended improvement. There is no 'must' involved.

    Wiring is a big one in this regard. You'll see a lot of pre-war (as in WWII) houses with original wiring. Totally obsolete, but there is no mandate to upgrade it. You have to report its presence and (very importantly) ASSESS ITS CONDITION. A lot of lenders these days are requiring upgrades if you mention knob-and-tube wiring, which is one thing. But what your client needs to know is whether they can continue to use the house more-or-less like it has been being used to determine if they want it. [Personal inspector style and experience comes into play - I've seen reports where the inspector recommended an electrician, HVAC guy, and structural engineer on the same house. Basically his client didn't really know enough from his report to decide; made them wonder why they bothered to have him there in the first place.]

    Alas, Oxford House is closed. And, John, we're talking about Cumberland, Maryland. The Cumberland Gap is down in KY and Tenn. We're on the Potomac River up river from Wash. DC. The original National Road (US 40) started here; C&O Canal, B&O Railroad all came through here. WV is across the river and PA is a stone's throw north. George Washington territory. Classic Appalachian Rust Belt coal and railroad town. Lost over half its population since the 60's. Beautiful country; hell of a place to try to make a living.

    Mark Fisher
    Allegany Inspection Service - Cumberland MD 21502 - 301-722-2224
    Home Inspections, Mold Testing, Thermal Imaging

  9. #9
    Bill Spatafore's Avatar
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    Default Re: Coal in crawl space

    Thanks Mark...

    Sorry to hear Oxford House is closed...its been a couple of years since I have been to Cumberland.

    The electric has been updated...I have not seen any knob & tube anywhere.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Coal in crawl space

    Quote Originally Posted by H.G. Watson, Sr. View Post
    Who managed the Asbestos mitigation with the removal of the coal burning system? Post remediation testing?
    You're joking, right?

    Inspect/converted the chimney?
    This is a good point. 95% of the houses that age were originally coal heated. Most of them have since converted to gas, possibly decades ago. Most simply used the same flue. Almost none would be correctly sized if checked.

    Some of these, while technically improper, are performing just fine. Some are not and are seriously deteriorated (a number of factors involved). You'll need to be able to tell the difference and report accordingly.

    Familiar with the "Questons from Home Owners, Home Buyers and DIYers" section of the forum?
    He's an inspector-in-training.

    Mark Fisher
    Allegany Inspection Service - Cumberland MD 21502 - 301-722-2224
    Home Inspections, Mold Testing, Thermal Imaging

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Coal in crawl space

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Spatafore View Post
    The electric has been updated...I have not seen any knob & tube anywhere.
    Any 2-prong outlets or original light switches or fixtures? Make sure to look in the attic above any light fixtures and at the top of wall cavities. If the attic is floored and there aren't any patches or signs of having been at least partially torn up, there's a good chance some is still present.

    Mark Fisher
    Allegany Inspection Service - Cumberland MD 21502 - 301-722-2224
    Home Inspections, Mold Testing, Thermal Imaging

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Coal in crawl space

    Thanks. I'll double check. We just closed on it last week. It was an as is sale. I know there are no 2 prong plugs and the electric has been updated to 100 amp some time ago. I really appreciate your replies. I may check in with u from time to time if you don't mind.

    Bill


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Coal in crawl space

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Fisher View Post
    You're joking, right?
    Nope, am as "serious as a heart-attack".

    You shouldn't skip your due-dilligence in REO or auction acquired property, you either get your research, input (and spend $), testing, etc. beforehand (no contingencies), or prepare to gamble and get proper risk analysis afterwards. He owns the issues now has a responsibility as a non-occupant DIY-intended FLIPPER of residential property to DO THE RIGHT THING

    No excuse to NOT properly assess the risks NOW and before doing ANYTHING. Get Risk analysis and testing done NOW.

    Any "vintage" coal-burning furnace (or boiler) equipment installation is/was LIKELY to have contained ASBESTOS in a multitude of forms and applications. Vintage fuel-burning mechanicals/appliances, and removal/tinkering by generations of DIYers, are likewise notorious for mercury controls not having been properly handled and contaminating sites. Frankly, when you're dealing with a home of the vintage discussed, likely to have many ACMs, potential mercury contamination sources, and of course LEAD sources as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Fisher View Post
    This is a good point. 95% of the houses that age were originally coal heated. Most of them have since converted to gas, possibly decades ago. Most simply used the same flue. Almost none would be correctly sized if checked.

