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Home Inspections Blog

Monthly Archives: July 2018

Inspecting Your Bathroom Exhaust Fan

Inspecting Your Bathroom Exhaust Fan

Your bathroom exhaust fan removes excess moisture (from hot showers), chemical fumes and bathroom odors and expels them outside. The entire system runs from the ceiling in your bathroom, through your attic and to the outside your home.

When you buy a home, your home inspector will check the entire system to make sure it’s installed and functioning properly. But if you’d like to check the bathroom exhaust system while you’re still living in your home to make sure everything is working properly, follow these steps.

In The Bathroom

The ceiling vent and fan in the bathroom should be tight (not loose), clean from dust and should have a smooth, unobstructed sound while running.

  • Using the wall switch, turn the bathroom fan on and off. Listen for any irregular sounds. A crooked fan can scrape against other parts of the exhaust system. Your bathroom fan should have a smooth hum.
  • Visually look for a buildup of dust on the vent covering. Dust can impede airflow and cause moisture and odors to stay in your bathroom. Clean if necessary.
  • With the fan turned off, remove the vent covering and check the fan for dust buildup. Clean if necessary.

Attic Components

If you’re able, find the adjacent ductwork of the exhaust fan in your attic above your bathroom. The ductwork should be straight for 3 feet from the base of the fan and vent (curved duct causes air to flow back down into the fan). Any bends in the duct after that should be as gradual as possible.

  • Check the fan housing for moisture or indications of past dampness (stained drywall, mold, etc.). Moisture issues may mean that your air is venting into the wrong place or your fan base isn’t sealed properly.
  • Look for light from the bathroom coming through the sides of the exhaust base. The base shouldn’t have any excess space and should ideally have a lining of caulk or foam sealant between its edges and the ceiling.
  • Make sure the duct is sealed to the fan housing.

Outside of the Home

The exhaust duct in the attic should lead all the way to an exterior wall or roof. Bathroom exhaust venting in the attic or ceiling can cause moisture problems like mold and rotting wood.

Once the duct reaches your home’s exterior, the end should have a vented wall cap. These wall caps have flaps that open while the exhaust is running and close while not. The wall cap should also have a screen to keep animals and insects out.

The exhaust shouldn’t be vented near a walkway or outdoor living area and should be 10 feet away from any air intake, like a fresh air intake duct.

  • Make sure the exhaust leads outside and not into the attic.
  • Make sure the wall cap vent flaps are able to open freely.
  • See if the wall cap is sealed against the house with caulking or insulation.
  • Check the area. See if the exhaust is vented into a space that you or your guests may be in.

 

Why You Should Care About Radon Levels In Your Home

Why You Should Care About Radon Levels In Your Home

 (By: Comfort Home Inspections owner Keith Hoaglund)

Perhaps you haven’t heard of radon gas until you started shopping for a home. Your realtor may have provided a disclosure form discussing the hazards of radon. A list of simple questions is most likely coming up in your mind:

  • What is radon gas?
  • Why is it in my house?
  • It’s invisible, so why do I even care about it?
  • If the report says my levels are high, should I look for another home?
  • I bought a house 20 years ago, and nobody talked about radon gas. Why now? Is it new?

What Is Radon?

Radon is a radioactive gas that is colorless and odorless. Exposure can cause lung cancer. The EPA has estimated approximately 21,000 deaths per year are caused by radon exposure.

Radon gas comes out of the soil and is disbursed in the air unless it is trapped by a structure (like your house). The only way to know the levels in your house is to perform a test.

Are Invisible Gases Still Dangerous?

Even though it is invisible, you need to care about it. It is the leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking. Living in a home with measured levels of 4.0 piC/L provides you with 35 times as much exposure as if you were sitting on a perimeter fence of a radioactive waste disposal site.

Is Your Home The Problem?

There is nothing wrong with the home itself. If you find out your house has high levels (actually there is no “safe level”), mitigation of the gas is easy to accomplish.

A system for an average home costs between $1,300 and $2,500. This system will induce negative pressure under the concrete slab floor or crawl space of your house and draw the gas out before it has a chance to enter your home.

Is Radon A New Threat?

Radon is not new. As time goes by, we learn about health risks. Years ago we built our homes out of cancer-causing asbestos materials and drank water from lead pipes.

In addition, over time our homes have gotten much tighter which can hold radon gas in. Due to air leaks alone, a 100-year-old house will change all the air in the house twice every hour.

Today, we try hard to provide proper ventilation (like with a fresh air intake duct) to change the air twice per day. To match the air change rate of a 100-year-old home in a modern home, we would need to cut a two-foot by two-foot hole in the wall.

Check Your Radon Level

In short, we don’t build homes out of asbestos, we don’t drink from lead pipes, and we should not breathe radon gas. Always check the levels in your house or when purchasing and address any level at or above 4.0 piC/L for your own good health.