Any home can have a radon problem – old or new homes, well-sealed or drafty homes, homes with or without basements. Health Canada estimates that 1 in 14 homes in Canada has an elevated level of radon. Prolonged exposure to unsafe levels of radon can increase the risk of lung cancer; in fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Lung cancer caused by avoidable radon exposure is preventable, but only if radon issues are detected and mitigated prior to prolonged exposure in homes and buildings. There is real risk in not knowing if a home has a high level of radon. Is it worth not knowing?
WHAT IS RADON?
Radon is a naturally occurring odourless, colourless, radioactive gas formed by the ongoing decay of uranium in soil, rocks, sediments, and even well or ground water. While radon that escapes into the atmosphere is not harmful, dangerously high concentrations can build up indoors, exposing occupants to possible health risks.
HOW DOES RADON GET INTO A HOME?
Radon can migrate into the home in several ways. Openings or cracks in basement walls, foundations or floors are common avenues. Sumps, basement drains, and spaces between gas or water fittings can also allow radon into the structure. Other entry points can include gaps in suspended floors and cavities within walls.
HOW CAN I MAKE SURE MY CLIENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES AREN’T AT RISK?
We encourage homeowners to add radon testing to the home inspection process. Your Pillar To Post Home Inspector will set up the monitoring equipment in the home and report on the results. If an elevated level of radon is detected, steps can be taken to reduce the concentration to or below acceptable levels inside virtually any home. This can include a relatively simple setup such as a collection system with a radon vent pipe, which prevents radon from entering the home in the first place. Professional mitigation services can provide solutions for a home’s specific conditions.
Request radon testing when you book your next home inspection with Pillar To Post Home Inspectors.
Help keep your loved ones and your home safe during the holidays with these smart precautions.
Check holiday light strands for damaged or broken wires and plugs. Enjoy indoor lights only while someone is home and turn them off before going to bed.
Keep live Christmas trees in a sturdy, water-filled stand and check daily for dehydration. Dried-out trees are dangerous and should be discarded immediately.
Always use non-flammable decorations both indoors and outdoors.
Be sure to keep space heaters away from bedding, curtains, paper — anything flammable. Never leave space heaters unattended while in use.
Children should not have access to or be allowed to use matches, lighters or candles.
Candles add lovely ambience to your holiday home. They need to be placed in stable holders and kept away from flammable items, drafts, pets and children or use an LED candle for peace of mind.
Busy with holiday cooking and baking? Kitchen fires are the leading cause of house fires. Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher within easy reach and know how to use it.
We hope you enjoy a happy and safe holiday season!
Feeling Blah? Top Energy- Boosting Ideas
Try these tips to keep your energy up throughout the day.
If you’re a morning person, try getting up extra early to get a jump on the day, or to just get some extra time for yourself.
Morning stretches help your body get off to a good start, and help with flexibility, too!
Instead of that afternoon cup of coffee, opt for a brisk walk outdoors.
Sitting at a desk all day? Be sure to get up to stretch for a couple of minutes at least every half hour.
Avoid caffeine later in the day. It will just keep you up late and you’ll feel tired in the morning as a result.
Here’s to a great day!
Your Roof & Drainage Checklist
You may not think about your roof and gutters very much, if at all. But it’s important to give them a checkup and some TLC to prevent big problems down the road.
Clean leaves and other debris from gutters to prevent clogs and pooling water. You may need to do this more than once a year if you have very heavy leaf fall.
After cleaning the gutters, run water through them from your garden hose to make sure the downspouts are clear and the water is channeled away from the foundation.
Check gutter sections for alignment and adjust them if necessary. Make sure seams between the sections are watertight.
Downspout extensions, available at hardware stores, can be used to carry water away from the home. Use these only where they won’t pose a tripping hazard.
Use binoculars to check the roof for missing or damaged shingles and flashing. If you notice any issues, have the roof inspected and any repairs made by a qualified professional before the snow!
Keeping your refrigerator in top shape will help it last longer and run more efficiently. Here’s how to do it!
CLEAN THE COILS
Dust or vacuum the condenser coils every few months. Depending on your specific model, they may be located under, behind or above the unit.
Clean dirt and debris from the door gasket on all sides. Check for cracks or other damage and replace the gasket if necessary to keep a tight seal.
Change the water filter for the ice maker and water dispenser as recommended by the manufacturer. No one wants dirty ice!
TAKE THE TEMP
Use a refrigerator thermometer to make sure the temperature stays below 38°F /4°C. The freezer should be at 0°F /-18°C.
FILL ‘ER UP
Keep both the fresh food storage and freezer sections at least half full if possible. Cold or frozen food help maintain the temperature inside, much like a portable cooler stays colder longer when it’s full of cold items.
TIME TO GO?
