Home Inspection Articles

Furnaces: Heating Your Home This Winter

Posted by Thea Scrimger on Nov 8, 2013 12:32:00 PM

FurnaceAs 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

Furnace Filters

Furnace FilterYour 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.

Furnace Humidifiers

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:

Outside Temperature Recommended House Humidity
-20°F (-28°C)  15%
-20 °F to -10°F (-28 to -23°C)  20%
-10 ° F to 0°F (-23°C to -18°C)   25%
0°F to +10°F (-18°C to -12°C)   35%
10+° F and above (-12°C and above)   40%
 Summer months  Off

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.

Drum-Type

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. 

Cascade-TypeA 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.

Furnace Efficiency

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 FurnaceHigh 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.

Topics: Winter Tips, Home Inspection, Home Inspector Advice, Carson Dunlop, Homeowner Tips

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

Fall Back Safely

Posted by Thea Scrimger on Nov 1, 2013 11:26:00 AM

Winter SunriseOne 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

Carbon Monoxide DetectorWhether 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

ValvesAs 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.

Topics: Home Inspection, Home Inspector Advice, Carson Dunlop, Homeowner Tips

Preparing Your Home For Winter: Inside & Out

Posted by Thea Scrimger on Oct 21, 2013 10:08:00 AM

Homeowners Newsletter

GraphUnlike 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. 

THE EXTERIOR

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.

3. Grading
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.

4. Windows
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.

THE INTERIOR

1. Furnace
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.

2. Weatherstripping
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.

Topics: Home Inspection, Monthly Newsletters, Homeowners Association, Carson Dunlop, Homeowner Tips

WETT Inspections: Remember the Ember this September

Posted by Thea Scrimger on Sep 20, 2013 10:24:00 AM

Newsletter


GraphAlthough the weather outside isn't frightful yet, September is the perfect time to make sure that come December, when you want a fire, it will be delightful. We know that phrase doesn't have 
quite the same ring to it as Cahn's famous tune, but what it lacks in eloquence it makes up for in prudency.

It's easy to believe that summer will last forever; that the recent sunny days are a trend that will continue for a long time. However, realists like us know that it's only a matter of time before warm winds become cool and sweaters replace sunscreen. Taking the necessary measures now to maintain your fireplace will help to keep you cozy for many future snowfalls.

We reached out to Specialty Service partner Carleton Chimney Services to discuss the merits of WETT Inspections and highlight some easy approaches homeowners can take when it comes to fireplace care. We spoke with company President John Carleton, to get a more in-depth look at this type of service.

Carson Dunlop: What is a WETT Inspection? What does it entail?
John Carleton: "A Wood Energy Technolgoy Transfer, or WETT, Inspection relates to the inspection of any wood-burning system in a home. A WETT Inspector assesses different components of the system in question, to determine whether or not it meets the minimum requirements set out by the Code applicable to the installation. There are three levels of WETT Inspections: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. 

  • A Level 1 inspection does not require the inspector to look into hidden spaces or use any tools other than a flashlight and measuring tape. This type of inspection would be performed as an annual maintenance task, if the system has already been thoroughly inspected and brought up to Code. (Some insurance companies may require a yearly certification - this inspection would be suitable in these instances).
  • A Level 2 inspection includes the same visual components as Level 1, but also requires the use of tools to open readily-accessible areas such as removing the smoke pipe, accessing the roof if safe, and using a camera to inspect the flue interior. This is a recommended level of inspection for anyone buying a home. (It is important to ensure that the inspector performing this type of inspection employs video inspection equipment to scan the flue interior).
  • A Level 3 inspection covers that of Level 1 and Level 2, as well as opening areas that require destructive actions such as opening walls or digging up the foundation. This is only needed when strong evidence suggests that there is a problem that needs to be investigated thoroughly."

CD: When should a WETT Inspection be performed?
JC: 
"A Level 1 inspection should be completed yearly, preferably in conjunction with the annual cleaning of the system. A Level 2 inspection should be done when the home is changing ownership or if a significant event, like a chimney fire, or a lightning strike, has happened. These situations typically require a more detailed assessment."

Fireplace 

CD: What are some common misconceptions homeowners operate under with respect to fireplaces?
JC: "Many assume that if they are not experiencing a problem with their fireplace or wood-burning stove, there is no need to be concerned. In reality, it can take a long time for a defect within the system to manifest itself. Fireplaces and chimney systems built prior to 1954 have the potential for serious Code issues. Although the potential for Code violations decreases with homes built after this date as higher standards were put in place, poor workmanship and deterioration can present problems as well. An annual WETT inspection is important for maintenance and safety."

