Q. How Can I Know Homeowners Didn’t Tamper With Radon Test?

Q. Hey Mark,
We are trying to move from Texas to Wisconsin and found a home. We had the typical inspection and radon test performed. There were numerous semi- minor issues but a few bigger ones. Radon at 5.7, tree roots growing into the sump pump crock, etc. In our contract we did not give the seller the right to cure if there were issues so we gave notice the next day that we were canceling the contract and needed them to sign a mutual release. They will not sign a release and are actually trying to force us to bu[y] the home. They never took it off the market and have not spent one penny on anything related to moving, etc – it was only 11 days between offer and cancellation. Now they are having a radon test done of their own because they do not believe ours was accurate.  I do not believe that we are dealing with honest people and they do have strong ties to the building community around us so I don’t necessarily think that their test will be done honestly. Can they air out the basement, test somewhere else in the home, etc to make the test read lower? It seems to me that as the buyer with “no right to cure” for the sellers and inspections being done by a professional that sellers if they don’t like the results shouldn’t be able to retest/fix until they make us buy the home with no right to cure.  What things can people do to make the radon test be skewed?  What should we watch for?
Thanks,
Jean

Hey Jean,

Re-testing should be done according to EPA guidelines.  There are several things that the sellers could do to alter their test.  I’ll not list them as it will give some people “suggestions” they could attempt to use.  However most of the things they may try, such as leaving their windows open as you suggest, may actually increase their tested levels because it could increase the amount of radon drawn into the home from the ground.  As a practical issue, there really isn’t anything you as a potential buyer can do to ensure that the seller’s test is performed properly.  Hopefully your test was performed by a certified technician to EPA standards for a real estate transaction. About the only thing you can do, is determine if the radon report you receive contains some sort of certification information on the testing professional, as well as a statement that it was performed to EPA guidelines.  If the seller’s test is performed using an electronic continuous radon monitor, it is probably equipped with instrumentation that will assist the technician in determining if the monitor has been tampered with.  If they simply used a canister or some other device, then it will not be as obvious to the tech.

Since I am in Missouri I contacted an acquaintance of mine who is an inspector in WI (Michael Larson, Inspectrapro LLC, Hudson WI, http://www.inspectrapro.com).  He tells me that radon testing is not legislated in Wisconsin, but provided a link to a list of WI Radon mitigators who have passed testing by Radon organizations and must maintain CE for their continued accreditation. http://dhs.wisconsin.gov/dph_beh/RadonProt/Lists/miti1008.pdf .

I would also strongly recommend that you seek the advice of your agent in the transaction, as well as a real estate lawyer.  I don’t think the second test is your primary concern, as you bailed on the home for other reasons as well.  Even if the sellers produce a contradictory radon test result, this wouldn’t likely alter your decision anyway, as radon mitigation is generally relatively low cost and simple to perform in the first place.  Therefore, in my opinion, legal advise is what you really need.

Mark Nahrgang is the owner of Kingdom Inspection Network Group – St. Louis and is a professional NACHI certified building inspector in the St. Louis metro area. Mark performs home inspections as well as commercial inspections throughout St. Louis and St. Charles County.

Q. Home Inspector Disturbed the Vermiculite… Problem?

Hey Mark!

I just read your question about a seller having asbestos in their home. I am on the other end, the buyer. I just had an inspection and the inspector found vermiculite in a portion of the home. It is covered by about 8-10 inches of new installation.

One concern, the inspector stuck his hand into the vermiculite and pulled out a handful to show me.. does this fall under the category of ‘do not disturb the asbestos’ or is this ok?

Thank you!

Maria

Hey Maria,

While a minor disturbance such as this may not be a major health risk in and of itself, the cumulative effect of exposure to asbestos is a proven threat.  Apparently your inspector has a comfort level with it that exceeds what the EPA recommends.  They recommend NOT disturbing the vermiculite insulation.  If it is disturbed inadvertently, they recommend leaving the area and allowing the dust to settle.

Even though the inspector should not have disturbed it, I might also say that it is good that he found the vermiculite.  Most inspectors don’t move insulation around.  His “probing” was what lead him to the discovery.

Now, you need to ask yourself how much you love the home. If you love it, and can either live in the home without disturbing the insulation, or can have it removed, then the home may still be a good option for you. The fact that additional insulation is on top of the vermiculite does give it an additional barrier that may help to minimize disturbances. You can read more about vermiculite insulation and asbestos on the EPA’s website so that you can be well-informed as you make your decision.

