Category Archives: home maintenance

The ultimate home maintenance guide

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A complete schedule of when to do what … and how much it costs

When I bought my dream home two years ago, I wasn’t imagining myself standing in my basement, holding an umbrella, watching my husband chase streams of water with a flashlight. But that’s where I ended up. It was the first spring thaw and he was trying to figure out where the leaks were coming from.

Clad in his work boots and a rain jacket he would alternate between stepping outside our basement door, where the rain came down in big sheets of cold wetness, and ducking into our basement to inspect various parts of our foundation. It would take three more rainstorms, the installation of a sump pump and a complete overhaul of our plumbing before we were able to correct the problem.

That was a rough introduction to the world of home ownership, but I don’t regret buying the place. It’s a great century-old row house in downtown Toronto in an eclectic and vibrant west-end neighbourhood. Still, as I watched the balance on our line of credit creep up to the $40,000 mark, I started to wonder: How much does it cost to maintain a home anyway?

After a bit of research, I found out that the general rule of thumb is that you should expect to spend 3% to 5% of the value of your home every year, on average. For a 40- year-old home worth $500,000 that means you’ll need to set aside up to $25,000 every year. I ran that figure by my husband, who is—as it happens—a commercial and residential general contractor, and he said that sounded high. But is it? We were savvier home buyers than many, but we still underestimated the cost of fixing our drainage issues and the expense of tearing down the garage (“Give it a year and you won’t have to,” one broker told us when were out shopping for insurance).

So, to get a handle on the real cost of maintaining a home, I decided to price out all of the major maintenance and repairs you can expect to perform on a typical 2,000-square-foot detached house in Canada myself.

To do this I looked at two different kinds of upkeep. The first is the regular annual maintenance that every homeowner should do to keep his or her home running smoothly. Things like changing the furnace filters and patching the driveway. The second kind of upkeep includes those once-a-decade expenses that tend to result in migraines. Here I’m talking about things like replacing your hot water heater because it rusted through, or replacing all of your outdated electrical wiring.

To get an accurate figure, I divided up the typical home into its seven major components and tallied up the costs for both large and small jobs over 25 years. I then annualized that amount, so you can make sure that you’re contributing enough to your household maintenance budget every year. I also include tips on regular maintenance you can do to keep those little problems from turning into expensive headaches. But I didn’t include jobs such as interior painting, or upgrading your kitchen cabinets. I focussed on the bare bones maintenance you need to do to protect your home and keep it from deteriorating. In short, if you’re wondering why your car came with a maintenance guide, but your home didn’t—problem solved. Because here it is: A complete maintenance guide for your home.

The plumbing 
When Steve Bedernjak bought his detached fixer-upper bungalow in one of Toronto’s up-and-coming neighbourhoods four years ago, he didn’t bother getting it inspected. Why bother? He already knew the place needed a lot of work, and he had a plan. He’d renovate one of the bathrooms and update the very outdated kitchen. He had $15,000 saved up for the job and a great deal of handyman know-how. But his first winter brought with it a slew of plumbing problems that threw a soggy blanket on his renovation strategy.

After a particularly cold spell, the pipes in the main floor bathroom froze. Swamped with work, Steve plugged a heater into the bathroom, turned on the bathtub faucet and left. Hours later he returned to the sound of running water—but the bathtub was dry. To his dismay, while the heater had helped thaw the frozen plumbing, the extreme temperature change had caused a rupture in the copper joints in the basement. “There was water everywhere.” Worse yet: Steve had to take a sledgehammer to the bathroom’s shower, since the previous homeowner had tiled over the main shut-off valve.

A few simple steps can go a long way towards making sure the same thing doesn’t happen to you. Consider insulating all of your exposed pipes for starters—especially if they run through an unheated garage or unfinished basement. Uninsulated pipes are susceptible to temperature changes and start to sweat. This condensation starts to corrode the pipes, decreasing the life of your plumbing.

