John Muir, the 19th-century naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club, once famously said: "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."
(Actually, he's long been misquoted as "When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world," but that's just not how the Scotsman talked.)
Anyway, the sentiment of both lines is the same: everything around us is connected to everything else.
The water we drink is tied to where we live. The air we breathe is impacted by what's happening in the world around us. And the lives we lead are connected to all other people.
This sentiment applies to our homes and other structures as well.
The places where we spend the most time have an outsize impact on our physical health. Think about it. How often have you gone into a stuffy, musty space and felt a headache coming on? Or a drafty home that leads to colds? Buildings matter.
That's why InterNACHI® offers the "Healthy Homes" Certification program.
As the organization explains: "Scientific evidence demonstrates a solid relationship between housing conditions and human health. Studies on the economic burden of specific defects in homes show costs rising into the billions of dollars annually. Defects in the home contribute to both poor health and the economic burdens on society at large."
What is a healthy home?
According to InterNACHI, a healthy home is one that is:
- free of contaminants
- well ventilated
- well maintained
- thermally controlled
Unfortunately, too many homes fall victim to one or more of these factors, putting the health of their occupants at risk for everything from mold, to pest infiltration, to temperature swings and more.
But it's not all bad.
Also per InterNACHI: "The good news is that most home-based hazards are preventable. Not only can we help reduce health problems for homeowners and their families, but we can relieve the economic costs associated with poor housing, too, which also results in a positive return on the investment."
A healthy home inspection should be part of every homeowner's annual maintenance plan, ensuring that the home remains a safe and healthy environment for everyone who lives there.
What's included in a healthy homes inspection?
InterNACHI publishes a checklist that homeowners can use to inspect their own home for risk factors, but here are some of the high points.
Look around outside: How's the paint on the building? Are there any areas where it is peeling or discolored? Also look for potential erosion sites in the surrounding grounds as well as any overgrown vegetation that might damage the overall structure.
Consider the drainage: Is water being directed away from the house as intended? If not, where is it going? Also look for cracked pavement, crumbling foundation areas and other spots that might allow water inside.
Doors and windows: Are there any cracks or leaks visible in the frames or panels themselves? Does everything still seal fully when closed?
Don't skip the roof: Most homeowners already keep an eye on their roof since it is such a critical part of the home, but don't overlook this protective layer when inspecting the health of your home. Look for damaged or clogged drains, chimney clearance above the roofline, damaged vents, loose shingles or other areas that might be problems.
Look over the electrical system: Frayed and worn wiring is an obvious fire and health hazard, so make sure your entire system, including the breaker box, is in good working order and not a risk factor. This includes extension cords and outlet covers as well. Is everything being used properly?
In-home environment: No clogs or leaks in the boiler or hot water heater? Is the fuel supply (such as natural gas) secure and leak-free? Another key factor to inspect with HVAC is the exhaust. Is your system still venting properly?
This is just the beginning. Check out the full checklist from InterNACHI.