CD: Are there any clear indicators that a wood-burning system is experiencing a problem?
JC: 
"If a fireplace system has staining anywhere, including the face of the fireplace or on the chimney, this would indicate a problem. In addition, if smoke or the smell of smoke is present anywhere in the house, that is another telltale sign of a problem. A properly operating system will remove all the smoke out of the house - a lingering odor means something is amiss. If you experience one or any of the conditions outlined above, it is best to reach out to a WETT Inspector to have your system assessed." 

CD: What simple tasks can homeowners undertake to maintain their fireplaces, chimneys and wood-burning stoves? What are some "best practices" for caring for these systems?
JC: 
"Homeowners can help their systems operate properly by doing an annual cleaning of the flue by a certified sweep and by burning dry fuel. The danger of a chimney fire can be mitigated by these simple actions. A competent sweep will advise you on what they found, any problems noted, and if your systems have been burning properly." 

Ensuring your wood-burning systems are working well is a great way to start winterizing your home this season. Carson Dunlop's Specialty Services program provides our clients and real estate partners with fast, easy and cost-effective access to qualified specialists, like Carleton Chimney Services, with a single call. To learn more about this program, please click here or call 800-268-7070 to schedule a WETT Inspection.

Topics: Monthly Newsletters, Homeowners Association, Carson Dunlop, Specialty Services, Homeowner Tips, Newsletter

A Quick Guide to Summer Pest Control

Posted by Thea Scrimger on Aug 12, 2013 2:43:00 PM

GardenWhile August’s sudden shift from rainy days to nice weather presents a great opportunity for backyard barbecues, picnics, and get-togethers, without appropriate maintenance, you may have a few unwanted guests crash your garden party. We do not mean to discourage summer socializing, but we believe it is important to be aware of the company you may end up keeping this season. With several cases of the West Nile Virus being reported across North America, we felt it important to highlight some simple approaches homeowners can take to minimize the presence of mosquitoes, and other seasonal pests.

Mosquitoes

MosquitoTo help lessen the presence of mosquitoes, and the diseases they carry, the best preventative step homeowners can take is to limit the amount of standing water on their property. As reported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the majority of West Nile Virus cases are seen in August and September. Warm weather and rain combine to create an ideal environment for mosquitoes.* When water is not adequately directed away from the home, not only does it increase the potential for water damage to the basement and foundation to occur, it is also more likely that the water will collect and pool around the home, making a great breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Some simple tactics to ensure that water is going where it should include: improving the grading of your lot, and cleaning your gutters and extending your downspouts. To keep the soil outside your home dry, make sure the ground slopes away from your home, rather than towards it. It should slope down six inches for the first ten feet away from the home – this can often by achieved by adding more topsoil to the ground. Your downspouts should extend at least six feet away from your home, and the gutters that feed them should be clear of debris. When downspouts are not long enough, water is not directed far enough away from the home. If your gutters are not clean, water will not be able to pass through to the downspouts which results in stagnant water collecting in your gutters. These inexpensive tasks should help to limit the water and bugs around your home.

Birds

BirdBirds may not seem like pests, and their nests may be viewed as cute not cumbersome, but anyone with a large feathered family living in their gutters or eavestroughs will tell you differently. Nesting birds can be aggressive, loud, and messy – parents protecting their young, babies squawking for food, and fluff and twigs everywhere. To help save yourself the trouble that these fair-weathered neighbors bring, try to diminish their nesting opportunities. Clear your gutters of debris and rake away any excess leaves, twigs, or grass. This quick maintenance will help with nests and water issues.

Rodents

racoonsWarmer weather doesn’t just mean more bugs, it also means more vermin. As the numbers of raccoons and squirrels increase, homeowners will begin to experience more of a disturbance from these cuddly troublemakers. To help limit their presence on your property, it is best to focus on security. Ensure your rubbish or trash bins are closed tightly – we recommend using bungee cords to strap the lid down, or cinderblocks so the bin will be too heavy to open. Also, cap your chimney and cover any exposed entry points. These may be small cracks in the foundation, etc. Exposed entry points into the home appear inviting to rodents, who hop in and may be unable to exit. Sealing off access will aid in eliminating this issue.   