Another good habit to develop is to test all the faucets regularly and swap out old washers when taps begin to drip. Once a year top up floor drains with water to prevent sewer gases from entering your home. (A properly installed drain should have a trap—a U-shaped pipe that holds water and prevents sewer gas, such as methane, from seeping into your home.) A trick is to pour a quarter cup of mineral oil down the drain. The mineral oil sits on the water barrier and slows down the rate of evaporation.

Finally, it’s always a good idea to make sure you know where the main shut off valve for your home is located. Test it every year to make sure it’s working—and that you can get at it if you need to.

The outside structure 
While curb appeal is important, remember that the primary job of your home’s exterior is to protect your home. Not easy given fluctuating temperatures, changing seasons, and the various protrusions, sharp angles and different materials used in home construction. Your job is to keep that exterior as seamless as possible—a task even Canada’s worst handyman can accomplish.

Every year start by power washing your property. (Don’t do this if you have a brick home as the force of the spray can damage the brick. Instead, consider getting the brick professionally cleaned every few decades.) By cleaning off the dirt and grime—and taking the time to just stare at your home—you’ll get a pretty good idea of necessary repairs and replacements.

For instance if you notice the outside tap (known as a bib) froze during the winter, replace it with an antifreeze model—this $30 do-it-yourself fix could save you thousands in the long run. Consider replacing the weather stripping around windows and doors, as well as the door sweep, that rubber thingie at the bottom of the door that creates an airtight seal. Simple and cheap, these maintenance steps will help increase the energy efficiency in your home and will also prolong the life of the exterior shell.

Many of these jobs can be completed in a few hours or in a weekend, and they don’t require the skills of a professional.

When all the routine maintenance is complete, turn your attention to strategic updates. Replacing old wooden windows with vinyl models will cost between $3,000 and $12,000, but it will eliminate the annual sanding, priming and painting required of old wooden frame windows while increasing the energy efficiency of your home. You’ll enjoy lower electricity bills in the summer, and lower gas bills in the winter. Also, consider replacing old doors, just make sure the door fits the frame snugly or air will seep out.

The roof 
The roof is an integral part of your home’s defence system. It’s also one of the most expensive components to replace, as my husband Mark and I found out. Swamped with his own contracts, my husband had originally planned to hire a company to re-shingle a small section of our roof. But the quotes he got were shocking: up to $7,000 to replace the plywood and re-shingle just 200 square feet. No joke.

The good news is you can prolong the life of your roof, and reduce the number of cheques you write to Johnny-No-Thumbs Roofing Co., by implementing a few ongoing maintenance routines.

First, pull out a ladder and climb on up there to visually inspect your roof. The best indication of a deteriorating roof is curled and separating shingles. Also examine the amount of grit and gravel that collects in your eaves and gutters. That grit is actually bits of asphalt rolling off the roof during high winds and rainstorms. If you find more than a quarter-inch of sediment, then it’s time to look at a new roof. Finally, look for waves or dips, which are early indicators of rot. If caught early enough, rot can be eliminated with the addition of more roof vents.

Every year you should secure or replace any loose shingles, inspect the chimney and verify the chimney cap is securely fastened. You should also inspect your flashing seals. Flashing is the thin, continuous piece of metal (or other impervious material) that’s installed at every angle or roof joint to prevent water from seeping under the asphalt tiles. Sealant is used to strengthen this barrier and must be re-touched on a regular basis.

Of course, if the thought of standing on a sloped surface 40-feet above the ground terrifies you, then you can always hire a handyman or roofer to do the annual inspection for you.

The foundation 
Have you ever seen a house that leans to one side? Typically this is caused by a damaged foundation. And more often than not, problematic foundations are caused by homeowner neglect.

Maintaining your foundation is an easy way to avoid very costly repairs. For example, you could spend $500 to repair the crack that develops where your driveway meets your home, or you could wait and pay $9,000 to excavate and waterproof a damaged foundation.

