Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wet Basement

Wet Basement

A wet basement can be just a nuisance or even real nightmare. Each year, thousands of homeowners are faced with the unpleasant side effects of seasonal rainfall. Problems they can face range from just dampness to even flooding. Chronic basement leakage is a serious problem that can destroy personal property, furnishings, appliances, and sometimes even cause permanent structural damage to a homes foundation. Excessive moisture is a huge attraction to wood-eating insects, wood rot and decay.

Despite the pervasiveness of the problem, few homeowners are aware of the causes of water leakage.

Some Common Causes

One common cause of basement leakage is improper surface drainage, such as a yard sloped toward the home. In many cases, the problem can be greatly alleviated by re-grading the yard to slope away from the homes foundation or diverting surface water around the house.

Other common culprits include poorly positioned rain gutter downspouts, missing, leaking or clogged rain gutters. A downspout that is improperly positioned to drain against the side of the house, allows water to build up along the foundation wall, until the backed-up "reservoir" finds a weak spot in the foundation wall.

The most difficult cause of basement leakage is a high water table. A high water table problem occurs when the home is built too deeply in the ground, into the level where water remains constant throughout the year. A high water table problem can also be caused by under ground springs or sustained periods of rainfall that cause the water table to rise during the wet seasons.

Is it Leakage or Condensation?

You should try to determine if your problem is actually water "leaking" in or if it's just condensation forming on the cool surfaces. Condensation occurs when warm, humid air comes into contact with cooler basement walls, floors, water pipes etc.

As an example, just take a cold bottle of soda out of your refrigerator and set it on the counter. After several minutes, you'll notice steam forming on the outside of the bottle. After many minutes pass, you will see a small puddle of water forming at the base of the bottle, as the beads of moisture start dripping down. This is a classic example of condensation, not "leakage". If your basement is actually leaking, the water should not just "appear". You should be able to see where it's coming in as it leaks, in the form of a puddle or stream or water.

Helpful Tips

Your rain gutters should be cleaned of leaves and debris at least once per year.

Downspouts should direct water runoff from the roof to a discharge point at least several feet away from the homes foundation. Use a splash block at the end of your downspout to avoid soil erosion. Never bury your downspout lines unless you can empty them out to daylight.

Buy a good dehumidifier to lower the natural humidity level in your basement. Make sure your dehumidifier is the proper size for your basement. Ask for a drain hose attachment so you don't have to empty the water collected every day. Get a unit with a built-in de-icer. Dehumidifiers are actually refrigeration coils and can freeze up and stop working.

Keep the doors and windows to your basement closed, year round. Opened doors and windows allow extra humidity to enter your basement, causing condensation. Your dehumidifier will also run less.

Waterproofing Paints and Sealers

There are several good waterproofing paints and sealers on the market today. Waterproof paints and sealers can work well for minor dampness on walls and floors. Pay special attention to the preparation instructions from the products manufacturer. Be aware though, interior waterproof paints and sealers don't do anything to alleviate the "source" of the problem.

Time For a Professional?

A professional basement waterproofing contractor can offer you a variety of solutions, depending on the source of your problem. Methods can include outside excavation, installation of drain tile, parging your walls, interior drainage systems or epoxy cove systems

In Conclusion

Prevention is always the first and best approach. Look closely at the grading around your property and make sure your rain gutters are in good working order. Get a good quality dehumidifier to reduce humidity in your basement.

If you've done your best to correct your problem and it still leaks, it might be best to bring in a professional. Check companies for local references, ask for a certificate of insurance, check the companies warranty to see what's covered and check them out with your local Better Business Bureau.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Why do I need a Home Inspection?


A home inspection prior to purchasing a home or condominium can bring peace of mind when you sign the sales contract. Knowing what to expect both inside and out will help you make an informed decision about the value of the home and the future upkeep.

A home inspection accomplishes two important goals. First, it gives you a chance to determine the condition of the house, its structural soundness, and the condition of its mechanical systems. Second, it brings any problems to the seller’s attention at a time when they can be resolved before closing a sale.

A comprehensive inspection includes a visual examination of the structure from top to bottom, including the heating, air conditioning systems, the interior plumbing and electrical systems, the roof and visible insulation, walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors, the foundation, basement and visible structure.

Following the examination, the inspector will provide a report that not only points out possible defects or areas of concerns, but also the positive aspects of the structure as well as the type of maintenance that will be necessary to keep the home in good shape.

