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What Every Home Buyer Should Know About Radon Gas

Canton, MI Radon Testing

Radon Gas – What You Should Know

If you are buying a home – or even if you aren’t – you might have heard of radon gas and that it is a possible hazard. What should you know about radon?

What Is Radon?

Radon is a colorless and odorless gas that is radioactive. It is naturally occurring and, under normal conditions, very easy to inhale. Radon has a very short half-life (3.8 days at the most) but is still common enough to be a health hazard in some areas. The EPA considers radon to be a significant hazard to human health.

How Dangerous Is Radon?

Radon contributes to radiation exposure and is almost as high a cause of lung cancer as cigarette smoking (causing 21,000 deaths from lung cancer in the United States). The vast majority of those also smoke, and the combination gives the highest risk, but radon is the number one cause among non-smokers. Radon may also slightly increase one’s risk of other cancers. Radon exposure has no immediate symptoms and the effects may take years to show up.

How Much Radon Is There In the Ann Arbor/Livonia/Plymouth Area?

Wayne County is a relatively low radon area, with 61% of homes tested showing levels of under 2 pCi/L. However, there are some homes with considerably higher levels and about 17% have levels that would be considered hazardous. Therefore, it is very important to check the radon levels in your home or a home you are considering buying.

Should I Get A Radon Test?

Yes. A radon test is the only way to know a specific home’s levels for sure. If you’re buying a home, ask your home inspector for a radon test.. Testing is inexpensive, consider repeating the test. It may be worth it as buying a home with elevated radon levels but no mitigation in place is both dangerous and expensive. The Michigan Indoor Radon Program has more information on testing and other resources.

We don’t recommend using a DIY home radon test kit, as there are many variables that can skew results. Professionals that do this everyday know how to set up the machines and perform a test to get accurate results.

If the home already has radon mitigation systems in place you should still consider getting a test to make sure they are working effectively.

Mitigating Radon Gas

Radon mitigation generally involves reducing the amount of radon that builds up within the home. Radon leaks out of the ground and would normally simply drift harmlessly up into the atmosphere in very low concentrations. When it enters your home, however, it is caught by the roof (especially if you have the kind of insulation needed for (Michigan winters) and builds up. Radon mitigation takes several forms. One of the most effective is active soil depressurization. This is a system which pulls gas that comes out of the soil out from under your house and exhausts it away from the building or through a vent on the roof.

If your home does not have a crawlspace. Then a gas permeable layer under a plastic sheet can also be used to prevent radon gas coming into the home. It is recommend that below-grade openings be properly sealed and caulked. Some new homes are constructed with radon-resistant materials and systems already in place. If you are buying a new home then ask what the builder is doing to mitigate radon.

Radon is a very real health risk. Fortunately, it is also easy to deal with. However, you may not want to have to deal with the inconvenience and expense of installing radon mitigation systems in your new home. As a result, it is desirable to test radon levels before signing any kind of contract on a new house. Especially in areas where radon levels are historically high. If you want a professional radon test done on your new (or existing) home, then Contact Trademark Home Inspection for details. We will also be able to recommend appropriate mitigation if needed.

How to Prevent Cold Weather Damage to Your Home This Winter

Ice Dam On a Slate Roof

Prevent Cold Weather Damage to Your Home

Water damage during cold months can occur from many sources such as pipes freezing, ice dams, and groundwater to name a few. So, what do you do to Prevent Cold Weather Damage to Your Home?


Make sure all outside hose spigots are winterized, this should be done before the temperatures go below freezing. Turn off the water supply to the spigots and then open them to drain any excess water.


Insulate any water supply lines that are located on exterior walls of your home or in areas that are prone to freeze such as a crawlspace. Water supply lines located in these areas more likely to freeze and rupture. Sometimes insulating these lines is not enough to prevent them from freezing. If that is the case, you may need to wrap them with heat tape. Also, you can always leave faucets with a slight drip to keep water moving and help prevent the water supply lines from freezing.

Ice Dams

Severe Ice Dam, Prevent Cold Weather Damage to Your Home

Ice Dams form around the eaves of roofs when snow melts at the top of the roof faster than around the bottom. This causes the freshly melted snow, now water to get trapped at the bottom eve of the roof and refreezes. This process keeps repeating itself until an ice dam forms. The key to preventing ice dams is to make sure your attic is properly insulated and ventilated. In cases where insulation and ventilation are unable to be properly installed you can install heating cable around the eve to keep ice dams at bay.

