Aerogel as high performance insulation?

Aerogel was invented 1931, it is a porous solid material that is strong and does not conduct heat.

Performance as an insulator:

Composed almost entirely of gas, which is a poor heat conductor, aerogel can almost nullify the three methods of heat transfer (conduction, convection and radiation). Boasting an R-value of 10 to 30, NASA has used the material to protect astronauts and equipment, such as the Mars Rover, from the extreme cold of space. As compared to conventional insulation material, the R-values of vermiculite, rockwool, fiberglass and cellulose are approximately 2.13, 3.1, 3 and 3.1, respectively. Silica aerogel is especially valuable because silica is also a poor conductor of heat.  A metallic aerogel, on the other hand, would be less useful as an insulator.

To read the full story click on InterNACHI link below.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that forms from incomplete combustion of fuels, such as natural or liquefied petroleum gas, oil, wood or coal.  Any fuel-burning appliances which are malfunctioning or improperly installed can be a source of CO poisoning.

Facts and Figures:

•    480 U.S. residents died between 2001 and 2003 from non-fire-related carbon-monoxide poisoning.
•    Most CO exposures occur during the winter months, especially in December (including 56 deaths, and 2,157 non-fatal exposures), and in January (including 69 deaths and 2,511 non-fatal exposures). The peak time of day for CO exposure is between 6 and 10 p.m.
•    Many experts believe that CO poisoning statistics understate the problem. Because the symptoms of CO poisoning mimic a range of common health ailments, it is likely that a large number of mild to mid-level exposures are never identified, diagnosed, or accounted for in any way in carbon monoxide statistics.
•    Out of all reported non-fire carbon-monoxide incidents, 89% or almost nine out of 10 of them take place in a home.

 

CO can poison slowly over a period of several hours, even in low concentrations. Sensitive organs, such as the brain, heart and lungs, suffer the most from a lack of oxygen.
High concentrations of carbon monoxide can kill in less than five minutes. At low concentrations, it will require a longer period of time to affect the body. Exceeding the EPA concentration of 9 parts per million (ppm) for more than eight hours may have adverse health affects. The limit of CO exposure for healthy workers, as prescribed by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration, is 50 ppm.

Colorado State Law States:

NOTWITHSTANDING ANY OTHER PROVISION OF LAW,  THE SELLER OF EACH EXISTING SINGLE-FAMILY DWELLING OFFERED FOR
SALE OR TRANSFER ON OR AFTER JULY 1, 2009, THAT HAS A FUEL-FIRED HEATER OR APPLIANCE, A FIREPLACE, OR AN
ATTACHED GARAGE SHALL ASSURE THAT AN OPERATIONAL CARBON MONOXIDE ALARM IS INSTALLED WITHIN FIFTEEN FEET OF THE ENTRANCE
TO EACH ROOM LAWFULLY USED FOR SLEEPING PURPOSES OR IN A LOCATION AS SPECIFIED IN ANY BUILDING CODE
ADOPTED BY THE STATE OR ANY LOCAL GOVERNMENT ENTITY.

During my Home Inspections,  testing Carbon Monoxide detectors is very important due to the safety concerns and because of Colorado State Law as noted above.

 

CO Detector Placement

Where not to CO Detectors:
•    directly above or beside fuel-burning appliances, as appliances may emit a small amount of carbon monoxide upon start-up;
•    within 15 feet of heating and cooking appliances, or in or near very humid areas, such as bathrooms;
•    within 5 feet of kitchen stoves and ovens, or near areas locations where household chemicals and bleach are stored (store such chemicals away from bathrooms and kitchens, whenever possible);
•    in garages, kitchens, furnace rooms, or in any extremely dusty, dirty, humid, or greasy areas;
•    in direct sunlight, or in areas subjected to temperature extremes. These include unconditioned crawlspaces, unfinished attics, un-insulated or poorly insulated ceilings, and porches;
•    in turbulent air near ceiling fans, heat vents, air conditioners, fresh-air returns, or open windows. Blowing air may prevent carbon monoxide from reaching the CO sensors.
Where to  place CO detectors:
•    within 15 feet of each bedroom door and near all sleeping areas, where it can wake sleepers. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) recommend that every home have at least one carbon monoxide detector for each floor of the home, and within hearing range of each sleeping area;
•    on every floor of your home, including the basement (source:  International Association of Fire Chiefs/IAFC);
•    near or over any attached garage. Carbon monoxide detectors are affected by excessive humidity and by close proximity to gas stoves (source:  City of New York);
•    near, but not directly above, combustion appliances, such as furnaces, water heaters, and fireplaces, and in the garage (source:  UL); and
•    on the ceiling in the same room as permanently installed fuel-burning appliances, and centrally located on every habitable level, and in every HVAC zone of the building (source:  National Fire Protection Association 720). This rule applies to commercial buildings.
In North America, some national, state and local municipalities require installation of CO detectors in new and existing homes, as well as commercial businesses, among them:  Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont and New York City, and the Canadian province of Ontario. Installers are encouraged to check with their local municipality to determine what specific requirements have been enacted in their jurisdiction.

