Author: Aubrey Mckinney

Home Inspection Tips for Home Buyers

If you’re looking to buy a new home, the inspection process always comes before the sale. It could be the most critical step when going through the home buying process. An inspector can help you find any issues and reopen the doors for renegotiation, or help you prevent any problems if you are looking to sell.

Typically, as a buyer, you would hire an inspector to come and take a look at the house. The home inspector will then point out any health, safety, or other significant issues they may find. A buyer’s inspection will generally occur after you’ve made your first offer on the home, and this will then allow you to renegotiate the price if any issues are found.

As a seller, a home inspection will need to be taken care of before the home is listed. A smart seller will get their home inspected during the beginning stages of selling their house so they can ensure any issues are fixed before the buyers come knocking. This will save time during the closing process.

Things home inspectors look for include:

  • Water damage
  • Any major structure issues
  • Status of the roof
  • Electrical/plumbing systems
  • Pests
  • HVAC systems

After the buyer’s inspection is complete, the seller can then have their inspection to confirm any of the issues found. If the new inspection has shown any discrepancies with the buyer’s initial investigation, the seller can then choose to walk away from the sale. Not a bad idea if there are other buyers waiting in the wings.

Once the home inspections are complete, the buyer and seller can then negotiate the updated contract. The buyer can, at this point, also choose to drop the deal. If the buyer decides to walk away, then the seller will need to put their house back up for sale. When they do this, they will have to show that the house was pending sale. This is a red flag when purchasing homes and an excellent time to ask the seller to explain why the previous deal didn’t work out.

Home inspections are meant to keep buyers and sellers safe, and it’s a necessary step before you decide to purchase any home.

Indoor Air Quality Pollution and Health

Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure or, possibly, years later.

Immediate effects
Immediate effects may show up after a single exposure or repeated exposures. These include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Such immediate effects are usually short-term and treatable. Sometimes the treatment is simply eliminating the person’s exposure to the source of the pollution, if it can be identified. Symptoms of somaticizes, including asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and humidifier fever, may also show up soon after exposure to some indoor air pollutants. The likelihood of immediate reactions to indoor air quality pollutants depends on several factors. Age and pre-existing medical conditions are two important influences. In other cases, whether a person reacts to a pollutant depends on individual sensitivity, which varies tremendously from person to person. Some people can become sensitized to biological pollutants after repeated exposures, and it appears that some people can become sensitized to chemical pollutants as well.

Certain immediate effects are similar to those from colds or other viral diseases, so it is often difficult to determine if the symptoms are a result of exposure to indoor air quality pollution. For this reason, it is important to pay attention to the time and place symptoms occur. If the symptoms fade or go away when a person is away from home, for example, an effort should be made to identify indoor air quality sources that may be possible causes. Some effects may be made worse by an inadequate supply of outdoor air or from the heating, cooling, or humidity conditions prevalent in the home.

Long-term effects
Other health effects may show up either years after exposure has occurred or only after long or repeated periods of exposure. These effects, which include some respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer, can be severely debilitating or fatal. It is prudent to try to improve the indoor air quality in your home even if symptoms are not noticeable. While pollutants commonly found in indoor air are responsible for many harmful effects, there is considerable uncertainty about what concentrations or periods of exposure are necessary to produce specific health problems. People also react very differently to exposure to indoor air pollutants. Further research is needed to better understand which health effects occur after exposure to the average pollutant concentrations found in homes and which occurs from the higher concentrations that occur for short periods of time. 

READ NEXT: Inspection Checklist to Use with Your Home Inspector

Inspection Checklist to Use with Your Home Inspector

A useful home inspection checklist you can use during your pre walk-through visits. Simply print this checklist for a reference you can take with you on your house hunting as well as during the inspection. These are some of the items that a home inspector will identify and inspect for proper operation. Use this home inspection checklist as a guideline only. Never open service panels to electrified “hot” equipment. Use common sense and hire a professional.

