News

Home Repair Guide

August 1st, 2016

Undertaking a Home Repair

Let’s start by differentiating between a home improvement and a home repair. A home improvement, as the name implies, means improving something. It is usually a renovation to create more space, change the layout of the house, improve energy efficiency, or to make aesthetic changes. This report will deal with the simpler topic of home repair–basically replacing things that are worn out or fixing things that are broken. Here are some very basic rules to follow.

Cost

1. Know what you want done

If you are replacing a worn out furnace, for example, do some research to find out whether you want a mid-efficiency furnace or a high-efficiency furnace. If you are repairing a roof with a leaking valley flashing, determine whether you want the valley flashing replaced or just patched to last a few years until the whole roof needs re-flashing.

If you know what you want done, you can compare apples to apples when reviewing quotations. Otherwise it would be very hard to compare various quotes if every contractor has a different repair strategy.

Be prepared to stick to your guns. Many contractors will tell you that the job is much bigger, much harder, or it must be done his way (because if you don’t, it will be dangerous, or much more expensive the next time).

As home inspectors, we are often faced with contractor opinions that differ drastically from the recommendations in our reports. In most of these cases, the contractor is proposing unnecessary work.

Contractors

2. Find at least 3 experienced, reputable contractors who are capable of doing the work

This may sound easier than it is. While it is best to rely on personal referrals from people you trust, these referrals must be taken with a grain of salt. Former customers of contractors are not usually in a position to comment on the quality of the installation of a furnace, for example. Also be sure the type of work that you are planning to have done is similar (in size and scope) to the work done for the person providing the referral. Many contractors who are geared to do major renovations are not well suited to do minor repairs and vice versa.

Estimate

3. Obtain 3 written estimates

Our experience has shown that contractors quotes can vary as much as 300% on any given job. This is sometimes due to different perceptions of what needs to be done. This can be avoided by following Step 1 carefully. However, sometimes the variance is simply the result of how busy the contractor is.

references

4. Get three references from each contractor

Better than three references is a list of the recent clients that the contractor has worked for. That way you get to choose who you would like to select as a reference. Follow up with these references bearing in mind the comments in Step 2.

While you are at it, ensure that the contractor has appropriate licenses and insurance.

choosing

5. Choose the contractor

Don’t necessarily base your choice on price alone. Look carefully at what has been included in the estimates. Select the contractor with the best reputation, provided that the price for the job is fair. Avoid paying cash. The benefit of a cash deal is typically far greater for the contractor than it is for the homeowner.

contract

6. Have both parties sign a contract

The contract should include a complete description of the work. It should also include details as to who is responsible for obtaining permits (if there is any doubt regarding the necessity of a permit, contact your local building department).

The contract should have a start date and a completion date. (On larger contracts, sometimes a penalty clause is included for each day the job extends beyond the completion date.)

The contract must also contain a payment schedule. The schedule should not demand very much money up front and the payment should be based on stages of completion as opposed to pre-determined dates.

Remember to hold back 10% of each payment for 45 days after the completion of the job to determine whether any liens have been placed on the property (as a result of the contractor not paying his sub-contractors).

Also, don’t expect much in the way of a guarantee if you are simply asking a contractor to undertake band-aid repairs. Many contractors will not simply patch a damaged valley flashing, for example, even if they are 95% sure that the repair will work. This is because there is still a 5% chance that they will get complaints to fix a subsequent leak. In fairness, the leakage is not their fault. They just do not want the hassles. Consequently, many contractors will suggest repairs which are overkill (replacing the entire side of the roof, for example) to reduce the potential for complaints. A significantly lower price can be obtained, if you explain to the contractor that you expect him to do his best, but you aren’t going to make him responsible for the future of the entire roof based on a $300 repair.

7. Expect delays

Any type of home repair seems to take longer than was first predicted. If the repairs involve any sort of interior demolition, expect divorce dust.

Emergency Funds

8. Have a contingency fund

Many home repairs end up unearthing something else that requires repair. While this is very common, ask lots of questions if your contractor is proposing additional work.
Summary

We trust that the above information will help people in their dealings with contractors, realign expectations, and perhaps avoid pitfalls.

Copyright 2015/2016 Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd.

All rights reserved

Priority Maintenance for Home Buyers

July 29th, 2016

Check list

Priority Maintenance for Home Buyers

There are so many home maintenance and repair items that are important; it can be confusing trying to establish which are the most critical. To simplify things, we have compiled a short list of our favorites. These are by no means all-inclusive, nor do they replace any of the information in a home inspection report. They should, however, help you get started on the right foot. Remember, any items marked as priority or safety issues on your home inspection report need immediate attention.