Central Humidifiers

The winters in Colorado Springs can be very dry and the humidity levels in your home so low that wood floors and wood furniture will shrink or contract.  During My Home Inspections I come across many different types of humidifiers which are attached to the return air duct work at the furnace.  Humidifiers should have a damper which is closed during the summer season and opened during the winter season.

What is humidity?
Humidity refers to the amount of moisture in the air. “Relative humidity” signifies the amount of moisture in the air relative to the maximum amount of water the air can contain before it becomes saturated. This maximum moisture count is related to air temperature in that the hotter the air is, the more moisture it can hold. For instance, if indoor air temperature drops, relative humidity will increase.

How do central air humidifiers work?

Central air humidifiers are integrated into the forced-air heating system so that they humidify air while it is being heated.  The water that is used by the device is pumped automatically into the humidifier from household plumbing, unlike portable humidifiers, which require the user to periodically supply water to the device. Humidifiers are available in various designs, each of which turns liquid water into water vapor, which is then vented into the house at an adjustable rate.

Why humidify air?     

Moist air  seems to soothe irritated, inflamed airways. For someone with a cold and thick nasal secretions, a humidifier can help thin out the secretions and make breathing easier.
Indoor air that is too dry can also cause the following problems:
•    damage to musical instruments, such as pianos, guitars and violins;
•    dry skin;
•    peeling wallpaper;
•    static electricity, which can damage sensitive electrical equipment, cause hair to stick up, and can be painful or annoying; and
•    cracks in wood furniture, floors, cabinets and paint.

Central Humidifier Dangers

Humidifiers can cause various diseases. The young, elderly and infirm may be particularly at risk to contamination from airborne pollutants such as bacteria and fungi. These can grow in humidifiers and get into the air by way of the vapor where it can be breathed in. Some of the more common diseases and pathogens transmitted by humidifiers are:
•    Legionnaires’ Disease. Health problems caused by this disease range from flu-like symptoms to serious infections. This problem is generally more prevalent with portable humidifiers because they draw standing water from a tank in which bacteria and fungi can grow;
•    thermophilic actinomycetes. These bacteria thrive at temperatures of 113° to 140° F and can cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which is an inflammation of the lungs; and
•    “humidifier fever,” which is a mysterious and short-lived, flu-like illness marked by fever, headache, chills and malaise, but without prominent pulmonary symptoms. It normally subsides within 24 hours without residual effects.
Other problems associated with humidifiers include:
•    accumulation of white dust from minerals in the water. These minerals may be released in the mist from the humidifier and settle as fine white dust that may be small enough to enter the lungs. The health effects of this dust depend on the types and amounts of dissolved minerals. It is unclear whether these minerals cause any serious health problems;
•    moisture damage due to condensation. Condensed water from over-humidified air will appear on the interior surfaces of windows and other relatively cool surfaces. Excessive moisture on windows can damage windowpanes and walls, but a more serious issue is caused when moisture collects on the inner surfaces of exterior walls. Moisture there can ruin insulation and rot the wall, and cause peeling, cracking or blistering of the paint; and
•    accumulation of mold. This organic substance grows readily in moist environments, such as a home moistened by an over-worked humidifier. Mold can be hazardous to people with compromised immune systems.


Designs and Maintenance

drum-type humidifier:  has a rotating spongy surface that absorbs water from a tray. Air from the central heating system blows through the sponge, vaporizing the absorbed water. The drum type requires care and maintenance because mold and impurities can collect in the water tray. According to some manufacturers’ instructions, this tray should be rinsed annually, although it usually helps to clean it several times per heating season.
•    flow-through or “trickle” humidifier:  a higher quality though more expensive unit than the drum-type, which allows fresh water to trickle into an aluminum panel. Air blows through the panel and forces the water to evaporate into the air stream. Excess water exits the panel into a drain tube. This design requires little maintenance because the draining water has a “self-cleaning” effect and, unlike the drum-type humidifier, there is no stagnant water.


Asbestos Cement Siding

Asbestos cement is a composite material consisting of Portland cement reinforced with asbestos fibers.  Asbestos cement first came into use as an exterior cladding after 1907. By the 1920s, the National Board of Fire Underwriters recommended that asbestos cement replace wood as siding and roofing material because of its superior fire-resistant properties.  By the 1940s, hundreds of thousands of homes in the U.S. had been constructed using asbestos cement siding.

During the late 1960s and early ‘70s, however, the news media began to report on the health hazards associated with asbestos.  As reports increased, concern grew, so the federal government took action.  The EPA banned the use of asbestos in the manufacture of building products in 1973.

