New Home Inspections
If you are buying a home with a septic tank, you should consider having it inspected by a professional septic contractor. Our standard home inspection does not include this type of specialized, intrusive inspection. To properly inspect the system, the contractor will need to dig holes to access the underground parts of the system. This will include inspecting the tank, as well as the leach field.
It makes good sense to have the tank pumped at the time of this inspection. A professional septic contractor can perform both the inspection and pump the tank, killing two birds with one stone and assuring that you begin with an empty tank and a system that has been inspected. Often, you can negotiate with the seller to have them pay for the pumping.
Radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Radon seeps into the lowest levels of your home through tiny, often unseen, cracks in your foundation. Radon exists naturally in the earth's soil, and tiny vulnerabilities in your home's foundation allow it to seep into your home where it slowly builds over time and wreaks havoc on your health over time.
Radon gas - even the name sounds ominous, evoking images of radiation and nuclear devastation is created when uranium in the soil decays. The gas then seeps through any access point into a home. Common entry points are cracks in the foundation, poorly sealed pipes, drainage, or any other loose point. Once in the home, the gas can collect in certain areas especially basements and other low-lying, closed areas, and build up over time to dangerous levels. The Environmental Protection Agency of the US Government has set a threshold of 4 picocuries per liter as the safe level. As humans are exposed to the gas over a period of years, it can have a significant and detrimental effect.
If high concentrations of radon are found in your home, you have several options. Since radon is only a problem when it is concentrated in high volume, improving the ventilation in an area is often sufficient to solve the problem. In other cases, it may be necessary to limit the amount of radon getting into the home by sealing or otherwise obstructing the access points. Once again, a professional should be engaged to ensure that the radon is effectively blocked. Typical radon mitigation systems can cost between $800 and $2500, according to the EPA.
If you're buying or selling a home, radon can be a significant issue. Buyers should be aware of the radon risk in their area and determine whether a radon test is desirable. When in doubt, the EPA always recommends testing. The cost of the test can be built into the house price. If test results already exist, make sure they are recent or that the home has not been significantly renovated since the test was performed. If in doubt, get a new test done. If you're selling a home, having a recent radon test is a great idea. By being proactive, you can assure potential buyers that there is no risk and avoid the issue from the start.
So whether you have an old home or a new one, live in an old mining town or in the middle of the Great Plains, radon is a reality. But it is a reality that we can live with. Proper testing and mitigation, can eliminate radon as a health threat. For more information, visit the EPA web site on radon at https://www.epa.gov/radon.
Water damage can come from several sources: floods, burst pipes, leaky roofs, seepage, etc. Many types are obvious, as is the damage caused by them. But even if you can’t see the damage right away, a slow flow of water can often be worse than obvious leaks. Left untreated, it can cause:
- Pipe Corrosion
- Foundation damage
- Foul odors
Repairing hidden water damage can be an even greater challenge. Depending upon the source of the damage, it may or may not be covered by homeowner’s insurance. In the case of mold, getting rid of the problem may be a monumental undertaking.
How can you protect yourself from this menace? A professional inspection can help. Using advanced moisture detection devices, coupled with years of experience, we can often detect water damage long before it becomes a problem.
Many homes today have been built with trusses - prefabricated structural assemblies that hold up the roof and the top floor ceilings. Trusses are a series of triangles fastened together with gusset plates. The outside members of a truss are called chords while the inner pieces are known as webs.
Truss uplift occurs when the top chord of the truss expands while the bottom chord contracts due to changes in humidity. Truss uplift usually becomes visible in a home during the winter when the bottom chords (the ceiling joist part of the truss), which are buried under ceiling insulation, stay warm and dry but the top chords are exposed to moisture. The resulting stress causes the truss to lift up at its center. When this happens, a crack can appear at the wall/ceiling juncture.
From a structural standpoint, truss uplift isn’t a problem, but cosmetically, it can cause cracks and separations in the drywall. Many homeowners try to repair the cracks with drywall compound, only to have them reappear next year. Contractors can mask truss uplift by securing the ceiling drywall to the top of the interior walls and not the trusses for 18 inches away from the interior walls. As the drywall flexes, it stays fastened to the walls while the trusses lift above it. Decorative molding can also be installed where the walls meet the ceilings. The molding should be fastened to the ceilings, not to the walls so as the ceiling moves up, so does the molding thereby hiding the gap.
Mold in the Home
The first thing to understand about mold is that there is a little mold everywhere – indoors and outdoors. It's in the air and can be found on plants, foods, dry leaves, and other organic materials.
It's very common to find molds in homes and buildings. After all, molds grow naturally indoors. And mold spores enter the home through doorways, windows, and heating and air conditioning systems. Spores also enter the home on animals, clothing, shoes, bags, and people.