House

One-Time Tasks

1. Install smoke detectors as necessary (usually one on each level of the home, near any sleeping areas). Install carbon monoxide detectors, according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
2. Make any electrical improvements recommended in the home inspection report.
3. Remove any wood/soil contact to prevent rot and insect damage.
4. Change the locks on all doors. Use a dead bolt for better security and to minimize insurance costs.
5. Correct trip hazards such as broken or uneven walks and driveways, loose or torn carpet or uneven flooring.
6. Correct unsafe stairways and landings. (Railings missing, loose, too low, et cetera.)
7. Have all chimneys inspected before operating any of these appliances.
8. Locate and mark the shut-offs for the heating, electrical and plumbing systems.
9. Label the circuits in electrical panels.
10. If there is a septic system, have the tank pumped and inspected. If the house is on a private water supply (well), set up a regular testing procedure for checking water quality.

Tools

Regular Maintenance Items

11. Clean the gutters in the spring and fall.
12. Check for damaged roofing and flashing materials twice a year.
13. Cut back trees and shrubs from the house walls, roof and air conditioning system as needed.
14. Clean the tracks on horizontal sliding windows annually, and ensure the drain holes are clear.
15. Test ground fault circuit interrupters, carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors using the test button, monthly.
16. Service furnace or boiler yearly.
17. Check furnace filters, humidifiers and electronic air cleaners monthly.
18. Check the bathtub and shower caulking monthly and improve promptly as needed.
19. If you are in a climate where freezing occurs, shut off outdoor water faucets in the fall.
20. Check reversing mechanism on garage door opener monthly.
21. Check attics for evidence of leaks and condensation and make sure vents are not obstructed, at least twice a year. (Provide access into all attics and crawl spaces.)

Copyright 2015/2016 Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd.

All rights reserved

Pre Listing Inspection

June 27th, 2016

For sale

Pre-Inspected Listings, The Future of Real Estate

Home inspections have traditionally been for the benefit of the purchaser. Pre-inspected listings benefit all parties – purchasers, vendors and Realtors.

Deals Won’t Fall Through

Home inspections, performed as a condition of the offer, can kill deals. Sometimes this is because the purchaser gets cold feet; sometimes there’s a big problem no one knew about. Sometimes it is because the house has been misrepresented; sometimes it is because the home inspector scared the purchasers by not explaining that minor and typical problems are just that – minor and typical.

If the home inspection is performed prior to the house being listed, all parties will be aware of the physical condition of the house before an offer is drawn. There will be no surprises after the fact. Deals will not fall through.

Will you

Pre-inspected Listings Avoid Renegotiation

In a buyers’ market, most houses have to be sold twice. It takes a lot of work to get a signed Agreement of Purchase and Sale. Then the home inspection is done and the purchaser wants to renegotiate.

If all parties know the condition of the house prior to the offer, there is no need for renegotiation. As most real estate agents know, renegotiation is very difficult. Vendors have already mentally sold the house; purchasers are suffering buyers’ remorse. Egos, pride and frustration can muddy the already emotional waters.

A vendor who pays for a home inspection will be further ahead than one who has to renegotiate. He of she may even sell the house faster.

 

Sim

Unrealistic Vendors

An inspection at the time of listing can also help a Realtor deal with a vendor who has unrealistic expectations. The inspection report is good ammunition for explaining why you can’t ask top bucks for a house which is not in top condition.

Rep

Repairs Prior To Sale

Sometimes, the home inspection will reveal items which should be repaired immediately. A pre-inspected listing allows the vendor to repair the problem prior to putting the house on the market.

If the inspection occurs after the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, the purchaser could walk, renegotiate or, depending on the inspection clause, the vendor may have the option to repair. A repair done by an unmotivated vendor may not be the best repair and may not meet the purchasers’ expectations. This has caused more than one deal not to close.

Peace Of Mind For The Purchaser

There is no doubt that part of the value of a home inspection is a guided tour of the house for the prospective purchaser. The inspection company can return to do a walk-through with the purchaser, if requested.

LOGO

Reputable Inspection Companies

Pre-inspected listings will only have value if the home inspection company is perceived to be reputable, qualified and properly insured. Prospective purchasers will have little or no faith in a report done by someone they perceive to be in the vendors’, or Realtors’ pocket.

 

Sold

 

Copyright 2015/2016 Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd.

All rights reserved

What Are Ground Fault Circuit GFCI Receptacles?

May 17th, 2016

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter GFCI’s

The outlets with the colored “Test” and “Reset” buttons are specially designed to better protect people than ordinary outlets. GFCI’s have been used in houses since the 1970’s.

Why Are They Used?

