The New Hampshire woman had been in and out of hospitals for two years trying to discover the cause of her allergies and sleepless nights. With no relief in sight, she and her husband hired contractor Ed Saltalamacchia to assess and, if necessary, remediate the crawl space under their home.
What the 15-year veteran discovered may not seem particularly important to most homeowners. Yet living under the floor of the couple's dwelling was a common condition that threatens the health or may be responsible for killing thousands of unsuspecting people every year: standing water, moisture, and Radon gas.
Not convinced a mud puddle beneath a home matters much? Conclusive evidence reveals that wet basements and crawl spaces are the breeding ground for sickly mold spores and a conduit for deadly toxic gases. Both invisible enemies naturally rise through the floors of unprotected domestic structures; if not stopped, eventually they will destroy lives and living spaces.
Two months after Saltalamacchia sealed the crawl space under the couple's home, he received a call. The woman was no longer wheezing and she was sleeping through the night. "It made me feel great. It's the one thing I feel good about when doing this kind of work. I'm making a healthier living space for somebody, especially kids. I've got kids and grandkids and I wouldn't want them to be in and out of the hospital for no good reason. And it's a great opportunity to make good money."
Like many contractors, the owner of the Sutton-based Wet Basement Solutions was not always aware of how deadly mold and toxic gases could be. He was quickly educated when he began examining crawl spaces that were so lethal airborne particles would make his eyes burn.
He tried various sealants and techniques for capping the underworld of a home. But the plastics came in large rolls that were difficult to work with in tight crawl spaces, where dirt floors are uneven and boulders get in the way. And the adhesives couldn't guarantee an air-tight seal — essential when protecting families from marauding toxins.
About two years ago Saltalamacchia's quest for better solutions led him to basement and crawl space products by Emecole, Inc., of Romeoville, IL. He can now seal a crawl space in half the time it took with other products — a big savings in labor costs. Also, the insulating blankets he uses are flexible, easy to seal and provide several important benefits: a vapor barrier that outlasts and out-performs traditional insulation, radiant heat reflection that also prevents condensation, and an aluminum backing that keeps pests out.
"This system has a different product for each step of the work, and that makes my life a lot easier. Everything is quicker. We've tripled our business doing crawl spaces just by word of mouth. And it keeps out the mice and squirrels and everything else. We haven't had any calls saying the creatures have moved back in. I'm thrilled with it."
War of the Underworlds
On behalf of his Nevada clients and community, contractor Richard Walter has declared war on radon, micro-toxins and other silent underworld killers. To make clear why he is so adamant, the 38-year veteran of crawl space syndrome reads aloud the headline from a local paper — Dangerous Gas May Lurk in One-Third of Homes — and then sadly shares some startling statistics: Every year more than 20,000 non-smokers die of lung cancer.
A significant portion of these fatalities can be linked to exposure to radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is present in rocks and soils. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, when radon enters an enclosed space such as a house, high concentrations may lead to an unacceptable health risk.
"We've got radon everywhere, we've lost thousands of lives to gas poisoning, but not enough people are aware of it. These are things that are happening to us that are unnecessary. We can eliminate the gas for pennies," says the CEO and owner of Gardnerville-based A+ Engineering Construction.