Is it December already? Winter has snuck up on many this year, and although most of us are snow-free so far, that’s no excuse to fall behind on your seasonal maintenance. Yard work can be hard work, but it’s important to rake your leaves or you may find your home suffering Old Man Winter’s wrath.
They may be great for crunching and make excellent piles for jumping, but fallen leaves require some attention. Many rake their leaves to keep their yards looking spick and span, but leaf-raking is more for function than fashion. Undisturbed foliage presents more problems for homeowners than a nasty glance from a neighbor.
A well-raked yard helps protect:
- Downspouts & gutters
- Window wells
By ensuring these areas are appropriately maintained, homeowners are ultimately helping to prevent water-related damage. Consider each area.
Downspouts & Gutters
When downspouts and gutters are clogged with leaves that have collected due to an unraked yard, they stop functioning properly and hold water instead of sending it away from the home. This increases the opportunity for water to enter the home. To learn more about downspout and gutter maintenance, including the ideal length of a downspout, check out our article on Downspout Care.
Should a window well become filled with leaves, not only does it impact the amount of light a basement receives, but it becomes easier for water to become trapped in the well. This trapped water will likely seep into the foundation of the home and into the basement. Learn more about keeping your window wells functioning correctly, including our recommendation for gravel, from our article on Maintaining Your Window Wells.
To help combat the fallibility of foundation systems, as none are completely impermeable to water, it is important to keep the soil around your home dry. Clusters of errant, unraked leaves, provide a great environment to trap water in your home’s surrounding dirt. The moisture from wet ground close to your foundation can easily become moisture in your foundation. To learn more about keeping the soil around your home dry, including a discussion on slope, check out our article on Proper Grading.
As you can see, raking leaves has less to do with aesthetics than many believe. It may seem like a task you can leave to the last minute, but we’d like to encourage homeowners to take faster action. Clean your yard and protect your home. We’re committed to helping homeowners stay safe, comfortable and dry year-round. If you have a Home Inspection related topic you’d like us to address, please comment below or find us on Twitter and we’ll do our best to help out.
As the days get colder and the nights become longer, hibernation starts to seem more and more appealing. Beyond the necessity of extra layers and the hustle and bustle of the ever-approaching holiday season, heating bills alone make many want to sleep until April.
Unfortunately, most don't have the kind of flexibility needed to nap the winter away - so how can enduring the coming dim and expensive months be avoided? Aside from heading for a warmer climate, making a few adjustments to a somewhat overlooked item in your home can have a major impact on your comfort this season. This November, it's time to think about your windows.
During the winter, windows have the potential to be both an enemy and an ally. They let light into your home, but they can also bring cold air, frost, and condensation. However, with a few considerations and minor adjustments, homeowners can get more friend than foe out of their windows.
Over the course of a subzero night, windows, (especially those older, single-glazed, metal-framed ones), will often become very frosty. While wonderfully artistic and fun for kids to scratch their names into, frost does render the window particularly useless: can't open it or look through it. This frosting isn't exclusive to older windows; windows all over will be exhibiting varying degrees of the same effect. Even some newer windows will sweat heavily or frost up.
Frosty windows are a result of condensing moisture in the home. Vapor droplets in the air that come in contact with the cold surfaces of the window will, if the surfaces are cold enough, cool down into water droplets and precipitate onto the cold surfaces. If this happens all night long, there can be considerable accumulation of water. In some cases, the water drops freeze shortly after forming on the window, causing ice to build up.
To help correct this issue, attention should be paid to the amount of moisture in your home and the interior temperature of the window glass and frame. Moisture cannot be eliminated from your home entirely, but it can be reduced.
This can be achieved by:
- Turning your furnace humidifier down or off
- Ensuring your clothes dryer is venting properly
- Using kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans when cooking and showering
- Opening a window periodically when things feel "stuffy"
We recognize that it's only possible to do so much, and if your windows are cold enough the sweat will still form - which is why we also encourage homeowners to warm up the surface temperature of the window glass and frame.