The best way to stay on top of foundation issues is to visually inspect your home at the start of each season, explains Bryan Baeumler, a contractor and the host of HGTV’s House of Bryan. Look for signs of settling, such as small hairline cracks. Keep a special lookout for cracks that widen over time, cracks that follow your concrete block foundation in a step pattern, or cracks above windows. These may be an indication of a larger foundation problem.

Also be diligent about snow and debris removal. Snow can melt and cause water damming, while debris can invite pests.

Finally, inspect the base of your home and your basement for mold and mildew. Use your nose and a flashlight to look inside closets, behind stored contents and around fixtures, such as the hot water tank. If you find mold, remove it using one part rubbing alcohol (90% or more) and two parts water. Don’t use bleach. (According to the U.S.-based Environmental Protection Agency, bleach isn’t able to penetrate porous material so it can’t kill mold spores at the root.)

Then look for the cause of the mold: where is the moisture coming from? Ignoring the problem and hoping it will just go away is not a great idea, as a friend of mind discovered when she neglected to address occasional sewer back-ups in her basement. To rectify the cause, she would have had to re-grade the soil outside her basement window and install a sump pump, at a cost of approximately $2,300. Instead, she left it.

A year later those spots of mold grew into a disgusting carpet of spores over a foot high. She ending up paying for pre- and post-air quality tests, professional mold remediation, debris removal, re-grading and a sump pump, at a total cost of $22,000.

Electrical 
Homeowners and unlicensed contractors are legally allowed to do their own electrical work, but you run a big risk if you don’t know what you’re doing, says HGTV’s Bryan Baeumler. “The worst I ever saw was a basement that was built for children and framed with steel studs.” The unlicensed contractors used an electrical wire without grommets, which enabled uninsulated wires to touch the studs. “The walls were actually live,” recalls Baeumler—if someone had touched the walls, they would have been electrocuted.

As with heating and air conditioning, consider hiring professionals when it comes to electrical work. But even if professionals do the bulk of the electrical repairs around your home, there are still steps you can take to ensure things are in proper working order.

For instance, you can make sure each light fixture is fitted with the proper bulb wattage. If you use a 150 watt bulb in a fixture that’s only designed for 100 watts, it can shorten the life of the bulb and the light fixture. You can also check your ground fault outlets by pushing the test/reset buttons. While you’re at it, check outdoor outlets and cords to make sure they aren’t damaged, and replace or repair frayed wires and plug heads.

Finally, schedule annual alarm tests and routine battery replacements in every detector and replace every fire, carbon monoxide and radon detector every 10 years, when the alarms begin to degrade.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning 
Some do-it-yourselfers are comfortable tackling furnace or central air conditioning repairs, but most of us will want to call in the professionals.

That means scheduling an annual inspection and cleaning of your furnace for the early fall. That way, you’re making sure that any potential problems with your furnace are caught well before the bitter cold season. The same diligence doesn’t have to apply to central A/C though, as long as you clean out leaves and debris before turning on the unit in the spring.

There are a few other practical maintenance steps you can do yourself to help your home’s heating and cooling system. Vacuum air grates or electrical baseboard heaters to remove dirt, and cover your A/C unit with a breathable, flexible cover to keep out debris and leaves. (Don’t tightly wrap the unit, as you could create a cozy den for critters or damage the unit’s coils.)

Also, try to change your furnace filter regularly. Not doing so is like forcing your furnace to breathe through a straw. By replacing the filter every three months, you improve both your air quality and the efficiency of your furnace.

You likely don’t have to bother having your ducts professionally cleaned though. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation studied the impact of duct cleaning and found no difference pre- and post-cleaning. They did, however, recommend duct cleaning if you’ve just moved into a brand new home or just underwent major renovations.

Drainage and landscaping
A well-appointed garden can add as much as 20% to the value of your house, but landscaping also has a hidden purpose that’s much more important: to drain water away from your foundation.

