Home Inspection Articles

Spring Cleaning Checklist: Chores To Help Keep Your Home Dry

Posted by Thea Scrimger on May 23, 2014 11:04:00 AM

HomeMany homeowners will have taken this past long weekend as an opportunity to get some much needed spring cleaning done. The beginning of warmer weather brings with it many chores – some cosmetic (like cutting the grass and pulling weeds), and some more practical (like cleaning the gutters and changing the screens on your windows). When it comes to spring cleaning, we encourage homeowners to focus on function over fashion, and ensure that their home systems are working well and ready for the change in season, before tending to their gardens.

Spring is usually a rainy season, and this one is shaping up to be on par with typical precipitation trends. As such, most of the practical spring chores we advise homeowners to undertake relate to water management and keeping your home dry. As the skies start to darken and the air becomes more humid, consider the following items and make sure they’re checked off your spring cleaning checklist before it pours:

  • GuttersGet the dirt and leaves out of your gutters – We mention your gutters almost every time we address water issues and maintenance tasks to complete around your home, but that’s because clean gutters can make a huge difference to your roof and your home. If your gutters are full (of dirt, leaves, garbage, twigs, etc.) then water can’t pass through them, causing it to build up and pool over onto your roof. Taking the time now to clear your gutters can help to decrease the frequency of roof leakage and keep your shingles in good shape. 
  • Make sure your downspouts are doing their job – Gutters and downspouts go hand in hand, or at least they should. When you’re cleaning your gutters, check the status of your downspouts. They should extend all the way down to the ground and then at least 6 feet away from the home. A downspout’s task is to direct the water that has collected in the gutters away from your home. If your downspout extension is not long enough or facing the wrong way, that can be the difference between a wet and a dry basement.

  • Lot GradingKeep your home on higher ground – Having a properly extending downspout is one thing, but your lot has to have the grading to back it up. If your downspout directs water away from your home and your lot slopes towards your home, despite the downspout’s direction, the water is going to follow the slope of your lot – back to your home.  To combat these grading and drainage issues, make sure your lot slopes away from your home.

  • Ensure your window wells are more window, less well – Like your gutters, window wells can get clogged with all sorts of debris. And it’s similarly important to make sure that you keep your window wells clean. However, unlike gutters, window wells don’t have a downspout. They drain from the bottom, and should have several inches of gravel to facilitate this. If you are consistently having difficulties with window well drainage, consider installing a drainage pipe. This pipe, filled with gravel (to prevent it from collapsing, but still allowing water to pass) will extend down to the drainage tile around the perimeter of the footing (if one exists). Alternatively, you could install a clear plastic dome to keep water and debris out of the window well altogether.

We know we preach the importance of maintaining your water management systems regularly, but in our 36 years leading the Home Inspection industry we’ve come to understand that water is the number one enemy of homes. These systems should receive your attention at every season change, especially during the spring as it is typically a very rainy time. For more spring advice connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.

Topics: Home Inspection, Home Inspector Advice, Water Damage, Carson Dunlop, Homeowner Tips, Spring Tips

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

Extreme Weather & Home Insurance: A Storm Is Brewing

Posted by Thea Scrimger on Jan 30, 2014 9:19:00 AM

StormyThe 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?

SavingMoneyWhile 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.


*SOURCE: Romania Maurino, Global News -  http://globalnews.ca/news/1069688/extreme-wintry-weather-adds-to-mounting-insurance-pressures/  

Topics: Winter Tips, Insurance, Water Damage, Carson Dunlop, Homeowner Tips, Extreme Weather

Winter Weather & Wet Basements – Keeping Your Home Dry in Cold Temperatures

Posted by Thea Scrimger on Jan 10, 2014 10:35:00 AM

Winter StormAs 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.

Wet Basement

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.

FrozenThe 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.

Topics: Winter Tips, Home Inspector Advice, Frozen Pipes, Water Damage, Carson Dunlop, Homeowner Tips, Extreme Weather

Put That in Your Pipe & Smoke It: Avoiding Frozen Pipes

Posted by Thea Scrimger on Dec 23, 2013 3:00:00 PM

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.

  Extreme weather causes havoc in Toronto                                   
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.

A flood the result of a leaky pipe

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
  • Crawlspaces
  • Garages
  • Attics
  • 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.              

Topics: Winter Tips, Homeowners, Frozen Pipes, Water Damage, Homeowner Tips, Extreme Weather

Do Thermal Imaging Inspections Live Up To The Hype?

Posted by Thea Scrimger on Oct 23, 2013 1:56:00 PM

Thermal ImagingTechnology can be exciting, flashy, and neat – but is it always necessary? Hundreds of thousands will stand in line for hours for the newest smartphone. They spend a lot of money and time making sure they have the most recent upgrade. And this desire for new technology isn’t exclusive to cell phones and computers, people want the latest equipment in most areas.

In the Home Inspection industry, one of the more advanced pieces of technology that can be used is an infrared camera to complete Thermal Imaging Inspections. But is this tool and Thermal Imaging Inspections really worth the hype, or are people just fawning over the latest gadget?

A Thermal Imaging Inspection is a non-invasive process that uses an infrared camera to measure and record the surface temperature of materials. Although this technology does let you see more than the naked eye, it is not x-ray vision and will not let you see through walls. Instead, infrared cameras capture images that use a colour scale to show temperature differences on surfaces.

At Carson Dunlop, we understand that water leakage is a significant concern for our clients. In fact, over 35 years, we have learned that water is the single biggest enemy of homes. This is why we have tailored our Thermal Imaging Inspections to look for concealed water problems. During our Thermal Imaging Inspections, our Home Inspectors will use infrared cameras to look for hidden moisture in the most vulnerable areas, with specific focus on basements, areas around and below doors and windows, and ceilings below roofs and bathrooms.

Infrared cameras allow Home Inspectors to look beyond physical elements. Homes that appear perfect can have significant issues – you just have to know where to look. For example, while performing a New Construction Inspection for a client before their Tarion Warranty expired, we used an infrared camera to investigate the ceiling below the home’s whirlpool bath. 

Master Bathroom

To the naked eye, the ceiling looks immaculate: no staining, no bubbling, no indication of any problems.

Ceiling Thermal

However, with an infrared camera, the leakage is clearly evident.

Moisture Meter

Our moisture meter confirms the presence of water in the ceiling, saving the new homeowners a lot of hassle.

Imagine how bad this leak could have become! A whirlpool tub holds a lot of water. There was no visible evidence, but we discovered the problem during the Thermal Imaging Inspection. (It turns out that their neighbour also had a leak under their home’s whirlpool tub. But they found it the hard way).

New technology is not always worth the hype, but in the case of infrared cameras and Thermal Imaging Inspections, it is. We can’t tell you whether the next smartphone will be a great investment, but we know that a Thermal Imaging Inspection is. To learn more, please click here or call 800-268-7070.

Topics: Home Inspection, Water Damage, Carson Dunlop, Thermal Imaging Inspections

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

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