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Side Note: Crawl Space

Wood + Water = BAD NEWS

Exposed earth contributes a lot of water vapor into the crawl space air.  The earth is damp and as that damp soil dries into the house.  In climates where there are dirt crawl spaces, you can never dry the earth, and this invisible stream of water vapor from the exposed earth in a crawl spaces continues forever.

There are several ways water gets into a house.  Groundwater seeps, leaks or could even rush into many crawl spaces.  It can enter under the footing, between the footing and the walls, right through block walls, and through cracks in poured walls.  After it seeps in, it just lays there in puddles, slowly evaporating upward into the house.

Some of the common symptoms of a crawl space moisture problem are:

  • Mold or moisture damage in the crawl space or living area
  • Musty odors in the living area
  • Condensation (“sweating”) on air conditioning duct work or equipment
  • Condensation on insulation, water pipes or truss plates in the crawl space
  • Buckled hardwood floors
  • High humidity in the living area
  • Insect infestations
  • Rot in wooden framing members

These symptoms are most often noticed in the humid spring and summer seasons but can occur at any time of the year. Often, the heating and air conditioning contractor is the first person the residents call to deal with the problem. Typically though, the problem is not due to a failure of the air conditioning system; it results from poor moisture control in the crawl space.

Keep up with our Side Note Series for more information on crawl spaces and how to maintain them.

 

Excerpts from Dry Basement Science – What to Have Done and Why by Lawrence Janesky

Side Note: Just Add Water

In this week’s Side Note, we switch gears from basements to crawl spaces. Since air flows upward into the upper levels of your home from the crawl space, it brings the humidity from the crawl space with it. The effects on your home include:

  • Dust Mites
  • Sticking (swollen) doors and windows
  • Smelly, Damp Carpets
  • Buckling hardwood floors
  • Frost or Condensation and mold on the inside of windows in cool weather
  • Increased energy bills

While damage in the crawl space itself can be obvious, the list above represents many of the effects that can happen UPSTAIRS that you may not associate with your wet or damp crawl space.

Fixing your crawl space is one home repair expense that you can’t afford not to make.

Keep up with our Side Note Series for more information on maintenance and repairs to your crawl space.

 

Side Note: Basement Waterproofing – Inside Strategies

In previous posts we’ve covered a few exterior options to protect your basement.  Now let’s review what options you have inside!  By installing a drainage system around the inside of the basement along the wall, you can capture water at the most common point of entry – the floor/wall joint.  Capturing water from the walls can prevent the center of the floor from leaking by intercepting the water at the perimeter.

There are advantages to an interior drainage system.

  1. Accessibility
  2. Affordability
  3. Quick Installation
  4. Serviceable
  5. IT WORKS!

Even in basements that are already finished, it is still much easier to waterproof from the inside than the outside.  Most Full-Time basement waterproofing companies offer interior drainage systems – – – each with their differences. Watch for our next Side Note where we cover the different interior waterproofing options.

Excerpts from Dry Basement Science – What to Have Done and Why by Lawrence Janesky

Side Note: Outer Limits

By now we’ve learned that there are two types of basements – the ones that already leak and the ones that will eventually leak.  If the soil around the foundation of your home is pitched toward the foundation, it is a good idea to change the grade by adding dirt so that the soil slopes away.  Do not use sand or mulch which may absorb and hold water rather than water flowing away.  Don’t rely on grading alone to protect your foundation and keep your basement dry.

Try to keep any added dirt or additional landscaping 4″ below any siding.  If the siding is close or touching the soils it may rot, creating a new set of issues.  Proper grading as well as the proper use of gutters and downspouts will be a great help to your overall dry basement project.  Don’t rely on clean gutters alone to keep your basement dry.

Join us for more basement waterproofing facts as we continue our Side Note Series on Basements!

Excerpts from Dry Basement Science – What to Have Done and Why by Lawrence Janesky

Side Note: Dry Basement

Buyers expect a dry basement.  No one wants to buy a home with a wet basement.  These days most states have disclosure forms that would require the seller to details a series of questions about the property…one of which is water in the basement.  Home inspectors are trained to find this sort of defect during a standard inspection.  A keen eyewall-floor-joint-basement-water1 for moisture problems can save you time and money.

There’s simply no way to hide a wet basement.  Buyers will often view a wet basement as a “Fixer-Upper” and lower their offer…sometimes up to 10%.  On a $150,000 house, that’s $15,000!  The moral of the story – – Fixing your wet basement is a lot cheaper than not fixing it.

Stay tuned for more information on basement waterproofing!

 

Excerpts from Dry Basement Science – What to Have Done and Why by Lawrence Janesky

Side Note: Basement Space

Build-a-Basement-DesignEven though it may not be counted in the actual square footage of your home, your basement is VALUABLE space!  What can you do with your basement?  How about a Playroom for the kids, a Party Room or Family Room?  A home gym to keep you fit and healthy, or maybe a craft room for your creative side?  All of this and more could be possible.