In the course of my Home Inspections In the Colorado Springs area I inspect many older homes that have Asbestos Cement siding.  I always inform the buyers of the advantages and disadvantages of this product, but as it was intended it provides a good fire barrier. Asbestos  siding photo

When trying to determine if you have Asbestos Cement siding, beware that other wood siding can look like Asbestos Cement siding, a simple pick test will let you know.  Use a sharp tool to test your siding, if you have wood siding you can gouge a small portion off, but if you have Asbestos Cement siding it will be similar to gouging your cement sidewalk.
Health Risks

Asbestos fibers are a proven health hazard if inhaled.  Asbestos dust is a known cause of a type of lung cancer called asbestosis.  Mesothelioma, another deadly form of cancer that attacks internal organs, can also be caused by exposure to asbestos.  However, asbestos cement siding that has been properly installed and is not in a state of decay presents no health risks as long as it remains undisturbed.  This is because the cement binds the asbestos fibers and prevents their release into the air, under normal use and maintenance.

The EPA deems asbestos to be hazardous when it is in a friable state, meaning that it can be crumbled, crushed or pulverized by hand pressure.  Crushed asbestos in a powdery form can allow its particles to become airborne and inhaled, causing potential health problems.  Asbestos cement products that are not in a friable state are not considered hazardous.  The only potential danger is when the cement is disturbed in a way that causes the asbestos fibers to become airborne.

If mechanical activities performed on the siding, such as chipping, sawing, grinding or sanding, allow particles to become airborne, then the cement is considered in a friable state and, consequently, hazardous.  Deterioration can also lead to particles becoming airborne and potentially dangerous.Asbestos Siding photo from home inspection

Advantages

•    Asbestos cement siding is highly fire-resistant and will not burn or melt the way vinyl and wood siding will.
•    It resists termite damage.
•    It resists rotting.
•    It has been manufactured with textures intended to simulate the look of other cladding materials, such as wood grain.
•    It is fairly easy to clean and maintain.
•    Unlike more porous siding materials, such as wood clapboard, asbestos cement siding will not quickly soak up paint, which allows it to be painted more easily.

Disadvantages
•    Asbestos cement siding is very brittle and can be easily chipped, cracked or broken.
•    The use of a pressure washer for maintenance can crack the siding and lead to moisture intrusion, if the pressure setting is high enough.
•    Asbestos cement can be dangerous if pulverized by sawing, sanding, breaking, etc.
•    This product cannot be refurbished, however replacement siding is available.

Maintenance
Damage and deterioration can lead to structural and health issues, so proper maintenance of asbestos cement building materials is a primary concern.  Keeping the siding clean and performing minor repairs as soon as they become necessary are very important.  Asbestos cement siding is fairly brittle and has little resistance to cracking, chipping and damage from impact, which can cause asbestos particles to become airborne.  Damage to the siding can also lead to other damage related to moisture intrusion which can then lead to mold growth. Damaged areas that cannot be fixed but can be replaced with non-asbestos fiber cement by a professional.  Specific fiber cement materials have been manufactured for repairs that are intended to mimic the look of asbestos cement siding.

Sump Pump Maintenance

What is a Sump Pump?
Sump pumps are self-activating electrical pumps that protect homes from moisture intrusion. They are usually installed in a corner of the  basement or in a crawlspace.  They are designed to  to remove rising groundwater and surface runoff before it has a chance to seep into the home. Water can cause interior damage and encourage the Mold growth.  Sump Pumps should be maintained and equipped with all necessary components in order to ensure their reliability and be tested to ensure proper operation. Sump Pumps are one component I check during my Home Inspection.

Types of Sump Pumps

  • Submersible sump pumps are designed for  underwater use and sit at the bottom of the sump pit, and are much quieter than pedestal pumps. Their oil-cooled motors and tight seals protect against water and dust and afford them a long lifespan.   Sump Pumps can be purchassubersable pumped from your local home improvement stores from about $150.00 to $400.00 which is a small price to pay considering  the possibility of moisture in your basement or crawl space leading to Mold Growth.

 

  • Pedestal sump pumps sit above the water line beside the sump trench and are not designed to get wet. Since they are not contained within the sump pit, they can be accessed easily but are also very noisy.


Maintenance of Sump Pumps

  • Sump pumps must be kept clean and free of debris. The inlet screen prevents the passage of dirt and other solid material from entering the pump.   Cleaning the screen should be a part of regular maintenance.

 

  • You should make sure that the float is not tangled or jammed in one position.  The float should be free to move up and down.  Raise the float and the pump motor should start, lower float and it should stop.  A sump pump with a jammed float is useless because it will not sense when it should turn on and shut off.

 

  • The pump can be tested by pouring water into the pit to make sure it becomes activated and expels the water.  Depending on the size and design of the pit and how fast the water peculates into the ground this procedure can take quite a few gallons of water.


Components of a sump pump

  • For most homes, the sump pit should not be less than 24 inches deep and 18 inches wide.  The sump pit must be large enough to allow thesump pit pump room to work properly.  The sump pit does not need to be constructed from any particular material, as long as it is solid and provides permanent support for the pump. It must, however,. Some homeowners use a 5-gallon bucket as a sump pit, but this is insufficient.

