In this episode, Stephen goes through an easy home inspection checklist for people who may be wanting to learn more about their own home, one they want to buy or live in and what they should be focussing in on. In Stephen’s easy to understand manner, you can walk around your own home with him and make it healthier and safer for you and your family.
Welcome to Your Healthy House. I’m Stephen Collette. In this podcast, I explore your indoor environmental quality concerns and opportunities. We look at the facts and debunk the fiction. We will discuss examples you can relate to, and the doable actions you can take in your own home or apartment. We will also look at the history of how our homes are the way they are, and the future of healthy housing for everyone. I promised to make this fun and interesting for both of us.
Stephen Collette 0:46
Episode Number 21, Home Inspection checklist.
Welcome everyone to the latest episode of your healthy house, thank you very much for listening, I really appreciate your listening. I’m grateful. Otherwise, it would just be me talking to myself, which I do anyway, it seems. So today we’re going to talk about a home inspection checklist. So I’m grateful I have a lot of friends before COVID when I could hang out with them and have a good time. You know, a lot of times they would ask me questions about their home, you know, Hey, can you come in the basement and look at this? Or can you look at you know, have a look at that. And, you know, I spent a lot of time in my friend’s basements, drinking beverages with him and having a good time. But, you know, people just want to know more about their homes. And that’s because we simply don’t learn about our homes we don’t, we didn’t learn in school about them, we don’t really know how to maintain them, we don’t really understand how they work in depth. And, you know, your toaster came with a more complicated operator’s manual than your house did your house is your single largest purchase or rent, your single largest cost you for your entire life. And we simply don’t know how to operate it. And so a home inspection checklist is certainly something a lot of people want and asked me about. And so I thought I’d put this together in a podcast.
Unknown Speaker 2:16
SoI always start on the outside, I think that’s really important. Simply because how the building interacts and works with the environment itself. So whether you’re in a hot, humid climate, whether you’re in a dry climate, a temperate climate, or a cold climate, really how that that environment impacts your home is really, really important. So always want to start on the outside. And you just kind of want to think about, you know, where’s the wind coming from, you know, the prevailing winds, typically in North America will come from the west. But with climate change, and you know, the Jetstream is changing, we are seeing different things. Now, where I live, it does come from the west, typically, but then storms come from the east because of the lake effect from the Great Lakes. But everyone’s different. So figuring out which way the wind is pushing means which way the dust and the particulate and the Paul in from outside is going to move through your house through that windward side, then it’s all going to end up on the leeward side on that opposite side of the house. So what’s down there? You know, what are you going to find in there? You know, where’s your garage located, relative to all that your garage is a really smelly, dirty, filthy place often full of chemicals and petroleum and, and tires and cars and combustion. And so, you know, when you’re looking at outside, you want to think about all those things in the garage, and how they could get into the house. You know, if you have an access door between the garage and the house, you really want to think about making sure that’s airtight automatic door closers and possibly even just sealing it off and just kind of you know, walk around. Ideally, the garage is actually separated from the house. Back to the outside. I’m always looking at water, you know, or how’s the house brain, you know, whether you are snow depending on your climate, you know, even in the very dry climates like New Mexico, Arizona, you know, when they get rain, they get a lot of rain and it’s really really intense. But for the most parts, the rest of us will get rain you know scattered and precipitation snow through the year. You know if you live in Pacific Northwest why it’s just wet all the time. I don’t know why you live there. It’s pretty great. But we want to think about just the weather patterns in the water and how that water moves off the roof, off the walls and away from the house. Is it moving away from the house. That’s what we really want to think about. So you want to be seeing ideally walk around your house in the rain if you can or snow And just where does it Where’s? Where’s the moisture move? Where does it drain away? Does it does it all melt? Does it all run towards the house or away from the house? Do you actually have your gardens burying your siding? That’s a really common one, you know, the gardens. You know, we keep adding mulch and more triple mix and compost and fertilizer. And we put a lot of stuff on our gardens and they build up over time and most of our gardens are up against the house. And so I’ve seen lots and lots where the gardens are overtop of the brick or overtop of the siding. And that’s simply dangerous. It’s not designed that those materials are not designed to be buried up against 100% moisture content, which is soil. And then of course, you water your walls, with your sprinklers or your underground or above ground sprinklers. And that’s super, super bad. So we definitely want to make sure that the garden slope away from the house and that the gardens are not touching the actual siding, whether that be brick wood, vinyl, wood, aluminum, whatever, it doesn’t matter stucco, it will cause damage, because on the other side of that material is woody stuff. And squishy stuff and fluffy stuff that can all get very, very wet. Okay, so