Even the most experienced homeowners lack the knowledge and expertise of a professional inspection firm. For example, watermarks in the basement may indicate a chronic seepage problem, or simply may be a result of a single incident.

A professional assessment will provide complete information about the condition of the property you are considering and will help avoid any unpleasant surprises after the sale. In addition, a home inspector can remain totally objective, while you as a prospective homebuyer may be emotionally involved.

The inspection fee for a typical single-family house can vary depending upon the geographic area. The particular features of the home such as size, age and special structures will be taken into consideration. A decision to have a home inspected is a good investment. You might save many times the cost of inspection by being aware of defects, maintenance requirements, and upgrading requirements.

Good decorating should not sell you on a house. Remember, you’re also buying structural and mechanical systems. Walk through a house twice before you hire an inspector. The first time, look at the rooms, the floor plan, and envision your own decorating ideas for the house. The second time, go back and look at the condition of the walls, doors, appliance, and plumbing. If the home still looks good after two visits and you’re getting serious about the purchase, hire an inspector.

When interviewing a potential home inspection firm, carefully inquire about the specifics of their work and company. Ask how long they have been in business, ask for references from previous customers. Find out what type of insurance they carry.

A home inspection usually lasts about three hours. Professional inspection companies will be happy to answer all your questions. Avoid firms that issue only a verbal report. The report should be in narrative form, not just a checklist of items inspected. The home inspector should also issue a written report. You may find it valuable to accompany the inspector as he goes through the house. Calgary Home Inspection

Checklist for Selling your Home

Making the right first impression is critical, it drives more traffic to the house and helps potential
buyers focus on the overall home and improve your chances of selling – at your price. In many
instances, the potential buyer will know within minutes whether the house meets their needs or
not. This checklist, along with the advice of your Realtor will help focus on the maintenance
issues that can help your home sell quicker and for a better price.

Check the major systems
After location and style of the home, the needs of a homebuyer move to the condition of the
basic structure and major mechanical systems. Most buyers are not prepared to spend money
correcting problems in such critical areas. Your own thorough investigation of the following
major items can help determine if any issues exist. The most critical areas to check include:
· Roof structure and covering – look for damage, worn areas and water leaks.
· Foundation, basement, and/or crawl space – any foundation cracks or water leaks should be
· Central heating and air conditioning systems – these units can be professionally cleaned and
serviced to ensure proper working condition. You can check for signs of rust or black stains
that may indicate a more serious concern
· Electrical system and plumbing systems are not for the layman, but if you have any recurring
issues, have a professional determine and repair those concerns.

Make maintenance improvements
The maintenance improvements listed below are relatively easy and inexpensive to make, yet
they can substantially improve a home's appearance, efficiency and comfort:
· Apply new caulking and weather‐stripping as needed around windows and doors.
· Clean gutters and extensions of debris and leaves to ensure proper drainage
· Re‐grade soil around the house to prevent water pooling at the foundation
· Replace or re‐grout tiles and caulking in the bathrooms to help improve appearance and
reduce the risk of moisture getting behind tiles.
· Ventilate closed basements, cold rooms and crawl spaces, or install a dehumidifier to
prevent musty smells, humidity build‐up, and moisture.
· Wash or Replace dirty filters in the heating and ventilating systems, including furnace, HRV,
humidifier, etc.

Pay attention to details
Fixing even minor items can go a long way toward improving the first impression of your
home. Here are some improvements, which you might consider:
· Repair any leaking faucets / drains and seal around sinks with caulking
· Tighten loose doorknobs – ensure doors close easily and smoothly
· Replace damaged screens or broken panes of glass
· Replace burned‐out light bulbs, and replace broken light fixtures
· Secure loose railings
· Patch small holes in walls and ceilings and repaint / remove or repair wallpaper
· Repair and coat the driveway.

Take safety precautions
Pay attention to items relating to protecting the home and its occupants from danger. The
following are important safety precautions which home buyer's will appreciate, are relatively
easy to implement and shouldn't cost a lot. Moreover, they will keep you safe while selling:
· Install good quality smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
· Ensure adequate outdoor lighting, especially in suburban and
rural locales
· Install 'GFCI' outlets outdoors and in wet locations such as
bath & laundry areas.
· Keep the stairwells tidy and free of debris and obstructions,
and leave plenty of clearance around the garage door,
electrical panel and furnace.
· Keep flammables and combustables away from the furnace
and other utility areas.
· If you have direct entry from the garage to the interior of the home, consider installing a
self‐closing device on the door.

