FREE Real Estate Agent Online Continuing Education

     Attention Texas Real Estate Agents!  Like you, I understand the chore of having to do continuing education.  What's even worse is having to pay someone else to take these courses just to maintain your license.  Because of this, I'm happy to be able to offer you a free course for 2 approved CE credits.  This course, Home Energy Score for Real Estate Professionals, is a great course that will teach you about the Home Energy Score program, and how you can use it to help your clients.


     To access the course, go to www.nachi.org/agentce and select Texas.  When it asks you for the ID of the NACHI inspector that referred you, enter NACHI14020415.  

     Once you've learned about the Home Energy Score program, contact Veteran Home Inspections to get your clients their score.  Not only can it help them save money on energy costs, it can help them get stretch FHA debt-to-income limits or get a larger Fannie Mae HomeStyle Energy loan!  

Lead Paint Hazards and Testing

Are you buying a home built before 1978?  Maybe you live in one currently.  If so, please read on.

Lead was a common additive to paint up until it was banned from use in residential housing.  As a paint additive, it worked great.  Unfortunately, the health effects were ignored, so there is a lot of it still in housing today.  There are a lot of rumors going around about lead paint, so this post will address several of them and also provide you with information on what to do next.

Rumor 1: "My kids don't eat paint chips!"  Paint Chips are only one source of lead poisoning.  The most common source is actually dust from lead paint.  Some of us older folks remember "self-cleaning paint."  This was nothing more than the lead in paint seeping out, and chalking on the surface.  After it rained, the dirt (and lead) would be washed off and the paint would look great.  The same dust is created by all lead paints, and the lead dust accumulates in your house.  The most common surfaces are the floor, window sills, and window wells.  Young kids, especially those crawling or playing on the floor a lot, pick up the dust on their clothes, hands, pacifiers, toys, etc. and put them in their mouths.  As for the paint chips, they are still a hazard.  One of the properties of lead is that it has a sweet taste.  This encourages kids to eat it.

Rumor 2: "If it's been painted over, it's not a risk"  Painting over lead paint is not an accepted method of remediation.  It may help mitigate, but it doesn't eliminate the risk of lead poisoning.  Additionally, the biggest sources of lead dust (window tracks, door jambs, painted floors, and other friction surfaces) can quickly wear down exposing the lead paint again).

Rumor 3: "It only affects kids."  While children under 6 years old are at the greatest risk to lead poisoning, lead will affect all ages.  In adults, lead can cause cardiovascular, neurological, kidney, and reproductive issues.  Lead can also pass from mother to child while pregnant and through breast milk.

Rumor 4: "They pretty much stopped using it around 1950."  I have personally inspected homes built in 1977 that had lead paint in them, some of them massive amounts.  On the flip side, I have inspected homes built in the early 1900's that had no lead paint at all.  Bottom line, the only way to know is to do a full surface-by-surface inspection to see if there is lead paint in the house.  For a report on the prevalence of lead in housing, click here.

Rumor 5: "I'll just use the test kits I can buy at the hardware store"  These tests are not 100%, and they have a standard set at 1.0mg/cm2 (small concentrations are ignored).  Additionally, proper use requires damaging the paint to ensure all layers are tested.The price of these swabs run about $5 each, and you need a new swab for each location.  In a typical 1500 square foot house, a lead inspector will test over 100 locations.

I'm sure by now you realized that not only is lead a hazard to your entire family, but there has to be an easy way to find out your risk.

We are Texas certified lead risk assessors and inspectors.  We can easily check your house for lead paint and help you determine the risk that it has on your family.  We'll also help you build an action plan to mitigate that risk. We use a combination of methods to find and assess lead paint, including an XRF machine that conducts instant non-destructive testing of painted surfaces.  The great thing is that it can see through all the layers of the paint, so even if there was only one layer of lead-based paint covered by several layers of non-lead-based paint, we will know.  Because it's fast and non-destructive, we can test all the painted surfaces in your home in a reasonable amount of time.  An average house of 1500 square feet takes about 60-90 minutes to test.  We can also do this inspection at the same time we do your home inspection.  If we do find lead paint, we can take dust wipe samples to determine if there is lead dust present and the concentrations.  These wipes have to be sent to a lab for analysis, but the turnaround time fairly quick.  Armed with this information, you can make an educated decision on how best to manage the risk to your family.

If you own rental properties that were built before 1978, you should also get them tested for lead paint.  This can help manage your risk as a landlord.

If your child has been found to have an elevated blood level, we can also perform EBL Investigations to help you find the source of the lead poisoning.  Hopefully your local health department will provide this, but if not, we are available to assist.

Are you doing renovations on a home built prior to 1978?  Make sure you know if and where there is lead paint.  We can do an inspection of the area to be renovated to let you know if you need to take lead paint RRP precautions.

What are the different types of inspections:

A Lead Inspection is an inspection to determine and report the presence of lead-based paint.

If lead paint is found, you should do a full Risk Assessment, which determines the existence, nature, severity, and location of lead-based paint hazards.

If you are buying a pre-1978 house, you have the right to conduct a lead paint inspection.  Don't waive this right in your contract, and have the house inspected.

To schedule a lead paint inspection or full risk assessment, contact Veteran Home Inspections at 210-202-1974 or schedule online at www.vhillc.com.  Based in Bandera, TX, we cover the San Antonio, TX and Hill Country area.


Flood-Damaged Homes & Buildings


by Nick Gromicko & Mike Marlow
 
Home and business owners should be prepared to protect themselves and their family members from the unique challenges posed by flood-damaged buildings. 
 
Hazards in and around flood-damaged buildings include the risks of:Good boots can protect against sharp debris in flood-damaged buildings
Inspection Tips
We here at Veteran Home Inspections wish everyone in the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey the best.  Take care and be safe.

Mike & Jamie Marlow
Veteran Home Inspections, PLLC
www.vhillc.com
210-202-1974

Protect Your Property From Water Damage

With the predicted rainfalls coming from the hurricane headed towards the Texas coast, now is a good time to take a look around your property to see where your vulnerabilities to water are.  A little maintenance and repair now can keep you dry and keep your home or business safe.

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.

Identify and Repair All Leaks and Cracks
The following are common building-related sources of water intrusion:
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:
Protection From Water Damage
Act Quickly if  Water Intrusion Occurs
Label 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.

For water intrusion and mold inspections, call Veteran Home Inspections at 210-202-1974.  You can also book online at www.vhillc.com

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Detectors

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that forms from incomplete combustion of fuels, such as natural or liquefied petroleum gas, oil, wood or coal.
 
Facts and Figures
Physiology of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
When CO is inhaled, it displaces the oxygen that would ordinarily bind with hemoglobin, a process the effectively suffocates the body. CO can poison slowly over a period of several hours, even in low concentrations. Sensitive organs, such as the brain, heart and lungs, suffer the most from a lack of oxygen.
High concentrations of carbon monoxide can kill in less than five minutes. At low concentrations, it will require a longer period of time to affect the body. Exceeding the EPA concentration of 9 parts per million (ppm) for more than eight hours may have adverse health affects. The limit of CO exposure for healthy workers, as prescribed by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration, is 50 ppm.
 
Potential Sources of Carbon Monoxide

Any fuel-burning appliances which are malfunctioning or improperly installed can be a source of CO, such as:
 
 
 
 
PPM
% CO 
in air
Health Effects in Healthy Adults
Source/Comments
0
0%
no effects; this is the normal level in a properly operating heating appliance

35
0.0035%
maximum allowable workplace exposure limit for an eight-hour work shift
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
50
0.005%
maximum allowable workplace exposure limit for an eight-hour work shift
              OSHA
100
0.01%
slight headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, 
errors in judgment

125
0.0125%

workplace alarm must sound (OSHA)
200
0.02%
headache, fatigue, 
nausea, dizziness

400
0.04%
severe headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, confusion; can be life-threatening after three hours of exposure
evacuate area immediately
800
0.08%
convulsions, loss of consciousness;
death within three hours
evacuate area immediately
12,000
1.2%
nearly instant death

 
 
CO Detector Placement

CO detectors can monitor exposure levels, but do not place them:
Do place CO detectors:
In North America, some national, state and local municipalities require installation of CO detectors in new and existing homes, as well as commercial businesses, among them:  Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont and New York City, and the Canadian province of Ontario. Installers are encouraged to check with their local municipality to determine what specific requirements have been enacted in their jurisdiction.
How can I prevent CO poisoning?
 

In summary, carbon monoxide is a dangerous poison that can be created by various household appliances. CO detectors must be placed strategically throughout the home or business in order to alert occupants of high levels of the gas.

To schedule your home inspection in San Antonio, TX, call 210-202-1974 or book online at www.vhillc.com

From https://www.nachi.org/carbon-monoxide.htm by Nick Gromicko 

Barbecue Safety

With tomorrow kicking off the summer, most of us will break out the BBQ sometime soon.  When you do, make sure you keep safety in mind.  And for tomorrow, take a moment to give thanks to the military men and women that gave their lives to allow us to live ours in freedom.
 
 
With barbecue season already here, homeowners should heed the following safety precautions in order to keep their families and property safe:

Safety Recommendations for General Grill Use
In summary, homeowners should exercise caution when using any kind of grill, as they can harm life and property in numerous ways. 

Remember, you can schedule your home inspection by calling 210-202-1974 or book online at www.vhillc.com

Adapted with permission from https://www.nachi.org/barbeque-safety.htm by Nick Gromicko

Attached Garage Fire Containment

To continue the information on garage fire safety, if the worst should happen, how can the fire be contained to the garage?
 
 

An attached garage is a garage that is physically attached to a house. Fires that begin in attached garages are more likely to spread to living areas than fires that originate in detached garages. For this reason, combined with the multitude of flammable materials commonly found in garages, attached garages should be adequately sealed from living areas. A properly sealed attached garage will ideally restrict the potential spread of fire long enough to allow the occupants time to escape the home or building.

Why are garages (both attached and detached) fire hazards?
Doors
The 2006 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) states the following concerning doors that separate garages from living areas:
R309.1 Opening Penetration
Openings from a private garage directly into a room used for sleeping purposes shall not be permitted. Other openings between the garage and the residence shall be equipped with solid wood doors not less than 1-3/8” (35 mm) in thickness, solid- or honeycomb-core steel doors not less than 1-3/8” (35 mm) thick, or 20-minute fire-rated doors.
In addition, Veteran Home Inspections can check for the following while inspecting doors that separate garages from living areas:
Walls and Ceilings
The 2006 edition of the IRC states the following concerning garage walls and ceilings:
          R309.2 Separation Required
The garage shall be separated from the residence and its attic area by not less than 1/2-inch (12.7 mm) gypsum board applied to the garage side. Garages beneath habitable rooms shall be separated from all habitable rooms above by not less than 5/8-inch (15.9 mm) Type X gypsum board or equivalent. Where the separation is a floor-ceiling assembly, the structure supporting the separation shall also be protected by not less than 1/2-inch (12.7 mm) gypsum board or equivalent. Garages located less than 3 feet (914 mm) from a dwelling unit on the same lot shall be protected with not less than 1/2–inch (12.7 mm) gypsum board applied to the interior side of exterior walls that are within this area. Openings in these walls shall be regulated by Section 309.1. This provision does not apply to garage walls that are perpendicular to the adjacent dwelling unit wall.
In addition, inspectors can check for the following while inspecting walls and ceilings:
Ducts

The 2006 edition of the IRC states the following concerning ducts that penetrate garage walls and ceilings:
R309.1.1 Duct Penetration

Ducts in the garage and ducts penetrating the walls or ceilings separating the dwelling from the garage shall be constructed of a minimum No. 26-gauge (0.48 mm) steel sheet or other approved material, and shall have no openings in the garage.
Dryer exhaust ducts that penetrate garage walls are serious fire hazards. These ducts are generally made from plastic and will easily melt during a fire, creating a large breach in the firewall.

Floors

The 2006 edition of the IRC states the following concerning floors in garages:
          R309.3 Floor Surface
Garage floor surfaces shall be of approved, non-combustible material. The area of the floor used for parking of automobiles or other vehicles shall be sloped to facilitate the movement of liquids to a drain or toward the main vehicle entry doorway.
Inspectors should also check for the following:
Concerning items placed on the floor, inspectors should check for the following:
General safety tips that inspectors can pass onto their clients:
In summary, attached garages should be sealed off from the living space so that fire may be contained.

To schedule your home inspection, call Veteran Home Inspections at 210-202-1974 or schedule online at www.vhillc.com

Adapted with permission from https://www.nachi.org/attached-garage-fire-hazards.htm by Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard

Attached Garage Fire Hazards

The purpose of this article is twofold. First, at Veteran Home Inspections, we’d like you to take measures to keep your garage free from fire. Fortunately, there are ways this can be done, some of which are described below. Secondly, garage fires do happen, and we’d like you to make sure that a fire cannot not easily spread to the rest of your house. While you can perform many of the recommendations in this article yourself, it is a good idea to hire Veteran Home Inspections to make sure your home is safe from a garage fire.
Why do many garages pose a fire hazard?
The following tips can help prevent garage fires and their spread:
If there is a door that connects the garage to the living area, consider the following:
Concerning items placed on the floor, you should check for the following:
In summary, there are plenty of things that you can do to prevent garage fires from spreading to the rest of the house, or to keep them from starting in the first place. However, it is highly recommended that you have your garage periodically examined by an inspector.

To schedule your home inspection, call Veteran Home Inspections at 210-202-1974 or schedule online at www.vhillc.com

Adapted with permission from https://www.nachi.org/garage-fires-client.htm by Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard

Air Sampling for Mold Inspections

Since we are now certified to do mold testing, here is a quick article on the benefits and issues with doing air samples for mold testing.  Veteran Home Inspections can provide you with air sampling, tape lift sampling, and a complete mold inspection, which helps identify the causes of indoor mold. 


Taking air samples during a mold inspection is important for several reasons.  Mold spores are not visible to the naked eye, and the types of mold present can often be determinair sampleed through laboratory analysis of the air samples.  Having samples analyzed can also help provide evidence of the scope and severity of a mold problem, as well as aid in assessing human exposure to mold spores.  After remediation, new samples are typically taken to help ensure that all mold has been successfully removed.
 
