Select a topic below to jump down to our homeowner's guide.
In getting ready for your Total Home Inspection, we recommend that you:
- Set aside 2-3 hours on your calendar so that you can be present for your inspection.
- Attend the inspection and accompany the home inspector in order to get the most from your Total Home Inspection and to become well versed in the systems and operation of your prospective or new home.
- Contact your realtor with the time and location of your Total Home Inspection so he/she can open the house and be present at the inspection. The realtor should advise the seller and/or listing broker of the date and time of the inspection so that the house is in a condition to be inspected (obstructions removed for access to the furnace/boiler, water heater, attic, crawl spaces, access panels, etc.).
- Confirm that all utilities (electric, gas, water, etc.) are turned on.
- Remind your realtor that the entire house should be kept closed for at least 12 hours prior to any radon-in-the-air testing (E. P. A. prescribed "closed house environment"). Normal ingress and egress are allowable, though the doors should not be left open for any extended period of time, but all windows should be closed throughout the house.
- Remind the realtor that if the water is to be tested for lead and copper levels, for the best test results no water should be run in the entire house (or at least at the water source/sink that will be used for the test, for 6-8 hours prior to the test.
Spring & Fall Maintenance
Total Home Inspection recommends that every spring and fall you:
- Check sump pumps to make sure that the float switches operate as designed (where applicable).
- Seed and aerate your lawn. Adjust the pH level as required.
- Inspect roof and chimney flashings for leaks and check roof surfaces for damage.
- Reset programmable thermostats.
- Bypass any humidifying systems during the spring/summer and turn them on during the fall/winter.
- Inspect your deck to be sure there are no defects, loose hand-railings, broken stairs or wood-to-earth contact as this would encourage insect infestation and rotting wood. Spring is a good time to apply sealer your deck. Clean the surface using detergent or deck cleaner, and when it's dry, apply fresh sealer. Use a waterproof wood preservative and make sure it includes a fungicide and a mildewcide. Be sure to treat the top and bottom of all components. Treat the ends of the wood too, as the ends usually absorb the most moisture.
Year Round Maintenance
Foundation Walls: Foundation walls should be checked for evidence of deterioration, dampness and movement. Limited dampness from slow moisture migration can be anticipated with older foundation walls. This will often result in minor surface deterioration (efflorescence). Semi-annual inspections allow for monitoring of this situation. Cracks and voids should be filled from the exterior and the interior to help prevent seepage. Filling cracks from the interior allows easy monitoring of movement between inspections. Access hatches should be provided to all crawl space areas.
Grading: The grading immediately adjacent to the house should be checked to ensure a slope of one inch per foot for the first six feet away from the house (where practical). Window wells should be cleaned and covered.
Wood Framing: Exposed wooden structural components in the basement should be checked for evidence of rot and insect infestation. Deterioration usually results in sagging structural components and settlement of the framing/structure.
Wall and Ceiling Surface Cracks: Wall and ceiling surface cracks should be monitored for evidence of significant movement. Minor movement due to normal settling and shrinkage should be anticipated. Amend the soil grading, clean gutters and extend all down spouts/leaders on the exterior of the house, as a method of preventing further settlement, prior to repairing cracks.
Door Frames: Doorframes should be checked to determine if they are square and plumb. Doorframes showing significant movement over a six-month period are normally indications of more serious problems.
Lubricate all windows and doors for ease of operation.
Have the house inspected for termites and other wood destroying insects by a licensed inspector.
Deck: Inspect your deck to be sure there are no defects, loose hand-railings, broken stairs or wood-to-earth contact as this would encourage insect infestation and rotting wood. Spring is a good time to apply sealer your deck. Clean the surfaces using detergent or deck cleaner, and when it's dry, apply fresh sealer. Use a waterproof wood preservative and make sure it includes a fungicide and a mildewcide. Be sure to treat the top and bottom of all components. Treat the ends of the wood too, as the ends usually absorb the most moisture.
Prune trees and clear bushes (before buds appear) as required to prevent insect and vermin access to the roof and for moisture clearance for the house.
Test the "force" setting on your electric garage door opener(s) (when applicable). If the door(s) does not reverse "readily", the force is excessive and requires adjusting.
Look at the garage door springs, cables, rollers, pulleys and other door hardware for signs of wear and/or deterioration. Make any appropriate repairs as required.
Seal asphalt driveways.
