Colorado is just about a perfect place to lay down roots. With a high quality of life, access to nature and a mild climate (just to name a few) it’s no wonder Colorado is one of the nations preferred places for relocation. But that’s not to say our state is free of concerns. When it comes to buying a Colorado home, there are a few things you should be aware of – especially if you’re a transplant.
1. Radon Gas
While not a large concern for most of the country, radon gas is a shockingly common concern for Coloradans. Radon is a colorless, odorless Class A carcinogen, which naturally seeps from the soil as uranium breaks down. It is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers; each year spent in a home with 6.4 pCi/L of radon or higher is the equivalent of getting 200 chest X-rays. Most of Colorado is classified as Zone 3, the most at-risk grade. Fortunately, radon is relatively cheap to test for (around $150) and frequently mitigated. If your home tests high for radon, you will want to get it fixed right away! By sealing the base layer of the home and installing a ventilation system, you can stop this deadly toxin from accumulating in your home.
What to know ahead of time: To get an accurate reading, a home will need to be sealed for 48 hours with portals closed and ventilation minimized. While this a non-issue for many, some may prefer to test for radon while they are out of town or while the home is between owners.
2. Expansive Soil
Because Colorado earth is high in bentonite clay, it will swell and contract with moisture; this is because these clay particles can grow up to 20 times their size when soaked. The shifting soil can break foundations and pipes, much to the dismay of builders and homeowners. Many homes today require extra steps during construction to avoid this issue, but plenty of buildings were not built with this factor in mind. Cracks in concrete or soil are a sign your soil is expansive, as are uneven surfaces and doors that no longer fit nicely in their frames. If this is the case, be sure to direct water away from your home and consider hiring someone to remedy this issue.
What to know ahead of time: Some cracks are normal and of no concern. Generally speaking, you should be concerned when a crack is larger than ¼” thick, horizontal or raised. Note that many concrete slabs on the ground are not structural and can be severely cracked without concern.
3. Swamp Coolers
Swamp coolers are efficient air conditioning appliances that only work in dry climates. They work by passing warm air over water molecules that will steal the heat away in order to phase change. Evaporative cooling is the same mechanic that our bodies utilize when we sweat to prevent overheating; it’s also a trick the ancient Egyptians took advantage of to cool their homes. Considering it is a cheaper, more eco-friendly way to cool your space, think of it as a Colorado perk!
What to know ahead of time: The only real downside to evaporative cooling is that it requires a bit more maintenance than air conditioning. If it is not cleaned, it can foster mildew and create a swampy odor. Consider changing pads at the start of each season.
This information was provided by Andrew Sams with Alpine Building Performance, a Denver Metro Home Inspection and Home Energy Auditing business committed to raising the bar in home performance by promoting client health, safety and comfort. He is a DMAR Industry Partner and can be contacted at 720-612-1469.