Collage for some of the 100's of residential properties proudly inspected in the UAE - Property values ranges between AED 2M - 38M
This is what we observed during a recent inspection of a 4 Bedroom villa with large balcony on top of the garage. Signs of moisture intrusion on the garage ceiling that was confirmed by the condition of the balcony on the 2nd. floor.
Make sure you do a "pre-handover" inspection of the water proofing to prevent damages like this, which can be costly !
1. The house is fine, but I could make it look bad.
As the housing market recovers in the UAE, more buyers and sellers will be getting introduced to one of the most nerve-racking rituals in real estate: the home inspection.
An inspection, which usually occurs after a buyer has made an offer, is meant to be an objective analysis of a home’s condition. Twenty years ago, 75% of purchased homes in North America were inspected; today, it’s 95%, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors, a Des Plaines, Ill.-based industry trade group. The trick is finding an inspector who can relay the critical information and put it in context. Communication and a strong, yet easy to understand inspection report is key for home buyer to see the fact and take the decision accordingly, removing any subjectivity from the mix.
2. Get the house, not the inspection.
Most realtors and real estate lawyers recommend including inspection condition in purchase contracts. But in most cases the law doesn’t actually require an inspection. And in hotter markets, some buyers are opting to skip them. In a competitive bid situation “an offer for $880,000 with no inspection condition will likely win over a $900,000 offer with an inspection contingency. Of course, skipping an inspection can leave you in a different kind of hot water. If an inspection turns up a home defect, the seller will be under pressure to either drop their price or fix the problem. If the buyers waive that option, and find a defect afterward, they’re on their own when it comes to repairs.
3. Qualifications? I may not have any…
Only about two-thirds of the states and provinces in North America have laws regulating home inspectors. Luckily in the UAE, there are strict license regulations for a company to offer property inspection services. This is key because If a not-so-sharp/unqualified inspector misses a defect, this can be costly or even pose safety hazard for the home occupants in the future
It is always advised that you choose a company that is licensed and does not delegate the actual inspection to unqualified staff or skilled workers. In fact, in UAE, one of the licensing requirements is a BSc. in civil engineering in addition to many years of experience in the same field.
In addition, a company that is an active member of an international association of home inspectors, such as InterNACHI, will give you the confidence and you may be able to rest assured that you will get a thorough assessment of your valuable purchase.
4. I’ll cut corners to keep the agents happy.
The inspector ideally should work only for the client. But home inspectors also try to build relationships with agents and brokers to get more business, and that can give them an incentive to play down any problems with a house. Sometimes, the buyer’s agent tries to lean on the home inspector so as not to blow a deal. This is complete unethical business practice!
Experts say homeowners should be wary if an agent or broker that tries to discuss the inspection directly with the inspector and cut out the client.
5. Feel free to watch.
It happens: Some home inspectors are so thorough they can scare a client out of a deal. One way for a buyer to avoid that fate is to accompany the home inspector room-to-room during the actual inspection. You’ll learn a lot about the home that way, and you won’t be surprised when the home inspector comes up with a long list of fixes.
6. You should bring me in earlier.
Traditionally, inspections don’t happen until after the buyer has made an offer: the practice is so standard that most inspectors don’t think to question it. But having a home inspected before submitting an offer is a relatively frequent practice in parts of the united states, and some real-estate agents think it’s a practice worth adopting more widely.
Researchers at the real estate group Redfin in San Francisco say that offers paired with pre-inspections were successful 21 % more often than other offers, and that San Francisco home buyers whose offers included a pre-inspection were more than twice as likely to win a bidding war as those without one.
“It tells the seller that you already know what’s wrong with the home, you still want to buy it, and you’re not going to ask them to pay for repairs later,”
7. To find a serious problem, you may need someone else.
Inspectors admit that there are some problems they aren’t in a good position to detect. “An inspector can look at the exterior of an addition or a recently-remodeled basement, but without pulling the permits, there’s no way of knowing what’s behind the walls”. Luckily, the advance in modrn technology and new tools has made it much easier for home inspectors to detect issues that can not be seen with the normal eye. Make sure you hire an inspection company that deploy state of the art tools and equipements.
8. I can make money from the problems I find.
There’s always the potential for conflicts of interest in a business where one hand washes the other. Many home inspectors either used to be general contractors, or still do such work on the side. And it isn’t unheard of for an inspector to steer a home buyer to a pal’s firm, or even to the inspector’s own contracting business, to repair the very same flaws the inspection turned up.
Be mindful as this is a common practice in the UAE. Choosing a property inspector that has no alliances with any repair or maintenance companies is prudent.
Defective components may create safety hazards as well as functional deficiencies to the garage door assembly. The following facts demonstrate the dangers posed by garage doors:
Inspectors should not attempt to fix any garage door defects they may encounter. They should call out defects in their reports and recommend that the door be examined by a trained garage door technician. The following components should be present during inspections and devoid of defects:
2. easily distinguishable from rest of the garage opener system; and
3. no more than 6 feet above the standing surface.