Air samples can be used to gather data about mold spores present in the interior of a house.  These samples are taken by using a pump that forces air through a collection device which catches mold spores.  The sample is then sent off to a laboratory to be analyzed.  InterNACHI inspectors who perform mold inspections often utilize air sampling to collect data, which has become commonplace.
Air-Sampling Devices
There are several types of devices used to collect air samples that can be analyzed for mold.  Some common examples include:
When and When Not to Sample
Samples are generally best taken if visual, non-invasive examination reveals apparent mold growth or conditions that could lead to growth, such as moisture intrusion or water damage.  Musty odors can also be a sign of mold growth.  If no sign of mold or potential for mold is apparent, one or two indoor air samples can still be taken, at the discretion of the inspector and client, in the most lived-in room of the house and at the HVAC unit.  
Outdoor air samples are also typically taken as a control for comparison to indoor samples.  Two samples -- one from the windward side and one from the leeward side of the house -- will help provide a more complete picture of what is in the air that may be entering the house through windows and doors at times when they are open.  It is best to take the outdoor samples as close together in time as possible to the indoor samples that they will be compared with.
InterNACHI inspectors should avoid taking samples if a resident of the house is under a physician’s care for mold exposure, if there is litigation in progress related to mold on the premises, or if the inspector’s health or safety could be compromised in obtaining the sample.  Residential home inspectors also should not take samples in a commercial or public building.
Where to Sample and Ideal Conditions
In any areas of a house suspected or confirmed to have mold growth, air samples can be taken to help verify and gather more information.  Moisture intrusion, water damage, musty odors, apparent mold growth, or conditions conducive to mold growth are all common reasons to gather an air sample.  Samples should be taken near the center of the room, with the collection device positioned 3 to 6 feet off the ground.
Ten minutes is an adequate amount of time for the air pump to run while taking samples, but this can be reduced to around five minutes if there is a concern that air movement from a lot of indoor activity could alter the results.  The sampling time can be reduced further if there is an active source of dust, such as from ongoing construction.
Sampling should take place in livable spaces within the house under closed conditions in order to help stabilize the air and allow for reproducibility of the sampling and measurement.  While the sample is being collected, windows and exterior doors should be kept shut other than for normal entry and exit from the home.  It is best to have air exchangers (other than a furnace) or fans that exchange indoor-outdoor air switched off during sampling.
Weather conditions can be an important factor in gathering accurate data. Severe thunderstorms or unusually high winds can affect the sampling and analysis results.  High winds or rapid changes in barometric pressure increase the difference in air pressure between the interior and exterior, which can increase the variability of airborne mold-spore concentration.  Large differences in air pressure between the interior and exterior can cause more airborne spores to be sucked inside, skewing the results of the sample. 
Difficulties and Practicality of Air Sampling
It is helpful to think of air sampling as just one tool in the tool belt when inspecting a house for mold problems.  An air sample alone is not enough to confirm or refute the existence of a problem, and such testing needs to be accompanied by visual inspection and other methods of data collection, such as a surface sample.  Indoor airborne spore levels can vary according to several factors, and this can lead to skewed results if care is not taken to set up the sampling correctly.  Also, since only spores are collected with an air sample and may actually be damaged during collection, identification of the mold type can be more difficult than with a sample collected with tape or a cultured sample.
Air samples are good for use as a background screen to ensure that there isn’t a large source of mold not yet found somewhere in a home.  This is because they can detect long chains of spores that are still intact.  These chains normally break apart quickly as they travel through the air, so a sample that reveals intact chains can indicate that there is mold nearby, possibly undiscovered during other tests and visual examination. 
In summary, when taken under controlled conditions and properly analyzed, air samples for mold are helpful in comparing relative particle levels between a problem and a control area.  They can also be crucial for comparing particle levels and air quality in an area before and after mold remediation.  

To schedule your complete mold inspection and testing appointment, call 210-202-1974 or visit www.vhillc.com.

by Nick Gromicko and Ethan Ward
used with permission from: https://www.nachi.org/air-sampling-mold-inspection.htm

Termite Control in the Home

Veteran Home Inspections provides Wood Destroying Insect inspections for the San Antonio, TX and Hill Country area.  

The following is an article from our professional organization about termites and how to best control them in your home:

Wood-destroying insects and other organisms can cause serious problems in the wooden structural components of a house, and may go undetected for a long period of time.

New Construction
All chemical soil treatments, bait systems, and chemical wood treatment must be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and applied in accordance with the EPA label's instructions. In some cases, it is not feasible for a builder to arrange for soil treatment. In this regard, the International Residential Code (IRC) by the International Code Council allows a builder to utilize pressure-treated wood as a measure of termite protection. If pressure-treated wood is used, however, it must be used in all framing members up to and including the top plate of the first floor's level wall. This includes the sub-floor and floor joists of the first floor. The use of pressure-treated wood in only the sill plate is not acceptable. In such cases, the builder must provide the lender with a letter stating that the house is protected from termites by the use of pressure-treated wood. The builder must also provide the home buyer with a one-year warranty against termites. The use of post-construction soil treatment where the chemicals are applied only around the perimeter of the foundation is NOT acceptable in new construction.
Appraiser’s Observations
Appraisers are to observe all areas of the house and other structures/areas within the legal boundaries of the property that have potential for infestation by termites and other wood-destroying organisms, including the bottoms of exterior doors and frames, wood siding in contact with the ground, and crawlspaces. Mud tunnels running from the ground up the side of the house may indicate termite infestation. Observe the eaves and gable vents and wood window sills for indication of the entrance of swarming termites, and note excessive dampness or large areas where the vegetation is dead. Evidence of active termite infestation must be noted.
Termites 
 
Subterranean termites are the most damaging insects of wood. Their presence is hard to notice, and damage usually is found before the termites are seen. Prevent infestations because if they occur, they will almost always need professional pest-control service.
Signs of Infestation
Hire a qualified InterNACHI inspector to inspect for termites or other wood-destroying organisms. Generally, the first sign of infestation is the presence of swarming termites on the window or near indoor light. If they are found inside the house, it almost always means that they have infested. Other signs that may be found are termite wings on window sills or in cobwebs, and shelter tubes, which are tunnels constructed by the termites from soil or wood and debris. Usually, wood damage is not found at first, but when it is found, it definitely reveals a termite infestation. Anywhere wood touches soil is a possible entry into a home for termites. Examine wood which sounds dull or hollow when struck by a screwdriver or hammer. Inspect suspected areas with a sharp, pointed tool, such as an ice pick, to find termite galleries or their damage.
Control
Control measures include reducing the potential infestation, preventing termite entry, and applying chemicals for remedial treatment.
Inspection
Inspect thoroughly to determine if there is an infestation, damage, and/or conditions that could invite a termite attack, or the need for remedial control measures. The tools and equipment needed for an inspection include a flashlight, ice pick or sharp-pointed screwdriver, ladder, and protective clothing. Always hire an InterNACHI inspector for your inspection needs, as they are trained by the highest standards in the inspection industry.
Outdoors
Check the foundation of the house, garage and other buildings for shelter tubes coming from the soil. Look closely around porches, connecting patios, sidewalks, areas near kitchens and bathrooms, and hard-to-see places. Check window and door frames, and where utility services enter the house for termite infestation or wood decay. Also, look behind shrubbery and plants near walls. Pay special attention to areas where earth and wood meet, such as fences, stair carriages and trellises. Open and check any exterior electrical meter or fuse box set into the wall, a common point of infestation.
Indoors
Carefully check all doors, window facings, baseboards, and hardwood flooring. Discoloration or stains on walls or ceilings may mean that water is leaking and can decay wood, and this can aid termite infestation. It is very important to inspect where plumbing and utility pipes enter the foundation and flooring. Also, examine the attic for shelter tubes, water leakage, and wood damage.
.
 Prevention
 Many termite problems can be prevented. The most important thing to do is to deny termites access to food (wood), moisture and shelter. Follow these suggestions:
  • have at least a 2-inch clearance between the house and planter boxes, or soil-filled porches;
  • eliminate all wood-to-soil contact, such as trellises, fence posts, stair casings and door facings (they can be put on masonry blocks or on treated wood);
  • separate shrubbery from the house to help make it easier to inspect the foundation line;
  • use wolmanized wood (pressure-treated wood) so that rain will not rot it;
  • seal openings through the foundation;
  • remove wood scraps and stumps from around the foundation;
  • have at least 12 to 18 inches of clearance between floor beams and the soil underneath.
Chemical Treatment
Termite treatment often requires specialized equipment. Therefore, it is recommended that you always use the services of a pest control operator because he is familiar with construction principles and practices, has the necessary equipment, and knows about subterranean termites.
Exterminating Termites 

If you think you have a termite infestation in your house, you need to call a structural pest control company to conduct a professional inspection. To find a company, ask friends or coworkers for recommendations, or check the Yellow Pages. If the inspection finds evidence of drywood termites, you have several options, depending on the degree of infestation. Fumigation and heating of the entire house are the only options that ensure eradication in the entire structure. If the infestation is contained in a small area, local or spot control may be effective. However, hidden infestations in other parts of the structure will not be eradicated.
Total (Whole-House) Eradication 
For the heat method, pets, plants, and other items that might be damaged by high temperatures must be removed. The house is then covered with tarps, and hot air is blown into the tarp until the inside temperature reaches 140° F to 150° F, and the temperature of the structural timbers reaches 120° F. The time to complete this procedure varies greatly from one structure to another, depending on factors such as the building's construction and the weather conditions. The procedure may not be practical for structures that cannot be heated evenly.
Local or Spot Control
Local or spot-control methods include the use of pesticides, electric current, extreme cold, localized heat, microwave energy, or any combination of these methods. Local or spot control also includes the removal and replacement of infested structural timber. These methods are intended to remove or kill termites only within the specific targeted area, leaving open the possibility of other undetected infestations within the structure. These treatments are NOT designed for whole-house eradication. Any pest control company that claims whole-house results with local or spot control methods is guilty of false advertising and should be reported.
Local or spot treatment with pesticides involves drilling and injecting pesticides into infested timbers, as well as the topical application of toxic chemicals. The electric-current method involves delivering electric energy to targeted infestations. For the extreme cold method, liquid nitrogen is pumped into wall voids adjacent to suspected infestation sites, reducing the area to -20° F. The localized heat method involves heating infested structural timbers to 120° F. The microwave method kills termites by directing microwaves into termite-infested wood.


If you see the following signs in your house, you might have termites:
  
• sawdust-like droppings; 
• dirt or mud-like tubes or trails on the structure; 
• damaged wood members (like window sills); and 
• swarming winged insects within the structure, especially in the spring or fall.

To schedule your home inspection with a wood destroying insect inspection, please call 210-202-1974 or schedule online at www.vhillc.com

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.


 

  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!

To schedule an inspection with a Certified Master Inspector, call Veteran Home Inspections at 210-202-1974 or book online at www.vhillc.com

10 Easy Ways to Save Money & Energy in Your Home

 
   
Most people don’t know how easy it is to make their homes run on less energy, and here at Veteran Home Inspections, we want to change that. 
Drastic reductions in heating, cooling and electricity costs can be accomplished through very simple changes, most of which homeowners can do themselves. Of course, for homeowners who want to take advantage of the most up-to-date knowledge and systems in home energy efficiency, Veteran Home Inspection's energy auditor can perform in-depth testing to find the best energy solutions for your particular home. 
Why make your home more energy efficient? Here are a few good reasons:
1. Find better ways to heat and cool your house. 
As much as half of the energy used in homes goes toward heating and cooling. The following are a few ways that energy bills can be reduced through adjustments to the heating and cooling systems:
2. Install a tankless water heater.
Demand-type water heaters (tankless or instantaneous) provide hot water only as it is needed. They don't produce the standby energy losses associated with traditional storage water heaters, which will save on energy costs. Tankless water heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels through a pipe into the unit. A gas burner or an electric element heats the water. As a result, demand water heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water. You don't need to wait for a storage tank to fill up with enough hot water.
3. Replace incandescent lights.
The average household dedicates 11% of its energy budget to lighting. Traditional incandescent lights convert approximately only 10% of the energy they consume into light, while the rest becomes heat. The use of new lighting technologies, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), can reduce the energy use required by lighting by 50% to 75%. Advances in lighting controls offer further energy savings by reducing the amount of time that lights are on but not being used. Here are some facts about CFLs and LEDs:
4. Seal and insulate your home.
Sealing and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make a home more comfortable and energy-efficient, and you can do it yourself. A tightly sealed home can improve comfort and indoor air quality while reducing utility bills. An energy auditor can assess  leakage in the building envelope and recommend fixes that will dramatically increase comfort and energy savings.
The following are some common places where leakage may occur:
Because hot air rises, air leaks are most likely to occur in the attic. Homeowners can perform a variety of repairs and maintenance to their attics that save them money on cooling and heating, such as: 
5. Install efficient showerheads and toilets.
The following systems can be installed to conserve water usage in homes:
6. Use appliances and electronics responsibly.
Appliances and electronics account for about 20% of household energy bills in a typical U.S. home. The following are tips that will reduce the required energy of electronics and appliances:
7. Install daylighting as an alternative to electrical lighting.
Daylighting is the practice of using natural light to illuminate the home's interior. It can be achieved using the following approaches:
8. Insulate windows and doors.
About one-third of the home's total heat loss usually occurs through windows and doors. The following are ways to reduce energy lost through windows and doors:
9. Cook smart.
An enormous amount of energy is wasted while cooking. The following recommendations and statistics illustrate less wasteful ways of cooking:
10. Change the way you do laundry.
Homeowners who take the initiative to make these changes usually discover that the energy savings are more than worth the effort. Veteran Home Inspections can make this process much easier because they can perform a more comprehensive assessment of energy-savings potential than the average homeowner can.

To schedule your home energy score inspection, contact us today at 210-202-1974 or book online at www.vhillc.com.