 

  • The check valve must be the same diameter as the discharge pipe into which it fits and is usually a different color. A check valve should be installed in order to check valveprevent pumped water in the discharge line from re-entering the sump pit when the device is turned off. Without this valve, the pump will have to work twice as hard to remove the same column of water, which causes unnecessary strain to the pump components. A check valve can also prevent the rare yet disturbing possibility that a discharge line connected to a stream or pond will back-siphon into the sump pit.  These Items will be checked by a Certified Home Inspector if you are purchasing a home with a sump pump installed.

 

  • An alarm can be installed because sump pumps can burn out, lose power, become clogged or misaligned, or malfunction in a variety of other ways. It is valuable to have a warning device installed that will signal water build-up. These alarms can alert homeowners or neighbors of flooding so that it can be resolved before water damage occurs. Alarms are especially important in residences that are not occupied for long periods of time.

 

  • Backup Power sources can be installed to maintain operation during power outages which are most likely to happen during heavy rains and floods, which are situations when the sump pump is most needed. For this reason, sump pumps should have a backup power source to rely on. A pump powered by a battery or the home’s water pressure can also be installed as a backup.

 

  • A GFCI receptacle can be used but may trip during safe conditions and deactivate the sump pump when it is needed. A sump pump is among the most critical of all household appliances, and its deactivation, especially if the tenants are not home, could allow catastrophic building damage. Codes recommend that appliances in basements and crawlspaces be connected to GFCIs to reduce the chance of electrical shock, but this advice is often ignored due to these concerns over nuisance tripping.


Sump Pump Discharge

  • Point of discharge should be 20 feet from your foundation and should have positive drainage from your wall or foundation line.
  • Water should not drain onto your neighbors property and in most areas is not permitted to drain into the sewer system or septic system.

Inspections Done Right

Lead Safety

 

If you own a home or are planning to buy a home built before 1978, here are some facts you should know about lead.
FACT: Lead exposure can harm young children and babies even before they are born.
FACT: Even children who seem healthy can have high levels of lead in their bodies.
FACT: You can get lead in your body by breathing or swallowing lead dust, or by eating soil or paint chips containing lead.
FACT: You have many options for reducing lead hazards. In most cases, lead-based paint that is in good condition is not a hazard.
FACT: Removing lead-based paint improperly can increase the danger to your family.
If you think your home might have lead hazards, consider having your home tested for lead paint to protect your family.
Many homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint. The federal government banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978. Some states stopped its use even earlier. Lead can be found in the following:
   in homes in the city, country and suburbs
   on apartments, single-family homes, and both private and public housing complexes;
   on the interior and exterior of the house;
   in the soil around a home.  Soil can pick up lead from exterior paint and other sources, such as past use of leaded gas in cars;
   in household dust. Dust can pick up lead from deteriorating lead-based paint and from soil tracked into a home;
   in drinking water. Your home might have plumbing that uses lead pipes or lead solder. Call your local health department or water supplier to find out about testing your water. You cannot see, smell or taste lead, and boiling your water will not get rid of lead.
If you think your plumbing might have lead in it:
   Use only cold water for drinking and cooking
   Run water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking it, especially if you have not used your water for a few hours.
   on the job. If you work with lead, you could bring it home on your hands or clothes. Shower and change clothes before coming home. Launder your work clothes separately from the rest of your family’s clothes;
   in old (vintage or antique) painted toys and furniture;
   in food and liquids stored in lead crystal, lead-glazed pottery and porcelain;
   from lead smelters and other industries that release lead into the air;
   with hobbies that use lead, such as making pottery or stained glass, or refinishing furniture.
   Bullet re-loading using lead.
   in folk remedies that contain lead, such as “greta” and “azarcon” used to treat an upset stomach.
If you suspect that your house has lead hazards, you can take some immediate steps to reduce your family’s risk:
   If you rent, notify your landlord of peeling or chipping paint.
   Clean up paint chips immediately.
   Clean floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces weekly. Use a mop, sponge or paper towel with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner, or a cleaner made specifically for lead.
REMEMBER: NEVER MIX AMMONIA AND BLEACH PRODUCTS TOGETHER, SINCE THEY CAN FORM A DANGEROUS GAS.
   Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning dirty and dusty areas.
   Wash children’s hands often, especially before they eat, and before nap time and bed time.
   Keep play areas clean. Wash bottles, pacifiers, toys and stuffed animals regularly.
   Keep children from chewing window sills and other painted surfaces.
   Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from soil.
   Make sure children eat nutritious, low-fat meals high in iron and calcium, such as spinach and dairy products. Children with good diets absorb less lead.
In addition to day-to-day cleaning and good nutrition, you can temporarily reduce lead hazards by taking actions such as repairing damaged amid painted surfaces, and by planting grass to cover soil with high lead levels. These actions, called “interim controls,” are not permanent solutions and will need ongoing attention. To permanently remove lead hazards, you must hire a certified lead-abatement contractor. Abatement (or permanent hazard elimination) methods include removing, sealing or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials. Just painting over the hazard with regular paint is not enough. Always hire a person with special training for correcting lead problems — someone who knows how to do this work safely and has the proper equipment to clean up thoroughly. Certified contractors will employ qualified workers and follow strict safety rules set by their state or the federal government. To be safe, hire an InterNACHI inspector for your next inspection.

