Environmental Inspections


It seems that we hear a lot about environmental concerns these days. Much of it is simply the result of a greater awareness than in the past. There are a number of potential home environmental issues that buyers should be aware of. Since most, if not all, can not be detected by smell, taste or feel it is highly recommended that you have the proper test completed. These can be determined when you schedule your inspection with me.

Water quality is probably the most common concern and the one most often tested for when the home has a private Well. Since levels can vary over time, you should have a comprehensive test taken when purchasing or selling a home. This insures that not only is the test up to date, but that the proper type of test was completed.

The comprehensive test I recommend to all clients is an FHA maximum plus Arsenic. It includes the following:

Test                     EPA limits

E coli Bacteria         Absent

Coliform Bacteria     Absent

pH                          6.5 - 8.5 su

Arsenic                   0.010 mg/L

Lead                       0.015 mg/L

Copper                    1.30 mg/L

Iron                         0.300 mg/L

Manganese              0.050 mg/L

Sodium (1)                     250 mg/L

Flouride                   4.0 mg/L

Chloride                   250 mg/L

Hardness (2)                 No Limits

Nitrate-N                 10 mg/L

Nitrite-N                  1.0 mg/L

Radon Water (3)         No Limits

1- Sodium levels should be as low as 25 mg/L for those on a salt restricted diet.

2- While no level is set for Hardness it is commonly known that levels over 125 to 150 mg/L should have a water softener installed.

3- Radon water is not part of any water quality test and has an additional fee. It is typically tested when Radon air tests are done.

Lead Paint

Lead based paint may be present in homes built before 1978. Generally, if the lead based paint is in good condition, not cracking or peeling, it is not a hazard. If the condition is hazardous, such as when peeling or cracking, the paint will either need to be removed or sealed in such a manner as to eliminate the hazard. It is always safer to assume there is lead paint in older homes. So take precautions when sanding or cutting through painted surfaces, such as wearing a mask, gloves and protective clothing.

An increasing concern with Lead paint is Lead dust created from window and door jams rubbing against each other. There has been a rise in the amount of Lead in children's blood tests (e.g., in Manchester, NH). Updating door frames, windows and other high use areas where Lead paint was applied can protect you from exposure. At the very least, keeping all surfaces clean and free of dust and paint chips can protect occupants. Ultimately, De-leading a house is an option, although very costly.

Radon

Radon is another environmental concern with homes in Real Estate transactions. For some reason it never seems to be an issue at any other time. Radon is a radioactive gas that is part of the natural decay of uranium in the soil (the simple explanation). Pretty much all homes have some radon present. Tests can determine if the level present is higher than what is considered safe. It is important to understand that there is no pass or fail with Radon. EPA still only has a "recommended action level". There is no set limit. What level is too high and whether a mitigation system should be installed is a personal choice. Some people use Sun tan lotion, some do not; personal choice. If the level is too high for you, a radon mitigation system can be installed. See "Inspection Services" for testing information.

Asbestos

Asbestos was used in much older homes. Many types of insulation (steam heat pipes and duct work) and other building materials (exterior siding and floor tiles) had asbestos. If the asbestos is releasing fibers into the air, it needs to be removed or covered by a professional contractor specializing in asbestos cleanup. But, if the asbestos material is in good condition, and not releasing fibers (frayed), removal may not be required. It should be noted that asbestos at interior locations can easily be damaged and should be incased to prevent contact or removed. In general, removal is perfered as it may help the value of the home.

Pests

Wood destroying insects & organisms can do just that, destroy a home. While not generally a health issue, it is environmental. There are three common insects that do not know the difference between a house and a tree. Carpenter ants, Termites and Powder Post Beetles will all do damage to a home. There is also a Carpenter bee, while rare, I have seen them in a few homes over the years. The other destroyer is a wood destroying fungus. While moisture plays a key role in making things comfortable for these buggers, any home can be prone to their activity. I am looking for any sort of damage to a home, past or present activity, to include as part of the inspection report.

Mildew and Mold

Mildew and Mold is understandably a big concern to people. Many stories are out there about homes that had to be torn apart because of severe mold issues. It is important to understand that mold is everywhere. It is reported on the news right along with the pollen count. So getting a positive reading for mold in your house just means you are on planet Earth. What's important to know is if you have a moisture problem it can allow mold to grow and spread.

No one can stick their head in an attic or walk into a basement and say, "you have a mold problem". I consider that unprofessional. I would say you have a moisture problem that needs to be addressed. Mold or mildew would be part of the cleanup to any damaged areas caused by the moisture (such as drywall). If you do not correct the water problem, your mildew and mold will just become active again.

If there are signs of mildew and or mold, you have to address the water issue, then you can have severely affected areas cleaned up. An example of why this makes sense would be with Well water testing. There is a test result for coliform bacteria. It is described as any colonizing bacteria. No one ever asked " But what kind of bacteria?". It didn't matter. You would have the Well shocked to correct the problem. For that reason I never suggest a mold test. It doesn't matter what kind of mold you have, you have a moisture problem, fix it!

Beginning January 2016, in the State of NH, a home owner is now required to hire a 3rd party mold inspector to do a full assessment for the home owner. A separate company must do the remediation. Visit the New Hampshire Sate web site for more details. http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/index/default.aspx