If the window is old, it may be drafty. This will be apparent in cold air whistling through around the edges. Replacing or improving weatherstripping, a relatively easy DIY project, can often solve a draft problem. If the room has only one pane of glass between it and the outside, install a storm window. This will warm up the interior pane. Of course, the frost may simply form on the inside of the storm window anyway. With a newer double-glazed window, unless it's very cheap or very poorly installed, the glass and frame temperature should be pretty reasonable.
The trick now is to assess where the heat source is in the room. In a perfect world, the heat for the room is delivered at floor level right below the window. The idea is that the warm air, either from a furnace register or convecting off a radiator, washes up the window, keeping the glass and frame nice and warm, reducing or eliminating condensation.
A related problem in many homes is the window treatments. California shutters look great and can block out light, but when closed they also block warm air from reaching the window, leading to condensation in cold spells. The solution is to open up the louvers, or open the shutters. Many blinds and drapes have the same effect. When closed, find a way to prop them out at the bottom so that the warm air can go up between them and the window.
If you've tried everything, and still you have a window or two that sweat uncontrollably, the low-rent hardware store plastic sheeting will work nicely. This remains the cheapest solution for your windows. A better, but more expensive solution? Replacing those old windows with new multi-glazed coated windows.
As a professional Home Inspection Company, at Carson Dunlop our aim is to help homeowners stay warm, safe, and dry. We believe that knowledge is the best tool when it comes to protecting the biggest investment of your life: your home. If you have a Home Inspection topic you'd like us to address in future Newsletters or on our blog, make sure to comment below or Tweet us @carsondunlop - we'll do our best to help out.
We know that buying a home is a complex process; there are many facets to consider before making this type of investment. Beyond deciding whether or not you like the home and if you can afford it, there are several other questions worth asking:
- How are the systems of the home functioning? Is it in good overall condition?
- Are there any moisture issues or leakages occurring in the home?
- Was it ever used as a grow house or meth lab? Are there homes in the area that were used this way?
- How are the local schools? Where do they rank on a regional and provincial level?
- What amenities are located near the home?
- What political riding will you become a part of? Who will be representing you?
Although some of these issues will have more bearing on the decision to purchase the property than others, all will have some impact on your comfort in the home and neighborhood.
So how do you get all the information you need without adding more to your “To Do” list? Some of the inquiries above require a lot of research to determine. Let us help. Our Home Buyer’s Inspection enhanced packages now includes a HomeVerified Home History Report which will provide information on: grow house and meth lab records for the area, local school rankings, neighborhood amenities, and political representation.
This Home History Report is in addition to:
- A summary page with key findings
- Improvement recommendations for conditions (with time frames and cost estimates)
- Photos and color illustrations for clarity
- A Home Reference Book to help understand how your home works
- A check for manufacturer recalls on appliances through RecallChek
- Free enrollment in the Carson Dunlop Homeowners Association
- A Thermal Imaging Inspection to help identify hidden moisture issues and leakage
Please visit our website or call 800-268-7070 to learn more about the different Home Buyer’s Inspection packages we offer and the benefits of thermography, performing a check for recalled appliances, and Home History Reports.
As we enter November and the beginning of the winter season Jack Frost is definitely nipping at our noses. Although the weather is mild compared to the subzero temperatures of December, January, and the better part of February, extra layers are being donned and people are seeing their breath most mornings.
Early sunsets and extra blankets mean different maintenance tasks are required of homeowners. While we have already discussed fall maintenance items and winterizing your home, we have yet to discuss caring for everyone’s favorite seasonal appliance: the furnace.
Furnaces aren’t known for being fickle, but there are certain protective measures homeowners should implement to ensure their homes are warm and comfortable this winter.
It is important to be aware of:
- Furnace Filters
- Furnace Humidifer
- Furnace Efficiency
Your furnace filter should be checked monthly to determine if it needs cleaning or changing. Typically located in the air return duct adjacent to the furnace, making sure your furnace filter is in good condition can help improve both comfort and heating costs. You will need to see if you should purchase a cleanable or disposable furnace filter – most homeowners choose to have a disposable filter, for convenience, but both are good choices. Furnace filters generally range from $5 to $30 depending on the type of filter you select.