When melting occurs around you home it can lead to excess ground water coming into your crawlspace or basement typically through what is called hydrostatic pressure. To help ensure this doesn’t happen to your home there are a few steps you can take.

Preventing Ice Dams

  • Always make sure the grading of your home slopes away from the structure. This includes the ground, cement, patios, decks, and porches.
  • Make sure your gutters and downspouts are properly functioning. Gutters should slope towards the downspouts. Downspouts should be extended 6 feet away from your foundation. The entire gutter system should be kept clean and free flowing.
  • Test your sump pump regularly to ensure it is working. It is also important to make sure the sump pump discharge line is located far enough away from your home to make sure the water won’t just re-enter. Lastly, it is a worth installing a backup system on your sump pump. These come in a variety of types such as a water backup systems or a battery backup system.

These are just a few tips to help prevent water damage to your home during the winter months. Remember water is the number one destroyer of a home and a little preventative maintenance now can prevent major expenses later.

Are Home Warranties Worth It? What Homebuyers Should Know

Are Home Warranties Worth It?

Home Warranties

Buying a home is stressful, and, while there’s a certain joy associated with finally getting those keys, that stress doesn’t go away completely on closing day. After all, you now have a house, full of expensive systems and shiny appliances, to worry about. And all of those items the home inspector pointed out. What happens if something breaks the day after you unload the moving truck? There is a way to alleviate that concern: a home warranty.

What Is a Home Warranty?

A home warranty is effectively insurance for the appliances and systems in your home. Technically a service contract, it covers repairs and replacements for these items when they break. That protection isn’t provided by homeowners insurance, which only kicks in when your property is damaged or lost to disasters, like theft, some major weather events or fire.

Home warranties commonly cover wear and tear to these items but not all home warranties are created equal, so make sure to read your policy:

  • Plumbing
  • Heating (furnaces and water heaters)
  • Air-conditioning
  • Laundry equipment (washers and dryers)
  • Roof leaks
  • Kitchen appliances, including refrigerators, ovens, ranges, dishwashers and garbage disposals

You can add other coverage as needed. Say the home comes with a pool, hot tub, well pump, computerized garage doors, security system, ceiling fan or ice maker. Home warranties usually last anywhere from 90 days to two years, with the option to renew once the policy expires.

The Benefits of a Home Warranty

Unlike homeowners insurance, which is required as part of the mortgage approval process, home warranties are optional. However, they are an invaluable safety net. Buying a house is already a major expense. The last thing you need is a broken furnace two weeks after closing, especially if it’s the middle of winter. The same goes for a busted water heater, which can cost anywhere from $523 to $1,000 to repair or replace.

Home warranties are particularly important if your new home is not so new and/or outfitted with older, outdated systems. Even if your systems or appliances don’t go down, the warranty spares you the expense of worrying about a major mechanical failure while you’re replenishing your bank account and emergency fund.

How Do Home Warranties Work?

If a covered item breaks, you call your provider to arrange for a contractor to come and assess the damage. If the contractor decides the necessary fix is covered by your warranty, they’ll do the work. You usually have to pay a service fee and, similarly to homeowners insurance, the warranty might have a deductible. That’s a set amount of money you put toward the bill before coverage kicks in.

Home warranties do carry some exclusions. For instance, they’re not an excuse for skipping routine maintenance as doing so can leave you on the hook for replacements or repairs.

It’s important to read the fine print of a home warranty you’re considering so you know what’s covered — and what’s not.

How Much do Home Warranties Cost?

Home warranties generally cost between $300 and $700 a year, depending on how comprehensive coverage is and the type of property (condo, single-family, townhouse, etc.) you own. The square footage of the house usually bears no effect on the price. Service fees can cost between $60 and $100.

You can capitalize on deals by looking into a home warranty during the real estate transaction. Sometimes, home sellers purchase a warranty as added incentive for prospective buyers. (These warranties, incidentally, protect their systems and appliances while the home is on the market.) You can also look into free or discounted policies provided by your home inspector.