Annual Home Maintenance

I wrote this article because during my Home Inspections in the Colorado Springs and Denver areas, I get  many questions about maintaining the different parts or aspects of a home.  Your Home is such a large investment  so to protect your investment I have assembled a list of items which should be maintained or checked annually.
Preventive maintenance is cheaper than replacement of major items such as flooring, walls or Mold Mitigation.  This is not a complete list as many homes have unique features which may also require maintenance, use this list to build your own list.  Or have me Inspect your home on an annual basis.  During my Home Inspections I check about 500 items in and around the home.

EXTERIOR

  • Plants and shrubs touching your house should be trimmed and tree branches touching your roof line should be trimmed as well.  Plants and shrubbery  in contact with your house will allow moisture to decay exterior finishes and allow Wood Destroying Insects a habitat.
  • Check for wide gaps in your concrete slabs (walks & drive), especially at your foundation line, caulk as necessary.  Wide gaps will allow moisture under your slabs and cause movement which can lead to an expensive concrete replacement. 
  • Test your frost proof hose bibs, to do so turn your hose bib on (with out a hose attached) then turn off, a small amount of water should drain from the hose bib which would mean the valve is working correctly.  Malfunctioning hose bibs can be expensive when they freeze and rupture.
  • Test exterior GFCI outlets, this is a safety item which should not be ignored, it is a matter of your safety.  If GFCI does not trip, have it replaced by a competent Electrician.
  • Check all horizontal house trim especially above doors and windows for deteriorated or cracked caulking, replace as necessary.  When caulking is no longer effective, moisture may get inside your walls and cause mold growth or deteriorate your wall finishes.  Check for loose soffit material or loose siding which can allow insects inside your walls of attic.
  • Check rain gutters and down spouts, clean as necessary.  Down spouts should drain 3' to 5' away from wall lines.
  • Clean window wells as necessary, window wells clogged with leaves and debris can prevent proper drainage. The result can lead to water inside your basement or crawl space.
  • Check decks and railings for loose planks or railings, re-secure as necessary.  If surface coating is worn re-coat with a UV protectant which can extend the life of your wood.
  • Check fences and gates for loose screws, hinges & slats, correct as necessary.
  • Check irrigation valves for leaks and drips, repair as necessary.  Irrigation valves are normally located next to foundation walls and if they continue to leak the moisture could get into basement or crawl space or the wet soil at footing area could cause settlement and wall cracking.

GARAGE

  • Check garage door parts and hinges for loose bolts and screws, re-tighten as necessary.  Check auto reverse and photoelectric eyes and manual disconnect  for proper function. Defective components may create a safety hazard.  To test auto reverse function while door is in the closing position grasp bottom door edge with both hands, if you cannot reverse the doors operation with mild hand resistance the sensitivity should be adjusted.
  • Door from garage to house should have self closing hinges or closure  to prevent the spread of fire or fumes into living quarters.
  • Check in corners of garage for mouse droppings, exterminate as necessary.

BASEMENT / CRAWL SPACE

  • Check around windows and perimeter walls for signs of moisture.  If moisture does exist a specialist may be needed to determine cause. Moisture in basements and crawl spaces can lead to mold growth.
  • Clean window tracks for easy operation, you may need these windows as means of egress.
  • Check operation of sump pump, most pumps have an external float which can be moved in an upward motion to activate pump.
  • If furnace is located in basement check filter.  Filters should be changed every couple of months through the winter season.
  • At top of Gas Water Heater check around vent cap for dark residue, this is usually caused from back drafting, consult a licensed plumber for repairs.

KITCHEN

  • Test GFCI outlets, a defective GFCI can lead to electrical shock.  All outlets within six feet of wet areas should be GFCI protected. If outlet fails have a qualified Electrician replace.
  • Check for leaks under sinks, some leaks go un-noticed and can lead to expensive floor and cabinet repairs.
  • Clean under Refrigerator and if coil is accessible clean it also.  Keeping these clean can prolong the life of the Refrigerator and improve healthy air quality.
  • Check for loose caulking around sinks and counter tops, replace as necessary.  Loose caulking can allow moisture to come in contact with particle board which is under the formica surfaces and swells easily.
  • Clean aerator on faucet, small particles in water accumulate on screens and restrict water flow.
  • Check for anti-tip bracket on range/oven, install if missing.  This bracket prevents unit from tipping if child climbs on oven door.

BATHROOMS

  • Check GFCI's for proper operation, have replaced if defective. GFCI outlets are required for areas within 6' of wet areas.
  • Check for leaks under sinks, some leaks go un-noticed and can lead to expensive floor and cabinet repairs.
  • Check for loose caulking around sinks, tubs and counter tops, replace as necessary.
  • Clean aerator on faucet, small particles in water accumulate on screens and restrict water flow.
  • Check for loose water closet (toilet) or signs of moisture around bottom of toilet.  Toilets can become loose over time, re-tighten or replace wax ring as necessary.