GFCI’s are designed to shut power off if there is a very small leak of electricity (a ground fault) which ordinary outlets wouldn’t notice. Normal outlets are shut off by a fuse or breaker if more than 15 amps flows. This prevents fires, but since people can be killed by 1 amp or less, fuses may not protect people from shock. GFCI’s shut off power if a leak as small as .005 amp occurs.

How Do They Work?

A GFCI detects a leak by comparing how much electricity comes back through the white wire to how much was sent in the black wire. When everything is working correctly, the current flow is the same. If a little electricity is leaking out, it may be going through a ground wire or through part of the house. If this happens, the black wire will have more electricity than the white wire. Electricity, like most people, will follow the path of least resistance. If a person touches a leaky electrical system, they may present a better route to ground for electricity, since they may offer very little resistance.
Another way of saying this, is that the person may be a very good conductor or the person may not be well insulated. The electricity will flow through the person, giving them a shock. Without a GFCI, this can be fatal. With a GFCI, the little leak would be detected and the power would be shut off.

GFCI outlet

Where Are They Used?

In Canada, GFCI’s are now required by Code for outdoor outlets, bathroom outlets and whirlpool outlets. Electrical systems for swimming pools are also GFCI protected. In the United States, kitchen outlets within six feet of the sink must also be GFCI protected.

Can The Outlet Be GFCI Protected If There Is No Button?

Yes, if for example, the circuit breaker back at the panel has a “Test” button, it is a GFCI breaker. This will protect everything on that particular circuit. Any outlets wired downstream of a GFCI outlet are also protected if the GFCI is wired correctly.

Can They Be Added To Older Houses?

Yes, GFCI’s can be added to any electrical system. They are more expensive than regular outlets ($15-$20 vs. $1-$2), but are inexpensive insurance. While they do not replace grounding systems exactly, some Codes do allow GFCI’s in lieu of grounding in some cases. It is safe to say that a circuit protected by a GFCI is better protected than one without.

 

Contents of this site Copyright 2015/2016 Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd. All rights reserved.

 

Questions That You Should Ask When Shopping for a Home Inspector

April 5th, 2016

Ask right questions

Q: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN BUSINESS?
A: Home inspectors come and go. The long time firms are here to stay. They’ll be here if you have a question or a problem down the road.

Q: WHAT ARE YOUR INSPECTORS’ QUALIFICATIONS?
A: The industry is essentially unregulated. Anyone can call themselves a home inspector.

Q: CAN I FOLLOW ALONG AT THE INSPECTION?
A: If they won’t let you go to the inspection, don’t use them. We actually encourage you to attend. This is a valuable learning experience for most home buyers. It is the perfect opportunity to ask specific questions about the condition of the home. Also, where defects are identified, the engineer can discuss these so that you understand what repairs are required, when and at roughly what cost.

Q: ARE YOU MEMBERS OF AIBQ AND ASHI?

Questions

Q: DO YOU DO REPAIRS OR RECOMMEND CONTRACTORS?
A: No. We are a consulting firm specializing in building inspections. We consider it a conflict of interest for a home inspector to recommend or refer a contractor to perform repairs.

Q: HOW MUCH DOES AN INSPECTION COST?
A: Some factors will affect the fee. If you are comparing home inspection firms, the fee charged should not be the sole deciding factor, unless of course the level of service offered is identical.
We suspect the house you are buying is not the cheapest house, but rather a house that you feel represents good value. We urge you to choose your home inspector the same way.

Q: HOW LONG DOES AN INSPECTION TAKE?
A: A typical home inspection takes between 2 and 3 hours. Some older and/or larger homes can take longer. As a courtesy to the vendor, they should be informed of the time involved once the inspection is arranged.

Q: DO YOU PROVIDE A WRITTEN REPORT?

An electronic version of inspection report will be provided to the client within 48 hours.

 

 

 

 

 

Q: WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT?
A: Inspect the major systems of the house. These include the Roof, Exterior, Structure, Electrical, Heating, Cooling, Plumbing, Insulation and Interior. The goal is to identify any existing major problems that would affect a typical purchasers buying decision.
We will add significantly to your knowledge of the home, but still cannot tell you everything about the house. All home inspections are entirely visual. No destructive testing is performed. The inspection and report will put you in a much better position to make your decision.

 

 

Q: CAN WE CONTACT YOU WITH QUESTIONS AFTER THE INSPECTION?

Questions You Should Ask

 

Q: DO YOU LOOK FOR UFFI, ASBESTOS, MOLD, PYRITE, RED OCHRE?
A: The only way to guarantee it is not present – is to do the test. We will inform you if we will see any evidence and if you have to go for further evaluation.

 

Copyright 2015/2016 Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd.

All rights reserved