Quick Facts about Indoor Air Quality

* Indoor air quality can be worse than that of outdoor air.
* Problems can arise from moisture, insects, pets, appliances, radon, materials used in household products and furnishings, smoke and other sources. All of which affect the indoor air quality.
* Effects of poor indoor air quality range from minor annoyances to major health risks.
* Remedies of poor indoor air quality include ventilation, cleaning, moisture control, inspections, and following manufacturers’ directions when using appliances and products. Research has shown that the indoor air quality can be worse than that of outdoor air. Many homes are built or remodeled more tightly, without regard to the factors that assure fresh and healthy indoor air quality. Our homes today contain many furnishings, appliances and products that can affect indoor air quality.
Signs of indoor air quality problems include:
* Unusual and noticeable odors.
* Stale or stuffy air.
* Noticeable lack of air movement.
* Dirty or faulty central heating or air conditioning equipment.
* Damaged flue pipes or chimneys.
* Unvented combustion air sources for fossil fuel appliances.
* Excessive humidity.
* Presence of molds and mildew.
* Health reaction after remodeling, weatherizing, using new furniture, using household and hobby products, or moving into a new home.
* Feeling noticeably healthier outside.

Common Sources of Indoor Air Pollution
Poor indoor air quality can arise from many sources. At least some of the following contaminants can be found in almost any home:

* Moisture and biological pollutants such as molds, mildew, dust mites, animal dander and cockroaches from high humidity levels, inadequate ventilation, and poorly maintained humidifiers and air conditioners.
* Combustion products, including carbon monoxide, from unvented fossil fuel space heaters, unvented gas stoves and ovens, and back drafting from furnaces and water heaters.
* Formaldehyde from durable press draperies and other textiles, particle board products such as cabinets and furniture framing, and adhesives.
* Radon, a radioactive gas from soil and rock beneath and around the home’s foundation, groundwater wells and some building materials.
* Household products and furnishings such as paints, solvents, air fresheners, hobby supplies, dry-cleaned clothing, aerosol sprays, adhesives, and fabric additives used in carpeting and furniture which can release volatile organic compounds.
* Asbestos found in most homes more than 20 years old. Sources include deteriorating, damaged or disturbed pipe insulation, fire retardant, acoustical material and floor tiles.
* Lead from lead-based paint dust created when removing paint by sanding, scraping or burning.
* Particulates from dust and pollen, fireplaces, wood stoves, kerosene heaters and unvented gas space heaters affect indoor air quality.
* Tobacco smoke, which produces particulates, combustion products and formaldehyde.
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Radon Mitigation

The EPA recommends a Standard Practice for Installing Radon Mitigation Systems in Existing Low-Rise Residential Buildings. This is a voluntary, consensus-based standard that was developed and issued by the American Society for Testing and Materials International, and is identified as ASTM E-2121.

When talking with a contractor about your mitigation alternatives, insure they follow the recommended standard set forth by the EPA. 

Many General Contractors are building the mitigation right into the new construction, “just in case”. If you’re building a new home, it may be wise to inquire about this, as it may save you money down the road. Compare a system put in at time of construction to one put in 5 or 10 years later. It may just be money in your pocket. 

The basic concept behind radon mitigation is redirecting the radon gas before it gets into the home. By intercepting the gas before it enters the home, there is a much lower risk to the occupants of the home. 

There are several methods used as a mitigation for high radon levels.

The first is also the most used form of remediation.

Whether it is a slab, crawlspace or basement will dictate for the most part how much it’s going to cost.

√ Sub-Slab Ventilation.

Pipes are inserted into drilled penetrations in the slab. These pipes are then connected to a fan which draws the gas outside, usually through the roof.

√ Block Wall Ventilation.

Positive pressure- forcing air into the hollow block walls or negative pressure- using an exhaust fan to remove the radon can be used as a mitigating method.

√ Sealing penetrations.

Penetrations, cracks and voids in floors and walls are access points that radon readily passes through. Sealing is not a reliable method used alone.

√ Covering exposed earth under the home.

Covering a crawlspace floor with an impermeable material will help lower radon levels. As with all of these methods, proper application technique will determine its efficiency.

√ Drain-tile suction.

A perimeter drain is installed at the footing of the foundation. A fan is used to apply a negative pressure which draws radon away from the surrounding soil.

√ Replacement air.

Fresh air make up for combustion appliances (furnaces, gas water heaters) can help reduce the negative pressure induced in the home while running these systems.

√ Forced ventilation.

This method uses fans to exchange the indoor air multiple times per day. This not a viable method in climates where such temperature ranges exist. However a heat recovery system can reduce the wasted energy.

The only way to accurately determine the cost to you is to have a company dealing with radon mitigation give you an on-site estimate.

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Radon Testing

Radon testing and why you should do it.