Keeping these simple maintenance items in mind will help limit the amount of unwanted visitors you receive this season. Unfortunately we don’t have any tips on deterring your in-laws’ stay – yet. 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, comment below or find us on Twitter @carsondunlop, and we’ll do our best to help out. 

 

*SOURCE: CBC News
http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2013/07/19/hamilton-west-nile-prevention.html

Topics: Carson Dunlop, Homeowner Tips, Pest Control

Water, Water Everywhere: Important Maintenance for Wet Basements

Posted by Thea Scrimger on Aug 2, 2013 10:14:00 AM
floodingInarguably, the summer of 2013 has been a wet one. While our seemingly endless downpours make for happy ducks, the same cannot be said for houses. The extreme storms witnessed this season have left many with wet basements, and worse. Although we have discussed several preventative measures homeowners can take to ensure they are prepared for the next bout of heavy rainfalls, there are some items that are beyond control.

Many of the areas more dramatically affected by this summer’s storms were neighborhoods where the sewer systems became overloaded, taxed beyond their capacity. When this happens, excess water from the sewers has no choice but to fill up the pipes connecting the sewers under the street to the drains in the house. The result is a backup into the basement, causing either minor or major flooding – depending on the volume of the overload. This transforms into a more complex problem when storm sewers are shared with sanitary sewers: the water that  backs up through the drains contains not only rain water, but waste products, which presents serious health concerns.

If your home suffered any recent water damage, please consider the following systems and components and have them inspected properly:

1. The Interior

Basement may have water-damaged wall and floor finishes. Beyond the cosmetic issues, the potential for mold growth makes these areas a health concern.

2. The Heating Systems & Water Heater

Many heating systems and water heaters contain important components that are located close to the floor. For most furnaces, the blower fan and motor are in the bottom of the cabinet and the electronic controls are often located there as well. In addition, most boiler systems and water heaters actually have the burner very close to the floor. If any of these pieces of equipment suffer water damage, they should be inspected by a licensed technician, even if they are functioning, as their safety and effectiveness may have been compromised.

3. The Plumbing System

If the home experienced water damage as a result of sewer backup, the main drain pipe, which is responsible for carrying all of the sanitary waste from the home, may be clogged with debris. In this situation, getting a video scan of the sewer system will help to identify any blockages.

4. The Electrical System

Most receptacles are located within 12 inches of the floor. Basement flooding that exceeded this height will have rendered these electrical components unsafe to use. If your basement experienced this level of water intrusion, parts of the home's electrical systems will need to be replaced.

5. The Insulation

If there is damage to the wall finishes, there is potential for mold growth in the insulation, which will need to be replaced. Even if there is no mold, some types will lose their insulating properties and will not recover from being wet.

We've referenced some of the major interior systems that may be affected during times of heavy rain and flooding. It is also critical to focus on the exterior of your home to help prevent future damage. To learn more about exterior maintenance, please click here.  

If your home experiences a flood, it is important to contact your insurance company to determine what coverage your policy provides - especially in light of recent claims data. To learn more about this issue, please click here

In addition, the City of Toronto has implemented a new program to help homeowners protect themselves against basement flooding. To learn more about the grants that may be available to you, please click here

Topics: Home Inspection, Water Damage, Carson Dunlop, Homeowner Tips

Inspect Before You Renovate

Posted by Thea Scrimger on Jul 18, 2013 4:46:00 PM

ConsultJuly is full of perfect days - sunny skies, warm temperatures, and the delightful buzz that can only be made by a circular saw. Yes folks, it's that time of year again: renovation season. It seems in most parts of the city you can't walk for more than a block without seeing large ladders leaning against walls, big bins collecting excess materials, and men and women eager to update their homes. As you start to think about how much better your morning coffee will taste in a bigger kitchen, we encourage you to considering having a Home Inspector in before starting your big summer project.

Although it may seem counterintuitive hiring an inspector to check out the home's systems before you start ripping things apart, it begins to make sense when you stop to think about it. At Carson Dunlop, we've been leaders in the Home Inspection industry since 1978. We know a lot about homes. In the last few months alone, we've written several articles to help homeowners while they renovate their properties. On site, we can offer you even more guidance.

