The "Granite State" has earned its nickname. It's hard to take a corner on a mountain road without seeing an outcrop of this amazingingly strong and dense stone. Its weight and rigidity have created our basements, entire buildings, and used in many architectural components when only that mighty rock will do!

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Radon Gas

Radon gas is created as part of the process when uranium in the soil decays. The gas then seeps through any access point into a home. Common entry points are cracks in the foundation, poorly sealed pipes, drainage or any other loose point. Once in the home, the gas can collect in certain areas especially basements and other low lying, closed areas. The Environmental Protection Agency of the US Government has a recommended action level of 4.0 pico curies per liter (pCi/L) as a safe level based on a life time of exposure at 18 hours a day. Since Radon gas is considered radioactive, long term exposure increases your risk of lung cancer.

How widespread is the problem? Radon has been found in homes in all 50 states, no location is immune. Concentrations of radon causing materials in the soil can vary in the same neighborhood. The only way to tell for sure is to have a home tested. Tests can be taken incorrectly, so you should have a certified measurement technician take your test.

Testing for radon comes in two forms: active and passive. Active devises constantly measure the levels of radon in a portion of the home and display those results. Passive devices collect samples over a period of time and then are taken away and analyzed. Either method can help you determine your level of risk. Over a period of days (minimum of 2), the device is left in the lowest level of the home which could be occupied if you live in the home. The test should be conducted in the lowest level that would be suitable for use when you are buying a home. Most every time this would be the basement. This eliminates crawl spaces under the house, but includes finished or unfinished basements. Then the results are analyzed and sent to you with comments.

If high concentrations of radon are found in your home, you have several options. Since radon is only a problem when it is concentrated in high volume, it may be necessary to limit the amount of radon getting into the home by sealing or otherwise obstructing the access points. Once again, a professional should be engaged to ensure that the radon is effectively blocked. Typical radon mitigation systems can cost between $800 and $1500. The cost will depend on access to install components, additional work to seal the basement and how aggressive a system you need to correctly reduce your level.

If you're buying or selling a home, radon can be a significant issue. Buyers should be aware of the radon risk and determine whether a radon test is desirable. When in doubt, the EPA always recommends testing. If test results already exist, make sure they are recent or that the home has not been significantly renovated since the test was performed. If in doubt, get a new test done. If you're selling a home, having a recent radon test is a great idea. By being proactive, you can assure potential buyers that there is no risk and avoid the issue from the start.

A few common misconceptions

It is NOT alright to leave windows open in the house when testing. Even if the test is taken in the basement with the door closed. EPA requires that ALL windows in the house must be closed to stabilize the home for a proper test. Opening a window on the second floor can change the pressure of the house and invalidate the test.

Living on sandy soil does NOT mean you are less likely to have a Radon problem. The very opposite can be true. Radon is a gas. If it is locked in a hugh chunk of rock, it is likely not going anywhere and will decay in that rock. However if Radon gas was in sand or soil, it has an easier path to work it's way up into a home.

There IS a difference in testing protocols when you live in a home or if you are buying a home. EPA went through the trouble of putting out two different booklets just for that reason. The two main differences that are common are where to place the test and what to do after you get the results. When you live in the home, placement depends on how you presently use the home. When buying a home, you test in the lowest area since you may use that area later. When you live in the home you have more time to take a second long term reading if the results are between 4.0 to 8.0 pCi/L or higher. When you are buying a home you don't have much time to take a second reading and you have to make a choice about what is acceptable to you. 

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Common Defects

No house is perfect. Even the best built and best maintained homes will always have a few items in less than perfect condition. Below are some of the items I most commonly find when inspecting a home:

Roofing
Roofing Problems with roofing material are common. Usually it doesn't mean the roof needs replacement, simply that it is in need of maintenance or repair. In many cases it is what's going on in the attic and mother nature that can stress roofing material.

Ceiling stains
Caused by past or present leaks, ceiling stains are very common. It can be difficult to tell whether the stains are from leaks still present, or were caused by leaks which have since been repaired. The use of a moisture meter can determine if it is active at the time of the inspection. This is one reason why a rainy day is a good day for an inspection.

Electrical hazards
Most common in older homes, but often found in newer homes as well. Electrical hazards come in many forms, from ungrounded outlets to wiring done incorrectly by the homeowner.

Rotted wood
Caused by being wet for extended periods of time, most commonly found in basement and crawl spaces, siding and trim outside, window sills and locations where two components meet such as decks.

Heating systems
Most furnaces or boilers seem to be in need of routine maintenance such as new filters or cleaning service at the least. Many have other issues such as faulty operation, inadequate venting or are simply nearing the end of their design life.

Plumbing defects
Plumbing issues commonly found include dripping faucets, leaking fixtures, slow drains etc... Even in brand newer homes, it is common to identify minor plumbing defects.

Venting issues
A common mistake in homes, even newer ones, is to have the bathroom exhaust fan venting into the attic. It is common to see the vent line droped over the soffit vent. The problem is the soffit vent is designed to pull air in and will pull that moisture back into the attic. I have many photos to show this. Nothing should be venting into the attic. Ideally all exhaust fans should discharge directly to the exterior.

