Air Quality In the Home: Problems & Solutions

Indoor air quality is generally worse than most people believe, but there are things you can do about it. 
 
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Some Quick Facts:

  • Indoor air quality can be worse than that of outdoor air.
  • Problems can arise from moisture, insects, pets, appliances, radon, materials used in household products and furnishings, smoke, and other sources.
  • Effects range from minor annoyances to major health risks.
  • Remedies include ventilation, cleaning, moisture control, inspections, and following manufacturers’ directions when using appliances and products.
Research has shown that the quality of indoor air can be worse than that of outdoor air. Many homes are built or remodeled more tightly, without regard to the factors that assure fresh and healthy indoor air. Our homes today contain many furnishings, appliances and products that can affect indoor air quality.
Signs of indoor air quality problems include:
  • unusual and noticeable odors;
  • stale or stuffy air;
  • a noticeable lack of air movement;
  • dirty or faulty central heating or air-conditioning equipment;
  • damaged flue pipes and chimneys;
  • unvented combustion air sources for fossil-fuel appliances;
  • excessive humidity;
  • the presence of molds and mildew;
  • adverse health reaction after remodeling, weatherizing, bringing in new furniture, using household and hobby products, and moving into a new home; and
  • feeling noticeably healthier outside.
Common Sources of Air Quality Problems
 
Poor indoor air quality can arise from many sources. At least some of the following contaminants can be found in almost any home:
  • moisture and biological pollutants, such as molds, mildew, dust mites, animal dander, and cockroaches;
  • high humidity levels, inadequate ventilation, and poorly maintained humidifiers and air conditioners;
  • combustion products, including carbon monoxide, from unvented fossil-fuel space heaters, unvented gas stoves and ovens, and back-drafting from furnaces and water heaters;
  • formaldehyde from durable-press draperies and other textiles, particleboard products, such as cabinets and furniture framing, and adhesives;
  • radon, which is a radioactive gas from the soil and rock beneath and around the home’s foundation, groundwater wells, and some building materials;
  • household products and furnishings, such as paints, solvents, air fresheners, hobby supplies, dry-cleaned clothing, aerosol sprays, adhesives, and fabric additives used in carpeting and furniture, which can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs);
  • asbestos, which is found in most homes more than 20 years old. Sources include deteriorating, damaged and disturbed pipe insulation, fire retardant, acoustical material (such as ceiling tiles) and floor tiles;
  • lead from lead-based paint dust, which is created when removing paint by sanding, scraping and burning;
  • particulates from dust and pollen, fireplaces, wood stoves, kerosene heaters and unvented gas space heaters; and
  • tobacco smoke, which produces particulates, combustion products and formaldehyde.
Remedies to Indoor Air Quality Problems
Living Areas
Paneling, pressed-wood furniture, and cabinetry may release formaldehyde gas.
Remedy: Ask about formaldehyde content before buying furniture and cabinets. Some types of pressed-wood products, such as those with phenol resin, emit less formaldehyde. Also, products coated with polyurethane or laminates may reduce formaldehyde emissions. After installation, open windows. Maintain moderate temperature and humidity.
Biological pollutants can grow on water-damaged carpet. New carpet can release organic gases.
Remedy: Promptly clean and dry water-damaged carpet, or remove it altogether. If adhesives are needed, ask for low-emitting ones. During installation, open doors and windows, and use window fans or room air conditioners. Vacuum regularly. Consider area rugs instead of wall-to-wall carpet. Rugs are easier to remove and clean, and the floor underneath can also be cleaned.
Some floor tiles contain asbestos.
Remedy: Periodically inspect for damage or deterioration. Do not cut, rip, sand or remove any asbestos-containing materials. If you plan to make changes that might disturb the asbestos, or if materials are more than slightly damaged, contact a professional for repair or removal. Call your local or state health department or the Environmental Protection Agency.
Moisture encourages biological pollutants including allergens, such as mold, mildew, dust mites and cockroaches.
Remedy: If possible, eliminate moisture sources. Install and use exhaust fans. Use a dehumidifier, if necessary. Remove molds and mildew by cleaning with a solution of chlorine bleach (1 cup bleach to 1 gallon water). Maintain fresh air with natural and mechanical air circulation.
Your fireplace can be a source of carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants.
Remedy: Open the flue when using the fireplace. Have the flue and chimney inspected annually for exhaust back-drafting, flue obstructions, cracks, excess creosote, and other damage. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
An air conditioner can be a source of biological allergens.
Remedy: If there is a water tray, empty and clean it often. Follow all service and maintenance procedures, including changing the filter.
Gas and kerosene space heaters can release carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants.
Remedy: Never use unvented kerosene or gas space heaters. In the room where the heater is located, provide fresh air by opening a door to the rest of the house, turning on an exhaust fan, and slightly opening a window.
Tobacco smoke contains harmful combustion and particulate pollutants, including carbon monoxide and combustion byproducts.
Remedy: Do not smoke in your home or permit others to do so, especially near children. If smoking cannot be avoided indoors, open windows and use exhaust fans.
New draperies may be treated with a formaldehyde-based finish and emit odors for a short time.
Remedy: Before hanging, air draperies to ventilate odors. After hanging, ventilate the area. Maintain moderate temperature and humidity.
Paint manufactured before l978 may contain lead.
Remedy: Leave lead-based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition. Before removing paint, test for lead. Do-it-yourself lead test kits are available from hardware and building supply stores. Do not sand, burn off or remove lead-based paint yourself. Hire a person with special training to correct lead-based paint problems. For more information, call 1-800-LEAD-FYI.
Many animals create airborne allergens, such as dander, hair, feathers and skin.
Remedy: Keep pets outdoors as much as possible. Clean the entire house regularly. Deep-clean areas where pets are permitted. Bathe pets regularly.
Biological allergens caused by dust mites can trigger asthma.
Remedy: Clean and vacuum regularly. Wash bedding in water hotter than 130 degrees F. Use more hard-surface finishes; they are less likely to attract and hold dust mites.
 