you know, and then the downspouts the eavestroughs gutters for Americans you know, window wells grading, you know, when you’re walking around, you know, is the water sloping towards the house or away from the house. And that’s really important. When we’re thinking about all the environmental health, you know, from the outside, you know, what about the electromagnetic stuff? You know, is there cell phone towers is there smart meters up against the house is your neighbor’s smart meter facing your house or watch smart water meter? Are there signal stations for those smart meters Transformers near you, things like that can definitely impact people’s health indoors as well. And so we just want to kind of think about that and protect ourselves. If those external forces we can’t control, but the ones we can control we want to minimize as well. And appalling Of course, you can think about that. And plants that depending on people have allergies and and using more female plants instead of male plants. And there is a pollen scale called the old grins, pollen awpa Ls allergy levels, and opal, and it’s actually an allergy scale. And so you can buy plants that have that are less allergenic. And typically, it’s the male plants that create the allergies because of the pollen is generated by the male plants. So again, boys are dumb, even in the plant kingdom. And so if we want to switch to female plants and less plants that don’t trigger pollen as much Now, of course, you can’t control your neighbors in the neighborhood and, but you can do what you can. Um, yeah, walking around making sure the caulking around your Windows is in really good shape, that’s always really important because that’s where the water The wind is going to come in and with it, it’s going to bring moisture, and that’s going to cause damage. So if the caulking around your Windows is in poor shape. And by poor shape, if you put your fingernail into your caulking, and it doesn’t flex, if it’s hard as a rock, it’s no longer working, it needs to be soft and pliable. And so that’s definitely a detail I would look at. Yeah, those are like the really main things actually it is the moisture because especially if you have a basement or crawlspace we want to make sure that the water up against the house isn’t getting into the house, right, you’re watering your plants for you know, 3.8 seconds and then the rest of the time that water’s up against your basement or crawlspace wall and that’s not ideal. And so just thinking about that. And for those with slabs, you know having a without a basement and having the soil up up against the stucco or the wall, again really, really a concern because you simply don’t have any carrying capacity, that moisture is going to get right into the house. So it’s kind of going on the outside.
Unknown Speaker 9:20
When you walk through the front door and in your home inspection checklist. I usually you know start with the kitchen thinking about you know what’s going on in the kitchen mostly because it’s public space balls because there’s a lot of activity and there’s a lot of potential for health concerns. So thinking about the the moisture and around the sink is the taps secure Can you wiggle the taps is is the lip of the sink secure. Right is water getting underneath the sink and around the sink is that are the taps secured to the sink or the tap secured to the counter. Another really important thing So that’s, you know, usually where I start, you know, you want to think about chemicals, of course, that’s more occupant use, we’re going to kind of stick to building stuff with this one. But making sure we’re underneath the sink, everything’s clean and dry, right, because if you do have a leak, that’s where it’s gonna show up. And usually under your sink is full of junk, it’s packed, crammed in there, keeping it clean. So you can actually see when there’s a water leak, really important. dishwasher, you want to make sure it’s not leaking, you know, make sure under the counter, on the bottom of the counter, that we’re not seeing any damage from the hot, steamy, moist air when you open that dishwasher. Right, that steam rolls up there. And a lot of dishwashers, when you purchase them will come with a plate, a metal plate, and no instructions, you’re like, I have no idea where to do this. And most people just throw it out. But it’s actually supposed to go right there on the bottom of your counter to actually deflect the steam away from the bottom of the counter. So for those who have particleboard based Formica countertops, it can actually, not always, but over years can actually do a lot of damage your fridge, want to make sure, if you have water running to your fridge, that the lines are not pinched in the back, you know, push the fridge too far back. And if they’re copper, I’ve seen them get pinched, and you don’t see it until it rains in the basement below. And changing the filters. If you’re actually the water has a filter. supply has a filter because most people don’t. And it gets really, really, really gross. And yeah, like it’s ugly and cleaning your fridge for goodness sakes, just clean your fridge and I just look at the seals on the fridge and I can tell whether you cleaned it or not. your stove you want to think about the exhaust fan isn’t working? Does it actually exhaust outside? Can you turn it on go outside and see something open a flappy thing on the wall or, or event on the roof? You know, does it actually work? Is it clean, really important, especially with a gas appliance gas stove, you really shouldn’t even look at a gas stove without operating the exhaust fan really important. So he’s kind of just, you know, quick things to think about, that’s when I’m looking in the kitchen, you know, electromagnetics with the high frequencies with microwaves and microwaves are leaking really bad. So, you know, try to avoid the use of microwaves, they all leak, some you know, maybe five, six feet, others like 1516 feet. So don’t stand in front of them or put your significant other between you and the microwave to protect yourself.