To prevent water from seeping into your basement you should pay particular attention to the underside of the eaves (known as the soffits), the material that caps your gutters (known as the fascia), as well as downspouts and drains. Keep these clear of debris, such as leaves and twigs, and check for blockages. Expect to re-attach or fix these components on an annual basis. Remember: the easier it is for water to flow away from your home, the less likelihood of damage.

Now, visually inspect the grade of your foundation and driveway. Examine the ground abutting your home, or, if you’re like me and dimensionally impaired, pour a glass of water on the ground close to your foundation walls. Watch what the water does: Does it roll away from the home? Does it pool in one area? Worse yet, does it roll towards the home and then sit, waiting to be absorbed? The minimum standard for grading is an inch for every foot, with at least eight feet of grade starting at your foundation wall. Any grade that doesn’t move water away from your home should be corrected. If not, you could end up paying for expensive waterproofing remediation—one of the most avoidable, yet costliest repairs to any home.

Also consider removing boxed planters built against your foundation. While these landscaping features can add a splash of colour and enhance curb appeal they can also cause problems, since water has nowhere else to go but into your foundation.

Finally, pay attention to paths and driveways on your property. If they split they can allow water to seep into the earth, which can oversaturate your lawn, promote soil erosion and prevent the garden from keeping water away from your home. Small repairs to such hardscaping features can mean big savings later on.

The final tally 
So what’s the total cost of transforming your home into an efficient, water-repelling system that never causes you any sleepless nights? When I tallied up the annual cost of all of the regular maintenance, I found that you could expect to spend somewhere between $900 and $1,000 a year. If you hire professionals, you may spend upwards of $3,000 a year.

But that doesn’t take into consideration the expense of major repairs, replacements and remediation. Those expenses tend to arise much less frequently, but they hit your wallet hard. To make sure you’re prepared, you should set up a “big stuff” home maintenance account, to which you should contribute an extra $3,500 to $7,500 a year, depending on the size and age of your home.

Total annual maintenance cost: $930 – $2,600
Total annual replacement cost: $3,500 – $7,300
The total amount you should budget for home maintenance: $4,500 – $10,000 per year

To double-check my figures, my husband Mark and I went back through our own reno and repair expenses, and we found that the numbers above are accurate. Of course, they don’t reflect the hours and hours of work that you do yourself (not the mention the help from friends and family).

Looking after your home properly is a lot of work—and, yes, it can be expensive. But it’s worth it to have a place you love that’s truly yours. Despite four years of ongoing repairs and renovations, Steve Bedernjak agrees. “At one point I seriously considered only dating people with construction knowledge—because I spent all my time at my house.” But now that Steve can actually see an end to all the construction turmoil, he says it was all worthwhile. “Despite the problems that are inherent of a 100-year-old home I’m glad I became a homeowner. Every night I sit on my back porch and listen to muted bustle of the city, and I’m comforted with the knowledge that it was in my hands that my house became my home.”

Source: MoneySense.ca – by  

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Mike Holmes: You’ll get renovation stress, but here’s how to mitigate it

Living through a renovation puts a lot of stress on relationships. I’ve seen couples argue, and sometimes it’s so bad it can really test your relationship. The best thing you can do to avoid that is plan, plan, plan. The time you put into planning your renovation will determine its success. You must discuss everything with your partner, as well as your contractor. Talk about design choices, materials, expectations, what you’re willing to compromise on and your must-haves. Once you and your partner are on the same page, then do your homework.

Research and educate yourself on everything there is to know about the project — the trades you will need and when, all materials, the products you want, proper installation, warranties. Most people focus on the finishes — that’s the icing — but the bulk of your research should be on the right construction and materials that will support those finishes and make them last.

Some people will take all the right steps preparing for a renovation — they’ll discuss their budget, figure out if they need a construction loan, they’ll go over timelines, plus when they expect work to start and finish by. But once the reno starts, there are a lot of unexpected issues that can come up.

Before any work can start, everything must be cleared away from the area that will be renovated, plus the path leading to it. You must have a plan for storing all your furniture and appliances.

