Prepare for Cooling Season!

Cooling season is right around the corner.  Check out this list of things you should be doing to get your AC system and home ready!

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1. Clean up Around Outside Unit.

If you have an outdoor unit, make sure the area around it is cleaned up.  Air flow through the outdoor unit is important in running an efficient unit.  Clear away branches and leaves.  Cut down overgrown grass or plants.    Throughout the season, periodically check to make sure the area is still clear of debris.

2. Change Filters.

Clean filters are important for efficiency and good indoor air quality (IAQ).  Start out the cooling season with a clean filter.  The EPA suggests checking your filter every month and changing it when it is dirty, at least every 3 months.

3. Change Batteries.

Change the batteries in your thermostat to ensure it is and will work properly.  If you didn’t change the batteries in your smoke detector and carbon dioxide detector when you changed your clocks this past month, change them now.

4. Schedule Pre-season Check-up.

Your system should be checked by a professional at the beginning of cooling season to make sure it’s ready for operation.

5. Install A Programmable Thermostat.

If your building or home is unoccupied for a portion of the day, install a programmable thermostat.  Set it a few degrees higher during the hours no one is home so you do not waste energy cooling an empty building.

6. Seal and Insulate Ducts.

According to the EPA, the deficiency in your duct system can cause a loss of 20 percent of the air in your system.  When air leaks out of the ducts, it causes the system to work harder, wasting energy.  Check connections on all accessible ducts, like in attics and unfinished basements, and at vents and registers.  Make sure they are sealed with mastic sealant or metal tape and well insulated.

7. Seal and Insulate your Building’s Envelope.

Cool air can escape and hot air can enter through leaks in your buildings or home’s envelope.  By sealing these leaks and insulating your building or home, you can save up to 20% on your heating and cooling energy bill.

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Home Insurance and What You Need to Know When Buying a New Home.

When you are purchasing a new home, one of the most important things to arrange before closing is Home Insurance.  But just what information do you need to know about your new home before calling your Insurance Agent?

Cameron Head, Insurance Agent with Allstate Insurance, Peterborough was kind enough to share with us some of the major items he looks at when someone is looking to put Home Insurance in place.

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Cameron says “These are some of the major questions we need to know when insuring a house, which could lead to different pricing and/or not being able to insure it. It’s helpful to know these things before purchasing the home“.

Woodstoves

We require a copy of the W.E.T.T certificate with confirmation of who inspected it and on what date.

The W.E.T.T certificate must be dated within the past 5yrs.

Oil Tanks

Inside Oil Tanks – must be 20yrs or newer;  

Outside Oil Tanks – must be 15yrs or newer;

We need to know:

  • What type of tank it is i.e – Granby; double wall, single wall, gage type;
  • Who filled it last and when;
  • Who inspected it last and when.

Roof Condition

If at all possible, try and find out the year the roof was installed and what type of shape it is in.

Past Claims

Have there been any claims on the house within the past 6yrs such as:

  • Water damage?
  • Wind damage?
  • Any other property damage?

Sump Pump

Does the home have:

  • A sump pump?
  • Back flow valve?  
  • A battery power back up?

Electrical

How new is the electrical and when was it updated last?

Most homes are circuit breakers and 100 or 200 amp – we do not insure Knob and Tube or 60 amp service.

Plumbing

How new is the plumbing?

We do not insure galvanized plumbing. Most homes have copper plumbing and have been updated.

You can contact Cameron directly at by telephone on 705-304-1571 or by e-mail at chead@allstate.ca and his office is located at 815 High St. Unit 8 Peterborough ON K9J8J9.

 

 

 

Four Things Smart First-Time Buyers Do.

Thanks to Lifehack for this great article – the original of which can be viewed here.

Thinking about buying your first home? That’s exciting!

The thing that surprises most first-time buyers is the sheer number of things that need to happen in order to find, fund, and finally move into a new home. There’s a lot that goes into the process. Sure, you’ll be working with a mortgage loan officer and real estate agent, and it’s their job to be an all-around Sherpa, guiding you along the way. They’ll help you navigate all the steps.

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However, there are four key items first-time home buyers should know in advance. The following four tips deserve the most attention and will help make sure you have a great home-buying experience.