Carson Dunlop Home Inspectors are trained to treat your whole home as a living system. We recognize that one of the major unpleasant aspects of home renovations is that doing what you want almost always leads to doing things you weren't planning. Sometimes it's because hidden problems are uncovered when the work progresses. However, more often than not, it is related to efficiency: it may make sense to do one thing while you are in the middle of doing another. Our team is uniquely qualified to understand what impact doing work on one part of the house will have on other areas. Carson Dunlop Home Inspectors can also help you to sort out what additional work should be done and what would be okay to avoid or defer.

Mechanical Systems

You may have to decide whether or not the electrical service, heating system, or plumbing should be upgraded to support the new work. Our inspectors can help determine how to proceed and answer questions you may have.

Structure

Changes to interior walls may compromise structural support. An inspector can help you determine if a wall is load-bearing, and how you may work around it.

Roof

Adding onto a house or simply providing a dormer or skylight will require roof work. Should you replace all the existing materials, or is it safe to tie in the new work with the old? The inspector can identify and explain your options.

Basement

Finishing a basement in an old house can be the beginning of an experiment in mold growth. A professional inspector can advise you on how to reduce or eliminate dampness, often with easy to implement, low-cost solutions.

working

By taking stock of the house before you get started you will be able to plan your work better. This will mean fewer unexpected repairs as the job proceeds. You also have the chance of making improvements to related systems as you go, increasing the efficiency of your upgrades.

Whether you are establishing your roost in a previously enjoyed house or upgrading the family estate, a pre-renovation consultation with a Carson Dunlop Home Inspector can smooth the transition. We're with you for as long as you own your home, to help keep you comfortable and secure. To learn more, please click here or call 1-800-268-7070.

Topics: Home Inspection, Carson Dunlop, Homeowner Tips

Water Damage, Home Insurance, & You

Posted by Thea Scrimger on Jul 12, 2013 11:20:00 AM

FloodAs a Home Inspection company, we spend a great deal of our time talking about water: water damage, water intrusion, and alleviating these issues. We are regularly preaching about downspouts, gutters, and grading. We often cite water as the number one enemy of homes, and in light of Toronto's flash-flooding on Monday, now seems like a pertinent time to talk again about water and homeownership.

Of course, we recognize that humans need water to survive and that indoor plumbing has many advantages, but having water in your home where you shouldn’t have water is a problem – a big one. Water-related issues are such a big problem, in fact, that they are beginning to impact insurance policies.

TD Insurance reports that “in recent years, with the Canadian climate changes and aging municipal infrastructure, the insurance industry has experienced a sharp increase in the number of claims related to severe weather and water damages. Water damage-related claims have now surpassed fire as the leading cause of home insurance losses in Canada.” This development has resulted in less coverage being available to Canadians looking to protect their homes from water damage.

Although it may be more difficult to ensure you’re protected from water intrusion through home insurance, there are other steps homeowners can take to help protect themselves. Regular maintenance and a watchful eye can help prevent problems from occurring.

The home has four major areas that homeowners should be conscious of when thinking about water intrusion. We have talked about them at length before, but we’ll outline them below:

  1. The Roof
    Your roof has several areas for you to pay attention to: does your roof have cracked, split, loose or missing shingles or other roof components? Repair or replace them. Where is water going in those areas where your roof changes direction, or where several flashings intersect? If water is staying put, or going into your home, it’s time for a change. Catching issues like these early can make a huge difference in terms of damage and cost.
     
  2. Gutters and Downspouts
    GuttersFor a small investment of $50 or less, downspout extensions can help to protect your home by keeping water away from the foundation, avoiding the potential for costly repairs. Non-functioning and improperly installed gutters and downspouts contribute to basement moisture. Make sure that your gutters and downspouts are fully intact, clear of debris, and extend far enough, at least six feet, to direct water away from your home.
     
  3. Window Wells
    Water and debris can get trapped in your window well, allowing moisture to intrude into your basement. To avoid this, the bottom of your window well should contain 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). As an alternative, a clear plastic dome can be installed over the window well to keep water and debris out.
     
  4. Grading
    GradingNo foundation wall system is completely waterproof. Water accumulating in the soil outside your home will leak through eventually. To combat this, it is essential to keep the soil outside your home dry. Achieving dry soil can be done by ensuring the ground around your home slopes away from your home, rather than towards it. The ground around the home should slope down six inches for the first ten feet away from the home; this can often be achieved by adding topsoil. The theory is simple – if there’s no water in the soil on the outside of the foundation wall, no water will get into the interior. 


