Q. How Do I Repair a Cut Joist in the Attic?

Q. Need some help. My niece recently had a home inspection done to sell her home. The inspector noticed that one floor joist which lined directly up with the plumbing stack had been cut from day one over forty years ago. She bought the house last year and is now moving. The joist was spliced with a overlapping piece and nailed on to the side of the cut joist and not with much overlap, about 18″ on each side. The inspector said it should be fixed before she can sell the house.

The cut was about 1/4 to 1/3 from the end which sits on the sill plate of the basement.

Does a new joist need to be placed along side the cut one and bolted or should a telepost be added or is there some kind of steel brace that can be added to support the cut joist. Looking for some options.

A. Hey John

They make steel plates for that exact purpose. (Simpson Strong Tie).

Practically speaking, since it was only one joist, and since there have not been any problems related to this in over forty years, I think it’s safe to say her house isn’t going to fall down over it.

If her municipality is requiring it to be fixed in order to sell it, a properly dimensioned steel plate is the right way to go.

Mark Nahrgang is the owner of Kingdom Inspection Network Group – St. Louis and is a professional NACHI certified building inspector in the St. Louis metro area. Mark performs home inspections as well as commercial inspections throughout St. Louis and St. Charles County.


Q. Okay to Add More Insulation On Top of Vermiculite?

Q. Hey Mark,
I have read the postings about vermiculite and that you should not disturb it. We only have 6 inches of insulation in our attic and need more [for] our cold winter weather. How do we add more insulation to the attic without disturbing the vermiculite and causing a health hazard? Will a professional insulation company add insulation over it?

Hey Victoria,
It’s hard to tell you what would be best in your situation without actually looking at the home, but I can give you some options to consider.

One option that would be a permanent solution, is to have have the vermiculite professionally removed and replaced. That’s going to be a fairly expensive proposition and one that isn’t always necessary. If the insulation is staying where it is supposed to be, isn’t sifting into the living area around lights and fixtures, and has no traffic on or around it, a lower cost solution would be to cover it up.

I would recommend that you interview the insulation companies in your area, and make sure that their installers are familiar with vermiculite and the possibility that it contains asbestos. If their installers are well trained, and properly equipped, they may be able to either lay rolled insulation, or blow additional fiber or cellulose insulation over the top of what you already have. That will of course disturb what you have to a certain degree, but a properly trained and equipped installer will minimize the disturbance as much as is reasonably possible. Remember though, with the second option, you must always be aware of the vermiculite’s presence. Anyone going into the attic should be notified of it’s existence. And any remodeling that will disturb it will need to be done professionally, as well. If you have insulation added, make sure you document what was done and keep the receipts. When you go to sell the home, put some wording in your disclosure of this nature… “In 2008 we added 8 inches of blown cellulose insulation on top of the original 6 inches of vermiculite.” This does two things… It informs the buyer that vermiculite is present, and also lets them know that you improved the home by adding insulation and by covering the vermiculite. Reduce buyer suspicions by disclosing up front and increase buyer peace of mind by advertising the improvement.

Bottom line, I would recommend that you get several estimates from some asbestos remediation companies for removal, as well as insulation companies for covering it up. This will allow you to make the best decision based on your specific circumstances.

Mark Nahrgang is the owner of Kingdom Inspection Network Group – St. Louis and is a professional NACHI certified building inspector in the St. Louis metro area. Mark performs home inspections as well as commercial inspections throughout St. Louis and St. Charles County.

Q. Home Inspector Disturbed the Vermiculite… Problem?

Hey Mark!

I just read your question about a seller having asbestos in their home. I am on the other end, the buyer. I just had an inspection and the inspector found vermiculite in a portion of the home. It is covered by about 8-10 inches of new installation.

One concern, the inspector stuck his hand into the vermiculite and pulled out a handful to show me.. does this fall under the category of ‘do not disturb the asbestos’ or is this ok?

Thank you!


Hey Maria,

While a minor disturbance such as this may not be a major health risk in and of itself, the cumulative effect of exposure to asbestos is a proven threat.  Apparently your inspector has a comfort level with it that exceeds what the EPA recommends.  They recommend NOT disturbing the vermiculite insulation.  If it is disturbed inadvertently, they recommend leaving the area and allowing the dust to settle.

Even though the inspector should not have disturbed it, I might also say that it is good that he found the vermiculite.  Most inspectors don’t move insulation around.  His “probing” was what lead him to the discovery.

