Using Carbon Dioxide (CO2) As An Indicator Of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Issues

Evaluating The Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Levels Inside a Home as a Clue For Mold

July 24, 2023

Introduction: CO2 Levels Inside A Home

Regal Home Inspections, LLC has always been as diligent as possible with regard to meeting and often exceeding the letter and spirit of the NJ Home Inspection Standards of Practice (The Law). We’ve received many compliments on the comprehensive nature of our inspections and quality of our reports. The Law states what must be done, what is excluded and leaves open to individual inspection companies to expand into ancillary services. As an example, both of the home inspection team at Regal Home Inspections is, of course, licensed in NJ to conduct the home inspection. They are also both certified by the NJ DEP as Radon Measurement Technicians. Frank is also licensed by the NJ DEP as a Pesticide Applicator which allows him to conduct termite inspections and prepare the industry recognized Termite Report (NPMA-33).  Brian is also licensed by various State entities to perform lead paint evaluations (Lead Safe inspections) and collect dust samples to check for lead paint dust.

As of this writing, New Jersey does not have any license requirements for mold testing, sewer scopes, oil tank sweeps, etc. and we opt to allow others address those. We will, however, evaluate the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels inside a home as a clue for mold. More on this below.

A conversation about, “Looking for mold” often takes place with prospective clients and we’re very consistent to say, “We don’t look for mold”.  Mold can be in dozens of places inside a home; Under carpets, inside walls, behind bathroom vanities, etc.  We feel that if you tell someone that, “Yes, we look for mold” then if you look in 100 places and don’t see any it’s possible that after the client moves in and changes the carpets and there’s mold under the padding for a carpet they may complain because you said, “Yes, we look for mold” (Which of course we do not).

Taking air samples for mold is one way of determining if high levels of mold exist inside a home but it’s costly. A special vacuum pump is used to collect air samples. Multiple air samples are taken then sent to a lab for evaluation. The lab’s evaluation includes identifying the types of mold spores collected and the amount. Some mold is expected. Elevated levels are not. Again, each air sample costs the consumer about $125.00 and usually, at least 3 are needed (One of which is a control sample taken outside the home being tested). There may be as many as 6 or more in many instances and the cost can easily approach $1000 just to, see if there’s mold.

Solution CO2 Levels Inside A Home

CO2 meter in calibration mode.
CO2 detector mounted on a tripod. Indoor measurement is 796ppm. Like many homes, the windows and doors have been kept closed for weeks while the AC has been running. Same room after the windows were opened measured CO2 @ 554ppm.“See” if there’s mold.

We have recently learned about another, less expensive way to predict if a home has mold. In researching the new methodology we learned that it has been in use with the US Department of Agriculture for years (Since about 2009).

For the home buyer, it’s predictive. If this new methodology provides normal results then the research indicates that there aren’t elevated levels of mold growth inside a home.  However, if the methodology has different results, that indicates that high levels of mold exist THEN, further evaluation is required by a mold specialist.

The predictive methodology is measuring the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the air inside a house, room, basement, etc.  Research that we’ve reviewed state that normal outside CO2 levels are about 400 parts per million (ppm). If the levels of CO2 spike, 3000 or more ppm, this is a red flag that there may be high levels of mold in the house. You see, according to a USDA researcher, ”monitoring CO2 levels might provide more accurate results to detect if mold is growing.  Monitoring mold by measuring CO2 : USDA ARS

The researcher says that,As mold grows it gives off carbon dioxide. Therefore, if there is a CO2 spike, there is likely an increase of mold activity.”

From Facts About Indoor Mold – RadGreen

“Seeing a spike in CO2 levels could show severe mold growth. Standard carbon dioxide runs about 400 parts per million (ppm), and if the sensor reads more than 10,000 ppm, that could mean severe mold activity, and then 2,000 to 3,000 ppm could mean some mold activity.”

“Indoor mold is the mold that causes problems. Mold growth can cause damage to buildings and furnishings. To reduce mold growth in an indoor space, controlling the humidity levels is very important. Keeping humidity levels between 30-60% can reduce the amount of moisture in the air to keep mold growth low.(2) Ventilating the space is another way to reduce mold growth in indoor spaces. Inspecting your indoor space is vital to ensure that the indoor environment stays healthy. Responding quickly to leaks and spills and cleaning them is essential to prevent growth in those areas.”