When mold spores drop where there is excessive moisture in your home, they will grow. Common problem sites include humidifiers, leaky roofs and pipes, overflowing sinks, bathtubs and plant pots, steam from cooking, wet clothes drying indoors, dryers exhausting indoors, or where there has been flooding.
Many of the building materials for homes provide suitable nutrients for mold, helping it to grow. Such materials include paper and paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, wood and wood products, dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation materials, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery.
Exposure to mold
Everyone is exposed to some amount of mold on a daily basis, most without any apparent reaction. Generally, mold spores can cause problems when they are present in large numbers and a person inhales large quantities of them. This occurs primarily when there is active mold growth.
For some people, a small exposure to mold spores can trigger an asthma attack or lead to other health problems. For others, symptoms may only occur when exposure levels are much higher.
The health effects of mold can vary. The production of allergens or irritants can cause mild allergic reactions and asthma attacks. The production of potentially toxic mycotoxins can cause more severe reactions and in rare cases death.
Should I be concerned about mold in my home?
Yes. If indoor mold is extensive, those in your home can be exposed to very high and persistent airborne mold spores. It is possible to become sensitized to these mold spores and develop allergies or other health concerns, even if one is not normally sensitive to mold.
Left unchecked, mold growth can cause structural damage to your home as well as permanent damage to furnishings and carpet.
According to the Centers for Disease Control*, "It is not necessary, however, to determine what type of mold you may have. All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal."
Can my home be tested for mold?
Yes. If you are concerned about MOLD, you can hire a company specializing in testing. Air samples CAN BE TAKEN indoors and out to determine whether the number of spores inside your home is significantly higher. If the indoor level is higher, it could mean that mold is growing inside your home.
Prior to 1978, paints and other products containing lead were widely used in homes and offices. Chipping and peeling paint can expose occupants to this hazardous material. In addition, many older plumbing systems utilized lead-based solder to join pipes. This lead can leach into the water, especially when running hot water. In certain areas, high concentrations of lead can even be found in the ground soil.
Unknown in years past, it is now clear that lead causes a number of health-related problems. In children, this can include growth and learning disabilities, headaches, and even brain damage. Adults are not immune either. High levels of lead have been tied to problem pregnancies, high-blood pressure, and digestive problems.
Asbestos is a tiny fiber that was used in the past primarily as insulation. It was also added to some building materials to provide added strength and flame resistance. The problem with asbestos is that it has been shown to cause lung cancer and mesothelioma in individuals that were exposed to large amounts of free-floating asbestos fibers in the air. These conditions typically did not become apparent until around 30 years after the exposure. Because of the health hazards of asbestos fibers, its use in insulation and paint was banned in the 1970s.
What you need to know about asbestos
Homes built prior to the 1970s could contain asbestos in insulation, plumbing, paint, wall joint compound, and other building materials. However, as long as the materials are in good condition, they pose no danger. Asbestos is only a threat if the fibers are released into the air and can be inhaled.
Renovations or demolitions of materials containing asbestos can release the fibers into the air. Therefore, the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) requires the owner of any property containing asbestos building materials to get an asbestos inspection prior to any demolitions or renovations of that property.
How can asbestos be removed?
If your home contains asbestos, you have two options: removal of the material or sealing the material to prevent it from releasing fibers. Either option requires the help of a trained professional. DO NOT UNDERTAKE THIS YOURSELF.
It seems that we hear a lot about environmental concerns these days. Much of it is simply the result of a greater awareness than in the past. And even though there isn't anything to be concerned with in most homes, there are still a number of potential home environmental issues that buyers should be aware of.
Water quality is probably the most common concern and the one most often tested for. Typically, a basic water quality test will check pH, water hardness, the presence of fluoride, sodium, iron, and manganese, plus bacteria such as E-coli. Additionally, water may be tested for the presence of lead or arsenic.
In homes built before 1978, lead-based paint may be present. Generally, if the lead-based paint is in good condition, not cracking or peeling, it is not a hazard. If the condition is hazardous, the paint will either need to be removed or sealed in such a manner as to eliminate the hazard.
Another common environmental concern with the home is radon. Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural decay of uranium in the soil. Pretty much all homes have some radon present, tests can determine if the level present is higher than what is considered safe. If the level is too high, a radon-reduction system will need to be installed.
In older homes built more than 30 years ago, asbestos was used in many types of insulation and other building materials. If the asbestos is releasing fibers into the air, it needs to be removed or repaired by a professional contractor specializing in asbestos cleanup. But, if the asbestos material is in good repair, and not releasing fibers, it poses no hazard and can be left alone.