fbpx

Be Well Advised Series:
Murray Klingbeil
AmeriSpec Home Inspection

< Back to All Interviews

About Murray:

Bio:

Murray Klingbeil is a professional Home Inspector here in the Okanagan Valley. He has been in business for 28 years and has provided over 10,000 home inspections and energy evaluation to date.

Kelowna Neighbourhood:

Murray and his wife live in the Ellison area. “They love everything about it, the view, the country in the city feeling and their nearest neighbours are deer!”

Contact:

Murray is reachable via phone or email (250) 763-0822 or via email at: ac.ce1594756694psire1594756694ma@na1594756694ganak1594756694o1594756694


Interview Transcription:

Christy:
Welcome Murray, from AmeriSpec.

Murray:
Good morning, ladies. How are you today?

Lora:
We're great. Thank you for joining us today. We wanted to talk to you today because in the real estate industry in the last couple weeks, the property disclosure statement which sellers have to fill out when they list a home on the MLS System with a realtor, they now have to disclose some information about radon gas and if it's in their home or if it's ever been tested. So Christy and I have high level Googled this, but we like to learn from experts. So we thought that we would engage with you. You could walk us through exactly what it is and just give us the Coles notes version.

Christy:
So Murray, what exactly is radon gas?

Murray:
Okay. Radon gas is a byproduct of the degradation of uranium in the soil. Radon gas is everywhere to some degree. Okay. Certain parts of Canada, well, certain parts of the world have higher readings than others. Now, unfortunately for us here in the Okanagan, we have some of the highest radon gas levels in all of Canada. They are estimating that approximately 12 to 15% of all of the residential houses in Okanagan have elevated readings. So in Canada, we measure radon gas by a unit called the Becquerel. And what a Becquerel is is the energy that's released from a particle of radon gas. And radon gas is radioactive. So out in the wilderness, as soon as it is emitted from the soil, it's immediately diluted to almost unmeasurable amounts and it's harmless. But in our houses, in our schools, in our hospitals, in our day cares, it gets trapped inside the building envelope.

Murray:
And if your readings exceed 200 Becquerels per cubic meter, that's the threshold for when it becomes a problem. So the issue is that radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in humans next to cigarette smoke. So we've all heard this story of that 42 year old high school gym teacher that's a marathon runner, vegetarian, never smoked a day in his life, and he keels over from lung cancer at 42. That's from radon gas. So it's everywhere. Everybody should test. And it's a very good thing that it's now included in the real estate transaction.

Murray:
And just a little history there. It's now become a significant liability issue. So last year there was a precedent setting lawsuit that was settled, where a longterm tenant that was renting a basement suite for a long, long time successfully sued his landlord for his lung cancer, because it was proven that the house had extreme radon levels.

Murray:
So what that means for the rest of us in this industry, particularly landlords, now that the bar is set, you have a legal obligation to ensure that your house is safe for your tenants. And moving forward for real estate agents and inspectors and anybody that's involved and vendors that are selling the house, it's now an issue that needs to be addressed and documented. So the best advice we can give is when you are going to put your house for sale, to get it listed for sale, it would be prudent to do your due diligence and have your house tested for radon.

Lora:
So ahead of time.

Murray:
Ahead of time.

Christy:
So you think the seller should be responsible for it, not the buyer in the home inspection?

Murray:
With the timelines of real estate and how are our subject removal times are often very short, we can fit it in, but if you're proactive and the vendor does it, and then they can fill in their PCDs accordingly, and if the house does happen to measure high, then you can either have a system installed or you can negotiate a reduction in the price.

Lora:
Okay. So that's great. So in the videos we've done before, I wasn't sitting in my basement in my utility room, but I thought I would go on location for this one. So my husband built our home back in 2013. And in speaking about this whole radon, he went and installed this. And can you please, Murray, tell me what the significance or what this is and why it's here and how it plays into radon and radon testing?