Unknown Speaker 12:45
When we move out of the kitchen, we move through, you know, the thinking about the living room and the windows that usually the biggest windows we have are gonna be in the living room, are they in good shape? You know, are they cracked in the wintertime or in the cold weather? Do you have the frosting Are you know, are you getting condensation in them, if they’re double glazed, and that will tell you that, you know, they’re getting old, and they need to be replaced. Now a trick and I can’t tell everybody. But if you look at the spacers between the two pieces of glass, you may actually find the date stamp in there. If it’s a typically if it’s a stainless steel, metal spacer, you’ll actually find a date of manufacture in there. So I can’t tell you all my secrets, but that’s one of the secrets. And so you can find out how old your windows are and typical lifespan will be, you know, 20 years before the vacuum kind of gives out on them. And, you know, that depends on how many bird strikes they’ve taken or how many, you know, kids banging on them, as well. And general construction and quality of course. So an interesting I just learned about this, the coating the finishes, so the vinyl windows are the most common. Certainly there’s a lot of off gassing concerns, but now we’re seeing black framed windows becoming really more popular. Personally, I think they’re ugly as sin but you’re allowed your own design style. But some research is showing that these vanities black vinyl windows, residential windows are actually failing quicker than white vinyl windows. And that’s because of the temperature and because of the black gets warm enough that there’s variation and this is in typically larger residential windows, more surface area. But these black framed windows are actually failing because they’re expanding and contracting and causing seals to break. So So I hope that carries on because again, I think they’re ugly, but buyer beware if you like them, be cautious and do your homework and make sure you’re getting quality windows. You know the the ductwork if you’re unforced error which most people in North America are you Want to check the duck work in the kitchen in the dining room in the living room and the cold air return, the sucking side is going to be somewhere in the center. And just keep that make sure it’s in really good shape, right? And if you’re looking at purchasing a house or you know, going to rent it, you know, is it clean, you know, are you moving into a clean space is a carpets, you know, carpets are evil, I don’t really recommend carpets at all. From an air quality perspective, they’re just, well, they’re filthy. And they’re breeding ground for just about everything in the universe. So ideally, we don’t have carpets anywhere. If you’re renting and don’t have the opportunity to pull them out, or the finances to pull him out, you know, then vacuum definitely have a vacuum, high efficiency, particulate arrestor get that out of there. Manage that dust. Because Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation recommends, you know, 10 minutes per square meter, or, you know, a minute per square foot, which is an insane amount of vacuuming. And if you do that, really, yeah, I can do it listening to my podcasts, you probably get all my podcasts done before you finish the house. And that’s there’s time better spent doing other things. So clutter clutter is more personal stuff so so you know I’m not really stressing that when we’re looking at a home inspection checklist.
Unknown Speaker 16:22
And so moving from the living room from the public spaces, you know, we kind of move into the bathroom and you know, the quick checks in the bathroom, just like the kitchen sink you know, as the tap secures or water damage underneath the counter underneath the sink, you know, get in there and have a good look has there been spills, you know, personal care products same as where the cleaning products are stored, you know, as they’re damaged to cabinetry, water damage, you’ll see cabinetry start to swell if it gets wet, you’ll see staining as well obviously, but oftentimes most cabinetry is made with particle board. So a good spill, soaks it up and it kind of puffs up is the toilet secure. That’s that’s a really important one, you know, wiggling the toilet, give it a good shake, put it between your knees and try to rock it. And that’s because if it’s not then then the back and forth. Rocking will actually wear down the wax O rings, your toilets not actually connected to the house directly. The plumbing, that is the toilet plumbing stops, the house plumbing comes up to the bottom of the floor and there’s a wax old ring that connects them. And so if that’s if there’s rocking the wax O ring compresses, and then if it compresses enough, then liquids and solids will scooch out between them. And that happens underneath your floor surface so you don’t see it. Again, that can be super gross. Your tub, you know you want to check in the tub is the caulking in good shape tub and shower, whether they’re together separate. You want to make sure that the caulking is in the corners is in really good shape. no gaps, the smaller the gap, the water the the water can wick really, really high like meters high with a small gap. And so the caulking is really really important. If we have tile, you know, you want to do the same thing with a grout you know, a hairline crack and your grout can actually suck up a fair bit of water and if it’s an older bill bathroom, it may not have cement board behind it. It may have drywall paper faced drywall and things can get pretty mushy pretty quick. So making sure that those are in really good shape. The caulking and the grout is really, really important. All right. So that’s kind of the bathroom. We’ll take a break. We’ll hear from the building biology Institute and we’ll be right back.
