Though it may seem like winter will never end, we will soon be trading our winter coats for light jackets, and wind chill warnings will be a thing of the past. It may not feel like it, but Spring is right around the corner. In fact, this weekend is the beginning of Spring time - Sunday, March 9th marks the start of daylight savings time. We will be losing an hour of sleep, but gaining sunlight, which, many would agree, is definitely a fair trade.
As we mentioned last November, our semi-annual clock changes can serve as excellent reminders for home maintenance and safety items. They occur right as the weather starts to change, and their frequency helps with important tasks that can easily get overlooked. So before you begin to think about spring cleaning, consider these chores:
Test Your Smoke Alarms & Carbon Monoxide Detectors
We recommend testing your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on a monthly basis, and changing these devices’ batteries twice a year. The upcoming time change is a great opportunity to get this task out of the way. You should have at least one smoke alarm on every floor of your home, although having more is encouraged. As you go around your house adjusting various clocks – on the microwave, on the stove, by your bed – change each detector’s batteries as well. While you are doing this, check the expiry date printed on the smoke detector. If the unit is past this date, or if it is more than ten years old, it should be replaced. If there is no expiry date, it’s probably more than ten years old.
Not every home comes equipped with a carbon monoxide detector, which means you might not have one. If you don’t have one, it’s not only a good idea to get one, the Ontario government passed a law three months ago making these devices mandatory in every home. Carbon monoxide detectors help to protect homeowners from the dangers related to carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas, and high concentrations of it can be deadly. Because of its nature, it is very hard for people to identify its presence. Carbon monoxide detectors sample the air of your home 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. If it detects an unsafe level it will notify you in a manner similar to a smoke detector: loud beeping. And like a smoke alarm, it requires the same degree of regular maintenance, so check your carbon monoxide detector on a monthly basis, change its batteries twice a year, and check the expiry date. Carbon monoxide detectors often have only a seven-year life span.
Check Your Attic for Evidence of Leaks & Condensation
How often do you go into your attic? You might think it’s a bit spooky up there, or it may be tricky to access, but start feeling brave and do some stretches, because we advise that homeowners check their attic at least twice a year to see if there’s any evidence of leakage or condensation build-up. The seasonal freeze/thaw cycle can be hard on houses, and the brunt of winter weather abuse is taken on by your roof. Damaged shingles and flashings can leave your home vulnerable to water intrusion and leaks. In addition, improper venting can allow condensation to build up. From your attic you’ll be able to roughly determine how your roof is doing, and if the venting is working, by the amount of moisture you encounter. You should investigate your attic at least twice a year, preferably during the Spring and Fall, to see what effect the more dramatic seasons can have on your roof.
Keep Your Downspouts, Gutters & Storm Drains Free of Debris
One of the most important ways to prepare your home for Spring is to ensure that your water management systems are intact and functioning properly. The extreme snow, wind, and ice storms we experienced this winter may have rendered your gutters, eavestrough, and downspouts ineffective – either breaking or moving them, or filling them with debris. As you perform maintenance around your home this weekend, take some time to check your gutters to make sure they are clear of leaves, twigs, or excess snow, so water can effectively drain through them. While checking your gutters, look at your downspouts to see if they’ve suffered any damage. They should extend at least six feet from your home, so that they can effectively direct water away from your foundation.
Spring is a time of heavy rain and rapidly increasing temperatures, and although presently it’s still cold and frozen, this will not last. As you prepare your own water management systems for the change of season, it might also be valuable to check the City’s. The same snow and debris that can obstruct your gutters and downspouts can also affect your storm drain. When checking your gutters and downspouts make sure your storm drain is unobstructed so that your curb or sidewalk doesn’t experience any flooding during periods of major rainfall.
Additional Spring Chores
When the weather does finally warm up and there is no question that spring has arrived, there will be some additional maintenance for homeowners to perform. These chores can include:
- Turning exterior water faucets back on
- Cutting back trees and shrubs from your house walls, roof, and air conditioning systems (as needed)
- Changing your window and door panels from glass to screens
Although we are losing an hour on Sunday, that does mean we’re one step closer to Spring. We’d like to encourage homeowners to complete the tasks above to ensure that their home is ready for the change in seasons. Want more Spring tips? Check in with us on Twitter & Facebook for more home maintenance advice.