1. Get pre-approved.

Without financing, real estate transactions simply don’t happen. Loans make the housing world go ‘round. Getting a loan pre-approval squared away before home shopping is important, as you will see below.

First, pre-approvals involve formal documentation of your credit score, credit history, income, employment, etc. Pre-approvals carry much more weight than pre-qualifications. Pre-qualifications don’t involve any formal documentation, which is why they are essentially meaningless to everyone from real estate agents to sellers.

Pre-qualifications will give you confidence.

Pre-qualifications save you time because you will know the mortgage amount for which you qualify. You will shop faster and smarter by searching for homes you can afford. You’ll get better service from real estate agents. In fact, many agents insist that their clients are pre-approved. Everyone involved in this transaction deserves to know that their efforts are leading toward a tangible outcome.

Continuing with that thought, sellers may not let home shoppers view their home without a pre-approval. Furthermore, when you make an offer on a home, sellers will take a pre-approved buyer seriously.

 

2. Search with focus.

There’s never been a better time — in terms of efficiency — to shop for a home. Online searches, using tools like Zillow or Redfin, are fast and easy. And you can stay focused on properties you are likelier to acquire when you know your pre-approved loan amount.

After searching for a while, you’ll want to narrow your choices and pick homes to view in person. This the time to leverage you real estate agent’s understanding of the surrounding area. Their input on schools and neighborhoods is invaluable. Modern technology, combined with your agent’s knowledge of the area, will help you determine the short list of homes to visit.

3. Keep your emotions in check.

Stuff happens. Real estate deals can go sideways for a number of reasons, including:

  • Offers rejected by sellers
  • Negotiations wind up going nowhere
  • Appraisals come in too low
  • Lenders need additional documentation
  • Home inspections reveal major issues with the property

A lot of these things are outside of a buyer’s control. This is why keeping emotions in check is important. Going back to the search phase above, having several homes on your short list can prevent buyers from fixating on just one property. Having choices helps reduce the potential for an emotional roller coaster.

4. Don’t skip the home inspection.

Getting a home inspection before finalizing a deal is important. Surely you’d prefer not to have buyer’s remorse. Don’t skip this step, even if you’re planning on buying and rehabbing a fixer-upper home.

While all purchase transactions will require a property appraisal, some mortgage programs do not require an inspection. An appraisal will tell you and your lender what the home is worth, but an inspection will tell you if it needs any repairs.

There’s pretty good chance an inspector will find some imperfections in the home you want to buy. The good news here is that inspections:

  • Identify issues with the property
  • Come from a neutral third-party
  • Help create space for you and your Realtor to negotiate with the seller

Asking a seller to fix something before you buy it or come down on the price is pretty typical after an inspection. More importantly, you’ll know what you are buying so the chance of any surprises is very small. The idea here is to prevent you from encountering unforeseen expenses after moving in.

Tony Mariotti is the author of this article and you can find out more information on him here.

Common Problems Found During a Home Inspection.

Buying a house is serious business. Whether a recently built estate or a modest fixer-upper, getting the lowdown on your potential home is of tantamount importance. A qualified home inspector is always your best bet for a thorough home evaluation, but it’s a good idea to have a general understanding of what to look out for.

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HGTV.com surveyed several of the top home inspectors in the country — all featured on House Detective — to arm you with information on what to look out for when evaluating your potential purchase.

Rick Yerger

Rick Yerger is quick to point out that water is enemy number one. “Of the many homes I have inspected,” Rick says, “water damage to the structure has been the most damaging and costly, causing foundation problems, rot and the dreaded mold.” Rick lists some things to watch out for:

 

Grade sloping (or draining) back toward the home. This could lead to damp or wet crawlspaces, foundation movement, cracking or settlement. Water wicking up the foundation could lead to rot in the walls, framing members and mold. Some indications of foundation movement include windows that are out of square; interior doors that have large, uneven gaps at the top when the door is closed; or floors visibly out of level. If you see this, know that the cost to correct this problem could add up quickly.

 

Stucco issues. Homes with stucco exterior surfaces, when applied correctly, will last a lifetime. However, a major flaw we see in the field could add up to water in the living space and big bucks out of your pocket. At the base of exterior walls, where the foundation and the bottom plate (sill plate) meet, a component of a stucco-surfaced wall called a weep screed is applied. We know water can enter stucco through cracks, around unsealed light fixtures, outlets and the like. The water then hits the house wrap and sheds down to the weep screed and out the building. This is brilliant, but when concrete patios, stoops or sidewalks have been poured too high and the weep screed is buried, the system cannot work and water may enter the walls and living space. When you are walking around a house and you see the weep screed disappear into the concrete, this may one day lead to water intrusion and damage.