2. cracking and dents. Aluminum doors are especially vulnerable to denting; and
3. separation of materials.
2. a general warning label, attached to the back of the door panel;
3. a warning label attached to the wall in the vicinity of the wall control button, and;
4. a tension warning label, attached to garage door’s bottom bracket.
Note: Inspectors should not operate the door until they have inspected the track mounts and bracing. Doors have been known to fall on people and cars when they were operated with tracks that were not securely attached and supported.
In addition, the button must:
1. be mounted in clear view of the garage door; and
2. be mounted away from moving parts.
Important note: InterNACHI inspectors should always make sure to disable the manual lock on the garage door before activating the switch.
Methods for testing the automatic reverse system:
1. This safety feature can be tested by grasping the base of the garage door as it closes and applying upward resistance. Inspectors should use caution while performing this test because they may accidentally damage its components if the door does not reverse course.
2. Some sources recommend placing a 2x4 piece of wood on the ground beneath the door, although there have been instances where this testing method has damaged the door or door opener components.
3. supplemental automatic reverse system. Garage doors manufactured in the U.S. after 1992 must be equipped with photoelectric sensors or a door
Safety Advice for Clients:
In summary, garage doors and their openers can be hazardous if certain components are missing or defective. Inspectors should understand these dangers and be prepared to offer useful safety tips to their clients.
Molds are part of the natural environment. Outdoors, molds play a part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter, such as fallen leaves and dead trees. But indoors, mold growth should be avoided. Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air. Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet. There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture.
Can mold cause health problems?
Molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing. Molds have the potential to cause health problems. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions), irritants and, in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins). Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Allergic reactions to mold are common. They can be immediate or delayed. Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people. Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold. Research on mold and health effects is ongoing. This article provides a brief overview; it does not describe all potential health effects related to mold exposure. For more detailed information, consult a health professional. You may also wish to consult your state or local health department.
How do I get rid of mold?
It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors. Some mold spores will be found floating through the air and in house dust. Mold spores will not grow if moisture is not present. Indoor mold growth can and should be prevented or controlled by controlling moisture indoors. If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem. If you clean up the mold but don't fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will recur.
Who should do the cleanup?
This depends on a number of factors. One consideration is the size of the mold problem. If the moldy area is less than about 10 square feet (less than roughly a 3-foot by 3-foot patch), in most cases, you can handle the job yourself, following the guidelines below.
Tips and Techniques
The tips and techniques presented in this section will help you clean up your mold problem. Professional cleaners or remediators may use methods not covered here. Please note that mold may cause staining and cosmetic damage. It may not be possible to clean an item so that its original appearance is restored.
What to Wear When Cleaning Moldy Areas:
How do I know when the remediation or cleanup is finished?
You must have completely fixed the water or moisture problem before the cleanup or remediation can be considered finished, based on the following guidelines:
Moisture and Mold Prevention and Control Tips
Actions that will help to reduce humidity:
Actions that will help prevent condensation:
Testing or Sampling for Mold
Is sampling for mold needed? In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building's compliance with federal mold standards. Surface sampling may be useful to determine if an area has been adequately cleaned or remediated. Sampling for mold should be conducted by professionals who have specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, sampling methods, and interpreting results. Sample analysis should follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other professional organizations.
Suspicion of Hidden Mold
You may suspect hidden mold if a building smells moldy but you cannot see the source, or if you know there has been water damage and residents are reporting health problems. Mold may be hidden in places such as the backside of dry wall, wallpaper or paneling, the top-side of ceiling tiles, or the underside of carpets and pads, etc. Other possible locations of hidden mold include areas inside walls around pipes (with leaking or condensing pipes), the surface of walls behind furniture (where condensation forms), inside ductwork, and in roof materials above ceiling tiles (due to roof leaks or insufficient insulation).
Investigating Hidden Mold Problems
Investigating hidden mold problems may be difficult and will require caution when the investigation involves disturbing potential sites of mold growth. For example, removal of wallpaper can lead to a massive release of spores if there is mold growing on the underside of the paper. If you believe that you may have a hidden mold problem, consider hiring an experienced professional.
Cleanup and Biocides
Biocides are substances that can destroy living organisms. The use of a chemical or biocide that kills organisms such as mold (chlorine bleach, for example) is not recommended as a routine practice during mold cleanup. There may be instances, however, when professional judgment may indicate its use (for example, when immune-compromised individuals are present). In most cases, it is not possible or desirable to sterilize an area; a background level of mold spores will remain, and these spores will not grow if the moisture problem has been resolved. If you choose to use disinfectants or biocides, always ventilate the area and exhaust the air to the outdoors. Never mix chlorine bleach with other cleaning solutions or detergents that contain ammonia because toxic fumes could be produced.
Please note: Dead mold may still cause allergic reactions in some people, so it is not enough to simply kill the mold; it must also be removed.
Ten Things You Should Know About Mold
1. Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposure include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints.
2. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.
3. If mold is a problem in your home, you must clean up the mold and eliminate sources of moisture.
4. Fix the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mold growth.
5. Reduce indoor humidity (to 30% to 60%) to decrease mold growth by:
a. venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside;
b. using air conditioners and de-humidifiers;
c. increasing ventilation; and
d. using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning.
6. Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold growth.
7. Clean mold off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely. Absorbent materials that are moldy (such as carpeting and ceiling tiles) may need to be replaced.
8. Prevent condensation. Reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (i.e., windows, piping, exterior walls, roof and floors) by adding insulation.
9. In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem, do not install carpeting.
10. Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, provided moisture is present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods.
An important part of the process is the home inspection where a professional makes sure everything in the house is functioning properly and identifies needed repairs. Here are a few reasons why you don’t want to skip over this step.
The home-buying process is long and arduous. You often spend months searching for the right home before you make an offer and once an offer is made and accepted, you must jump through several more hoops before the sale closes. An important part of the process is the home inspection where a professional makes sure everything in the house is functioning properly and identifies needed repairs.
The buyer pays the cost of a home inspection but can always wave the right to an inspection. That’s not a good idea. You should make a home inspection a mandatory part of the home-buying process. “You need unbiased documentation of the home’s condition,” said April Leslie, a radon measurement and home inspection specialist at Award Home Inspections in Richmond, Virginia. This goes for both
the purchase of a pre-owned home as well as new construction.
Unseen and Unpredicted Problems
You can fall in love with a home for various reasons. You might love the size of the home, the open floor plan, the home’s exterior or the layout of the kitchen. While the home may look to be in excellent shape, the home’s aesthetics can hide real problems.
You need an inspector to climb into the attic and inch around in the crawl space. The inspector can discover real and expensive problems that are not always apparent when you view the home with a real estate agent.
“The home might not look good on top and underneath,” Leslie said. “It’s much more than the red door curb appeal. A great home is more interior decorating and a good paint job. It’s about what’s in your walls and not what’s on them.”
When you and the seller reach an agreement on the home, you are under some legal obligation to finalize the sale. A home inspection gives you ways to get out of the deal. Once the home inspector completes a report, you can renegotiate with the seller. You might want to have certain items repaired, or you could seek to have the cost of the home reduced. If an agreement is not reached on the items in the report, you can back out of the deal. A recent survey by the National Association of Realtors found that 14% of sales are never finalized due to the home inspection, the third largest reason.
“It’s going to educate you about one of your greatest purchases,” Leslie said. “You are also learning very practical information about the home like where the main water shutoff valve is located and where the main fuel shutoff is.”
Cost is not an inhibiting factor for a home inspection. An inspection on a condominium can be as little as $300 while the cost of a single-family home inspection ranges from $350 to $500. Specialized radon and HVAC inspections add a little bit more to the cost. In the end, the money is worth the investment. A quality home inspection can keep you from having to pay tens of thousands of dollars in repairs costs. “You will always benefit more than the cost of your home inspection,” April said.
The home inspector will look at the foundation and other structural elements of the house. If the house is not structurally sound, the inspection report will identify the problems. Structural problems are major red flags when buying a house. You don’t want to get stuck with a home that is not well built.
A new roof can cost $10,000 or more to replace and is one of the more expensive maintenance costs of owning a home. The inspector will look at the roof and identify the roof’s age in order to decide whether it is in proper working order. The report will point out any problems with the roof.
An important part of the home inspection is to make sure the home is safe. The inspector will look at the electrical system and make sure it is in proper working order. You don’t want to live in a home with an unsafe electrical system. If you choose to get a radon test, you will understand if the radon levels in the house are at safe levels. Radon is an odorless gas that can cause lung disease.
A home requires ongoing maintenance. Things wear out and break. When putting together a budget for buying a home, you need to include maintenance costs. The amount of money that you budget will depend on the home’s condition. A newer home is less likely to need maintenance than an older home. “Most inspection reports include the cost of deferred maintenance,” Leslie said. “These are things that will have pending replacements in the next five years.”
You have a huge amount of leverage with an inspection report. You can ask the seller to fix the problems in the report, renegotiate the asking price or ask the seller to contribute more to the closing costs. You are in the driver’s seat if the inspection report shows major problems with the house.
Peace of Mind
An inspection report guarantees that you understand the condition of the home when the sale finalizes which can ultimately bring you peace of mind. All in all, you don’t want any major surprises shortly after moving into your new home.
“Peace of mind can’t be overrated,” Leslie said. “You have actual physical documentation that informs you of the condition of the home. This is true even on new construction. For example, the air ducts could not be placed correctly.”
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Indoor air quality is generally worse than most people believe, but there are things you can do about it.
Some Quick Facts:
Signs of indoor air quality problems include:
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:
Remedies to Indoor Air Quality Problems
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.
Unhealthy and irritating vapors may be released from chemicals in household cleaners and similar products. Remedy: Select nonaerosol 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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