A Brief Overview of Radon

RadonJust like carbon monoxide, you cannot see, smell or taste a radioactive gas called radon.

Radon is naturally occurring and can be found in many residential and commercial properties; it is also the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, after only smoking. Radon negatively affects indoor air quality and the only way to be sure it is present is by testing for it.

Radon is a natural radioactive breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. From there, it seeps into structures and becomes part of the air you breathe.

As a highly gaseous radioactive element, it is nine times denser than air, which makes it the heaviest known gas. Radon can easily penetrate common materials such as paper, leather, plastics of low density, sheetrock and concrete block, mortar, tarpaper, wood paneling, most paints and most insulations.

The US EPA, Surgeon General and various health associations recommend you test your home for radon. The test is not obtrusive at all, and takes a minimum of 48 hours to get a reading. You want there to be no detection of radon, but if there is, you want the level to be below 4 pCi/l. You will want to have a system installed to remove the radon if the level is at or above 4 pCi/l.

Young children tend to be the most susceptible to radon damage as they have a higher respiration rate. To protect you and your family, one of the best ways to determine if a house has radon is with a home inspection. Any time you purchase a home, it is recommended by the realtor and the lender to have a radon test performed.

If you feel concerned about the chances of having radon in your home, contact First Choice Inspections today. We can help ease your worry as well as guide you in the process of removing radon from your home.

How Often Should you Replace Your Roof?

Roof Chicago is known as “The Windy City,” and indeed it is. Wind as well as the sometimes brutal winter weather can really take its toll on area roofs.

First Choice Inspectors often do roofing inspections in and around Chicago and Aurora, Illinois. After all, people need good roofs in order to live comfortably, without the harsh elements breaking into their homes through holes and cracks.

Roofs can be made of different materials and are often a product of the time and place when and where they were originally constructed. For instance, some people have wood roofs, while others have stone, metal, rubber or asphalt shingle roofing. First Choice Inspectors often get asked the question, “How often should I replace my roof?” The general answer is once every 20 to 50 years depending on the roofing material used.

For instance, most homes in the U.S. use asphalt shingles. These can last from 10 to 50 years, while most people end up replacing their shingle roofs every 20 years, on average. If you have a wood shake roof, that can last between 20 to 50 years, while tile or metal might last between 50 to 75 years. Some older homes using slate shingles should note that hard slate can last up to 200 years, while soft slate can handle between 50 and 125 years or so.

Oftentimes, how long a roof lasts depends on its thickness and the quality of its installation and materials.

A visual inspection of your roof is a good way to figure out if it needs a couple repairs or if it’s “too far gone” and needs a full replacement. It’s a good idea to have a professional from First Choice Inspectors come take a look at your roof and offer their expert advice on how your roof is doing currently and what challenges might lie ahead. The inspector’s knowledge of roofing can be very helpful to you when determining the answer to the question, “Is it time for a roof replacement?”

Call First Choice Inspectors at 773-429-9711 to book an inspection.

Carbon Monoxide Still Possible During Summer

Carbon Monoxide When owning a home, there are many cautions that should be taken to keep you and your family safe. Carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless toxic flammable gas, is often emitted as part of the fumes of fuel. Difficult to detect, this poisonous gas can be leaked from cars, stoves, fireplaces, grills, furnaces and more. Many people believe that carbon monoxide build up is primarily a concern in the winter months when doors and windows are closed, but deadly levels can build up in the summertime, too.

According to the Daily Herald of Utah, two patients at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning in 2012 after using a gas-powered concrete saw in their basement without proper ventilation. When using gas-powered equipment in an enclosed space, symptoms like headaches, dizziness, nausea and light-headedness can appear quickly which helped these individuals recognize that there was a problem.

Although carbon monoxide poisoning notoriously occurs indoors, many don’t realize it can happen outside as well. During the summer months, you may notice poisoning symptoms if you breathe in the toxins from the back of a boat, sit too close to a campfire or use gas or propane stoves in or near a tent. Even though it seems like carbon monoxide poisoning should take longer when you are outside, it can happen within as little as 15 minutes, experts say.

If you think you’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide, you should go to the ER immediately. A doctor can treat the poisoning by flushing out the toxins in a hyperbaric chamber, but ultimately prevention is the best course of treatment.

Since poisoning is unpredictable, you should purchase a carbon monoxide detector for your home. As well, it could be prudent to have a professional inspect your home to make sure you and your family are safe.

What is Included in a Standard Home Inspection?

Home InspectionsFirst Choice Inspectors regularly inspects homes in the Chicagoland area. A standard home inspection looks for structural or mechanical defects. An inspector is trained to look for construction mistakes and shortcuts, as well as potential problems in a home.

