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I'm looking to purchase a home that is only 10 years old, but has a finished basement. There's various home inspection "packages" that are offered with the companies I've looked into. The mid-line features an "Infra-red scan" that can theoretically detect potential water problems behind the basement walls (this is about $200 extra), as well as an "air quality" test where they identify allergens in the home (which is, like, $400 extra).

Are either of these tests worth it, or, rather, are they actually able to find anything important? Would the infra-red scan really be able to find water behind finished basement walls? Would the allergen test be able to discover hidden mold or anything like that?

My family is moderately allergic to dust, and has some mild mold allergies... On a 10 year old home is there are real danger of having abnormal levels of mold/dust that would be found with the whole home air quality test?

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$600.00 / <Sale Price of the House>. It might be worth it to some people, but I suppose this is the same reasoning that made the inspection company offer this as an add-on item. –  Tester101 Feb 5 '13 at 20:50
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It's really a personal decision. Plus, if you do it and it does find a problem, you'll think it was worth it. If it doesn't find anything, you'll think it wasn't worth it. –  Steven Feb 5 '13 at 21:36

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I am a certified home inspector, so I am a little reluctant to answer this question. I will, however spill a few thoughts. In recent years, the tests you refer to have become fairly popular, but normally in houses that show some signs of water or mold. I personally would only recommend an infrared scan if there was suspicious water spots or paint peeling on walls or ceilings where pipes would be located. The other reason for an infrared scan would be for an energy audit. Every house is going to show some areas where there is some excessive heat loss, but that is the norm, not the exception. nothing to get alarmed about. Since infrared looks at temperature differences, only active leaks or saturated insulation will show up in a scan. If there is no evidence of a leak, I normally would not recommend one.

Air tests that look for allergens are actually looking for airborne mold spores. Every test I have done returns with some degree of mold spores. Most are naturally occuring outdoors rather than in the house itself. Most are classified as slight or moderate irritants to people who are sensitive to them. Again, unless I see actual signs of mold on walls, in the bathroom or in the attic, I don't recommend an air test. I do however recommend a "tape" test on actual mold samples. If the results come back as a bad type of mold, then I will encourage an air test and possible remediation.

I am always a buyer's advocate and tend to ere on the side of caution. Any house, regardless of age can have problems created from a leak or poor construction standards. In the huge majority of homes, this type of test is a feel good thing, rather than a necessity. A good inspector will see the signs. If they push the tests without cause, then they are padding the bill. Just my humble opinion. Good luck...

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My home inspector actually recommended not getting the mold air test unless he actually saw something that concerned him. Since I was specifically concerned with doing everything we could to suss out any water problems in the basement, he said the ground was probably wet enough that we may be able to tell with the infra-red scan. –  cmcculloh Feb 7 '13 at 15:48
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I would be curious what the relative humidity in that basement room is normally compared to the ambient in the rest of the house. I won't second guess your inspector, he/she may be very reputable and has good reason for a scan. I guess I would be interested in what they think they may find. I'd be pulling a wall switch, outlet box, or some other access point to the foundation wall to see if there was any excessive moisture on the inner walls using a moisture meter. This is all highly speculative on my part, since I cannot see and feel your room. –  shirlock homes Feb 7 '13 at 17:34
    
The dishwasher ended up leaking into the floor and down through the (finished) basement ceiling. So, because I had the infrared scanner package, I was able to see exactly where the water was, as well as (possibly) see if any mold had grown from any previous leaks (the home owner claims that was the first time that ever happened and that they hadn't used the dishwasher for the three years they lived there). Home inspector said it actually probably was the first time it had happened, and that he saw no evidence of previous incidents. –  cmcculloh Feb 15 '13 at 17:30

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