The Weather Network has issued a “Rainfall Warning” for the Greater Toronto Area, with an estimated 25 to 50 mm of rain expected to fall over the course of today and Friday.* In addition to this excessive downpour, southern Ontario is also beginning to experience warmer temperatures, resulting in melting snow and ice. As snow banks turn to slush and snowmen lose their luster, the feeling that Spring is finally here might have to wait. The sheer volume of precipitation being forecast combined with the melted snow and debris that has collected around houses, over sewer grates, and in eavestroughs, means you may have more to worry about than just finding an umbrella this afternoon.
While no one is anticipating a repeat of the major rainfall and flash-flooding Toronto experienced in July, today’s “Rainfall Warning” does bring with it the threat of high waters, minor flooding, and water intrusion. The slush that lines most sidewalks in Toronto covers sewer grates, and its mixture of snow, dirt, and debris does not allow for much water to pass through it. If we see a lot of rain, (say 25 to 50 mm worth), it may have difficulty traveling down to the storm sewer due to these blocked grates. This could result in minor flooding.
Houses could face a similar phenomenon. Eavestroughs filled with slush and debris are hardly effective, making it difficult for water to pass through them. As a result, copious amounts of rain can spill over onto the frozen ground around your foundation. Since the frozen ground cannot absorb any of this water, it is likely to leak through your foundation and into your basement. To combat this, pay attention to your home’s water management systems: your gutters, downspouts, and window wells.
- Keep your eavestroughs clear of debris like leaves, twigs, and excess snow.
- Make sure your downspouts extend at least six feet, directing water away from your home.
- Walk around your home regularly to clean out your window wells that have collected leaves and dirt.
- If you have a sump pump in your basement, test it to make sure that it is working.
Home maintenance means proactively protecting your home. Listen to weather reports and consider how storms may affect your property. Check your systems on a semi-frequent basis to ensure they are working properly. Remember how your home performs in different seasons, and act accordingly – if you experienced a leak last Spring, was it because of heavy rainfalls? What could you do this Spring to prevent it from recurring? Homeownership can sometimes be a challenge, but we’re always here to help. If there’s an issue that we’ve yet to cover or something you’d like help with, comment below or find us on Twitter and Facebook and we’ll do our best to help out.
Many do not consider power outages to be a major cause for concern. Getting to use candles is exciting, you might finally get to see the stars, and you can always spend less time on the internet, right? Most outages last only a few minutes, sometimes stretching to a few hours, and they don't cause much harm. However, last December, when hundreds of thousands of individuals in the Greater Toronto Area and most of Southern Ontario were without electricity for days, power outages were no longer a minor inconvenience.
Hydro employees worked tirelessly to restore power, but the sheer volume of those without, and the threats of more severe weather, made for a slow process. Many suffered feelings of uncertainty and frustration amidst chattering teeth. As hours turned into days and numerous homes remained in the dark, the proximity to the holidays and the extremely cold weather made what is normally a joyous time feel bleak.
It has been reported that during the height of the ice storm, 350,000 homes were without power in the Greater Toronto Area. In last month's January Poll, we asked who of our readers were affected by power loss in the wake of December's storm. Of the homeowners and real estate partners who participated in our poll, slightly more than half were affected.
Despite not having utility-supplied electricity due to downed wires and fallen trees, many households were virtually untouched because they had backup power sources to run their systems and appliances. Having access to woodstoves and generators kept families comfortable while they waited for their power to be restored. However, these are not items that come as standard equipment in most homes, and, as reported by several news outlets, many homeowners without backup power sources sought them out, compromising on convenience, efficiency, and safety.
Improperly installed, vented, and run generators can be inefficient, ineffective, and in extreme cases, life-threatening. Prolonged power outages usually result in several fatalities related to carbon monoxide inhalation from gas generators. These are avoidable deaths, caused by lack of resources and poor planning. It's important that homeowners buy their backup power sources well in advance of any outages, so they can select the model that works best for their type of dwelling and familiarize themselves with its functionality - know how your unit works before, not during, an emergency. With that sentiment in mind, we went through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's "Backup Power for Your Home" to develop a simple guide to generator safety
Essential Rules for Using Your Generator
- One of the most important things to note is that the majority of generators were not designed nor intended to work inside your home. If you are using a gas or propane fueled generator, run it outdoors, never indoors. The carbon monoxide gas from these devices could kill you.