Helpful tip: Note the size of your filter before heading out to buy a new one.
While ideal humidity for homes can be as low as 5%, people feel the most comfortable in environments with 60% humidity. Unfortunately, houses can have a hard time coping with this in cold weather. Too little humidity makes people feel uncomfortable. Too much can cause condensation, mold, mildew, and rot in homes as the warm moist air hits cool surfaces. Contrary to popular belief, homeowners actually have to lower the humidistat setting as the weather outside gets colder. The colder is it outside, the easier it is for condensation to form on cool surfaces, like windows. Homeowners can reduce condensation and the risk of mold by lowering the interior humidity level. The recommended house humidity levels are:
||Recommended House Humidity
|-20 °F to -10°F (-28 to -23°C)
|-10 ° F to 0°F (-23°C to -18°C)
|0°F to +10°F (-18°C to -12°C)
|10+° F and above (-12°C and above)
| Summer months
Watching for condensation on your windows is another great way to gauge your house humidity level. Lower the humidity when you see condensation. In addition, room temperature and humidity monitors, available at hardware and building supply stores, can help you manage your humidity.
If your home is new, you may not have a furnace humidifier. Most new homes do not need one because the foundation and wood framing in newer homes take time to dry out, and release moisture into the air as they dry. In addition, new homes are “tight”, which means the air within them hangs around for a while before being replaced by dry exterior air. The air is around long enough to pick up moisture from things like showers, cooking, drying clothes and breathing. By comparison, older houses are drafty. Cold, dry air is creeping in all the time, replacing the warm, moist air that is flushed out.
If there is a small box hanging from the furnace or ductwork beside the furnace with a small electrical wire and a small water supply pipe attached, you have a furnace humidifier. You may also see a humidistat, a dial that looks like a thermostat but is used to control the humidity level, and is often mounted to the basement ductwork.
The two most common types of furnace humidifiers are: drum type humidifiers and trickle (cascade) type humidifiers. A drum type humidifier has a tray of water with a sponge on a barrel or drum rotating through it. The tray is kept full of water with a float switch, which adds water from the plumbing system when the water level drops. When the humidistat is turned up, or the humidity level drops, a small electric motor rotates the sponge drum through the tray, absorbing water. Some of the air moving through the ductwork blows across the sponge, picking up moisture. This moist air moves through the ducts and into the rooms of the home.
A trickle or cascade type humidifier has no tray of water. A small electric valve at the top controls the water supply to the humidifier. When the humidistat calls for water, the valve opens, trickling water down a honeycomb-like metal pad. Air blows across the pad, picking up moisture. Excess water is drained through a hose to a floor drain, laundry tub, or condensate pump.
Maintenance for a drum type humidifier focuses on the tray of sitting water. Ponding water can cause scale build-up and bacterial growth. Every spring, the water supply pipe valve should be turned off, the tray and sponge should be cleaned, and the humidistat should be set to OFF. In the fall, turn on the water valve, and set the humidistat to 35%. We recommend a mid-winter cleaning as well.
To maintain a trickle or cascade type humidifier, turn off the water supply and turn the humidistat to OFF in the spring. Before use in the fall, remove and soak the pad in a de-scaling solution. If it’s damaged or too clogged to clean, the pad can be replaced. Once the pad is back in place, the water supply pipe valve can be turned back on, and the humidistat set to 35%. This unit will not need cleaning again until next year.
There are two efficiency measurements with respect to furnace efficiency: steady state and seasonal. Steady state efficiency refers to how much usable heat is created when a furnace is running as a percent of the energy produced by burning the fuel. For example: conventional gas and oil furnaces have steady state efficiencies of roughly 80%. When the furnace is on, 20% of the heat generated goes up the chimney and outside. The remaining 80% is transferred through the heat exchanger into the house air, which moves through the ductwork to the registers in each room.