Where will you keep it all? Do you need movers? Do you need to rent a storage space? You should be discussing this with your contractor, too.

Also, where will you be living once construction starts? Some people think they can just stay home. I wouldn’t recommend it. Dust and noise will be a constant issue and mechanics, such as electricity, heating and water, typically get shut off — talk about an inconvenience! Plus, if the construction crew has to clean up at the end of every workday, because you’re living at home during construction, that adds extra labour costs.

Renovations aren’t a perfect science
and sometimes things happen

Let’s say you have a place to stay during construction. In most cases, it won’t be comfortable, which can put more stress on couples. When my son was renovating his house, he stayed in a Winnebago with his girlfriend. It was small, they didn’t have all their stuff and he was dragging in all kinds of dirt from the job site — it’s not an ideal situation.

And what do you do if construction goes longer than expected? Renovations aren’t a perfect science and sometimes things happen — like unexpected or emergency repairs that push your timeline, and budget, way beyond what you originally thought. Be prepared for the unexpected.

If you’re lucky enough to be staying at someone’s house, such as your in-laws, it can still be stressful. For one, it not only screws up your entire daily routine but also inconveniences other people. I remember one homeowner tearing up talking about staying at their in-laws during their renovation, and her daughter couldn’t play or dance for months because of boxes everywhere.

Even years after the job was done, the family was still recovering emotionally.

Changes to construction schedules and emergency repairs are another set of unexpected issues you could face. Anyone renovating their home should know that this can happen. You need a

Plan B in case it does. What things can you live without if you need to pull money for an unexpected repair? Are you willing to compromise on the finishes so you can stay within your budget, or will you go over it? If you do, what does that mean for you and your partner?

A successful renovation starts with plenty of planning, which takes time to do right — sometimes it can take months! But even all the planning in the world can’t prepare you for the unexpected. When that happens, communication is key, with your partner and your contractor.

Watch Mike Holmes and his son, Mike Jr., on Holmes and Holmes Thursdays at 10 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit makeitright.ca.

Source: Mike Holmes, Special to National Post | November 26, 2016 

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Mike Holmes: How to control mould in your home, whether it’s visible or not

If mould in your home covers an area more than 10 sq. ft., or if there’s sewage involved, bring in a professional remediation company. Any surface with over 10 sq. ft. of mould should  be cleaned by licensed professionals.

Mould can present a serious health issue and it can also eat away at building materials, insulation and support structures. Unfortunately, homes and the materials inside them can provide the right food source and the right conditions for mould to grow. It’s important to know what to do if you detect mould in your home.

Mould needs an organic food source to grow, such as drywall, wood, paper, carpet, grout, wallpaper and fabrics — the kinds of materials you find in most homes. It also needs moisture and warmer temperatures.

Areas in the home where mould tends to grow include the basement, bathrooms, walls, ceiling corners, the attic, crawl spaces and on windowsills. If you live somewhere humid, the garage can also be place for mould to thrive. When you do your seasonal maintenance, make sure to check these areas for mould.

There are thousands of different types of mould. It can be green, black, yellow, white, even pink and, depending on the conditions, a single type of mould spore can be any number of colours.

It’s extremely difficult for homeowners to detect what type of mould is growing in their home and whether or not that type of mould poses a danger to their health.

A lot of people are sensitive to mould spores; they may trigger allergy and asthma symptoms when inhaled. Typically, the mould found in homes is not toxic, but it can still present a health risk. There’s no real standard for a mould level that is ‘OK’ or ‘safe’ — every individual reacts differently to mould.

According to a Mayo Clinic study conducted in 1999, 93 per cent of chronic sinusitis cases were attributed to mould. Children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems may be more sensitive to the effects of mould exposure. If anyone in your home is experiencing headaches, sinus problems, sore throats or other respiratory symptoms, speak to your doctor. The cause could be mould.

If the mould in your home covers an area
more than 10 square feet, or if there’s sewage involved,
bring in a professional remediation company.

