home inspection -- do we need to get radon or lead testing done? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 5 Old 10-28-2002, 11:01 PM - Thread Starter
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Okay -- we're getting ready to buy a house and we are having a home inspection done. We have the options of having them test for radon and lead, but it will be expensive. We don't know how much yet. I need to check into it still. But -- our finances are limited right now because we are looking at paying a settlement in a couple of weeks. The thing is -- if we find lead or radon, and it will cost more than $500 to fix the problem, then the seller *must* do it before we move.

The house is 35 years old. Most of the windows are new. We did not see chipping paint, except for a little bit on the outside of the few old window frames that are there. Everything inside is freshly painted.

Low levels of radon have been found in local homes. We've been local (renting) for 5 years and never heard about any major scares though.

Another thing I'm wondering about is mold? It seemed clean and fine. But my kids have allergies, so maybe that'd be worth paying for.

Help me figure this out!
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#2 of 5 Old 10-28-2002, 11:58 PM
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Lead based paint laws became effective in the US after 1976. If your house was built after 1976, then you needn't worry about lead based paint testing, and can sign the waiver without a waiver.

If your house was built prior to 1976, there are a couple of danger signs to look for, especially the one you mentioned, flaking paint. Lead based paint flakes differently than latex paint. It flakes in regularly patterned, symetrical squares. Provided there isn't any flaking paint, and you don't allow your kids to lick or ingest any paint, you should be ok UNTIL SUCH TIME as you remodel/repair. If you remodel and break the seal on the paint so that it can disperse into the air, or chip, then you run a potential risk. So look at the house carefully, and try to imagine what you might do to it down the road, and how easy it would be to tent those areas off, etc, when you are working on them.

There are two remedies for lead based paint issues: the first is to seal it by painting over everything; the second is to tent, strip, and then dispose as if it were hazardous waste. The first is something you can do yourselves and probably would anyway, so then the expense of the test is probably not worth it. The second solution is so expensive many sellers have second thoughts about selling and pricing when they are asked to do this.

Re Radon

First, check here: EPA Map of Radon Zones

Radon is a serious issue in newly built, air tight homes. In older homes that "breath" the gas is less likely to exist in concentrations that appear to be consistent with health problems.
Radon is less likely to be found (although it CAN be) in a home
built on a slab as opposed to one on a basement.

Radon tests performed when the sellers are still in the home can be inaccurate, since the test calls for the house to be shut up completely for a period of three days. It's an unusual seller who will leave their home shut up like a tomb in the interests of an accurate test that may jinx their sale.

D-i-y radon tests can be purchased at many hardware stores for as little as $40. Most inspectors will charge you a lot more, since it requires them coming out to the house twice.

Radon abatement isn't difficult and can be inexpensive. Very often, it is as simple as installing a vent and a fan in the basement. Some contractors might recommend painting as well as sealing cracks and covering all exposed earth.

Alternatively, you can ask your realtor to include the radon contingency, and then purchase and place and retrieve the test yourself. Before you do this, make sure that your contract doesn't call for this test to be done by someone who is licensed to do so, or your results, even if they are bad, will be useless to you.

The newest radon issue is radon in water. Local municipalities are not required to test for radon in wells or public water systems. In fact, I am not sure the EPA has even established an acceptable radon-in-water level. I do know that getting radon-in-water tested is expensive because there are very few people approved to do it. As far as I know, the only abatement method is a carbon filter, which is expensive and gives rise to issues of disposing of filters that are radioactive. This is one test I would absolutely do, given the expense and difficulty of repair. Do not allow them to tell you that it's too late, or that it is not covered in the original contract contingencies. There is case law that says "radon inspection" is just that, and is not limited to air testing.

If you include radon contingencies in your contract, do not forget to include details making sure you are allowed to re-test after abatement, hopefully, at the seller's expense.

Hope this helps.

(Edited to add: Neither radon nor lead based paint should exacerbate existing allergies. Radon is associated primarily with lung cancer and lead with brain damage from concentration in the blood.)
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#3 of 5 Old 10-29-2002, 12:09 AM
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Beinfgthe owner of 2 VERY old homes (our current is 250+years) I would highly suggest radon testing but would question lead testing.

Radon testing is important because you would want to know and could negotiate as part of the closing to have a radon "elimination" system put in the house.

With lead paint, as another poster listed, you don't have to worry if the house was built in the late 70's. Otherwise you can pretty much guess that there is lead paint somewhere in the house. Unless you plan on 1. renting the house or 2. not buying a house w/ lead paint it does not pay to have the test which can run hundreds of dollars. If you rent you must make sure the house is compliant w/ lead paint rulings whether there are children or not. If you don't want a house w/ lead paint then don't look at any house built before 1980.

If you do choose to buy a older home you should take all the precautions that the previuos poster listed. Lead paint can be extremely dangerous but as all posions in our society, can be avoided.

Good luck!

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#4 of 5 Old 10-29-2002, 11:28 AM
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Mamaduck, that's so exciting about your house- I know that you're probably thrilled! We're in the middle of buying one as well (closing Dec 1) and it's been a wild ride.

With the radon testing, we were advised that since we had a crawl space, it was relatively unnecessary. I think it depends on what your house was built on. I know that if it has a basement, they suggest that you go ahead and get it done.

Like Moon said, I would be more concerned if you were buying a newer home that was airtight.

In regards to the mold, definitely definitely get a really good, thorough home inspector. I asked around until I found the best one, and he was in the house for five hours and handed me a seventeen page report at the end!! The only drawback to this is that the seller gets a little miffed when they find out who you had. My seller did not appreciate the inspection at all.

Good luck to you!

mom to one glorious sweetpea born 10/18/2007.

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#5 of 5 Old 10-29-2002, 11:53 AM - Thread Starter
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I went ahead and scheduled both radon and lead along with the basic home inspection. The total cost for all of it will be $425. We'll have to set up a termite inspection also through another company, and that will run us about $50. I think spending $500 on all this is probably worthwhile.

Thanks for the info -- esp. the EPA maps. It showed that 10-20% of the homes in our county have excessive levels of radon! Ugh.

I'm sweating though. The deadline to get a report to the seller is Monday.
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