Seasonal efficiency addresses the off-cycle losses as well as the steady state losses. It is an overall efficiency measurement. Furnaces aren’t on all the time – not even in the dead of winter. They turn on as the thermostat calls for heat, and turn off when the thermostat is satisfied.
When the furnace isn’t on, the heat from your house escapes up the chimney flue the same way that heat would escape from an unused fireplace if the damper was left open. This is an off-cycle loss. If you add these off-cycle losses to the steady state losses you end up with the seasonal efficiency. Season efficiencies for conventional gas and oil furnaces are typically about 60-65%.
High efficiency furnaces are complex, and as a result they’re often more expensive than conventional furnaces. High efficiency furnaces on average cost about $1,000 - $1,500 more than a conventional furnace. In some areas, conventional furnaces are no longer available. When you buy a furnace, you have to buy high-efficiency. If you spend $1,000 per year heating your house with a conventional furnace, you can save close to $350 with a high efficiency furnace. A high efficiency furnace may pay for itself in 3 years.
If you’re considering a high efficiency furnace for your home, speak with a reliable heating or HVAC contractor to discuss the pros and con of various models and any estimated increase in furnace maintenance costs.
If you have homeownership questions, comment below or Tweet us @carsondunlop and we’ll do our best to help.
On Friday, November 1, 2013, the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management (OFMEM) urged Ontario families to check the serial numbers of their dishwashers as a safety precaution.
According to the OFMEM, a Whitchurch-Stouffville woman was seriously injured in a recent house fire. The fire investigation revealed that the cause of the fire was an electrical failure in the home’s dishwasher, a product that had been recalled in 2010. The organization wants Ontario families to be aware that these dishwashers can start fires and that those with affected dishwashers should stop using them immediately and contact the distributor.
The OFMEM notes that the original recall was distributed by Maytag, Health Canada and the Electrical Safety Authority. It includes Maytag, Amana, Jenn-Air, Admiral, Magic Chef, Performa by Maytag, and Crosley brand dishwashers with plastic tubs and certain serial numbers. Serial numbers will start or end with one of the following sequences listed below.
Serial Numbers Starting With:
- NW39, NW40, NW42, NW43, NW44, NW45, NW46, NW47, NW48, NW49, NW50, NW51, NW52, NY01, NY02, NY03, NY04, NY05, NY06, NY07, NY08, NY09, NY10, NY11, NY12, NY13, NY14, NY15, NY16, NY17, NY18, NY19.
Serial Numbers Ending With:
- JC, JE, JG, JJ, JL, JN, JP, JR, JT, JV, JX, LA, LC, LE, LG, LJ, LL, LN, LP, LR, LT, LV, LX, NA, NC, NE, NG, NJ, NL, NN, NP, NR.
The product recall notice from the Electrical Safety Authority explains that an electrical failure in the dishwasher’s heating element can pose a serious fire hazard.
At Carson Dunlop, we are passionate about homeowners’ safety. We include a complimentary check for appliance recalls with our Home Buyer's Inspections through our partner RecallChek, to help protect and inform our clients. When it comes to publicizing recalls, manufacturers don’t have the ability to contact every single consumer. It’s up to the consumer to research the safety of a product, a task that often goes overlooked amongst the myriad of responsibilities that go along with buying a home.
RecallChek helps give home buyers an additional layer of information. When an appliance recall is identified, clients will learn:
- The nature of the recall
- Where the product was sold
- How to remedy the defect
- How to get the item repaired or replaced - often free of charge
To learn more about RecallChek, please click here to view a sample report, or watch the video below.
We encourage Ontario residents to stay safe and check their dishwashers to see if they are affected by this recall. To learn more about the advisory issued by the OFMEM, please click here.
One of the biggest signs that summer is officially over is scheduled to take place this week. No we’re not talking about Halloween – we’re referring to the start of Daylight Savings Time. This Sunday marks the end of spring time with the autumn time change. At 2:00am on November 3rd, it is time to “fall back” and gain an extra hour of daylight as we move toward the winter solstice.