Trademark Home Inspection, for instance, offers several coverage’s for free, including a 90-day home warranty, mold protection, Sewer|Gard protection, roof protection and radon policy as part of its home inspection package. If you have questions about home warranties or want to schedule a home inspection in the Plymouth, Livonia, Westland or Ypsilanti area contact us today.

Winter Maintenance Tips – 10 Easy Projects to Tackle Before Cold Weather Sets In

Winter Home Maintenance Tips

Winter Home Maintenance Tips

Winter Maintenance Tips

The cool, crisp days of Fall feel fantastic after a long, hot summer. While it’s a beautiful time of the year, it’s no time to rest. The temperature is only going to drop as Winter approaches and now is the time to prepare your home for the coming onslaught of frigid wind and heavy snow. There are a plethora of Winter maintenance tips for homeowners, but here are 10 easy projects to tackle before cold weather sets in.

Many of these are items we point out during our home inspections. Don’t worry, they’re all fairly easy and won’t break your budget.

1) Install Weather-Stripping

Odds are, the doors and windows of your home are allowing some air to leak in, and out. This will cause uncomfortable cold drafts and it will make your furnace work harder to keep your home warm. A simple way to remedy this is to install weather-stripping. It’s easy and only takes a few minutes.

2) Seal Exterior Air Leaks

Small cracks in the exterior window trim, siding and door frames are a source of unwanted cold air leaks. Other openings like where your pipes and wiring enter your home are also potential trouble spots. This is a quick and inexpensive fix, using a color-match exterior caulk to fill the void.

3) Update Your Thermostat

Programmable thermostats are more reliable and regulate the heat in your home more efficiently, which saves you money and keeps you warmer. Many models are easily controlled with a smart phone or other device, meaning you can adjust the temperature, wherever you are.

4) Check Your Furnace

Your heating system is going to be called into action sooner than you’d like to believe. In order to assure that it is ready for the task, it needs servicing. It’s best to call in a professional to check and tune up your heating system, they’ll do a complete inspection and complete necessary repairs. This is one of the most common items we call out on home inspections.

5) Upgrade Your Insulation

Inadequate insulation lets warm air to make its way up and out of the roof. Likewise, the cold air leaks into your home, making it uncomfortably cold. The only way to prevent this is with an adequate layer of insulation. Handling and installing insulation can be hazardous, and is best left to a professional.

6) Prepare Your Pipes

Frozen water expands, which causes pipes to burst, sending water and ice flowing into your home. To prevent this costly, and potentially damaging problem, wrap your pipes in a foam-rubber or fiberglass material. In very cold climates, an electric heat tape wrapped around the pipe is also recommended.

7) Clean Your Gutters

Leaves, twigs and other debris also collect in gutters, creating a dam that traps water. As the temperature drops, this water freezes, causing an ice dam which leads to expensive repairs. While you’re cleaning the gutters, repair or replace worn or damaged gutters and downspouts.

8) Outdoor Faucet Care

First off, remove the hose from the faucet, drain the water from it and stow it away. Otherwise, a sudden cold snap could cause the water in the hose to freeze, causing damage to the faucet, pipes and your home. Turn off the faucet and then cut off the water supply from the inside to avoid this issue.

9) Drain Your Sprinkler

Your lawn looks beautiful all summer because of your sprinkler system, and it was undoubtedly a hefty investment. It’s vital that you prepare your irrigation system for the freezing temperatures ahead by draining it. Otherwise, much like your garden hose, water will freeze in the system, causing it to burst.

10) Lawn & Garden Prep

Clean any dead plant material from around your home, and remove any other debris from the yard, so there aren’t hidden dangers under snow. It’s also a good time to clear out dead branches from the trees in your yard. Heavy snow, ice and wind will cause dried limbs to fall, causing damage to your home.

Don’t let Winter creep up on you without preparing your home properly. It only takes a few minutes to accomplish many of the tips we’ve mentioned above, and most are very inexpensive as well. If you have any questions about home maintenance, please contact us if you’re in the Canton, Westland & Livonia Michigan area. We’ll be happy to help you in any way we can.

11 Common Home Inspection Issues & Solutions

Common home inspection issues

Annual Home Maintenance Inspections - Canton, MI


Common Home Inspection Issues

Scheduling a home inspection can be the scariest part of buying a home. You may not know what to expect from a home inspection. You might be worried your dream home has defects that will cost a ton. Usually not the case.