Adapted with permission from https://www.nachi.org/increasing-home-energy-efficiency-client.htm by Nick Gromicko, Ben Gromicko, and Kenton Shepard

Questions to Ask When Hiring a Home Inspector

Congratulations, you've found the perfect home to buy! Right about now, you are probably on information overload, and looking for resources to get everything ready. One of the most important steps you need to take after getting that ratified contract is to get the home inspected. Like most subjects on the internet, there is a ton of information about home inspections, and how to hire them. One source that is very underrepresented though is probably the best one out there: the home inspectors themselves. No, I'm not just talking about reading their websites, since anyone can put up whatever they want. Instead, we went to a group of highly respected home inspectors and posed this question: If you were hiring a home inspector to inspect a home for your out-of-state family member, what questions would you ask them?

1. What are your certifications?

If you are in one of the many states where home inspectors are licensed, that is just a minimum level to be able to do the job. As a group, we will look for a home inspector that has taken the time to get extra certifications above and beyond the minimum. There are multiple home inspection organizations (both national and local) that offer certifications for inspectors. The two major organizations are the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), and the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). Both offer multiple levels of certifications based on both experience and continuing education. InterNACHI has the Certified Professional Inspector and Certified Master Inspector certifications. ASHI has the ASHI Associate, Inspector, and Certified Inspector certifications.

In states where there isn't a licensing program for home inspectors, it is even more important to make sure the inspector has a certification, since essentially anyone can call themselves a home inspector! In these cases, it can be tempting to hire someone like a general contractor to just walk through the house with you. But, as Andrew Jolley with JODA Home Inspections in Stansbury Park, Utah said "unlike contractors, home inspectors have a system they follow so that all systems are evaluated and nothing is left out of the inspection." Additionally, a certified home inspector has received training on all of the systems in a house, as well how to inspect them and look at the whole house as a system.

2. What kind of report do you provide and when will I receive it?

Hopefully any legitimate inspector will be providing you with a written report that you can use in your evaluation of the home purchase. That being said, reports differ in both style and level of detail. An inspection report should include digital pictures of defects as well as narrative statements about the systems and defects found. Some reports will also include things like video, glossaries, and summaries. If there is a summary, make sure you still read the entire report!

The turnaround time for a report should also be determined. As inspectors, we understand the tight timelines your real estate agent has put you under, so we will always get you the report as quick as possible. Remember that sometimes a little extra research is required, so don't expect to get the report at the end of the inspection. Most inspectors should have the report to you within 24 hours of the end of the inspection.

3. Walk me through your typical inspection, what are the most important things?

Norm Tyler of Sage Inspections in St. Louis, MO says: "I'd ask this for a couple reasons. It would help me decide if his approach would be similar to mine. Every inspector is a little different, some will detail 500 little issues, while I'm more of a 'disregard petty cosmetic stuff so I can focus on finding $1000 problems' kind of guy. More importantly, if the inspector takes the time to walk me through his approach now, while I'm just a prospect - he'll probably take all the time needed to take care of me as a customer."

4. Are you available after you send the report for questions and/or clarification?

This was one of the most popular questions I received from the inspectors I talked to. We all strive to write a report that explains all of the issues as clearly as possible, but sometimes things may not make sense to you. Being able to call or email your inspector with questions after the inspection is critical, especially if you can't make it to the inspection.

Along with this, you should probably ask the inspector about their policy for follow-up inspections. Once you have negotiated repairs with the seller, make sure you get those repairs re-inspected. I have done a lot of re-inspections, and I have yet to find that all of the repairs were done. Sometimes I am given receipts for repairs that were clearly not even attempted. You should expect to pay for this re-inspection, so find out what it will cost ahead of time so there aren't any surprises.

5. What is your home inspection experience?

You will find that home inspectors come from many different backgrounds. Some may have been in the building trades, and some may be doing it as a second career. The important thing to look for is an inspector that has experience doing home inspections. David Sharman of County Home Inspection in Peterborough, Ontario mentioned to ask them how many inspections they've done in the last 12 months. This number could vary based on the market, but it should be a reasonable number. Look for someone doing at least a few inspections a week, but be wary of those that have really high numbers (unless they have multiple inspectors at their company). This can be a sign of someone that is just doing the minimum to get on to the next inspection of several that day.

6. How many inspections do you do in a day?

Hopefully the answer is only one or two. Most inspectors will do a morning and an afternoon inspection. Some will add in an evening inspection. If it gets over three, start to worry about how long they are spending on your inspection. Most inspections will take 2-3 hours for an average size house. Smaller houses don't really cut down on the time, but larger houses can significantly increase the amount of time it takes to inspect.

7. What extra services can you provide?

Michael Conrad II, at Diligent, LLC in Nashville, TN points out that you should check with the inspector to see if they offer any other inspection services, such as Thermal Imaging, Termite, Radon, and Mold inspections. This can help you in many ways, since not only do you get all of the inspections you need from one company, it allows your inspector to look at the whole house as a system and provide the best assessment of the house. Some areas require separate licenses for these extra inspections, so make sure they have those licenses as well if required. If licensing isn't required, make sure they have a third-party certification.

8. Can I accompany you on the inspection?

The inspection is your time to learn about the house. Odds are, the inspection is the longest amount of time you will spend in the house until you own it, so make the most of it. Your inspector should encourage you to ask questions as the inspection is going on. After all, it's a lot easier to explain (and understand) an issue with it right in front of you. If you wait until a day or two later, now the inspector has to explain it over the phone, and they've inspected more houses since then. Charles Buell, of Charles Buell Inspections, Inc in Shoreline, WA, says that he wants the client there the whole time. This is their time to learn about the house.

Additionally, Jim Holl with 5 Star Home Inspections LLC in Hillsborough, NC says: A professional home inspector wants you, the future occupant, to attend the inspection so you can ask questions and see most of what the inspector sees. Since you are going to live there and get to maintain it, for safety, health and financial reasons, this is your opportunity learn all about your new castle. If the inspector doesn't want you to observe, move on to the next inspector you want to interview.

9. Who will be doing the inspection?

This is mainly for the multi-inspector firms, but Ian Mayer of IM Home Inspections in Woodland Hills, CA warns to watch out for the bait-and-switch. The owner of the company may have really great certifications, but he sends out the guy that was just certified last week to do your inspection.

10. What warranties/guarantees are included with the inspection?

A home inspection is, by definition, a snapshot in time. It shows the condition of the house on the day of the inspection. None of us have a crystal ball to predict the future of a house, and sometimes sellers will intentionally hide known defects. Some home inspectors offer various warranties and guarantees with their inspection. Make sure you read the fine print on anything offered to ensure you understand what you are getting and what the limitations are. Frank Rotte of Certified Inspection Services, LLC of San Diego points out that many repairs are actually under the deductible, so the buyer ends up paying for the repair anyways.

11. How much does the inspection cost?

This is the last question you should ask, and it's really only so you know how much to write the check out for. In other words, don't price shop, and don't look for the cheapest inspector. (How much are you paying for that house again?) James Braun with Braun Inspection Consultations in Jefferson City, MO rightly says that "A good inspector is not cheap, and a cheap inspector is not good." You are making what may be the largest purchase of your life, do you really want the cheapest inspector you can find to do your inspection?

Thank you for sticking with me for this long, and I hope that it has been informative for you. The best home inspectors are those that work for you, and inspect each home as if they, or their favorite relative, were buying it. These home inspectors have nothing to gain except providing you with the best inspection they can, which allows you to make an extremely important decision. Now, go out there and hire the best home inspector you can find.

Veteran Home Inspections, PLLC

For more information, or to book your full home inspection, visit http://www.vhillc.com or call 210-202-1974.

Why Get a Home Inspection If You’re Buying “As Is”?

Some sellers – often, those working without an agent – want to sell their home “as is” so they don’t have to invest money fixing it up or take on any potential liability for defects.  There is nothing wrong with buying a home “as is,” particularly if you can buy it at a favorable price, but if you are considering buying an “as is” home, you should still hire a competent home inspector to perform an inspection.  There are several reasons for this.

First, you don’t know what “as is” is. Sure, you can walk through the home and get an idea of its general condition.  You may even spot some defects or items in obvious need of repair.  But you won’t obtain the same detailed information you will receive if you hire a home inspector.  Home inspectors are trained to look for things you are not likely to notice.  InterNACHI inspectors, for example, must follow InterNACHI’s Residential Standards of Practice and check the roof, exterior, interior, foundation, basement, fireplace, attic, insulation, ventilation, doors, windows, heating system, cooling system, plumbing system, and electrical system for certain defects.  Armed with a home inspector’s detailed report, you will have a better idea of what “as is” means regarding that home, which means you’ll be in a better position to know whether you want to buy it.  You may also be able to use information from the home inspection to negotiate a lower price.
Second, many states require the seller to provide you with written a disclosure about the condition of the property.  Sellers often provide little information, and a few even lie.  A home inspection can provide the missing information. If an inspector finds evidence that a seller concealed information or lied to you, that may be a sign that you don’t want to buy a home from that seller.
Finally, if you buy a home “as is” without hiring a home inspector and then later discover a defect, all is not lost.  A home inspector may be able to review the seller’s disclosure and testify as to what the seller knew or should have known about.  The inspector may find evidence that the seller made misrepresentations or concealed relevant information from you.  Even the seller of an “as is” home may be held liable for misrepresentation or concealment. 
But the better choice, obviously, is to hire a home inspector first.  Remember:  The cost of a home inspection is a pittance compared to the price of the home.  Be an informed consumer, especially when buying an “as is” home, and hire an InterNACHI Certified Professional Inspector®.  
To schedule your inspection, go to www.vhillc.com
Used with permission from https://www.nachi.org/as-is.htm

by Mark Cohen, J.D., LL.M., InterNACHI General Counsel, and 

Nick Gromicko, InterNACHI Founder

Make Sure You Know What "As-Is" Is

Why Get a Home Inspection If You’re Buying “As Is”?


by Mark Cohen, J.D., LL.M., InterNACHI General Counsel, and
Nick Gromicko, InterNACHI Founder

Some sellers – often, those working without an agent – want to sell their home “as is” so they don’t have to invest money fixing it up or take on any potential liability for defects.  There is nothing wrong with buying a home “as is,” particularly if you can buy it at a favorable price, but if you are considering buying an “as is” home, you should still hire a competent home inspector to perform an inspection.  There are several reasons for this.
First, you don’t know what “as is” is. Sure, you can walk through the home and get an idea of its general condition.  You may even spot some defects or items in obvious need of repair.  But you won’t obtain the same detailed information you will receive if you hire a home inspector.  Home inspectors are trained to look for things you are not likely to notice.  InterNACHI inspectors, for example, must follow InterNACHI’s Residential Standards of Practice and check the roof, exterior, interior, foundation, basement, fireplace, attic, insulation, ventilation, doors, windows, heating system, cooling system, plumbing system, and electrical system for certain defects.  Armed with a home inspector’s detailed report, you will have a better idea of what “as is” means regarding that home, which means you’ll be in a better position to know whether you want to buy it.  You may also be able to use information from the home inspection to negotiate a lower price.
Second, many states require the seller to provide you with written a disclosure about the condition of the property.  Sellers often provide little information, and a few even lie.  A home inspection can provide the missing information. If an inspector finds evidence that a seller concealed information or lied to you, that may be a sign that you don’t want to buy a home from that seller.
Finally, if you buy a home “as is” without hiring a home inspector and then later discover a defect, all is not lost.  A home inspector may be able to review the seller’s disclosure and testify as to what the seller knew or should have known about.  The inspector may find evidence that the seller made misrepresentations or concealed relevant information from you.  Even the seller of an “as is” home may be held liable for misrepresentation or concealment. 
But the better choice, obviously, is to hire a home inspector first.  Remember:  The cost of a home inspection is a pittance compared to the price of the home.  Be an informed consumer, especially when buying an “as is” home, and hire an InterNACHI Certified Master Inspector®.  
To shcedule your San Antonio, TX area home inspection, visit www.vhillc.com.  If you are outside of our service area, use www.inspectorseek.com to find an InterNACHI inspector in your area.