Murray:
Certainly. Your husband was before the game. All right, so what he's installed there is a radon mitigation rough-in. So basically that pipe goes below the slab of the basement of your home, into what we call a French drain, which is basically an underground [inaudible]. So if you guys test your house for radon and you find that you have elevated readings, now what they do is they extend that pipe either up through the roof, or it could be sidewall venting, and they install a fan. A fan that is what we call low sewn. So it runs very quiet at a low RPM, and it's mounted with rubber collars that greatly reduces the noise in your house. Basically what that fan does is it vacuums all the air out from under the slab of your house and discharges it harmlessly to the atmosphere. So in effect, all that radon gas and excess moisture and mildewy smells that you get from a root cellar are now discharging outside. So that is extremely effective at lowering the radon levels in your house.

Lora:
Because once it's in the air, it's at a lowest level that is not harmful.

Murray:
Correct.

Lora:
Right. So it needs to be vented outside and then it can get absorbed into the atmosphere. And it's not a risk anymore.

Murray:
Exactly diluted to almost unmeasurable amounts. So the building code NBC and ever since November of 2015, all new construction single family residences had to have that system roughed in like your husband has.

Lora:
Does it look like this, sorry to interrupt Murray. But is this what we would look for? Something like that.

Murray:
Exactly. And so now, approximately two to two and a half years ago, the simple rough-in that you have wasn't good enough. So the powers that be decided it's much easier to run the pipe straight up through the roof at the time of construction, because now you're not dealing with drywall repairs, et cetera. But it's difficult for you to tell because many times the pipe is enclosed in the wall. Often it's under the storage area, under stairs, it's in the utility room like yours is, but sometimes you just can't see it unless you look in the attic or somebody gets on the roof and looks for the pipe.

Christy:
So Murray, is there`a time of year where radon is more prevalent?

Murray:
Very good question. You're absolutely right. The best time to test for radon is when it's at its highest level, which is in the winter months, when we have what we call closed house conditions. So we don't have our windows open for ventilation. You're not running your air conditioner. So that's when the levels are highest. That produces the most accurate testing. And with regard to testing, homeowners can easily do it themselves. The most accurate test is a 90-day test involving what are called alpha trackers. And they're basically, they look like puck. They're a little bigger than this and they're-

Lora:
Sorry, Murray. I missed that. What were they called?

Murray:
Alpha trackers.

Lora:
Alpha trackers. Okay.

Murray:
And so you can buy them at Rona or Home Depot or from Amazon, or you can get them from the Canadian Lung Association, because of course they want everybody to test their home.

Murray:
So you take it out of the package and you place this elevated, it can't be on the floor, in the lowest habitable room of your house. So usually it's going to be a basement bedroom. And it sits there for 90 days. And you try to keep the house as airtight as you can. Then you put it in a pre-addressed envelope and you send it to a lab that gets analyzed. And then the lab sends you back the test results. And then from those results, the recommendations are there on what needs to be done.

Murray:
So that's the best longterm solution for the homeowner. But in a real estate transaction, that isn't going to cut it. Who's going to wait for 90 days? So the options are what we've done. And we have spent the money to buy some of the very best equipment that's on the market and show you what this looks like. So this device here is called the Radon Sentinel and the company is Sun Core Nuclear. And this is a Model 1030, which is the most accurate, technologically advanced one on the market today. So with this machine, we can give home buyers or sellers accurate results in two to four days instead of three minutes.

Lora:
And you can bundle that into your home inspection pricing or package?

Murray:
Absolutely. And of course, when it's bundled in, they get a discount. And so for anybody that's wondering on pricing for Joe-off-the-street, it's $250. And for any of our clients, it's a $50 discount, so it's $200. And it's a very nice professional report that they have, basically, it's a comfort letter for any buyer, and you can see exactly what your readings are.

Lora:
And so it doesn't have to be sent off to a lab to be analyzed or anything like that?

Murray:
Nope. This comes with very good diagnostic software. So we plug the machine into the laptop when we've done the test, downloads all the information and it measures temperature, humidity, barometric pressures. It's got a device built into it that registers tampering. If somebody takes the machine and puts it on the back patio, we'd know. So it's very accurate and it can't be cheated, which is a comfort for anybody that's relying on this results.