Although issues are commonly discovered in all home inspections, the good news is that most problems can be fixed. Instead of thinking of a home inspection like a dreaded bad report card, consider it an opportunity to solve a problem before it gets worse.

Here are the top 11 issues most commonly found by home inspectors:

1. Faulty Wiring:

This is a serious issue that is frequently linked with house fires. Outdated fuse boxes, wiring that is insufficient for carrying its load demand and missing GFCI plugs are some of the most frequently discovered issues.

Solution: Contact a qualified electrician to update electrical system components.

2. Poor Drainage:

Over time, a house and landscape will settle. This can affect the original grade that was designed for proper drainage. Shrubs in landscape beds may have grown significantly and now be too close to the house. Overhanging tree branches can also contribute to drainage issues. Poor drainage creates water intrusion risk when water is no longer diverted away from the home.

Solution: Contact a professional landscaper to correct grade conditions within a 10 foot perimeter around the home and correct contributing vegetation issues.

3. Improperly Draining Gutters:

If gutters are not operating efficiently, water may overflow, seep down the side of a home and become an intrusion risk.

Solution: Clean debris out of gutters. Replace any damaged components. Use splash pans.

4. Damp Basement:

Homes that experience improper drainage may have basements that show signs of water intrusion, such as stains on the floor or walls, a powdery residue on the surfaces of floors and walls, or growth of mold and mildew.

Solution: Correcting an improper grade or solving gutter problems should correct the cause of the problem. To further protect against water intrusion, apply a waterproof sealant to basement walls and floor.

5. Roofing Issues:

Common findings of missing or damaged shingles and flashings can be resolved with a service call to a professional roofing company.

6. Foundation Problems:

The dreaded words “foundation problem” may not be as serious as it sounds. It could be something as simple as a crack.

Solution: A minor crack can be filled with products like epoxy or silicone caulk. More serious issues, like a foundation that is no longer level, will need to repaired by a foundation repair expert.

7. Poor Plumbing:

Leaky pipes, sinks, toilets, etc., can lead to health problems. Leaks can cause fungus, mold and mildew to develop. Drinking water could become contaminated by raw sewage. A home’s structural components can also be affected by water damage.

Solution: A qualified plumber can identify the source of the leak and repair it properly.

8. Ventilation Concerns:

Bathroom and kitchen ventilation fans are key to removing moisture from rooms that frequently see higher levels of condensation. If they are not operating properly, it will be noted on an inspection report.

Solution: Install new fans.

9. Heating Issues:

A home’s heating system needs to operate correctly not only for the sake of comfort for occupants, but also for the sake of safety. Dirty furnaces and filters, vegetation growth impeding outdoor condensation units and poor ventilation are common issues. Ignoring early signs of problems can lead to much costlier repairs down the road.

Solution: Consistently perform routine HVAC maintenance. A system’s regular maintenance technician will be familiar with the system and can efficiently address repair needs.

10. General Maintenance:

If you’ve let a few things go, an inspection report will reflect this.

Solution: Pay attention to detail and repair or replace things like: loose caulk, peeling paint, worn carpeting, damaged flooring, cracked sidewalks and driveway, etc.

11. Structural Problem:

Signs like cracks in walls or sticking doors and windows may indicate structural flaws.

Solution: A qualified contractor can determine the reason for sticking doors or a crack in the ceiling and recommend the proper course of action to restore your home’s structural integrity.

If you have questions or need to schedule a home inspection in Southeast Michigan, feel free to drop us a line. Trademark Home Inspectors are highly qualified, trained and certified by the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. You can rely on a professional inspector to perform your home inspection and environmental tests to your satisfaction.

Frequently Asked Questions About Home Inspections: What Does a Home Inspection Cover?

A Home inspector examine a furnace

Frequently Asked Questions About Home Inspections

You’re planning to buy a house — maybe its your first home, or maybe its a property you plan to renovate. Regardless, you want to know exactly what the condition of the building is so you don’t have any unpleasant surprises once the property title is in your name. Let’s answer some Frequently Asked Questions About Home Inspections.

