In certain municipalities in Missouri, property damage that requires extensive repair will also require permits and inspections for the work. Prior to moving into a new home, many areas will also require occupancy permits prior to allowing a new buyer or renter to reside within the home.
The following links are provided as a service to assist homeowners in locating the offices that can assist them to ensure that their contractors are properly licensed, that the required permits are obtained, and that the necessary inspections are provided.
Here are links to many of the Saint Louis County (and some other) municipality websites or contact information.
Engineered wood flooring is an alternative to solid hardwood flooring made entirely out of real wood. It’s currently the most popular type of flooring in the world. North America is the only area left where traditional, solid wood floors still outnumber engineered floors, but engineered wood flooring is quickly catching up, with the rate of use for new builds, as well as remodels, increasing steadily every year for the past few decades. Inspectors and homeowners alike may be interested in how this product is manufactured and installed, and what its advantages are compared to older, more traditional forms of flooring.
The beginnings of mass-produced wood flooring can be dated as far back as 1903, when an E. L. Roberts mail-order catalog offered “wood carpeting.” This flooring consisted of 1½ x 5/16-inch wooden strips that were glued to heavy canvas that was then installed by tacking it down with brads. The wood was then sanded and finished. The varnishes used were usually slow-curing tung oils from China. These were not durable in themselves, so the floors were hot-waxed and buffed to a shine with a floor brush.
Early examples of the “wood carpet” eventually evolved into more modern iterations, such as laminate flooring, which consists of melamine-infused paper as its upper layer, and wood-chip composite beneath. Laminate flooring typically features a printed or embossed top layer meant to approximate the look of real hardwood.
The current incarnation of engineered wood flooring has been available since the 1960s, and has steadily increased in quality, leading to improved advantages over traditional hardwood flooring.
Engineered wood flooring is most commonly made with a plywood-core substrate and a real hardwood veneer or skin, which comes pre-finished from the factory. The top veneer, which looks just like the top of a traditional solid wood plank, is called the lamella.
Some engineered flooring utilizes a finger-core construction, with a substrate comprised of small pieces of milled timber running perpendicular to the lamella. This can be made with an additional layer of plywood running parallel to the lamella, which gives it added stability. Fiberboard-core flooring is also available, but it’s generally considered to be an inferior option.
Engineered wood flooring is meant to be indistinguishable from traditional hardwood floor once it’s installed, and only the lamella is visible. The lamella veneers available are made from nearly every type of common wood, as well as many more exotic ones, in order to provide the same variety of aesthetics typical of quality hardwood floors. The substrate that the veneer is attached to is just as strong and durable as hardwood — if not stronger — and the finish applied at the factory often outlasts one applied on-site to solid wood flooring. Even surface effects are available that can be applied to the finish to give the flooring a time-worn look, such as light distressing.
Engineered flooring runs the gamut from the low end, starting at $3 per square foot, to the high, at $14 and more. To judge quality, check the thickness of the lamella, the number of layers in the substrate, and the number of finish coats. Typically, the more layers, the better. Listed below are descriptions of the advantages of adding layers to the construction in the common classes of engineered boards:
3-ply construction: 1- to 2-mm wear layer; five finish coats; 10- to 15-year warranty; 1⁄4-inch thick; current price is about $3 to $5 per square foot. Options for lamella veneer are limited to common species, such as oak and ash, and just a few stains are available;
5-ply construction: 2- to 3-mm wear layer; seven finish coats; 15- to 25-year warranty; 1⁄4-inch thick; about $6 to $9 per square foot. More species, such as cherry, beech, and some exotics are available for lamella, as well as all stains, and a few surface effects, such as distressing; and
7-ply or more: 3+-mm wear layer, which can be sanded two or more times; nine finish coats; 25+-year warranty; 5/8- to 3⁄4-inch thick; average price is about $10 to $14 per square foot. The widest selection of species is available for lamella, including reclaimed options. More surface treatments are also available, such as hand-scraped and wire-brushed.
The cost of engineered flooring can be around 20% more than that of traditional flooring, but the difference can be offset or recouped by saving on installation, staining and sealing.