Regal Home Inspections, LLC, is undergoing the implementation of the use of carbon dioxide (CO2) detectors during the course of our home inspections. Training for Indoor Air Quality was just completed. Just like the termite inspection, radon test or lead paint, it will be another ancillary service allowed by the home inspection Law.  During the course of a home inspection a CO2 detector will be used in different areas of the house. For example, we’ll check the CO2 levels in the basement, kitchen area and bedroom area. If the CO2 is in the 600ppm range then, as the reference material indicates, that’s a level that is expected inside. If it’s elevated from that and spikes to 2000ppm – 10,000ppm then the client will be advised to get a mold specialist for further testing. This service will be offered in conjunction with our standard home inspections at a reasonable price. It will also be offered as a standalone service.

“Seeing a spike in CO2 levels could show severe mold growth. Standard carbon dioxide runs about 400 parts per million (ppm) [outside], and if the sensor reads more than 10,000 ppm, that could mean severe mold activity, and then 2,000 to 3,000 ppm could mean some mold activity.”

“Indoor mold is the mold that causes problems. Mold growth can cause damage to buildings and furnishings. To reduce mold growth in an indoor space, controlling the humidity levels is very important. Keeping humidity levels between 30-60% (20% – 50% is a tighter range which is beneficial) can reduce the amount of moisture in the air to keep mold growth low.  Ventilating the space is another way to reduce mold growth in indoor spaces. Inspecting your indoor space is vital to ensure that the indoor environment stays healthy. Responding quickly to leaks and spills and cleaning them is essential to prevent growth in those areas.”

Regal Home Inspections, LLC, is undergoing the implementation of the use of carbon dioxide (CO2) detectors during the course of our home inspections. Just like the termite inspection, radon test or lead paint, it will be another ancillary service allowed by the home inspection Law.  During the course of a home inspection the CO2 detector will be used in different areas of the house. For example, we’ll check the CO2 levels in the basement, kitchen area and bedroom area. If the CO2 is in the 500ppm to 600ppm range then, as the reference material indicates, that’s a level that is expected. If it’s elevated from that and spikes then the client will be advised to get a mold specialist for further testing. This service will be offered in conjunction with our standard home inspections at a reasonable price. It will also be offered as a standalone service.

 

Pricing:                                                       With a Home Inspection         Stand-alone

Radon                                                          $50 – $100                             Minimum $175

Termite                                                         $50 – $100                            Minimum $195

Lead Paint                                                     Varies*                                 Varies*

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)  Measurement         $150                                       $350+

 

*- Different municipalities have different requirements. Some allow a visual, “Lead Safe” inspection and others require swabs be taken in every area where children are likely to spend time; Bedrooms, playrooms, Living rooms, etc.

 

 

Flippin’ Flippers

Flippin’ Flippers

by Frank J. Delle Donne  

October, 2022

Flipping houses has become an occupation for some. There are many homes that have been restored and updated by investors and DIYers. Many of them are very nice. However, as home inspectors, we’ve come across a number of flipped houses that fall under the category of what I call “Buyer Beware”. One such example was inspected October, 2022.

Due to some findings at this house, I was motivated to write this article as a word of caution to prospective buyers of flipped houses and a strong word of encouragement to hire a professional, licensed home inspector.  Your due diligence includes the inspection of the house including a termite inspection, sewer scope and tank sweep at least.  Most flipped houses are not occupied when you are thinking of buying it and have been empty for a while. Many flipped homes are old.

The standard, New Jersey home inspection covers structure, roof, electric, plumbing, etc. All very important things. I am also licensed to conduct a termite inspection and both inspectors here at Regal Home Inspections are also licensed to conduct radon tests.  Commencing in the very near future, one inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC will also be NJ licensed/certified to perform LEAD PAINT testing as well.

From what I’ve learned, anecdotally, many mortgage companies require a termite inspection. Even if yours does not, it’s very important that you hire a thorough inspector for Wood Destroying Insects (WDI).  WDI usually include termites, carpenter ants and carpenter bees. There are others but these are the three, most common.

While most houses should have a radon test, Monmouth County, for example, has a number of towns that are classified by the NJ DEP as, “High radon potential” areas. A few towns in Middlesex County and Somerset County. No towns in Ocean County are classified as high radon potential areas but we have seen homes with levels of radon that require mitigation. A radon test is important for a home you’re buying and periodic radon tests are important for occupied homes.

Back to the, “Flippin’ Flippers.”

The flip-house we recently did in Monmouth County had a nice looking kitchen and nicely renovated bathrooms and floors, etc. But what exists outside of the obvious is what matters. For this home, the major issues included:

Extensive, structural damage in the basement from termites.

Structural damage due to bad trade-practices in the crawl space and

Very poor implementation of aspects of the roof/plumbing vents and fan venting to the outside.