What will you do with your extra hour? At Carson Dunlop, we would like to encourage homeowners to use their new-found sixty minutes to address some safety items in their homes. With the sheer volume of maintenance tasks that come with winter’s arrival, we’ve found that despite their importance, the following tasks are easily overlooked:
Testing Smoke Alarms & Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Whether your smoke detectors are wired or stand-alone, ensure they have functional batteries by testing them monthly and replacing the batteries twice a year. The time change is a great reminder for this. You must have at least one smoke detector on each floor, but we recommend more.
The same approach applies to carbon monoxide detectors. Not sure what those are, or if you have one? Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas – which makes it impossible to detect. It is a by-product of incomplete combustion, and at high concentrations it can be deadly. Carbon monoxide detectors sample the air at specific time intervals. A microchip inside the detector stores the reading and keeps track of the level of carbon monoxide that the detector is exposed to over time. You should usually have one or more carbon monoxide detectors in your house, but follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. This usually means one per floor. Like smoke detectors, be sure to maintain and test the unit regularly. Click here to learn more about carbon monoxide detectors.
Turning Off Outdoor Faucets
As the temperature drops homeowners must turn off their outdoor faucets. This is done by shutting off the supply valve, which is typically located inside the home. The outside valve is typically left open to allow any water in the pipe to escape. Faucets must be turned off to prevent pipes from freezing and subsequently bursting.
Frost-proof hose bibbs don’t have to be shut off in the winter. These valves have a long stem that penetrates through the building wall and shuts off the water supply inside the building. These valves should be sloped to drain any water in the stem to the outdoors.
Taking Measures to Keep Your Home Pest-Free
The smallest openings, cracks, and crevices in your home can serve as rodent entry points. Rats can fit through holes the size of a quarter, and mice only need a hole the size of a pencil. There are several steps you can take to help prevent rodents from accessing your home. These include:
- Checking the interior and exterior of your home for entry points, and sealing any unnecessary openings with weather-resistant sealant reinforced with steel or copper wool so rodents cannot gnaw through it.
- Making sure doors or windows are flush against their frames and the floor, and use weatherstripping to fill in any gaps.
- Trimming landscaping away from your home, as shrubbery can provide harborage for rodents.
- Storing food, including pet food and bird seed, in tightly-sealed containers, preferably made of tin or plastic, and clean up food and water spills immediately.
- Vacuuming, sweeping, and mopping regularly to eliminate food and water sources that might attract rodents.
- Keeping trash cans tightly sealed and disposing of trash regularly.
We know it can be hard to find the time, but this Sunday save yourself some frustration by taking care of the above safety and comfort items. Looking for more seasonal maintenance tips? Click here to check out our Carson Dunlop winterizing checklist. And as always, if you have a homeownership issue you’d like more information or guidance on, comment below or Tweet us @carsondunlop and we’ll do our best to help out.
Home Inspections are a fairly new piece of the real estate puzzle. Unheard of in Canada prior to the mid-1970s, this consulting service is now a standard part of most real estate transactions. However, its relative newness, combined with the fickle nature of the housing market and the dramatic commentary on some home improvement television programs, makes it an often misunderstood entity.
While homeowners recognize the importance of a Home Inspection, few are familiar with the details – including what is involved and how it works. There are several misconceptions and we’ll look at our top five here.
1. Exclusively for Home Buyers
Home Inspections are not just for home buyers; they actually make great sense for sellers. We have witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of Sellers’ Home Inspections in the last few years. In 2011, 22% of all Carson Dunlop inspections were Sellers’ Home Inspections. In 2012, that jumped to 27%. During the spring and fall markets, up to 40% of inspections completed are for sellers.
Sellers’ Home Inspections work for both sellers and buyers. They help the process in many ways, resulting in faster sales, increased comfort levels, fewer renegotiations, reduced uncertainty and lower liability. To learn more about the benefits of having a Sellers’ Home Inspection, please click here.