INTERIOR AREAS

  • Have carpets professionally cleaned on an annual basis, this can extend the life of your carpets and promotes air quality.
  • Use hose type vacuum cleaner to clean floor ducts, floor vents usually lift out without the need of tools, it is amazing how much lint and debri can collect in floor vents and go un-noticed, this will also promote healthy air quality.
  • Test Smoke Detectors/Alarms and replace batteries on an annual basis.  Replace defective detectors.  Smoke alarms should be tested once a month and Experts agree Smoke Alarms and Detectors should be replaced after ten years.
  • Test CO Detectors and replace batteries. CO Detectors should be tested once a month and Experts agree CO Detectors should be replaced after ten years.  Colorado State Law requires sellers of homes to provide a CO Detector within 10' to the entrance of sleeping quarters.
  • Test AFCI (arc fault current interrupters) breakers in electrical panel if equipped.
  • Check Fire Extinguishers, most have a gauge close to the handle, the dial should indicate charged or in the green zone, if not replace or have recharged.
  • Having your home tested for Radon on an annual basis is recommended.  Radon levels can change with seasons and from year to year.  EPA declares Radon is the second leading cause of Lung Cancer, Radon Gases can be prevented by installing a Mitigation System.

  Inspections Done Right

Should I Worry About Radon?

Based on the amount of a requests I receive for Radon Testing , homeowners and home buyers are becoming more concerned about Radon gas. I think it’s important for homeowners and buyers on radon and radon testing.  I’ve included a list of links at the bottom of this article.  Please reach out ot me if you have questions.

What is Radon?

Radon is a colorless and odorless radioactive gas that is produced by the radioactive decay of radium. Radium is a product of a decay chain beginning with uranium, a naturally occurring radioactive element. Radium is found in trace amounts in nearly all rocks,soils,and groundwater as well as building materials, plants,animals,and the human body.

Where is Radon Found?

Radon is a natural component of the air we breathe. Radon gas decays to solid particles called radon decay products. Inhaled radon decay products account for more than two thirds of the natural background radiation dose to members of the public. Scientists have long known about the radiation dose from radon, particularly to miners; however, the general public in the United States became aware of the potential risk of radon in homes in the 1980s.

The map below shows the concentration of mapped Radon zones. Notice Colorado notice we in Colorado are in the Highest  Zone 1.   Colorado Springs and Elpaso County have a very high incidence of Radon Gas.

EPA Map of Radon Zones.

Is Radon Harmful to Your Health?

According to the EPA, radon is the second most important cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking. Radon exposure is also considered the  primary cause of lung cancer in individuals who have never smoked. The majority of radon related lung cancers are attributable  to long-term exposures at low or moderate concentrations since most of the exposures occur at these lower concentrations. Adverse health  effects, other than lung cancer, have not been consistently demonstrated in epidemiological studies.

EPA chart (vertical number of Deaths - Horizontal Causes of Death)

 

How is Radon Measured?

Radon concentration is a measurable quantity that is related to the amount of radiation that would be emitted by radon and its decay products  in a liter of air.  Radon concentration in air is expressed in units of picocuries per liter (pCi/L).Higher radon concentrations and smoking habits are related to a higher potential for adverse human health effects. The concentration to which an individual is exposed can be influenced by that person’s lifestyle,such as time spent indoors, building construction,local geology, and other environmental factors.

What Level of Radon is Acceptable?

The U.S. EPA has established guidelines for exposure to radon in homes. At levels of 4pCi/L or more, the U.S. EPA encourages members of the public to take steps to reduce the radon concentrations and to consider action at levels above 2pCi/L. The Health Physics Society concurs with the U.S. EPA guideline of 4pCi/L. However, because 4pCi/L is not a definite line between safe and unsafe, the HPS also agrees with the EPA s recommendation to consider action at levels below 4pCiL. Recent residential epidemiological studies have demonstrated that there is a statistically significant increased risk of lung cancer at concentrations below the U.S. EPA s action level of 4pCi/L.

Radon Testing Guidelines

You should have your home or building tested by a Certified Radon Measurement Professional.   Closed house conditions are required 12 hours prior to deployment of the tests and for the 48 hours during the test.  Closed-house conditions means keeping all windows closed, keeping doors closed except for normal entry and exit, and not operating fans or other machines which bring in air from outside.  Fans that are part of a radon-reduction system or small exhaust fans operating for only short periods of time may run during the test.

How Long does Radon Testing Take?

Many different types of Radon Measurement Devices are available.  Short term tests require a minimum deployment tome of 48 hours to 7 days.  For the Radon tests I conduct I use either a Charcoal Liquid Scintillation which is two small vials of activated charcoal  or Activated Charcoal Adsorption container filled with activated charcoal and covered with a screen and filter.   Both of these types are deployed for 48 hours.  Long  term can be a Continuous Monitoring which could be in place for a year.

