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Steve Westmark Discusses Potential Risks for Homes with Stucco

by Steve Westmark

STEVE:  Hi, this is Steve Westmark.  Thanks for watching my video blog this week.  This week, I want to talk a little bit about stucco and the problems that can happen with stucco.  As I meet with sellers who own a home with stucco, we have to deal with the situation has there been problems or are there currently problems with the home with stucco.  Now homes have been built through the years going back way before the 1900s where they had the stucco exteriors and really had no problems with stucco up until recently.

And some time in the 70s, early 80s they started changing how we insulated and did things on homes and how we sealed up the walls.  And as the walls got sealed up with stucco on the outside, the houses didn’t air out the way they used to coming through the walls.  And so you started getting moisture inside the walls.  And so what I recommend to sellers and to buyers who are buying a home with stucco that’s built from 1980 or after is they get a stucco inspection.

And in future weeks I’ll have a stucco inspector come in and talk at what they look at.  But what they’re looking for—and then they’ll get into the specifics—is moisture that are in the walls.  And if there is moisture there, has it created mold or has it caused rotting in wood or different types of things like that?  From that point, if we find that those things need to be corrected, when I meet with a seller, I suggest that before we even put the property on the market that we bring a mold mitigator or a stucco mitigator in to deal with the moisture problems.

And sometimes, it has to deal with changing of insulation, correcting of wood problems, correcting of window problems that happened from that.  And I’ll also have a stucco mitigator in the coming weeks come and talk about how they go through mitigation.  The sad part in some of the stuff with stucco is that if it was done improperly, especially in the 90s there were problems with it in the codes that were put out by the state of Minnesota, there have been things to have to correct the stucco that have run from $50,000 to over a half a million on some of the larger homes.

But many times, these stucco problems can be dealt with on homes with less than $10,000; $20,000; or $30,000.  But they do have to be dealt with and it does have to be corrected.  Hopefully, this has given you a little bit of insight into problems with stucco.  Watch in our coming weeks as we talk about having stucco inspections and then stucco mitigation.  Thanks for watching this week.  Make it a great day.  

Your Radon Questions Answered!

by Steve Westmark

STEVE:  Hi, this is Steve Westmark, Counselor Realty.  Thanks for watching my video blog this week.  This week, I’m bringing in Brad Nyberg with Quality Radon to talk about radon and how to deal with it.  Welcome, Brad.

BRAD:  Thank you.

STEVE:  Many times, I have buyers who want to have a radon test done with their inspection, and what is that inspector looking for and what does it mean once they’ve done a radon test and it comes back with whatever readings it has?

BRAD:  Well, initially, the inspector is going to place a radon test device most often electronic in nature and so it’s a data-gathering machine.  It gathers radon data hour by hour and minute by minute and will present the inspector with a graph, a table and an average of radon levels throughout the test.  What the inspector is trying to ascertain is what are the levels of radon gas on the property; are they excessive; are they moderate; are they low; and should action be taken.

STEVE:  Well, I know there’s measurements that come out.  There’s something like a 4.0 whatever.  Why don’t you explain a little bit about what these measurements mean and what changes are going on in the marketplace with that.

BRAD:  Certainly.  Currently, the EPA’s action level is 4.0.  What that really means is an amount of radiation per liter or volume of air.  And at 4.0, the EPA has said that that is a level that’s not acceptable and 3.9  is really a passing grade.  Well, what it really comes down to is how much radiation to you want to be exposed to.  Now that standard has been in place for over 20 years, and it’ll be changed in the next couple years to be 2.7 or less.

And so ideally, you want your home to be as low as reasonable, as low as possible.  And so the 4.0 level came out to be what is achievable for a radon mitigation system.  And the World Health Organization has come out two years ago this month with a recommendation that all countries reduce their acceptable levels to 2.7 or less.  Now to give you an idea of what that really means to a person, what is the risk of cancer for example due to radon exposure?

Well, if you lived in a basement environment.  Minnesota.  Basement bedrooms are quite common.  Maybe you have a basement bedroom and you were downstairs let’s say for the sake of discussion purposes 24 hours a day at a reading of 3.9, that’s the relative equivalent of smoking 7.8 cigarettes per day, so darn near half-a-pack-a-day smoker.  Now Minnesota’s a high state.  They’re the fourth highest in the nation.  So the average home here has a reading of 5.4.

Well, at 24-hour exposure, that’s 10.8 cigarettes.  You really double the number to find out what your exposure equivalent risk of smoking would be to your lungs.  We find homes in Minnesota that are as high as 120 and average 5.4.  Some as low as 0.3, 0.4 without a radon system.  The good news is they all can be corrected.  So the highest reading we found recently is 120 in Stillwater, Minnesota, and that was a couple of months ago back in August.

And we brought that down to 0.5.  So what it really means is that a radon system is very successful at reducing radon gas in a home.  We talk to many buyers and consult the buyers and tell them if you like the house, that’s a house you want to buy, not to worry.  It can be fixed.

STEVE:  So generally, what happens is when I have an inspection the radon thing comes back at a higher than good level, I give Brad a call and I have Brad go out and do radon mitigation.  So Brad, when you do radon mitigation, what are you doing?

BRAD:  Well, Steve, what we’re doing is installing what’s referred to as a sub-slab depressurization system.  Quite literally, it is a vacuum system from the ground into the house.  So the inspector measures the issue.  The issue is radon gas in the air.  The real problem is there’s radon gas building up under the house, seeping into the house, and thereby exposing the owner, the occupants to radiation.  So what a radon system really is is quite literally a customized vacuum system for the ground under the house.