Source: https://www.nachi.org/as-is.htm

Roofing

Roofs play a key role in protecting building occupants and interiors from outside weather conditions, primarily moisture. The roof, insulation and ventilation must all work together 

to keep the building free of moisture. Roofs also provide protection from the sun. In fact, if designed correctly, roof overhangs can protect the building's exterior walls from moisture and sun. The concerns regarding moisture, standing water, durability and appearance are different, reflected in the choices of roofing materials.
Maintaining Your Roof
  
Homeowner maintenance includes cleaning the leaves and debris from the roof’s valleys and gutters. Debris in the valleys can cause water to wick under the shingles and cause damage to the interior of the roof. Clogged rain gutters can cause water to flow back under the shingles on the eaves and cause damage, regardless of the roofing material. including composition shingle, wood shake, tile or metal. The best way to preserve your roof is to stay off it. Also, seasonal changes in the weather are usually the most destructive forces.
A leaky roof can damage ceilings, walls and furnishings. To protect buildings and their contents from water damage, roofers repair and install roofs made of tar or asphalt and gravel; rubber or thermoplastic; metal; or shingles made of asphalt, slate, fiberglass, wood, tile, or other material. Roofers also may waterproof foundation walls and floors.
There are two types of roofs:  flat and pitched (sloped). Most commercial, industrial and apartment buildings have flat or slightly sloping roofs. Most houses have pitched roofs. Some roofers work on both types; others specialize. Most flat roofs are covered with several layers of materials. Roofers first put a layer of insulation on the roof deck. Over the insulation, they then spread a coat of molten bitumen, a tar-like substance. Next, they install partially overlapping layers of roofing felt, a fabric saturated in bitumen, over the surface. Roofers use a mop to spread hot bitumen over the surface and under the next layer. This seals the seams and makes the surface watertight. Roofers repeat these steps to build up the desired number of layers, called plies. The top layer either is glazed to make a smooth finish or has gravel embedded in the hot bitumen to create a rough surface. An increasing number of flat roofs are covered with a single-ply membrane of waterproof rubber or thermoplastic compounds. Roofers roll these sheets over the roof’s insulation and seal the seams. Adhesive mechanical fasteners, or stone ballast hold the sheets in place. The building must be of sufficient strength to hold the ballast.
Most residential roofs are covered with shingles. To apply shingles, roofers first lay, cut, and tack 3-foot strips of roofing felt lengthwise over the entire roof. Then, starting from the bottom edge, they staple or nail overlapping rows of shingles to the roof. Workers measure and cut the felt and shingles to fit intersecting roof surfaces and to fit around vent pipes and chimneys. Wherever two roof surfaces intersect, or where shingles reach a vent pipe or chimney, roofers cement or nail flashing strips of metal or shingle over the joints to make them watertight. Finally, roofers cover exposed nailheads with roofing cement or caulking to prevent water leakage. Roofers who use tile, metal shingles or shakes follow a similar process. Some roofers also water-proof and damp-proof masonry and concrete walls and floors. To prepare surfaces for waterproofing, they hammer and chisel away rough spots, or remove them with a rubbing brick, before applying a coat of liquid waterproofing compound. They also may paint or spray surfaces with a waterproofing material, or attach a waterproofing membrane to surfaces. When damp-proofing, they usually spray a bitumen-based coating on interior or exterior surfaces.
A number of roofing materials are available...  
Asphalt

Asphalt is the most commonly used roofing material. Asphalt products include shingles, roll-roofing, built-up roofing, and modified bitumen membranes. Asphalt shingles are typically the most common and economical choice for residential roofing. They come in a variety of colors, shapes and textures. There are four different types: strip, laminated, interlocking, and large individual shingles. Laminated shingles consist of more than one layer of tabs to provide extra thickness. Interlocking shingles are used to provide greater wind resistance. And large individual shingles generally come in rectangular and hexagonal shapes. Roll-roofing products are generally used in residential applications, mostly for underlayments and flashings. They come in four different types of material: smooth-surfaced, saturated felt, specialty-eaves flashings, and mineral-surfaced. Only mineral-surfaced is used alone as a primary roof covering for small buildings, such as sheds. Smooth-surfaced products are used primarily as flashing to seal the roof at intersections and protrusions, and for providing extra deck protection at the roof's eaves and valleys. Saturated felt is used as an underlayment between the roof deck and the roofing material. Specialty-eaves flashings are typically used in climates where ice dams and water backups are common. Built-up roofing (or BUR) is the most popular choice of roofing used on commercial, industrial and institutional buildings. BUR is used on flat and low-sloped roofs and consists of multiple layers of bitumen and ply sheets. Components of a BUR system include the roof deck, a vapor retarder, insulation, membrane, and surfacing material. A modified bitumen-membrane assembly consists of continuous plies of saturated felts, coated felts, fabrics or mats between which alternate layers of bitumen are applied, either surfaced or unsurfaced. Factory surfacing, if applied, includes mineral granules, slag, aluminum or copper. The bitumen determines the membrane's physical characteristics and provides primary waterproofing protection, while the reinforcement adds strength, puncture-resistance and overall system integrity.
Metal

Most metal roofing products consist of steel or aluminum, although some consist of copper and other metals. Steel is invariably galvanized by the application of a zinc or a zinc-aluminum coating, which greatly reduces the rate of corrosion. Metal roofing is available as traditional seam and batten, tiles, shingles and shakes. Products also come in a variety of styles and colors. Metal roofs with solid sheathing control noise from rain, hail and bad weather just as well as any other roofing material. Metal roofing can also help eliminate ice damming at the eaves. And in wildfire-prone areas, metal roofing helps protect buildings from fire, should burning embers land on the roof. Metal roofing costs more than asphalt, but it typically lasts two to three times longer than asphalt and wood shingles.
Wood

Wood shakes offer a natural look with a lot of character. Because of variations in color, width, thickness, and cut of the wood, no two shake roofs will ever look the same. Wood offers some energy benefits, too. It helps to insulate the attic, and it allows the house to breathe, circulating air through the small openings under the felt rows on which wooden shingles are laid. A wood shake roof, however, demands proper maintenance and repair, or it will not last as long as other products. Mold, rot and insects can become a problem. The life-cycle cost of a shake roof may be high, and old shakes can't be recycled. Most wood shakes are unrated by fire safety codes. Many use wipe or spray-on fire retardants, which offer less protection and are only effective for a few years. Some pressure-treated shakes are impregnated with fire retardant and meet national fire safety standards. Installing wood shakes is more complicated than roofing with composite shingles, and the quality of the finished roof depends on the experience of the contractor, as well as the caliber of the shakes used. The best shakes come from the heartwood of large, old cedar trees, which are difficult to find. Some contractors maintain that shakes made from the outer wood of smaller cedars, the usual source today, are less uniform, more subject to twisting and warping, and don't last as long.

Concrete and Tile

Concrete tiles are made of extruded concrete that is colored. Traditional roofing tiles are made from clay. Concrete and clay tile roofing systems are durable, aesthetically appealing, and low in maintenance. They also provide energy savings and are environmentally friendly. Although material and installation costs are higher for concrete and clay tile roofs, when evaluated on a price-versus-performance basis, they may out-perform other roofing materials. Tile adorns the roofs of many historic buildings, as well as modern structures. In fact, because of its extreme durability, longevity and safety, roof tile is the most prevalent roofing material in the world. Tested over centuries, roof tile can successfully withstand the most extreme weather conditions including hail, high wind, earthquakes, scorching heat, and harsh freeze-thaw cycles. Concrete and clay roof tiles also have unconditional Class A fire ratings, which means that, when installed according to building code, roof tile is non-combustible and maintains that quality throughout its lifetime. In recent years, manufacturers have developed new water-shedding techniques and, for high-wind situations, new adhesives and mechanical fasteners. Because the ultimate longevity of a tile roof also depends on the quality of the sub-roof, roof tile manufacturers are also working to improve flashings and other aspects of the underlayment system. Under normal circumstances, properly installed tile roofs are virtually maintenance-free. Unlike other roofing materials, roof tiles actually become stronger over time. Because of roof tile's superior quality and minimal maintenance requirements, most roof tile manufacturers offer warranties that range from 50 years to the lifetime of the structure.
Concrete and clay tile roofing systems are also energy-efficient, helping to maintain livable interior temperatures (in both cold and warm climates) at a lower cost than other roofing systems. Because of the thermal capacity of roof tiles and the ventilated air space that their placement on the roof surface creates, a tile roof can lower air-conditioning costs in hotter climates, and produce more constant temperatures in colder regions, which reduces potential ice accumulation. Tile roofing systems are made from naturally occurring materials and can be easily recycled into new tiles or other useful products. They are produced without the use of chemical preservatives, and do not deplete limited natural resources.

Single-Ply

Single-ply membranes are flexible sheets of compounded synthetic materials that are manufactured in a factory. There are three types of membranes: thermosets, thermoplastics, and modified bitumens. These materials provide strength, flexibility, and long-lasting durability. The advantages of pre-fabricated sheets are the consistency of the product quality, the versatility in their attachment methods, and, therefore, their broader applicability. They are inherently flexible, used in a variety of attachment systems, and compounded for long-lasting durability and watertight integrity for years of roof life. Thermoset membranes are compounded from rubber polymers. The most commonly used polymer is EPDM (often referred to as "rubber roofing"). Thermoset membranes make successful roofing materials because they can withstand the potentially damaging effects of sunlight and most common chemicals generally found on roofs. The easiest way to identify a thermoset membrane is by its seams, which require the use of adhesive, either liquid or tape, to form a watertight seal at the overlaps. Thermoplastic membranes are based on plastic polymers. The most common thermoplastic is PVC (polyvinyl chloride) which has been made flexible through the inclusion of certain ingredients called plasticizers. Thermoplastic membranes are identified by seams that are formed using either heat or chemical welding. These seams are as strong or stronger than the membrane itself. Most thermoplastic membranes are manufactured to include a reinforcement layer, usually polyester or fiberglass, which provides increased strength and dimensional stability. Modified bitumen membranes are hybrids that incorporate the high-tech formulation and pre-fabrication advantages of single-ply with some of the traditional installation techniques used in built-up roofing. These materials are factory-fabricated layers of asphalt, "modified" using a rubber or plastic ingredient for increased flexibility, and combined with reinforcement for added strength and stability. There are two primary modifiers used today: APP (atactic polypropylene) and SBS (styrene butadiene styrene). The type of modifier used may determine the method of sheet installation. Some are mopped down using hot asphalt, and some use torches to melt the asphalt so that it flows onto the substrate. The seams are sealed by the same technique.

Are You at Risk?
If you aren't sure whether your house is at risk from natural disasters, check with your local fire marshal, building official, city engineer, or planning and zoning administrator. They can tell you whether you are in a hazard area. Also, they usually can tell you how to protect yourself and your house and property from damage. It is never a bad idea to ask an InterNACHI inspector whether your roof is in need of repair during your next scheduled inspection. Protection can involve a variety of changes to your house and property which that can vary in complexity and cost. You may be able to make some types of changes yourself. But complicated or large-scale changes and those that affect the structure of your house or its electrical wiring and plumbing should be carried out only by a professional contractor licensed to work in your state, county or city. One example is fire protection, accomplished by replacing flammable roofing materials with fire-resistant materials. This is something that most homeowners would probably hire a contractor to do.
  
Replacing Your Roof
  
The age of your roof is usually the major factor in determining when to replace it. Most roofs last many years, if properly installed, and often can be repaired rather than replaced. An isolated leak usually can be repaired. The average life expectancy of a typical residential roof is 15 to 20 years. Water damage to a home’s interior or overhangs is commonly caused by leaks from a single weathered portion of the roof, poorly installed flashing, or from around chimneys and skylights. These problems do not necessarily mean you need a new roof.
Fire-Resistant Materials
Some roofing materials, including asphalt shingles, and especially wood shakes, are less resistant to fire than others. When wildfires and brush fires spread to houses, it is often because burning branches, leaves, and other debris buoyed by the heated air and carried by the wind fall onto roofs. If the roof of your house is covered with wood or asphalt shingles, you should consider replacing them with fire-resistant materials. You can replace your existing roofing materials with slate, terra cotta or other types of tile, or standing-seam metal roofing. Replacing roofing materials is difficult and dangerous work. Unless you are skilled in roofing and have all the necessary tools and equipment, you will probably want to hire a roofing contractor to do the work. Also, a roofing contractor can advise you on the relative advantages and disadvantages of various fire-resistant roofing materials.
  
Hiring a Licensed Contractor
One of the best ways to select a roofing contractor is to ask friends and relatives for recommendations. You may also contact a professional roofers association for referrals. Professional associations have stringent guidelines for their members to follow. The roofers association in your area will provide you with a list of available contractors. Follow these guidlines when selecting a contractor:
You’ve Chosen the Contractor... What About the Contract?
Make sure everything is in writing. The contract is one of the best ways to prevent problems before you begin. The contract protects you and the contractor by including everything you have both agreed upon. Get all promises in writing and spell out exactly what the contractor will and will not do.
...and Permits?
Your contract should call for all work to be performed in accordance with all applicable building codes. The building codes set minimum safety standards for construction. Generally, a building permit is required whenever structural work is involved. The contractor should obtain all necessary building permits. If this is not specified in the contract, you may be held legally responsible for failure to obtain the required permits. The building department will inspect your roof when the project has reached a certain stage, and again when the roof is completed.
...and Insurance?
Make sure the contractor carries workers' compensation insurance and general liability insurance in case of accidents on the job. Ask to have copies of these policies for your job file. You should protect yourself from mechanics’ liens against your home in the event the contractor does not pay subcontractors or material suppliers. You may be able to protect yourself by having a "release of lien" clause in your contract. A release of lien clause requires the contractor, subcontractors and suppliers to furnish a "certificate of waiver of lien." If you are financing your project, the bank or lending institution may require that the contractor, subcontractors and suppliers verify that they have been paid before releasing funds for subsequent phases of the project.
Keep these points in mind if you plan to have your existing roofing materials replaced:

For the best home inspection in the San Antonio, TX area, including the roof, contact Veteran Home Inspections.

Radon

Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon 

The EPA recommends:
The EPA estimates that radon causes thousands of cancer deaths in the U.S. each year.
 * Radon is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year.
The numbers of deaths from other causes are taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 1999-2001 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Report and 2002 National Safety Council Reports.
Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas.
You cannot see, smell or taste radon. But it still may be a problem in your home.  When you breathe air containing radon, you increase your risk of getting lung cancer.  In fact, the Surgeon General of the United States has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today.  If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.
You should test for radon.
Testing is the only way to find out your home's radon levels. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.
You can fix a radon problem.
If you find that you have high radon levels, there are ways to fix a radon problem. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels.
If You Are Selling a Home...
The EPA recommends that you test your home before putting it on the market and, if necessary, lower your radon levels. Save the test results and all information you have about steps that were taken to fix any problems. This could be a positive selling point. 
If You Are Buying a Home...
The EPA recommends that you know what the indoor radon level is in any home you are considering buying.  Ask the seller for their radon test results.  If the home has a radon-reduction system, ask the seller for information they have about the system.
If the home has not yet been tested, you should have the house tested.
If you are having a new home built, there are features that can be incorporated into your home during construction to reduce radon levels.
These radon testing guidelines have been developed specifically to deal with the time-sensitive nature of home purchases and sales, and the potential for radon device interference.  These guidelines are slightly different from the guidelines in other EPA publications which provide radon testing and reduction information for non-real estate situations.
This guide recommends three short-term testing options for real estate transactions.  The EPA also recommends testing a home in the lowest level which is currently suitable for occupancy, since a buyer may choose to live in a lower area of the home than that used by the seller.
1. Why do you need to test for radon?
a. Radon has been found in homes all over the U.S.
Radon is a radioactive gas that has been found in homes all over the United States. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water, and gets into the air you breathe. Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above, and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Radon can also enter your home through well water. Your home can trap radon inside.
Any home can have a radon problem, including new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. In fact, you and your family are most likely to get your greatest radiation exposure at home. That is where you spend most of your time.
Nearly one out of every 15 homes in the United States is estimated to have an elevated radon level (4 pCi/L or more).  Elevated levels of radon gas have been found in homes in your state. 
b. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend that you test your home.
Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.
You cannot predict radon levels based on state, local, or neighborhood radon measurements.  Do not rely on radon test results taken in other homes in the neighborhood to estimate the radon level in your home.  Homes which are next to each other can have different radon levels.  Testing is the only way to find out what your home's radon level is.
In some areas, companies may offer different types of radon service agreements.  Some agreements let you pay a one-time fee that covers both testing and radon mitigation, if needed.  

