Home Inspection Articles

Father's Day: Tips for Treating Dad

Posted by Thea Scrimger on Jun 10, 2014 2:05:00 PM

FamilyIt’s mid-June, and you know what that means: Dad’s big day is just around the corner. That’s right; Father’s Day is this Sunday. Are you ready to celebrate? Or are you having difficulty buying for the man that apparently, especially when you ask him, wants for nothing? Instead of opting for the traditional tie and coffee mug, this year, try doing something for Dad.

Sure, a new tie can really bring a look together and a mug letting everyone know you’re the World’s Greatest Dad can definitely boost the ego, but helping with the chores that Dad is usually responsible for can be a thoughtful gift too. This weekend use the tips below so you can take care of the yard work and grilling, and give Dad a relaxing Father’s Day.

Yard Work

  • Mowing

When it comes to maintaining your yard, one of the most time-consuming tasks is mowing the lawn. This is a fairly straightforward, albeit annoying, chore. Make sure you clean away sticks and other items that may interfere with the mower before you begin. You don’t need to give your lawn a buzz cut. Try to keep the grass at least 6-8cm long so that the roots are shaded and able to hold water well. As with other outdoor activities in the summer, it’s important to be weather-prepared. Wear a hat, put on sunscreen and bug spray, and stay hydrated.

  • Watering

You may not have to help with this, as healthy lawns usually only require about 2.5cm of water on a weekly basis to thrive. Check to see when the last time your lawn was watered before taking any action. If it has been more than a week since your lawn was watered grab the hose or sprinkler. Water slowly to both make sure that the ground actually absorbs the water, and to limit the amount of run-off that occurs. It’s also important to water thoroughly – a shallow sprinkling doesn’t do as much good as soaking down into the roots.

  • Trimming

ShrubsLike the individuals who create and take care of them, every yard or garden is different. Some are a testament to organization; others cultivate a more natural aesthetic. Depending on the way your garden is laid out you may have to do some minor trimming. If you have any shrubs, hedges, or trees near the foundation of your home, it’s a good idea to pull branches and trim excess leaves away from the home. This will help to let sunlight into the home, curb the bugs that wish to access the home, and assist with water management.

  • Downspouts

While you’re by your foundation, take a look at your downspouts. How far do they extend? They should reach approximately 6 feet away from your home. If they fall short of this you may see wet or eroded patches where rainwater has been pooling. When not properly directed away from your home via a downspout, water remains on the ground by your foundation, slowly seeping into it. A minor repair to your downspouts can save you major expenses in the future.

Grilling Safety & Maintenance

  • Cleaning

Make sure your barbeque is clean before firing it up. Dirt, debris, bugs, and cobwebs can get lodged inside the grill – especially if you don’t use it frequently. This is not the sort of seasoning you want on your burgers, so always check to see how clean your grill is before putting food on it.

  • Propane Tank

Take a look at your propane tank. Of course, it’s important that there’s enough fuel to cook your food, but it’s also important to assess the condition of the tank. Is your tank damaged or rusty? If so, it might be time for a replacement. You should be replacing your tanks approximately every decade.

  • Charcoal

If you use charcoal as fuel, it’s important to make sure your barbeque is vented properly. Carbon monoxide is released when this fuel source is lit, and poses a threat when inhaled. Keep the barbeque at least 3 metres away from windows and doors.

Father's Day

When you’re done grilling, do not dispose of the used charcoal unless you are confident that the coals are fully extinguished. Hot coals can easily start a fire and are very dangerous.

  • Safety Tips

Do not leave your barbeque unsupervised, especially if you are grilling with your children and pets nearby.

Keep the barbeque out of range of combustible items like wooden fences and trees and shrubs.

Do not get too close to the grill and make sure to wear appropriate clothing like a thick apron and short sleeved shirt to help minimize the potential for having your clothing catch fire. As well, use long tongs and brushes to protect you from the open heat source.

Whatever you end up doing with Dad, we hope you have a safe and fun Father's Day. Looking for more summer tips? Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook

Topics: Homeowners, Home Inspector Advice, Summer Tips, Carson Dunlop, Homeowner Tips, Home Safety, Outdoor Fun

Air Conditioner Maintenance: Beat the Heat Before it Gets Here

Posted by Thea Scrimger on May 28, 2014 9:19:00 AM


May GraphThere's no denying it, spring has sprung. The sun is shining, flowers are blooming, and the birds have returned to nest. Though we now appreciate this perfectly-temperate weather, ideal for picnics and baseball, experience tells us it will not last long. The extreme heat of summer is coming - you know, the record highs you swore you wouldn't complain about when you were knee-deep in snow, shoveling your driveway through gritted teeth. Although most of us are thrilled to be free of winter's ice and snow, heat waves and severe humidity are not the most comfortable weather systems either, and soon the complaints will start to flow.