2. Only Needed for Older Homes
Many feel that Home Inspections are only valuable for older homes. However, when it comes to homes, age is just a number. Newer properties often have problems, frequently the result of original construction issues or neglected maintenance. Home Inspectors provide significant value for new homes – including assistance with Tarion Warranties. It is important not to judge a book by its cover; Home Inspectors see beyond the aesthetics of a new home. To learn more about New Construction Home Inspections please click here.
3. You need a PhD to Understand Your Report
Inspection reports don’t have to be complicated. They don’t have to include technical jargon, complex symbols and legends, illegible handwriting, or indecipherable notes. Many inspectors provide an easy-to-read electronic report that includes photos and illustrations and ballpark costs to address issues. Our reports are delivered the same day the inspection occurs. They include not only the information needed to make a buying decision, but great advice for the long term, helping you protect what may be your largest investment. To view a sample of a Carson Dunlop Home Inspection report, please click here.
4. Take Place Monday through Friday
The world of real estate does not operate on a Monday to Friday, 9-to-5 schedule, and neither do Home Inspectors. Our goal is to meet our clients’ needs, so we perform inspections on weekends as well. That’s right - you might not have to take time off work to attend your Home Inspection. Carson Dunlop is open seven days a week to help make your life easier. To request a weekend inspection, please call us at 800-268-7070. And if you need to book an inspection during off-hours, our real-time online booking service is a great solution. Click here to check it out and schedule your inspection.
5. Require Planning and Advanced Notice
A large number of home buyers forgo their Home Inspection because they think they cannot schedule an inspection on short notice. In reality, Home Inspections can often be performed the same day they are requested. Scheduling a Home Inspection is not the hassle many believe it to be. Many only require a few hours of notice, can be requested online, and take just a few minutes to book.
Home Inspection is an essential professional consulting service for more than just buyers looking at heritage properties. Clear reports delivered the same day help all buyers make an informed decision on homes of all ages. Setting up an inspection is fast and easy.
When you are ready to schedule your Carson Dunlop Home Inspection, click here or call 800-268-7070.
Technology can be exciting, flashy, and neat – but is it always necessary? Hundreds of thousands will stand in line for hours for the newest smartphone. They spend a lot of money and time making sure they have the most recent upgrade. And this desire for new technology isn’t exclusive to cell phones and computers, people want the latest equipment in most areas.
In the Home Inspection industry, one of the more advanced pieces of technology that can be used is an infrared camera to complete Thermal Imaging Inspections. But is this tool and Thermal Imaging Inspections really worth the hype, or are people just fawning over the latest gadget?
A Thermal Imaging Inspection is a non-invasive process that uses an infrared camera to measure and record the surface temperature of materials. Although this technology does let you see more than the naked eye, it is not x-ray vision and will not let you see through walls. Instead, infrared cameras capture images that use a colour scale to show temperature differences on surfaces.
At Carson Dunlop, we understand that water leakage is a significant concern for our clients. In fact, over 35 years, we have learned that water is the single biggest enemy of homes. This is why we have tailored our Thermal Imaging Inspections to look for concealed water problems. During our Thermal Imaging Inspections, our Home Inspectors will use infrared cameras to look for hidden moisture in the most vulnerable areas, with specific focus on basements, areas around and below doors and windows, and ceilings below roofs and bathrooms.
Infrared cameras allow Home Inspectors to look beyond physical elements. Homes that appear perfect can have significant issues – you just have to know where to look. For example, while performing a New Construction Inspection for a client before their Tarion Warranty expired, we used an infrared camera to investigate the ceiling below the home’s whirlpool bath.
To the naked eye, the ceiling looks immaculate: no staining, no bubbling, no indication of any problems.
However, with an infrared camera, the leakage is clearly evident.
Our moisture meter confirms the presence of water in the ceiling, saving the new homeowners a lot of hassle.
Imagine how bad this leak could have become! A whirlpool tub holds a lot of water. There was no visible evidence, but we discovered the problem during the Thermal Imaging Inspection. (It turns out that their neighbour also had a leak under their home’s whirlpool tub. But they found it the hard way).