    Some of these, while technically improper, are performing just fine. Some are not and are seriously deteriorated (a number of factors involved). You'll need to be able to tell the difference and report accordingly.
    From the description, solid-fuel equipment wasn't converted to gas long ago, ancient was removed as same not long ago, site remediation and cleanup precautions questionable - as the presence of likely contaminated remaining fuel piles indicate.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Fisher View Post

    He's an inspector-in-training.
    Which doesn't change the nature of the post, which is a "Question from Home Owners, Home Buyers, and DIYers" question. Yep, even practicing HIs are DIYers, HOs and HBs and have such questions; "as-is" or not, self-"inspected" the purchase as an investor.

    The OP has indicated this status and nature of the post more than once.

    He is DIYing it and asking for DIY advice in his non-independantly professionally inspected purchase/DIY fix-up/to-flip residental RE venture.

    Even HIs can be DIYers and DIY flippers, the OP has indicated he is not an HI (yet); nevertheless, an HI (esp. an aspiring one) as a lawyer, doctor, etc. who serves as his own professional has a fool for a client.

    That has been removed and the house now has a gas furnace. The crawl space in the basement is full of coal. Not sure how much but the space is 10' long and about 6' high. It's about half full of coal. Do inspectors see this often in older homes? Is this something you write up as a safety hazard? Does it need to be removed before house is sold?
    Could be, you may have a contaminated site (i.e. improper ACMs removal, lead dust, etc.).

    This is a house that I am fixing up to sell and I didn't know what to do about the coal.
    Thanks. I'll double check. We just closed on it last week. It was an as is sale.

    You do not give-away or sell ACM or lead-dust contaminated material to be handled, dumped, etc. by some unsuspecting party, even when "generated" in/from a residential property!!! Until proven (professionally risk-assessed) otherwise, treat as potentially or actual contaminated zone & waste.

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 08-20-2012 at 06:57 AM.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Coal in crawl space

    H.G.,

    I'm assuming that you've never worked in Appalachian coal country. Treat a pile of house coal as hazardous waste? In West Virginia? Your own clients would consider you 'touched in the head'.

    The joke was thinking that there might have been professional asbestos mitigation and clearance testing in residential housing in Appalachia (unheard of).

    Mark Fisher
    Allegany Inspection Service - Cumberland MD 21502 - 301-722-2224
    Home Inspections, Mold Testing, Thermal Imaging

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Coal in crawl space

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Fisher View Post
    I'm assuming that you've never worked in Appalachian coal country. Treat a pile of house coal as hazardous waste? In West Virginia? Your own clients would consider you 'touched in the head'.
    Mark,

    You will to learn to ignore much/most of what Watson posts ... especially when he uses that big red crayon of his.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Coal in crawl space

    John, Thunder Road was actually in Knoxville TN (or the story/song goes).


  17. #17
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    Default Re: Coal in crawl space

    [quote=H.G. Watson, Sr.;205897]Nope, am as "serious as a heart-attack".

    You shouldn't skip your due-dilligence in REO or auction acquired property, you either get your research, input (and spend $), testing, etc. beforehand (no contingencies), or prepare to gamble and get proper risk analysis afterwards. He owns the issues now has a responsibility as a non-occupant DIY-intended FLIPPER of residential property to DO THE RIGHT THING.

    No excuse to NOT properly assess the risks NOW and before doing ANYTHING. Get Risk analysis and testing done NOW.

    Any "vintage" coal-burning furnace (or boiler) equipment installation is/was LIKELY to have contained ASBESTOS in a multitude of forms and applications. Vintage fuel-burning mechanicals/appliances, and removal/tinkering by generations of DIYers, are likewise notorious for mercury controls not having been properly handled and contaminating sites. Frankly, when you're dealing with a home of the vintage discussed, likely to have many ACMs, potential mercury contamination sources, and of course LEAD sources as well.


    Watson. If you weren't shouting with RED all the time, maybe people would pay a little more attention to your comments. Uncalled for, thank you.


  18. #18
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    Default Re: Coal in crawl space

    Rich,
    I thought the red was to delineate sentences/sections to skip over.

    If the color was for shouting would it not be blue, as in "shouting till blue in the face"?



    Interesting... only can put 5 images into a message.


  19. #19
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    Default Re: Coal in crawl space

    Quote Originally Posted by Garry Sorrells View Post
    Rich,
    I thought the red was to delineate sentences/sections to skip over.

    If the color was for shouting would it not be blue, as in "shouting till blue in the face"?



    Interesting... only can put 5 images into a message.
    Good..... I like it! (I couldn't put a smiley here---was stopped too )


  20. #20
    Bill Spatafore's Avatar
    Bill Spatafore Guest

    Default Re: Coal in crawl space

    Thanks for the responses guys. I gave it away and got rid of all of it.


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