In most cases, you can tell if your house has mould by its musty smell and black stains. Other signs include water damage and black mould around baseboards, walls and ceilings. If there is a musty smell in your home but you can’t see any stains, mould could be behind your walls. In that case, I recommend having a certified professional home inspection done that includes thermal imaging, and possibly an indoor air quality assessment that includes mould testing.

If you find a small amount of mould that covers an area 10 square feet or less, you can typically remove it yourself. Use a solution of strong soap or detergent and water. I use a product that is non-toxic, anti-microbial, requires no scrubbing and kills mould at the root, not just the surface. Whatever you use, remember to wear the proper protective gear, such as goggles or safety eyewear, a mask and gloves, and keep the area well ventilated. And do not use bleach! Not only is bleach toxic, but the mould will come back anyway.

If the mould in your home covers an area more than 10 square feet, or if there’s sewage involved, bring in a professional remediation company.

If you bring in a professional, do your homework and ask the right questions. What are their credentials? What training have they gone through? What kind of professional accreditation do they have? Do they have references? Mould remediation is a fairly new industry, and like anything new, it’s the frontier. To make sure the job will be done right, find someone with Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC).

The best way to get rid of mould is to control the moisture in the house and remove the mould. It could be something you can remove yourself, or you might have to bring in a professional. If you’re not sure, hire a professional, because when it comes to your health, it’s not worth the risk.

Source:  Mike Holmes, Special to National Post | May 28, 2016 | Watch Mike Holmes in his series, Holmes Makes It Right, on HGTV. For more information, visit makeitright.ca.

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Renovation stress builds a range of emotions, from happiness to the desire to divorce: survey

As many have said, renovations can be a lot like giving birth: They’re painful, they make you want to scream, and cause you to ask yourself why you’re bearing the brunt of all the work. And yet, you love the result and often end up repeating the whole thing.

Houzz.com’s Remodeling & Relationships Survey of Canadian users, conducted online this past December and January, found a number of issues that caused pain, including the fact that:

  • 18% made a significant design decision without telling their partner
  • 8% snuck away to catch a break
  • 9% neglected to mention the price of something.

Those are the little white lies of the fixer-upper set, but in a number of cases, things got even worse:

  • 5% admitted to secretly throwing out something of their partner’s. That little bit of nastiness might happen when you refuse to compromise on your own tastes, as was the case with 17% of respondents.
  • While 63% said they did compromise, 6% threw up their hands and let their partner’s will prevail. That’s an unfortunate way to spend the following long years, staring at a design feature you abhor.

That failure to stand up for themselves might have been a result of poor communication (31%) throughout the project. This may have resulted in the stats that show

  • 33% could not agree on products or finishes specifically
  • or 30% on style and design generally
  • 32% of respondents felt they took on more work than their partner — already a source of tension in real life, let alone in reno life.

So, your partner buys something and doesn’t tell you (or lies about its price); says they really, really have to go to the office on Sunday; “accidentally” breaks that stained-glass window you wanted installed; and hates your choice of backsplash. It’s no wonder the survey showed

  • 40% found the time remodelling with their partner frustrating
  • 25% found it difficult,
  • 9% found it painful.

All those design decisions, looming deadlines and financial stress do take their toll. During the process, the worst experiences caused

  • 9% of respondents to think they needed couples counselling
  • 6% to ask “How did I end up with this person?” and
  • 3% to consider a breakup or divorce.

However, 63% thought they made a great couple on the job, and once the labour pains were over, 97% said it was all worth it. The results included:

  • 70% reported feeling more comfortable in their home thanks to the project
  • 66% felt happier
  • 60% felt more organized
  • 50% relax at home more often
  • 45% entertain more frequently
  • 36% do more cooking and dining at home
  • 28% spend more time together at home.

What did they learn from it? It goes back to communication and compromise.

  • 46% said compromise is the key to both the relationship and the remodel
  • 34% said it was agreeing on what you both want before you start the project
  • 30% said it was making a realistic budget (and of course sticking to it; note that secret purchase in the first point, above).