New technology is not always worth the hype, but in the case of infrared cameras and Thermal Imaging Inspections, it is. We can’t tell you whether the next smartphone will be a great investment, but we know that a Thermal Imaging Inspection is. To learn more, please click here or call 800-268-7070.
Unlike its seasonal counterpart, spring cleaning, fall maintenance is not always met with a high level of enthusiasm. Perhaps autumn’s brisk winds whisk homeowners’ smiles away, or maybe crisp leaves don’t cultivate excitement like blooming flowers. Whatever the reason, fall chores are more easily overlooked than those related to spring.
While we recognize that warm weather is preferable to cold, homeowners should approach both spring and fall tasks with the same vigour. Although carving pumpkins may seem like your highest priority, it is also time for some fall maintenance to get your home ready for winter.
We’ve developed the following checklist with the thought that prevention is the key to a safe and comfortable winter. We’ll address maintenance items for both the exterior and the interior of your property. Consider the list below as the days get shorter and you need an extra blanket at night.
1. The Roof
The brunt of weather abuse is taken by your roof in the form of snow and ice. To check your roof you are going to need a ladder, a pair of binoculars, or a trusted roofing expert. If access is at all unsafe or difficult, or if getting up on a roof just isn’t your thing, contact a local roofing professional and they’ll take a look for you. If you have a sloped roof, look for shingles that are cracked, curled, loose, damaged, or missing. Once located, repair or replace them. If you have a flat roof, clean off leaves and branches, and cut back overhanging tree limbs. Watch for low spots where water will pond. Look for bulges, worn spots, or split seams on the membrane. Regardless of your roof type, pay attention to the junctions between the roof and the chimneys, pipes, and walls. Often you’ll find that metal flashings need to be re-secured or re-caulked. Again, if it’s damaged, fix it as soon as possible.
If you can access the roof safely, take a look at the chimney. Brick chimneys may have loose or missing mortar and loose or damaged bricks, and should have a screen to keep animals out. Metal chimneys should be free from rust and should have a rain cap.
2. Eavestroughs and Downspouts
While at roof level, be sure to clean and re-secure the eavestroughs. We can’t overemphasize the importance of free-flowing, leak-free eavestroughs and downspouts. If your eavestroughs can’t control the rain or melting snow, the ground will get saturated. If the ground is soaked around your house, there is a much higher risk of a leaky basement. You should also follow the downspouts to ground level to check where they dump the water. Above-grade downspouts should be well secured and discharge water at least six feet away from the nearest wall, or at a point where run-off will be carried away from the house. We recommend that downspouts that disappear into the ground be disconnected and redirected to discharge above ground well away from the house. This is an easy and surprisingly effective basement leakage cure.
Once you are off the roof and on the ground, take a walk around your house to check how the ground directs the flow of water. All surfaces next to the walls should slope down away from the house to direct water away from the foundation. Poor grading is a common and preventable cause of basement leakage. This is exponentially more important on warm winter days when melting snow or rain runs quickly across the surface of frozen ground. If the grading is poor, water will accumulate against the foundation of the home and will often cause basement flooding. Now is the time to grab a shovel and re-slope the grass, or call a paving contractor or handy person to correct a poorly-sloping driveway or walkway.
During your exterior walkabout, check the windows and doors for any wood in need of paint and any joints that need re-caulking. Look for rot at window sills and any horizontal wood surfaces where water may collect. Tapping on painted wood surfaces with the handle of the screwdriver for example, is a good way to identify soft or rotted wood. Also check the caulking at pipes, vents, and other wall penetrations. Seal these areas before it gets too cold – this can also help reduce your energy bills.
Your heating system is the heart of your home and your best friend in the winter. The most important fall activity is to schedule a heating system maintenance call. This applies to both newer and older furnaces and boilers. The technician will clean the burners and fan or pump, lubricate the moving parts, change the filter and check the operation of the important safety devices. Heat exchangers on high efficiency furnaces may need to be flushed. If you choose to have this service done later in the heating season, you can still start the winter season off right by replacing or cleaning the furnace air filter. If you have a humidifier, you should clean it as well.
