Home health dangers you can avoid right now

Home health dangers you can avoid right now

Not many people consider the health of their homes on a day to day basis, but it’s a serious issue to protect not only your property but the health of your family. From the outside, most homes seem to be in perfect shape, but many are not and hidden hazards lurk everywhere regardless of age or construction.

Everything from water seepage and leaking basements to failing chimney flues can affect your family, causing anything from a seemingly simple cough to carbon monoxide poisoning. Unhealthy homes can cause an array of issues, most commonly including allergies, asthma, respiratory or skin irritations and headaches. In some serious cases these issues can be fatal, but household improvements and preventive services can protect you and your family.

Danger in the basement

Let’s start at the bottom with your basement or crawlspace. Is it leaking or damp? Does it have a musty smell? Not only are these issues bad, they present a special problem for both your basement and your entire home. Moisture creates an environment that’s a breeding ground for mold, which in turn creates the musty odor you smell both in the basement and possibly upstairs.

When was the last time you checked the radon levels in your home? Radon is a radioactive gas and the second leading cause of lung cancer. Caused by the natural decay of uranium in all types of soil, the gas can enter your home through cracks or holes in the foundation. Any home can be affected by radon: old, new, with or without a basement or crawlspace. The EPA recommends testing homes at least every two years and inexpensive kits can be purchased through your local hardware store.

Danger in the air

Indoor pollutants circulate throughout your home through a natural ventilation process called stack effect. Stack effect is created when air escapes your home through the upper floors and a vacuum is created that pulls the air from your basement into your upper living spaces. The process acts similar to a chimney flue.

An estimated 40 percent of the air you breathe from your first floor up comes from your basement. If it’s moldy, musty or contains radon, it will end up in your living space, not to mention in your basement. If you have a finished basement you are living right in the heart of these unhealthy conditions. Installing a sealed waterproofing system around the perimeter of your basement or crawlspace and having your home tested for radon are important means of prevention.

Danger in the exterior

As we move to your upper floors and the materials on the exterior of your home, the biggest concern is water infiltration into masonry, stone or stucco exteriors. Cracks in stucco can allow moisture to become trapped behind the membrane. Brick and stone can also have moisture problems, especially if there is missing, loose or deteriorating mortar. An indication of serious moisture being trapped behind masonry is efflorescence, which appears as a white powder or stain and is caused when minerals are brought to the surface through evaporation.

Moisture retained by leaking masonry exteriors can be transferred into a home’s living space and this is a serious concern because it not only creates damp, moldy conditions within the home, it also attacks the structural integrity of the home’s framework and drywall. This could eventually lead to major repairs due to deterioration. It is important to recognize the signs and address them as soon as they are noticed.

Danger in the chimney

Whether you have an interior or exterior chimney for your furnace or fireplace, chimneys are meant to remove super heated gases created by burning combustible materials from your home. Over time, these structures can deteriorate and cause cracks in the liner or allow moisture infiltration. Moisture leaks are not always obvious as you may be able to see moisture inside the home or it may be inside the wall.

A compromised liner creates issues that are not only unhealthy, but could be deadly. A liner with cracks or holes can allow burning embers from a fireplace to enter the home and create a fire hazard or possible carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. It’s odorless and colorless. This is why it is important to install carbon monoxide detectors. Having your chimney inspected and cleaned yearly is an important step towards creating a safe and healthy home.

Not all homes are unhealthy, but many are or can develop problems over the years. Always consult a licensed contractor who specializes in these fields for proper guidance, information and necessary steps to maintain a healthy home.

About this Experts Contributor: Dave Rantanen  works with Jamison Home Services, LLC, which provides home services including basement waterproofing in Philadelphia, PA. Dave has his Certified Waterproofing Specialist certification from the Basement Health Association, a title held by only 55 waterproofing professionals in the country.

As of July 8, 2014, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

 

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