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The must-do maintenance checklist for every homeowner defined by nature

The homeowner’s must-do maintenance checklist defined by nature

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The homeowner’s must-do maintenance checklist defined by nature

Elements of nature. Powerful and unlike anything invented by humans. In the end, nature always wins, so within here, we offer every homeowner a simple checklist to follow to ensure that you protect your investment, and everything inside of it, from falling prey to the forces attributed to the elements of nature.

Air, water, fire and earth – the four elements present different risks, and thus, different approaches to minimize those risks, when it comes to your property. To keep it simple and easy to remember, we will provide four tips for each element, for a sweet total of 16 maintenance items we can all get behind.

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Air

Roof – Inspect at grade and at roof for torn, missing or curling shingles as they can lift easily in high winds and expose raw sheathing. Check inside attic for proper ventilation and potential signs of moisture (mould on underside of sheathing, depressed or black insulation). Wind-driven roof damage may only otherwise show up when you notice ceiling damages on the inside.

Photography: bigstock.com
Photography: bigstock.com

Caulking – Window sills, joints between exterior cladding, door frames all bleed air. Insulation and caulking at basement floor joist headers can dramatically reduce air infiltration and exfiltration, resulting in energy savings and increased comfort.

HVAC – Have an annual furnace/boiler and AC service, replace filters every three months, clean ducts and ventilation fans inside grills.

Tie downs/weight – Lawn furniture, yard tools, anything left outside that is not overly heavy or tied down can become a dangerous projectile in a strong wind. Review these regularly before the storms blow into town.

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Water

Photography: bigstock.com
Photography: bigstock.com

Roof – Similar to wind risks, old or missing shingles cannot perform in keeping water out. Water inside the building envelope can create major finish damages, structural and health problems in a big hurry. Included with the roof inspection, we recommend cleaning eavestroughs twice per year to ensure proper flow and reduce ice damning risk in winter.

Caulking – Interior and exterior caulking should be inspected annually. Showers and sink edges, a crack the size of a credit card could result in major leak damage. Window and door sills should be inspected for bubbling and cracking of caulking, as well as roof vents to ensure reduced risk of water infiltration.

HVAC – Check hot water tank, furnace and air conditioners for leaking at floor, and drain lines to be free flowing. Ensure humidifiers are not overly scaled and flow as should.

Drinking water – Replace fridge or sink filter at least twice annually. Send test kit sample of tap water to municipality for testing annually. Also, turn off hose bibs on interior and open exterior by November 1st each year to avoid freezing damage (even on “Frost-Free” faucets!).

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Fire

Courtesy of Nest
Courtesy of Nest

Alarm – Replace Smoke/CO alarm battery annually and test alarms monthly. We recommend the NEST alarms for their regular smart phone notifications and testing, as well as the neat night-light option.

Extinguishers – Check/recharge fire extinguisher(s) for the kitchen. Add a single sprinkler head or the Haven ceiling mount suppression device in the mechanical room (the location of most fires.)

HVAC – Clean or have annual service performed and check

Dryers – Remove and clean out ventilation grill, vent pipe and inside edge of appliance to prevent overheating.

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Earth

Soil – Ensure positive slope away from foundations and fill any depressions around downspouts to ensure proper storm runoff.

Radon gas – Test kit or continuous monitor (preferred) and ventilate sub-slab in basement to depressurize against odourless carcinogen that naturally emanates from some soil types.

Fertilize – Early spring, mid-summer and late fall to ensure lawn and garden have adequate nutrients.

Sweep – Monthly cleaning of the hard surfaces around your house can highlight any rot or repairs needed to decks, porches and also reduce the amount of dirt dragged into your home.

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If your home is in need of more than a little routine maintenance and you are contemplating a new home or more extensive renovation, remember there is real value in working with a professional to design and build the space. Visit renomark.ca, the home of the professional renovator, to start your search when looking to start your project.

Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at Design-Build Firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the GTA’s only four-time winner of the Renovator of the Year award.

@eurodalehomes

416.782.5690


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Under Pressure, Part 1 of 2: The danger of depressurization

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Under Pressure, Part 1 of 2: The danger of depressurization

By Gary Sharp, CHBA

As our customers get their houses ready for winter or decide to make their houses more energy efficient, it is appropriate to have a discussion about depressurization – a situation that can make a house dangerous.

What is it? Depressurization occurs when more air is being exhausted from a house than is coming in, either through air leakage or mechanical means. In that state, the house is under a negative pressure, relative to the outside.