U.S. Surgeon General's
Health Advisory
"Indoor radon gas is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, and breathing it over prolonged periods can present a significant health risk to families all over the country.  It's important to know that this threat is completely preventable.  Radon can be detected with a simple test, and fixed through well-established venting techniques." 
 January 2005 
2. I'm selling a home.  What should I do? 
a. If your home has already been tested for radon...
If you are thinking of selling your home and you have already tested your home for radon, review the Radon Testing Checklist to make sure that the test was done correctly.  If so, provide your test results to the buyer.
No matter what kind of test you took, a potential buyer may ask for a new test, especially if:
the Radon Testing Checklist items were not met;
the last test is not recent, (e.g., within two years);
you have renovated or altered your home since you tested; or
the buyer plans to live in a lower level of the house than was tested, such as a basement suitable for occupancy but not currently lived in.
A buyer may also ask for a new test if your state or local government requires disclosure of radon information to buyers.
b. If your home has not yet been tested for radon...
Have a test taken as soon as possible. If you can, test your home before putting it on the market.  You should test in the lowest level of the home which is suitable for occupancy. This means testing in the lowest level that you currently live in or a lower level not currently used, but which a buyer could use for living space without renovations. 
The radon test result is important information about your home's radon level.  Some states require radon measurement testers to follow a specific testing protocol.  If you do the test yourself, you should carefully follow the testing protocol for your area or the EPA's Radon Testing Checklist.  If you hire a contractor to test your residence, protect yourself by hiring a qualified individual or company.
You can determine a service provider's qualifications to perform radon measurements or to mitigate your home in several ways.  Many states require radon professionals to be licensed, certified or registered.  Most states can provide you with a list of knowledgeable radon service providers doing business in your state.  In states that don't regulate radon services, ask the contractor if they hold a professional proficiency or certification credential. Such programs usually provide members with a photo-ID card which indicates their qualification(s) and its expiration date.  If in doubt, you should check with their credentialing organization.  Alternatively, ask the contractor if they've successfully completed formal training appropriate for testing or mitigation, e.g., a course in radon measurement or radon mitigation. 
3. I'm buying a home.  What should I do?

a. If the home has already been tested for radon...
If you are thinking of buying a home, you may decide to accept an earlier test result from the seller, or ask the seller for a new test to be conducted by a qualified radon tester.  Before you accept the seller's test, you should determine the results of previous testing by finding out:
who conducted the previous test (the homeowner, a radon professional, or some other person);
where in the home the previous test was taken, especially if you may plan to live in a lower level of the home.  For example, the test may have been taken on the first floor.  However, if you want to use the basement as living space, test there, too;
what, if any, structural changes, alterations, or changes in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system have been made to the house since the test was done.  Such changes may affect radon levels.
If you accept the seller's test, make sure that the test followed the Radon Testing Checklist.  
If you decide that a new test is needed, discuss it with the seller as soon as possible. 
b. If the home has not yet been tested for radon...
Make sure that a radon test is done as soon as possible. Consider including provisions in the contract specifying:
where the test will be located;
who should conduct the test;
what type of test to do;
when to do the test;
how the seller and the buyer will share the test results and test costs (if necessary); and
when radon mitigation measures will be taken, and who will pay for them.

Make sure that the test is done in the lowest level of the home suitable for occupancy. This means the lowest level that you are going to use as living space which is finished or does not require renovations prior to use. A state or local radon official or qualified radon tester can help you make some of these decisions. If you decide to finish or renovate an unfinished area of the home in the future, a radon test should be taken before starting the project, and after the project is finished. Generally, it is less expensive to install a radon-reduction system before (or during) renovations rather than afterward.
4. I'm buying or building a new home.  How can I protect my family?
a. Why should I buy a radon-resistant home?
Radon-resistant techniques work.  When installed properly and completely, these simple and inexpensive passive techniques can help to reduce radon levels.  In addition, installing them at the time of construction makes it easier to reduce radon levels further if the passive techniques don't reduce radon levels below 4 pCi/L.  Radon-resistant techniques may also help to lower moisture levels and those of other soil-gases.  Radon-resistant techniques:
make upgrading easy:  Even if built to be radon-resistant, every new home should be tested for radon after occupancy.  If you have a test result of 4 pCi/L or more, a vent fan can easily be added to the passive system to make it an active system, and further reduce radon levels.
are cost-effective:  Building radon-resistant features into the house during construction is easier and cheaper than fixing a radon problem from scratch later.  Let your builder know that radon-resistant features are easy to install using common building materials.
save money:  When installed properly and completely, radon-resistant techniques can also make your home more energy-efficient and help you save on your energy costs.
In a new home, the cost to install passive radon-resistant features during construction is usually between $350 to $500.  In some areas, the cost may be as low as $100.  A qualified mitigator will charge about $300 to add a vent fan to a passive system, making it an active system and further reducing radon levels.  In an existing home, it usually costs between $800 to $2,500 to install a radon mitigation system.
b. What are radon-resistant features?
Radon-resistant features may vary for different foundations and site requirements.  If you're having a house built, you can learn about the EPA's Model Standards (and architectural drawings) and explain the techniques to your builder.  If your new house was built (or will be built) to be radon-resistant, it will include these basic elements:
  1. gas-permeable layer:  This layer is placed beneath the slab or flooring system to allow the soil gas to move freely underneath the house.  In many cases, the material used is a 4-inch layer of clean gravel.  This gas-permeable layer is used only in homes with basement and slab-on-grade foundations; it is not used in homes with crawlspace foundations. 
     
  2. plastic sheeting:  Plastic sheeting is placed on top of the gas-permeable layer and under the slab to help prevent the soil gas from entering the home.  In crawlspaces, the sheeting (with seams sealed) is placed directly over the crawlspace floor. 
     
  3. sealing and caulking:  All below-grade openings in the foundation and walls are sealed to reduce soil-gas entry into the home. 
     
  4. vent pipe:  A 3- or 4-inch PVC pipe (or other gas-tight pipe) runs from the gas-permeable layer through the house to the roof to safely vent radon and other soil gases to the outside. 
     
  5. junction boxes:  An electrical junction box is included in the attic to make the wiring and installation of a vent fan easier, if, for example, you decide to activate the passive system if your test results show an elevated radon level (4 pCi/L or more).  A separate junction box is placed in the living space to power the vent-fan alarm.  An alarm is installed along with the vent fan to indicate when the vent fan is not operating properly.
5. How can I get reliable radon test results?
Radon testing is easy and the only way to find out if you have a radon problem in your home.
a. Types of Radon Devices
Since you cannot see or smell radon, special equipment is needed to detect it.  When you're ready to test your home, you can order a radon test kit by mail from a qualified radon measurement service provider or laboratory.  You can also hire a qualified radon tester, very often a home inspector, who will use the radon device(s) suitable to your situation. If you hire a home inspector, make sure you hire a qualified InterNACHI member -- specifically, an IAC2 certified air-quality professional.  In Maryland, contact Veteran Home Inspections for radon testing.  The most common types of radon testing devices are listed below.  
Passive Devices
Passive radon-testing devices do not need power to function.  These include charcoal canisters, alpha-track detectors, charcoal liquid scintillation devices, and electret ion chamber detectors, which are available in hardware, drugstores, and other stores; they can also be ordered by mail or phone.  These devices are exposed to the air in the home for a specified period of time, and then sent to a laboratory for analysis.  Both short-term and long-term passive devices are generally inexpensive. Some of these devices may have features that offer more resistance to test interference or disturbance than other passive devices. Qualified radon testers may use any of these devices to measure the home's radon level.
Active Devices
Active radon-testing devices require power to function. These include continuous radon monitors and continuous working-level monitors.  They continuously measure and record the amount of radon and its decay products in the air.  Many of these devices provide a report of this information, which can reveal any unusual or abnormal swings in the radon level during the test period. A qualified tester can explain this report to you.  In addition, some of these devices are specifically designed to deter and detect test interference. Some technically advanced active devices offer anti-interference features.  Although these tests may cost more, they may ensure a more reliable result.
b. General Information for All Devices
A state or local radon official can explain the differences between devices, and recommend the ones which are most appropriate for your needs and expected testing conditions.
Make sure to use a radon measurement device from a qualified laboratory.  Certain precautions should be followed to avoid interference during the test period.  See the Radon Testing Checklist for more information on how to get a reliable test result.
Radon Test Device Placement
The EPA recommends that testing device(s) be placed in the lowest level of the home suitable for occupancy. This means testing in the lowest level (such as a basement) which a buyer could use for living space without renovations. The test should be conducted in a room to be used regularly (such as a family room, living room, play room, den or bedroom); do not test in a kitchen, bathroom, laundry room or hallway.  Usually, the buyer decides where to locate the radon test, based on their expected use of the home.  A buyer and seller should explicitly discuss and agree on the test location to avoid any misunderstanding.  Their decision should be clearly communicated to the person performing the test.
c. Preventing or Detecting Test Interference
There is a potential for test interference in real estate transactions. There are several ways to prevent or detect test interference:
Use a test device that frequently records radon or decay-product levels to detect unusual swings.
Employ a motion detector to determine whether the test device has been moved or if testing conditions have changed.
Use a proximity detector to reveal the presence of people in the room, which may correlate to possible changes in radon levels during the test.
Record the barometric pressure to identify weather conditions which may have affected the test.
Record the temperature to help assess whether doors and windows have been opened during the test. 
Apply tamper-proof seals to windows to ensure closed-house conditions.
Have the seller/occupant sign a non-interference agreement.
Home buyers and sellers should consult a qualified radon test provider about the use of these precautions.
d. Length of Time to Test
There are two general ways to test your home for radon:
Because radon levels vary from day to day and from season to season, a short-term test is less likely than a long-term test to tell you your year-round average radon level.  However, if you need results quickly, a short-term test may be used to decide whether to fix the home.
Short-Term Testing:
The quickest way to test is with short-term tests. Short-term tests remain in your home from two days to 90 days, depending on the device. There are two groups of devices which are more commonly used for short-term testing. The passive-device group includes alpha-track detectors, charcoal canisters, charcoal liquid scintillation detectors, and electret ion chambers. The active device group consists of different types of continuous monitors.
Whether you test for radon yourself, or hire a state-certified tester or a privately certified tester, all radon tests should be taken for a minimum of 48 hours. A longer period of testing is required for some devices.
Long-Term Testing
Long-term tests remain in your home for more than 90 days. Alpha-track andelectret ion chamber detectors are commonly used for this type of testing. A long-term test will give you a reading that is more likely to tell you your home's year-round average radon level than a short-term test. If time permits, long-term tests (more than 90 days) can be used to confirm initial short-term results. When long-term test results are 4 pCi/L or higher, the EPA recommends mitigating the home.
e. Doing a Short-Term Test...
If you are testing in a real estate transaction and you need results quickly, any of the following three options for short-term tests are acceptable in determining whether the home should be fixed. Any real estate test for radon should include steps to prevent or detect interference with the testing device.
When Choosing a Short-Term Testing Option...
There are trade-offs among the short-term testing options.  Two tests taken at the same time (simultaneous) would improve the precision of this radon test.  One test followed by another test (sequential) would most likely give a better representation of the seasonal average.  Both active and passive devices may have features which help to prevent test interference.  Your state radon office can help you decide which option is best.
Short-Term Testing Options
What to Do Next
Passive:
Take two short-term tests at the same time in the same location for at least 48 hours.  
or 
Take an initial short-term test for at least 48 hours.  Immediately upon completing the first test, do a second test using an identical device in the same location as the first test.

Fix the home if the average of two tests is 4 pCi/L or more.
Fix the home if the average of the two tests is 4 pCi/L or more.
Active:
Test the home with a continuous monitor for at least 48 hours.