Heating and Cooling Systems
Forced Hot Air Systems: Replacement filters on forced-air systems should be checked every 6-8 weeks and changed as needed. Electronic filters should be checked monthly and cleaned per the manufacturer's recommendations. Care should be taken to ensure the interior components are installed in the correct orientation after cleaning. Noisy blower sections should be brought to the attention of a technician. All types of furnaces should be inspected by a qualified, licensed technician every year to ensure that the system operates at peak performance levels, all the components are operating properly and no connections are loose or burned.
Gas Furnaces and Boilers: If gas odors can be detected, call the gas company immediately. Do not turn on any electrical equipment or use anything with an open flame. Gas furnaces and boilers should be cleaned and serviced annually. The exhaust pipe should be checked for loose or corroded sections. The heat shield (located where the burner enters the heat exchanger) should be checked to ensure that it is not loose or corroded. Burn marks around the heat shield or soot on the front may indicate a draft or combustion problem. A qualified, licensed technician should be contacted if these signs are observed.
Hot Water Heating Systems: Radiators and convectors should be inspected annually for leakage (particularly at the valves). Radiators should be bled of air annually, and as necessary during the heating season. Circulating pumps should be lubricated twice during the heating season. Expansion tanks should be drained annually.
Electric Heat: Electric furnaces and boilers should be inspected by a qualified, licensed technician every year to ensure that the system is operating at peak performance levels, all the components are operating properly and no connections are loose or burned. The fuses or circuit breakers in some electric systems can be checked by the homeowner. Electric baseboard heaters should be inspected to ensure an adequate clearance from combustible materials and they are kept clean. Baseboard heaters that have been mechanically damaged should be repaired or replaced. Outlets should not be installed directly over electric strip heaters.
Oil Furnaces and Boilers: Oil systems should be checked by a qualified, licensed technician on an annual basis. Oily soot deposits at registers of forced-air systems may indicate a cracked heat exchanger. A technician should be contacted. The exhaust pipe from the furnace or boiler should be checked for loose connections or corroded sections. The barometric damper on the exhaust pipe should rotate freely. The chimney clean out should be clear of any debris. The oil tank should be inspected for leaks/seepage. Soot on the front of the furnace or boiler may indicate a draft or combustion problem. A qualified, licensed technician should be contacted.
Wood Stoves: Wood stove chimneys and flues should be checked for creosote build-up and cleaned at least annually (more frequently depending upon use). Clearance to combustible materials around wood stoves should be maintained at all times. If there is any doubt about the safety of a wood stove, contact the city building inspector immediately.
All chimneys and flues should be checked for performance.
Heating Ducts: Have your ducts cleaned at least every 3 to 4 years, this keeps your furnace clean and will increase life expectancy. Make sure your ducts have no cracks or leaks in the ductwork and tape/cover with a mastic sealant were needed.
Water Heater: Drain tank at least every year and flush it out. Remove the "sacrificial rod" and soak in vinegar, then scrape off scales.
Air Conditioning: Check filters every month. Have annual system maintenance done one month before the air conditioning season begins. Keep the area around the condensing unit and around the compressor unit free of debris.
Humidifiers: Water levels in humidifiers should be checked and adjusted monthly. Interior components should be replaced on an as needed basis. The pad on drum type humidifiers should be replaced annually. The water supply to humidifiers should be shut off for the summer months and activated for the heating months. On systems with air conditioning or a heat pump, the damper in the humidifier ductwork should be closed during the cooling season and opened during the heating season.
Electrical & Electrical Systems
Electrical System: Examine the electrical panel(s), wiring and electrical components for evidence of overheating. The breakers in the electrical should be "exercised" (turned on and off) to ensure that they do not stick.
To prevent power outages, be sure that there are not too many appliances plugged into one circuit. Install outlets where extension cords are required (extension cords are for temporary usage only).
Replace smoke detector batteries, or, if hard-wired, test smoke detection system regularly.
Check and service the well water pump and storage tank (if applicable). Have the water quality tested.
Have the septic tank inspected and pumped (if applicable). Properly sized septic tanks should be pumped and inspected every 1 1/2 - 2 years.
Avoid flushing any products other than toilet paper down the toilets. Check for corrosion and leaks. Properly sized septic systems should be cleaned every 1 1/2 years. Repair all drips and running toilets to prevent additional stress on septic systems and for better water conservation.