You’re not going to finish your basement you say?  Even an unfinished basement is valuable space.  All the “stuff” that you would normally put into a dry, unfinished basement is now taking up finished space.  It’s crammed into the closets, the spare room, and the garage.  Taking some simple steps to drying and waterproofing your basement, you can move all that “stuff” downstairs and reclaim your finished space.

Keep up with our new series Side Note for more great basement information.

 

Excerpts from Dry Basement Science – What to Have Done and Why by Lawrence Janesky

Side Note: Radon Gas & Waterproofing

Radon Gas is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from radium deposits in the earth’s crust.  If present in the soil under your home, it can get sucked into your house via the basement or crawl space.

DON’T PANIC!  It’s fairly common and easy to get rid of.

Some people that know “a little”, think that basement waterproofing systems and radon mitigation systems are incompatible.  While it is true that gaps, cracks and hols in the basement floor and walls need to be sealed as part of the strategy to get rid of Radon, this can be done without compromising the waterproofing system.

 

Excerpts from Dry Basement Science – What to Have Done and Why by Lawrence Janesky

Spring Thaw

springthawEach year, Michigan homeowners and businesses are hit with the harsh reality of winter, dealing with everything from snow covered roads and pot holes to slippery driveways and the dreaded NO SCHOOL Snow Days. You can’t change the weather, but we can minimize the toll it may take by implementing a few simple safeguards.  Heating and plumbing maintenance and the right insurance coverage, can help minimize any financial burdens that may follow seasonal storm damage.

This time of year, it is important to be aware of water damage that can be caused by Spring Thaw.  You can’t stop the water, but you can take measures to limit or prevent damage and save on restoration repairs.

Understand your insurance coverage

Read the details of your homeowner’s insurance coverage as it applies to water damage and flooding, because unless you carry flood insurance, any damage to your home caused by spring-thaw flooding is generally not covered. Many policies also don’t cover backed-up sewers unless you pay a higher premium specifically for this added coverage.

How to prevent water damage

No homeowner can prevent water damage under every circumstance, but you can prepare your home ahead of spring-thaw months to prevent common causes of damage.

  • Basement pumps. Install a sump pump or a sewer backflow value and keep a battery-operated backup in case of power failure. Consider installing a water alarm that warns when water is accumulating in your basement.
  • Basement storage. Keep valuable items out of your basement. Removing any electronics or stored valuables from your basement prior to spring-thaw warnings could prove to be an important ounce of prevention.
  • Debris removal. Remove debris from window wells, gutters and downspouts.
  • Doors and windows. Check for any leaks around doors and windows.
  • Exterior walls. Keep all exterior walls of your home well painted and sealed.
  • Flood drains. If you have flood drains, make sure they work properly.
  • Foundation cracks. Inspect your foundation for cracks that will allow water seepage and initiate repairs.
  • Grading. Inspect the grading around your home and make any changes. Design the grading to encourage the water to flow away from your home.
  • Landscaping. Trim trees and bushes away from your home and do not store wood or compost piles nearby.
  • Roof. Keep your roof in good repair. Unless a tree falls on your roof during a storm, most insurers expect you to maintain your roof to prevent water leaks caused by snow melting or torrential downpours.

Adapted from https://www.safetyinsurance.com

Radon Risks

The Risk of Living With Radon

Scientists are more certain about radon risks than from most other cancer-causing substances.

Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe. As they break down further, these particles release small bursts of energy. This can damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer over the course of your lifetime. Not everyone exposed to elevated levels of radon will develop lung cancer. And the amount of time between exposure and the onset of the disease may be many years.

Like other environmental pollutants, there is some uncertainty about the magnitude of radon health risks. However, we know more about radon risks than risks from most other cancer-causing substances. This is because estimates of radon risks are based on studies of cancer in humans.

Smoking combined with radon is an especially serious health risk. Stop smoking and lower your radon level to reduce your lung cancer risk.

Children have been reported to have greater risk than adults of certain types of cancer from radiation, but there are currently no conclusive data on whether children are at greater risk than adults from radon.

Your chances of getting lung cancer from radon depend mostly on:

  • How much radon is in your home
  • The amount of time you spend in your home
  • Whether you are a smoker or have ever smoked

Radon Risk If You Smoke

Radon Level

If 1,000 people who smoked were exposed to this level over a lifetime*…

The risk of cancer from radon exposure compares to**…

WHAT TO DO: Stop smoking and…

20 pCi/L

About 260 people could get lung cancer 250 times the risk of drowning Fix your home

10 pCi/L

About 150 people could get lung cancer

200 times the risk of dying in a home fire

Fix your home

8 pCi/L

About 120 people could get lung cancer

30 times the risk of dying in a fall

Fix your home

4 pCi/L

About 62 people could get lung cancer

5 times the risk of dying in a car crash

Fix your home

2 pCi/L About 32 people could get lung cancer 6 times the risk of dying from poison

Consider fixing between

 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L

1.3 pCi/L

About 20 people could get lung cancer

(Average indoor radon level) (Reducing radon levels below 2 pCi/L is difficult.)
0.4 pCi/L

About 3 people could get lung cancer

(Average outdoor radon level)

Note:   If you are a former smoker, your risk may be lower. * Lifetime risk of lung cancer deaths from EPA Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes (EPA 402-R-03-003). ** Comparison data calculated using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 1999-2001 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Reports.

