Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC 3380-000723

I was called by someone who found me on line.  She wanted me to find the solution to a problem.

It seems the three kids in the family have all moved on, with Mom still living alone in the old house they grew up in.  Until recently.  She was "continually sick with the flu" and only felt better when she went to visit one of the kids, all nearby.  Their conclusion:  the house was making Mom sick and they moved her out to figure it out.  That could really be true.  In this case it was true.

They checked with an air quality company but thought the testing was very expensive.  They "diagnosed" the problem, over the phone(!), proposed a testing protocol and ultimate solution.  And, they guaranteed their work.  I told her that if they can do that over the phone they simply have to be really, really good and cheap at twice the price...  She laughed.

Someone told them that a home inspector might be a cheaper option.  He was.  He was me.  Also cheap at twice the price!  But I offered no guarantees and wasn't sure I could figure things out.  But hey, she called, I went!  A real house doctor - black bag, lots of gadgets.  But this doctor doesn't diagnose anything over the phone.

I met her there early.  We walked around and through the house.  Mom's master bedroom was on one end, above the laundry/furnace room, and under the attic.  I saw no leakage from roof or plumbing and smelled no mold.  The house was pretty well kept up.




Going into the laundry/furnace, this is what I saw:

That is the water heater vent.

Not only was it disconnected 2" from the main exhaust stack, but to get there it pointed down for a while.

Not good.

Gee, I think it was leaking carbon monoxide.

And right under Mom's bed...





Going into the attic, this is what I saw:

That is a breach in the main exhaust stack.  What you can't see is that the hotter vent inside this vent was similarly disconnected.  You can see how the escaping heat causes condensation and therefore rust.

Not good.

Gee, I think it was leaking carbon monoxide.

And right over Mom's bed...

I think Mom was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.  Not enough to kill her, but enough to keep her in a sickly condition.  That is why she felt better when she went to visit the kids.

I wonder if the air quality company would have discovered this?  Don't know!

My recommendation:  Call a home inspector!  He may just be the house doctor you need.

And, seriously, install carbon monoxide detectors!  They are cheap and they work!  They will even go off when CO levels are high enough to give you flu-like symptoms, but not high enough to kill.  But, thousands needlessly die every year to something they could easily have been warned about in advance. 

Nationally, the detector road should be the MORE traveled by and THAT would make all the difference.

Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Re-Blogged 14 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Roy Kelley 05/09/2010 12:37 AM
  2. Lenn Harley 05/09/2010 01:43 AM
  3. D B 05/09/2010 02:09 AM
  4. Catherine Chaudemanche - Edison & Central NJ 05/09/2010 11:47 AM
  5. Gabe Sanders 05/09/2010 12:30 PM
  6. Lyn Sims 05/09/2010 01:25 PM
  7. David Okada 05/09/2010 01:45 PM
  8. Brian Black 05/09/2010 02:42 PM
  9. Monique Hailer 05/09/2010 03:18 PM
  10. Rain Silverhawk 05/09/2010 04:19 PM
  11. Gayle Causey 05/10/2010 06:15 AM
  12. Shanna Hall 05/11/2010 08:17 AM
  13. Diane Williams 05/13/2010 07:50 PM
  14. Mirela Monte 05/15/2010 06:52 PM
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Fred Sweezer Sr.
Hud Certified 203K Consultant - Long Beach, CA
Certified Home Inspector

Save the day, very good work Jay!

May 09, 2010 04:46 PM #52
Russell Benson
Berkshire-Hathaway HomeServices/Anderson Properties - Moore, OK

Very nice story Jay.  Not always the bad guys are ya?  Serious though, you were sent from heaven to help a little lady out.  Way to go and earned a friend for life!

May 09, 2010 05:02 PM #53
Tom Bailey
Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc. - Oak Island, NC

Good job Jay. Lenn is right about heat pumps, but a good natural gas heater sure seems warmer.

May 09, 2010 05:57 PM #54
Aaron Vaughn | Builder | Investor
Conifer Homes - Buda, TX
If the deal makes sense, the cash will follow.

Hello: While I am not shocked that a home inspector recommends getting a home inspector, I agree completely!

May 09, 2010 06:58 PM #55
Pat, Ben and Martin Mullikin
M3 Realty - Brookfield, WI

For less than $100 a home can be safe from carbon monoxide with a good quality carbon monoxide detector. Hey Realtors, wouldn't that make a fabulous closing gift?

May 09, 2010 07:01 PM #56
Nancy McNamee
Keller Williams Realty - Roseville, CA

Good job, Jay!  I've been asking my husband to get carbon monoxide detectors for our rentals but it seems to be a low priority.  After reading this it's going on the white board.  Glad to get a hint about a good brand.