Fix the home if the average radon level is 4 pCi/L or more.
f.  Using testing devices properly for reliable results.
If you do the test yourself:
When you are taking a short-term test, close windows and doors and keep them closed, except for normal entry and exit.  If you are taking a short-term test lasting less than four days, be sure to:
Close your windows and outside doors at least 12 hours before beginning the test.
Do not conduct short-term tests lasting less than four days during severe storms or periods of high winds.
Follow the testing instructions and record the start time and date.
Place the test device at least 20 inches above the floor in a location where it will not be disturbed and where it will be away from drafts, high heat, high humidity, and exterior walls.
Leave the test kit in place for as long as the test instructions say.
Once you have finished the test, record the stop time and date, re-seal the package, and return it immediately to the lab specified on the package for analysis.
You should receive your test results within a few weeks. If you need results quickly, you should find out how long results will take and, if necessary, request expedited service.
If you hire a qualified radon tester:
In many cases, home buyers and sellers may decide to have the radon test done by a qualified radon tester who knows the proper conditions, test devices, and guidelines for obtaining a reliable radon test result.  They can also:
g. Interpreting Radon Test Results
The average indoor radon level is estimated to be about 1.3 pCi/L; roughly 0.4 pCi/L of radon is normally found in the outside air. The U.S. Congress has set a long-term goal that indoor radon levels be no more than outdoor levels. While this goal is not yet technologically achievable for all homes, radon levels in many homes can be reduced to 2 pCi/L or below.
Radon Test Results Reported in Two Ways
Your radon test results may be reported in either picoCuries per liter of air (pCi/L) or working levels (WL). If your test result is in pCi/L, the EPA recommends you fix your home if your radon level is 4 pCi/L or higher. If the test result is in WL, the EPA recommends you fix the home if the working level is 0.02 WL or higher.  Some states require WL results to be converted to pCi/L to minimize confusion.
Sometimes, short-term tests are less definitive about whether the home is at or above 4 pCi/L, particularly when the results are close to 4 pCi/L. For example, if the average of two short-term tests is 4.1 pCi/L, there is about a 50% chance that the year-round average is somewhat below 4 pCi/L. 
However, the EPA believes that any radon exposure carries some risk; no level of radon is safe. Even radon levels below 4 pCi/L pose some risk.  You can reduce your risk of lung cancer by lowering your radon level.
As with  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 data from human studies on underground miners. Additional studies on more typical populations are underway.
Your radon measurement will give you an idea of your risk of getting lung cancer from radon. Your chances of getting lung cancer from radon depend mostly on:
Smoking combined with radon is an especially serious health risk. If you smoke or are a former smoker, the presence of radon greatly increases your risk of lung cancer. If you stop smoking now and lower the radon level in your house, you will reduce your lung cancer risk.
Based on information contained in the National Academy of Sciences' 1998 report, The Health Effects of Exposure to Indoor Radon, your radon risk may be somewhat higher than shown, especially if you have never smoked.  It's never too late to reduce your risk to lung cancer.  Don't wait to test and fix a radon problem.  If you are a smoker, stop smoking.
Go to the Radon Risk Comparison Charts
Radon Testing Checklist
For reliable test results, follow this Radon Testing Checklist carefully.  Testing for radon is not complicated.  Improper testing may yield inaccurate results and require another test.  Disturbing or interfering with the test device or with closed-house conditions may invalidate the test results, and is actually illegal in some states.  If the seller or qualified tester cannot confirm that all items have been completed, take another test.
Before conducting a radon test:
Notify the occupants of the importance of proper testing conditions. Give the occupants written instructions or a copy of this Guide and explain the directions carefully.
Conduct the radon test for a minimum of 48 hours; some test devices have a minimum exposure time greater than 48 hours.
When doing a short-term test ranging from two to four days, it is important to maintain closed-house conditions for at least 12 hours before the beginning of the test and during the entire test period.
When doing a short-term test ranging from four to seven days, the EPA recommends that closed-house conditions be maintained.
If you conduct the test yourself, use a qualified radon measurement device and follow the laboratory's instructions.  Your state may be able to provide you with a list of do-it-yourself test devices available from qualified laboratories.
If you hire someone to do the test, hire only a qualified individual.  Some states issue photo identification (ID) cards; ask to see it.  The tester's ID number, if available, should be included or noted in the test report.
The test should include method(s) to prevent or detect interference with testing conditions, or with the testing device itself.
If the house has an active radon-reduction system, make sure the vent fan is operating properly.  If the fan is not operating properly, have it (or ask to have it) repaired and then test it.
"Closed-house conditions" mean keeping all windows closed, keeping doors closed except for normal entry and exit, and not operating fans or other machines which bring in air from outside.  Fans that are part of a radon-reduction system or small exhaust fans operating for only short periods of time may run during the test.
During a radon test:
Maintain closed-house conditions during the entire time of a short-term test, especially for tests shorter than one week.
Operate the home's heating and cooling systems normally during the test. For tests lasting less than one week, operate only air-conditioning units which re-circulate interior air.
Do not disturb the test device at any time during the test.
If a radon-reduction system is in place, make sure the system is working properly and will be in operation during the entire radon test.
After a radon test:
If you conduct the test yourself, be sure to promptly return the test device to the laboratory.  Be sure to complete the required information, including start and stop times, test location, etc.
If an elevated level is found, fix the home. Contact a qualified radon-reduction contractor about lowering the radon level.  The EPA recommends that you fix the home when the radon level is 4 pCi/L or more.
Be sure that you or the radon tester can demonstrate or provide information to ensure that the testing conditions were not violated during the testing period.

6. What should I do if the radon level is high?
a. 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.
b. 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.
c. Selecting a Radon-Reduction (Mitigation) Contractor
Select 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.  
d. What can a qualified radon-reduction contractor do for you?
A qualified radon-reduction (mitigation) contractor should be able to:
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.
Be aware that a potential conflict of interest exists if the same person or firm performs the testing and installs the mitigation system.  Some states may require the homeowner to sign a waiver, in such cases. Contact your state radon office for more information.
e. Radon in Water
The radon in your home's indoor air can come from two sources:  the soil and your water supply.  Compared to radon entering your home through water, radon entering your home through soil is a much larger risk.  If you've tested for radon in air and have elevated radon levels, and your water comes from a private well, have your water tested.  The devices and procedures for testing your home's water supply are different from those used for measuring radon in air.
The radon in your water supply poses an inhalation risk and an ingestion risk.  Research has shown that your risk of lung cancer from breathing radon in the air is much larger than your risk of stomach cancer from swallowing water with radon in it.  Most of your risk from radon in water comes from radon released into the air when water is used for showering and other household purposes.
Radon in your home's water is not usually a problem when its source is surface water.  Radon in water is more likely when its source is ground water, e.g., a private well or a public water supply system that uses ground water.  Some public water systems treat their water to reduce radon levels before it is delivered to your home.  If you are concerned that radon may be entering your home through the water, and your water comes from a public water supply, contact your water supplier.
If you've tested your private well and have radon in your water supply, it can be treated in one of two ways.  Point-of-entry treatment can effectively remove radon from the water before it enters your home.  Point-of-entry treatment usually employs either granular activated-carbon (GAC) filters, or aeration devices.  While GAC filters usually cost less than aeration devices, filters can collect radioactivity and may require a special method of disposal.  Point-of-use treatment devices remove radon from your water at the tap, but only treat a small portion of the water you use, e.g., the water you drink.  Point-of-use devices are not effective in reducing the risk of breathing radon released into the air from all water used in the home.

To have your San Antonio, TX home tested for radon, contact Veteran Home Inspections

Private Water Wells

If your family gets drinking water from a private well, do you know if your water is safe to drink? What health risks could you and your family face? Where can you go for help or advice? The EPA regulates public water systems; it does not have the authority to regulate private drinking water wells. Approximately 15% of Americans rely on their own private drinking water supplies, and these supplies are not subject to EPA standards, although some state and local governments do set rules to protect users of these wells. Unlike public drinking water 

systems serving many people, they do not have experts regularly checking the water’s source and its quality before it is sent to the tap. These households must take special precautions to ensure the protection and maintenance of their drinking water supplies.
Basic Information
There are three types of private drinking water wells: dug, driven, and drilled. Proper well construction and continued maintenance are keys to the safety of your water supply. Your state water-well contractor licensing agency, local health department, or local water system professional can provide information on well construction. The well should be located so rainwater flows away from it. Rainwater can pick up harmful bacteria and chemicals on the land’s surface. If this water pools near your well, it can seep into it, potentially causing health problems. Water-well drillers and pump-well installers are listed in your local phone directory. The contractor should be bonded and insured. Make certain your ground water contractor is registered or licensed in your state, if required. If your state does not have a licensing/registration program, contact the National Ground Water Association.

To keep your well safe, you must be sure that possible sources of contamination are not close by. Experts suggest the following distances as a minimum for protection — farther is better(see graphic on the right):
Many homeowners tend to forget the value of good maintenance until problems reach crisis-levels. That can be expensive. It’s better to maintain your well, find problems early, and correct them to protect your well’s performance. Keep up-to-date records of well installation and repairs, plus pumping and water tests. Such records can help spot changes and possible problems with your water system. If you have problems, ask a local expert to check your well construction and maintenance records. He or she can see if your system is okay or needs work.
Protect your own well area. Be careful about storage and disposal of household and lawn-care chemicals and wastes. Good farmers and gardeners minimize the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Take steps to reduce erosion and prevent surface water runoff. Regularly check underground storage tanks that hold home heating oil, diesel, or gasoline. Make sure your well is protected from the wastes of livestock, pets and wildlife.
Dug Wells
Dug wells are holes in the ground dug by shovel or backhoe. Historically, a dug well was excavated below the ground water table until incoming water exceeded the digger’s bailing rate. The well was then lined (cased) with stones, brick, tile, or other material to prevent collapse. It was covered with a cap of wood, stone or concrete. Since it is so difficult to dig beneath the ground water table, dug wells are not very deep. Typically, they are only 10 to 30 feet deep. Being so shallow, dug wells have the highest risk of becoming contaminated.To minimize the likelihood of contamination, your dug well should have certain features. These features help to prevent contaminants from traveling along the outside of the casing, or through the casing and into the well.
Dug Well Construction Features
  • The well should be cased with a watertight material (for example, tongue-and-groove pre-cast concrete), and a cement grout or bentonite clay sealant poured along the outside of the casing to the top of the well.
  • The well should be covered by a concrete curb and cap that stands about a foot above the ground.
  • The land surface around the well should be mounded so that surface water runs away from the well and is not allowed to pond around the outside of the wellhead.
  • Ideally, the pump for your well should be inside your home or in a separate pump house, rather than in a pit next to the well.
Land activities around a dug well can also contaminate it. While dug wells have been used as a household water supply source for many years, most are relics of older homes, dug before drilling equipment was readily available, or when drilling was considered too expensive. If you have a dug well on your property and are using it for drinking water, check to make sure it is properly covered and sealed. Another problem relating to the shallowness of a dug well is that it may go dry during a drought when the ground water table drops.
Driven Wells  
  
Like dug wells, driven wells pull water from the water-saturated zone above the bedrock. Driven wells can be deeper than dug wells. They are typically 30 to 50 feet deep and are usually located in areas with thick sand and gravel deposits where the ground water table is within 15 feet of the ground’s surface. In the proper geologic setting, driven wells can be easy and relatively inexpensive to install. Although deeper than dug wells, driven wells are still relatively shallow and have a moderate-to-high risk of contamination from nearby land activities.
Driven Well Construction Features
  • Assembled lengths of 2- to 3-inch diameter metal pipes are driven into the ground. A screened “well point” located at the end of the pipe helps drive the pipe through the sand and gravel. The screen allows water to enter the well and filters out sediment.
  • The pump for the well is in one of two places: on top of the well, or in the house. An access pit is usually dug around the well down to the frost line, and a water discharge pipe to the house is joined to the well pipe with a fitting.
  • The well and pit are capped with the same kind of large-diameter concrete tile used for a dug well. The access pit may be cased with pre-cast concrete.
To minimize this risk, the well cover should be a tight-fitting concrete curb and cap with no cracks, and should sit about a foot above the ground. Slope the ground away from the well so that surface water will not pond around the well. If there’s a pit above the well, either to hold the pump or to access the fitting, you may also be able to pour a grout sealant along the outside of the well pipe. Protecting the water quality requires that you maintain proper well construction and monitor your activities around the well. It is also important to follow the same land-use precautions around the driven well as described under dug wells.


Drilled Wells
Drilled wells penetrate about 100 to 400 feet into the bedrock. Where you find bedrock at the surface, it is commonly called ledge. To serve as a water supply, a drilled well must intersect bedrock fractures containing ground water.  
Drilled Well Construction Features
  • The casing is usually metal or plastic pipe, 6 inches in diameter, that extends into the bedrock to prevent shallow ground water from entering the well. By law, the casing has to extend at least 18 feet into the ground, with at least 5 feet extending into the bedrock. The casing should also extend a foot or two above the ground’s surface. A sealant, such as cement grout or bentonite clay, should be poured along the outside of the casing to the top of the well. The well should be capped to prevent surface water from entering the well.
  • Submersible pumps, located near the bottom of the well, are most commonly used in drilled wells. Wells with a shallow water table may feature a jet pump located inside the home. Pumps require special wiring and electrical service. Well pumps should be installed and serviced by a qualified professional registered with your state.
  • Most modern drilled wells incorporate a pitless adapter designed to provide a sanitary seal at the point where the discharge water line leaves the well to enter your home. The device attaches directly to the casing below the frost line, and provides a watertight sub-surface connection, protecting the well from frost and contamination.
  • Older drilled wells may lack some of these sanitary features. The well pipe used was often 8, 10 or 12 inches in diameter, and covered with a concrete well cap either at or below the ground’s surface. This outmoded type of construction does not provide the same degree of protection from surface contamination. Also, older wells may not have a pitless adapter to provide a seal at the point of discharge from the well.
Hydrofracting a Drilled Well
Hydrofracting is a process that applies water or air under pressure into your well to open up existing fractures near your well, and can even create new ones. Often, this can increase the yield of your well. This process can be applied to new wells with insufficient yield and to improve the quantity of older wells.
How can I test the quality of my private drinking water supply? 
Consider testing your well for pesticides, organic chemicals, and heavy metals before you use it for the first time. Test private water supplies annually for nitrate and coliform bacteria to detect contamination problems early. Test them more frequently if you suspect a problem. Be aware of activities in your watershed that may affect the water quality of your well, especially if you live in an unsewered area.
Human Health
The first step to protect your health and the health of your family is learning about what may pollute your source of drinking water. Potential contamination may occur naturally, or as a result of human activity.
What are some naturally occurring sources of pollution?
  • micro-organisms:  Bacteria, viruses, parasites and other microorganisms are sometimes found in water. Shallow wells — those with water close to ground level — are at most risk. Runoff, or water flowing over the land surface, may pick up these pollutants from wildlife and soils. This is often the case after flooding. Some of these organisms can cause a variety of illnesses. Symptoms include nausea and diarrhea. These can occur shortly after drinking contaminated water. The effects could be short-term yet severe (similar to food poisoning), or might recur frequently or develop slowly over a long time.
  • radionuclides: Radionuclides are radioactive elements, such as uranium and radium. They may be present in underlying rock and ground water.
  • radon: Radon is a gas that is a natural product of the breakdown of uranium in the soil and can also pose a threat. Radon is most dangerous when inhaled, and contributes to lung cancer. Although soil is the primary source, using household water containing radon contributes to elevated indoor radon levels. Radon is less dangerous when consumed in water, but remains a risk to health.
  • nitrates and nitrites: Although high nitrate levels are usually due to human activities (see below), they may be found naturally in ground water. They come from the breakdown of nitrogen compounds in the soil. Flowing ground water picks them up from the soil. Drinking large amounts of nitrates and nitrites is particularly threatening to infants (for example, when mixed in formula).
  • heavy metals: Underground rocks and soils may contain arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and selenium. However, these contaminants are not often found in household wells at dangerous levels from natural sources.
  • fluoride: Fluoride is helpful in dental health, so many water systems add small amounts to drinking water. However, excessive consumption of naturally occurring fluoride can damage bone tissue. High levels of fluoride occur naturally in some areas. It may discolor teeth, but this is not a health risk.