What if my Radon Levels are High?

For existing homes with radon concentrations at or above 4pCi/L, proper radon mitigation can almost always reduce levels to below 2pCi/L. Homeowners, or others responsible for a particular building, should contact a qualified radon mitigation specialist to determine the appropriate actions to be taken to reduce indoor radon concentrations. Confirmation tests should be made after mitigation to ensure that the system is working properly.

What if I Plan to Build a New Home?

For new construction, particularly in areas designated by the U.S. EPA or state radon programs as  having the potential for indoor radon concentrations exceeding 4 pCi/L, radon‐reducing features or a full mitigation system should be installed at the time of construction. Nationwide, the average cost of installing radon resistant systems in new construction is in the range of several hundred dollars, while the cost of mitigating an existing home often exceed $1,000.

Radon and Home Sales?

Radon testing is standard for many real estate transactions along the front range.   Because real estate sales happen quickly, there is often little time to mitigate for radon and this becomes a price negotiation item regardless of whether the buyer is actually concerned with radon or not. The best thing to do is to test for radon NOW and save the results in case the buyer is interested in them.  If there is a radon issue, I can recommend a mitigation company to resolve your issue and get on with the purchase or sale of your home.

 

Radon References:

EPA on Radon

El Paso County Colorado Radon Services

InterNACHI Radon Information

Or Contact me for your Radon Testing or other Home Inspection Needs

Inspections Done Right

Instructions for Home Occupants Prior to Radon Test

Radon Testing Checklist

 Testing for radon is not complicated.  Improper testing may yield inaccurate results and require another test.  Disturbing or interfering with the test device, or with closed-house conditions, may invalidate the test results and is illegal in some states.  If the seller or qualified tester cannot confirm that all items have been completed, take another test.

Before Conducting a Radon Test

•    Notify the occupants of the importance of proper testing conditions. Give the occupants written instructions or a copy of this Guide and explain    the directions carefully.

•    Conduct the radon test for a minimum of 48 hours; some test devices have a minimum exposure time greater than 48 hours.

•    When doing a short-term test ranging from 2-4 days, it is important to maintain closed-house conditions for at least 12 hours before the beginning of the test and during the entire test period.

•    When doing a short-term test ranging from 4-7 days, EPA recommends that closed-house conditions be maintained

•    If you conduct the test yourself, use a qualified radon measurement device and follow the laboratory’s instructions.  Your state may be able to    provide you with a list of do-it-yourself test devices available from qualified laboratories.

•    If you hire someone to do the test, hire only a qualified individual.  Some states issue photo identification (ID) cards; ask to see it.  The tester’s ID number, if available, should be included or noted in the test

•    The test should include method(s) to prevent or detect interference with testing conditions or with the testing device itself.

•    If the house has an active radon-reduction system, make sure the vent fan is operating properly.  If the fan is not operating properly, have it (or ask to have it) repaired and then test.

During a Radon Test

Closed-house conditions means keeping all windows closed, keeping doors closed except for normal entry and exit, and not operating fans or other machines which bring in air from outside.  Fans that are part of a radon-reduction system or small exhaust fans operating for only short periods of time may run during the test.

•    Maintain closed-house conditions during he entire time of a short term test, especially for tests shorter than one week in length.

•    Operate the home’s heating and cooling systems normally during the test. For tests lasting less than one week, operate only air-conditioning units which recirculate interior air.

•    Do not disturb the test device at any time during the test.

•    If a radon-reduction system is in place, make sure the system is working properly and will be in operation during the entire radon test.

After a Radon Test

•    If an elevated level is found, fix the home. Contact a qualified radon-reduction contractor about lowering the radon level.  EPA recommends that you mitigate the home when the radon level is 4 pCi/L or more.

•    Be sure that you or the radon tester can demonstrate or provide information to ensure that the testing conditions were not violated during the testing period.

Leo     Inspections Done Right

TIME TO WINTERIZE

Living in Colorado Springs has some challenges when going about the annual duty of winterizing your home.  The following tips you will find helpful especially for this environment, some of these tips come from personal and sometimes expensive experiences.

Colorado Springs is a GREAT place to live and the winters are not as brutal as the North Eastern states, in fact we can have days in the 60’s in the middle of winter.  With that in mind please read carefully the tips I propose, they are laced with problems I have seen in my Home Inspections.

DOORS and WINDOWS

Check the weather striping on your doors and windows, bad gaskets or weather striping can let in cold air and also moisture.  On the exterior of doors and windows check the caulking around the trim and especially the tops.  In winter snow can set on top of the trim for extended periods of time, if the caulking is deteriorated moisture can be introduced into walls or deteriorate trim and siding.

exterior trim1exterior trim2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ROOF GUTTERS

Clean your roof gutters and down spouts of leaves and debris, clogged gutters can cause ice dams to form along roof edges and force moisture under roof shingles or behind facia and other trim.  This can lead to moisture inside the attic space or deteriorate trim which can be costly to repair.  Make sure down spouts drain roof water away from foundation and the ground itself is draining away from foundations, unlike the photo below.

clogged gutter1clogged gutter2foundation drainage2

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPRINKLER SYSTEM

You should drain or blow out your irrigation system (especially if it is PVC) after the growing season and hard frosts start to occur.  The bad part of frozen and broken pipes is they don’t appear until spring when you re-energize your system.  Poly piping is more flexible and forgiving but still should be blown out.  If you don’t have an air compressor and the knowledge call a professional, it can be cheaper in the long run.