In light of the insurance updates addressed by TD Insurance and the extreme weather cities such as Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto have been experiencing, we would like to encourage homeowners to review their current home insurance policies to determine the level of coverage they have for water-related issues. In addition, we cannot over-stress the importance of performing the maintenance items discussed above. Being mindful of these areas should help to limit the potential for water damage in your home.

Did you experience flooding during Toronto’s recent extreme storm? The City of Toronto has implemented a new program to help homeowners protect themselves against basement flooding. To learn more about the grants that may be available to you, please click here.

Topics: Insurance, Water Damage, Carson Dunlop, Homeowner Tips

Mind Your A's and Q's? Air Quality Inspections Explained

Posted by Thea Scrimger on Jun 12, 2013 2:41:00 PM

June Newsletter

Poll

June is finally upon us - it's time to break out the sunscreen, barbeque tongs, lounge chairs, and...tissues? Unfortunately, sunshine brings allergens and this summer is being projected as one of the worst for pollen we've seen in a long time. As many people experience the joys of itchy eyes, runny noses, and sneezing fits, we thought it prudent to talk about the allergens present in your home. Over 64% of the 22 individuals we surveyed last month admitted they were concerned about the air quality in their home.

Air quality is an issue that encompasses many areas, so we reached out to our newest Specialty Service partner, LEAP Management Inc, to discuss air quality issues and how they are assessed. We spoke directly with inspector Lilja Palsson, B.Sc., Dip., Eng., CRSP. Lilja has a degree in Microbiology from the University of Waterloo, a post-degree diploma in Environmental Engineering Technology from Conestoga College, a certificate in Occupational Health and Safety from Ryerson, and she is also a Canadian Registered Safety Professional. 

Carson Dunlop: How does an air quality assessment work; what happens during this type of assessment?
Lilja Palsson:
"Air quality is a very broad term. When doing this type of assessment, I first talk to the client about their concerns. Are they experiencing allergic symptoms such as headache, sore throat, or respiratory distress? Is there an odor? After discussing what issues they're experiencing, I decide what kind of parameters I would like to sample for - perhaps air sampling and assessment for mold; or maybe a more sophisticated sampling device to determine the source of an odor. I'll run a few air samples and do a visual inspection to see if there are any issues that caught my eye (staining, spray foam, etc.)."

CD: What is the most common misconception homeowners have in relation to air quality?
LP:
"Homeowners tend to think that events such as flooding, sewer backup, installing spray foam, renovations, etc. will not affect the indoor air quality of their home. They often do not associate any illness or symptoms they are experiencing as being related to those events. The correlation between air quality and homeownerships and maintenance issues tends to go unnoticed."

CD: What is the weirdest thing you've encountered during an air quality inspection?
LP: "I did find gold in someone's attic while sampling vermiculite. A previous owner of the home had stashed an old cookie tin full of tacky gold jewelry that I found while taking samples in the attic. I brought the tin down for the owner and we looked at it. I think it was from the 1940s or so. She had the jewelry appraised - she didn't tell me the exact amount but she called to thank me and said that I paid for myself and more!"

CD: What simple, preventative maintenance can homeowners undertake to help preserve their air quality?
LP:
"In terms of preventative maintenance I would say always monitor your home for potential leaks, floods and other water issues. Replace your roof before it leaks; clean your gutters regularly; caulk your windows and replace them before they leak; make sure your basement is waterproofed before you finish it; use your washroom fan; make sure your bathtub is well-caulked; keep your home well-ventilated in the summer and sealed with the furnace running in the winter; if you add insulation to your attic, add ventilation as well - I really could go on, but I know this is an article, not a novel."

As a Home Inspection company our aim is to keep homeowners safe, warm and dry. Much like Lilja, we believe in the importance of home maintenance as it pertains to keeping families comfortable and secure in their homes. Carson Dunlop's Home Reference Book outlines many strategies for helping homeowners maintain their properties. To learn more about how this text can help you, please click here.

In addition, our Specialty Services program provides our clients and real estate partners with fast, easy and cost-effective access to qualified specialists, like LEAP Management Inc, all with a single call. To learn more, please click here or call 1-800-268-7070 to schedule an air quality assessment. 

Topics: Home Reference Book, Air Quality, Home Inspection, Monthly Newsletters, Specialty Services, Homeowner Tips