While our aim is not to appear pessimistic in the face of this pleasant spring season, we do encourage homeowners to be aware of, and plan for, the realities of the coming weather cycles. We aren't exactly calling for the hatches to be battened down, but just as you performed furnace maintenance to prepare it for the winter, it's important to consider the effects the summer heat will have on your cooling system. Like the majority of your home's systems, proper maintenance can help to increase your air conditioner's lifespan and ensure that it works properly. Check out our guide to cooling systems below to learn more.  

Air Conditioner 101

There are many types of air conditioning systems; however they all work on the same principle: moving heat from a relatively cool space to a relatively warm space. In the summer, air conditioners take heat from the house air and transfer it to the exterior. This heat may be transferred to the outside air, a body of water, or into the ground. 

Air-Cooled Air Conditioning Systems

Air-cooled air conditioning systems are the most common. They have two main components:

1.  The evaporator - which may be in the ductwork immediately above the furnace or in a fan coil in the attic. 

2.   The condenser - which is outdoors. 

When most people picture an air conditioner they envision a large metal box that sits just outside of the home. It's an item you have to carefully rake around in the fall and clear snow off of in the winter - sometimes it even comes with its own special plastic cover. This box is the condenser unit.

Air Conditioner Schematic
The evaporator is inside the home. It is used to turn the refrigerant, the medium which carries the heat, from a liquid into a gaseous state.

Inside the condenser is the compressor: a pump that moves the refrigerant through the system and compresses the refrigerant, raising its temperature significantly. The compressor is the heart of the system.

Severe damage can occur to air conditioning compressors if they are turned on when the outside temperature is below 65º F (16º C). The life expectancy of a compressor is typically 10 to 15 years in moderate climates and as little as 8 to 10 years in hot climates. Depending on the age of the unit, replacement of a failed compressor may not be cost-effective. The unit may be so old that replacement parts are not readily available or the system might use an older refrigerant. In these cases, it may be better to replace the entire condenser unit, rather than just the compressor. 

Air ConditionerIt's important to make sure the condenser is on level ground (within roughly 10 degrees). The compressor or the refrigerant lines may be damaged if the unit is not level. So if your unit is on ground that is sloping towards or away from your home, this should be addressed.

You should also check to make sure that the condenser is positioned a safe distance away from exhaust discharge vents. Hot air discharging from a water heater exhaust vent or a dryer vent can affect the operation of air conditioning systems. These should be kept several feet from the condenser. 

If your condenser is running loudly, the best course of action you can take is to contact a service specialist to diagnose and correct the issue. There are several causes of noisy condensers; a technician will be able to assess the problem and offer remediation advice. In fact, due to the complexity of air-cooling systems, if you suspect there is any kind of problem with your unit (noise-related or otherwise) engaging a service specialist is usually a good idea. Many of the complications you can encounter with your air-cooling system will be hard for the majority of homeowners to identify; working with a reputable technician can be very valuable. We recommend having a service person check your system annually to help ensure that everything is functioning normally. 

There are also some air conditioner maintenance tasks homeowners can assume themselves. These include:

  • Changing the filter - dust and dirt can build up on the filter, affecting the efficiency and performance of the unit. The cost of filters can range from $5 to $30, depending on the type you select. In most cases, the filter can be found in the ductwork near your furnace.

Helpful tip: write down the size of your filter before going to buy a new one.

  • Keeping your condenser clear of dirt and debris - dirt outside your condenser quickly becomes dirt inside your condenser as the fan draws air through the coils. A build-up of dirt, dust, leaves, and grass around the outside of the condenser will reduce airflow through the coils, compromising the functionality of the unit.

At Carson Dunlop, we are committed to our clients for the long-run. The Carson Dunlop Homeowners Association helps reduce costs on everyday home expenses, like air conditioner maintenance. Our association member, AtlasCare, offers Carson Dunlop clients and real estate partners preferred pricing and exclusive deals on heating and cooling system work.    

Topics: Home Inspector Advice, Monthly Newsletters, Homeowners Association, Carson Dunlop, Homeowner Tips, Newsletter, Spring Tips, Cooling, Home Safety

Blame it on the Rain: What the Latest Storm Could Mean for your Home

Posted by Thea Scrimger on Feb 20, 2014 11:44:00 AM

Basement LeakageThe 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.