What happens is in most cases is we come in, we cut really a 5-inch hole through the concrete slab in the basement, normally in an unfinished area—utility room, laundry room, storage room—and ideally next to the attached garage.  So we cut this 5-inch hole through the slab, removing about a 5-gallon bucket or so of material.  So now we have a little pit we created under the slab.

We’ll insert a 3-inch PVC pipe into the opening, reseal the concrete so that it’s airtight around the pipe, then route that pipe up along the foundation wall, run through into the attached garage, run that pipe up along the garage wall to the attic of the garage, mount a very high-quality radon blower upon that pipe, then have that pipe exit out to the roof.  You’ll apply flashing and insulation materials and caulking and sealants.  And we also do a nice job of sealing cracks and openings in the slab of the basement floor and seal the sump cover.

So we power that system up.  The fan’s going to spin.  It creates a vacuum in the pit we created, and that vacuum causes the majority of ground gases—be it methane, moisture, radon, what have you—to that point of collection and it’s discharged outside where it quickly dissipates.

STEVE:  As you can tell, Brad is really knowledgeable on radon and helping people deal with this circumstance.  So what’s the best way for people to get a hold of you, Brad, to have radon mitigated on their home?

BRAD:  Well, the best way to call me is by phone, 612-521-3580 or actually, I love e-mail because then I have the information in front of me; I can respond quickly.  And so my e-mail address is

STEVE:  Thanks.

STEVE:  Hi, this is Steve Westmark.  Thanks so much for watching my video blog this week.  I decided to bring in a roofer that knows lots about roofing with a company in Hopkins called Grussing Roofing.  And this is Guy Grussing.  Welcome, Guy.

 GUY:  Hi, Steve.  Thanks for inviting me.

STEVE:  Guy, people ask me when do you go ahead to replace a roof.  What are things that people need to look at or what do you have to look at to help them determine when they need to replace a roof on their house?

GUY:  That’s a good question, Steve.  Generally, as a rule of thumb, roofs generally last around 20 years.  If it’s around 20 years, telltale signs of the roof will be signs of aging.  You might be losing shingles; granules may be falling off.  Some of the shingles might be curling or cupping where they’re raised up and just looking old.  And that’s a good time to get your roof evaluated to see if it’s time to replace.

STEVE:  There must be good times and bad times to put new roofs on.  What are the best times to put a new roof on your house?

GUY:  Well, Steve, that’s a real good question, and there’s two different seasons.  You have a summer season and a winter season.  In the summer—generally it’s best to put it on spring and fall.  Sometimes in the summer when it gets really hot days, the shingles can get scuffed because the asphalt gets really soft from the temperatures and walking on it.  And as far as when it gets too late in the year, generally late November, December when the snow starts flying, shingles will get brittle.  If you walk on them, they can crack.

It’s hard to work with and it’s just the quality of the craftsmanship just isn’t there when the temperature drops and the people are working on the roof.

STEVE:  We have buyers that go out and look at properties and we see roofs that have a certain type of algae or some type of darkness on the roof.  What causes that and how can that be corrected?

GUY:  Steve, what causes that is algae growth that grows under shingles and it wasn’t a really big part of this area until about 10 years ago.  Since then, the shingle manufacturers, the new shingles, a lot of the designer shingles they’ve incorporated with granules, copper, and zinc that actually wash when it rains and kills the algae growth on it because it has become such a bunch of a problem. 

It’s more of a cosmetic problem, but if you do have it on your roof right now, there’s roof cleaners that have a bleach compound that you put on the roof.  You just spray it on, let it sit for five minutes.  Then you take a hose and rinse it off and that will kill the algae growth.

STEVE:  Of course, in Minnesota we have a lot of storms and with those we get hail.  How do you help people deciding how to deal with hail damage on their roofs?

GUY:  Steve, the best thing to do is when you first start with a roof is to look at soft metal.  Anything that’s aluminum is a good way to determine the size of the hail and the damage.  Before you even get on the roof, you can look at the gutters and downspouts and see if there’s denting in them.  And then if you have aluminum fascia, see if there’s any denting on that.  If there is any denting, there’s a good chance that there might be possible damage to the roof.

When you get on the roof, what you’re looking for are circles or kind of a round circle where the granules are actually removed where the hail has impacted the roof, knocked the granules loose, and you’ll see asphalt.  And determine whether they’re new or old.  If the asphalt is black, then it’s a newer hit and as it grays and gets dirty over the years, that means it’s an older hit.  And you look for that, and the insurance company will determine how many per square feet, usually anywhere between 5 and 15 before they will replace the roof.

And if you do see some damage like that, it’s good to have a roofing consultant come out and then call your adjuster to get the final approval for the roof replacement.

STEVE:  Well, Guy, thanks so much for coming in today.  He obviously has a lot of knowledge.  I know his dad was in roofing and he’s gained all the insight from him, but how’s the best way for you to be contacted to talk about getting a roof on someone’s home?

GUY:  I can either be contacted by phone at 952-935-0557 or

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Contact Information

Photo of The Steve Westmark Team Real Estate
The Steve Westmark Team
RE/MAX Advantage Plus
14451 Highway 7 Suite 100
Minnetonka MN 55345
Fax: 952-241-1600