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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Charlotte, NC
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    112

    Default Odd metal flake on floor joists - fire damage

    I observed a peculiar metal flake on a variety of floor joists and beams in a 1926 home that had suffered some previous (limited) fire damage around the base of one of the fireplaces. This was NOT a smoke (odor) suppressant paint. It was too lightly spread out (I dare not say "applied" as I do not think this was "applied"), almost like somebody threw a glitter-bomb in there.

    Any photos fail to grasp the true effect (see attached anyway). I am HIGHLY suspicious that this is any kind of organic growth, but can't reason what it is. It was present on multiple floor joists that had NO fire damage but was not on all joists/beams. Could it be some kind of particulate matter from the smoke that would have bellowed inside this space during the fire adhering to some of the framing? There had been a power-post beetle infestation and reported recent treatment, but this did not look like any kind of borate application I've ever seen.

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Spring Hill (Nashville), TN
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    Default Re: Odd metal flake on floor joists - fire damage

    No telling what it is but I doubt I would even mention it in my report. That is an old house, it could be just about anything from old pest control chemicals to Pixie dust! In the first photo it kind of looks like termites.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  3. #3
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    Mar 2007
    Location
    Charlotte, NC
    Posts
    112

    Default Re: Odd metal flake on floor joists - fire damage

    Scott....
    I've always thought highly of you and your insightful replies here. But are you telling me that if you see something in a house that you don't know what it is, you don't mention it?

    I'm not saying we have to alarm anyone or call the HAZMAT team, but that we should mention what we see (especially if unusual or unknown to us) and give our opinion (which might be "no action deemed necessary").

    Sometime in the future:
    Mr. Hahn, my client says the inspector for the potential buyer of their home has cited the presence of an unknown substance under the house. Did you see it when you inspected the house? "Yes"
    Ok. Do you see this in all the houses you inspect or was this the first time? "First Time"
    Ok. Do you know what this is or that is of no concern to my client? "No"
    Ok. Hum??? So do you want to pay by check or credit card?

    Bottom line on this one for me, I'm not really concerned that this is hazardous or even indicative of something in need of a call-for-action. I just don't know what it is (yet).

    Thanks


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Orlando, FL
    Posts
    1,339

    Default Re: Odd metal flake on floor joists - fire damage

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hahn View Post
    ...the presence of an unknown substance under the house.
    That could said about thousands of things found in a crawlspace (or an attic). Maybe it looks different in person, not much to see in the pic.

    Include a photo of the area of concern in the report, with a note that you are unable to identify the material (or issue, or concern, or whatever you choose to call it).

    Dom.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Knoxville, TN
    Posts
    2,446

    Default Re: Odd metal flake on floor joists - fire damage

    Maybe its the photos, but I'm not seeing metal flakes, nor can I tell the extent of the coverage. Could it have been overspray of some sort? Maybe when they were doing post fire repairs? In the last 88 years there could have been a zillion different causes.
    Did it wipe off like fungus growth, or did it stay in place like sprayed on paint or material?

    Like Scott, there are probably a lot of things I see in 88 year old houses that don't make it into the report. Of course it depends on what I'm seeing, and what I think it might be, and the extent.

    If I see what I think is paint overspray on some framing, I will likely not call it out. If I feel that the stuff i'm seeing is fungus/mold. I likely would. I can tell you I have never seen a fungus growth that looked like a glitter bomb was set off.

    You are the one writing the report, so what did YOU say about it to your client, and what did you put in your report? Just curious.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Southern Vancouver Island
    Posts
    4,546

    Default Re: Odd metal flake on floor joists - fire damage

    Maybe residue from a pest treatment. You almost needs to do a lab analysis to know for sure. I think if it is superficial and the wood is dry and sound, it is probably a non-issue.

    If the crawlspace is damp it could be a weird fungi. Could be in a splatter pattern from fire suppressant

    Sure looks like 'Pixie dust'.

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

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Caledon, Ontario
    Posts
    5,005

    Default Re: Odd metal flake on floor joists - fire damage

    The pictures appear to show a white spotting. Certainly not metallic at least to my eyes.