Wet Basement

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.

*SOURCE: The Weather Network - http://www.theweathernetwork.com/alerts/high-alert/canada/ontario/toronto

Topics: Home Inspector Advice, Water Damage, Carson Dunlop, Homeowner Tips, Extreme Weather, Home Safety

Keeping Your Home Safe & Festive This Holiday Season

Posted by Thea Scrimger on Dec 17, 2013 11:39:00 AM

December Newsletter

GraphOne of the many joys of the holiday season is decorating your home. Religious celebrations aside, December is about spending time with loved ones and toasting the successes and achievements of the past year. Making your space warm and inviting for family, friends, and colleagues is an integral part of this process - and beyond that, it's really fun.

We know that it's easy to get wrapped up in wreaths, lighting, and ornaments, so we want to take this moment to encourage homeowners to practice safe decorating this season. (And no, we're not just talking about making sure you've got mints by your mistletoe). So what exactly do we mean? We've found that atmosphere can trump electrical and fire safety, and that between visiting and being visited by others, basic maintenance can get overlooked. Outlined below are our top five December Décor Do's & Don'ts.  

1. Don't leave your candles unattended

It may seem like common sense, but with what feels like a million things on your "To Do" list, it doesn't take a lot to get distracted. So when your hot cocoa break gets interrupted by a frantic call from your mother-in-law, remember to extinguish your candles before you answer the phone. This is a pretty serious fire hazard that doesn't take much to avoid, so make sure to blow out your candles before leaving a room.

2. Don't keep your holiday lights near paper and plush materials

Whether they are on your tree, around your windows, or on your banisters, it's important to keep your indoor lights clear from debris that can catch fire. When left on for several hours the tiny bulbs on your holiday lights can create a lot more heat than you'd expect, so keeping them away from flammable objects is important. Although modern holiday lights are definitely safer than their predecessors, taking this extra precaution is still a good idea. 

3. Do put your outside lights on timers

TimerIf they aren't already, neighborhoods will soon be aglow with lights framing homes and twinkling in trees, real and inflatable snowmen, and other festive creatures wishing passers-by happy holidays. Turning your front yard into a winter wonderland can be a blast, but the majority of modern decorations require electricity to function, and keeping the juice flowing all night is less than ideal. Save money and the environment by using a timer for your outdoor electronics. Plug your decorations into the timer, and set it to turn on and off at specific times. We usually set ours to turn on just after sunset, and off around 10 or 11pm. Timers can help to deter burglars by making them think you're home when you aren't, and they save you the trouble of fumbling with plugs late at night in your pajamas. They typically cost around $30 and are available at most hardware stores.

4. Do check and test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

With all the seasonal cooking and baking your kitchen will see this month it's important to make sure you're prepared for an emergency. You wear oven mitts to protect your hands, do the same for your house by properly maintaining your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. You should test your detectors on a monthly basis to see whether they have working batteries. You must have at least one smoke detector on each floor, but we recommend more. While there aren't standard rules for carbon monoxide detectors, and you might not even have one, we treat them similarly to smoke detectors and do encourage homeowners to have at least one in their homes.  

5. Do shovel your driveway and salt your walkway

IcyIt's no wonder "Let It Snow" will be playing in stores, at school concerts, and in living rooms all season long - snow is one of the quintessential pieces of the holiday puzzle. Unfortunately, it can be more than festive, it presents a hazard too. Winter weather is wonderful, but it's also dangerous. Avoid getting stuck in your driveway, or slipping down your walkway, by shoveling and salting regularly. These chores are a bit of a pain in the neck, but they are far superior to you or others falling due to prolonged snow and ice accumulation. 

Home maintenance and safety is valuable year-round, but as this is one of the traditionally busiest times for many, we felt it pertinent to reinforce these concerns. 

There are a lot of do's and don'ts this season, but perhaps this biggest is don't drink and drive. Please stay safe and responsible. 

Holiday Greeting

Topics: Winter Tips, Home Inspector Advice, Monthly Newsletters, Carson Dunlop, Homeowner Tips, Newsletter, Home Safety

Product Recall: Ontario Safety Alert Issued*

Posted by Thea Scrimger on Nov 6, 2013 10:52:00 AM
DishwasherOn 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:

  1. The nature of the recall
  2. Where the product was sold
  3. How to remedy the defect
  4. 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.



*SOURCE: http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1253331/ontario-fire-marshal-warns-of-hazardous-dishwashers

Topics: Home Inspection, Appliances, Carson Dunlop, Homeowner Tips, Home Safety