- For additional security, make sure to purchase a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector that you can use when you run your generator. It will alert you when there are high concentrations of carbon monoxide gas, so that you can adjust your generator as needed. During December's ice storm a family almost passed away from carbon monoxide poisoning, even though their generator was outside. Their carbon monoxide detector saved them.
- Never fuel your generator while it is running - this is a very serious fire safety issue.
- Never leave your generator unattended while it's running, it may overheat and start a fire. It is a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher near your generator while it's in use.
- If you are connecting your generator to your home's electrical system, you must use a transfer switch - a direct connection can result in fatal accidents for Hydro workers.
- After starting your generator, do not turn on all of your appliances at once. Instead, turn them on one at a time. Backup power sources are not meant to simulate utility-supplied electricity, but to help give you access to the appliances you can't live without - remember, you really can afford to spend less time on the internet.
- If you are experiencing a prolonged power outage, change your unit's oil approximately five hours into use and continue to check and change oil approximately every 50 hours. Use synthetic oil to help extend engine life and make starting easier in cold weather.
Annual Generator Maintenance
When not in use, generators require regular care. The tasks below should be performed on an annual basis. Fall is the best time to complete this maintenance to ensure you're prepared for prolonged power outages in the winter.
1. Start engine and run with an electrical load until the fuel is completely used up.
2. Refuel with fresh fuel.
3. Clean and lubricate battery terminals with a wire brush and petroleum jelly if there is any corrosion.
4. Inspect air and fuel filters, as well as fuel shutoff for cleanliness.
Sometimes preventative maintenance is not enough. Should you use your generator extensively, or if it begins to run poorly, schedule a tune up with a licensed professional.
We hope the above information will help to encourage homeowners to exercise caution when it comes to generator usage. For a more detailed guide on generator care as well as more information on alternative backup power sources, please check out the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's informative report.
Real estate associations and groups have begun to release their data and analyses from 2013, and it’s evident that the Canadian real estate market is doing well, and that this trend is expected to continue. With home prices and sales up almost across the board, save for certain anomalous regions, many are throwing the notion of a “soft landing” out the window.
One of the areas that saw the most growth was the luxury home market. A recent article in Macleans, citing a document produced by Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, reported that “luxury home sales in most of the country’s biggest cities rose higher than expected…Calgary saw the highest year-over-year sales growth, with a 33 per cent gain, followed by Vancouver with 19 per cent and Toronto with 13 per cent.”* In light of the dramatic increase 2013 saw in sales of luxury homes and the projection that this trend will continue we felt it was important to address what to expect from the Home Inspection when you’re buying a luxury property.
Luxury Homes Vs Residential Homes: What’s the Difference?
A property usually receives the designation of “luxury home” when it meets requirements related to:
- Listing price - luxury homes are typically at least a million and a half dollars
- Size - luxury homes are at least 4,000 square feet
- Features - luxury homes may have any number of amenities including pools, spas, or wine cellars (to name just a few)
Your average residential home, especially one that is located in an urban area, does not meet these requirements. It may hit the million dollar asking price, but that is usually due to location; for the most part these homes definitely do not possess comparable square-footage or amenities. The difference in these types of properties equates to a difference in the type of Home Inspection they need.
What to Expect From the Home Inspection
A Home Inspection isn’t an invasive or destructive exercise; it’s a purely visual investigation of a property at a specific point in time. It is intended to identify components of the home that are significantly deficient, unsafe, or near the end of their life. The inspector will provide a general overview of the home, focusing on performance rather than cosmetic, code, or design issues.