Prepare for the buyer's inspection
More and more purchasers are requesting pre‐purchase inspections. It is a good idea to
assemble in advance the various house records that can be used to
answer questions from the purchaser and their inspector.
· Appliance receipts, service records and warranties
· Information on the age of major components such as 
  the roof
coverings, furnace, air‐conditioner, etc.
· Major component warranties (e.g. roofing, siding, windows,
carpeting, furnace and other appliances
· Heating, water & electric bills from at least the past 12 months

How did your house measure up?
Hopefully, this home seller's checklist has helped you gain a clearer knowledge of your home'soverall condition ‐ from a buyer's perspective. Now you can make repairs or improvements that will increase your home's marketability. It just makes good sense! Of course, even if your house is already in optimum condition, a professional home inspection can also be a good marketing tool. At the end of the inspection, the original copy of the inspection report will be given to you. This can then be put on display for all interested parties to view as they are viewing your home. In addition a full copy of the inspection report & a summary will be putonline for your realtor to use in the marketing of your home. This will increase your chances of attracting offers that are free of the home inspection condition.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Aluminum Wiring

Aluminum wiring in residential installations
Issues with aluminum wiring
Since January of 2003 the Electrical Safety Authority has received an increasing number of questions about the safety of aluminum wiring. In particular, purchasers or owners of homes built from the mid 1960’s until the late 1970’s with aluminum wiring are finding that many insurers will not provide or renew insurance coverage on such properties unless the wiring is inspected and repaired or replaced as necessary and this work is inspected by ESA and a copy of the certificate of inspection is provided to the insurer. In some cases the insurer may require replacement of the aluminum wiring with copper wiring. Check with your insurance company for their requirements.

Some homes may have a mixture of aluminum and copper wiring.

Reported problems with aluminum wiring have been related to the overheating and failure of aluminum wiring terminations. This is due to aluminums tendency to oxidize and its incompatibility with devices designed for use with copper wiring. Warm cover plates or discolouration of switches or receptacles, flickering lights, or the smell of hot plastic insulation may evidence these problems.

Each home will be different and must be assessed on its own. It is highly recommended the homeowner hire a licensed electrical contractor who is knowledgeable in the special techniques required for working with and repairing aluminum wiring. The contractor should do an assessment, make the necessary repairs, and have the work inspected by ESA. The homeowner should obtain a copy of the Certificate of Inspection for their records and for their insurance company (if requested).

As mentioned above, where problems exist with aluminum wiring they are usually found at termination points. This necessitates the opening of all outlets (receptacles, switches, fixtures, appliance connections, and in the panelboard) and visually inspecting terminations for signs of failure and overheating without removing or disturbing the devices or wiring. There should be no signs of overheating such as darkened or discoloured connections, melted insulation, etc.

Where problems are found the damaged aluminum conductor should be cut back to remove the damaged portion and then the necessary repairs made.

Required markings for devices used with aluminum wiring
Replacement receptacles and switches shall be installed in compliance with the Ontario Electrical Safety
Code and marked as follows:

All terminations of aluminum conductors shall be to devices marked as per Table F1 and Photo F1; this includes the bare bond conductor as well. Rule 12-118(3) provides two exceptions to this requirement. The first exception is for devices or fixtures with wire leads, in which case the joint between the wire lead and the aluminum conductor shall be made with a wire connector approved for copper to aluminum connections and marked as per Table F1. The second exception is the outlet box bonding screw, which does not require approval for connection of the aluminum bonding conductor.

Photo F1 – Required marking for devices used with aluminum wiring

Terminations of aluminum conductors
Rule 12-118(6) of the Code requires the connection of aluminum conductors to wiring devices having wire binding terminal screws, about which the conductors can be looped under the head of the screw, shall be made by forming the conductor in a clockwise direction around the screw into three-fourths of a complete loop and only one conductor shall be connected to any one screw.

Devices with “push-in” terminations shall not be used with aluminum conductors.

An alternative to using copper/aluminum approved devices is to connect a copper wire “pigtail” betweenthe aluminum conductor and the device connection screw of a device approved for copper onlyconnections. Pigtailing also applies to the bond conductor, which is often overlooked. The wire connector used for the pigtail joint shall be marked as per Table F1.

Rule 12-118(1) states that adequate precaution shall be given to the termination and splicing of aluminum conductors, including the removal of insulation, the cleaning of the bared conductor, the compatibility and installation of fittings.