 

Roofing materials. As homes age, so does the material covering the roof. This is the component of the house that keeps us and the internal workings of the house dry. As the roofing material ages, it lends itself to water intrusion and can lead to expensive repairs or even replacement. If roofing material is improperly installed, it can lead to premature aging. There are many types of roofing materials used to protect us from the elements. The most common, starting with the most economical, are asphalt shingles, wood shakes/shingles, terra cotta tile, concrete tiles and slate, just to name a few.

 

Asphalt shingles have a life expectancy of between 15 and 40 years. With age, asphalt roof shingles will begin to cup either up or down. They will blister and have granular loss. Next, the matrix (material holding the product together) will be exposed. At this point, water becomes the main enemy, waiting patiently for the opportunity to make its move.

 

Wood shingles and shakes will show similar symptoms as asphalt when aging. Cupping, curling, lifting, splitting, insect damage, rotting and missing sections are all possible.

Terra cotta, concrete and slate tiles have life expectancies of about 20 to 100+ years. These materials are very brittle. Expansion and contraction caused by the changing seasons will cause these tiles to crack or become loose. Walking on these tiles can be deadly to the material. Cracking and the signs of aging can be difficult to see from the ground. It will usually take a good pair of binoculars and a solid ladder to get a bird’s eye look at the condition of the roof. Any signs of previous substandard repairs should be a warning sign that water may have been leaking into the property.

Home style vs. building materials.
When looking at the house of your dreams, look for consistency in the architectural style and building materials. A single-story cottage-style house built in the ’40s with plaster walls and clapboard exterior siding that has added a new wing with modern building products may be an indication of unauthorized modifications and substandard workmanship. Should this be the case, it could add up to big bucks to correct and a severe heartache for the unsuspecting buyer.

Electrical wiring. House fires caused by faulty electrical wiring are common. Modern homes have an ample supply of power and electrical outlets. Older homes do not.

It’s typical to see extension cords running from room to room in older homes. This places a burden on the electrical system, outlets and cords and thus could lead to a fire. Another common electrical problem found in all ages of homes is exposed electrical wires. Any wire that is exposed is susceptible to physical damage. If this occurs, it’s sure to wreak havoc. Open splice wire (when wire is conjoined using only electrical tape and/or wire connectors) is a typical do-it-yourself job and is common in garages, attics and crawlspaces as well as above dropped ceilings. This is high priority, however, and should be corrected by a licensed electrician.

Austin Chase

Austin Chase keys in on the year the house was built to provide a list of potentially costly and hazardous conditions or components that may be lurking.

 

Built between 1900 and 1950: Knob and tube wiring consists of fuses and fuse boxes and is considered outdated and inadequate to cover today’s loads.

 

Built between 1942 and 1958: Orangeberg sewer piping was a sewer line made out of papier mache that connected the house to the main sewer line. This piping was born out of necessity as the military during World War II was using all the iron products for the war effort. A pipe manufacturer in Orangeberg, N.Y., created this piping. If the pipes in the home you are considering buying have not failed as of yet, it is inevitable. The cost of repairs will run between $2,000 and $5,000. A video sewer pipe inspection is paramount

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Built between 1984 and 1990: Defective ABS piping made out of recycled plastic was produced by five manufacturers. The pipe has a tendency to crack within the glue joints. If ABS pipe is present it is extremely costly to replace.

 

Built between 1990 and 2000: A NOX rod consolidated furnace has heat exchangers that will crack and release carbon monoxide into the home and potentially can cause fires. This furnace was used widely during this time period and is on a recall list. A thorough home inspection will detect this type of furnace.

