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?

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. How Do I Repair a Cut Joist in the Attic?

Q. Need some help. My niece recently had a home inspection done to sell her home. The inspector noticed that one floor joist which lined directly up with the plumbing stack had been cut from day one over forty years ago. She bought the house last year and is now moving. The joist was spliced with a overlapping piece and nailed on to the side of the cut joist and not with much overlap, about 18″ on each side. The inspector said it should be fixed before she can sell the house.

The cut was about 1/4 to 1/3 from the end which sits on the sill plate of the basement.

Does a new joist need to be placed along side the cut one and bolted or should a telepost be added or is there some kind of steel brace that can be added to support the cut joist. Looking for some options.

A. Hey John

They make steel plates for that exact purpose. (Simpson Strong Tie).

Practically speaking, since it was only one joist, and since there have not been any problems related to this in over forty years, I think it’s safe to say her house isn’t going to fall down over it.

If her municipality is requiring it to be fixed in order to sell it, a properly dimensioned steel plate is the right way to go.

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!


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 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. What’s the Problem with Fuse Panels?

Q. Hey Mark,

The home I am buying has a fuse panel. I was told this is bad and some insurance companies will not insure the home. Is this correct?

Rose R.

A. Hey Rose,

Having a fuse panel in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. Fuse panels are older, but older doesn’t necessarily mean defective. In fact, fuses have proved to be a reliable way of protecting circuitry because of their design. Continue reading

Q. Inadequate Chimney Inspection?

Q. Hey Mark

I just had a home inspection done, and I am a little concerned about the chimney portion of the inspection. It didn’t seem very thorough. What should a chimney inspection be like? What things should be checked?

Michael L.

A. Hey Michael,

You should go to this link: InterNACHI Standards of Practice

There you will find a section titled Fireplaces, which lists what will and will not be examined in the fireplace during a typical home inspection. Within a standard home inspection, the chimney portion is a very basic visual inspection and you are right, it is not very thorough. Continue reading

Q. Too Many Layers of Shingles?

Q. Hey Mark,

We are selling our home, and the buyer’s inspector said our roof has three layers of shingles and said it was a major concern. Now our buyers want us to replace the roof. Why is the number of layers a problem when the roof is not leaking or anything?


Judy W.

A. Hey Judy,

Some municipalities have allowed as many as three layers of roofing materials. Others only allow two. You would need to contact your local building department to see what the roofing codes are in your neighborhood. Regardless of the code requirements, whoever installed that third layer did not follow good roofing practices. Continue reading