Kitchen
Unhealthy and irritating vapors may be released from chemicals in household cleaners and similar products. Remedy: Select non aerosol and non-toxic products. Use, apply, store and dispose of them according to manufacturers’ directions. If products are concentrated, label the storage container with dilution instructions. Use up a product completely before discarding its container.
Pressed-wood cabinets can be a source of formaldehyde vapor.
Remedy: Maintain moderate temperatures (80 degrees maximum) and humidity (about 45%). When purchasing new cabinets, select solid wood or metal cabinets, or those made with phenol resin; they emit less formaldehyde. Ventilate well after installation.
Unvented gas stoves and ranges are sources of carbon monoxide and combustion byproducts.
Remedy: Keep appliance burners clean. Have burners periodically adjusted (blue-flame tip, not yellow). Install and use an exhaust fan. Never use a gas range or stove to heat your home.
Bathroom
Organic gases are released from chemicals in some personal care products, such as deodorant, hair spray, shampoo, toner, nail polish and perfumes.
Remedy: Select odor-free or low odor-producing products. Select nonaerosol varieties. Open a window, or use an exhaust fan. Follow manufacturers’ directions when using the product and disposing of containers.
Air fresheners can release organic gases.
Remedy: Open a window or use the exhaust fan. Follow manufacturers’ directions. Select natural products.
Bedroom
Humidifiers and cold-mist vaporizers can encourage biological allergens, including mold, mildew and cockroaches, that can trigger asthma, and encourage the spread of viruses and the growth of bacteria.
Remedy: Use and clean these appliances according to manufacturers’ directions. Refill daily with fresh water.
Moth repellents often contain the pesticide paradichlorobenzene.
Remedy: Avoid breathing vapors. Place them in tightly sealed trunks or other containers. Store separately, away from living areas.
Chemicals used in the dry-cleaning process release organic gases.
Remedy: Bring any odors to the attention of your dry cleaner. Try to air out dry-cleaned goods before bringing them indoors. Seek alternatives to dry cleaning, such as hand washing items.  Consider using green dry cleaners who use newer, non-toxic solvents and methods to clean garments.
Utility Room
Unvented gas clothes dryers produce carbon monoxide and combustion byproducts and can be a fire hazard. Remedy: Regularly dispose of lint around and under the dryer. Provide air for gas units. Vent the dryer directly to the outdoors. Clean the lint trap, vent and ductwork regularly.
Gas and oil furnaces and boilers, and gas water heaters can produce air-quality problems which include back-drafting of carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants.
Remedy: Have your heating system and water heater, including gas piping and venting, inspected every year.
Asbestos pipe wrap and furnace insulation can release asbestos fibers into the air.
Remedy: Periodically check for damage and deterioration. Do not cut, rip, sand or remove any asbestos-containing materials. If you plan to make changes that might disturb the asbestos, or if materials are more than slightly damaged, contact a professional for repair or removal.
Basement
Ground moisture encourages biological allergens, including mold and mildew.
Remedy: Inspect for condensation on walls, standing water on the floor, and sewage leaks. To keep the basement dry, prevent outside water from entering indoors by installing roof gutters and downspouts, by not watering close to the foundation, by grading soil away from the home, and by applying waterproofing sealants to the basement’s interior walls. To prevent the accumulation of standing water, consider installing a sump pump. If sewage is the source of water intrusion, have drains professionally cleaned. If moisture has no obvious source, install an exhaust fan controlled by humidity levels. Remove mold and mildew. Regularly clean and disinfect the basement floor drain.
Radon is an invisible, radioactive gas which poses the risk of lung cancer.
Remedy: Test your home for radon. Do-it-yourself kits are inexpensive and easy to use. Have an experienced radon contractor mitigate your home if your radon level is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher.
Chemicals in hobby products, such as solvents, paint, glue and epoxy, release organic gases. Remedy: Follow manufacturers’ directions for use, ventilation, application, clean-up, and container storage and disposal. Use outdoors when possible. When using indoors, open a window or use an exhaust fan. Re-seal containers tightly. Clean tools outside or in a well-ventilated area.
Garage
Car and small engine exhaust are sources of carbon monoxide and combustion byproducts.
Remedy: Never leave vehicles, lawn mowers, snowmobiles, etc., running in the garage.
Paint, solvent and cleaning supplies may release harmful vapors.
Remedy: Provide ventilation when using them. Follow manufacturers’ directions. Buy only as much as you need. If the products contain methylene chloride, such as paint strippers, use them outdoors. Re-seal containers well. Keep products in their original, labeled containers. Clean brushes and other materials outside.  Opt for non-toxic green products whenever possible.
Pesticides and fertilizers used in the yard and garden may be toxic.
Remedy: Use non-chemical methods whenever possible. Follow manufacturers’ directions for mixing, applying and storing.  Wear protective clothing. Mix or dilute these products outdoors. Provide ventilation when using them indoors. Store them outside of the home in their original, labeled containers. After using the product, remove your shoes and clean your hands and clothing to avoid bringing the chemicals into your home.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
  • Install a smoke detector in each bedroom or in the adjacent hallway.
  • If you have gas or other fossil-fuel appliances in the house, install carbon monoxide detectors in these locations.
  • Combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are available.
  • Check the batteries frequently, at least annually.
Amount of Ventilation
 
If too little outdoor air enters a home, pollutants can accumulate to levels that can pose health and comfort problems. Unless they are built with a special mechanical means of ventilation, homes that are designed and constructed to minimize the amount of outdoor air that can “leak” into and out of the home may have higher pollutant levels than other homes. However, because some weather conditions can drastically reduce the amount of outdoor air that enters a home, pollutants can build up even in homes that are normally considered “leaky.”
How Does Outdoor Air Enter a House?
Outdoor air enters and leaves a house by infiltration, natural ventilation and mechanical ventilation. In a process known as infiltration, outdoor air flows into the house through openings, joints and cracks in walls, floors and ceilings, and around windows and doors. In natural ventilation, air moves through opened windows and doors. Air movement associated with infiltration and natural ventilation is caused by air-temperature differences between the indoors and outdoors, and by wind. Finally, there are a number of mechanical ventilation devices, from outdoor-vented fans that intermittently remove air from a single room, such as the bathroom and kitchen, to air-handling systems that use fans and ductwork to continuously remove indoor air and distribute filtered and conditioned outdoor air to strategic points throughout the house. The rate at which outdoor air replaces indoor air is described as the air-exchange rate. When there is little infiltration, natural ventilation or mechanical ventilation, the air-exchange rate is low and pollutant levels can increase.
Indoor Air Pollution and Health
 
Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure or, possibly years later.
Immediate Effects
 
Immediate effects may show up after a single exposure, or it may take repeated exposures. These include irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, headaches, dizziness and fatigue. Such immediate effects are usually short-term and treatable. Sometimes, the treatment is simply eliminating the person’s exposure to the source of the pollution, if it can be identified. Symptoms of some diseases, including asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and humidifier fever, may also show up soon after exposure to some indoor air pollutants.
The likelihood of immediate reactions to indoor air pollutants depends on several factors. Age and pre-existing medical conditions are two important influences. In other cases, whether a person reacts to a pollutant depends on individual sensitivity, which varies tremendously from person to person. Some people can become sensitized to biological pollutants after repeated exposures, and it appears that some people can become sensitized to chemical pollutants, as well.
Certain immediate effects are similar to those from colds and other viral diseases, so it is often difficult to determine if the symptoms are a result of exposure to indoor air pollution. For this reason, it is important to pay attention to the time and place that symptoms occur. If the symptoms fade or go away when a person is away from home, for example, an effort should be made to identify indoor air sources that may be possible causes. Some effects may be made worse by an inadequate supply of outdoor air, or from the heating, cooling or humidity conditions prevalent in the home.
Long-Term Effects
 
Other health effects may show up years after exposure has occurred, or only after long or repeated periods of exposure. These effects, which include some respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancer, can be severely debilitating or fatal. It is prudent to try to improve the indoor air quality in your home even if symptoms are not noticeable.
While pollutants commonly found in indoor air are responsible for many harmful effects, there is considerable uncertainty about what concentrations or periods of exposure are necessary to produce specific health problems. People also react very differently to exposure to indoor air pollutants. Further research is needed to better understand which health effects occur after exposure to the average pollutant concentrations found in homes, and which occur from the higher concentrations over short periods of time.
In summary, indoor air contaminants can be a source of ill health. Hire an InterNACHI inspector trained in air quality to perform your next home inspection.

4 Ways to Protect Your Property From Water Damage

Water may be essential to life, but, as a destructive force, water can diminish the value of your home or building. Homes as well as commercial buildings can suffer water damage that results in increased maintenance costs, a decrease in the value of the property, lowered productivity, and potential liability associated with a decline in indoor air quality. The best way to protect against this potential loss is to ensure that the building components which enclose the structure, known as the building envelope, are water-resistant. Also, you will want to ensure that manufacturing processes, if present, do not allow excess water to accumulate. Finally, make sure that the plumbing and ventilation systems, which can be quite complicated in buildings, operate efficiently and are well-maintained. This article provides some basic steps for identifying and eliminating potentially damaging excess moisture.
1.  Identify and Repair All Leaks and Cracks
 