Knowing the actual condition of the property you’re about to buy can also help when it comes to setting a final purchase price. If you’ll need to make big repairs, you’ll expect the selling cost to reflect that. Or, if the property has some significant structural damage, you might decide that the purchase is not right for you.

But you may not know exactly what a home inspection covers and what you’re paying for. Trademark Home Inspection has put together answers to frequently asked questions that you and other home buyers are likely to have regarding the home inspection process.

What does a home inspection include?

The home inspector is looking for structural problems that need repairs. By informing you about these issues, you can make an informed decision about whether to buy. An inspection includes checking:

WHome Inspector looking at a furnace

  • Roof. Learn about any leaks or damage to the roof bed and when the existing roof may need to be replaced. The check includes sky lights, chimney, vents and gutters.
  • Exterior. You’ll know whether there is dry rot or other damage to siding, trim, porch, patio or deck. The home inspector will also examine windows and doors for leaks. Retaining walls, sidewalk, driveway, and more on the property will be checked for drainage issues and any needed repairs.
  • Interior. Your inspector will ensure that the ceiling, walls and floors are sound and even. The doors and windows will get another check from the inside, along with countertops and other built-in items.
  • The garage. In addition to the doors and windows, the home inspector will look over the floor for soundness. The garage door and any garage door operating system will be tested.
  • Kitchen appliances. Anything that is built into the kitchen, including the dishwasher, oven, trash compactor, food disposal, sink, microwave and refrigerator will be examined.
  • Plumbing and electrical. You’ll want to know whether the structure’s pipes and electrical systems are up to code for your area.
  • Heating & cooling elements. Checking your furnace, ac, boiler, etc. is very important to ensure they are in working order.
  • Attic, basement and crawl space. Make sure there are no leaks or apparent water damage.
  • Foundation. Cracks or unevenness could indicate a major structural issue.

What does a home inspection NOT include?

The home inspector isn’t responsible for every potential problem in a structure, and it’s important to know what won’t get checked or what you’ll need to pay more for. A standard home inspection also does not cover anything the inspector can’t easily get access to, like insulation; it’s not reasonable for the inspector to cut into the wall to see if there’s insulation present.

Here’s what else isn’t part of a standard home inspection:

  • Mold Testing. Testing for the types of mold that can cause health problems is usually part of a premium inspection package.
  • Radon Testing. Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that can lead to health problems, including lung cancer, but tests for it are part of a premium inspection.
  • Asbestos. A home inspector won’t analyze the attic insulation or other areas that may have asbestos.
  • Lead. Older homes may have lead paint, but the inspector won’t scrape off paint to try and find or test for lead.
  • Pest Inspection. Termites, carpenter ants and animal pests are usually not part of the standard home inspection unless their damage obviously impacts the structure.

*Trademark Home Inspection offers most of the extra inspection services listed above.

What does a home inspection cost?

The cost of a home inspection in the greater Ann Arbor area (includes Canton, Westland, Plymouth) varies depending on the square footage of the home you want to have inspected. The typical costs around $300, but can run higher for especially large or older homes.

What does a home inspector look for?

There are few typical issues that impact nearly every house, and a home inspector will be on the lookout for. These include:

  • Roof problems. Curling or missing shingles, leaks around vents and skylights and clogged or bent gutters are common.
  • Faulty plumbing or wiring. Older homes may have some patched together pipes or wires that need to be upgraded for safety.
  • Foundation cracks. Small cracks are usually not a major problem, and many homes have them due to settling over time.
  • Heating or cooling issues. The furnace may be dirty, old or need a new filter; the air conditioner may have these issues too. Fireplaces are also a common problem as they may not be sealed correctly.
  • Poor drainage. Water may be pooling around foundations and the ground around the home may be mucky.

What does the home inspection report look like?

Your report should be very thorough, yet easy to read through. Issues should be highlighted and easy to understand. Recommendations for updates or repairs should be summarized on one page. Trademark’s home inspection reports are highly visual with filters so you can easily see the most important issue. See a Trademark sample home inspection report.

Almost every home inspection uncovers some issues, and many are minor. In most cases, there is no reason to be panic or be overly concerned. Many of the fixes can be done yourself. The home inspection simply helps you to be fully informed on the state of the house before you buy. Contact us if you have any questions on the process or how we can help!