20,000 people die each year because the home they live in has high levels of radon. The EPA’s action level is 4.0 pCi/L or more (thats about the same as smoking 1/2 pack of cigarettes a day). The EPA has a new Public Service Announcement (PSA) concerning radon. U.S. Surgeon General’s warning indicates radon causes lung cancer and that you should test your home.

Radon is an odorless and colorless gas that forms during the radioactive decay of uranium in the ground. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer, smoking being the first. With all the information about CO (carbon monoxide) widely available it only kills approx. 300 people /year. Thats a big disparity of awareness. The information is available for everyone to read, but until 2 and 2 are put together, like with smoking, people will continue to die

Radon testing came about in the early 1980’s. An engineer in NY working at a nuclear power plant kept setting off radiation alarms when he came into work. His home was tested and found to have over 2,700 picocuries of radon. His home was mitigated using piping and fans to draw the radon to the outside of the home. Mitigation of this type often costs around $1000 but can much be more.

Radon testing costs between $120 and $150 but has the potential (like a home inspection) of saving thousands. Not to mention the health risks. 

READ NEXT: Radon Mitigation

Why You Can’t Rely on Your Real Estate Agent for Inspections

People tend to rely on the real estate agent only while buying a house. This is not advisable. After all, an agent, while working to satisfy clients, is also focused on making a deal in order to make his commission. But you need to buy a house in order to live in. So you need to get it inspected thoroughly. You should think about consulting a professional. Here are things you need to know and what you can expect from your professional.

Doing building and pest inspection before a purchase
It is very important to get a house inspected properly before buying it. After all, there is no point in buying a house and then realizing soon after that it requires major structural repairs or renovation, which means spending a large amount of money. An estate agent is generally not very keen to get a building and pest inspection done. This is because this kind of inspection will require a lot of time. The estate agent will not have so much time to spend on each deal. Hence they would try to dissuade the buyer from getting any kind of building inspection done.

Know all about building inspection
While doing building inspection, one will come across minor as well as major repair issues. It is important to remember here that no house is perfect. Some amount of repairs will always be necessary. The buyer needs to decide how much of repair work they would be able to handle. Besides, there will always be routine repair and maintenance issues. The buyer should not expect the seller to deal with each of these issues.

What a buyer needs to focus upon is the major structural issues that may affect the resale value of the house. Also, the house should not be in such a condition that it may harm the occupants of the house. In fact, while having the initial talks with the estate agent, it is important to discuss out all these things. Basically, the estate agent needs to be on the same page as the buyer. This way he will not be wasting time in showing that property to the buyer which does not meet all his requirements.

Getting building and pest inspection done properly
It is important to inform the estate agent that building inspection will be done before buying the house. In case there are major structural repair issues requiring big expense, the cost of the house has to come down accordingly. While finalizing the deal, the estate agent will be in a rush to close the deal. At this time, he would ask the buyer to raise the price in order to close the deal. He may even say that there are other buyers and the house may go away. At that time, proper negotiation is required rather than getting pushed by the estate agent. It is vital to get a properly qualified inspector to get the building and pest inspection done. This inspection has to be done from the foundation to the rooftop. There are so many details to be considered. In case the house is old, the time taken will be much more.

READ NEXT: Radon Testing

Using Online Listings to Prepare for Home Inspections

Home inspectors work long, hard days. In addition to inspecting several spaces in a day, most return to their offices to write the necessary reports and distribute to waiting clients. The less time you spend on a single home, the more efficient you can be. One strategy to help you save time is to review the online real estate listings for the property the night before an appointment. By pre-documenting this information, you can have access to key information, which you can then verify or disclaim once on the job sight. Here are a few things to keep in mind while previewing the home.

 

Remember the Details

Online listings are an excellent tool for collecting basic information to include in your report. Use the photographs and public assessor’s records to determine details about the house you’ve been hired to inspect. Include these details in your report the night before so you can devote less time to information-gathering on the day of the job.

 

Keep an Eye Out

Online listings can help you determine essential details, like missing devices, water supply information, and building materials. Keep an eye out for roof covering materials, exterior cladding, vegetation touching the exterior, foundation type, heat method and fuel source, the cooling method, and if a fireplace is present. These observations will be necessary for your report and compiling them in advance will save a lot of time.

 

Internal Factors

The listing page is an excellent place to collect information regarding the home’s age, the number of stories, whether the house is on a sloped or flat lot, and what comprises the driveway’s materials. You should also be able to determine if the range is gas or electric, whether the home is vacant or occupied, and what type of permanently installed kitchen appliances are available.

 

Trust but Verify

While you can use the listing page as an excellent source for your report, it is essential to check for the existence of every detail you record. You can’t fully rely on the listing agent’s sales pitch or the details therein; you must verify those elements in order to include them as facts in your report. If you can’t verify a listing detail, consider attributing a comment in the report.

READ NEXT: Why You Can’t Rely on Your Real Estate Agent for Inspections