The following are common building-related sources of water intrusion:
  • windows and doors: Check for leaks around your windows, storefront systems and doors.
  • roof: Improper drainage systems and roof sloping reduce roof life and become a primary source of moisture intrusion. Leaks are also common around vents for exhaust or plumbing, rooftop air-conditioning units, or other specialized equipment.
  • foundation and exterior walls: Seal any cracks and holes in exterior walls, joints and foundations. These often develop as a naturally occurring byproduct of differential soil settlement.
  • plumbing: Check for leaking plumbing fixtures, dripping pipes (including fire sprinkler systems), clogged drains (both interior and exterior), defective water drainage systems and damaged manufacturing equipment.
  • ventilation, heating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems: Numerous types, some very sophisticated, are a crucial component to maintaining a healthy, comfortable work environment. They are comprised of a number of components (including chilled water piping and condensation drains) that can directly contribute to excessive moisture in the work environment. In addition, in humid climates, one of the functions of the system is to reduce the ambient air moisture level (relative humidity) throughout the building. An improperly operating HVAC system will not perform this function.
2.  Prevent Water Intrusion Through Good Inspection and Maintenance Programs
Hire a qualified InterNACHI inspector to perform an inspection of the following elements of your building to ensure that they remain in good condition:
  • flashings and sealants: Flashing, which is typically a thin metal strip found around doors, windows and roofs, are designed to prevent water intrusion in spaces where two building materials come together. Sealants and caulking are specifically applied to prevent moisture intrusion at building joints. Both must be maintained and in good condition.
  • vents: All vents should have appropriate hoods, exhaust to the exterior, and be in good working order.
  • Review the use of manufacturing equipment that may include water for processing or cooling. Ensure wastewater drains adequately away, with no spillage. Check for condensation around hot or cold materials or heat-transfer equipment.
  • HVAC systems are much more complicated in commercial buildings. Check for leakage in supply and return water lines, pumps, air handlers and other components. Drain lines should be clean and clear of obstructions. Ductwork should be insulated to prevent condensation on exterior surfaces.
  • humidity: Except in specialized facilities, the relative humidity in your building should be between 30% and 50%. Condensation on windows, wet stains on walls and ceilings, and musty smells are signs that relative humidity may be high. If you are concerned about the humidity level in your building, consult with a mechanical engineer, contractor or air-conditioning repair company to determine if your HVAC system is properly sized and in good working order. A mechanical engineer should be consulted when renovations to interior spaces take place.
  • moist areas: Regularly clean off, then dry all surfaces where moisture frequently collects.
  • expansion joints: Expansion joints are materials between bricks, pipes and other building materials that absorb movement. If expansion joints are not in good condition, water intrusion can occur.
3.  Protection From Water Damage
  • interior finish materials: Replace drywall, plaster, carpet and stained or water-damaged ceiling tiles. These are not only good evidence of a moisture intrusion problem, but can lead to deterioration of the work environment, if they remain over time.
  • exterior walls: Exterior walls are generally comprised of a number of materials combined into a wall assembly. When properly designed and constructed, the assembly is the first line of defense between water and the interior of your building. It is essential that they be maintained properly (including regular refinishing and/or resealing with the correct materials).
  • storage areas: Storage areas should be kept clean.  Allow air to circulate to prevent potential moisture accumulation.
4.  Act Quickly if  Water Intrusion Occurs
 
Image result for water damage picsLabel shut-off valves so that the water supply can be easily closed in the event of a plumbing leak. If water intrusion does occur, you can minimize the damage by addressing the problem quickly and thoroughly. Immediately remove standing water and all moist materials, and consult with a building professional. Should your building become damaged by a catastrophic event, such as fire, flood or storm, take appropriate action to prevent further water damage, once it is safe to do so. This may include boarding up damaged windows, covering a damaged roof with plastic sheeting, and/or removing wet materials and supplies. Fast action on your part will help minimize the time and expense for repairs, resulting in a faster recovery.

What Is Radon Testing? 7 Things Every Homeowner Should Know

Radon testing is the only way to know whether your home has high levels of radon, a radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer over time. Here’s what you need to know about radon testing and reducing radon levels in your home.

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1. What is radon?
Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that’s produced by decaying uranium. It’s present in nearly all soils, and very low levels of radon are found in the air we breathe every day.

2. Why is radon a problem?
The problem occurs when radon gas enters your home and gets trapped. Long-term exposure to high levels of radon can cause lung cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that lung cancer caused by radon exposure kills about 21,000 Americans every year.

3. How does radon get in your house?
The radon gas moves from the soil into a home. Although it can seep directly through pores in concrete, the worst entry points are gaps in walls and floors (see picture above). Any house, of any age, in any state can have elevated radon levels. It really depends on the way your specific house interacts with the surrounding soil. Your neighbor’s radon level may differ significantly from yours.

Testing your home from radon is the only way to know whether or not your house has unsafe radon levels.

4. How do you test your home for radon?
Conduct the test in the lowest livable area of your house that is regularly used 8 to 10 hours per week.

  • Self Test at Home With Short-term, Long term or Continuous Radon Test Kits.  These are useful to see if further testing is warranted. Most are activated charcoal-based or electret ion that measure radon levels for two to seven days. You mail the tests to a lab for the results. Short-term tests are available at home centers, hardware stores, and online retailers.
  • Call a Professional Inspector to Test for Radon.  Hero Home Inspection regularly performs radon tests for homeowners and future homeowners.  A continuous testing radon testing monitor will be placed in the lowest living area of the home and left to check radon levels for at least 48 hours.  You will receive a report that includes both the long term average and the short term average of the radon levels in the home.  If the report is higher than the recommended number, we will run a second test at no charge to confirm the findings.

5. What should you do if your house has high levels of radon?
If an initial short-term test registers 4 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher, the EPA recommends doing a second radon test. A long-term test will give you the most accurate information, but a short-term test is acceptable if you need the results quickly, such as for a real estate transaction, or your first levels registered 8 pCi/L or higher.

If a second test registers above 4 pCi/L, consider taking steps to reduce radon levels in your home.

6. 
How do you lower radon levels in your house?

Image result for radon in homeYou can start by trying these easy repairs to reduce radon levels. These efforts alone rarely reduce levels significantly, but if your level is only slightly elevated, these repairs might make the difference. They will also make other radon reduction methods more effective and cost efficient.

  • Caulk foundation cracks, construction joints, and other openings with polyurethane caulk.
  • If you have a sump pump, install an airtight cover on it (choose one that allows access to your sump).
  • Cover soil in crawl spaces with polyurethane plastic sheeting (with a minimum thickness of 6 mil, available at home centers) tightly attached to the walls.
  • You can also try sealing concrete, although the EPA has found concrete sealers to be a temporary solution at best.
 

Once you’ve tackled these, retest. If levels are still high, consider installing a radon mitigation system yourself or hire a pro.

7. What’s a radon mitigation system and how does it work?

It basically involves ventilating your home by using PVC piping to draw radon gas up from the soil and out of your house.

The most effective system is a vent pipe placed in the sump pit (if you have a sump pump) or a hole made under your concrete floor slab. A special in-line radon fan is placed in the attic or outside the house to draw air through the vent and radon from under the basement floor. The easiest method is to run the vent out the side of the house and up to the eaves. (You can also run the vent up through the house and out the roof, which is a lot more work and cost, but it looks better).

 

Image result for radon mitigation system

Image result for radon mitigation systemIf your house has high radon levels, it’s important to act, but don’t overreact. Risks from radon are cumulative, which means serious effects result from exposure to high levels over a long period of time. It is prudent to test radon levels and decide on a course of action. But you don’t have to move out of your house or hire the first contractor who can fix the problem. For more information, contact your state radon office.Pros usually charge between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars to install a radon mitigation system, depending on your home and your radon levels. Your state radon office will have a list of qualified contractors.

 

By Laura Gelman Originally Published on Readers Digest

The 10 Best (AND WORST) Places to Hide Valuables in Your Home

Burglary is a crime of opportunity.  And burglars don’t want to spend a lot of time looking through a home to find things of value to steal, which is why there are obvious locations that they always check.  That means that there are ways to outsmart them by hiding your valuables in not-so-obvious places, and sometimes even in plain sight.

Depending on the size and type of item, the best places to hide valuables are those that burglars don’t want to search through or wouldn’t bother with, including places that are inconvenient or difficult to search, messy, or uninteresting.  On average Burglars spend 8-12 minutes inside of a home and they know where to look to make the most of their time.  Here are a few ideas on where to hide your valuables to keep them safe.

Here Are the Top 10:

  1. Dog food bin: If you store your pet food in a large bin, it can double as a handy hiding spot. Wrap up important items and place it at the bottom of the storage bin surrounded by dog food.