Microwave: Do not use pans or dishes that are metal or have a metallic trim or paint. Only use mild soap and/or baking soda to clean the interior (abrasive cleaners or scouring pads can damage the lining).
Refrigerator: Clean the interior shelves, shell and gaskets every 3 months. Once a year, clean the coils on the back or underneath.
Range & Oven: To avoid damaging the burners, do not use extra-large and heavy cooking pots or pans. If you have a self-cleaning oven, do not use any other method to clean it. Clean range hood vents.
Garbage Disposal: To clean the disposal, push a full tray of ice cubes through it while running cold water. Always remember to run water during use and for at least two minutes after you finish. This prevents stoppages.
Washer & Dryer: Clean the lint screen after each load of clothes has been dried and the unit is empty. To adjust the level of your washing machine, turn the legs clockwise to lower them or counterclockwise to raise them. The water supply to the washing machine should be turned off after every load of laundry. We recommend installing a pan and a drain under the washing machine to help prevent flooding in the event of leaks, spills or overflows. We also recommend metal hoses for the clothes dryer's exhaust to help prevent fires from lint accumulations and/or plastic hoses. Make sure dryer vents are clean and clear.
Hot Tub/Spa: Keep a proper water level. Consult your spa company for suggestions about maintaining your particular system.
Replace smoke detector batteries, or, if hard-wired, test smoke detection system regularly.
Life Expectancies of Components & Appliances
Check our PDF guide!
Heating Maintenance Tips
Boilers and Hot Water Heaters Should Be Operated Continuously. If a boiler or hot water heater is turned off for more than a week, it is possible that condensation can cause the unit to plug when it is turned on again.
Protect Yourself Against System Failure With A Monitored Security System. We strongly recommend that every home have a monitored security system capable of sensing heating system failure and basement fire. If either of these conditions exists, early detection can be tremendously important in minimizing damage or injury.
Oil Lines. Our inspection checked the visible portions of the oil lines. We did not pressure test the oil lines however. We are not responsible for oil line leaks that we could not visually inspect. We recommend that all oil lines be run over the floor and capped with a layer of cement. We especially do not recommend using oil lines that run under the foundation of the home. Be careful not to accidentally damage exposed oil lines.
Budget For the Replacement of Older Heating Equipment. If a unit is approaching or is past the end of its design life, you should expect that the unit might fail and require replacement. You should also consider replacing the equipment before the unit fails. Newer heating equipment is usually more efficient, more reliable and safer as well.
Domestic Coils. If your heating system uses a domestic coil to make hot water, you should be aware that many domestic coils will not provide adequate hot water under heavy usage. In addition, as domestic coils get older they can accumulate scale which may result in inadequate hot water. We typically recommend installing indirect-fired hot water heaters that should produce more than enough hot water.
Steam Systems. If your home has a steam heating system, you need to flush the system and check water levels on a monthly basis. Be sure to have a technician show you how to perform these important safety tasks.
Chimneys and Draft. Our Technician did not check the chimney as part of the inspection. If the unit has poor draft, it is possible that the chimney is in poor condition or was improperly designed. If poor draft conditions persist, it is possible that the chimney will need repairs or that a draft inducer may need to be added.
Understanding Insulation Ratings
Each type of insulation has its own advantages and disadvantages based on its thermal properties. These properties, along with established insulation ratings, help builders and engineers determine which type of insulation would be most effective in a given situation. The insulation rating indicates how well a material insulates. Insulation is rated in three different ways:
The U-value rating indicates the overall heat flow between air on the warm side and air on the cold side of a wall, floor or ceiling, which is insulated with a given material. The lower the U-value, the more insulated a unit is against heat transmission.
The R-value measures the thermal resistance of the material. It indicates the total resistance of a material to the passage of heat or cold. The higher the R-value, the more effective its insulation properties. The R-value is equal to the U-value divided into 1 (R = 1/U).
The K-value is the measure of heat conductivity of a material. It is the equivalent of the U-value per square inch of thickness of the material. That is, the measure of the amount of heat, in BTUs per hour, that will be transmitted through one square foot of material that is one inch thick to cause a temperature change of one degree Fahrenheit from one side of the material to the other. As with the U-value, the lower the K-value for a material, the better it insulates. If the K-value of the material is known, the R-value per inch can be determined by diving 1 by the K-value (R-value per inch = 1/K value).
Building codes set minimum R-values for insulation in various regions, or thermal zones, in the U.S.