Installation of engineered wood flooring is generally quite simple compared to the installation of traditional hardwood, and can often be accomplished by a homeowner without the help of a professional flooring contractor. If the services of a professional are enlisted, the job can be done more quickly and cost-effectively than if solid hardwood were to be installed. Engineered flooring can be fastened in place with screws or nails, glued down, or left to “float,” relying on its mass to hold it in place. Listed below are several installation methods:
A bead of glue can be applied to the tongue of each board, which is then tapped into place with a block. The floor floats, unattached to the sub-floor except by force of gravity.
A floor stapler and compressor can be used to rapidly secure the boards to the existing floor, without having to deal with any glue.
Boards can be laid in a bed of adhesive, as is done with tile. This approach works particularly well over cured concrete, which precludes the use of staples.
Some types of engineered floor are designed with milled tongues and grooves that lock together without glue or fasteners. It’s the quickest and cleanest installation method.
Advantages of Engineered Flooring
While solid hardwood is a great traditional building material that provides aesthetically pleasing and structurally sound flooring, it does have its limitations. For example, it cannot be installed directly on concrete or below grade, such as in basements. It is generally limited in plank width and is more prone to gapping, which is excessive space between planks, and cupping, which is a concave or “dished” appearance of the plank, with the height of the plank along its longer edges being higher than the center with increased plank size. Solid hardwood also cannot be used where radiant-floor heating is in place.
Engineered wood flooring, on the other hand, can actually provide some distinct advantages over traditional hardwood in many instances and applications. Some of these include:
Lamella veneer is available in dozens of wood species.
Surface effects can be applied to further enhance its appearance.
The factory finish can outlast site-applied finish on solid hardwoods.
Drying time for the finish is eliminated because it’s pre-applied at the factory.
It can be used in basements and over concrete slabs.
Installation is quick and easy.
It can be used over radiant-heat systems.
It can be refinished to repair normal wear and tear.
The core layer can expand and contract more freely without warping.
The flooring can be removed and re-installed elsewhere, if desired.
Engineered wood flooring is increasingly the first choice for floor installations, and its advantages, in many circumstances, can be exceptional. Homeowners with a little DIY experience can usually install it themselves.
Compost is an accumulation of degrading food scraps, plants and other nutrient-rich organic matter. It is an easy and environmentally responsible way to dispose of biodegradable kitchen waste, which can then be returned to the soil as fertilizer for vegetable and flower gardens.
Composting is Good
Composting helps to reduce the volume of material in landfills.
Compost is used to improve soil structure and provide nutrients for growing plants.
So, what’s wrong with composting? The benefits of the practice are generally well-known, but few people are actually aware of the potential hazards and dangers composting can pose.
Diseases Contracted From Handling Compost
Compost can be a breeding ground for dangerous pathogens, some of which have killed or seriously harmed unsuspecting gardeners. Inspectors should familiarize themselves with these illnesses, some of which can be contracted in other parts of the house. Listed below are some of the more common physical ailments that can result from unprotected contact with compost:
Aspergillosis is a fungal infection of the lungs that is caused after the inhalation of a fungus commonly found in rotting plant matter. While normally not life-threatening, aspergillosis can be extremely dangerous if enough spores are inhaled. The disease killed a 47-year-old British man after he was engulfed in clouds of dust from the compost he had intended to use in his garden.
The symptoms of Farmer’s Lung resemble pneumonia, and may result from respiratory exposure to certain fungal and bacterial pathogens present in rotting organic materials, such as mushrooms, hay and sugar cane. Beware of dusty white patches, as they are a sign that dangerous spores are present. Farmer’s Lung can usually be treated with antibiotics.
Histoplasmosis is caused by fungus that grows in guano and bird droppings. Healthy immune systems can usually fight off histoplasmosis, although infections can become serious if large amounts of the toxin are inhaled, or if the infected person has a weakened immune system.
Legionnaire’s Disease is a respiratory infection that’s caused by the inhalation of L. Longbeachae.
Paronychia is a local infection that occurs in the tissue around the fingernails and toenails. Prolonged moisture and the abrasive effects of soil can create openings in the skin that allow the infection to occur, producing pain and throbbing.