  2. A false VHS tape or VHS carton.  Who watches VHS tapes anymore?  Keep them in a stack with lots of others.  A few can be a clue, but many can be a time-consuming distraction.
  3. False containers in the kitchen cupboard, the fridge, under the sink, and in the 51dZsioyuVLbathroom, such as fake food cans and boxes, false cleaning product bottles, and personal hygiene items, and even in a heavy tub of “cat litter.”  Some false containers available on the market today actually look like false containers, so you might want to save yourself the expense and create your own.

  4. In the false bottom or under the plastic liner of a bathroom or kitchen trash can.  No one wants to go pawing through your trash in the slim hope of finding something worth pawning.
  5. Wrapped in plastic and aluminum foil and stored in the back of the freezer.  This is also a good place to store documents and paper currency in case of a house fire.
  6. In a floor safe in the bedroom closet.  While this location may be obvious, a burglar would have to exert a lot of time and energy—and create a lot of noise—trying to break into a floor safe, which is also generally of the heavy variety, making it not only hard to open, but hard to steal whole, if the thief had plans to break into it later.
  7. Inside a house plant.  Using the same method as for trash containers, a plant’s soil can be contained in a waterproof liner that can be lifted up to hide items underneath.  Just make sure the items you’re hiding are in a waterproof container, too.
  8. Inside a false wall outlet.  Make sure it’s not a live receptacle or in the way of any electrical wiring.
  9. Within hollowed-out/removable building components, such as wainscoting, floor panels, door jambs, window sills, and cabinet doors.
  10. In the garage inside boxes marked with mundane labels, such as “Xmas Ornaments,” “Kid’s Clothes,” “School Projects,” etc.  Again, the more boxes you have, the longer the burglar will have to search—if he’s so inclined—to find something worth stealing.

Hiding Places to Avoid:

  1. Areas that can damage your valuables with water or invasive matter, such as the water tank of a toilet, inside a mayonnaise jar that still has mayonnaise in it, or a paint can filled with paint.  There are high-quality waterproof containers on the market that will allow you to hide items in water (and possibly other places), but err on the side of caution.  Documents, jewelry and electronics that become wet or permeated with chemicals or food matter may be damaged beyond repair in your zeal to outsmart a tenacious burglar.
  2. A jewelry box.  This is a good place to store jewelry that you can afford to lose, but not your diamond tennis bracelet or your grandmother’s antique wedding ring.
  3. Your desk drawer, bedside drawer, or underwear drawer.  Too obvious.
  4. Inside CD cases.  It’s true:  burglars still prefer CDs to MP3s.
  5. Inside DVD cases.  DVDs and Xbox-type games are worth between $2 and $10 at pawn and re-sale shops; count on being cleaned out of your collection during a home burglary, regardless of the titles.
  6. A wall safe.  Unless it’s high-end and professionally installed, a wall safe can be dislodged by cutting the drywall seam around it, and wall safes are typically small and light enough to easily transport off site to be opened later.  Opt for the heavier and harder-to-access floor safe.
  7. Inside picture frames with false backs/interiors.  These tend to be thicker than typical picture frames, so they’re easy to spot as a hiding place.
  8. A cookie jar.  Put cookies in it, not your grocery money.
  9. An electrical item or heated area, such as a lamp base, toaster oven, or HVAC duct.  You could accidentally ignite your valuables and put your entire home at risk for a house fire.
  10. Any locked box or locking file cabinet.  A box that has a lock on it will be stolen regardless of what’s inside, and the lock on a file cabinet can be popped out with the right tool and a little effort.

Other Precautions

For valuables that you can’t hide or lock up, such as a flat-screen TV, stereo system, and computers, make sure they’re insured through your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.  Unless you invest in a home security system (and sometimes even if you do), it’s not possible to protect every item in your home.  But you can take precautions to password-protect and GPS-activate laptops and smartphones so that their recovery is more likely, should they be stolen.

Also, firearms should be properly locked in an approved gun safe that is stored out of reach for the safety of the home’s occupants, as well as to deter theft.

Place a pole in the bottom track of your sliding glass patio doors so that they can’t be forced open wide enough to permit the entry of an intruder.  Install burglar-proof window locks that will allow you to leave your windows open slightly for fresh air, but not wide enough to allow a person to get through.

Remember that burglary is a crime of opportunity, so don’t tempt fate by leaving any exterior doors unlocked (including sliding glass patio doors, and the door between the garage and the living area), hiding a spare house key outdoors (under the “Welcome” mat, a large potted plant, statuary, or a solitary or fake rock), leaving the doors to your attached garage open (even when you’re home), or leaving the curtains or drapes open so that your valuables are in full view of prowlers and passersby.  Your personal safety is at risk as much as your personal property.

Also, don’t over-share personal information with the world by advertising your absence from home on social media.  When leaving on vacation, have a trusted neighbor, friend or family member monitor your home and bring in the newspaper, mail, and random take-out menus hung on your doorknob.  Install light timers indoors and security/motion detectors outdoors to illuminate your property’s exterior.  And go ahead and apply security company stickers to your windows/doors that advertise that your home is professionally protected, even if it’s not.

In short, do what you can to make your home a difficult, inconvenient and time-consuming target that will force a would-be burglar to move on.  And do your part to keep your neighborhood safe by reporting suspicious activity on your street to the police.

7 Steps to Fall Home Maintenance

Home inspection

Fall is the classic time of year when home maintenance projects really take off. The weather is nicer, insects are less aggressive, and it helps button up the house for the long winter ahead.

Although you may have had your home inspected in the past for major defects, new defects can arise almost overnight. With regular maintenance, homeowners can stay ahead of problems instead of scrambling to fix damage in an emergency.

According to ICA SEO Here are 7 jobs every homeowner should think about at the tail-end of summer.

#1: Check for Cracked and Loose Paint

After a long, blistering summer of unforgiving heat, exterior paint might show cracks, bubbles and flakes. While it’s normal for paint to degrade over time, damage leaves the wood underneath vulnerable to the elements. Now is the time to check paint on siding and trim, remove loose or damaged paint and give it a fresh coat.

Home inspection

Gutter guards can help reduce the amount of large debris that gets trapped inside.

#2: Clean and Secure Gutters and Down Spouts

Hardly anyone enjoys cleaning gutters, but overlooking this simple fall home maintenance job can cause bigger problems. When gutters are full of leaves, water from rains and melting winter snow can’t flow out. That makes the gutter system heavier, which stresses the fasteners. It can also allow water to run backward under the shingles or overflow down the siding. Homeowners should clean out gutters and replace any rusted, loose or missing fasteners while the weather is mild. With fall coming on, it’s also a good time to think about gutter guards to keep leaves out.

#3: Upgrade Inferior Insulation

Inferior insulation lets more heat escape through the ceiling and into the attic where it doesn’t do homeowners any good. Before furnace season arrives in earnest, homeowners should check out attic insulation. If it’s damaged or dirty and compacted, replacement is the smart choice. Even if it’s in good condition, another layer of blanket insulation on top improves the R value.

#4: Replace Old Caulk and Weatherstripping

Caulk and weatherstripping are only as good as their ability to seal air leaks. Once they harden, they can crack and lift. Caulk is inexpensive and seals air leaks around windows and door trim. Weatherstripping makes a complete seal around windows and doors when they’re closed. Both are simple weekend projects that any handy homeowner can handle.

#5: Check the Roof for Loose Shingles 

All that it takes is one good storm to throw a tree branch onto the roof or lift and break the shingles. According to Home Advisor, the average cost of a new roof is about $7,000. After their home inspection, new homeowners still need to watch for damage that weakens the integrity of the roofing system. The sooner it’s repaired or replaced the fewer chances a damaged roof can allow water into the home.

#6: Clean the Fireplace Chimney

In homes with any wood-burning appliance, a clean chimney or flue pipe is a safer one. Before the first fire of the season, homeowners should inspect the chimney or pipe for creosote buildup. A professional maintenance tech or chimney sweep can remove creosote using simple tools.

Home inspection

Considering the costly damage it helps prevent, filter replacement has an enormous return on investment.

