Whether or not you are a first-time or experienced home buyer, purchasing a new home is one of the biggest investments you are likely to make. It’s also an investment that can be fraught with worry and unknowns, and having a home inspection is key to reducing some of those mysteries. Indoor air quality is often forgotten during the home inspection process though, and as it affects the whole home, it’s important to pay attention to a home as you inspect it prior to signing on the dotted line.
Whether or not you’re a professional home inspector, there are a few things that should be noticeable in a potential new home. Indoor air quality can be worsened by past poor decisions, bad ventilation or air circulation, temperature and humidity, and improper building techniques or materials. The good news is that many of the things that cause poor indoor air quality can be improved or eliminated through renovation, but the size of that renovation job (contractor versus DIY) is an important consideration in the home buying process.
The kitchen, bathroom, or basement are all areas in a home that can suffer from an excess of humidity, poor ventilation, or bad air circulation – all things that will have an adverse effect on your indoor air quality. Is there a dehumidifier running in the basement, and can you smell mold in the indoor air quality? Is there moisture collecting on the pipes or darkening the walls? Humidity will help to increase the growth of mold, mildew and other bacteria that cause poor indoor air quality, so it’s important to make note of spaces where it seems to be collecting.
Water leaks in any of these three spaces, as well as in the attic or around exterior doors or windows could be the trigger for mold growth. Mold adversely affects your indoor air quality through spores, the tiny ‘babies’ it sends out to colonize new locations. These spores are easily inhaled and can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as respiratory effects. Materials that are damaged by mold growth should be removed promptly by a professional – household chemicals will only cause temporary indoor air quality problems and the mold will return more often than not.
A good home inspection will also pay close attention to the mechanical systems that affect your indoor air quality: your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment (HVAC). They may be new or running efficiently, but poor indoor air quality can be exacerbated by dirty filters, dust, bacteria or mold that is hiding within machinery. These interior problems mean that your HVAC may just be recirculating poor indoor air quality instead of refreshing it, so checking all of the indoor and outdoor equipment, as well and air intake is a key part of good indoor air quality.
Finally, while walking the interior and exterior of the property, check for chemical contamination that could be causing poor indoor air quality. Unsafe building materials used in the past, like vermiculate or asbestos is a big warning sign, but so is rusting metal, fuel tanks, car exhaust, and old carpeting and flooring. Old paint can contain lead, which, when chipped or sanded, is released into your indoor air quality where it can be breathed in and cause serious health problems, especially in children.
If you can, find a home inspector trained in indoor air quality assessment to ensure any latent problems are caught. If you’ve already moved in, it’s never too late to have an indoor air quality test – call us at SafeAir today, and we’d be happy to tell you more about our services.