If your fridge is over 20 years old, it should probably be replaced. An aging refrigerator might be using up to 3 times the amount of electricity compared to current energy-efficient models. Appliance delivery usually includes removing and recycling your old (faithful) unit.
Following these steps will help your refrigerator last longer, perform at its best, and will save on energy costs, too.
Smoke Alarms 101
Smoke alarms are an important defense against injury or death in house fires, so make sure your smoke alarms are in good shape to help warn your family in case of emergency.
Location is key! Smoke alarms should be installed in every bedroom, outside every sleeping area, and on each level of the home. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement.
The two primary types of smoke alarm technology are ionization and photoelectric. Ionization alarms are more responsive to flames, while photoelectric alarms are more sensitive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, both types or combination units should be installed.
Never remove the unit’s battery or disconnect the alarm to stop or prevent annoying alarm bells such as those caused by cooking.
Replace the batteries at least once a year. Test each unit monthly using its test button and replace the battery if necessary. Many alarms now come with 10-year batteries that can’t be replaced, but should still be tested monthly to make sure they work.
Smoke alarms that are wireless or hard-wired to the home’s electrical system should be interconnected. If one alarm is triggered, all of the others will sound as well. Hard-wired alarms, interconnected or not, should be installed by a licensed electrician for safety and proper operation.
Remember, a non-working smoke alarm is no better than no alarm at all!
Laundry Room Ideas
Whether you’re looking to improve your existing setup or re-doing your laundry area, consider these ideas for making the best of laundry day.
Have a place to hang clothes that can’t go in the dryer. If you have the space, use a folding or pull-out drying rack.
Store detergent and other laundry products where you can reach them easily without bending or climbing.
Fold clean laundry on a bed if you don’t have counter space in the laundry room.
Consider a washing machine leak detector that will give you an early alert to a water leak.
Add some fun framed photos or kids’ artwork to the space and make the chore less of a bore.
Experience the Pillar To Post difference. Schedule your next home inspection today!
You can almost hear the hum of furnaces in homes throughout North America cranking up for the colder months ahead. It is especially important to have furnaces inspected and properly maintained to ensure that they run efficiently and safely. Here are some pointers to get the most out of a furnace:
SIMPLE WAYS TO IMPROVE EFFICIENCY
Home heating, especially with a gas furnace and your location, can represent half or more of a typical home’s winter utility bill. Efficient operation can mean lower energy bills and a more comfortable home. Programmable thermostats can be used to automatically turn heat up or down at specified times, so that the temperature is lowered overnight or while no one is at home. The newest types of thermostats can be operated via smartphone or tablet and can even “learn” the preferred temperature for different times of day. Now that’s a “Hot Trend”.
Thermostats should be calibrated occasionally to avoid “off-cycle” heat loss. A properly calibrated thermostat will result in more even heating between the on/off cycles, which is more efficient and more comfortable.
SAFETY AND MAINTENANCE
Safety is also an important factor in furnace operation. Gas furnaces can be a source of dangerous carbon monoxide if there are leaks or cracks that go unnoticed or unrepaired. The furnace flame should be steady and burn blue; if not, this should be addressed immediately. A qualified contractor or inspector can detect these types of problems and recommend needed action.
Simple furnace maintenance includes checking and replacing disposable air filters and cleaning permanent-type filters, as well as keeping dust, hair, and lint away from the burner compartment and air intake. No matter what type it is, a well-maintained furnace will not only last longer, but can save energy, money, and help a home’s overall air quality and comfort.
CONSIDERING A NEW FURNACE?
If a new furnace is necessary, it’s worth it to evaluate the various types of furnaces available and how well they might meet a home’s specific situation. Furnaces are defined as conventional efficiency, mid efficiency, and high efficiency. There are advantages and drawbacks to each type, and some are better suited to older homes, for example. Cost may be a factor in considering various types of systems. However, the ability of most new furnaces to reduce off-cycle heat loss, eliminate the need for an always-on pilot light, etc., make replacing a furnace worth considering if the current system is in bad repair or functioning poorly.
September is Realtor Safety Month. The safety of Realtors is paramount to all of us at Pillar To Post Home Inspectors, so this special issue of PostNotes is dedicated to actions and strategies brokers, agents and their teams can use to stay safe in their day-to-day business activities.
Please visit these websites for additional safety information, tools and resources:
Safety during open houses is a concern for all real estate agents and their teams. Use these tips to stay safe:
Always try to have at least one other person working with you at the open house.
Check your cell phone’s signal strength on the premises before the open house. Program emergency numbers on speed dial.
Upon entering a house for the first time, check all rooms and determine several “escape” routes. Make sure all deadbolt locks are unlocked to facilitate a faster escape.
Make sure that if you were to escape by the back door, you could escape from the backyard. Yards with swimming pools or hot tubs often have high fences.