In a recent Toronto Star article, columnist Mark Weisleder suggested that Home Inspections may require what he calls a “team approach”. He argues that homebuyers should consider the different systems their home may have, such as well and septic, chimney, and HVAC. Weisleder believes there is a benefit to having these areas inspected by a specialist in addition to the Home Inspector, claiming that “when you are about to make one of the largest purchase decisions in your life, it is important to have as much information that you need in advance. A Home Inspection team may supply the answer.”**
Though Weisleder penned this article because “when you now consider that the average price for homes in the GTA is now over $500,000, and with a majority of homes being over 20 years old, it may be time to take a…team approach when it comes to inspecting a home prior to any purchase decision,”** we feel the idea of using a team speaks more to the way luxury properties should be inspected. That is not to say a “team approach” isn’t valuable with the average home, but that it is an absolute necessity for luxury homes.
Due to the sheer magnitude of these types of properties and the extent to which they are customized, the need for specialists to examine them in conjunction with the Home Inspector increases. Weisleder notes the fireplace "should be inspected by a qualified wood energy technology transfer professional once a year” and that “homeowners should have their furnaces and HVAC systems checked once each year.”** Most luxury homes have multiple fireplaces and furnaces – as well as many more extravagant features which also require regular inspection. For example, a pool should be inspected twice a season (upon opening and closing). The complexity of these types of homes calls for a more complex Home Inspection, one that includes a “team approach”.
How Do You Achieve a “Team Approach” to Home Inspection?
The Carson Dunlop Specialty Services program provides clients and real estate partners with fast, easy, and cost-effective access to qualified specialists, so they can conveniently arrange for a Home Inspection and additional property assessments with a single phone call. Specialty services can be added before, during, or after the inspection. Carson Dunlop client care representatives will manage the booking, coordination, and payments of any of the inspections you require.
While we feel that a “team approach” to the Home Inspection is necessary when purchasing a luxury property, it is also beneficial when buying a smaller-scale home, especially when it has unique features, like well and septic system or wood burning stove and fireplace. To discuss the complete list of Specialty Services we offer, and what would be valuable for your home, please email us or call 800-268-7070.
The extreme weather witnessed this winter may present more than just physical problems for homeowners. The frigid temperatures brought on by the polar vortex have negatively affected many properties across North America. Countless downed trees, prolonged power outages, and frozen everything have contributed to a difficult few weeks. Winter is already considered to be the harshest season on homes, as its freeze/thaw cycles can cause significant amounts of damage.
Unfortunately this could translate into future headaches for homeowners - not all of them related to how their home and its systems are performing. Global News is reporting that home insurance premiums will likely be going up as a result of the ice storm. They warn that “homeowners should prepare to pay more for property insurance as the severe weather trend that has battered the country during the past year is expected to continue.”*
In fact, some insurance companies have already begun to change their policies based on recent events and the claims homeowners have made as a result. “Intact Financial Corp…one of Canada’s largest property and casualty insurers, raised premiums by 10 to 20 per cent during the past few months as catastrophic losses and weather-related claims have risen.”*
Reflecting on the extreme storms Canada has suffered through 2013, from the flash-flooding in July to December’s ice, Intact Financial Corp. spokesman Gilles Gratton posits, “…the impacts of climate change coupled with urban growth, aging municipal infrastructure and the greater prevalence of finished basements are posing new challenges to the industry.”*
Data from the Insurance Bureau of Canada suggested that it’s possible this weather-driven shift in premiums, pricing and coverage has been a long time coming. They reported “the amount of insured damage resulting from extreme weather in Canada grew from less than $200 million in 2006 to $1.2 billion in 2012.”*
What Does This Mean For Homeowners?
While there is little you can do in the face of high insurance premiums, especially when this price increase is a national trend, there are other ways you can limit the financial toll that extreme weather can take. Lessening the potential for damage through regular maintenance and upkeep can help you, your home, (and your wallet), in the long run. When it comes to extreme weather and protecting your property, preparation is key.
We have several articles that relate to home maintenance in winter. Check them out and see how your own maintenance routine and knowledge compares.
In addition, it's important to make sure you and your family are ready for an emergency. The Government of Canada’s Get Prepared Website is a great resource. With information on how to plan and create a survival kit this website is a valuable tool for every homeowner.
Do you have a Home Inspection issue or concern that you haven’t seen addressed here? Comment below or find us on Twitter or Facebook and let us know. We’ll do our best to help out.