A standard home inspection involves a detailed written report that’s like a report card for the house you’re interested in selling or buying. Some reports are provided within the same day as the inspection, though others take up to a week for delivery.

Standard home inspections will include both interior and exterior components. Inside, inspectors will look closely at both electrical systems (including breakers and fuses) and plumbing systems (including pipes, water heat tank, sump pumps, drains, etc.). Other interior areas the inspector will look at are walls, ceilings, floors, windows, stairs and more.

On the outside, inspectors will look at the structure of the home to make sure its foundation and framing is holding up properly. Other things a standard home inspection will entail include an examination of the heating system, cooling system, insulation system, fireplaces, chimneys and more.

Of course, a home is only as reliable as its roof, and the roofing system, including shingles and skylights will be major focus points.

Home inspection reports may or may not include photographs of certain items or areas of the home. Typical reports range from 25 to 50 pages long.

If you’re in the Chicago area, you can request an inspection by calling 773-429-9711.

The Benefits of Buying a Foreclosed Home

Foreclosed Homes Perhaps the best benefit of buying a foreclosed home is its price. Because it’s foreclosed, someone or some entity, like a bank, is trying to get rid of it. Therefore, they’re willing to sell it at a bargain price. Many people have enjoyed buying foreclosed homes that were once selling for, say, $400,000 for…$150,000. Now that is a bargain! It’s a way to move into a desirable neighborhood for a fraction of the price others had to pay to be there.

Most foreclosed homes are sold “as-is,” so the new owner may have to pay to fix some things. It’s a good idea to hire First Choice Inspectors to come inspect a foreclosed home on your behalf, so you know what you’re “getting into.”

Why have a foreclosed home inspected? Well, typically foreclosed homes have been unoccupied for quite some time. Because no human beings have lived there, some things might have gone wrong over time. When people live in a home they use the sinks and toilets regularly. They open and shut doors and windows. They take care of the place. Foreclosed homes, though, don’t have people doing such things, which is exactly why you’d want to get the home inspected. It’s better to have a professional set of eyes look at the state of the home than to just buy it “as-is” not knowing important details of its overall condition.

Foreclosed homes can be a great bargain. Just be sure to hire a good home inspector to check for any defects first, if possible, so you can make an informed buying decision. Spending a couple hundred dollars for an inspection can ultimately save you thousands of dollars down the line.

First Choice Inspectors can inspect foreclosed homes in Chicago and surrounding areas. Call 773-429-9711 to schedule an appointment.

Signs It Might Be Time For a New Roof

New RoofWhat are some signs you need a new roof? Well, for starters, consider the roof’s age. Most roofs last between 20 and 25 years, so if the roof hasn’t been replaced in several decades, it might be time to call First Choice Inspectors to come take a look and see about a possible replacement.

Have you noticed shingles are missing, darker in some areas, curled or buckling? Shingles aren’t meant to last forever, and they sure do take a beating over time thanks to wind, rain, sunlight, snow and ice. If you’ve noticed any inconsistencies with your shingles, or granules from shingles have become loose and are collecting in your gutters, it might be time for a new roof.

Perhaps the biggest sign that you need a new roof is when there’s a hole in it such that light (and rain) come inside your home. The roof is supposed to protect you from the elements. If there’s a giant hole– or even a small one–then the roof isn’t fulfilling its purpose. Holes in the roof can lead to water damage in the attic and walls of your building. They can also let in birds, insects, rodents and wild animals.

Finally, most neighborhoods have homes that were built around the same time, so if your neighbors are getting roof replacements, chances are you should too.

First Choice Inspectors can check your roof to see if everything is in order, or if there are problems with the chimney flashing, vents, drainage or shingles. First Choice Inspectors can offer a full inspection service complete with a comprehensive report. People in and around Chicago trust First Choice Inspectors to go up on their roofs, examine them, and then climb back down with details about its specific condition. Call First Choice Inspectors at 773-429-9711 to schedule your professional roof inspection today.

 

Is Your Home At Risk For Lead Poisoning?

Lead PoisoningHow old is your home? If it was built before 1978, there’s a chance that its woodwork contains lead-based paint. Though the use of lead-based paints for homes has been banned in the United States since 1978, many people live in homes constructed before then, and those homes probably contain lead-based paint used in a bygone era before it was known to be detrimental to people’s health.

Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in a person’s body over a period of months or years. Little kids who eat lead-paint chips can end up with serious mental and physical problems. Adults who do home renovations and are exposed to lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust are also at risk. In the old days, lead pipes, brass plumbing fixtures and copper pipes soldered with lead were commonly used in homes. Unfortunately, they could end up releasing lead particles into tap water.

Lead can get into the air, water and soil such that precautions need to be taken if and when a person lives or works around an area with high concentrations of lead.