What is radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas produced by the natural breakdown of uranium (which is present in soil and in rock formations throughout the United States). Studies have shown that exposure to radon contributes to the incidence of lung cancer. The EPA advises you to take action to reduce the level of radon in your air if it exceeds 4.0 pci/L (picocuries per liter) in the lowest "livable" level of your home.
Am I required to have a radon test?
Generally, you are not required to perform a radon test to qualify for a mortgage, but you may want to have the test done so that you will know the results before you proceed with the purchase of the property.
How does Total Home Inspection test for radon levels in the air?
We place EPA approved devices, either two e-perm canisters or one continuous "Sun Nuclear Monitor", in the lowest livable area of the home. If the basement is a space that could be used as a workshop, playroom or exercise room, or could be a finished space in the future, then that is the space you should test (because it is the entry level of radon). It should be noted that another way for radon to enter the home is by escaping from well water supply (sinks, washing machines, shower, etc). If your water supply is from a private well, we recommend that you also test for radon in the water supply).
The test devices remain in the home for at least 48 hours. The laboratories we use to decipher the e-perm canisters are EPA/RMP certified. You will receive your test results in one to two business days after the test device(s) are picked up, by e mail or fax. The "hard copy" will be mailed to you the same day.
What are the required guidelines that must be followed?
The EPA Guidelines in Real Estate Pre-Purchase transactions are as follows:
- All windows and doors must be kept closed 12 hours before the start of the test and during the 48 hour test, except as required for normal entry and exits.
- Place detectors off the floor at least 20", on a table or chair, 1' from any outside walls, 3' from doors or windows.
- Do not place in or on fireplaces.
- Do not place in hot areas near furnace or stove, in direct sunlight, in drafts, or near sources of moisture.
- Do not disturb for 46-72 hours.
- Properly cap and immediately mail the devices to an approved laboratory.
Can radon levels vary from day to day or season to season?
Yes, radon levels in the house can vary depending on a number of conditions that include (but are not limited to) barometric pressure changes, unstable weather conditions, rain, snow accumulations, etc. That is why the EPA recommends that homeowners test their homes several times during the year to determine the average annual level. However, if the homeowner has not done that, you as the buyer would have to obtain short-term results by performing a short-term test along with your home inspection.
According to the EPA in its pamphlet "Has your home been invaded by Radon?":
"Short and long-term results should be interpreted differently. If your long-term results are high, you should definitely take action to fix your home, as soon as possible. " "If your short-term results are high, the best way to determine your annual level is by doing a long-term test of one year. Preliminary research shows that short-term results from tests made during the cooler months generally overestimate annual level by one to three times. For example, if your short-term test result is 6 pCi/L then your annual average level is probably between 2 pCi/L and 6 pCi/L. If your short-term test results are low, you may want to test again at some time in the future. This is to make sure that your test was not conducted at a time when radon levels happened to be much lower than usual."
Unfortunately, in a pre-purchase situation the buyer has a small window of opportunity to obtain accurate information about the radon level in the home you are considering. Therefore, your only option is a short-term test.
How will I know if the homeowners followed the guidelines?
If you have concerns about the sellers following the protocol, we encourage buyers to put their concerns in writing to the realtor(s) and homeowner(s). You should state that: You are concerned about the validity of the radon air test. You want assurances that EPA guidelines will be followed, i.e. - doors and windows to the exterior closed for twelve hours prior to the test, and during the 48 hours of the test, except for normal entering and exiting. You should state that you will retest upon moving into the property. Also, you could include the following information in your statement: *According to the EPA, radon is a health hazard, and it poses a considerable health risk. *According to the EPA, it is the second leading cause of lung cancer in our country. *Some of the New England States are known to have areas that show high concentrations of radon.
World Health Organization Takes Action Against Lung Cancer With New 2.7 Radon Limitp>
Sep 28, 2009 (PRN): The World Health Organization announced that they have established a new limit for indoor radon gas. The new maximum radon level is 2.7. This is a 32% reduction from the previously accepted "action level" of 4.0.
This new limit was prompted by a recent compilation of studies submitted by scientists throughout the World which conclusively point to radon as the second leading cause of lung cancer next to smoking. Based on the new 2.7 threshold, millions of homes will require repairs to reduce the levels of the gas.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of deaths throughout the World are caused by exposure radon (more than any other hazard in the home including fires, carbon monoxide, falls, drowning, poisonings, handguns, etc.) This new plan of action by the World Health Organization will save millions of lives.