Building Biology Institute 18:48
Your Healthy House with Stephen Collette is sponsored by the Building Biology Institute, a nonprofit educational institution dedicated to creating healthy homes, schools and workplaces free of toxic indoor air tap water pollutants and hazards posed by electromagnetic radiation. through a combination of online learning and in person seminars. We offer professional certifications including building biology, environmental consultant, electromagnetic radiation specialist and building biology new build consultant. For more information, visit our website at www.buildingbiologyinstitute.org.
Stephen Collette 19:27
Alright, so we’re back. We’re moving into the bedrooms. You know, from the built environment perspective, when we’re looking at a home inspection checklist. There’s not a lot to look at, you know, how tired are the floors in the carpet, some definitely kids room you want to look down the ductwork because, you know, kids jam stuff down the ductwork all the time, and we want to make sure that they’re actually they haven’t disconnected the ductwork. I’ve seen that but also that is not full of toys. also seeing that so thinking about that again. Windows, you want to make sure that they’re in good shape, we’re not seeing damage. You know, you may find some stains and stuff. And that could be from smoking, which obviously we don’t recommend, but previous owners or previous tenants, and then moisture as well. So if there’s a lot of people in the doors closed, small units, we can get a lot of moisture just from breathing. And so I have seen that happen, and it’s really, really terrible, you know, was a family of three, you know, small baby and a couple in a single bedroom and door closed most of the time, and it got really, really moldy in there wasn’t a, you know, 1970s construction, it wasn’t great. But they were generating so much moisture just from breathing, that in the wintertime, the condensation on the surfaces caused, you know, dust to stick to these wet surfaces on the outside walls, and it got really, really moldy because they had stuff in there and they couldn’t clean because there was barely any horizontal surface that didn’t have something on it. And it was a terrible situation. So that’s an extreme case, of course, but you know, thinking about the damage that can be done. Especially on exterior corners, that’s where you’re going to find most of the weak points and air leakage around your baseboards.
You’ll probably have an attic hatch near the bedrooms in the bedroom closet possibly or out in the hall outside of the bedrooms. And that’s an outside door. So you really want to think about making that airtight for energy efficiency and for air quality as well. If you’re doing you know the Home Inspection checklist, yeah, you all might want to climb up into the attic. You should always wear a respirator while going into an attic because it’s full of really small stuff because you don’t vacuum very often in the attic so it’s pretty dirty. You want to thinking about insulation making sure all your ceiling joists are actually covered because their thermal bridges whether you’re in a hot climate or cold climate, you really want enough insulation to cover those. If you live in a hot humid climate and you actually have your mechanicals in the attic. Well it’s a really stupid idea. Typically because in the summertime your attic super super hot in the wintertime, your attics cold and if you’re trying to make cold in the summer and hot in the winter, you’ve really put it in the least optimal place humanly possible. And then all those penetrations from the ductwork down into your living space. None of them are airtight and the pressures are wrong because the hot air in the attic and the cold in the house and you ended up pulling a really huge amount of dust and particulate into the house because of it and it’s terribly ineffective. So talk to a mechanical contractor if you have those conditions, but typically keep stuff out of the attic including you lots of insulation leave it empty, leave it clean and keep that attic hatch here tight
When we move down into the mechanicals basements for those who have basements you really want to just be focusing on that moisture we looked at the moisture on the outside and so were there areas of concern were there areas where you know the the ground was slipping towards the house or the gardens were built up over the siding or the downspout wasn’t great you know those are the areas you’re going to be looking for. I mean looking at the building you’re looking for well you know is there water damage is there baseboard, it’s typically going to come down to the bottom of the basements finished you’re looking at the floor you’re looking at the the baseboard trim, simply because water is not going to hang out halfway down you know waters a downer it’s going to go right to the bottom and that’s where it’s gonna say it and so that’s where you really want to be getting into and checking in and having a look you know strong flashlight is there water damage along the along the baseboards along the floor buckling, drywall screws popping, you know those kind of things, that’s that’s really what you’re looking for. And if you’re not if the house you’re looking at is in a flood zone and possibly has been flooded over the years, and you’re not sure whether it has or not. Look at the bottom back of the stairs in the basement. And that’s because most floods you will take everything out of the