Basic Building Science for home owners

I am a Arizona Home Inspector and have determined that people need to get back to the basics.

Over the years people have broken a home into the different components and/or systems, there is the plumbing system and the HVAC etc. It’s only natural, we tend to do it all the time. In medicine doctors used to ask lots of questions and then base their diagnosis on the answers along with the symptoms, but now if you neck or back hurt you go to a chiropractor, if you feel ill you take a pill, we just don’t seem to focus on cause and effect any more. The neck ache or upset stomach could both be symptoms of something else, the same is true with buildings.

Think of a building like a body, it has different systems just like your body, For example:

The Electrical system is the nervous system
The Plumbing is the circulatory system
The HVAC is the respiratory system
The Framing is the skeleton
The Exterior cladding is the skin

When something penetrates the skin it can attack the other systems, you can get a virus that grows inside you.
When moisture penetrates a building you can have mold. Simply treating the symptom without identifying how the problem entered will not solve the problem.

So how does this relate to buildings?

When you turn your clothes dryer on you are drawing 400-600 cubic feet per minute (CFM) out of your home, heating it and blowing it out of your home through the dryer vent. Your bathroom fan, stove hood, and central vacuum systems all take inside air and blow it outside. The problem is that while you are operating those appliances the air has to be replaced inside the home, otherwise your home would deflate and crush like a little kids juice box that is sucked dry.

Professional competent home inspectors do more than just look at the different systems in the house, they look at how the systems work with each other.

When the fans are on, does the gas water heater back draft and pull carbon monoxide into the home, does the air come down the chimney? These negative pressures can pull hot, cold, wet, dry and or polluted air into your home. That’s right, moisture, odors, radon, pesticides and more can enter your home because of the negative pressures caused by the home owner.

These are things that are considered by the best home inspectors but overlooked by many. These issues are more than just energy saving issues, they can create life safety issues.

You don’t have to wait until you buy a home to get it inspected. If you are having comfort issues or notice that you feel better outside of your home than inside, you may want to consult a professional home inspector that has had some building science training.  They may suggest thermal imaging or blower door testing and these items typically cost more than a normal home inspection but you may want to consider them. It could bring a whole new meaning to having a healthy home.

For more information about home inspections or thermal imaging visit

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  1. Excellent tips.

  2. Great article, this information needs to be shared with home inspectors and homeowners alike. A home that performs well is has more benefits other than cost savings on utility bills!

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