More than 100 scientists from 30 countries participated in the World Health Organization International Radon Project and assisted in the publishing of the Handbook on Indoor Radon which was released earlier this month. The book is a useful resource for concerned homeowners or anyone who wants to learn more about the toxic carcinogen known as radon. It outlines the years of research and the very conclusive findings that have triggered a push for stricter legislation and construction practices that will reduce the risk of lung cancer from indoor radon exposure.
You can download a copy of the International Radon Handbook.
According to Jamey Gelina, a radon remediation specialist with Air Quality Control Agency; "All homes should be tested for radon regardless of the geographic location or type of construction. Since radon gas cannot be detected by human senses, the only way to know if a home has a radon problem is to conduct the test."Air Quality Control has fixed radon problems in over 20,000 homes throughout North America. "We have worked with countless families who have been victims of radon induced lung cancer which could have been prevented with improved awareness of this very common problem." Mr. Gelina added.
We recommend that you visit the following web sites, to become more familiar with radon:
World Health Organization Handbook
National Radon Safety Board
E. P. A.
National Safety Council - Radon Information
Radon Testing Corporation of America
Dr. P. Price & Prof. A. Gelman Study
Granite and Radon
Our principal here at Total Home Inspection is certified by the NRSB as a Radon Measurement Specialist.
How to Interpret Your Water Test
The EPA sets water quality standards that public drinking water supplies must meet. Private wells are not regulated, but the EPA standards are widely "recommended". There are primary standards, which are related to health, and secondary standards, which pertain to aesthetic qualities of the water, like taste or staining characteristics.
The general quality of your water can be determined by comparing the "results" of your water test to the E. P. A. "standards". If your water values exceeds the recommended "standard" or concentration, you might want to consider ways to filter or clean up the water. Since we do not offer water filter installation, we are providing you with the following information so that you may make an informed decision regarding the possible use of a water filter/filtration system.
FLUORIDE - Fluoride occurs naturally in local bedrock wells. It has been considered beneficial by the EPA at lower concentrations, but it is a health concern at higher concentrations. (Call your doctor or dentist with questions about fluoride).
CHLORIDE - Chloride is present in most waters, and is not considered harmful by the EPA at concentrations up to 250 mg/L. Higher concentrations can occur naturally along the seacoast, or may indicate road salt use. Since sodium chloride is a major component of sewage, high chloride may indicate sewage contamination. High chloride may be harmful to metallic pipes, and may indicate an unhealthy level of salt for people.
NITRATE and NITRITE - nitrate is considered unhealthy because of its conversion in the body to nitrite. Nitrite causes methemoglobinemia (blue baby syndrome), a serious condition harmful to infants and to women during pregnancy. nitrite can react under acidic conditions to form nitrosamines, which are known carcinogens. Both nitrate and nitrite are found in sewage and wastes from humans and farm animals. Nitrate is a component of fertilizer, so agricultural run-off may be responsible for elevated nitrate levels in your water.
COLIFORM BACTERIA - Coliform bacteria are commonly found in the soil and in surface water, on leaves and rocks. They are so common that if surface water has gotten into your well, coliforms are almost surely present. If coliform bacteria are present in your well water, there is also the possibility that harmful chemicals or disease causing organisms (which may be present on the surface) may also have found their way into your well.
E.COLI BACTERIA - E.Coli bacteria are a subset of coliform bacteria. They are present in the intestines (and feces) of warm blooded mammals (including humans). Their presence in your drinking water indicates fecal contamination, and possibly the presence of disease causing organisms.
SODIUM - Sodium is naturally present in nearly all waters. Water near the seacoast, or water softened with sodium-form water softeners may have higher concentrations. High sodium may also indicate contamination from human or animal waste disposal, or from landfill leaching.
HARDNESS - Water hardness results from the presence of certain metals, usually calcium and magnesium. Hard water is generally not known to be unhealthy, but it can be aesthetically unpleasant. A soap scum can appear on tubs and showers, and a filmy substance may develop in your toilet. You may also notice it takes a lot of soap to work up a lather. Also, this can cause an undesirable level of scale build-up inside your pipes and fixtures (including your water heater).
pH - pH is a measure of the acidic or basic character of your water. Acidic water is corrosive to metal pipes and may impart a metallic taste to the water.