What human activities can pollute ground water?

  • Septic tanks are designed to have a leach field around them, which is an area where wastewater flows out of the tank. This wastewater can also move into the ground water.
    bacteria and nitrates: These pollutants are found in human and animal wastes. Septic tanks can cause bacterial and nitrate pollution. So can large numbers of farm animals. Both septic systems and animal manure must be carefully managed to prevent pollution. Sanitary landfills and garbage dumps are also sources. Children and some adults are at higher risk when exposed to waterborne bacteria. These include the elderly and people whose immune systems are weak due to AIDS or treatments for cancer. Fertilizers can add to nitrate problems. Nitrates cause a health threat in very young infants called “blue baby syndrome." This condition disrupts oxygen flow in the blood. 
  • concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs): The number of CAFOs, often called “factory farms,” is growing. On these farms, thousands of animals are raised in a small space. The large amounts of animal waste/manure from these farms can threaten water supplies. Strict and careful manure management is needed to prevent pathogen and nutrient problems. Salts from high levels of manure can also pollute ground water. 
  • heavy metals: Activities such as mining and construction can release large amounts of heavy metals into nearby ground water sources. Some older fruit orchards may contain high levels of arsenic, once used as a pesticide. At high levels, these metals pose a health risk. 
  • fertilizers and pesticides: Farmers use fertilizers and pesticides to promote growth and reduce insect damage. These products are also used on golf courses and suburban lawns and gardens. The chemicals in these products may end up in ground water. Such pollution depends on the types and amounts of chemicals used and how they are applied. Local environmental conditions (soil types, seasonal snow and rainfall) also affect this pollution. Many fertilizers contain forms of nitrogen that can break down into harmful nitrates. This could add to other sources of nitrates mentioned above. Some underground agricultural drainage systems collect fertilizers and pesticides. This polluted water can pose problems to ground water and local streams and rivers. In addition, chemicals used to treat buildings and homes for termites and other pests may also pose a threat. Again, the possibility of problems depends on the amount and kind of chemicals. The types of soil and the amount of water moving through the soil also play a role. 
  • industrial products and waste: Many harmful chemicals are used widely in local business and industry. These can pollute drinking water if not well-managed. The most common sources of such problems are:
    • local businesses: These include nearby factories, industrial plants, and even small businesses such as gas stations and dry cleaners. All handle a variety of hazardous chemicals that need careful management. Spills and improper disposal of these chemicals and other industrial wastes can threaten ground water supplies.
    • leaking underground tanks and piping: Petroleum products, chemicals and waste stored in underground storage tanks and pipes may end up in the ground water. Tanks and piping leak if they are constructed or installed improperly. Steel tanks and piping corrode with age. Tanks are often found on farms. The possibility of leaking tanks is great on old, abandoned farm sites. Farm tanks are exempt from the EPA rules for petroleum and chemical tanks.
    • landfills and waste dumps: Modern landfills are designed to contain any leaking liquids. But floods can carry them over the barriers. Older dumpsites may have a wide variety of pollutants that can seep into ground water.
  • household waste: Improper disposal of many common products can pollute ground water. These include cleaning solvents, used motor oil, paints, and paint thinners. Even soaps and detergents can harm drinking water. These are often a problem from faulty septic tanks and septic leaching fields. 
  • lead and copper: Household plumbing materials are the most common source of lead and copper found in home drinking water. Corrosive water may cause metals in pipes or soldered joints to leach into your tap water. Your water’s acidity or alkalinity (often measured as pH) greatly affects corrosion. Temperature and mineral content also affect how corrosive it is. They are often used in pipes, solder and plumbing fixtures. Lead can cause serious damage to the brain, kidneys, nervous system, and red blood cells. The age of plumbing materials — in particular, copper pipes soldered with lead — is also important. Even in relatively low amounts, these metals can be harmful. The EPA rules under the Safe Drinking Water Act limit lead in drinking water to 15 parts per billion. Since 1988, the Act allows only lead-free pipe, solder and flux in drinking water systems. The law covers both new installations and repairs of plumbing.
 What You Can Do...

Private, individual wells are the responsibility of the homeowner. To help protect your well, here are some steps you can take:
Have your water tested periodically. It is recommended that water be tested every year for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. If you suspect other contaminants, test for those. Always use a state-certified laboratory that conducts drinking water tests. Since these can be expensive, spend some time identifying potential problems. Consult your InterNACHI inspector for information about how to go about water testing.
Testing more than once a year may be warranted in special situations if:
  • someone in your household is pregnant or nursing;
  • there are unexplained illnesses in the family;
  • your neighbors find a dangerous contaminant in their water;
  • you note a change in your water's taste, odor, color or clarity;
  • there is a spill of chemicals or fuels into or near your well; or 
  • you replace or repair any part of your well system.

Identify potential problems as the first step to safe-guarding your drinking water. The best way to start is to consult a local expert -- someone who knows your area, such as the local health department, agricultural extension agent, a nearby public water system, or a geologist at a local university.


Be aware of your surroundings. As you drive around your community, take note of new construction. Check the local newspaper for articles about new construction in your area.
Check the paper or call your local planning and zoning commission for announcements about hearings or zoning appeals on development or industrial projects that could possibly affect your water.


Attend these hearings, ask questions about how your water source is being protected, and don't be satisfied with general answers.  Ask questions, such as:  "If you build this landfill, what will you do to ensure that my water will be protected?" See how quickly they answer and provide specifics about what plans have been made to specifically address that issue.

Identify Potential Problem Sources

To start your search for potential problems, begin close to home. Do a survey around your well to discover:
  • Is there livestock nearby?
  • Are pesticides being used on nearby agricultural crops or nurseries?
  • Do you use lawn fertilizers near the well?
  • Is your well downstream from your own or a neighbor's septic system?
  • Is your well located near a road that is frequently salted or sprayed with de-icers during winter months?
  • Do you or your neighbors dispose of household waste or used motor oil in the backyard, even in small amounts?
If any of these items apply, it may be best to have your water tested and talk to your local public health department or agricultural extension agent to find ways to change some of the practices which can affect your private well.
In addition to the immediate area around your well, you should be aware of other possible sources of contamination that may already be part of your community or may be moving into your area. Attend any local planning or appeals hearings to find out more about the construction of facilities that may pollute your drinking water. Ask to see the environmental impact statement on the project. See if the issue of underground drinking water sources has been addressed. If not, ask why.

Common Sources of Ground Water Contamination

Category       Contaminant Source
Agricultural
  • animal burial areas
  • drainage fields/wells
  • animal feedlots
  • irrigation sites
  • fertilizer storage/use
  • manure spreading areas/pits, lagoons
  • pesticide storage/use
Commercial
  • airports
  • jewelry/metal plating
  • auto repair shops
  • laundromats
  • boat yards
  • medical institutions
  • car washes
  • paint shops
  • construction areas
  • photography establishments
  • cemeteries
  • process waste-water drainage
  • dry cleaners fields/wells
  • gas stations
  • railroad tracks and yards
  • golf courses
  • research laboratories
  • scrap and junkyards
  • storage tanks
Industrial
  • asphalt plants
  • petroleum production/storage
  • chemical manufacture/storage
  • pipelines
  • electronic manufacture
  • process waste-water drainage
  • electroplaters fields/wells
  • foundries/metal fabricators
  • septage lagoons and sludge
  • machine/metalworking shops
  • storage tanks
  • mining and mine drainage
  • toxic and hazardous spills
  • wood-preserving facilities
Residential
  • fuel oil
  • septic systems, cesspools
  • furniture stripping/refinishing
  • sewer lines
  • household hazardous products
  • swimming pools (chemicals)
  • household lawns
Other
  • hazardous waste landfills
  • recycling/reduction facilities
  • municipal incinerators
  • road de-icing operations
  • municipal landfills
  • road maintenance depots
  • municipal sewer lines
  • Storm water drains/basins/wells
  • open burning sites
  • transfer stations

To have your San Antonio, TX area well water checked, contact us at www.vhillc.com

USDA Loans

A bit of information about a loan type that many people have never heard of.

USDA loans are housing loans that are backed through the Rural Housing Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The USDA offers competitive loans for borrowers in rural areas
 
 
Purpose
 
In the wake of the mortgage crisis in 2008 and 2009, lenders have become more cautious, so it's harder for home buyers, especially first-timers, to secure financing, especially those with low incomes or little money for a down payment. In response, the USDA has enacted changes that made millions of borrowers eligible for their rural mortgage programs, which have been around for decades. These loans are primarily used to help low-income individuals and families purchase homes in rural areas, given the challenges faced in finding an affordable mortgage loan or deriving high income in sparsely populated areas. Funds can be used to build, repair, renovate or relocate a home, or to purchase and prepare sites, including providing water and sewage facilities. If the borrower defaults on payments, loan funds are still guaranteed to the lender.
 
 
Eligibility of Applicants
 
The following factors affect eligibility for USDA loans:
 
Eligibility of Housing
 
Housing must be modest in size, design and cost. Also, houses constructed, purchased or rehabilitated must meet the building code adopted by the state and the Housing and Community Facilities Programs' (HCFP) thermal and site standards. New manufactured housing must be permanently installed and meet the manufactured housing construction and safety standards of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), as well as the HCFP's thermal and site standards.  Existing manufactured housing may not qualify unless it is already financed with an HCFP direct or guaranteed loan, or it is Real Estate-Owned (REO), formerly secured by an HCFP direct or guaranteed loan.
 
 
USDA Loans vs. Federal Housing Authority (FHA) Loans
 
While the USDA and FHA both insure loans made by private lenders, the policies and eligibility requirements for each are quite different. The following are the principle differences:
 
In summary, USDA loans are a good option for many prospective home buyers and borrowers living in (or moving to) rural areas.

For more information on the USDA mortgage program, visit their page.

Don't forget to contact Veteran Home Inspections to have that new house inspected!

by Nick Gromicko

Used with permission from https://www.nachi.org/usda-loans.htm

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Detectors

Carbon Monoxide detectors, or the lack thereof, is one of the most common defects I find during a home inspection!


Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that forms from incomplete combustion of fuels, such as natural or liquefied petroleum gas, oil, wood or coal.
 
Facts and Figures
Physiology of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
When CO is inhaled, it displaces the oxygen that would ordinarily bind with hemoglobin, a process the effectively suffocates the body. CO can poison slowly over a period of several hours, even in low concentrations. Sensitive organs, such as the brain, heart and lungs, suffer the most from a lack of oxygen.
High concentrations of carbon monoxide can kill in less than five minutes. At low concentrations, it will require a longer period of time to affect the body. Exceeding the EPA concentration of 9 parts per million (ppm) for more than eight hours may have adverse health affects. The limit of CO exposure for healthy workers, as prescribed by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration, is 50 ppm.
 
Potential Sources of Carbon Monoxide

Any fuel-burning appliances which are malfunctioning or improperly installed can be a source of CO, such as:
 
 
 
 
PPM
% CO 
in air
Health Effects in Healthy Adults
Source/Comments
0
0%
no effects; this is the normal level in a properly operating heating appliance

35
0.0035%
maximum allowable workplace exposure limit for an eight-hour work shift
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
50
0.005%
maximum allowable workplace exposure limit for an eight-hour work shift
              OSHA
100
0.01%
slight headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, 
errors in judgment

125
0.0125%

workplace alarm must sound (OSHA)
200
0.02%
headache, fatigue, 
nausea, dizziness

400
0.04%
severe headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, confusion; can be life-threatening after three hours of exposure
evacuate area immediately
800
0.08%
convulsions, loss of consciousness;
death within three hours
evacuate area immediately
12,000
1.2%
nearly instant death

 
 
CO Detector Placement

CO detectors can monitor exposure levels, but do not place them:
Do place CO detectors:
In North America, some national, state and local municipalities require installation of CO detectors in new and existing homes, as well as commercial businesses, among them:  Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont and New York City, and the Canadian province of Ontario. Installers are encouraged to check with their local municipality to determine what specific requirements have been enacted in their jurisdiction.
How can I prevent CO poisoning?
 

In summary, carbon monoxide is a dangerous poison that can be created by various household appliances. CO detectors must be placed strategically throughout the home or business in order to alert occupants of high levels of the gas.

For more information, contact us at www.vhillc.com

by Nick Gromicko
Used with permission from https://www.nachi.org/carbon-monoxide.htm

Buying a Foreclosure

Purchasing foreclosed homes in desirable areas at below-market values can be a sound investment strategy. Appreciation on their original prices may be tax-free.  Buying foreclosed rental properties can provide positive cash flow, as well as valuable tax deductions. On the other hand, buying a foreclosure involves homework, patience, and a certain amount of luck. For those wishing to get a bargain house through the foreclosure process, it’s best to learn the basics.

Foreclosed homes are often sold at auction
 
Four Ways to Buy a Foreclosed Home
Tips for Foreclosure Purchases

In summary, there are a number of ways to go about buying a foreclosed home, and buyers should exercise patience, persistence and careful planning before buying foreclosed properties.

To have a Certified Master Inspector examine a foreclosure you are thinking of purchasing, contact www.vhillc.com

by Nick Gromicko  
Used with permission from https://www.nachi.org/buying-foreclosure.htm

Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs)

What is a GFCI?

A ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, is a device used in electrical wiring to disconnect a circuit when unbalanced current is detected between an energized conductor and a neutral return conductor.  Such an imbalance is sometimes caused by current "leaking" through a person who is simultaneously in contact with a ground and an energized part of the circuit, which could result in lethal shock. GFCIs are designed to provide protection in such a situation, unlike standard circuit breakers, which guard against overloads, short circuits and ground faults. 
 