Steps and Railings
Fences and Gates
Retaining Walls

Exterior of Structure
Foundation Walls
Ext. Finish
Roof System

Foundation Vents
Insulation Type/R-Factor and Condition
Plumbing Penetrations
Plumbing Condition
HVAC Equipment
HVAC Ductwork
Condensation Lines
Exhaust and Venting
Crawlspace/Basement Drainage System
Sump Pumps
Wood Destroying Organisms
Unusual Fungi Growth
Electrical Branch Wiring

Attic Access
Truss Conditions
Rafter Framing
Roof Sheeting
Roof Deck Penetrations
Adequate Ventilation
Insulation Depth/R-Factor and Condition
HVAC Equipment
HVAC Ductwork
Electrical Branch Wiring

Electrical System
Service Type
Entrance Cable Type
Proper Wiring Technique
Branch Wiring
Arc Faults

Sizing for sq ft
Fuel System
Condensation Lines
Suction Line Insulation
Air Return Seal
Ductwork Type 
Ductwork Condition
Distribution System

Plumbing System
Main Line Type
Supply Line Type
Water Shut-Off Location
Water Heater Type/Sizing/Location/Condition
Adequate Flow 
Waste Drain Type
Waste Drain Condition
Type of Disposal System
Septic or Public Utilities
Septic System Location 
Septic System Condition

Exterior Doors
Interior Doors
Fireplace Type/Condition/Operation
Flue Venting
Smoke Detectors
Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Supply Lines
Stopper Valves
Jacuzzi Operation 
Shower Enclosures
Shower Operation
Bath vent Fans

Range and Cooktops
Anti-tip Devices
Microwave Operation
Cabinets and Counters

This list is a basic flow of an inspection. It can be customized to follow a workflow that best suits the home in question. Some of the systems outlined in this list can only be inspected by qualified persons trained to inspect these items. It is recommended that a licensed inspection company be contracted to inspect the home and provide you with a legal inspection report that can be used during the buying and selling process.

READ NEXT: Remedies to Indoor Air Quality Problems Living Areas

Remedies to Indoor Air Quality Problems Living Areas

Paneling, pressed-wood furniture and cabinetry. These products may release formaldehyde gas. 
Remedy: Ask about formaldehyde content before buying furniture or cabinets. Some types of pressed-wood products, such as those with phenol resin, emit less formaldehyde.
Also, products coated with polyurethane or laminates may reduce formaldehyde emissions.
After installation, open windows. Maintain moderate temperature and humidity.
Carpet. Biological pollutants can grow on water-damaged carpet. New carpet can release organic gases. 
Remedy: Promptly clean and dry water-damaged carpet, or remove it altogether. 
If adhesives are needed, ask for low-emitting ones. During installation, open doors and windows, and use window fans or room air conditioners. Vacuum regularly. 
Consider area rugs instead of wall-to-wall carpet. Rugs are easier to remove and clean, and the floor underneath also can be cleaned. Floor tiles. Some contain asbestos. 
Remedy: Periodically inspect for damage or deterioration.
Do not cut, rip, sand or remove any asbestos-containing materials. If you plan to make changes that might disturb the asbestos, or if materials are more than slightly damaged, contact a professional for repair or removal. Call your local or state health department or the Environmental Protection Agency.

Moisture encourages biological pollutants, including allergens such as mold, mildew, dust mites and cockroaches. Remedy: If possible, eliminate moisture sources. Install and use exhaust fans. Use a dehumidifier if necessary. 
Remove molds and mildew by cleaning with a solution of chlorine bleach (1 cup bleach to 1 gallon water). 
Maintain good fresh air with natural and mechanical air circulation.

Your fireplace can be a source of carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants.
Remedy: Open the flue when using the fireplace. Have the flue and chimney inspected annually for exhaust back drafting, flue obstructions or cracks, excess creosote or other damage. 
Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Air conditioner.
This can be a source of biological allergens. 
Remedy: If there is a water tray, empty and clean it often. Follow all service and maintenance procedures, including changing the filter.