How do you know if you have lead poisoning? With children, look for developmental delays, learning difficulties, irritability, loss of appetite, vomiting, constipation and other symptoms. As for adults, some lead poisoning symptoms include muscle and joint pain, memory loss, decline in mental functioning, mood disorders, abdominal pain, constipation, and high blood pressure. Pregnant women should be especially careful to avoid exposure to lead as it could harm their unborn child.

First Choice Inspectors of Chicago regularly conducts home inspections. During these inspections, your inspector can look for signs of peeling or chipped paint. Keep in mind that the lead material used in old paint only becomes a health hazard when it is disturbed. If the inspector finds that your home has old paint that’s disturbed, he or she may advise you to seek a professional renovation company to properly remove the old paint.

Asbestos Exposure Could Be Detrimental to Your Health

Asbestos According to the National Cancer Institute, “asbestos is the name given to a group of minerals that occur naturally in the environment as bundles of fibers that can be separated into thin, durable threads. These fibers are resistant to heat, fire, and chemicals and do not conduct electricity. For these reasons, asbestos has been used widely in many industries.”

Unfortunately, areas containing asbestos can release tiny fibers into the air, which could have detrimental health effects on humans breathing them in. In fact, the tiny fibers can amass in the lungs for years, and as the number of fibers increases, the chances of getting sick also go up.

Let’s take a look at a few of the major health issues asbestos can cause:

  • Mesothelioma is a cancer along the lining of the lungs, stomach or heart . The cancer is rare and each case is unique, but fortunately, there are many treatment options.
  • Lung cancer. Even if you’ve never touched a cigarette in your life, overexposure to asbestos can lead to cancer in your lungs, and make it difficult breath, among other awful symptoms.
  • This is a lung disease that makes it difficult to breath, and causes severe coughing bouts and shortness of breath. It also greatly increases the chance for mesothelioma to occur.

Asbestos fibers can cause many other lung ailments, and will significantly and adversely affect how a person lives. As such, if you’re worried about asbestos in your home or workplace, the smart thing to do is to have your home or building properly inspected to make sure you’re not at risk.

To learn more about asbestos inspections, please contact First Choice Contractors today.

Signs Your Home Has Structural Issues

Home Inspections Does your home have “issues?” There are some key things to look for regarding signs of structural problems.

First, look at a home from far away. Go across the street, for instance, and take a look to see if you notice any walls leaning or tilting in ways that don’t look normal. How’s the ridge line of the roof and the nearby fascia line? If you see sagging, there could be trouble. Also, do you see any large cracks from your point-of-view? Large cracks are not good.

Next, get up close to the home and walk around its exterior. Take note of any areas where there is bowing inward or outward. Again, look for cracks. Are parts of the building moving apart from one another? For example, is the chimney coming unattached from the house or do you notice exterior decks coming loose? Over time, grounds shift and when that happens homes may need repairs.

Windows and doors are essentially openings in your home, so they’re also places where you’ll likely find problems. Look for cracked window panes. Check to see if windows and doors open and shut properly.

Indoors, you should pay close attention to the floors under your feet, noticing any soft spots or unusual sloping areas. Are floorboards creaking? Do you notice any loose floor tiles?

Structural issues are bound to come up with homes as they age. Just like people, homes need some “fixing up” the older they get.

Call First Choice Inspectors at 773-429-9711 if you’d like your Chicago-area home professionally inspected for structural issues.

What Does an Energy Audit Entail?

Energy Audit First Choice Inspectors regularly perform energy audits in and around Chicago. An energy audit involves professionals doing a comprehensive examination of a home or building’s thermal performance. In other words, where are the leaks?

Heating and cooling a building costs money, and when there are leaks, the heat or cool air you’re paying for might literally be going right out the leaky window. An energy audit involves checking around windows, skylights, and doors to measure the leakage rate of air to see how well seals are performing– or aren’t. In addition, walls and ceilings and floors are checked for leaks as well. Most people choose to have energy audits done in order to save money on their heating and cooling bills. Leaks can be stopped and therefore energy is no longer wasted.

First Choice Inspectors can provide a written report with photos to show a home or building owner exactly where leaks occur. Thermal imaging overlays can be included when necessary in order to estimate energy use given local climate criteria, thermostat settings, roof overhang and other factors. A home or building owner can get a good idea of how making certain changes could effectively save them money over time.

Specifically, First Choice Inspectors use sophisticated methods such as thermal imaging scanning and videoscopic borescopes to find problem areas.

Common problems an energy audit can find include leaks in the air conditioning duct system, worn-out insulation, and windows/doors in need of sealing and caulking.

Besides talking with home or building owners about their energy bills and energy habits that may be raising their bills, an energy audit from First Choice Inspectors can also include a list of repairs to be done to improve the home’s thermal performance, therefore lowering overall energy bills– oftentimes up to 30%.