It is estimated that about 300 deaths by electrocution occur every year, so the use of GFCIs has been adopted in new construction, and recommended as an upgrade in older construction, in order to mitigate the possibility of injury or fatality from electric shock.
 
History
The first high-sensitivity system for detecting current leaking to ground was developed by Henri Rubin in 1955 for use in South African mines.  This cold-cathode system had a tripping sensitivity of 250 mA (milliamperes), and was soon followed by an upgraded design that allowed for adjustable trip-sensitivity from 12.5 to 17.5 mA.  The extremely rapid tripping after earth leakage-detection caused the circuit to de-energize before electric shock could drive a person's heart into ventricular fibrillation, which is usually the specific cause of death attributed to electric shock.
Charles Dalziel first developed a transistorized version of the ground-fault circuit interrupter in 1961.  Through the 1970s, most GFCIs were of the circuit-breaker type.  This version of the GFCI was prone to frequent false trips due to poor alternating-current characteristics of 120-volt insulations.  Especially in circuits with long cable runs, current leaking along the conductors’ insulation could be high enough that breakers tended to trip at the slightest imbalance. 
 
Since the early 1980s, ground-fault circuit interrupters have been built into outlet receptacles, and advances in design in both receptacle and breaker types have improved reliability while reducing instances of "false trips," known as nuisance-tripping.
 
NEC Requirements for GFCIs
The National Electrical Code (NEC) has included recommendations and requirements for GFCIs in some form since 1968, when it first allowed for GFCIs as a method of protection for underwater swimming pool lights.  Throughout the 1970s, GFCI installation requirements were gradually added for 120-volt receptacles in areas prone to possible water contact, including bathrooms, garages, and any receptacles located outdoors.
The 1980s saw additional requirements implemented.  During this period, kitchens and basements were added as areas that were required to have GFCIs, as well as boat houses, commercial garages, and indoor pools and spas.  New requirements during the '90s included crawlspaces, wet bars and rooftops.  Elevator machine rooms, car tops and pits were also included at this time.  In 1996, GFCIs were mandated for all temporary wiring for construction, remodeling, maintenance, repair, demolition and similar activities and, in 1999, the NEC extended GFCI requirements to carnivals, circuses and fairs.
The 2008 NEC contains additional updates relevant to GFCI use, as well as some exceptions for certain areas.  The 2008 language is presented here for reference.
2008 NEC on GFCIs
100.1 Definition
100.1  Definitions. Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter. A device intended for the protection of personnel that functions to de-energize a circuit or portion thereof within an established period of time when a current to ground exceeds the values established for a Class A device.
FPN: Class A ground-fault circuit interrupters trip when the current to ground has a value in the range of 4 mA to 6 mA.  For further information, see UL 943, standard for Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters.
210.8(A)&(B)  Protection for Personnel
210.8 Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter Protection for Personnel.
(A)  Dwelling Units. All 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles installed in the locations specified in (1) through (8) shall have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel.
(1)   bathrooms;
(2)   garages, and also accessory buildings that have a floor located at or below grade level not intended as habitable rooms and limited to storage areas, work areas, and areas of similar use;
Exception No. 1: Receptacles not readily accessible.
Exception No. 2: A single receptacle or a duplex receptacle for two appliances that, in normal use, is not easily moved from one place to another and that is cord-and-plug connected in accordance with 400.7(A)(6), (A)(7), or (A)(8).
Receptacles installed under the exceptions to 210.8(A)(2) shall not be considered as meeting the requirements of 210.52(G)
(3)   outdoors;
Exception: Receptacles that are not readily accessible and are supplied by a dedicated branch circuit for electric snow melting or deicing equipment shall be permitted to be installed in accordance with the applicable provisions of Article 426.
(4)   crawlspaces at or below grade level.
Exception No. 1: Receptacles that are not readily accessible.
Exception No. 2:  A single receptacle or a duplex receptacle for two appliances that, in normal use, is not easily moved from one place to another and that is cord-and-plug connected in accordance with 400.7(A)(6), (A)(7), or (A)(8).
Exception No. 3: A receptacle supplying only a permanently installed fire alarm or burglar alarm system shall not be required to have ground-fault circuit interrupter protection.
Receptacles installed under the exceptions to 210.8(A)(2) shall not be considered as meeting the requirements of 210.52(G)
(6)   kitchens, where the receptacles are installed to serve the countertop surfaces;
(7)   wet bar sinks, where the receptacles are installed to serve the countertop surfaces and are located within 6 feet (1.8 m) of the outside edge of the wet bar sink;
(8)   boathouses;
(B) Other Than Dwelling Units. All 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles Installed in the locations specified in (1), (2), and (3) shall have ground-fault circuit interrupter protection for personnel:
(1)   bathrooms;
(2)   rooftops;
Exception: Receptacles that are not readily accessible and are supplied by a dedicated branch circuit for electric snow-melting or de-icing equipment shall be permitted to be installed in accordance with the applicable provisions of Article 426.
(3)   kitchens.
 
Testing Receptacle-Type GFCIs
Receptacle-type GFCIs are currently designed to allow for safe and easy testing that can be performed without any professional or technical knowledge of electricity.  GFCIs should be tested right after installation to make sure they are working properly and protecting the circuit.  They should also be tested once a month to make sure they are working properly and are providing protection from fatal shock. 
 
To test the receptacle GFCI, first plug a nightlight or lamp into the outlet. The light should be on.  Then press the "TEST" button on the GFCI. The "RESET" button should pop out, and the light should turn off.
 
If the "RESET" button pops out but the light does not turn off, the GFCI has been improperly wired. Contact an electrician to correct the wiring errors.
 
If the "RESET" button does not pop out, the GFCI is defective and should be replaced.
If the GFCI is functioning properly and the lamp turns off, press the "RESET" button to restore power to the outlet.

To have your home inspected, check us out at www.vhillc.com

by Nick Gromicko and Ethan Ward
Used with permission from: https://www.nachi.org/gfci.htm

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

Where is Lead Found?
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:

Where is Lead Likely to be a Hazard?
Note: Lead-based paint that is in good condition is usually not a hazard.

Checking Your Family and Home for Lead
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
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):
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 us about lead paint during your next inspection. Trained professionals use a range of methods when checking your home, including:
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:
REMEMBER: NEVER MIX AMMONIA AND BLEACH PRODUCTS TOGETHER, SINCE THEY CAN FORM A DANGEROUS GAS.
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, have us do a lead paint inspection during your home 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.
If not conducted properly, certain types of renovations can release lead from paint and dust into the air.

To more information on lead paint inspections or to schedule your lead paint inspection, please contact us at www.vhillc.com  Proudly serving the San Antonio, TX area.

10 Easy Ways to Save Money & Energy in Your Home



Most people don’t know how easy it is to make their homes run on less energy, and here at Veteran Home Inspections, we want to change that. 
Drastic reductions in heating, cooling and electricity costs can be accomplished through very simple changes, most of which homeowners can do themselves. Of course, for homeowners who want to take advantage of the most up-to-date knowledge and systems in home energy efficiency, Veteran Home Inspections energy auditors can perform in-depth testing to find the best energy solutions for your particular home. 
Why make your home more energy efficient? Here are a few good reasons:
1. Find better ways to heat and cool your house. 
As much as half of the energy used in homes goes toward heating and cooling. The following are a few ways that energy bills can be reduced through adjustments to the heating and cooling systems:
2. Install a tankless water heater.
Demand-type water heaters (tankless or instantaneous) provide hot water only as it is needed. They don't produce the standby energy losses associated with traditional storage water heaters, which will save on energy costs. Tankless water heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels through a pipe into the unit. A gas burner or an electric element heats the water. As a result, demand water heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water. You don't need to wait for a storage tank to fill up with enough hot water.
3. Replace incandescent lights.
The average household dedicates 11% of its energy budget to lighting. Traditional incandescent lights convert approximately only 10% of the energy they consume into light, while the rest becomes heat. The use of new lighting technologies, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), can reduce the energy use required by lighting by 50% to 75%. Advances in lighting controls offer further energy savings by reducing the amount of time that lights are on but not being used. Here are some facts about CFLs and LEDs:
4. Seal and insulate your home.
Sealing and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make a home more comfortable and energy-efficient, and you can do it yourself. A tightly sealed home can improve comfort and indoor air quality while reducing utility bills. A Veteran Home Inspections energy auditor can assess  leakage in the building envelope and recommend fixes that will dramatically increase comfort and energy savings.
The following are some common places where leakage may occur:
Because hot air rises, air leaks are most likely to occur in the attic. Homeowners can perform a variety of repairs and maintenance to their attics that save them money on cooling and heating, such as: 
5. Install efficient showerheads and toilets.
The following systems can be installed to conserve water usage in homes:
6. Use appliances and electronics responsibly.
Appliances and electronics account for about 20% of household energy bills in a typical U.S. home. The following are tips that will reduce the required energy of electronics and appliances:
7. Install daylighting as an alternative to electrical lighting.
Daylighting is the practice of using natural light to illuminate the home's interior. It can be achieved using the following approaches:
8. Insulate windows and doors.
About one-third of the home's total heat loss usually occurs through windows and doors. The following are ways to reduce energy lost through windows and doors:
9. Cook smart.
An enormous amount of energy is wasted while cooking. The following recommendations and statistics illustrate less wasteful ways of cooking:
10. Change the way you do laundry.
Homeowners who take the initiative to make these changes usually discover that the energy savings are more than worth the effort. Veteran Home Inspections home inspectors can make this process much easier because they can perform a more comprehensive assessment of energy-savings potential than the average homeowner can.  

To schedule a home energy audit, contact Veteran Home Inspections at www.vhillc.com

by Nick Gromicko, Ben Gromicko, and Kenton Shepard 
Used with permission from https://www.nachi.org/increasing-home-energy-efficiency-client.htm

How to Clean Algae and Moss Off Asphalt Shingles

Stains on asphalt roofing shingles make a house look shabby, which detracts from its value. In some cases, stains are merely a cosmetic issue.  But sometimes they’re symptomatic of a problem that, if left unchecked, can lead to more serious damage and, eventually, roof failure. It's not always hard to distinguish the causes of stains, nor, in most cases, to get rid of them and prevent the stains from recurring.

Common Causes of Staining
Dark stains on an asphalt roof could be caused by a number of conditions, including:
Eroded mineral surface. If the roof-covering material has been on the house for 15 years or so, it could be that the surface granules are wearing off the shingles and the asphalt base is starting to show through. On older roofs, you may additionally see cracked and/or shingles with curled edges. If you determine that age and wear are the causes of darkening, it may be time for a new roof.
Algae growth. More often than not, blue, green or black stains on an asphalt-shingle roof are caused by algae. Algae staining begins with small spots which, over time, can develop into streaks. Algae stains, which are often mistaken for mold or mildew, aren't harmful to anything other than the appearance of asphalt shingles, but nobody likes the look.

Algae-stained asphalt-shingle roof (photo by author)

Moss. Green, velvety masses of moss often grow on north-facing roof surfaces and on tree-shaded roofs. Unlike algae, moss left on roof surfaces can develop beyond an aesthetic problem. It can infiltrate the roof structure underneath the shingles and make their edges lift and curl, which can lead to cracking and blow-off during high winds and storms. Heavy moss growth can actually form dams that can cause water to back up under the shingles and damage the roof deck. It's best to clean moss off a roof as soon as you notice it's growing there.

Safety First 
Both algae and moss can be easily removed from asphalt shingles with a 50/50 solution of chlorine bleach and water. Laundry-strength bleach is sufficient, or you can opt for any of a number of proprietary roof cleaners, some of which don't contain bleach, lye, or other potentially harmful chemicals.
Since bleach and some cleaners can be harmful to plants and humans, it's a good idea to take some precautions when working with them, including the following:
Before climbing up to clean stains from your roof, be aware that about 30,000 people fall off ladders and roofs each year.  Consider using a safety harness, just as the pros are required to do, and follow the common-sense rules for properly positioning and using a ladder, which can be found in InterNACHI’s article on ladder safety.  Also, be sure to notify someone that you’ll be on your roof.  In case of an accident that incapacitates you, you’ll want someone to know where to look for you.

Upgear by Wenner Safety Harness (photo courtesy of The Home Depot)

How to Clean Algae and Moss from a Roof 
Apply the bleach solution with a garden sprayer. Let it stand on the surface for about 20 minutes, then rinse it off with spray from a garden hose. Don't let the bleach solution stand on the roof for more than 30 minutes or so without rinsing. And don't use a pressure washer, which can damage the shingles by removing their protective layer of asphalt granules.
If accumulations of algae or moss are heavy, at least some of it should wash off the roof surface right away with the stream from the hose. You can try brushing off algae and moss with a brush or broom with medium-stiff bristles, but don't scrub too hard. You don't want to separate the mineral granules from the shingles.
If chunks of algae or moss or heavy stains remain on the surface after rinsing, let the roof dry, then spray on the bleach solution again. Wait 30 minutes and rinse. Don't worry if some staining remains after the second rinse. It should wash off over time with exposure to rain and sunlight.
How to Prevent Algae and Moss Stains from Recurring 
Algae and moss tend to grow roof surfaces that are shaded and retain moisture. So, it’s a good idea to cut away tree branches that overhang the roof and block sunlight. Keep the roof surface clean by blowing off leaves and fallen branches during seasonal maintenance.


The red lines indicate where to install sacrificial metal strips 
to prevent algae and moss growth.

For long-term stain prevention, have zinc or copper strips installed under the cap shingles, leaving an inch or two of the surface exposed at roof peaks, along hips, and under the first course of shingles at the base of dormers. Copper and zinc are sacrificial metals that shed tiny bits of their surface with each rainfall. The metals coat the roof and inhibit organic growth for many years.
Following these maintenance tips can help homeowners enjoy an attractive roof.  They can also help extend the roof’s service life, which is important whether you plan to stay in your home or sell it in the future.
To have your roof inspected, visit us at www.vhillc.com

Source: https://www.nachi.org/home-depot-clean-algae-off-asphalt.htm

by Michael Chotiner of The Home Depot

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