In cold weather, houses lose heat through the building envelope (convection, conduction, and radiation) and because of unintentional cold air leakage into the building, and warm air out of it. Heat loss due to air leakage is one of the easiest heat loss mechanisms to fix so new homebuilders and renovators are spending more time and effort to make homes airtight. If you’re renovating a house that’s more than 30 years old, chances are good that most of the heat loss from that home is due to air leakage; in the 1970s, when we first started to address energy efficiency, it was estimated that up to 50 percent of the heat loss from a house was due to uncontrolled air leakage.

Renovators use air-tightening techniques to improve an existing building’s thermal performance. Insulating and air sealing is a common practice, and will continue to be important techniques in making our buildings more energy efficient and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to contributing to heat loss, moving air can carry moisture (water vapour) into a wall or ceiling system. When the water condenses inside of the structure and does not dry out, it leads to mould and rot of structural members, which is not only bad for the home, but dangerous to its occupants. Air leaking into a wall and carrying water vapour is a far greater source of moisture entry into that wall than by simple vapour diffusion – up to 100 times more of a problem.

There is a lot of equipment in houses that exhaust air and can lead to depressurization.

 

Exhaust Device L/S (litres/second) CFM (cubic feet per minute)
Bathroom Fan 20 – 50 40 – 100
Range Hood 25 – 600 50 – 1,200
Indoor BBQ Grill 60 – 600 120 – 1,200
Clothes Dryer 40 – 55 80 – 110
Central Vacuum 45 – 65 90 – 130
Wood Fireplace (at full burn) 150+ 300+

When homeowners run equipment simultaneously – imagine a clothes dryer and range hood on at the same time – it increases the amount of air being exhausted and can result in depressurization.

Where does the air come from to balance the extra air being exhausted? Much of it comes in through unintended leakage points, but some of it comes in through the chimney. After all, the chimney is really just a hole in the building envelope. Chimneys are intended to carry smoke and combustion gases to the outdoors. But if the house reaches a certain point of depressurization, air will begin to move in the opposite direction: it will flow into the house, and can bring combustion gases with it. These gases include carbon monoxide (CO), an odourless, colourless gas that can kill people.

Depressurization can create other problems as well. Soil gases leaking into the house – including radon – is also a threat. And don’t forget about the real possibility of rain or water on the outside of the building envelope being pulled into the building by the depressurization.

Carbon monoxide is generated by any appliance that burns fuel – whether that fuel is oil, natural gas, propane, or wood. Under normal conditions, when the house is not depressurized, the CO simply goes up the chimney and exits the house. But if the house is depressurized, the CO can’t vent properly through the chimney and it “spills” back into the house. Any appliance that has a chimney is considered to be a “spillage-susceptible” appliance. Renovators should take them into consideration when air tightening a home.

In an attempt to limit the potential danger of CO not venting properly, many new houses use sealed combustion appliances. These appliances get their combustion air from outside, and they exhaust to the exterior, which means that they’re not spillage-susceptible. But that doesn’t mean we’re off-the-hook about depressurization. Soil gases (primarily radon) can still be a problem, and a CHMC study found that exhaust fumes from an attached garage can enter a depressurized house.

So how do you know if the house is depressurized? The best way is to hire a qualified mechanical contractor or certified energy advisor and have them do a test. The test for depressurization basically involves closing up the house (windows and doors), turning on the exhaust appliances, and measuring the pressure difference between indoors and outdoors. From this information, the amount of “make-up air” required can be determined. Make-up air is supplied by installing an active system that blows air into the house (i.e. a fan) whenever the house is depressurized.

How do we fix depressurization? Have a mechanical contractor install a make-up air system to supply the replacement air when the exhaust appliances are turned on. This keeps the house in “balance” and greatly reduces the likelihood of depressurization.

A less accurate, but still valid method to determine if spillage is occurring is to examine the appliances with chimneys and look for soot in places where it should not be if the appliance was working correctly. On water heaters this is the space on the top where the chimney connects. Look for soot or discolouration on the top of the unit near the chimney. For fireplaces, look for smoke stains on the face of the fireplace above the firebox and ask the homeowner if they need to open a window to get the fireplace to draw properly. While this doesn’t tell you how much depressurization is occurring, it does tell you that you need to be concerned about depressurization in this home.

As renovators, we’re all trying to do the best job we can for our customers. Making the house more energy efficient by insulating and air sealing will make the house more comfortable and will reduce the client’s energy bills. Keeping your customer safe in their home is also your responsibility, so don’t take a chance with depressurization. Check it out, install a proper make-up air system, and don’t forget that all homes need carbon monoxide detectors.

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