IRON - Iron can stain laundry, sinks, tubs and fixtures a reddish or orange color and may add a bitter or astringent taste to the water.
MANGANESE - Manganese can stain laundry and porcelain a blackish or grayish color and may add an unpleasant taste to the water.
LEAD - Lead is a common metal found throughout the environment in paint, air, soil, household dust, food, porcelain, pewter and in water. Lead rarely occurs naturally in rivers or lakes, but leaches into your drinking water from brass or chrome-plated brass faucets, or from pipes soldered with lead-based solder. Lead build ups in your body and can damage the brain, red blood cells, and kidneys. The greatest risk is to young children and to women during pregnancy.
ARSENIC - Arsenic in water causes cancer and has been found in wells and public water supplies throughout Connecticut. It is very expensive to remove or filter out of your drinking water.
For more information about drinking water, wells, water contamination, Superfund Sites, contaminated areas in New England, etc. the following EPA site provides extensive information: https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water
Do I need a water test if the water supply is "town water", "city water" or "public"?
Generally, you do not need to test the water in your potential home if it is a "public water supply", supplied by the town or city. Towns and cities are required to supply water that has met EPA standards for safe drinking. However, there are a couple of instances that come to mind where you might want to perform some testing:
A "lead in water" test can disclose if lead is leaching into your drinking water either from the pipes leading into the home, or from the pipes/pipe solder in the home. Very occasionally, towns and cities do experience problems with their water supplies. We suggest that you contact the town where the home is located and ask:
- Does their water supply currently meets ALL EPA requirements for safe drinking?
- Do they ever experience any problems with such things as supply, bacteria, etc.?
Occasionally, in-home water filtration systems, water filters and water fixtures can harbor bacteria or contaminants.
For more information, go to:
Inspecting for Termites
Inspecting for signs of termites is not a hit or miss proposition, but sometimes the signals are impossible for the untrained eye to detect. Evidence of termite activity is usually in places that are very difficult to reach and even more difficult to see. If you suspect your house might be infested, it is recommended that you have it thoroughly inspected by a qualified, professional who is trained to detect the signs of termites. Termites are the most organized enemy your house will encounter. They are resilient, determined and unfortunately, very efficient. Chances are that you won't see evidence of their destructive activity until the damage has been done.
There can be as many as 13 to 14 subterranean termite colonies per acre, with each colony possibly contain as many as one million termites. Termites can travel up to 45 yards from their colony.
The following list indicates common signs of a termite infestation that you may detect:
- "Mud tunnels" extending along the foundation of the house (inside or out).
- Wings or sawdust near windows, doors, the heating plant (furnace or boiler) or in the garage.
- Buckling paint or tiny holes on wood surfaces.
- Flying or "swarming" termites in the house, especially near light and heat sources.
Things you can do to help discourage termite activity:
- Eliminate any standing water and its source.
- gutters and downspouts clean, in good repair and free of clogs.
- Extend gutter leaders as far from the foundation as practical.
- Maintain proper ventilation and remove obstructions that prevent ventilation from accessing the crawl space and/or basement.
- Repair leaking plumbing and any drainage in the crawlspace and/or basement.
- Remove wood and debris (scrap lumber, boards, cardboard, paper, cellulose based products) from the basement and/or crawl space. Remove any tree stumps and firewood from the areas near the house and from the basement/crawl space.
- Cut back all shrubs, bushes and trees away from the foundation, trim and siding of the house.
NOTE: These measures will not prevent or control infestations but they will help discourage insect/termite activity. Moisture attracts subterranean termites. For more information, go to:
General Safety Tips
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates that approximately 80 percent of all fire deaths in the United States and Canada occur in the home. Roughly 11 people die in home fires in the U.S. and Canada every day.
Many lives can be saved if people react immediately when a fire alarm sounds. Once a fire starts, there's no time to develop a plan. The NFPA urges everyone to "Know when to go!" in advance.
- Replace smoke detector batteries, or, if hard-wired, test smoke detection system regularly.
- Plan your escape and practice it. Create at least two different escape routes and make sure each member of the family knows what they are.
- Children are at double the risk of dying in a home fire because they often become confused about what to do. Teach them that a smoke alarm signals a fire, and make sure they know the escape routes and have practiced them.
- After alerting the family, get out. Don't wait for anything. Call the fire department from a neighbor's home.
- If you encounter smoke on your way out of a fire, use your second route instead.
- If you must escape through smoke, crawl low under the smoke to your exit.