#7: Prep the HVAC System

As summer fades into fall, air conditioning switches to heat. Separate air conditioning units should be insulated and covered, recommends Bob Vila, to protect them from the elements and to keep cold air from whistling in around window installations. A filter change is always recommended before turning on heat for the first time of the new cool season.

The weather might be glorious in early fall, but that won’t last for much of the country. Nights get colder, days get shorter and winter blasts make working outside a chore. While the sun is still warm, it’s time for home maintenance projects. That’s what keeps a dream home safe, secure and good investment for the long haul.

 

The Radon Level is High! Now What???

What should I do if the radon level is high?

Don’t Panic! High radon levels can be reduced.

The EPA recommends that you take action to reduce your home’s indoor radon levels if your radon test result is 4 pCi/L or higher. It is better to correct a radon problem before placing your home on the market because then you will have more time to address a radon problem.

If elevated levels are found during the real estate transaction, the buyer and seller should discuss the timing and costs of the radon reduction.  The cost of making repairs to reduce radon levels depends on how your home was built and other factors. Most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs, such as painting or having a new hot water heater installed. The average cost for a contractor to lower radon levels in a home can range from $800 to about $2,500.

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How to Lower The Radon Level in Your Home

A variety of methods can be used to reduce radon in homes. Sealing cracks and other openings in the foundation is a basic part of most approaches to radon reduction. The EPA does not recommend the use of sealing alone to limit radon entry.  Sealing alone has not been shown to lower radon levels significantly or consistently.

In most cases, a system with a vent pipe and fan is used to reduce radon.  These “sub-slab depressurization” systems do not require major changes to your home. Similar systems can also be installed in homes with crawlspaces.  These systems prevent radon gas from entering the home from below the concrete floor and from outside the foundation.  Radon mitigation contractors may use other methods that may also work in your home. The right system depends on the design of your home and other factors.

Radon and Home Renovations

If you are planning any major renovations, such as converting an unfinished basement area into living space, it is especially important to test the area for radon before you begin.

If your test results indicate an elevated radon level, radon-resistant techniques can be inexpensively included as part of the renovation. Major renovations can change the level of radon in any home.  Test again after the work is completed.

You should also test your home again after it is fixed to be sure that radon levels have been reduced. If your living patterns change and you begin occupying a lower level of your home (such as a basement) you should re-test your home on that level. In addition, it is a good idea to re-test your home sometime in the future to be sure radon levels remain low.

Selecting a Radon-Reduction (Mitigation) Contractor

radon-mitigation-system-knoxville-tn-radon-mitigation-experts-in-radon-remediation-systemsSelect a qualified radon-reduction contractor to reduce the radon levels in your home.  Any mitigation measures taken or system installed in your home must conform to your state’s regulations.

The EPA recommends that the mitigation contractor review the radon measurement results before beginning any radon-reduction work.  Test again after the radon mitigation work has been completed to confirm that previous elevated levels have been reduced.

What can a qualified radon-reduction contractor do for you?

A qualified radon-reduction (mitigation) contractor should be able to:

  • review testing guidelines and measurement results, and determine if additional measurements are needed;
  • evaluate the radon problem, and provide you with a detailed, written proposal on how radon levels will be lowered;
  • design a radon-reduction system;
  • install the system according to EPA standards, or state or local codes; and
  • make sure the finished system effectively reduces radon levels to acceptable levels.

Choose a radon-mitigation contractor to fix your radon problem just as you would for any other home repair.  You may want to get more than one estimate.  Ask for and check their references.  Make sure the person you hire is qualified to install a mitigation system.  Some states regulate or certify radon-mitigation services providers.

 

 

5 Facts About Lead

Lead Facts

Did you know the following facts about lead?
FACT: Lead exposure can harm young children and babies even before they are born.
FACT: Even children who seem healthy can have high levels of lead in their bodies.
FACT: You can get lead in your body by breathing or swallowing lead dust, or by eating soil or paint chips containing lead.
FACT: You have many options for reducing lead hazards. In most cases, lead-based paint that is in good condition is not a hazard.
FACT: Removing lead-based paint improperly can increase the danger to your family.
If you think your home might have lead hazards, read on to learn about lead and some simple steps to protect your family.
Health Effects of Lead
  • Childhood lead poisoning remains a major environmental health problem in the U.S.
  • Even children who appear healthy can have dangerous levels of lead in their bodies.
  • People can get lead in their body if they:
    • put their hands or other objects covered with lead dust in their mouths;
    • eat paint chips or soil that contains lead; or
    • breathe in lead dust, especially during renovations that disturb painted surfaces.
  • Lead is even more dangerous to children than adults because:
    • babies and young children often put their hands and other objects in their mouths. These objects can have lead dust on them;
    • children’s growing bodies can absorb more lead; and
    • children’s brains and central nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
  • If not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from:
    • damage to the brain and nervous system;
    • behavioral and learning problems (such as hyperactivity);
    • slowed growth;
    • hearing problems; and
    • headaches.
  • Lead is also harmful to adults. Adults can suffer from:
    • difficulties during pregnancy;
    • other reproductive problems (in both men and women);
    • high blood pressure;
    • digestive problems;
    • nerve disorders;
    • memory and concentration problems; and
    • muscle and joint pain

 

Where is Lead Found?

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In general, the older your home, the more likely it has lead-based paint.
Paint
Many homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint. The federal government banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978. Some states stopped its use even earlier. Lead can be found:
  • in homes in the city, country and suburbs;
  • on apartments, single-family homes, and both private and public housing complexes;
  • on the interior and exterior of the house;
  • in the soil around a home.  Soil can pick up lead from exterior paint and other sources, such as past use of leaded gas in cars;
  • in household dust. Dust can pick up lead from deteriorating lead-based paint and from soil tracked into a home;
  • in drinking water. Your home might have plumbing that uses lead pipes or lead solder. Call your local health department or water supplier to find out about testing your water. You cannot see, smell or taste lead, and boiling your water will not get rid of lead. If you think your plumbing might have lead in it:
    • Use only cold water for drinking and cooking.
    • Run water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking it, especially if you have not used your water for a few hours.
  • on the job. If you work with lead, you could bring it home on your hands or clothes. Shower and change clothes before coming home. Launder your work clothes separately from the rest of your family’s clothes;
  • in old (vintage or antique) painted toys and furniture;
  • in food and liquids stored in lead crystal, lead-glazed pottery and porcelain;
  • from lead smelters and other industries that release lead into the air;
  • with hobbies that use lead, such as making pottery or stained glass, or refinishing furniture.
  • in folk remedies that contain lead, such as “greta” and “azarcon” used to treat an upset stomach.

 

Where is Lead Likely to be a Hazard?

  • Lead from paint chips, which you can see, and lead dust, which you can’t always see, can be serious hazards.
  • Peeling, chipping, chalking and cracking lead-based paint is a hazard and needs immediate attention.
  • Lead-based paint may also be a hazard when found on surfaces that children can chew or that get a lot of wear-and-tear. These areas include:
    • windows and window sills;
    • doors and door frames;
    • stairs, railings and banisters; and
    • porches and fences.
Note: Lead-based paint that is in good condition is usually not a hazard.
  • Lead dust can form when lead-based paint is dry-scraped, dry-sanded, or heated. Dust also forms when painted surfaces bump or rub together. Lead chips and dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air when people vacuum, sweep or walk through it.
  • Lead in soil can be a hazard when children play in bare soil, or when people bring soil into the house on their shoes.

 

Checking Your Family and Home for Lead

  • Have your children and home tested if you think your home has high levels of lead.
  • Just knowing that a home has lead-based paint may not tell you if there is a hazard.
To reduce your child’s exposure to lead, get your child checked, have your home tested (especially if your home has paint in poor condition and was built before 1978), and fix any hazards you may have.
Your Family
  • Children’s blood lead levels tend to increase rapidly from 6 to 12 months of age, and tend to peak at 18 to 24 months of age.
  • Consult your doctor for advice on testing your children. A simple blood test can detect high levels of lead. Blood tests are important for:
    • children at ages 1 to 2;
    • children and other family members who have been exposed to high levels of lead; and
    • children who should be tested under your state or local health screening plan.
Your doctor can explain what the test results mean and if more testing will be needed.
 