Lora:
That's really great. So say that test comes back. Yes, you have elevated levels of radon. You do need to mitigate this. We now have a disclosure situation. What is involved and maybe it's two part. If your home is pre-2015 and doesn't have this plumbed tube, or if it's post-2015, what does that look like in your experience?

Murray:
Good question. All right. The more complete the system is the cheaper it is. So if the house is fairly recent and believe it or not, in our testing experience, we're finding newer construction to have elevated readings versus older construction, because the old houses are leaky and you're getting natural air changes. So the tighter we're building our houses, the more opportunity there is to trap radon. All right. So in an older house that does not have a mitigation system roughed in, the prices vary from a low point of around $2,500 to a high point of about $6,000. It all depends on the construction. So some houses have a partial basement with a partial crawl space. And if the crawl space is an older house that doesn't have a concrete slab on it, now that's got to be enclosed with a thick vapor barrier membrane, and now you have to have two of those pipes installed, one for the partial basement and one for the crawl space.

Lora:
That would be like a split-level house, sorry to interrupt, but a split-level house that is very prevalent in the older areas of Kelowna.

Murray:
Exactly. Exactly. So the more holes and the more pipes and the more fans they got to install, it increases the price. But in most cases, I'm going to say the average is riding around $3,000 to $4,000, which is basically the cost of replacing an air conditioner. So it's not a deal breaker. And then once the system is installed and that fan runs 24 hours a day, everybody's safe, everybody is.

Lora:
Okay.

Murray:
And so conversely on a new construction that the pipe is properly installed all the way through the roof, all they have to do is install the fan. And so the fan itself, a very good quality fan's going to run you around $500. And so call it a thousand bucks and you're off to the races.

Lora:
Okay. Well that is very helpful.

Christy:
Yes. I definitely learned something today. Thanks, Murray. Do you have anything else that you'd like to add?

Murray:
Yes, one thing I want people to keep in mind is this is a moving target. Okay. So I can test two houses side by side on the same street. This year, this house is high and this one has lower units. Next year, there can be changes in the fissures in the soil. Radon gas is like water. It takes the path of least resistance. So if there's a minor earthquake, if there's an underground spring that changes directions or the earth just naturally is moving all the time from the freestyle process, now the radon gas will go to a different area. And they're finding this significant changes in places like Alberta, where they do fracking for busting up the underground rock formations to release the natural gas. Well, with natural gas also comes the radon. And it can also come in well water. It can come in creeks and streams, so it's a good idea for homeowners to monitor their radon on a regular basis because it can change year to year.

Lora:
So this is an ongoing.

Murray:
It's ongoing.

Lora:
So I kind of liken it to a carbon monoxide test almost. Now houses, we see that's very prevalently [inaudible] so it's kind of similar. You want to just get on top of the radon monitoring as well.

Murray:
Yes. You can go online or I can go to Best Buy and you can buy electronic radon gas monitors for your house as well. In my opinion, they are going to do a pretty good job, but they won't be as accurate as the longterm puck testing, but it's going to get you in the ballpark. And so if you have extreme or relatively significant readings, then you could double confirm that with a professional test by our machine before you spend the money. And we found it's about 50/50 on the accuracy of these relatively inexpensive monitors, but at least it's going to get you in the ballpark.

Lora:
Right.

Christy:
Okay.

Lora:
That was awesome. Thank you.

Murray:
Ladies, I thank you very much. And should anybody have any questions please contact our office. And there's reams of information online as well, but it's one of those things that's becoming much more knowledgeable or an item out there. The media is picking up on it, and it's just that something that's a very serious health issue if it's high with concentrations and it needs to be addressed.

Lora:
No, I think it's important.

Christy:
Yeah. Well, thank you. We appreciate you taking the time.

Murray:
Thank you and great weekend and stay dry.

Christy:
I know, right?

Murray:
Bye-bye.

Christy:
Bye.

About Lora + Christy

We want to make your Kelowna real estate dreams a reality. The team at LORA+CHRISTY puts their strategic marketing expertise and extensive network of contacts & colleagues to work, ensuring that your expectations are met and surpassed. Creating great outcomes for our clients is a product of decades of experience in the Kelowna real estate market. The mission is simple: to be the premier real estate team in the Okanagan Valley.