Now, you need to ask yourself how much you love the home. If you love it, and can either live in the home without disturbing the insulation, or can have it removed, then the home may still be a good option for you. The fact that additional insulation is on top of the vermiculite does give it an additional barrier that may help to minimize disturbances. You can read more about vermiculite insulation and asbestos on the EPA’s website so that you can be well-informed as you make your decision.


Mark Nahrgang is the owner of Kingdom Inspection Network Group – St. Louis and is a professional NACHI certified building inspector in the St. Louis metro area. Mark performs home inspections as well as commercial inspections throughout St. Louis and St. Charles County.

Granite Countertops and Radon

Some Realtors have reported that they are getting questions from their clients about the safety of granite countertops. This is due to some information that has recently circulated regarding its potential for radioactivity. The American Association for Radon Scientists and Technologists (AARST) has released a statement on radon and granite counter tops.  This statement is directly in line with previous posts at www.HeyMark.info on that subject.

Read more at: http://www.aarst.org/images/AARST_Granite_Position_Statement_8-04-2008.pdf

Mark Nahrgang is the owner of Kingdom Inspection Network Group – St. Louis and is a professional NACHI certified building inspector in the St. Louis metro area. Mark performs home inspections as well as commercial inspections throughout St. Louis and St. Charles County.

Q. Isn’t Today’s Vermiculite Okay to Use for Insulation?

Hey Mark,
I am told that the vermiculite currently mined has no asbestos.
Here is the website: http://www.vermiculite.com/

The reason I am interested in using vermiculite as an attic insulation is that it is one of the few materials that is non toxic and non flammable. Fiberglass is flammable and in addition, I hate working with the stuff.

Does anyone know of any other materials other than vermucilite that is both non toxic and non flammable? My problem is that I own a Victorian and there are no firebreaks in the walls and no sheet rock.

Hey David,
It is also my understanding that the vermiculite that is currently being mined is tested for asbestos.  And because of that, today’s sources are free from asbestos.  However, in spite of the fact that vermiculite does have many practical uses, and would potentially make a great home insulation, it is not being used that way today.  And, I think you are asking for trouble if you do.

If you eventually try to sell the home, your buyers will have a home inspection performed.  That inspector will more than likely identify your insulation as vermiculite.  Since it is not currently being used as an insulation material, there will be cause to question if it is contaminated with asbestos or not.  Continue reading

Q. Should I Be Worried About My Granite Countertops?

Q. Hey Mark,

I’ve been hearing that Granite counter tops might be dangerous. I’m concerned because we just spent a lot money putting some in our new home. I don’t understand it all and just need to know if I should have the granite removed.



A. Hey Tammy,

I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about granite too, both positive and negative. It is possible that those in the composite counter top industry have been capitalizing on some research showing that some granite does emit radiation. On the other hand, those in the granite industry are saying that granite is perfectly safe. If you Google this, you are going to find articles that support both sides.

I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle.  That is, while granite does have the potential to emit radiation, I suspect that in most cases a counter top is not going to contain enough radon producing materials to affect your exposure levels significantly. Yes, I have heard that if you hold a Geiger counter next to a granite counter top it may go off, but I’ve also been told that if you hold one next to a banana it will go off due to the potassium. Knowing what to believe is hard to discern.

The first thing I would suggest is  having a radon test ran in your home. This is something that every homeowner should have done anyway, and it will help you determine whether you have anything to worry about. Continue reading

Q. Do I Have Vermiculite Insulation? (Bankrupcy Claims)

Q. Hey Mark!
We live in Las Vegas, NV and have lived in our home for 14 years.  Our home was built in 1978.

The only reason I am becoming more aware of Vermiculite Insulation, is because I saw an ad on TV the other night that stated there is some type of Class Action Lawsuit going on over Vermiculite.  I did not get to jot down the phone number on the advertisement, so if you know anything about this, could you please let me know who is conducting this suit and maybe a phone number to call ?

We have often wondered since we moved into this home, if it was a “sick” home…we all very frequently feel conjested, “clogged up”, …we have never been this way in any of our other homes we owned.

How can we tell if we have Vermiculite in our attic?….


Hey Alice,
Thanks for your question.  We recently noticed a sudden spike in vermiculite-related inquiries at http://www.HeyMark.Info and weren’t sure why. Thanks to your question, we became aware of a bankruptcy claim concerning vermiculite insulation. Details on this can be found at http://www.graceclaims.com/index.shtml. Homeowners with vermiculite insulation should take a moment to visit that web site. I will be letting my St. Louis area home inspection clients know about this situation, as well.

To determine if you have vermiculite insulation, I’d suggest that you compare it to some photographs. Vermiculite has fairly distinctive features. Continue reading