- If your clothes catch on fire, stop where you are, drop to the ground, cover your face with your hands and roll over and over to smother the flames.
- Once outside, have a designated spot where family members will meet.
- Never go back into a burning house or building, not for anything.
The UL (Underwriters Laboratories) recommend that homeowners observe these few basic, safety precautions to help prevent accidents involving ladders:
- Always look for the UL Listing Mark before purchacing a ladder. The UL Listing Mark on a product means that representative samples of that product have been tested to nationally recognized safety standards with regard to safety hazards.
- Always use a ladder that is long enough for the job at hand. A great number of ladder accidents are a result of using ladders that are too short.
- Don't carry equipment while climbing a ladder. Invest in a tool belt or have someone hand the equipment to you.
- Face the ladder when climbing up and down; keep your body centered between the side rails.
- While up on the ladder, don't overextend your reach.
- Never move the ladder while standing on it. Always make sure people and equipment are off the ladder before moving or closing it.
- Never stand on a ladder's bucket shelf. Read and follow all warning stickers for the highest standing levels.
Heightened media and industry attention on mold and fungus compels us to make information and resources on the topics available to you. It is our hope you will find these enlightening and helpful; that so armed you will make informed decisions and take the action you deem appropriate. While it is not Total Home Inspection's intent to create undue concern, it is important for all of us to become and remain aware of this emerging issue. By acknowledging mold related issues and concerns and by providing information resources, we can all continue to serve and support our clients and professional counterparts in the manner they richly deserve, and potentially avoid or prevent illness and unnecessary litigation.
"Mold" and "Fungus" are actually a small subset of a broader family of "Biologically Derived Contaminates", which include a spectrum of Bacteria, Viruses, Mycotoxins and Endotoxins.
Biologically Derived Contaminates are ubiquitous…in the food we eat, the air we breathe, the things we touch on a daily basis. To grow, they require suitable conditions: moisture, temperate climes and a food source. With these, BDCs can grow at a rapid rate. In some cases BDCs become visible to the eye; in others, they remain concealed, growing under, behind and within materials in the home.
What's the Issue?
Without mold and fungi we might never have known the pleasures of a fine cheese or the miracle of a lifesaving revolution in medicine: Penicillin. These are the results of carefully controlled and benign manifestations of BDCs. In sharp contrast, certain molds in an uncontrolled or hostile state can, for some, represent a substantial threat to health.
Certain types of mold have been found to be toxic, with properties that can cause serious illness in humans. Highly publicized among these mold types are stachybotris and aspergillis, containing mycotoxins that enter the body and accumulate in the lungs and bloodstream. Each of us reacts differently to various exposures to mold and related contamination - but the claim has been made, and evidence exists, that there is a clear causal relationship between mold and health issues.
We cannot eliminate mold. However there are many steps that can be taken to help minimize the threats to health represented by indoor mold growth.
We encourage you to visit these web sites for a wealth of information on this and related topics:
Houses built prior to 1980 may have interior and exterior surfaces that have been at least partially coated with finishes, i.e. paints, containing some lead. Houses built circa 1960 or before are likely to contain some form of lead finish. A known toxin for hundreds of years, lead is particularly harmful to children under the age of seven, but people of any age should avoid ingesting lead-containing products. Companies specializing in lead testing are available to prove the presence of lead paint, but completely disproving its presence is, for the most part, impractical. EPA lead regulations target in-place management and "lead hazard" rather than simply its presence.
Significant amounts of information are available from the EPA, from your municipal health department, or from companies licensed to perform lead paint inspections and "risk assessments". We encourage you to gather as much information as you can, determine your personal risk threshold and set about the testing, assessments and management regimens you feel are warranted.
For its fire resistance, as well as a number of other desirable properties, asbestos was a popular construction material throughout much of the twentieth century. Used in both residential and commercial building, asbestos was present in thousands of construction materials. Most of these asbestos-containing materials present no imminent danger because the fibers remained in a state where, under normal conditions, they were not released into the air. Regardless of this, any homeowner or prospective homeowner should be aware of certain materials like vinyl asbestos floor tiles and the backing material on sheet-type vinyl floor covering that can, if disturbed or in disrepair, release asbestos fibers into the air.
The EPA Web site is an easily accessible resource for information on asbestos in the home, and we encourage everyone to visit its asbestos site at: http://www.epa.gov/asbestos.