Source: National Post – Shari Kulha | February 5, 2016

 

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Solar Roof Tiles are the Future of Eco Homes and Friends to Home Budget

Solar roof tiles are new invention that can help a lot in saving energy and lowering the electricity bills. The solar energy is what can provide so much for your home heat without too many costs. There are many alternative energy solutions that are more and more attractive lately but solar energy is maybe something that is endless and easiest one.

Having a warm home and water is a big problem that needs a serious solution. With the great earth pollution and heating materials that do harm to the planet we are done. We should consider about other ways of bringing heat in our home instead of cutting trees and ruining the natural eco system.

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In the past this solar systems were so expensive and not everyone could afford it to buy and install it for their home. But, trough the years it became not so expensive and people can install it to their homes using it trough every season of the year. It is important to have a sunny day so the water of the system will be hotter. If not, there is always an alternative way to heat the water or the home interior.

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This solar photovoltaic tiles are very nice looking and are way better than the old panels on the roof of the houses. Those panels can go and retired because this is new innovative solution that works fabulous! The tiles are made of natural clay or slate slabs that have small solar panels inserted on the flat surface that should be exposed to the sun. Installing of those panels is very easy because of their shape and double function – tiles. They have so high energy yield although they are so small and flexible.

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There are also transparent solar tiles with highest aesthetical look. Those tiles are also very resistant to all weather conditions although are made of Plexiglas or PMMA. This material is even way better because it allows the sun come in trough the roof. They allow 90% of the natural light to come in your home.

Source: http://www.ArchitectureAdmirers.com

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Mike Holmes: Get ahead of the season by thoroughly checking attic and roof before winter arrives

Ice damming on the roof can cause expensive damage inside the home, including water damage to ceilings, walls and even mould.

I recently got an email from a homeowner complaining about ice damming on their roof last winter. It was so bad it caused major damage to their ceiling — they even had to replace walls.

It’s a good time to review ice damming because if you can fix the problem now, before winter moves in, you could save yourself a ton of money and grief.

Most people tend to think that ice damming means there’s a problem with their gutters. Nine times out of 10, ice damming is not an eavestrough issue, it’s an attic issue.

If your eavestroughs are clogged with debris and leaves, water won’t drain properly. And once temperatures drop below freezing, all that trapped water and debris will turn into a frozen channel of muck. Next thing you know, you have ice damming all along your roofline, which can lead to water backing up underneath your shingles and getting into the roof structure, possibly causing water damage to the roof deck.

Then soon you’ll be looking at things like rot and mould.

That’s why fall maintenance must include clearing your eavestroughs of any debris now — because no one knows when temperatures will drop or how quickly.

But the real source of ice damming is usually heat loss in the attic.

Ice damming occurs when there is a constant cycle of snow melting and freezing. But snow shouldn’t melt when the temperature outside is below freezing, right? So what’s going on?

The snow on the roof is melting because heat is escaping through the attic, and as the water drains down the roof to the roofline, it refreezes because the overhang is colder.

Heat shouldn’t escape from your attic; it’s supposed to be a cold zone, the same temperature as outside.

To keep the attic a cold zone, it should be properly sealed off from the rest of the home with vapour barrier and a minimum of 12 to 15 inches of blown-in insulation. (Vapour barrier helps stop drafts and moisture from getting into places it shouldn’t.) It’s also important to make sure your vapour barrier is properly sealed with Tuck tape.

If any part of this system doesn’t work the way it should, problems such as heat loss, ice damming and even mould will occur.

Then make sure there’s enough ventilation, with fresh air coming in through the soffits and going out through the venting on the roof.

If any part of this system doesn’t work the way it should — for example, if the soffits are blocked by insulation, the vapour barrier isn’t properly Tuck taped or the venting on the roof is covered by snow — problems such as heat loss, ice damming and even mould will occur.

One homeowner tried to solve his ice damming issues by replacing the soffits. That didn’t work, so he asked if spray foaming the underside of his roof could help.