Do you know what’s easier to make than a New Year’s resolution? An excuse. It has only been a few weeks since 2014 began, and for many the drive for self-change is dwindling. “I’m too tired to make dinner, I’ll just order pizza,” or “I forgot my towel, I guess I can’t go to the gym.” Excuses aren’t only made for resolutions; there are plenty of things we let ourselves get out of, like Home Inspections. “This house is over my budget, I guess I can’t afford the Home Inspection,” or “My real estate agent informed me that this will probably be a multiple-offer situation, I should waive my Home Inspection clause to be competitive.” Just as it’s important for you to make the right choices in order to stay healthy, it’s important for you to be smart when it comes to your investments.
With the Canadian Real Estate Association predicting a strong year for real estate sales in 2014, we felt the need to address a trend we’ve noticed growing at an alarming rate since the end of the 2013 fall real estate market: home buyers skipping their Home Inspection. Due to the aggressive nature of Toronto real estate there has always been a temptation to opt out of the Home Inspection, however the extremely high demand and low supply of homes available this quarter have meant the market has gone from fairly competitive to cutthroat. This, combined with the high price of homes, has translated to more and more buyers waiving their right to a Home Inspection clause.
Even December’s ice storm didn’t slow the Toronto real estate market down. The Globe and Mail reports, “Ms. DeClute [a representative of DeClute Real Estate Inc.] cancelled the open house scheduled for the weekend the ice blasted Toronto, but 32 groups of buyers still made appointments for showings, which they held during daylight hours…Not only were fallen branches surrounding the house, says Ms. DeClute, but many of the streets in the Upper Beaches neighbourhood had fallen trees or power lines blocking access.”* Despite the dangerous weather and difficulties in reaching the property, there were still many individuals vying for the home, which meant that the buyers ended up paying “more than $40,000 above the asking price of $499,000.”*
Reflecting on December’s real estate transactions, The Globe and Mail noted, “The average price of homes that sold over the Multiple Listing Service in the Toronto area during December was $520,398 up by 8.9 per cent from the average selling price in December 2012. And the average selling price in Toronto for all of 2013 was $523,036, up 5.2 per cent from the average in 2012.”**
Competition and price are the two biggest motivators for buyers to skip the Home Inspection. According to a CBC News article, the 2014 market is expected to feature both - “The Toronto Real Estate Board predicts price growth will continue to exceed inflation in 2014, largely because the demand for low-rise houses continues to far outstrip supply. ‘The seller’s market conditions that drove price growth in the second half of 2013 will remain in place in many parts of the GTA,’ said TREB senior manager of market analysis Jason Mercer.”***
When buying a home many feel that they are gaining the upper hand in negotiations or saving money by opting out of their Home Inspection. However, in both of these situations, the calculations are way off – you ultimately lose more than you gain. A Home Inspection is a wise investment and can help to alert home buyers to potential problems within the home. When deciding not to have one performed, you run the risk of being ill-informed about your new property, not knowing how much you should budget and for what, and when certain maintenance items will need to be performed.
We recognize that although having a pre-purchase Home Inspection is preferred, due to the constraints of the current real estate climate it’s not always possible to have one completed. However, just because you can’t get a Home Inspection before you buy your home doesn’t mean you should skip it altogether. It may not help you decide whether or not to move forward with the purchase, but it can help you to make good decisions with the next steps you take. Should you renovate the kitchen to widen your breakfast nook? Or should you fix the flashing on your roof first? Our Home Inspectors are available to help you with your home for as long as you own it, so when you start thinking about the feasibility of putting in a back porch, your inspector will be able to give you some advice and information.
A Carson Dunlop Home Inspection and written inspection report help to provide homeowners with the critical information they need. Our inspections include:
- A summary page with key findings
- Improvement recommendations for conditions, with time frames and cost estimates
- Photos and color illustrations for clarity
- A check for manufacturer recalls on appliances through RecallChek
- Free enrollment in the Carson Dunlop Homeowners Association
We also suggest a Thermal Imaging Inspection be added to your Home Inspection, to help identify hidden water leakage in your home.
House hunting in a competitive market can be hectic and stressful. Our Home Inspections are not, so no more excuses! Let us help welcome you to your new home. Book online or over the phone at 800-268-7070. Request a morning, afternoon, or weekend appointment. Receive your report the same day your inspection is completed, via email. Call or email us anytime with questions.