Termite Damage – Sometimes, termite damage is hard to find. It’s often limited and in a small area. Sometimes the indications are seen outside and sometimes inside. In this case, there was termite damage in a number of floor joists and in the subfloor. The termites rendered a number of joists as worthless for their intended purpose. Consequently, floors were no longer level and the structure of the house was compromised. Of course, following the NJ HI standards of practice, this is a material defect.  I’m going out on a limb and speculate that the flipper didn’t do their own inspection because this would have/should have been found.  In our report to the client we identified the problem, told them why it was important – damages the structure/reduces structural integrity – and advised them on what to do next. In this case it’s getting in an expert to provide a quote to repair and replace all the damaged wood so they can negotiate the purchase price with the flipper and receive some concession.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Structural Damage – While crawl spaces are not places I enjoy going, as I sometimes tell people, “Going into the crawl space was, “worth the price of admission”. In this same, flip-house there were two joists, under a bathroom no less, that had notches and split. These joists are holding up the weight of the tub and toilet and they are now capable of supporting a load that’s only a fraction of the joists’ intended strength.

Joist is poorly notched and now a split is forming from the weak point.
This notch significantly weakens the joist. Furthermore, both of these joists are below a bathroom. There appear to be some sagging in the joist at the notch. That’s understandable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roof issue. This is one for the Hall of Shame in my opinion. A sincere, “Thank you” to the flipper for making it so easy to identify.  From the outside of the house there were two elements of the roof that caught my attention. Now please note, the NJ home inspection laws require inspectors have an 11 foot ladder. Following the ladder’s safety instructions, that means I can’t get on a roof that more than, approximately 8 feet off the ground.  I also carry a 22 foot ladder but for this home, that too was not long enough. So, I use the telephoto lens of my camera and zoom into the roof as close as possible.

The first 2 photos below caused some concern when seen from the outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I went into the attic, I could see what was actually done. To give you an idea, my first reaction was to use a descriptive word for the actions of the flipper such as, “egregious”. A quick Google search for the definition of egregious results in, “outstandingly bad; shocking.”  Yes, that’s how I felt. My inspection partner, Brian, told me to edit that out of the report so I did. I substituted it with, “poor craftsmanship” or something similar.  The conditions still are material defects. The conditions were these…

For the pipe boot seen from the outside (Right photo above), the craftsman, inappropriately left the plumbing vent short and inside the attic and stuffed a bathroom fan’s vent together at the bottom of the pipe boot. The boot is absolutely not intended for that configuration. Someone knew they were doing that work incorrectly and in a substandard manner but did it anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

For the first photo from the roof, someone just stuck the open end of a 4 inch diameter, flexible foil vent duct through the roof! That’s basically a 4 inch diameter hole in the roof.  For both of these things, what were they thinking?

Water will enter the vent and collect at the bottom of the duct inside the attic. The potential exists for either the duct to leak onto the ceiling above or the water accumulate so much that it starts draining out of the ceiling fan in the bathroom!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bottom line, these matters were found and properly reported back to the client. There were also other findings that require attention; Electrical, safety and maintenance items (Like clogged and loose gutters).

Bottom line, hire a capable inspection company. Although you have to pay for these things, get the inspection, oil tank sweep, sewer scope, termite inspection, radon test and even a lead paint inspection.  There are also other things that may or may not apply such as pool inspections, Level 2 chimney inspections, etc.  If you have any questions please call Brian Delle Donne at 732 740 8365 or Frank at 908 902 2590.

 

Home Purchase Due Diligence

Due Diligence: Is it only for big corporate acquisitions? | Home Inspections Colts Neck NJ

 

Due diligence is the investigation or exercise of care that a reasonable business or person is normally expected to take before entering into an agreement or contract with another party or an act with a certain standard of care.

It can be a legal obligation, but the term will more commonly apply to voluntary investigations. A common example of due diligence in various industries is the process through which a potential acquirer evaluates a target company or its assets for an acquisition.[1] The theory behind due diligence holds that performing this type of investigation contributes significantly to informed decision making by enhancing the amount and quality of information available to decision makers and by ensuring that this information is systematically used to deliberate on the decision at hand and all its costs, benefits, and risks.”   Due diligence – Wikipedia

 

Like any purchase of significance due diligence is important and you probably don’t realize it but you already do it to a much, much simpler degree. Do you compare performance information and mileage for a new vehicle you may be considering buying?  That’s due diligence.  Do you compare school districts or the time to commute to and from work for the new home you’re thinking of buying?  That’ due diligence. And of course, the purpose of this piece is to make sure that you recognize that a home inspection is a critical aspect of your home purchase due diligence.