Radon Risk If You’ve Never Smoked

Radon Level

If 1,000 people who NEVER smoked were exposed to this level over a lifetime*…

The risk of cancer from radon exposure compares to**…

WHAT TO DO:

20 pCi/L

About 36 people could get lung cancer

35 times the risk of drowning

Fix your home

10 pCi/L

About 18 people could get lung cancer

20 times the risk of dying in a home fire

Fix your home

8 pCi/L

About 15 people could get lung cancer

4 times the risk of dying in a fall

Fix your home

4 pCi/L

About 7 people could get lung cancer

5 times the risk of dying in a car crash

Fix your home

2 pCi/L

About 4 people could get lung cancer

6 times the risk of dying from poison

Consider fixing between 2 and 4 pCi/L

1.3 pCi/L

About 2 people could get lung cancer

(Average indoor radon level)

(Reducing radon levels below 2 pCi/L is difficult.)

0.4 pCi/L

(Average outdoor radon level)

Note:   If you are a former smoker, your risk may be higher. * Lifetime risk of lung   cancer deaths from EPA Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes (EPA   402-R-03-003). ** Comparison data calculated using the Centers for Disease   Control and Prevention’s 1999-2001 National Center for Injury Prevention and   Control Reports.

 

It’s never too late to reduce your risk of lung cancer.

Don’t wait to test and fix a radon problem.

If you are a smoker, stop smoking.

Radon – Myths and Facts

Radon Myths

MYTH: Scientists aren’t sure radon really is a problem.

FACT: Although some scientists dispute the precise number of deaths due to radon, all the major health organizations (like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Lung Association and the American Medical Association) agree with estimates that radon causes thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths every year. This is especially true among smokers, since the risk to smokers is much greater than to non-smokers.

MYTH: Radon testing is difficult, time consuming and expensive.

FACT: Radon testing is easy. You can test your home yourself or hire a qualified radon test company. Either approach takes only a small amount of time and effort.  Home Inspection Professionals provides Radon testing services and complete reporting and only takes a few minutes to set the testing system which is retreived by one of our professionals in approximately 48 hours.  Results are provided within 24 hours of test completion.

MYTH: Homes with radon problems can’t be fixed.

FACT: There are simple solutions to radon problems in homes. Hundreds of thousands of homeowners have already fixed radon problems in their homes. Most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs; check with one or more qualified mitigators.

MYTH: Radon affects only certain kinds of homes.

FACT: House construction can affect radon levels. However, radon can be a problem in homes of all types: old homes, new homes, drafty homes, insulated homes, homes with basements, homes without basements. Local geology, construction materials, and how the home was built are among the factors that can affect radon levels in homes.

MYTH: Radon is only a problem in certain parts of the country.

FACT: High radon levels have been found in every state. Radon problems do vary from area to area, but the only way to know your radon level is to test.

MYTH: A neighbor’s test result is a good indication of whether your home has a problem.

FACT: It’s not. Radon levels can vary greatly from home to home. The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test it.

MYTH: Everyone should test their water for radon.

FACT: Although radon gets into some homes through water, it is important to first test the air in the home for radon. If your water comes from a public water supply that uses ground water, call your water supplier. If high radon levels are found and the home has a private well, Home Inspection Professionals can also provide testing for your water supply.

MYTH: It’s difficult to sell homes where radon problems have been discovered.

FACT: Where radon problems have been fixed, home sales have not been blocked or frustrated. The added protection is some times a good selling point.

MYTH: I’ve lived in my home for so long, it doesn’t make sense to take action now.

FACT: You will reduce your risk of lung cancer when you reduce radon levels, even if you’ve lived with a radon problem for a long time.

MYTH: Short-term tests can’t be used for making a decision about whether to fix your home.

FACT: A short-term test, followed by a second short-term test can be used to decide whether to fix your home. However, the closer the average of your two short-term tests is to 4 pCi/L, the less certain you can be about whether your year-round average is above or below that level. Keep in mind that radon levels below 4 pCi/L still pose some risk. Radon levels can be reduced in most homes to 2 pCi/L or below.

* If the radon test is part of a real estate transaction, the result of two short-term tests can be used in deciding whether to mitigate. For more information, see EPA’s “Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon“.

Need more information or assistance?  Visit http://www.epa.gov/radon/states/michigan.html for more resources and contacts.