Carols have been sung, presents have been opened, and New Years kisses have been planted. The holidays are officially over, and with more than two months of winter left, everyone can agree: it's cold. Winter is a harsh season and it's important to protect yourself as well as your home. As you don your extra layers, put on your thickest socks, and bundle up tight, safety comes first when you head outdoors.
With temperatures well below freezing, the winter wonderland of December has become January's slippery slope. Ice is everywhere, hanging from gutters and covering driveways, walkways, and sidewalks. Although it can be beautiful, it's also very dangerous, so we'd like to encourage you to take the appropriate precautions. The de-icing guide below will help keep you and your property ice-free this season.
We aren't talking about creative seasonal cussing - an ice dam is actually something that occurs on your roof. Ice damming happens when snow and ice collect, usually at the eaves.
Heat escapes from the interior of the home into the attic through air leakage in the ceiling or poorly insulated sections of the attic, melting the snow on the roof above. As the snow melts, it runs down the roof until it encounters unmelted snow on the unheated eaves. There, it will refreeze. This process will continue until an ice dam is formed. If the dam is large enough, water will back up under the shingles and leak into the eaves, exterior walls, and building interior.
Some roofs are more prone to ice damming than others. Ice dams are most commonly formed on roofs with low slopes or roofs that change from a steep slope down to a low slope. The largest dams tend to form over unheated areas, such as eaves, porches, and attached garages. Ice dams are also common above party walls and below skylights.
Ice damming doesn't necessarily happen every winter. Ice dams normally form after periods of heavy snowfall when daytime temperatures are at, or slightly above, freezing, and night time temperatures are below freezing.
There are three major preventative measures to consider when approaching the issue of ice damming:
1. Adding attic insulation
The trick is to keep the attic, and therefore the roof surface, cold enough that the snow does not melt.
This will work well depending on the attic in question. However, some attics have so many warm air leaks that it would be impossible to add enough insulation to fix the problem - which is why you should also consider the second approach.
2. Sealing the air leaks
In many cases, with proper sealing tools, a homeowner can take care of this task themselves. However, some situations require a specialist to find and fix the issue. Common air leakage paths include attic access hatches, ceiling light fixtures (especially potlights), and plumbing stacks.
3. Improving attic ventilation
Additional attic venting can help to flush out excess warm air in the attic before it can heat up the roof and melt the snow.
Salting & Other Ice Removal Alternatives
Ensuring your driveway and walkway are clear of ice and snow is imperative not only for your safety, but for the safety of others. Falls are a leading cause of injury in North America, and it is the homeowners' responsibility to keep their property accessible for visitors and pedestrians.
We know shoveling can be a pain in the back, but it's a fairly manageable chore. De-Icing, however, can be less straightforward.
There are a few natural methods you can undertake; we've listed our top four:
Salt is the most common treatment used to get rid of ice. It's cheap, effective, and easy to obtain. However, it's also corrosive, so it can damage human skin, pets' paws, and its runoff can affect nearby plants and vegetation. It can also damage concrete and masonry.
Urea is the second most common de-icer. It is a liquid, making it easy to apply to pathways, and more convenient to clean up. However, its state also means it can cause more damage to surrounding plants. It's also less convenient to purchase.
3. Alfalfa Meal
Alfalfa meal is a less popular solution. Like urea, it is a natural fertilizer; however it contains less nitrogen so it's a bit less damaging. It's a very effective de-icer, and due to its dry and grainy nature, it provides additional traction to those walking and driving on it. Unfortunately it is more difficult to purchase.
4. Sugar Beet Juice
Sugar beet juice is becoming a more popular method for de-icing, being adopted by many municipalities for winter road care, like Toronto and Niagara Region. The juice from sugar beets lowers the freezing point of water, and helps with de-icing. It is colorless, odorless, and harmless. However, it's more expensive than its salty counterpart and less convenient to purchase.
We hope our guide helps keep you free of ice dams, ice patches, and ice-related damage or injury. If there's a Home Inspection topic that we've yet to cover on our blog or in our newsletter, make sure to let us know via Twitter or Facebook and we'll do our best to help out.
