Interior Concerns

Most people assume a smoke detector is a smoke detector…this is not true.

In the mid 1970’s less than 10% of homes had a smoke detector; now over 90% do. Nevertheless, this dramatic increase in smoke detectors has had little impact on the risk of death by fire. Why? Some studies have indicated that many smoke detectors are either inoperable or have been disabled. Nuisance alarm activations are a major reason why detectors are disabled. National Fire Protection Association, NFPA, studies have indicated ionization alarms account for over 95% of all nuisance alarms.

Another reason is the age of the smoke detector. All smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years.

What are the statistics on ionization vs. photoelectric smoke detectors?

62-1The majority of residential fire fatalities are due to smoke inhalation. Ionization detectors respond an average of 15 to 50 minutes slower than photoelectric. Some studies indicate they completely fail to work 25% of the time. However, ionization detectors respond faster in fast flame fires. Studies show 30 to 90 minutes quicker than photoelectric. Certainly, either smoke detector is better than none at all. Of course, a functioning smoke detector is most important. But if time and reliability are vital to our chances of surviving a smoldering fire, a photoelectric smoke detector is the best type to install in your home.

Less than 10% of all smoke detectors in homes are photoelectric.

Doug Hastings
MN Home Inspector, Minneapolis & St. Paul
ASHI Certified Inspector, ACI
Kaplan University, Home Inspection Lead Instructor

In a fire, the issue is time. Minutes and many times seconds will make the difference between life and death. The combustible materials in our homes are different from the past and the technologies of smoke detectors have also changed. There are two types of smoke alarms, ionization and photoelectric. 90% of homes have ionization smoke detectors installed; about 5% Read More

Home inspectors are often asked to render opinions on other professionals work. Many times we are challenged by licensed professionals, such as engineers, architects, and contractors, who feel differently about a problem. Who is right? Remember professional inspectors offer an OPINION of the condition of a building. This should be an informed opinion based upon knowledge and experience; but it Read More

Approximately 90% of all structural building failures are caused by moisture. With the exception of the homeowner, moisture is the #1 enemy of the house. Unfortunately, moisture damage typically occurs in concealed spaces. This makes it difficult for most home inspectors to identify. Good inspectors know there are 3 major elements that impact the risk of moisture intrusion. The more Read More

Does your radon tester follow the EPA guidelines? In a real estate transaction most radon tests are performed by the home inspector. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is the assumption that they are doing it ‘right’. This may or may not be true. The proper testing protocol you should expect is the following: Homeowner contacted to discuss Read More

In Existing Homes: After testing for radon and if the level exceeds 4.0 picocuries, the next step is to begin mitigation. You should look for a ‘certified mitigation contractor’. They will have completed the EPA required training and testing. In a nutshell mitigation for an existing home includes the following: Cover all exposed earth with a 6 mil poly and Read More

Radon mitigation is part of the MN State Building Code.  What does it mean when the MN State Building Code is modified to include radon mitigation methods as a requirement to build a house? Building codes are ‘minimum’ safety standards for construction. This says a lot about how dangerous radon gas is. It is no longer a scientific theory, it Read More

January is National Radon Awareness Month. Radon gas and real estate don’t mix well. The more energy efficient we make our houses the greater the risk of developing radon induced lung cancer. The radon gas health concern is no longer debatable; it is the #1 cause of lung cancer for non-smokers and the #2 cause for smokers. MN homeowners, real Read More

What Makes My Window Panes Wet? Problem:  The window is wet on the room side of the glass for a few weeks in fall. Solution:   Moisture has accumulated, over summer, in the structure of the house from cooking, showering, and even the family breathing. This can be overcome by having fans exhausting to the outside in the kitchen, bathrooms Read More

Mice are colonizers…so it is very unlikely that you have only one mouse! If you give a lonely mouse the opportunity, through breeding, you will very soon have 100 mice. Controlling this problem begins with recognizing how you discovered this furry creature. Did you see it?  Then place a peanut butter baited trap alongside the wall where you saw the Read More

Fire barriers are often compromised and the homeowner never knows it. Home fire barriers have been a part of the building code since about 1960.  Homes built prior to that time were not required to have any fire protection and many different fire proofing methods have been added since then.  Fire safety is a big part of building codes as Read More

Homeowners, realtors and home inspectors can have different views as to what constitutes a habitable room. Why does this matter? Because a converted room, such as a porch, basement, or attic, finished into “living space” may not be quite as livable as expected. So let’s have a look at it here. According to the International Residential Code (IRC) and the Read More

Icicles indicate the formation of ice dams. What do ice dams indicate? Icicles form where water is dripping from the roof when snow is melting and the air temperature is less than freezing. Older houses are most prone to ice damming and large icicle formation. Recent building and energy codes addressed this problem and provided solutions. Assuming homes built in Read More

This very cold winter has been responsible for many accidents, including deaths from CO (carbon monoxide) poisoning.  These disasters might have been averted if a properly located and operating carbon monoxide alarm had been installed. For just $25 a battery-operated or for $50 a hardwired alarm can be purchased and installed. What is CO?  Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas Read More

I never had frost buildup on my windows before! Like many houses my 1974 rambler was in need of attention.  For the past 5 years my justification for postponing the needed exterior maintenance was the bad economy.  I felt investing a large sum of money in the house was not wise.  Some of you may agree with this and some Read More