Moving Forward Together
Welcome to our winter edition of From the Rafters. After the rollercoaster ride of 2020, I think it goes without saying that we’re all looking forward to better days ahead as home sales increase and we continue to excel for our clients.
With everyone’s mind on safety, we thought it would be a good chance to cover a couple of often overlooked home hazards: the presence of high levels of cancer-causing radon and carbon monoxide poisoning. We’ve also included a look at some of the positives of winter home inspections. And as always, there’s a couple of fun facts to share with your clients.
Please know that your friends at A-Pro are ready to provide you and your clients with fair and balanced inspections, and a host of benefits that have made us a preferred choice among real estate professionals since 1994.
Let’s make the first quarter of 2021 one to remember!
Greg Mangiaracina President, A-Pro Home Inspection
Don’t Forget to Recommend Radon Testing for Your Clients
As we ease into winter after an unpredictable year, the health of our families is certainly foremost on our minds. The New Year provides a fresh start to take steps that ensure our homes are safe, especially with so many people preferring to stay inside these days. That includes clearing ice off of front steps, driveways, and sidewalks; paying attention to fire hazards such as space heaters and candles; watching for snow-laden branches that could fall; and other concerns, like the presence of radon.
Radioactive radon gas, one of the often-overlooked dangers in a home, can’t be seen, tasted, or smelled—all good reasons it has earned the reputation as an “invisible killer.” The problem of radon gets compounded during the winter when closed windows provide no means for the gas to escape. Another cold-weather factor that increases the chance of radon finding passage into a home is frozen soil, which helps direct the upward-flowing gas into the structure.
If you’ve never had your home tested for radon or it’s been years since it’s been done, the winter season is a smart time to check the levels of this harmful gas in your home. Also, please remember to remind your clients of the importance of having this critical safety check done by a professional, whether they’re buying a home or putting one on the market.
Why do homes need to be tested?
According to statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency, radon is the second leading cause of annual lung cancer deaths (21,000) for people who smoke, and the number-one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. It is estimated that one in 15 homes in the U.S. have elevated levels of this naturally occurring gas, which is released in rock, soil, and water in all 50 states. As the EPA states, testing is the only way to know if there are dangerous levels in the home. Even if high readings are found (4 pCi/L or above), it’s important to remember that there are ways to bring the numbers down to acceptable levels.
The EPA recommends home radon testing every two years, and retesting any time you move, make structural changes to your home, or occupy a previously unused level of a house. For sellers, the EPA recommends testing for radon (and reducing levels, if necessary) before putting the home on the market. Homebuyers are encouraged to ask the seller for a copy of radon test results, as well as information on if there is a radon-reduction system in the home.
With radon test results in hand, steps can be taken to mitigate the problem. These include finding a certified radon mitigation contractor to evaluate the home further and determine if measures need to be taken to prevent radon from entering the home (e.g., soil suction and sealing foundation cracks) or to reduce levels after the gas has entered (e.g., installation of a heat recovery ventilator to improve home ventilation).
But before measures can be put in place, testing is critical. A-Pro Home Inspection is a proud provider of home radon testing for home buyers, sellers, and members of the real estate community. Ask your local A-Pro Home Inspection team about radon tests in Pittsburgh. To schedule one, call 1-724-590-0074 or schedule an appointment via this website. This service is performed separately from a regular A-Pro 500-point foundation-to-roof inspection.
Be Aware of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning as Temperatures Drop
While carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is a potential year-round threat in a home, the risk rises during the winter months as home heating systems may run more frequently when colder weather sets in.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes that “CO is found in fumes produced any time you burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces. CO can build up indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it.”
Dangerous levels of this odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas are responsible for 400 deaths and more than 20,000 emergency room visits due to accidental CO poisoning every year, affecting all age groups. In this time of heightened awareness about COVID-19, take note that symptoms of CO poisoning are described as “flu-like” and may be confused with some virus symptoms, such as headaches, confusion, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness.
