According to the EPA, radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer overall. Radon is a naturally occuring, invisible, odorless gas, which comes from the radioactive decay of radium from soil and rocks. In certain parts of the country radon exposure is a major concern for homeowners and warrants the installation of radon mitigation systems in basements and crawlspaces. Radon exposure in the Puget Sound region is a minor concern compared to the risk in other areas of Washington and the United States. The Washington Tracking Network provides maps of radon risks in Washington State, available online here. The Washington State Department of Health also provides some assistance for radon testing and they can be reached by calling 360-236-3253.
The Seattle Hazard Identification and Vulnerability Analysis (SHIVA) identifies 18 hazards that pose the greatest risk to the city. The SHIVA is intended for anyone wishing to better understand how hazards impact the Seattle community, and provides a great basis for learning about local hazards, how they impact Seattle communities, and how the city plans to respond. The Seattle Hazard Explorer is designed to provide you some key content from the SHIVA in an interactive format available online here.
Aluminum branch circuit wiring was common in North American residential construction for a short time from the late 1960s to the late 1970s during a period of high copper prices. Wiring devices at the time were not designed with the properties of aluminum wire in mind and some aluminum wiring presents a fire hazard. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has published an excellent summary of the issues with aluminum wiring and options for repair here.
The Washington State Department of Ecology publishes information on ways to improve your home's environmental performance, improve the overall health of your home, and reduce waste. The site is available here.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a wealth of excellent information on maintaining air quality in homes, available here. Whether you're concerned about radon (see additional information about radon below), mold, or other environmental polutants, these resources can help you to create and maintain a healthy home.
Estimating the life expectancy of any home component includes many variables. Factors such as the quality of the manufacturing process, installation methods, and maintenance may have significant impacts on life expectancy. The NAHB's 2007 study relies upon a survey of manufacturers, trade associations, and additional research to providee a baseline of information which can be used together with the inspection to estimate life expectancy. The study is available here.
There are many resources available online to home buyers and home owners about the history of their Seattle homes. Most of us are savvy with Google, but there are some excellent resources that you should know about before you begin your search. Here are a few to get you started:
HistoryLink.org - this site is a free encyclopedia of Washington State History. You can learn a great deal about your Seattle area neighborhood or the pioneers who's vision shaped our region.
King County Parcel Viewer - this online resource links to the public records available for your property. Information like historical appraisal values, official records on lot size, zoning, and sales history are all available on the site or links provided in the detailed property reports.
Historical Home Photos - Many of us have seen old historical photos of homes around Seattle, like these images taken of the same home in the 1930s and the 1960s. The best source for historical photographs of buildings in Seattle and King County is the King County Assessor's property records at the Puget Sound Regional Branch of the Washington State Archives. These records are not available online and must be obtained from the Washington State Archives at 425-564-3940. More information about detailed property research for Seattle and King County is also available here.
Additional resources - several other resources and interesting articles on Puget Sound homes are below:
Much has been made about LP siding in the Pacific Northwest, and for good reason, still not all LP siding is problematic. Louisiana Pacific is a large, publicly traded company which manufactures composite wood materials. In the 1990s LP was the target of a major class-action lawsuit related to its Inner Seal composite siding. Inner Seal was manufactured and distributed between 1990 and 1996 and was prone to premature rot, characterized by discoloration, disintegration, and fungal growth. LP settled the suits and paid more than a billion dollars to homeowners as a result. Needless to say, not all homeowners turned their settlement checks into new siding, so there's still a lot of LP Siding on houses in our region.
LP Inner Seal siding is a composite wood product made by slicing wood into wafers, mixing them with resins, and then pressing them into panels or sheets. After 1996, LP re-engineered their composite siding and rebranded it as LP SmarSide. LP SmartSide is performing well compared to its predecessor and now holds a comfortable share of the composite siding market alongside their primary competitor, James Hardie.
Perhaps the most important factor when considering a home with composite siding is adherence to the manufacturers' installation and maintenance requirements. These requirements must be met to collect on any warranties offered by the companies, and they are critical to the performance and appearance of the materials.
Below is a collection of links that I commonly refer to during inspections. These resources are organized to follow the same basic outline of my home inspection reports.
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Insulation and Ventilation
The recommended insulation values for the Puget Sound region are R-38 to R-60 in attics and R-25 to R-30 under floors. Walls should be insulated to their full capacity.