Your Home
 
You can get your home checked in one of two ways (or both):
  • A paint inspection tells you the lead content of every different type of painted surface in your home. It won’t tell you whether the paint is a hazard or how you should deal with it.
  • A risk assessment tells you if there are any sources of serious lead exposure, such as peeling paint and lead dust. It also tells you what actions to take to address these hazards.
Have qualified professionals do the work. There are standards in place for certifying lead-based paint professionals to ensure that the work is done safely, reliably and effectively. Be sure to ask your InterNACHI inspector about lead paint during your next inspection. Trained professionals use a range of methods when checking your home, including:
  • a vsual inspection of paint condition and location;
  • a portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) machine;
  • lab tests of paint samples; and
  • surface-dust tests.
Note: Home test kits for lead are available, but studies suggest that they are not always accurate. Consumers should not rely on these tests before doing renovations or to assure safety.
What You Can Do to Protect Your Family
 
If you suspect that your house has lead hazards, you can take some immediate steps to reduce your family’s risk:
  • If you rent, notify your landlord of peeling or chipping paint.
  • Clean up paint chips immediately.
  • Clean floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces weekly. Use a mop, sponge or paper towel with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner, or a cleaner made specifically for lead.

REMEMBER: NEVER MIX AMMONIA AND BLEACH PRODUCTS TOGETHER, SINCE THEY CAN FORM A DANGEROUS GAS.

  • Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning dirty and dusty areas.
  • Wash children’s hands often, especially before they eat, and before nap time and bed time.
  • Keep play areas clean. Wash bottles, pacifiers, toys and stuffed animals regularly.
  • Keep children from chewing window sills and other painted surfaces.
  • Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from soil.
  • Make sure children eat nutritious, low-fat meals high in iron and calcium, such as spinach and dairy products. Children with good diets absorb less lead.
In addition to day-to-day cleaning and good nutrition, you can temporarily reduce lead hazards by taking actions such as repairing damaged amd painted surfaces, and by planting grass to cover soil with high lead levels. These actions, called “interim controls,” are not permanent solutions and will need ongoing attention. To permanently remove lead hazards, you must hire a certified lead-abatement contractor. Abatement (or permanent hazard elimination) methods include removing, sealing or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials. Just painting over the hazard with regular paint is not enough. Always hire a person with special training for correcting lead problems — someone who knows how to do this work safely and has the proper equipment to clean up thoroughly. Certified contractors will employ qualified workers and follow strict safety rules set by their state or the federal government. To be safe, hire an InterNACHI inspector trained in lead detection for your next inspection.
Are You Planning to Buy or Rent a Home Built Before 1978?
Many houses and apartments built before 1978 have paint that contains lead (called lead-based paint). Lead from paint, chips and dust can pose serious health hazards if not taken care of properly. Federal law requires that individuals receive certain information before renting or buying pre-1978 housing.
  • Residential Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Program
    • LANDLORDS have to disclose known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before leases take effect. Leases must include a disclosure form about lead-based paint.
    • SELLERS have to disclose known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before selling a house. Sales contracts must include a disclosure form about lead-based paint. Buyers have up to 10 days to check for lead hazards.
If not conducted properly, certain types of renovations can release lead from paint and dust into the air.
  • Pre-Renovation Education Program (PRE)
    • RENOVATORS have to give you a pamphlet titled “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home” before starting work.
  • Take precautions before your contractor or you begin remodeling or renovations that disturb painted surfaces (such as scraping off paint or tearing out walls).
    • Have the area tested for lead-based paint.
    • Do not use a belt-sander, propane torch, heat gun, dry scraper or dry sandpaper to remove lead-based paint. These actions create large amounts of lead dust and fumes.
    • Lead dust can remain in your home long after the work is done.
    • Temporarily move your family (especially children and pregnant women) out of the apartment or house until the work is done and the area is properly cleaned. If you can’t move your family, at least completely seal off the work area.
    • If you have already completed renovations or remodeling that could have released lead-based paint or dust, get your young children tested and follow the steps outlined to protect your family.

Ten Tips to Speed Up Your Home Inspection

Speed up your home sale by preparing your home ahead of time using the following tips. Your home inspection will go smoother, with fewer concerns to delay closing.
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  1. Confirm that that the water, electrical and gas services are turned on (including pilot lights).
  2. Make sure your pets won’t hinder your home inspection. Ideally, they should be removed from the premises or secured outside. Tell your agent about any pets at home.
  3. Replace burned-out light bulbs to avoid a “light is inoperable” report that may suggest an electrical problem.
  4. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and replace dead batteries.
  5. Clean or replace dirty HVAC air filters. They should fit securely.
  6. Remove stored items, debris and wood from the foundation. These may be cited as “conducive conditions” for termites.
  7. Remove items blocking access to HVAC equipment, electrical service panels, the water heater, attic and crawlspace.
  8. Unlock any locked areas that your home inspector must access, such as the attic door or hatch, the electrical service panel, the door to the basement, and any exterior gates.
  9. Trim tree limbs so that they’re at least 10 feet away from the roof.  Trim any shrubs that are too close to the house and can hides pests or hold moisture against the exterior.
  10. Repair or replace any broken or missing items, such as doorknobs, locks or latches, windowpanes or screens, gutters or downspouts, or chimney caps.

Checking these areas before your home inspection is an investment in selling your property. Better yet, have your InterNACHI inspector ensure that your home is Move-In Certified™.  Your real estate agent will thank you!

Top 10 Safest Cities to Live In Georgia

According to SafeWise.com 

images (1)The 10 Safest Cities in Georgia

1. Summerville

Population: 4,442
Violent crimes per 1,000: 0.23
Property crimes per 1,000: 9.23
Total crime: 2.44% violent, 97.56% property

2. Milton

Population: 38,551
Violent crimes per 1,000: 0.26
Property crimes per 1,000: 8.77
Total crime: 2.96% violent, 97.04% property

3. Johns Creek

Population: 84,629
Violent crimes per 1,000: 0.32
Property crimes per 1,000: 8.12
Total crime: 3.93% violent, 96.07% property

4. Senoia

Population: 4,233
Violent crimes per 1,000: 0.47
Property crimes per 1,000: 10.87
Total crime: 4.35% violent, 95.65% property

5. Peachtree City

Population: 35,387
Violent crimes per 1,000: 0.54
Property crimes per 1,000: 15.40
Total crime: 3.49% violent, 96.52%

6. Alpharetta

Population: 64,943
Violent crimes per 1,000: 0.54
Property crimes per 1,000: 20.14
Total crime: 2.68% violent, 97,32% property

7. Tyrone

Population: 7,243
Violent crimes per 1,000: 0.69
Property crimes per 1,000: 9.94
Total crime: 6.94% violent, 93.06% property

8. Dallas

Population: 13,135
Violent crimes per 1,000: 0.84
Property crimes per 1,000: 15.07
Total crime: 5.56% violent, 94.44% property

9. Flowery Branch

Population: 6,895
Violent crimes per 1,000: 0.87
Property crimes per 1,000: 22.48
Total crime: 3.87% violent, 96.13% property

10. Grovetown

Population: 13,469
Violent crimes per 1,000: 0.89
Property crimes per 1,000: 13,29
Total crime: 6.70% violent, 93.30% property

How They Chose the Safest Cities in Georgia

To identify the fifty safest cities in Georgia, Safewise reviewed the 2016 FBI crime report statistics and population data. Cities that fell below identified population thresholds or that failed to submit a complete crime report to the FBI were excluded from the ranking system.

Their evaluation is based on the number of reported violent crimes (aggravated assault, murder, rape, and robbery) in each city. If there was a tie, they also factored in the number of property crimes (burglary, arson, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft). To level the playing field, they calculated the rate of crimes per 1,000 people in each city. This makes it easier to directly compare the likelihood of these crimes occurring in cities with vastly different populations.