If you live in a new house, odds are your windows and doors are well sealed. Old windows and doors (and unfortunately even some newer ones), may need sealing to keep heat in and cold out. One approach would be to replace them – but that can get costly. Luckily, great improvements can be made with simple weatherstripping kits available at any hardware store. Due to the tremendous variation in shapes and sizes, we could write a novel about how to do this, but all you need to do is to find the pre-packaged material that has a picture of your window or door, or something close to it, and follow the instructions.
The list above includes the most important fall tune-up steps. Other great winterizing ideas include:
- Turning off the water supply to your outside hose faucet, unless it is a frost-free type
- Cleaning the grilles and registers on the heating system – especially the cold air return
- Cleaning and lubricating exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms
- Cleaning out the clothes dryer vent and cover
- If you have electric baseboard heaters, vacuum the dust off the fins, and make sure drapes and curtains are several inches above their hot surfaces
As a professional Home Inspection Company, at Carson Dunlop our aim is to help homeowners stay warm, safe, and dry. We believe that knowledge is the best tool when it comes to protecting the biggest investment of your life: your home. If you have a Home Inspection topic you’d like us to address in future articles, make sure to Tweet us @carsondunlop – we’ll do our best to help out.
Home Inspections aren’t just for home buyers anymore. In the last several years we have witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of Home Inspections being conducted for home sellers. In 2011, 22% of all inspections performed at Carson Dunlop were Seller’s Home Inspections. In 2012, that number jumped to 27%. During busy months for real estate, like the spring and fall markets, anywhere from 20% to 40% of inspections completed are for sellers.
Having a Home Inspection completed when selling your home is not just a fad, it is becoming a more standard part of the real estate process. In fact, in The Globe and Mail’s column “Ask A Real Estate Expert”, Ricky Chada, Broker with Royal LePage, asserts, “Prudent listing brokers will get a home inspection done prior to listing a home…This is becoming a more common practice in today’s market…”*
With the fall market continuing to heat up, and July’s and August’s unprecedented sales numbers, we felt it may be helpful to look at the benefits of Seller's Home Inspections, as they are likely something most will encounter.
Seller’s Home Inspections are advantageous for both sellers and buyers. They help in many areas of the real estate process, including:
- Multiple offer situations
- Efficiency and timing
When a seller has an inspection performed prior to the sale of their home, it has the potential to eliminate the buyer’s need for an inspection. This is ideal in multiple offer scenarios as buyers want to feel comfortable with, and informed about, the home they are buying, but recognize that with heavy competition, having an inspection of their own isn’t always possible. Although some feel that a seller’s inspection report can be biased, there are simple ways to assuage that concern: have a walkthrough with the seller’s inspector and ensure the seller has worked with a reputable company.
Buyers being able to waive the Home Inspection clause means sales can move forward more quickly. While opting out of a Home Inspection altogether is not wise, and can put a buyer at risk, a Seller’s Home Inspection means the necessary due diligence has been performed, and all parties can feel comfortable proceeding.
Seller’s Home Inspections mitigate risk not only for buyers but also for sellers. According to real estate lawyer and columnist Mark Weisleder, “…sellers should take steps to properly investigate any damage that occurs before closing and complete any necessary repairs. I also recommend that this be disclosed to any buyer so that they can satisfy themselves that the repairs were done correctly. By doing so, you avoid the time, costs and aggravation of unnecessary lawsuits after closing.”**
Weisleder explains, “The standard agreement of purchase and sale says that the seller is responsible for the property until closing. If any substantial damage occurs before closing, then the buyer has the option of taking the insurance money and closing, or refusing to close.”**
Carson Dunlop Home Seller's Inspections help the seller, and subsequently the buyer, to make informed decisions with respect to the property. The electronic report is a comprehensive analysis of over 400 items in the home, and includes photos and technical illustrations to ensure clarity on all issues. There are also marketing materials available to further help with the sale of the home and provide a more aesthetically pleasing breakdown of the property to potential buyers. To view a full description of what is included in a Carson Dunlop Home Seller's Inspection please click here or call 800-268-7070.