 

Homes of all ages: Most important is the number-one defect detected during the inspection process: moisture and drainage. This is the leading cause of dry rot, major structural damage and toxic mold. It is important that grading of the property slopes away from the home. The roof must be inspected and be watertight. Plumbing throughout the home must be free from leaks. These criteria must be met or the results will be catastrophic. Look for the following indicators:

  • Moisture stains around the ceiling, walls or windows
  • Worn roof
  • Water ponding under or by the foundation
Inspection for moisture conditions may include air quality testing. This process will detect if there are any mold spores in the air. The presence of toxic molds can be extremely hazardous to a person’s health and is extremely costly to correct. Be sure to let your home inspector know of any concerns you may have regarding the house you are purchasing.

Dave Swartz

Home inspector Dave Swartz has developed a list of the 10 most common home defects, many of them emphasizing the issues that Austin and Rick highlighted above:

 

1. Faulty wiring. Worn or outdated systems and homeowner additions are the most common defects, especially in older homes. Electrical system problems are safety related and require immediate attention.

 

2. Roof problems. Improperly installed and aged surfaces occur frequently. We also see poorly installed or missing flashing at transition areas. Repairs may be simple or the entire roof may need to be replaced. Follow up any adverse roofing system findings with an evaluation by a competent roofer.

 

3. Heating/cooling system defects. Improper installations, inadequate maintenance and aged components are common.

 

4. Plumbing issues. The most common defects are leaking, outdated or problematic systems such as polybutelene. Repairs can often be made, but on occasion total system replacement is the only solution.

 

5. Inadequate insulation and ventilation in attic. Poor insulation and poor ventilation cause excessive utility costs and lack of occupant comfort.

 

6. Whole house is poorly maintained. Deferred maintenance represents a potential high cost situation to bring the home back into condition. If the homeowner did not properly care for the home, someone will need to later.

 

7. Poor drainage around the structure. Water needs to drain away from the structure at its perimeter to prevent water intrusion. Roof gutters and downspouts can sometimes be added to rectify site drainage problems.

 

8. Air and water penetrating cracks and window perimeters at exterior.Structure cracks and separations at the windows can allow water into the wall cavities, which is conducive to mold growth.

 

9. Minor structural damage. Cut and broken trusses are often seen in attic cavities and on occasion we also see structural components missing. Usually repairs are needed, however we find it is rarely an imminent safety hazard.

 

10. Potential environmental problems. Signs of mold growth represents the latest environmental scare. Homebuyers should consider a complete environmental evaluation of the property before buying.

Thanks to HGTV.com for this article – the original can be viewed here.

How to Read a Home Inspection Report

Thanks to Angie’s List for this article – the original can be viewed here.

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Hiring a home inspector is important, but so is understanding the inspection report.

If you’re buying or selling a home, you know the home inspection is a critical event in the process. The home inspection is an opportunity to get a professional inspector’s unbiased view of exactly what you’re getting into.

There are some basic tips that can help you read a home inspection report more effectively. By taking a few minutes to familiarize yourself with these, you can be sure to get the most benefit out of your inspection and be able to speak freely about it with the home inspector, the buyer or the seller.

Follow the inspector during the home inspection

If circumstances permit, your very best means of understanding the home inspection report as a buyer is to join the inspector as he or she performs the inspection. There’s no need to be a pest, but you should feel free to ask questions if, at any point, you don’t understand what the inspector’s looking at or taking note.

Given the opportunity, most professional home inspectors will be more than happy to explain things as they go along, and answer any questions you may have.

Whether you’re buying or selling, you will likely have the opportunity to review the final report. Generally, the home inspection report will be in one of two formats, the first of which is a checklist.

A checklist report is just that: a list of items inspected plus the inspector’s rating, which will usually be limited to good, fair or poor. At the bottom of each section of the checklist there will usually be a spot for the inspector to insert comments about the items listed above.

Keep in mind that a rating of “fair” does not necessarily mean the item is in need of repair. Since “good” is the highest rating the inspector has available – even if the item is new – a “fair” rating can just mean the item has standard signs of age or weathering, like a spot of rust on a pipe or some scarring on the vinyl siding.

The drawback of a checklist report is that the lack of detail could result in more questions than answers. Don’t be overwhelmed or disappointed by this. Simply make note of your questions and contact the inspector for further detail as needed.

A Narrative Inspection Report

A narrative report provides a more detailed rundown of the inspector’s findings, written in an article format in which the inspector basically describes what was inspected, how it was inspected and the results.

While the additional detail and thoroughness of the narrative report may seem at first glance to be an obvious improvement over the checklist variety, those same features could make the narrative report more overwhelming and more likely to create issues with the inspector’s terminology and descriptions.