If you’re going to spray-foam your attic — and I love closed-cell spray foam — it should be applied to the bottom area of your attic space (or your ceiling, behind the drywall, if it’s a finished space) to properly seal off the environment below. And the great thing about closed cell spray foam is that it’s also a vapour barrier, so you get two in one.

Now is the best time to get a professional to come to your home to look at your attic and make sure it’s doing its job. I’d even recommend getting a maintenance inspection, because if you need any repairs before winter, especially to your home’s building envelope, you still have time to get the job done right.

Stay ahead of the game and make sure your home is ready for another round of winter weather. You’ll thank yourself later.

Watch Mike in his new series, Holmes Makes It Right, on HGTV. For more information, visit makeitright.ca

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Mike Holmes: Why winter is a prime season for house fires, and how to prevent them

Fire Prevention Week runs from Oct. 4 to 10 and is a good reminder to have working smoke alarms on every level of your home, including inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas, and to test them monthly.

It’s that time of year again — no, I’m not talking about fall or Thanksgiving, I’m talking about Fire Prevention Week, which runs Oct. 4 to 10.

Every year, Fire Prevention Week falls on the week in which Oct. 9 lands, to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which, unfortunately, took the lives of more than 250 people and left another 100,000 homeless. It’s a reminder to all of us that a house fire can happen to anyone, so we must take the proper steps to prevent it, and then keep our families safe in case it does.

Proper homebuilding has a lot to do with fire prevention.

For example, firewalls help stop flames from spreading between semi-detached and townhouses; there can only be a certain amount of glass on either side of a house, depending on how close it is to the property line. Again, this is to help stop the spread of flames.

There’s also fire-resistant insulation (which I recommend installing on all your exterior walls) and fire-resistant intumescent paint that can be applied to sheathing and framing. It may not stop a fire from starting, but it will give you more time to escape and it will minimize damage to your home.

But as a homeowner, you have to keep on top of things, too.

The No. 1 priority: Have working smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. (About a quarter of all house fires start in the bedroom.) And test them! You should test your smoke alarms every month — no exceptions — and change the batteries twice a year. I do it when the clocks change; that’s easy to remember.

I’ve heard of some people who actually remove the batteries from their smoke alarms, or disconnect them — this is a big, big no-no. In one case, a few days after a family disabled their alarms (because they kept going off) a fire broke out in the home and the couple lost their three-year-old son.

Smoke alarms save lives. It’s that simple. In fact, they can cut the risk of dying in a house fire by about half — that’s huge!

But when was the last time you had a licensed electrical contractor come and take a look at your home’s wiring?

Electrical fires are more common than you think. And now with winter approaching, we’ll be using our heating systems and lighting more.

You have to make sure your home’s electrical system can safely handle the extra load, because it’s way too easy for bad wiring to cause an electrical fire. In fact, most home fires are caused by poorly maintained electrical and heating/cooling systems. So get them checked by the right pros!

Have your home’s electrical system checked at least every four years, and if you bought a house that’s 15 years old or older, bring in a licensed electrical contractor as soon as possible, especially if the basement is finished. Too many homeowners think they can do their own electrical, and unfortunately, many of them have done. How do you know if everything is up to code? If there’s knob-and-tube wiring? Or aluminum wiring mixed with copper? Or if the person who did the work knew what they were doing?

Have a licensed electrical contractor do an audit of the entire house. They’ll make sure all the electrical work is up to code and that all the connections are tight.

Fire prevention is not something you can put off, or that you can get around to doing when you have the time. Because the truth is, we don’t know when a fire can start in a home, and then it’s too late.

Keep safe, make it right and please, folks, make sure all your smoke alarms are working … today!

Source: National Post Mike Holmes, Special to National Post | October 3, 2015 | Last Updated: Oct 3 10:37 AM ETWatch Mike in his new series, Home Free, on HGTV. For more information, visit makeitright.ca.

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