May 09, 2010 08:49 PM #57
Tina Gleisner
Home Tips for Women - Portsmouth, NH
Home Tips for Women

Fascinating story

May 09, 2010 11:44 PM #58
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

David - I agree, but it is hard to force people to have common sense.

Rebecca - only one?   (;>)

Camarillo - just another service we offer!

Susan - I'm very glad you two could get out.  The house is full of detectors now, right?

Rain - that is a scary story and it was good you could get that door open.  CO is nasty stuff.  It evidently  killed off something in your body that never recovered.

May 10, 2010 12:03 AM #59
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Fred - saving the day?  Kind of like Mighty Mouse...

Never the bad guys, Russell, never!

Tom - they are, but I understand where she's coming from.

Aaron - we home inspectors spend a lot of time trying to become better home inspectors.  Who else could you call?  Did you see my post on painting porch ceilings light blue?  You could call a ghost buster...

Pat - that would be a great closing gift.  And good ones can be had for much less than $100.


May 10, 2010 12:06 AM #60
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Nancy - I recommend them on every report where they will be necessary.  And Nighthawk makes a good one.

Tina - it was written in a way to make it understandable.  I didn't really figure out how bad the carbon monoxide was until after I discovered the sources and she told me her mother's recent history.

May 10, 2010 12:08 AM #61
Richard Pino
RE/Max Advantage Real Estate - Gloucester, MA

Jay, great blog making us aware of the danger of carbon monoxide in a home. Every state should follow Mass. in making carbon detectors mandatory in homes.

May 10, 2010 02:59 AM #62
Gregg Schoh
Montana Land Company, Flathead Valley Montana - Lakeside, MT

About a year and a half ago my good friends and clients lost their 18 year old son in a tragic CO accident.   He was an active, outgoing teenager who loved downhill skiing, being with friends, and was a promising young golfer who lettered for Flathead High School.  He died while watching over the family guest house on their property during sub-zero temperatures on a Saturday night. Since then his father has championed an effort to raise awareness of CO dangers including getting Lowe's, Home Depot, etc. to give discounts on CO detectors to anyone mentioning "Ian's Challenge"  There is currently a bill in the Montana Legislature to require CO detectors in rentals, new construction, etc. similar to currently required smoke detectors.

May 10, 2010 04:51 AM #63
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

A good home inspection is well worth the price.  Small issues can cause big problems.

May 10, 2010 04:55 AM #64
Jeanne Dufort
Coldwell Banker Lake Country - Madison, GA
Madison and Lake Oconee GA

Thanks for the important reminder, Jay.

I had a similar problem with an elderly homeowner a few years ago - she had been on and off with stomach problems for months - no good diagnosis. Got the home under contract, and the inspector found a cracked waste pipe that was spewing stuff underneath the home - close to her well.  Sure enough, the well tested positive for bad stuff.  Cleaned both up, and her health returned.

May 10, 2010 05:11 AM #65
Jirius Isaac
Isaac Real Estate &TriStar Mortgage - Kenmore, WA
Real Estate & loans in Kenmore, WA

Good for you, and her, for finding the problem.  It is amazing that people do not use inspectors and carbon monoxide detectors more often.

May 10, 2010 05:54 AM #66
Malcolm Johnston
Century 21 Lanthorn Real Estate LTD., Trenton, Ontario - Trenton, ON
Trenton Real Estate

Thank you for blogging about this. It is such an important issue, yet it gets overlooked by many.

May 10, 2010 06:18 AM #67
Susie Lemons
Keller Williams, Tulsa OK - Tulsa, OK

Thanks Jay! I am a huge fan of home inspectors! Always have them done...but have been remiss on getting a CO detector for my own home!  It's on the list now!

May 10, 2010 08:00 AM #68
Linda Lohman
Fonville Morisey Realty - Cary, NC
Former Teacher/Broker

I just moved in to a new home that is 20 years old.  I'm going to make sure my carbon monoxide detector is working.  Great post!

May 10, 2010 10:37 AM #69
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Richard - I don't know how to legislate common sense...  What if someone in Mass dies from CO and they determine there was no detector.  What do they do?

Gregg - Did you know you should replace your smoke detectors every year because they lose their ability to detect smoke?  They simply can't legislate everything!  Ian's Challenge sounds great, and I hope it works.

Gene - I agree completely!  Or, as I say, cheap at twice the price.

Jeanne - wells are another problem altogether!

Jirius - again, I say that common sense is hard to mandate!

May 10, 2010 12:52 PM #70
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Malcolm - and so many die needlessly each year from CO poisoning.

Susie - go get one tonight!  They are cheap and easy to find.  I recommend the Nighthawk brand.

Linda - read my comment to Susie!

May 10, 2010 12:54 PM #71
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