    It is quite possible to be a white type mould species. Have seen similar in old homes, always in basements with dirt floors, high humidity. Everything including spiders, webs are covered as if someone sprinkled icing sugar on things, more of a spotting rather than complete coverage.

    So I am going with mould due to conditions, which you didn't actually describe which could be conducive to mould.


  8. #8
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    Mar 2007
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    Spring Hill (Nashville), TN
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    Default Re: Odd metal flake on floor joists - fire damage

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hahn View Post
    Scott....
    I've always thought highly of you and your insightful replies here. But are you telling me that if you see something in a house that you don't know what it is, you don't mention it?

    I'm not saying we have to alarm anyone or call the HAZMAT team, but that we should mention what we see (especially if unusual or unknown to us) and give our opinion (which might be "no action deemed necessary").

    Sometime in the future:
    Mr. Hahn, my client says the inspector for the potential buyer of their home has cited the presence of an unknown substance under the house. Did you see it when you inspected the house? "Yes"
    Ok. Do you see this in all the houses you inspect or was this the first time? "First Time"
    Ok. Do you know what this is or that is of no concern to my client? "No"
    Ok. Hum??? So do you want to pay by check or credit card?

    Bottom line on this one for me, I'm not really concerned that this is hazardous or even indicative of something in need of a call-for-action. I just don't know what it is (yet).

    Thanks
    Keep in mind we are only seeing a few small photos, you are the one that viewed it in person. Based on the photos I see it as a non issue. Now if you do not have a clue as to what it is or what caused it then simply say so in the report. Tell your client that you found specks of an unknown substance on the wood framing in the crawlspace and that you don have any idea what it is. We can't be the answer to every question in a home. Sure, they will want to know what they need to do next. My answer would be to hire an environmental consulting firm if they really want to know. The big issue is if you do not know what it is, don't guess or give an opine as to what you think it is.

    On a side note many state home inspector laws protect the home inspector when it come environmental issues in a home buy disclaiming that they are part of any inspection..

    Last edited by Scott Patterson; 09-29-2014 at 06:58 AM.
    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Charlotte, NC
    Posts
    112

    Default Re: Odd metal flake on floor joists - fire damage

    Thanks to all the feedback so far.
    To answer Jack, it wiped-off more like organic growth but IS definitively shiny metal-like and not white.
    Again, I knew the pictures wouldn't do the issue justice (and indicated as much).

    I apologize for not being more clear. I am not a 'newbe' looking for a way to write-up that I didn't know what it is and how to say that. Instead, before having to do that, I was seeking out the plethora of knowledge that is this home inspector forum in hopes that someone might have come across a metallic-like fleck dusty substance that they had either seen before in (i) an older home, (ii) in a home that had previous fire damage and/or (iii) a home that had been treated for powder-post beetles so that I could intelligently document that it was or was likely "x" and there was/was not any need for further action.

    Thanks again.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Corinth MS
    Posts
    14

    Default Re: Odd metal flake on floor joists - fire damage

    What you are seeing is most likely Tim-Bor used as an anti-fungal or insecticide. I recognize it as I apply it regularly as an anti-fungal for dry rot fungus. Here is a picture of my own floor joist with it applied. TIM-BOR® PROFESSIONAL » Nisus CorpphpU8G1Q3AM.jpg

    Last edited by Joe Hendrix; 10-01-2014 at 07:53 AM.

  11. #11
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    Mar 2007
    Location
    Charlotte, NC
    Posts
    112

    Default Re: Odd metal flake on floor joists - fire damage

    THAT'S IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Thanks Joe.

    I just called the manufacturer (Nisus) and they said that this is a result of the product being over-applied and we were seeing the Borate crystals. If used/mixed properly it should have no visual appearance.

    This forum ROCKS !

    Last edited by Dave Hahn; 10-01-2014 at 08:07 AM. Reason: add name of manufacturer

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Wenatchee Wa
    Posts
    301

    Default Re: Odd metal flake on floor joists - fire damage

    Dave, Thanks for posting this.

    And Joe great response. Tim-Bor is used here often but I have never seen it look like this but will have it on the radar now.

    Don Hester
    NCW Home Inspections, LLC
    Wa. St. Licensed H I #647, WSDA #80050, http://www.ncwhomeinspections.com

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