The CDC recommends a number of practices to prevent home poisoning, including installing a battery-operated CO detector in a place that will wake you up if triggered; replacing the detector’s batteries as needed; having CO-producing appliances—such as furnaces and water heaters—serviced annually by a certified technician; only purchasing gas equipment that has been approved by a qualified testing agency, such as Underwriter’s Laboratory; making sure appliances are properly vented to the outside; never using a gas oven or range to heat the home; and never running your vehicle inside an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
For a professional CO assessment of your home, it’s a smart idea to bring in an expert like the inspectors at A-Pro Home Inspection. Your A-Pro Inspector can test for carbon monoxide in the home, in addition to checking appliances and fixtures that may be emitting dangerous levels. A-Pro also provides advice on choosing a proper detector, recommended locations for detector placement, and maintenance of offending appliances.
Ask your local A-Pro Home Inspection team about carbon monoxide tests in Pittsburgh. To schedule one, call 1-724-590-0074 or schedule an appointment via this website. This service is performed separately from a regular A-Pro 500-point foundation-to-roof inspection.
Let Your Clients Know the Facts about Winter Home Inspections
If you have clients who are wondering if an effective and thorough home inspection can be performed during cold weather and snowy conditions, put their minds at ease. With a few exceptions, home inspections performed in the winter are almost as detailed as those executed during the rest of the year. In fact, there are even a few advantages to having A-Pro perform an inspection when temperatures dip.
First, let’s tackle the parts of the inspection that may not be possible during snowy and freezing weather. A completely snow-covered roof will prevent the home inspector from getting a look at the surface to assess missing or damaged shingles. Slick conditions may also make it too dangerous for the inspector to walk on the roof, although keep in mind that there are alternative methods for effectively evaluating a roof. In some instances, a special rake can be used to remove snow from part of the roof to examine the surface.
In addition, downspouts and gutters covered by snow will be difficult to inspect, and operating central air conditioning in cold weather is avoided because it may cause damage to the system. Further, heavy snow on the perimeter of the home will restrict the inspector from making an evaluation of soil grading. Components that cannot be checked due to weather will be indicated in the home inspection report. When warmer temperatures allow, the inspector can return to give previously non-inspected elements a fair and balanced assessment.
Some Advantages of a Winter Inspection
On the plus side, there are conditions in winter that would not be possible to observe during a warmer-weather inspection. These include:
- Melting snow may reveal active roof leaks visible in the attic.
- The presence of ice dams on the roof (a ridge of ice formed on the roof’s edge that blocks drainage of melting snow)—an indication of uneven roof temperatures. Possible causes include lack of attic ventilation and floor insulation; unsealed areas that are allowing heat to escape; use of old, non-insulated recessed lighting that emits excessive heat; and insufficient sealing and insulation around ducts.
- Significant accumulation of snow on a roof can allow the inspector to evaluate how the framing is holding up under these stresses.
- Drafty conditions that are more obvious during cold weather.
- Plumbing connections that may appear to be fine during a summer checkup may show cracks and leaking during the winter.
- Finally, there’s no better time to check a home’s heating system than when it really needs it in the winter.
If you’re lucky enough to live in warmer climates that only experience snow during Hallmark holiday movies, you can expect the same quality A-Pro service from a certified inspector no matter what the season.
Quick Home Inspection Checklist to Prepare Clients for a Winter Inspection
Please remind your selling clients to clear the following of ice and snow so these areas can be fully evaluated:
- Outside Plumbing
- Around the Foundation
FUN WINTER FACTS
- Remember those epic snowball fights you had when you were a kid? I’m sure you still feel the sting of getting blindsided by an ice ball hurled by your biggest neighborhood rival. Well, imagine getting pelted by thousands of those ice balls coming from every direction! According to Guinness World Records, the largest snowball fight consisted of 7,681 snowball-throwers. It took place in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, on January 31, 2016, to honor Team Canada’s participation in the Showa Shinzan International
Yukigassen World Championships, an annual professional snowball fighting competition. In case you’re wondering, yukigassen is Japanese for “snow battle.”
- Sadly, the 33rd year of the annual snowball competition (scheduled for February 20-21, 2021) has been canceled due to COVID-19. Here’s what we’ll miss: Teams from Japan, the U.S., Australia, Canada, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and other countries compete at the foot of Mount Showa Shinzan in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. Two teams at a time, wearing helmets and face shields, go head to head in an arena the size of a basketball court, chucking premade ice balls at each other and trying to capture the other team’s flag. Sounds like fun to us, as long as there’s hot chocolate with marshmallows afterward.