Home Inspection Tips – Lowering Radon Levels

It’s possible a home inspection will reveal the existence of radon gas seeping up through the ground into the living area of the home you want to buy. Radon is known for causing lung cancer, so you don’t want it around. What can you do to decrease the seriousness of the problem? In other words, what do you do to mitigate the radon threat?

Radon resistant techniques can be simple and passive and will lower radon levels when done properly. They can lower levels of moisture and other soil gasses, too. Radon resistant techniques have the additional benefit of making your home more energy efficient and can help you save on energy costs. Save money when a home is first built by not having to deal with the problem later if these techniques are put into place with common building materials.

Even in a new home, radon testing should be done to be sure the level is below 4 pCi/L. If radon levels are high, a passive system can be turned into what’s called an active system by adding a vent fan to reduce radon levels.

You’ll need to find someone who is considered to be a qualified radon mitigator to install radon resistant techniques, whether your home is new or not. Costs will vary, but should be similar to other home repairs you may need to have done.

What are these radon resistant techniques? It’s important to note that this depends on your home’s foundation. Also, if you’re having a house built, ask your builder if they’re using EPA’s recommended approach.

The first radon resistant technique of note is a gas-permeable layer, which is used only in homes with casement and slab-on-grade foundations. It is not used in homes with crawlspace foundations. It usually consists of a four inch layer of clean gravel placed under the slab or flooring system. It’s meant to allow the gas to move freely under the house. Plastic sheeting is placed on top of the gas permeable layer and under the slab to help prevent the soil gas from getting into the home

When a home has crawl spaces, plastic sheeting is placed over the crawlspace floor. This serves as a moisture barrier as well.

Sealing and caulking is another technique. Any below-grade openings in the concrete foundation floor are sealed to reduce the amount of soil gases getting into the home.

When there’s a gas-permeable layer under the home, a vent pipe is put into the gravel and runs through the house and to the roof to vent gases away from the living area. The pipe used is a 3- or 4-inch gas-tight or PVC pipe, or other gas-tight pipe.

If it’s necessary to use a vent fan to reduce high radon levels, an electrical junction box is included in the attic to make the wiring and installation of a vent fan easier. A separate junction box is put in the living space to power the vent fan alarm. That’s because an alarm is installed along the vent fan to indicate when that fan isn’t operating properly.

Your home inspector or other qualified radon mitigation professional should know the best place to put radon test equipment. It should go into the lowest level of the home that’s occupied regularly, such as any place used as a bedroom, play or exercise area, den or workshop. The EPA says testing should not be done in a closet, stairway, hallway, crawl space or in an enclosed area where there’s either high humidity or breezy air circulation. Avoid places like the kitchen, laundry room,bathroom or furnace room.

There’s no way to accurately know the level of radon in the home you’re building, buying or selling unless radon testing is done. Be sure your home inspector or other qualified professional can do the testing for you. You don’t have to put your family’s health at risk from radon.

Five Tips To Quickly Recognize Serious Structural Problems – Home Inspection Tips For Denver-Boulder

Five tips to quickly recognize serious structural problems

Serious structural problems in houses are not very common, but when they occur they can be difficult & costly to repair. These tips won’t turn you into a home inspector, but it will give you some of the common indicators of structural concerns. In these cases, a structural engineer should be called out to investigate further and provide a professional opinion.

Tip 1 – Leaning House

Take a macro-look at the home from across the street – is the house obviously tilting or leaning, or one edge of the home separating?

Tip 2 – Exterior Walls & Entries

Look for areas of wall separation greater than ½” in size
Check the Chimney area well – is the chimney separating from the home?

Tip 3 – Doors & Windows

Do doors and windows open freely? Look for cracks around the edges of windows and doors, and for sagging lintels on brick homes.

Tip 4 -Floors & Walls

Are there drywall cracks > ¼” in size? Are there uneven floors near corners?

Tip 5 – Basement Foundation Crack

Look for significant cracks both inside and outside on the foundation, particularly near corners, around windows, and any cracks that run the full length vertically or a considerable length horizontally.

Summary

o Tip1 – Is the house obviously leaning?

o Tip 2 – Are there large external cracks?

o Tip 3 – Are doors & windows sticking?

o Tip 4 – Are walls cracked or floors uneven?

o Tip 5 – Are there basement cracks present?

Any of these may indicate a structural issue that should be inspected or reviewed by a structural engineer. Structural concerns when selling or purchasing a home are the most costly items you can be faced with. Look closely at these areas, or ask you home inspector to focus on these areas in a separate walk through of the home. If you aren’t sure about something you see, have a structural engineer look at it. The cost of an inspection will be well worth the peace of mind in knowing the severity and extent of the concern.

George Scott, Scott Home Inspection LLC,

http://www.scotthomeinspection.com/

5 Home Inspection Tips For Open House Visits

Fortunately, prospective homebuyers do not have to be professional home inspectors to be able to identify certain problems in a home.

Regardless of whether you are the “handy” type or more of the “book” type, you will be able to spot certain problematic areas with a little bit of guidance. Thus, if you are going through the home purchasing process and you are viewing different homes, keep yours eyes open for some of the following.

NOTE: to better prepare you before heading to your next open house, go on the Internet to look up images regarding some of the problems noted below (e.g. water damaged ceiling, termite damage, flooded basement, mold, cracked foundation).

1) Discolored Walls and/or Ceilings

Discoloration on walls and/or ceilings is usually indicative of water damage or mold. Neither one is good for the home. If you see this, make a note of it.

Water damage could result from leaky pipes, broken pipes, improperly installed window flashing, or even a leaky roof. Each of these can be quite expensive to repair. Where there is excessive moisture, there is a chance that mold will grow. This is especially concerning since mold exposure is linked to certain health concerns. Mold can also cause structural damage to any property it inhabits.

2) Wood Damage

If there are hardwood floors in the house be sure to look for any signs of damage. More specifically, look for lines that resemble trails of some sort. This can be indicative of damage caused by termites or other wood-destroying insects.

In addition, if you can observe wooden beams in the basement, be sure to have a close look for any impairments. Damaged wooden beams can also be attributed to a wood-destroying insect.

3) Dampness in Basement

If the home you are viewing has a basement, look for any signs of excessive moisture while you are down there. Such dampness can mean that the basement floods or that there is water seepage during rainstorms. It can also lead to the growth of mold, which thrives in dark and moist environments.

4) Drafty Windows

While you are in the house, run your hands across some of the windows to feel for any air getting through. On a hot summer day this will be more difficult, not impossible to do, but try it anyway.

Windows can become a much bigger headache than most people think. Repairing windows can be rather expensive, depending on the type and quality you’re seeking. This does not necessarily mean you will have to repair the windows; there are some inexpensive remedies that work well. But, having this knowledge prior to making your purchase permits you to take it into consideration when deciding whether or not to place a bid.

5) Cracked Foundation

At some point before you leave the house, be sure to look around the exterior of the property for signs of damage to the outer structure or foundation. Sometimes there will literally be a large crack going across a section of the home’s foundation. Although this doesn’t always indicate a serious problem with the house, it is worth knowing about and looking into.

Closing

These are just a handful of home inspection tips that you should keep in mind when you are viewing different prospective houses. The benefit is that you can identify some problems on your own and possibly eliminate certain houses from your list that you weren’t too sure of in the first place.

Once you have found a home that you feel comfortable with, have a professional home inspector conduct a thorough inspection. This will ensure that you have all of the information you need regarding the actual condition of the home to make your final purchasing decision.

Best of luck!