Gas or kerosene space heater.
These devices can release carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants. 
Remedy: Never use unvented kerosene or gas space heaters. In the room where the heater is located, provide fresh air by opening a door to the rest of the house, turning on an exhaust fan and slightly opening a window.

Tobacco smoke. 
Smoke contains harmful combustion and particulate pollutants, including carbon monoxide and combustion byproducts. 
Remedy: Do not smoke in your home or permit others to do so, especially near children. If smoking cannot be avoided indoors, open windows or use exhaust fans.

New draperies may be treated with a formaldehyde-based finish and emit odors fora short time. 
Remedy: Before hanging, air draperies to ventilate odors. After hanging, ventilate the area. Maintain moderate temperature and humidity.

Lead-based paint.
Paint manufactured before l978 may contain lead. 
Remedy: Leave lead-based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition. Before removing paint, test for lead. Do-it-yourself lead test kits are available from hardware or building supply stores. Do not and, burn off or remove lead-based paint yourself. Hire a person with special training to correct lead-based paint problems. For more information, call 1-800-LEAD-FYI.

Many animals leave allergens, such as dander, hair, feathers or skin, affecting indoor air quality. Remedy: Keep pets outdoors as often as possible. Clean the entire house regularly. Deep clean areas where pets are permitted. Clean pets regularly. House dust mites. Biological allergens can trigger asthma. 
Remedy: Clean and vacuum regularly. Wash bedding in hot water above 130 degrees F. Use more hard-surface finishes; they are less likely to attract and hold dust mites.

Kitchen Household cleaners.
Unhealthy or irritating vapors may be released from chemicals in products.
Remedy: Select non aerosol and nontoxic products. Use, apply, store and dispose of them according to manufacturers’ directions. If products are concentrated, label the storage container with dilution instructions. Completely use up a product.

Pressed-wood cabinets.
These can be a source of formaldehyde vapor. 
Remedy: Maintain moderate temperatures (80 degrees maximum) and humidity (about 45 percent). When purchasing new cabinets, select solid wood or metal cabinets or those made with phenol resin; they emit less formaldehyde. Ventilate well after installation.

Unvented gas stove and range.
These are a source of carbon monoxide and combustion by products. 
Remedy: Keep appliance burners clean. Periodically have burners adjusted (blue flame tip, not yellow). Install and use an exhaust fan. Never use a gas range or stove to heat your home.

Bathroom Personal care products.
Organic gases are released from chemicals in some products, such as deodorant and hair sprays, shampoos, toners, nail polish and perfumes. 
Remedy: Select odor-free or low odor-producing products. Select non aerosol varieties. Open a window, or use an exhaust fan. Follow manufacturers’ directions when using the product and disposing of containers.
Air freshener. These products can release organic gases. 
Remedy: Open a window or use the exhaust fan instead. If you use air fresheners, follow manufacturers’ directions. Select natural products.

Bedroom Humidifier/vaporizer.
Cold mist vaporizers can encourage biological allergens, including mold, mildew and cockroaches, that can trigger asthma and encourage viruses and bacteria.
Remedy: Use and clean them according to manufacturers’ directions. Refill daily with freshwater.

Moth repellents.
These often contain the pesticide paradichlorobenzene. 
Remedy: Avoid breathing vapors. Place them in tightly sealed trunks or other containers. Store separately, away from living areas.

Dry-cleaned goods.
Chemicals used in the cleaning process release organic gases.
Remedy: Bring odors to the attention of your dry cleaner. Try to air out dry-cleaned goods before bringing them indoors. Seek alternatives to dry cleaning, such as hand washing items.

Utility Room Unvented clothes dryer.
Gas dryers produce carbon monoxide and combustion by products and can be a fire hazard.
Remedy: Regularly dispose of lint around and under the dryer. Provide air for gas units. Vent the dryer directly to the outside. Clean vent and ductwork regularly.

Gas or oil furnace/boiler and gas water heater.
Air quality problems include back drafting of carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants. 
Remedy: Have your heating system and water heater, including gas piping and venting, inspected every year.