By law, the home inspection is a non-destructive inspection of various systems and components of the home. Exterior, roof, electrical elements, baths, etc. We at Regal Home Inspections, LLC, of course, follow the law to the letter of the law and we strive to surpass the bare minimum as required. For example, the law requires we check 1 outlet per room and one window per room.  If accessible, we usually check as many as we can, not the minimum. The purpose of this piece however it not to review the home inspection due diligence that Regal Home Inspections, LLC does but what you may want to consider (Or we may recommend) beyond the scope of the NJ home inspection standards of practice.  To that point, I am also licensed by the NJ DEP (License # 59628B) to inspect for wood destroying insects and prepare the industry recognized, “Termite Report”.  Both my son & business associate and I are also licensed to conduct radon measurements (NJ DEP Radon Measurement Technicians) MET14070 and MET13186 respectively.

You may not realize it but you’re already paying for elements that fall under due diligence. The title search that you’re doing.  The appraisal that the mortgage company may require.  The appraisal is more due diligence for the lender than it is for you, the buyer.  While I’m talking about the lender, when they verify your income and credit rating, that’s part of the business due diligence of them making the loan to you.

There are things beyond those that we do as home inspectors (Inspection, termite and radon) that we sometimes recommend and sometimes urge you get as part of your home purchase due diligence. As of now we don’t do them but we can refer you to good companies that do.

  • An oil tank sweep. Oil tanks were common for many years. Going back decades, natural gas was not as prevalent as it is today.  In the past, houses may have been heated with electric or oil if natural gas wasn’t available. There are many houses still heated with electricity and there are still some with oil.  However, it’s the ones that no longer have oil but did that we’re concerned with. What do the sellers know and is it accurate?  Years ago it was OK to have an old oil tank cleaned and abandoned in place. However, as I’ve heard, insurance companies will charge a higher premium if the property has an abandoned oil tank. If the property you’re considering buying as an old tank decommissioned and left in the ground, INSIST, that it be removed by the seller. You absolutely do not want to purchase the risk and liability of an underground oil tank. An oil tank sweep is relatively inexpensive and worth every penny. Usually the cost is between $275 and $450 depending on the size of the property.
certified home inspections colts neck nj
The same oil lines near the water meter and water pipes.
certified home inspections monmouth county nj
Old oil lines in the basement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Sewer scope analysis. Information suggests that up to 80% of the waste pipes from the house to the sewer connection have some type of issue. It could be roots that have grown into the waste pipe. Bellies where there’s a dip in the pipe that can collect waste and hinder good drainage. Breaks in the pipe, cracks or holes. Often, a family of 4 or 5 is buying a house from an original owner where one person has been living in the home for years. Years earlier there was a family but as the children grew up and moved out, eventually, like me and my wife, there are two people living in the home.  The water use for an older couple or a single, older occupant is very, very different than for a family of 3, 4 5 or more. The waste pipe from the house may be able to handle the one or two loads of laundry a week and a few showers a week for the older occupants but when the young family moves in and there are multiple showers and baths a day and multiple loads of laundry a day, etc. The corroded waste pipe is no longer able to handle the waste water volume of the young family as it could for the older couple. A video, sewer scope analysis of the sewer pipe is worth it’s weight in gold.

Financially, for both the oil tank and sewer scope, you’re talking about $300 for each to be sure vs. many thousands of dollars to repair.  Is it 10 to 1?  $300 vs. $3000?  No, it could be more like 30 to 1 or 50 to 1.  That’s $9000 to repair or $15,000 to repair and quite possibly more.

 

In conclusion, think of your home purchase as a business acquisition and your duty is to perform all of the reasonable due diligence needed. The home inspection is #1. DO NOT WAIVE YOUR HOME INSPECTION!  #2 Think about some other, important services: Radon test, termite inspection, oil tank sweep, sewer scope analysis, lead paint, mold and pools.  Anything that’s important to you should be part of your home purchase due diligence.

 

Other Services | Certified Home Inspector Monmouth County NJ

Regal Home Inspections, LLC is thermal imaging certified and offers Monmouth County NJ certified home inspections, condo inspections, estate inspections, and townhouse inspections.

It’s likely your mortgage company will require a wood-destroying insect inspection. Regal Home Inspections has the NJ DEP Core & 7B Pesticide Applicator license, so we can offer professional termite and wood-destroying insect inspections as well!

Call 908-902-2590 for your free quote or if you have any questions!