Buying a home can be a stressful experience in and of itself, with home inspections, offers and counteroffers and closings creating a bureaucratic minefield for buyers. But if you think that's stressful, try buying a house only to realize that there are myriad health hazards to fix. • Lead, radon, mold are among the toxins that can make a new home a headache and a hazard. • Here are a few things to look for when you're shopping for a house or items to invest in when you're moving in.
Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors
• Make sure homes have carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Some municipalities have rules about how many to have and where to put them. Put both near bedrooms, and make sure their batteries are replaced regularly.
• Know which fuel-burning appliances and equipment can be a source of carbon monoxide poisoning if not vented and/or maintained properly.
• Know the history of the appliances and heating system in the home. Gather service records if possible. Knowing a little about your appliances and heating system can help you know when it's appropriate to replace furnaces, water heaters, gas dryers, wood-burning stoves and gas ranges, which all pose carbon monoxide risks.
• Know the age of your home. Homes built before 1950 are highly likely to contain lead paint, and homes built before 1978 might also contain this toxic paint.
• Look for paint chips or flaking lead-based paint. Windowsills and doorways are common locations.
• Test for lead hazards in the home including the soil. Tests can be purchased at home improvement stores.
• Look for signs of water problems like leaking pipes or faucets, wet areas, musty smells, water stains or high humidity.
• If you see a leak, remember that mold is a possibility. Work hard to maintain a dry home, and quickly repair leaks and other sources of moisture in the home. That might also mean drying all surfaces, using a dehumidifier, increasing ventilation and washing moldy items with a bleach and water solution.
• Look for entry points like gaps surrounding pipes and holes in walls.
• Identify sources of food, water and shelter. Pests cannot survive without all three. Make your abode inhospitable to them.
• If you see evidence of pests, identify the specific type and use integrated pest-management techniques to rid the house of them (use nonchemical methods first). If you need to use pesticides, read the label first and take precautions or hire a professional.
• Test your home for radon. What you can't see can have long-term health consequences, and radon is odorless and colorless.
• Pick up a testing kit at your local hardware store or hire a professional to test for radon. Check with your health department for a list of qualified professionals who can test and/or fix radon problems in your home.