Roofing Issues

Of all the problems you can encounter around the house, roofing problems are by far the sneakiest. Leaks can develop unnoticed for years causing rot, mold, warping and other expensive damage.

Experts recommend that you go into your attic or crawlspace at least once a year after a rainstorm to check for leaks and water damage. Special attention should be paid to areas where you have flashing (the metal or plastic weather stripping that will be around chimneys, pipes, vents, roof planes and eves) because this is typically the most likely area to develop leaks. It is also recommended that you visit the surface of your roof yearly – during good weather – to look for any loose, missing, eroded, warped or otherwise damaged shingles and to check the overall condition of your roof.

You should also clean rain gutters and downspouts of leaves and other debris regularly, preferably in the fall once the trees are bare. While doing this, check for mineral deposits which could indicate the erosion of asphalt shingles.

Many people would prefer not to inspect their roofs themselves. Roofs can be pitched at very steep angles and pose quite a challenge to those leery of heights. Inspecting the roof from an attic or crawlspace full of spiders and other creepy inhabitants may not be too attractive either. Another issue is most people are unsure of what to look for. Leaks can be hard to track – water travels downward and the damage can be far from the actual leak. Because of this, hiring an expert to inspect the roof for you is something you should consider.

I offer unbiased roof inspections, as part of the Home Inspection. You will be provided with a detailed report of my findings complete with recommended maintenance and repair suggestions.

 

Radon Gas

Radon gas is created as part of the process when uranium in the soil decays. The gas then seeps through any access point into a home. Common entry points are cracks in the foundation, poorly sealed pipes, drainage or any other loose point. Once in the home, the gas can collect in certain areas especially basements and other low lying, closed areas. The Environmental Protection Agency of the US Government has a recommended action level of 4.0 pico curies per liter (pCi/L) as a safe level based on a life time of exposure at 18 hours a day. Since Radon gas is considered radioactive, long term exposure increases your risk of lung cancer.

How widespread is the problem? Radon has been found in homes in all 50 states, no location is immune. Concentrations of radon causing materials in the soil can vary in the same neighborhood. The only way to tell for sure is to have a home tested. Tests can be taken incorrectly, so you should have a certified measurement technician take your test.

Testing for radon comes in two forms: active and passive. Active devises constantly measure the levels of radon in a portion of the home and display those results. Passive devices collect samples over a period of time and then are taken away and analyzed. Either method can help you determine your level of risk. Over a period of days (minimum of 2), the device is left in the lowest level of the home which could be occupied if you live in the home. The test should be conducted in the lowest level that would be suitable for use when you are buying a home. Most every time this would be the basement. This eliminates crawl spaces under the house, but includes finished or unfinished basements. Then the results are analyzed and sent to you with comments.

If high concentrations of radon are found in your home, you have several options. Since radon is only a problem when it is concentrated in high volume, it may be necessary to limit the amount of radon getting into the home by sealing or otherwise obstructing the access points. Once again, a professional should be engaged to ensure that the radon is effectively blocked. Typical radon mitigation systems can cost between $800 and $1500. The cost will depend on access to install components, additional work to seal the basement and how aggressive a system you need to correctly reduce your level.

Since January 2015 in NH: 310-A:189-a Airborne Radon Mitigation Installer Certification Required. – "I. (a) Any person engaged in the design or installation of airborne radon mitigation devices in New Hampshire shall hold a current certification from either the National Radon Proficiency Program offered by the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists, Inc., or the National Radon Safety Board." There are more details to 310-A: 189-a at the State web site.

If you're buying or selling a home, radon can be a significant issue. Buyers should be aware of the radon risk and determine whether a radon test is desirable. When in doubt, the EPA always recommends testing. If test results already exist, make sure they are recent or that the home has not been significantly renovated since the test was performed. If in doubt, get a new test done. If you're selling a home, having a recent radon test is a great idea. By being proactive, you can assure potential buyers that there is no risk and avoid the issue from the start.

A few common misconceptions

It is NOT alright to leave windows open in the house when testing. Even if the test is taken in the basement with the door closed. EPA requires that ALL windows in the house must be closed to stabilize the home for a proper test. Opening a window on the second floor can change the pressure of the house and invalidate the test.

Living on sandy soil does NOT mean you are less likely to have a Radon problem. The very opposite can be true. Radon is a gas. If it is locked in a hugh chunk of rock, it is likely not going anywhere and will decay in that rock. However if Radon gas was in sand or soil, it has an easier path to work it's way up into a home.

There IS a difference in testing protocols when you live in a home or if you are buying a home. EPA went through the trouble of putting out two different booklets just for that reason. The two main differences that are common are where to place the test and what to do after you get the results. When you live in the home, placement depends on how you presently use the home. When buying a home, you test in the lowest area since you may use that area later. When you live in the home you have more time to take a second long term reading if the results are between 4.0 to 8.0 pCi/L or higher. When you are buying a home you don't have much time to take a second reading and you have to make a choice about what is acceptable to you.