If you have questions about what a section of the report means or what the inspector meant by a particular phrase, simply contact the inspector and ask.

Prioritize the results

Although the inspection will cover most aspects of the house – from the foundation to the door frames – certain sections are definitely more important. This may be due to the cost of the repair or the fact that it could be dangerous to ignore a repair.

If you’re buying a house, make sure the following are good to go:

Electrical system: This must be up to code, in excellent condition, and strong enough to support your family’s usage. If the seller doesn’t have four computers, three TVs and a microwave all running at the same time like you usually do, he or she may have never taxed the system like you will.

Plumbing: Major plumbing repairs can be costly and inconvenient. Don’t forget to get a full rundown of the pipes outside the house as well. Most likely, this will require you to hire a plumbing company to run a camera through the main sewer lines to determine their condition.

Roof and chimney: This is potentially a major repair that could be overlooked. Make sure the inspector pays close attention to signs of water damage or moisture around the eaves and the edges of the chimney. If at all possible, do the inspection on a rainy day. Not only will you see how the roof holds up, but you’ll also see if there’s any water seepage in the basement or if water pools anywhere in the yard.

Potential health risks: Pay special attention to any mention of mold, mildew or contaminants such as radon gas. All these hazards can be dangerous, even deadly, if ignored.

Take the time to read your home inspection report thoroughly and ask for help if you don’t fully understand what something means. Doing so can mean the difference between regretting the biggest purchase of your life or enjoying it.

Home Maintenance – GFCI Testing

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What you should know about Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI)

  • What they are: A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is an overcurrent protection device designed to interrupt the electricity circuit to the load when a current to ground exceeds a predetermined value. GFCIs are designed to almost instantly sense an electrical ground fault and interrupt the protected circuit to stop the flow of electrical current before someone is hurt.
  • In Ontario GFCIs are required for exterior outlets, bathroom outlets, and in new kitchen construction/renovation where receptacles/outlets are being installed within 1.5 meters of the edge of any sink (wash basins complete with drain pipe), bathtubs or shower stalls.
  • Test GFCIs regularly according to manufacturers’ instructions (usually monthly) to ensure that they are in proper operating condition.

To test your GFCI you should:

  1. push the “reset” button on the GFCI.
  2. plug in a light or small appliance (turn on).
  3. push the “test” button – the light or small appliance should turn off.
  4. push the “reset” button – the light or small appliance should turn on.

Thanks to the Electrical Safety Authority for the above information.

When is a Building Permit Required?

This information is taken from the City of Peterborough website and applies to their jurisdiction only.  You should check with your local Municipality to confirm in which circumstances they require you to apply for a Building Permit.
When is a Building Permit Required-

 

You must obtain a building permit before you do any of the following:

  • construct a new building
  • installation of a swimming pool (a pool enclosure permit)
  • renovate, repair or add to a building
  • demolish or remove all or a portion of a building
  • change a building’s use
  • install, change or remove partitions and load-bearing walls
  • make new openings for, or change the size of, doors and windows
  • build a garage, balcony or deck or enclose an existing deck
  • build a building over 108 sq. ft. (10 sq. m.)
  • excavate a basement or construct a foundation
  • install or modify any life safety or fire suppression system such as fire alarms, sprinkler or standpipe or fixed extinguishing systems.
  • install or modify heating, plumbing, and air conditioning systems, fireplaces, fireplace inserts and woodstoves
  • install or renovate plumbing
  • construct or reconstruct a chimney
  • to finish a basement or convert a room to a bedroom

You do not require a building permit to:

  • replace existing, same-size doors and windows, subject to distance from property lines
  • install siding on small residential buildings, subject to distance from property lines
  • build a building under 108 sq. ft. (10 sq. m.), but must conform to the zoning setbacks
  • re-shingle a roof, provided there is no structural modification
  • install eavestroughs, provided that drainage is contained on your property
  • damp-proof basements
  • paint or decorate, including interior finishes, but excluding insulation
  • reinstall/replace kitchen or bathroom cupboards without plumbing
  • erect a fence (swimming pools and outside hot tubs do require special permits)

Permits are required from the Electrical Safety Authority for any electrical work.

 

Contact the City of Peterborough for more information.