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Vapor From Foam Insulation Doesn't Last


Question: The insulation within our walls is made with urea formaldehyde foam. We're concerned about the safety implications of this material when we decide to sell the house. What is our obligation? Disclosure? Removal? Abatement of some kind?

Answer: Your only obligation regarding urea formaldehyde insulation is disclosure to buyers. Neither removal nor abatement is required. Furthermore, the health implications of old foam insulation are unlikely to be significant. After 20 years of curing time, vapor emissions from the material are probably negligible.

During the 1970s, foam insulation was used to upgrade the energy efficiency of many homes, yours included. Then, during the 1980s, it joined the ranks of asbestos and radon gas as an indoor environmental health concern.

But unlike asbestos and radon, urea formaldehyde foam improves with age: It contains a finite amount of formaldehyde vapor, which dissipates and diminishes with the passage of time.

If you'd prefer to go the extra mile, as it relates to disclosure, find an environmental testing company in your area and have them check the air in your home for formaldehyde vapor. If little or none is present, their report can be used to reassure, rather than alarm, future buyers.

When Seller Damages Home During Escrow

Q: I just closed escrow on a house, and two days after moving in, I discovered soaked carpeting in the living room near the wall that divides the living room from the kitchen. On the other side of this wall is the water connection for the refrigerator. This problem wasn't disclosed during my home inspection because it wasn't happening at that time. It appears that the sellers neglected to completely turn off the water valve when they disconnected their refrigerator. So now I'm stuck with the mess, wet carpet, stained wall and who knows what else. Are the sellers liable for repair of these damages?

A: Questions of legal liability are more appropriate for an attorney than a home inspector. However, on the basis of simple fairness and equity, one would expect an assumption of responsibility for damages arising from negligence.

In this case, you purchased a home with the understanding that the wall and floor surfaces were free of moisture and related damage. Now, because of human error, conditions are contrary to your expectations. Hopefully, the damages are minimal and the affected areas will be in satisfactory condition after having dried. The extent of damage may depend largely on the duration of wetness and whether you have a wood floor or a concrete slab.

If corrective work is actually needed, accountability on the part of the sellers will depend largely on whether you can get them to respond. There is always Small Claims Court, but hopefully no significant repairs will be needed.


If you have questions or comments, contact Barry Stone through his Web site at

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