YARD MAINTENANCE

Yard maintenance in Colorado Springs in winter can be challenging, the winter temperatures can vary from blizzard to spring conditions within a week.  In dryer winters you should water lawns and young trees a few times, or when spring arrives you find a lot of dead grass or trees.  With that in mind, when you do water make sure to disconnect your hoses from the hose bibs after use.  Hoses left connected can cause hose bibs to freeze and rupture, when thawing occurs and you hear water running inside your walls you will remember, I should have disconnected that hose.
Flower beds close to your house should be cleaned, lots of dead leaves is a great food source for mold which can lead to mold spores which can invade your home.

FIREPLACE

Fireplace chimneys should be cleaned every year to prevent build-up and chimney fires.  Make sure your damper is working freely, after you start a fire and the room fills with smoke is not the time to remember your damper.  Make sure your spark arrester is in good condition and vent cap is attached well.  Spark arresters are important especially in areas such as Colorado Springs due to the dead and often times dry foliage  in the winter time.  Brush fires are fairly common in winter in Colorado Springs and the surrounding area.

fireplace cap

FURNACE

Furnaces should also undergo an annual cleaning by a professional, this can prolong the life of a furnace and makes the furnace more cost effective to run.
Keep your furnace filter cleaned and make sure you have plenty on hand, they are inexpensive and can save money on your utility bills.  Make sure your venting is well attached to your furnace and water heater.  If blizzards occur check to make sure your roof vent is clear to prevent carbon monoxide from building up inside your house.  If you have an old thermostat consider changing to a programmable thermostat  the wiring is usually lo-voltage and color coded the same as your old thermostat and easy to install.

CARBON MONOXIDE & SMOKE DETECTORS

One issue i come across a lot during my home inspections which can be a show stopper when selling your house is the absence of Carbon Monoxide detectors.  Change the batteries in detectors and if you don’t have Carbon monoxide detectors consider replacing your old smoke detectors with the new combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector.  Many deaths have been attributed to Carbon Monoxide.  The new detectors are about $45.00, what is a life worth?

Building a Tamper Resistant Radon Test

 

I too struggled on the best approach to a tamper resistant and affordable method to deploy my Radon Gas Detectors from Pro-Lab.  I took a trip to my favorite home improvement center and took with me a Radon Gas Detector bottle.  I went to the plumbing department with an idea of what I wanted to build.  The following is a list of items with photos and approximate costs to put this together.

2- 1 1/2” OD Crumb Cups         about $4.00
1 stick of aluminum angle         about $8.00
2- 1 1/4” PVC Couplings           about $1.00
2- 1 1/4” PVC Plugs                  about $2.00
1 bag cable ties                        about $3.00
1 cheap Tripod                         about $5.00

Parts needed for Radon Bottle HoldersCrumb Cup

Aluminum AnglePVC CouplingPVC Plug

 

You could substitute the Aluminum angle for some other product ( I just had the aluminum on hand) and the Tripod I found at Goodwill ( part of an old portable projection screen ) for about $5.00.

I cut the angle to 30” long to maintain the appropriate distance between the Radon bottles.  I drilled a hole in the center of the PVC plug the size of the pop rivet I used and attached one plug to each end of the angle.  Then using clear PVC glue, glued the couplings to the plugs.

I drilled a hole in the center of the angle to attach it to the tripod and also drilled opposing holes near the top of the couplings for the cable ties.  Take one cable tie and attach the Crumb Cup (upside down) to the top of the coupling.
 

Rado InspectionRadon Inspection In Progress

 When assembled and ready to deploy the Radon Gas Detector bottles, with the tripod setup, remove the caps and place them in the bottom of the coupling.  This will allow the top of the bottle to be level with the top of the coupling.  With the caps below the bottles you never wonder where you put them.   Place the Radon Gas Detector bottles in the couplings and install the other cable tie.  If you notice I have used red cable ties which I purchased in an electronics store, which the general public is not aware.  It would be difficult to block air flow to the Radon bottles.

  To retrieve the Radon Bottles use a small pair of side cutters and cut the long cable tie, (the short tie acts as a hinge) replace the caps and don't forget to fill out the rest of your "chain of custody report".  After I retrieve the samples I remove the bolt which holds the angle to the tripod so indeed it is very compact.

These stands are very compact, light, affordable and easy.

Don’t forget  to give the occupants good instructions on the closed house conditions required 12 hours prior to test and 48 hours for testing period.