basement except the stairs because that’s a real pain in the butt. And so that said they will take him out on certain Gazans but you can really have a good solid understanding if you can see waterlines in the back of your stairs down at the bottom. So that’s another trick to keep in mind. Is there you know a sump pump and a sump. pit, you know is that a wet climate is there water table where you are, you know, if you’re in Florida, it’s all sand all the way to the bottom. So it’s not a huge deal. But in a lot of other climates, you know, the water table could be very close. And so a sump pump and a sump in a sump pit can help keep the house footings and basement floor and walls dry. And so you want to see a good three foot at least deep sump pit with a sump pump inside of it. Other rooms and maybe in the basement, maybe on the main floor, maybe on top floor office, you know, that’s more sort of the indoor air quality and the definitely the electromagnetic side of things. We’re not going to find that space any real different than you know, the bedrooms or something from a from a building inspection from, you know, Home Inspection checklist. But focusing on the building related stuff, yeah, you want to same kind of details, right? Same kind of details, and especially if there’s carpet in a basement, it’s gonna be really damp, it’s a sponge, it’ll hold moisture, it’ll hold dust, it’ll grow mold, it’s awesome for me terrible for you. mechanicals, you know, you should always have mechanicals inspected by a certified professional in your region. And that’s because they are oftentimes flamey things underneath or beside all of your beautiful stuff. And you should treat it that way with fear and awe in my opinion. So if you haven’t gas furnace, a gas boiler, it should be inspected yearly. And definitely prior to any purchase or moving in we want to obviously move off of the burning the dead dinosaurs and towards you know, Fossil Free approach. So electric baseboards certainly have been that standard solution. And you know, window air conditioners, for now moving to more efficient stuff such as air source, heat pumps, mini splits, rooftop units, and ground source heat pumps really, really efficient as well. And so moving to those, they’re, you know, electric, they don’t require the maintenance and inspection regime that that the fossil fuel ones do, but they still need to be inspected on a, you know, annually or biannually, just make sure the filters are clean, you know, he pumps, mini splits, you know, they have fans of air blowing dust through them. And so they can get really filthy inside. And so they do require cleaning as well. That’s kind of you know, in your hot water tank and maybe gas, maybe oil may be propane may be electricity, it may be on demand, it may be a tank, so tankless tank. And now there’s even heat pumps, which are super cool. For hot water. So a lot of different varieties. Again, you want to make sure that the plumbing secure, you know, is there a drain close by in case your hot water tank, let’s go if it’s a tank, it will rust eventually. It’s simply a matter of time. And so with that, you know if it’s an old tin can, and depending on the quality or water, and the chemistry of your water depends on how long before it’ll rust out. So things to keep in mind because when that lets go, it’s a mess. It’s a tropical mess. Actually, when a hot water tank, let’s go. Because the hot water keeps making hot water in the cold keeps pumping into the tank and making more hot water and the hot water spills all over your basement. When that usually happens when you go away from my experience, professionally, and it’s absolutely tropical in the basement. You know, it’s like 99% relative humidity and 3030 degrees Celsius in the basement. And, you know, mold really loves that and bacteria and just flourishes unfortunately it’s a terrible situation but it’s pretty fascinating to experience when it’s not yours. So thinking about your mechanicals making sure they’re all in tune making sure they’re all updated and inspected really really important yeah that’s kind of you know, the the quick and dirty checklist is immoral Of course there’s more you know the things occupants use and abuse you know, you people are terrible, you know, the really the best thing for homes is for homes to be inside. So they’re not impacted by the weather and for people to be outside because you really wreck homes.
So, but I think for the most part that’s, you know, the quick and dirty checklist of the top things that I would always be looking at when I’m walking around and place and so hopefully that’s helpful. Hopefully, you know, if you’re thinking about buying or renting or you just want to make sure to take care of your own home. Hopefully these tips can help you. Create your own healthy house and thanks for listening. Cheers.
Unknown Speaker 30:05
If you enjoy the show, please leave a review and subscribe to the podcast and you will be doing your part to help others create their own healthy homes. If you’d like to learn more about me, Stephen Collette and what I do, please check out my website at www.yourhealthyhouse.ca music for the podcast is by Brian Pickett of Voodoo Highway Music. Audio technical support is by Mike Pickett. Editorial support is by Eric Rosen. I’m your host, Stephen Collette. Thanks for listening and enjoy your day. Cheers.
Unknown Speaker 30:57
I would like to be a quality inspector at a mirror factory. It’s a job I could really see myself doing.