Tetanus is a disease of the central nervous system that’s caused by bacteria that is very common in soil. While even a minor cut can allow the bacteria to enter the bloodstream, immunizations against tetanus are quite common.
How to Avoid Potential Hazards of Composting
The following general safety precautions should be followed in order to avoid transmission of dangerous fungi, bacteria and other pathogens found in compost:
Always wear dry, breathable gloves to avoid direct contact with the skin, and to protect yourself from injury while using gardening tools and implements.
Wear protective footwear that covers your skin adequately to avoid direct contact with compost. Do not wear them anywhere except outdoors.
When stirring and tilling the compost, which is required on a regular basis in order for it to process and break down, always wear a nose and mouth guard or dust mask to avoid inhaling the various spores that will become airborne during tilling and turning.
Avoid tilling on windy days.
Do not store compost in fully closed or airtight containers. Without any air, it can actually become combustible.
Wash your hands after dealing with compost. While this suggestion may sound obvious, many garden enthusiasts get so absorbed with their activities that they forget the potential dangers from poisoning.
If you develop a severe cough or infection of the skin (especially if there is an open sore or puncture wound), seek medical attention immediately. You may require antibiotics or a tetanus shot.
Surprisingly, a great deal of heat is created by the microbial activity, which is occasionally enough to cause a fire. In August 2009, a compost pile spontaneously combusted at the Saginaw Compost Facility in Saginaw, Michigan. However, these fires are extremely rare, as they occur only under a limited set of circumstances that would ordinarily be avoided using common sense.
According to the Alberta, Canada’s Department of Agriculture, the following key conditions must be met in order for a compost pile to light itself on fire:
dry materials that go unattended;
dry pockets of debris among a non-uniform mix of materials;
large, well-insulated piles;
limited air flow;
poor moisture distribution due to neglect or oversight in monitoring; and
unknown temperature within the pile, and time for the temperature to build up.
WARNING: While self-incineration of compost is possible, compost piles probably catch fire more often from ordinary sources, such as lit cigarettes or electrical mishaps. Also, gardeners who use ash from incinerated trash or the fireplace sometimes neglect to make sure that the ash has cooled sufficiently before adding it to the compost pile.
Inspectors can offer their clients the following tips to help avoid compost fires:
Assure adequate ventilation of the pile to release heat. Turn the pile or use a mechanical aeration system to ensure ventilation. Narrow, short piles generally have adequate ventilation.
Do not turn a pile that is smoldering, as the sudden infusion of oxygen can cause the pile to erupt into flames.
Do not let the pile get too dry. The University of Missouri states, “Organic material can ignite spontaneously due to biological activity at moisture contents between 26 to 46% moisture, if the temperature exceeds 200° F.”
Monitor the pile’s temperature, focusing on the hottest spot in the pile. Use a thermometer long enough to reach the center of the pile. Do not let the pile get too hot. If the temperature of the pile exceeds 160° F, reduce the temperature through the following methods:
reduce the size of the pile;
add water to 55% moisture;
mix in coarse, bulky material, such as wood chips; and
do not pile compost next to buildings or any flammable structures, as fire can spread easily.
Worms are often added to compost piles to aid in the breakdown of organic matter. But if the compost piles are not constructed and maintained properly, they have the tendency to attract unwanted pests. Flies, termites and beetles are attracted to the smell of decay, and they, in turn, will attract larger predatory critters to the pile. Use the following pest-control tips:
Do not compost eggs, meat, oils, bones, cheese or fats. Compost piles should be “vegetarian.”
Bury the compost with soil or leaves to contain the smell and to aid with the biodegrading process.
If using a portable composter, make sure it has a cover that will discourage the entry of pests and animals.
Beware that enclosed compost piles can overheat and create high levels of dangerous gasses, such as methane, so be sure to rotate the container or till the pile daily.
Do not place compost near a building. In addition to the fire concerns, compost placed adjacent to buildings can promote infestation.
NOTE: These practices can also mitigate the foul smells that can plague compost piles.
In summary, the benefits of compost piles can be quickly eclipsed by health hazards and nuisances if they are not designed correctly and maintained properly