When looking for a new home, try and make sure you can breathe easy there before sealing the deal.
A FAMILY goes to see a house, and falls in love with it. They agree to buy it, and move in. But some time later, they start having recurrent colds or notice their asthma getting worse, and after a talk with the doctor the idea dawns on them: does our house have mould or moisture damage somewhere?
To live well, we need good-quality indoor air, which always depends on many different factors. “There is more to indoor air problems than just moisture and mould. Symptoms may also be caused by ventilation issues, particulate or gaseous impurities or fibrous matter,” says Tuula Syrjänen, repair advisor at the Pulmonary Association and the Allergy and Asthma Federation of Finland. “These problems are not exclusive to Finland. But because of our climate, most of us spend a lot of time indoors, which amplifies the importance of indoor air quality.”
“Take airborne particulate matter, for example. A lot of it comes from outside, with outdoor air, and can include dust from traffic and industrial sources as well as pollen, even from far afield, and may cause us problems indoors. But airborne particulate matter can also originate from indoors, from interior decoration materials or cooking and other activities,” Syrjänen says.
Tuula Syrjänen and the other
Pointers for home hunters
How can home buyers ensure that the quality of indoor air is good? “All people can rely on their senses – their eyes and nose – in this. And they do well by asking questions from the previous owner or tenant, landlord, estate agent, housing manager, perhaps even the neighbours, to find out about any problems or repairs. The law says that those selling or letting residential property are obliged to tell the buyers or new tenants about any technical problems they know of.”
What about taking a moisture meter with you? “I don’t recommend it for laymen. You need a pro to use that gear right and, more importantly, interpret any readings the right way,” Syrjänen says. “For prospective house buyers, there are specialised engineering companies that perform indoor air inspections and condition surveys. Tenants should report indoor air problems to the landlord, who will approach the housing company, which is often represented by a housing manager; whereas apartment owners experiencing such issues should contact the housing manager, because the housing company is responsible for apartment building structures. But then there needs to be clear indications such as rotten smell, dislodged bathroom tiles or visible mould growth. Inspections should always be focused on a physical object such as a ventilation system or building structure.”
Beware of moisture damage
• Moisture damage can affect walls, windows, ceilings, floors and the building’s foundations
• Broken pipes, broken dishwasher hose, clogged toilet, etc, commonly cause moisture damage. Subterranean water flow, bad waterproofing of exterior walls, cracks or construction defects can also cause moisture damage.
• Moisture damage can be detected by changes on the colour of walls, deterioration of paint, appearance of mould and smell.
• Exposure to mould in a closed environment can cause breathing difficulties and coughs in healthy people and babies exposed to mould in their home have a greater risk (twice) to develop asthma.
LEHTIKUVA / ALEKSI MAKKONEN / MARKKU ULANDER
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