To See Georgia’s 50 Safest Cities of 2018 Click Here.

 

InterNACHI’s Standard Estimated Life Expectancy Chart for Homes

The following chart details the predicted life expectancy of appliances, products, materials, systems and components.  (For homes located in Florida and the surrounding coastal region, please refer to InterNACHI’s Florida Estimated Life Expectancy Chart for Homes.)

Consumers, and inspectors and other professionals advising their clients, should note that these life expectancies have been determined through research and testing based on regular recommended maintenance and conditions of normal wear and tear, and not extreme weather or other conditions, neglect, over-use or abuse.  Therefore, they should be used as guidelines only, and not relied upon as guarantees or warranties. 

Full-color, downloadable version to include with inspection reports. 

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Surface preparation and paint quality are the most important determinants of a paint’s life expectancy. Ultraviolet (UV) rays via sunshine can shorten life expectancy.  Additionally, conditions of high humidity indoors or outdoors can affect the lifespan of these components, which is why they should be inspected and maintained seasonally.

ADHESIVES, CAULK & PAINTS YEARS
Caulking (interior & exterior) 5 to 10
Construction Glue 20+
Paint (exterior) 7 to 10
Paint (interior) 10 to 15
Roofing Adhesives/Cements 15+
Sealants 8
Stains 3 to 8

 

 

Appliance life expectancy depends to a great extent on the use it receives. Furthermore, consumers often replace appliances long before they become worn out due to changes in styling, technology and consumer preferences.

 

APPLIANCES       YEARS
Air Conditioner (window) 5 to 7
Compactor (trash) 6
Dehumidifier 8
Dishwasher 9
Disposal (food waste) 12
Dryer Vent  (plastic) 5
Dryer Vent  (steel) 20
Dryer (clothes) 13
Exhaust Fans 10
Freezer 10 to 20
Gas Oven 10 to 18
Hand Dryer 10 to 12
Humidifier (portable) 8
Microwave Oven 9
Range/Oven Hood 14
Electric Range 13 to 15
Gas Range 15 to 17
Refrigerator 9 to 13
Swamp Cooler 5 to 15
Washing Machine 5 to 15
Whole-House Vacuum System 20

 

 

Modern kitchens today are larger and more elaborate.  Together with the family room, they now form the “great room.”

 

CABINETRY & STORAGE    YEARS
Bathroom Cabinets 50+
Closet Shelves 100+
Entertainment Center/Home Office 10
Garage/Laundry Cabinets 70+
Kitchen Cabinets 50
Medicine Cabinet 25+
Modular (stock manufacturing-type) 50

 

 

Walls and ceilings last the full lifespan of the home.

 

CEILINGS & WALLS
YEARS
Acoustical Tile Ceiling 40+ (older than 25 years may contain asbestos)
Ceramic Tile 70+
Concrete 75+
Gypsum 75
Wood Paneling 20 to 50
Suspended Ceiling 25+

 

 

Natural stone countertops, which are less expensive than they were just a few years ago, are becoming more popular, and one can expect them to last a lifetime. Cultured marble countertops have a shorter life expectancy, however.

 

COUNTERTOPS YEARS
Concrete 50
Cultured Marble 20
Natural Stone 100+
Laminate 20 to 30
Resin 10+
Tile 100+
Wood 100+

 

 

Decks are exposed to a wide range of conditions in different climates, from wind and hail in some areas, to relatively consistent, dry weather in others. See FASTENERS & STEEL section for fasteners.

 

DECKS YEARS 
Deck Planks 15
Composite 8 to 25
Structural Wood 10 to 30

 

 

Exterior fiberglass, steel and wood doors will last as long as the house, while vinyl and screen doors have a shorter life expectancy. The gaskets/weatherstripping of exterior doors may have to be replaced every 5 to 8 years.

 

DOORS YEARS
Closet (interior) 100+
Fiberglass (exterior) 100+
Fire-Rated Steel (exterior) 100+
French (interior) 30 to 50
Screen (exterior) 30
Sliding Glass/Patio (exterior) 20 (for roller wheel/track repair/replacement)
Vinyl (exterior) 20
Wood (exterior) 100+
Wood (hollow-core interior) 20 to 30
Wood (solid-core interior) 30 to 100+

 

 

Copper-plated wiring, copper-clad aluminum, and bare copper wiring are expected to last a lifetime, whereas electrical accessories and lighting controls, such as dimmer switches, may need to be replaced after 10 years.  GFCIs could last 30 years, but much less if tripped regularly.

 

Remember that faulty, damaged or overloaded electrical circuits or equipment are the leading cause of house fires, so they should be inspected regularly and repaired or updated as needed.

 

ELECTRICAL YEARS
Accessories 10+
Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) 30
Bare Copper 100+
Bulbs (compact fluorescent) 8,000 to 10,000+ hours
Bulbs (halogen) 4,000 to 8,000+ hours
Bulbs (incandescent) 1,000 to 2,000+ hours
Bulbs (LED) 30,000 to 50,000+ hours
Copper-Clad Aluminum 100+
Copper-Plated 100+
Fixtures 40
Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) up to 30
Lighting Controls 30+
Residential Propane Backup Generators 12
Service Panel 60
Solar Panels 20 to 30
Solar System Batteries 3 to 12
Wind Turbine Generators 20

 

 

Floor and roof trusses and laminated strand lumber are durable household components, and engineered trim may last 30 years.

 

ENGINEERED LUMBER YEARS
Engineered Joists 80+
Laminated Strand Lumber 100+
Laminated Veneer Lumber 80+
Trusses 100+

 

Fastener manufacturers do not give lifespans for their products because they vary too much based on where the fasteners are installed in a home, the materials in which they’re installed, and the local climate and environment.  However, inspectors can use the guidelines below to make educated judgments about the materials they inspect.

 

FASTENERS, CONNECTORS & STEEL YEARS
Adjustable Steel Columns 50+
Fasteners (bright) 25 to 60
Fasteners (copper) 65 to 80+
Fasteners (galvanized) 10+
Fasteners (electro-galvanized) 15 to 45
Fasteners (hot-dipped galvanized) 35 to 60
Fasteners (stainless) 65 to 100+
Steel Beams 200+
Steel Columns 100+
Steel Plates 100+

 

 

Flooring life is dependent on maintenance and the amount of foot traffic the floor endures.

 

FLOORING YEARS
All Wood Floors 100+
Bamboo 100+
Brick Pavers 100+
Carpet 8 to 10
Concrete 50+
Engineered Wood 50+
Exotic Wood 100+
Granite 100+
Laminate 15 to 25
Linoleum 25
Marble 100+
Other Domestic Wood 100+
Slate 100
Terrazzo 75+
Tile 75 to 100
Vinyl 25

 

 

Concrete and poured-block footings and foundations will last a lifetime, assuming they were properly built.  Waterproofing with bituminous coating lasts 10 years, but if it cracks, it is immediately damaged.

 

FOUNDATIONS YEARS
Baseboard Waterproofing System 50
Bituminous-Coating Waterproofing 10
Concrete Block 100+
Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) 100
Permanent Wood Foundation (PWF; treated) 75
Post and Pier 20 to 65
Post and Tensioned Slab on Grade 100+
Poured-Concrete Footings and Foundation 100+
Slab on Grade (concrete) 100
Wood Foundation 5 to 40

 

 

Framing and structural systems have extended longevities; poured-concrete systems, timber frame houses and structural insulated panels will all last a lifetime.

 

FRAMING YEARS
Log 80 to 200
Poured-Concrete Systems 100+
Steel 100+
Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) 100+
Timber Frame 100+

 

 

The quality and frequency of use will affect the longevity of garage doors and openers.

 

GARAGES YEARS
Garage Doors 20 to 25
Garage Door Openers 10 to 15

 

 

Home technology systems have diverse life expectancies and may have to be upgraded due to evolution in technology.