Aluminum conductors are softer than copper and care must be taken that they are not nicked or cut, orcrushed during termination. Nicks, cuts, or crush spots at terminations result in a weak spot that mayresult in breakage of the conductor or a hot spot.

Rule 12-118(2) requires that a joint compound be used with stranded aluminum conductor connections,but does not require it for solid aluminum conductors. Even though not required by the Code, it isrecommended that bare ends of solid aluminum conductors be coated with approved joint compound.Note: The compound is conductive and should be used sparingly and any excess compound should beremoved.

Where pig tailing is used, Rule 12-3036 must be considered with respect to the minimum volume of box required to contain the existing as well as the new conductors and connections. Where there is notenough room in the existing outlet box, a surface mounted extension box may be required to contain theextra volume necessary to safely accommodate everything.

General inspection
If ESA completes a general inspection, does the OESC require an older house that is wired with
aluminum wiring to have all non-CU/AL devices replaced with devices approved for connection toaluminum wiring (or have copper tails installed as per information included in this Bulletin ( 12-28-*).
No, If the devices are the original ones installed and show no visible signs of overheating or otherdamage, then they are not required to be replaced (it is recommended only). If a device shows any visible signs of overheating or other damage, then replacement is required. If any of the devices have been replaced in the past with newer devices (ie: Decora style), then they are not original and are required to be replaced with a Code compliant installation.

Rule 2-300 requires that operating electrical equipment be kept in safe and proper working condition and
that defective equipment shall either be put in good order or permanently disconnected. Where there is
no evidence of deterioration of the wire, the termination, or the device, then the Code does not require
that repairs be made.
• Aluminum wiring was recalled because it is known to be a fire hazard.
• Aluminum wiring is no longer used for interior wiring systems.
• The Ontario Electrical Safety Code permits the installation of aluminum wiring.
• Adequate precautions shall be given to the terminations and splicing of aluminum conductors;
• Aluminum wiring itself is safe if proper connections and terminations are made, without damaging
the wire and devices approved for use with aluminum wire are employed.
• Aluminum wiring is widely used today for larger commercial and industrial feeders. Electrical
distribution companies use it widely throughout their distribution systems including the supply
service cable to most residences; in fact it may still be used today for interior wiring systems in
residential homes as well as other structures. Aluminum wiring itself is safe and if proper connections and terminations are made without damaging the wire and using approved materials installed in accordance with the Ontario Electrical Safety Code and the
manufacturer’s instructions, there should be no problems with the aluminum wiring installation.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Importance of Changing Furnace Filters

Any qualified Albany HVAC expert will tell you that the easiest, yet most important way to ensure your system works efficiently is to change your furnace filters regularly.

As much as half of the energy used in your home is from your heating and cooling system.  Therefore proper maintenance of your system not only prolongs its life, but has a significant impact on your utility bills and comfort.

Your furnace filters should be checked every month, especially during winter and summer when your system is used the most. At a minimum they should be changed every three months. In order to help you remember when to replace it, try putting a monthly reminder on your Outlook calendar and change it on that same day each month.  This way it is more likely to become a habit and may help you to remember to have extra furnace filters on hand so you’ll be sure to have them when you need them.

A clogged or dirty air filter is a detriment to your heating and air conditioning system and your health; therefore it’s well worth what little time it takes to make sure the filter is clean all year round. With a little planning and forethought, you can keep your HVAC system working as efficiently as possible while decreasing your electric bill, reducing allergy and asthma symptoms, and keeping you cool and comfortable during those hot summer days and warm and cozy all winter long.

Why is changing your furnace filter so important? Whereas clean furnace filters prevents dust and dirt from building up in your system allowing your unit to run smoothly, dirty filters slow down air flow, collect air pollutants and allergens, and make your system work overtime to moderate the temperature in your home.

A dirty furnace filter wastes significant energy and results in much higher utility bills, not to mention can lead to expensive maintenance and possible premature replacement.  Call us now for a furnace check-up if you are concerned about the health of your furnace.

  Photo: There are still some people that don't understand the importance of changing the filter in your furnace.  Photo: This filter is long over due to be changed.  Photo: This is the AC coil above your furnace. When the filter is dirty the air pushes the dirt through the filter and the furnace attaching itself to the coil. This starts to restrict air flow causing the house to be warmer and forces your AC to work harder and longer...and we all know that means a higher hydro bill at the end of the month!