As much of North America feels the extreme cold temperatures brought on by the polar vortex, and southern Ontario is still recovering from the worst ice storm to hit in recent decades, we felt it pertinent to discuss some of the less sensational damage this weather can cause to homes, like moisture intrusion. When the ice storm broke a few weeks ago, we addressed the issue of frozen pipes and how to avoid them. We also provided a guide to facing prolonged power outages in freezing temperatures. These articles were in direct response to December’s storm, and although it was a disaster, and did require homeowner action, it was an anomaly. Winter weather brings more common issues, and it’s important that homeowners prepare for these items as well.
Subzero temperatures can often translate to wet basements. Many believe that Spring, with its frequent downpours, is when they should be concerned about moisture intrusion in their home – and they are right. However, this isn’t the only time to think about this issue. Water damage requires year-round attention.
One of the major factors in keeping your home dry is maintaining your external water management systems: your gutters, downspouts, and window wells. When properly installed, these items are meant to direct water away from the home. However, as snow and ice accumulate, they clog these areas, trapping debris such as twigs, leaves, and litter in them ultimately making them less effective. To combat this issue homeowners must ensure:
- Gutters are clear of debris.
- Downspouts extend far enough away from the home - at least six feet from your foundation.
- The bottom of your window well contains several inches of gravel to allow water to drain from the well.
- A drainage pipe, filled with gravel (to prevent it from collapsing, but still allowing water to pass), should extend down the drainage tile around the perimeter of the footing (if one exists) of your window well. If your window well does not have this, a clear plastic dome should be installed over the window well to keep water and debris out. You may have to dig down through some gravel to see this drainage pipe.
The importance of this list is compounded this year by the ice storm and the increased volume of debris that was created when many trees froze and had their branches break off. As such, your home may require more attention than previous winters. Although the frigid temperatures of late may have you curling up with a hot cup of tea and a good book instead of heading outdoors, removing the debris from your yard should take priority – but do make sure to bundle up (pun intended).
Over the course of the next few days the temperature is set to increase dramatically (from -22C on Monday to +4C on Saturday), and meteorologists are calling for rain. This means the snow and ice clogging your gutters, downspouts, and window wells is going to melt. This snow-melt, combined with the rain, can seep into your basement if it is not properly directed away from your home, so now is the time to take action. Being mindful of the above-mentioned areas should help to reduce the potential for water damage in your home.
Do you have a Home Inspection issue or concern that you haven’t seen addressed here? Comment below or find us on Twitter or Facebook and let us know. We’ll do our best to help out.
Although power has been restored to almost every home in the Greater Toronto Area the effects of the December 21st ice storm still weigh heavily on the minds of many. The extreme weather left 350,000 households in the dark for somewhere between one and ten days, depending on their location – this meant that unfortunately, many were without power during Christmas.
While several individuals have tried to put a silver lining on this cloud saying the outage allowed their families to bond without distractions, for their communities to strengthen in the face of adversity, and that it helped them to gain a new appreciation for their neighbours; more than anything last week’s storm was, simply put, a disaster.
Despite admirable efforts from Toronto Hydro and their respective counterparts, the situation faced by most of Southern Ontario for the last week has been a dire one. As many suffered feelings of uncertainty and frustration amidst chattering teeth, we would encourage homeowners to see this storm as a wakeup call. Are you prepared for power outages in freezing temperatures? With what we’ve seen in the last week, the answer for most is no. While this ice storm was an anomaly, it’s still important to take a page from the scout’s handbook and make sure you’re prepared. Please enjoy our winter outage tips below.
As long as the home is above freezing, pipes should continue to operate smoothly. If the house temperature drops below freezing, issues will develop. In these instances we advise running a bit of water at every tap. This keeps the pipes from freezing since city water is roughly 10° C (50° F). Remember also that traps below every fixture and floor drain are also at risk of freezing, so please think critically and act cautiously if you experience an outage for multiple days in extremely cold weather.
For the most part it doesn’t make sense to shut off the water altogether and drain the pipes, unless the house is below freezing for an extended period of time or if the home is vacant. Proper winterization is difficult for most homeowners to achieve, as it calls for adding antifreeze or blowing out all the traps below fixtures and floor drains, as well as protecting toilet bowls, dishwasher drains and any other place where water collects.
