Home Inspection: Should I Include Radon Testing?
What is a home inspection?
A home inspection is basically a professional consulting service meant to assess the present state of a home basing primarily on visual inspection. It focuses on the performance of various features of the house. The inspections are commonly done during real estate sale or appraisal, but it can be done any other time. The visual examination is meant to point out features and systems that are significantly deficient, unsafe, or nearing the end of their usefulness.
Home inspections are very critical for anyone planning to build, buy or sell a home or any type of property. For most people, buying a home in the biggest financial commitment, it, therefore, makes sense to know as much as possible about the property before making a commitment. You will need to understand your home’s components and system to make informed purchasing, maintenance and repair decisions.
What is inspected and what to expect
Some of the items evaluated during a typical home inspection include structure, heating, electrical, air conditioning, plumbing, interior, exterior and roofing. All the items included and excluded are usually highlighted in the inspection agreement. If any feature is hidden, covered over or has excess storage limiting the inspectors to view or access it, the item might be excluded from inspection.
Note that air conditioners will not be operated during winter, early spring and late fall when it’s too cold. Additionally, roofs covered in ice or snow might also be excluded. Any other items that should, but can’t be inspected are always noted down in the final inspection report. Upon complication of the inspection, a detailed inspection report is issued stating the condition of each feature inspected with maintenance and repair recommendations.
Think of a home inspection report as a snapshot of the state of the home or property at the time of inspection to provide unbiased third party professional opinion. Most professional home inspectors are usually generalized but not experts, which means if they find a problem, they will refer you to specialized technicians such as licensed electricians, plumbers, structural Engineers and so on. If you are a buyer, you can decide to request for the seller to perform repairs, take charge of the repairs yourself, or abandon the deal.
Should I Test for Radon During My Home Inspection?
The quick answer is yes, at least 99% of the time. But first, for starters, you might be wondering, what is radon? Radon is a colorless radioactive gas that has no smell or taste. The gas is released as a result of the decay of uranium in the soil, water, and rocks. The gas emits radioactive particles that can enter the house through cracks or openings in the foundations. The radon particles attach to dust particles in the air where they can easily be inhaled. The EPA states that any level of radon exposure can potentially cause lung cancer.
The lower the level of radon in your home, the lower the risk of developing lung cancer. Studies have shown that the average indoor level of radon in the United States is about 1.3 picocuries per liter in the air (pCi/L). The average outdoor level was rated at about 0.4 pCi/L. According to the EPA, about 20,000 lung cancer deaths occur each year in the U.S. as a result of radon exposure. In fact, radon is the second leading lung cancer cause after smoking. EPA recommends that random levels of between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L. in homes should be fixed as soon as possible.
It’s unfortunate that many Americans tend to ignore radon occurrence presuming that the action level is 4 pCi/L. There is a dangerous perception that radon levels less than 4 pCi/L are safe. Radon occurrence in homes is a major concern especially rooms below grade and rooms that in contact with the ground such as the basement.
The good news is that it’s never too late to put the levels of radon in check and reduce the risk of developing lung cancer.
One of the most important steps is to request for radon testing. Radon testing typically takes two days during which a machine or canister is placed at the lowest habitable level of the home. Radon is almost always present, but the levels constantly fluctuate. The average radon level is calculated after 48 hours and if it’s found to be over 4.0 pCi/L, it’s considered by the EPA to be unsafe’. Unsafe levels of radon can be reduced by radon mitigation systems.
As you can see, an inspection is a very important aspect of home buying and selling. It highlights any possible flaws and issues with the systems and structure of the house so that you can get the true picture of the status of the home. It’s also clear that home inspections go beyond the physical aspect and cover issues like radon testing. However, radon testing is not typically included in most general home inspections, so you have to specifically request for it.
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