Mark

Mark Nahrgang is the owner of Kingdom Inspection Network Group – St. Louis and is a professional NACHI certified building inspector in the St. Louis metro area. Mark performs home inspections as well as commercial inspections throughout St. Louis and St. Charles County.

Test Your Home for Radon! (My Personal Experience)

I am always very concerned when a home buyer declines having a radon test during their home inspection. I’m genuinely uneasy about the potential health repercussions of that decision. For me, I think it strikes particularly close to home for two reasons. One reason is that my wife’s grandmother, a non-smoker, passed away from lung cancer. Through that experience, we learned first-hand what an insidious disease lung cancer is. Secondly, about 15 years ago, my wife and I bought a home in St. Peters, MO. We hired a home inspector and even though radon testing wasn’t as common in those days, we asked for a radon test. Our home inspector had never performed one before, but he did comply with our request and purchased canister type testing devices to test the home. The radon gas detected by the test was at an acceptable level, and we purchased the house.

Several years later, when I started my home inspection business, I ran another radon test in my home with a continuous electronic radon monitor. We found out that our radon levels were 3 times the level at which the EPA recommends mitigation. Continue reading

Q. Were the radon test canisters left too long?

Q. Hey Mark,
The buyers of a home I have listed hired a company to do a radon test. The test came back a little high (4.9). I’m concerned about the test because they used canisters, and they left them in place from Wednesday through Saturday. Wouldn’t this increase the radon levels in the canisters by leaving them longer than 48 hours?
Michelle

A. Hey Michelle,
The simple answer to your question is no. The radon levels don’t increase the longer the canister is in place. However the validity of the result in this circumstance is dependent upon the type of measuring device used. Continue reading

Q. Utilities Weren’t Turned On for My Inspection

Q. Hey Mark,

I’m purchasing a home that is currently owned by a bank. The inspector stated that we had to make sure that the bank had all the utilities turned on. We thought they had but when we got there, there were signs all over saying the home was winterized. My inspector really couldn’t inspect everything. What should we do?

Frustrated.

A. Hey Frustrated,

I feel your frustration because I was that inspector just last week. I showed up to inspect a bank-owned home, which was supposed to be ready for inspection. However, there were winterization signs all over, and the water and the water heater were both turned off. Unfortunately, my client was frustrated with me because I refused to turn the water on.

Continue reading

Q. Catch Pan Under Washer?

Q. Hey Mark,

Our home inspection report recommends a catch pan under the washing machine. What exactly is that and how do I get one?

Thanks,
Andrew

A. Hey Andrew,

Recommending a catch pan under a washing machine is a common recommendation with some home inspectors. Some municipalities even require it in certain circumstances.

Personally, I don’t commonly recommend catch pans for a number of reasons. The first problem being that they are difficult to install after the home is already built. If installed properly, they will have a drain and plumbing to direct the water safely away from the leak. However, if not installed with a drain, or if the drain is clogged, they can easily overflow if the home is not occupied for a period of time, and the leak is not detected right away. Another reason being that they only “catch” the water that falls directly into them and do nothing to address water spraying all over the room from a busted hose or pipe. Lastly, they are easily damaged when replacing the washer/dryer, or removing them for servicing or cleaning.

Instead, I recommend specific devices be installed on all appliances that use water, because of the possibility of a future break. I have an affiliate relationship with a company that manufactures these devices and homeowners can install them themselves. The company is called “Flood Stop”. The devices have a small sensor that can be placed on the floor, which detects moisture. Once the sensor is activated, the device immediately closes a valve on the water supply to shut off water to the appliance. It also sets off an alarm to alert you that there is some sort of problem. Some insurance companies may offer discounts on your premiums with these devices installed. Be sure to check with your insurance carrier to see if that is the case with your coverage. These devices, depending on the appliance, run around $100-$125.

You can learn more about the flood stop products by clicking this link: Flood Stop. I have personally talked to the owner (and inventor) of flood stop and he has agreed to offer you (as well as any other reader accessing this special link) a 10% discount should decide to purchase any of his products. Simply enter coupon code “king” at your checkout.

Q. My Inspector Couldn’t Access the Attic

Q: I am purchasing a home, and I just had a home inspection done. The sellers still live there, and they had some belongings in the closet that were blocking access to the attic. My inspector said that he was unable to look in the attic because it was blocked. It was only a couple of boxes, shouldn’t he have simply moved them? It just seems lazy to me. I mean, for the money I was paying him, I think he could move a box or two.

A: I understand your frustration with the situation you encountered. Unfortunately, this is a common misunderstanding; so let me address it. This probably is not an issue of laziness on the part of your inspector. Continue reading