Asbestos pipe wrap and furnace insulation.
These can release asbestos fibers into the air.
Remedy: Periodically look for damage or deterioration. Do not cut, rip, sand or remove any asbestos-containing materials. If you plan to make changes that might disturb the asbestos, or if materials are more than slightly damaged, contact a professional for repair or removal.

Basement Ground moisture.
Moisture encourages biological allergens like mold and mildew.
Remedy: Inspect for condensation on walls, standing water on the floor, or sewage leaks. To keep basement dry, prevent outside water from entering by installing roof gutters and downspouts, not watering close to the foundation, grading soil away from the home, and applying waterproofing sealants to basement interior walls. For standing water, consider installing a sump pump. If sewage is the source, have drains professionally cleaned. If moisture has no obvious source, install an exhaust fan controlled by humidity levels. Remove mold and mildew. Regularly clean and disinfect the basement floor drain.

This invisible, radioactive gas poses a lung cancer risk. Remedy: Test your home foredoom. Have an experienced radon contractor fix your home if your radon level is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher. For more information on indoor air quality call 1-800-SOS-RADON.

Hobby products.
Chemicals in products such as solvents, paint, glue and epoxy release organic gases. 
Remedy: Follow manufacturers’ directions for use, ventilation, application, clean-up, and container storage and disposal. Use outdoors when possible. Indoors, open a window, or use an exhaust fan. Reseal containers well. Clean tools outside or in a well-ventilated area.

Garage Car and small engine exhaust.
These are sources of carbon monoxide and combustion byproducts. 
Remedy: Never leave vehicles, lawn mowers, snowmobiles, etc., running in the garage.

Paint, solvent and cleaning supplies.
These products may release harmful vapors and effect indoor air quality. 
Remedy: Provide ventilation when using them. Follow manufacturers’ directions. Buy only as much as you need. If the products contain methylene chloride, such as paint strippers, use them outdoors. Reseal containers well. Keep products in their original, labeled containers. Clean brushes and other materials outside.

Pesticides and fertilizers.
Yard and Garden chemicals may be toxic. 
Remedy: Use on chemical methods when possible. Follow manufacturers’ directions for mixing, applying, storing and using protective clothing. Mix or dilute them outdoors. Provide ventilation when using them indoors. Store them outside of the home in their original, labeled containers. After using the product, remove your shoes and clean your hands and clothing to avoid bringing the chemicals into your home.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
* Install a smoke detector in each bedroom or in the adjacent hallway.
* If you have gas or other fossil fuel appliances in the house, install carbon monoxide detectors in these locations.
* Combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are available.
* Check the batteries frequently.

Amount of Ventilation
If too little outdoor air enters a home, pollutants can accumulate to levels that can pose indoor air quality, health and comfort problems. Unless they are built with special mechanical means of ventilation, homes that are designed and constructed to minimize the amount of outdoor air that can “leak” into and out of the home may have higher pollutant levels than other homes. However, because some weather conditions can drastically reduce the amount of outdoor air that enters a home, pollutants can build up even in homes that are normally considered “leaky”.

How Does Outdoor Air Enter a House?
Outdoor air enters and leaves a house by: infiltration, natural ventilation, and mechanical ventilation. In a process known as infiltration, outdoor air flows into the house through openings, joints, and cracks in walls, floors, and ceilings, and around windows and doors. In natural ventilation, air moves through opened windows and doors.
Air movement associated with infiltration and natural ventilation is caused by air temperature differences between indoors and outdoors and by wind.
Finally, there are a number of mechanical ventilation devices, from outdoor-vented fans that intermittently remove air from a single room, such as bathrooms and kitchen, to air handling systems that use fans and duct work to continuously remove indoor air and distribute filtered and conditioned outdoor air to strategic points throughout the house. The rate at which outdoor air replaces indoor air is described as the air exchange rate. When there is little infiltration, natural ventilation, or mechanical ventilation, the air exchange rate is low and pollutant levels can increase.

READ NEXT: Indoor Air Quality Pollution and Health

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.
READ NEXT: Remedies to Indoor Air Quality Problems Living Areas