Have all open house visitors sign in with their full name, address, phone number and e-mail.
When showing the house, always walk behind the prospect. Direct them; don’t lead them. Say, for example, “The kitchen is on your left,” and gesture for them to go ahead of you.
Avoid attics, basements, and getting trapped in small rooms.
Notify someone in your office, a friend or a relative that you will be calling in every hour on the hour. And if you don’t call, they are to call you.
Inform a neighbor that you will be showing the house and ask if he or she would keep an eye and ear open for anything out of the ordinary.
Don’t assume that everyone has left at the end of an open house. Check all rooms and the backyard before locking the doors. Be prepared to defend yourself, if necessary.
Sources: Washington Real Estate Safety Council; City of Mesa, Arizona; Nevada County Board of REALTORS®; Georgia Real Estate Commission
Office Safety Action Plan
Personal safety in the office is important to everyone. Here are some elements to include in your office safety action plan.
Initial meeting with clients
Hold the first in-person client meeting in the office rather than at properties, out of doors, or at home. It’s also a good idea to introduce them to a colleague on-site.
All first-time clients must provide a driver’s license, state ID or other official photo ID. The office will retain a copy of the ID for security purposes. You can download a Client Profile Form at www.beverlycarterfoundation.org.
Implement a verbal distress code—a secret word or phrase that can be casually worked into conversation if you feel threatened and the person you are with can overhear your conversation.
If you’re uncomfortable meeting with clients alone or hosting open houses alone request another agent or employee to accompany you.
Keep personal information private. Don’t discuss where you live, after-work or vacation plans in front of prospective clients, new colleagues or anyone with whom you’re not comfortable.
Make sure all doors other than the main entrance are secured, and have a clear exit route from the front desk to the door.
If you encounter a stranger while working late or alone, say something like “My supervisor will be right with you.” to give the impression you’re not there alone.
Be aware of surroundings
Get to recognize the staff of other nearby businesses and be aware of their schedules. This will benefit everyone.
Sources: NAR; Beverly Carter Foundation
Showing Empty Properties
When you are showing an empty property, take these simple steps to protect and empower yourself against attack or theft.
Be sure to use the lockbox property-key procedure that has been established to improve real estate agent safety so that keys don’t fall into the wrong hands.
Show properties before dark. If you must show a property after dark, alert an associate, turn on all lights as you go through, and don’t lower any shades or draw curtains or blinds.
Try and call the office once an hour to let people know where you are.
If you think it may be some time before a property sells (and you may, therefore, be showing it often), get acquainted with a few of the immediate neighbors. You will feel better knowing they know your vehicle, and they will feel better about the stranger (you) who frequently visits their neighborhood.
Prepare a scenario so that you can leave or encourage someone who makes you uncomfortable to leave. Examples: Your cell phone went off and you have to call your office; you left some important information in your car; another agent with buyers is on his way.
When showing a property, always leave the front door unlocked for a quick exit while you and the client are inside. As you enter each room, stand near the door.
Lock your purse in the car trunk before you arrive. Carry only non-valuable business items (except for your cell phone), and do not wear expensive jewelry or watches, or appear to be carrying large sums of money.
Park at the curb in front of the property rather than in the driveway. It is much easier to escape in your vehicle if you don’t have to back out of a driveway. And while parked in a driveway another vehicle could purposefully or accidentally trap you.
Sources: Louisiana REALTORS® Association; Washington Real Estate, Safety Council; City of Albuquerque, NM; Nevada County Association of REALTORS®; City of Mesa, AZ
Top 10 Tips for Personal Safety
Touch base. Always let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll return. Arrange for your office to call you to check in.
Don’t get lost. Always know the exact address of where you’re going. If you use a navigation app, pull over and stop in a safe place if you’ve made a wrong turn.
Sense your surroundings. Is there questionable activity in the area of a property you’re showing? Is anyone loitering? Follow your instincts if you feel you should leave. Leave!
Don’t go it alone. Have an associate or other colleague host open houses with you.
Limit the view. If you’re working late, use window coverings so that you’re not visible to passersby or a potential attacker.
Go on the defense. Learn some self-defense skills. Many health clubs, martial arts studios and community colleges offer basic classes.
Choose flight over fight. Self defense is a good idea, but the primary goal in any threatening situation is to escape from immediate danger and call for help.
Park for protection. Always park in a well-lit, visible location whether you’re parking at your office, an open house, or an empty property.
Make calling for help easy. Program important numbers into your cell phone, including your office, roadside assistance and 911.
Know who you’re dealing with. Ask for ID, take a photo of a client’s license plate. A criminal won’t be comfortable with this and may be thwarted.
Source: NAR Realtor Safety Resource Kit.
Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is pleased to provide this information for the safety and well being of Realtors. We hope you find this Special Issue useful for yourself and your team. Please stay safe.