If the situation is long term, shutting off water and draining pipes may prevent flooding damage if pipes burst. There may be localized damage to areas where water was not drained or protected with antifreeze, but in severe conditions that may be the best you can hope for. If your home runs on a hot water boiler and radiators, turning it off will probably leave water in low spots. Again, expect local damage.
Focus on heating just one room, preferably one with little or no exterior wall surface. You will not be able to heat the whole house. Insulate the doors and windows of the room you’re heating as much as possible.
Operating gas or wood burning fireplaces will add heat. Gas fireplaces are typically more efficient than wood fireplaces. Wood stoves are much more efficient than open fireplaces.
Candles used for light or heat, create the risks of both starting a fire and inhaling toxic gases such as carbon monoxide. Have a battery powered smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector on hand if possible.
Do NOT bring your BBQ inside and run it. Do NOT try to use your gas stove for heat. If you have a gas or propane generator, run it outdoors; NEVER indoors. The carbon monoxide gas from these devices may kill you.
Electricity From Vehicles
Power inverters can provide 120 volt power for charging phones, tablets, etc. from your car. Some vehicles have 120 volt receptacles you can plug into directly. You can also purchase inverters that plug into cigarette lighters and convert the DC power in your vehicle to AC power for household plugs.
The amount of power available depends on the inverter and is typically quite limited. For example, don’t try to run electric heaters from your car. The electricity you use will drain the battery unless the vehicle engine is running. If you do decide to use your car to power some of your smaller electronics, start your car regularly so you don’t run the battery down. Some inverters have a low battery warning – if yours does, make use of it, as it could save you a major headache.
Make sure to check out our articles on Avoiding Frozen Pipes and Furnace Maintenance for additional winter weather tips for your home.
We would like to thank the Hydro employees who worked around the clock and gave up their holidays to bring light to ours. The compassion shown by so many reminds us all of how fortunate we are to live in this community.
For more information on emergency preparation and what to do during a power outage, please visit www.getprepared.gc.ca.
Record low temperatures have been sweeping across Canada and beyond – Egypt received its first snowfall in over a century! With winter weather warnings aplenty and serious snow accumulation, it’s fair to say most folks are feeling frozen. On these -16˚degrees days, it’s definitely function over fashion as you decide what to wear in the morning. Thick socks, thermal underwear, and your warmest winter accessories are a requirement for heading outdoors. Appropriate attire will help to protect you from frostbite, windburn, and hypothermia.
This weekend we saw an ice storm fall on one of the busiest travel and shopping weekends of the year. In Toronto alone, over 200,000 customers were still without power as of 8:00 a.m. this morning. As cleanup crews work around the clock to restore power to hundreds of thousands of customers in the Greater Toronto Area, the city is bracing for another deep freeze. Weather specialists are predicting that temperatures will drop to -11 overnight, and with the cold comes a reminder that this time of year can bring major issues to your home in the way of freezing and leaking pipes.
Winter weather causes wear and tear on your home and its systems. One of the more affected areas, or at least the more noticeably affected areas, can be your pipes. When pipes freeze more often than not they split, which results in leakage. Leaking supply piping can be very dramatic. Because the piping is pressurized, a leak can do a lot of damage quickly. If there is no functional floor drain, a leaking supply pipe can flood a house.
There is a risk of freezing and leakage if pipes are installed in unheated areas, even if the pipe is insulated. This includes:
- Cold rooms
- Any other unheated space
Check to see if tub and shower fixtures are installed against exterior walls; there may be pipes inside which could freeze. In cold climates, it is good practice to have pipes installed through the floor away from the exterior wall for all fixtures. Pay special attention to this with do-it-yourself renovation work – sometimes what seems like the most convenient place to run piping can come back to bite you, or rather, leak on you. If there are pipes running through unheated spaces, electric heating cables can be installed to prevent a problem.
Looking for more renovation advice and maintenance tips? Our Home Reference Book is a great source. Free with every Carson Dunlop Home Buyer’s Inspection it’s a valuable addition to every homeowner’s library.