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Check water pressure at faucets. Turn on all faucets and flush all toilets at same time. How long it takes tanks to refill under these conditions is a good indication of water pressure.
Are there a shut-off valves on both hot and cold water supply lines to all sinks?
Look for signs of rust and leaks in water heater. Is there a pressure relief valve?
Is there a private well? Has water been tested? Acceptable water quality can be a contingency in your purchase offer.
You can get information on water testing from your county cooperative extension center.
For more information, see Lead in Drinking Water, or Removing Mineral Deposits from Household Surfaces, or Radon in Water, or Health Effects of Drinking Water Contaminants, or Home Drinking Water Treatment Systems.
If there is a septic tank, is it in good condition? What is its age? Has it been pumped regularly at 3- to 5-year intervals? Are there any signs indicating faulty or inadequate capacity of drain lines, such as a slowly draining sink, or a toilet that backs up?
Do some appliances remain with house? These may include a built-in oven, dishwasher, garbage disposal, free-standing range, refrigerator, washer, dryer, and window air conditioning unit. All should be tested for efficient and safe operation. Ask owner for any records of service and repair.
Are there signs of wood damage from insects? The most destructive insect is termite, which eats interior of studs and joists. Termites may cause much damage before they are detected. Termite inspection is required by most lenders. Has house been periodically inspected and treated for termites?
Are there piles of coarse sawdust beneath timbers? This may indicate presence of carpenter ants. Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not eat wood, but they do nest in it. They are most likely to attack wood that has already begun to rot. These ants may also be heard within walls and may even be spotted inside house in winter. They are black and about 1/2-inch long.
Do you see deposits of sawdust on floor and small pencil-lead size holes in wood beams and floor joists? This may indicate presence of powder-post beetle. To verify, check to see if wood crumbles when an ice pick or pocketknife is pressed into beams, floor joists, support posts, and sill plates.
If there is some indication of presence of termites, carpenter ants, or powder-post beetles, your purchase offer can be contingent on house being free from infestation by these or other insects. You can ask seller to pay cost of a professional insect inspection and treatment; however, inspection is usually paid by buyer.
THE INDOOR ENVIRONMENT
Certain products or pollutants in indoor environment can cause health problems. Asbestos, carbon monoxide, and radon are hazards that may be present. Lead, which can be present in water or paint, can cause health problems in children and during pregnancy. And some people are sensitive to certain products or pollutants like formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds. You may want to test for some or all of following contaminants. Contact your local health department or county cooperative extension center for guidance on testing.
· Formaldehyde is often found in particle and other composition board, plywood, paneling, wallpaper, and permanent-pressed fabrics.
· Asbestos fibers may be found in thermal insulation, pipe and duct insulation, vinyl flooring, textured paint, exterior siding, and appliances, stoves, and furnaces. Removal of asbestos can be expensive and should be left to a professional.
· Carbon monoxide may be leaking from defective or improperly vented combustion appliances, such as furnaces, gas dryers, and gas heaters. These should be checked by a qualified heating system technician. Try to avoid use of wood stoves or kerosene heaters.
· Radon, a colorless and odorless soil gas, can travel from soil to foundation and then to inside of a house. It can have long-term health effects. If house hasn't been tested for radon, you may want to ask seller to establish an escrow account to cover costs of remediation, if necessary.
· Volatile Organic Compounds are found in flammable and other household cleaning and maintenance products. You may want these products removed before you take possession of house.
· Lead may be present in house paints used before 1977 and in piping system at soldered joints. If you have small children and suspect presence of lead, you may want to have house checked. Removal of lead-based paint can be costly.
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