Bathroom fans

Published on January 19th, 2015 | by Henri

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Home inspector misses problems

Q.  My husband was in the attic recently solving a few problems with our SpacePak AC in the attic. He found that both of the bathroom fans in our 1956 ranch home vent directly into the attic – in fact, there are no vents from the fan. In the attic, he found one just had a bag over the fan.

We bought the house in 2006 and we did have the home inspected. I dug out the inspection report, found the “attic”section, and this is what it said in the section labeled (1) “Exhaust fans exhaust outside” – the “cannot view” was checked. My husband saw them, why couldn’t the inspector? (2) He made comment at the end “Vermiculite insulation in the attic.”

No mention of possible asbestos was ever mentioned verbally or under the “general comments” summary review of the inspection.  If the word “asbestos” had been uttered, remediation would have required for me to buy this house or the deal would have been killed.

I wondered about the vermiculite comment and Googled it. It took two seconds to connect to the EPA and info on how 70% of vermiculite insulation in the country came from the mine in Libby, Montana and how asbestos was also in it – up until 1990, when the mine was shut down. “Assume vermiculite insulation has asbestos in it” was the general idea.

The other question I have is if the Space Pak AC with its vents in the ceiling can blow any of the air from the attic into our living space.

If you are wondering, yes, the home inspector was recommended by the real estate agent of the owners.  We were not represented by a real estate agent.  We had the home inspected, and a lawyer represented us at the closing.

Was the home inspector negligent in not mentioning this insulation and its possible connection to asbestos?  My husband was with him during the home inspection and does not remember even going into the attic. I am now wondering if he saw the vermiculite insulation in there and didn’t really enter – perhaps the reason why the “Cannot view” comment regarding the exhaust fan vents from the bathrooms.

Where should I send the insulation to be tested?  I am not sure how to proceed with this.

A.    It does look as if the home inspector was not thorough or attentive to details on his own reporting form.

If he could not see the outlet jacks of the bathroom fans on the outside of the house, and  reported that by checking the “Cannot view” box, he should have been especially careful to inspect the attic to see how they were vented, if at all.

He should also have mentioned the possibility that the vermiculite contained asbestos.

If the SpacePack system was properly installed, and the ceiling cutouts caulked around the ducts, there is low probability that attic air is entering the conditioned spaces.

Your experience with the real estate agent-recommended home inspector is familiar. In my professional experience, I have seen quite a number of cases where the real estate agents recommend less-than-thorough inspectors because they “find” fewer problems. On the other hand, there are many real estate agents who only recommend the top inspectors. So it’s a question of whom the sellers chose as an agent.

It is far better and safer for the buyer to choose the inspector after doing some research. The wise course is to choose an inspector certified by one of the two prominent professional associations: ASHI and NAHI.

To have the insulation tested, if you feel it necessary, call environmental firms listed in your Yellow Pages. You might simply assume that it does contain asbestos unless you plan on having it removed and replaced – a huge expense.

An alternative is to have it covered with blown-in cellulose after the bathroom fans have been properly vented to the outside.

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