During a home inspection, you often look for the tangible problems—think damaged shingles, cracks in the foundation, faulty wiring. But what about your air? Though invisible, the quality of the air you’re breathing should be top of mind when purchasing a new house. Be prepared for the inspection with these four air-aware questions.
Mold testing is not typically included in a standard home inspection, but if spores are visible or a room feels damp, spending additional money might be worth it. Mold can produce allergens and irritants that may lead to asthma attacks, sneezing, skin rashes, red eyes and more.*
This naturally occurring radioactive gas can seep into a house through cracks in the foundation, and is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.** Radon is present everywhere across the United States, in varying levels. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Map of Radon Zones shows the potential for elevated radon levels for each county in the U.S.*** If the home inspector finds elevated levels of radon in the home—anything that’s 4 picocuries per liter or higher is considered hazardous***—it doesn’t mean you need to walk away from the deal. Ask the sellers to pay for radon mitigation, which costs $1,200 on average****, or subtract the amount from the price of the house.
It depends on the age of your home. The government banned the manufacturing and selling of lead paint in 1978 because its particles were causing lead poisoning. So if your home is newer, you’re probably in the clear, though some painters could have continued to use up their stash of lead-based paint even after the ban went into effect. If you’re unsure, look for deteriorating paint that looks like scales. This is a good indication that lead paint was used.
Despite the fact that asbestos is linked to lung cancer and lung disease, many applications of the mineral fiber—from roofing felt and pipeline wraps to vinyl floor tiles—have not been banned.*****
You can’t tell if a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it, but luckily, asbestos-laden products don’t become a problem until they’re damaged or disturbed through construction or repairs, when the fibers are released into the air.****** In other words: Unless there are visible signs of deterioration in building materials commonly associated with asbestos, you shouldn’t need to worry about it until (or if) a remodel comes up. Then it’s a good idea to schedule an asbestos inspection.