 

HOME TECHNOLOGY YEARS
Built-In Audio 20
Carbon Monoxide Detectors* 5
Doorbells 45
Home Automation System 5 to 50
Intercoms 20
Security System 5 to 20
Smoke/Heat Detectors* less than 10
Wireless Home Networks 5+

* Batteries should be changed at least annually.

 

 

Thermostats may last 35 years but they are usually replaced before they fail due to technological improvements.

 

HVAC YEARS
Air Conditioner (central) 7 to 15
Air Exchanger 15
Attic Fan 15 to 25
Boiler 40
Burner 10+
Ceiling Fan 5 to 10
Chimney Cap (concrete) 100+
Chimney Cap (metal) 10 to 20
Chimney Cap (mortar) 15
Chimney Flue Tile 40 to 120
Condenser 8 to 20
Dampers 20+
Dehumidifier 8
Diffusers, Grilles and Registers 25
Ducting 60 to 100
Electric Radiant Heater 40
Evaporative Cooler 15 to 25
Furnace 15 to 25
Gas Fireplace 15 to 25
Heat Exchanger 10 to 15
Heat Pump 10 to 15
Heat-Recovery Ventilator 20
Hot-Water and Steam-Radiant Boiler 40
Humidifier 12
Induction and Fan-Coil Units 10 to 15
Thermostats 35
Ventilator 7

 

 

As long as they are not punctured, cut or burned and are kept dry and away from UV rays, cellulose, fiberglass and foam insulation materials will last a lifetime. This is true regardless of whether they were installed as loose-fill, housewrap or batts/rolls.

 

INSULATION & INFILTRATION BARRIERS YEARS
Batts/Rolls 100+
Black Paper (felt paper) 15 to 30
Cellulose 100+
Fiberglass 100+
Foamboard 100+
Housewrap 80+
Liquid-Applied Membrane 50
Loose-Fill 100+
Rockwool 100+
Wrap Tape 80+

 

 

Masonry is one of the most enduring household components. Fireplaces, chimneys and brick veneers can last the lifetime of the home.

 

MASONRY & CONCRETE    YEARS
Brick 100+
Insulated Concrete Forms (hybrid block) 100+
Concrete Masonry Units (CMUs) 100+
Man-Made Stone 25
Masonry Sealant 2 to 20
Stone 100+
Stucco/EIFS 50+
Veneer 100+

 

 

Custom millwork and stair parts will last a lifetime and are typically only upgraded for aesthetic reasons.

 

MOLDING, MILLWORK & TRIM YEARS
Attic Stairs (pull-down) 50
Custom Millwork 100+
Pre-Built Stairs 100+
Stair Parts 100+
Stairs 100+

 

 

The lifetime of any wood product depends heavily on moisture intrusion.

 

PANELS YEARS
Flooring Underlayment 25
Hardboard 40
Particleboard 60
Plywood 100
Softwood 30
Oriented Strand Board (OSB) 60
Wall Panels 100+

 

 

The quality of plumbing fixtures varies dramatically.  The mineral content of water can shorten the life expectancy of water heaters and clog showerheads.  Also, some finishes may require special maintenance with approved cleaning agents per the manufacturers in order to last their expected service lives.

 

PLUMBING, FIXTURES & FAUCETS YEARS
ABS and PVC Waste Pipe 50 to 80
Accessible/ADA Handles 100+
Acrylic Kitchen Sink 50
Cast-Iron Bathtub 100
Cast-Iron Waste Pipe (above ground) 60
Cast-Iron Waste Pipe (below ground) 50 to 60
Concrete Waste Pipe 100+
Copper Water Lines 70
Enameled Steel Kitchen Sink 5 to 10+
Faucets and Spray Hose 15 to 20
Fiberglass Bathtub and Shower 20
Gas Lines (black steel) 75
Gas Lines (flex) 30
Hose Bibs 20 to 30
Instant (on-demand) Water Heater 10
PEX 40
Plastic Water Lines 75
Saunas/Steam Room 15 to 20
Sewer Grinder Pump 10
Shower Enclosure/Module 50
Shower Doors 20
Showerheads 100+ (if not clogged by mineral/other deposits)
Soapstone Kitchen Sink 100+
Sump Pump 7
Toilet Tank Components 5
Toilets, Bidets and Urinals 100+
Vent Fan (ceiling) 5 to 10
Vessel Sink (stone, glass, porcelain, copper) 5 to 20+
Water Heater (conventional) 6 to 12
Water Line (copper) 50
Water Line (plastic) 50
Water Softener 20
Well Pump 15
Whirlpool Tub 20 to 50

 

 

Radon systems have but one moving part:  the radon fan.

 

RADON SYSTEMS
YEARS
Air Exchanger 15
Barometric Backdraft Damper/Fresh-Air Intake 20
Caulking 5 to 10
Labeling 25
Manometer 15
Piping 50+
Radon Fan 5 to 8

 

 

The life of a roof depends on local weather conditions, building and design, material quality, and adequate maintenance.  Hot climates drastically reduce asphalt shingle life.  Roofs in areas that experience severe weather, such as hail, tornadoes and/or hurricanes, may also experience a shorter-than-normal lifespan overall or may incur isolated damage that requires repair in order to ensure the service life of the surrounding roofing materials.

 

ROOFING YEARS
Aluminum Coating 3 to 7
Asphalt (architectural) 30
Asphalt Shingles (3-tab) 20
BUR (built-up roofing) 30
Clay/Concrete 100+
Coal and Tar 30
Copper 70+
EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) Rubber 15 to 25
Fiber Cement 25
Green (vegetation-covered) 5 to 40
Metal 40 to 80
Modified Bitumen 20
Simulated Slate 10 to 35
Slate 60 to 150
TPO 7 to 20
Wood 25

 

 

Outside siding materials typically last a lifetime.  Some exterior components may require protection through appropriate paints or sealants, as well as regular maintenance.  Also, while well-maintained and undamaged flashing can last a long time, it is their connections that tend to fail, so seasonal inspection and maintenance are strongly recommended.

 

SIDINGS, FLASHING & ACCESSORIES YEARS
Aluminum Gutters, Downspouts, Soffit and Fascia 20 to 40+
Aluminum Siding 25 to 40+
Asbestos Shingle 100
Brick 100+
Cementitious 100+
Copper Downspouts 100
Copper Gutters 50+
Engineered Wood 100+
Fiber Cement 100+
Galvanized Steel Gutters/Downspouts 20
Manufactured Stone 100+
Stone 100+
Stucco/EIFS 50+
Trim 25
Vinyl Gutters and Downspouts 25+
Vinyl Siding 60
Wood/Exterior Shutters 20

 

 

Site and landscaping elements have life expectancies that vary dramatically.

 

SITE & LANDSCAPING YEARS
American Red Clay 100+
Asphalt Driveway 15 to 20
Brick and Concrete Patio 15 to 25
Clay Paving 100+
Concrete Walks 40 to 50
Controllers 15
Gravel Walks 4 to 6
Mulch 1 to 2
Polyvinyl Fencing 100+
Sprinkler Heads 10 to 14
Underground PVC Piping 60+
Valves 20
Wood Chips 1 to 5
Wood Fencing 20

 

 

Swimming pools are composed of many systems and components, all with varying life expectancies.

 

SWIMMING POOLS
YEARS
Concrete Shell 25+
Cover 7
Diving Board 10
Filter and Pump 10
Interior Finish 10 to 35
Pool Water Heater 8
Vinyl Liner 10
Waterline Tile 15+

 

 

Aluminum windows are expected to last between 15 and 20 years, while wooden windows should last nearly 30 years.

 

WINDOWS YEARS
Aluminum/Aluminum-Clad 15 to 20
Double-Pane 8 to 20
Skylights 10 to 20
Vinyl/Fiberglass Windows 20 to 40
Window Glazing 10+
Wood 30+

Note: Life expectancy varies with usage, weather, installation, maintenance and quality of materials.  This list should be used only as a general guideline and not as a guarantee or warranty regarding the performance or life expectancy of any appliance, product, system or component.