I bring over 25 years of industry experience in building and inspecting homes. My inspections are thorough and also include important tips on how to maintain your home and suggestions on dos and don’ts. A written report is handed to the buyers on site as soon as the inspection is completed. The Ottawa real estate market can be demanding sometimes and getting a same day report is extremely valuable. Being in construction an approximate cost of repairs can also be done although this can be seen as being outside of a home inspection scope but I’m here to please and want my buyers to make the most informed decision possible.
I offer a series of personalized home inspection services.
Cost of inspections can very between 250$ to 500$ or more depending on the type of building and amount of units in buildings.
Payment methods can be cheque, debit, credit or e-transfers on the day of the inspection..
Below are just a few of the elements we cover during our thorough inspections:
● General Exterior:Grading, window wells, eavestrough, sidings, soffit & fascia, trim, roof covers, chimney, garage, steps.
● Heating:Heating plant, fresh air, network, baseboard heating.
● Plumbing: Service, supply, water heater, waste drainage, sump.
● Structural: Foundation, roof sheathing, walls, interior support, basement water problems, roof support.
● Electrical: Feed, service, panels, wiring.
● Insulation: Type of insulation, attic venting, crawlspace, vapour barrier, weather stripping & sealing.
● General Interior: Finish, floors, stairs, doors, window, fireplaces, fans, outlets, heat distribution, plumbing fixtures, smoke detectors and attic
REGULAR MAINTENANCE TIPS
1- Clean the gutters in the spring and fall to reduce water overflows or ice build up.
2- Check for damaged roofing and flashing materials twice a year to reduce water infiltration.
3- Cut back trees and shrubs from the house wall, roof and air conditioning system as needed.
4- Clean the tracks on horizontal siding windows annually and ensure the drain holes are clear.
5- Test ground fault circuit interrupters, carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors using the test button, monthly.
6- Service furnace or boiler yearly.
7- Check and or replace furnace filters, humidifiers and electronic cleaners monthly.
8- Check the bathtub and shower caulking monthly and improve promptly as needed to reduce water damage.
9- Shut off outdoor water faucets in the fall to reduce pipes from freezing.
10- Check reversing mechanism on garage door opener monthly.
11- Check attics for evidence of leaks and condensation and make sure vents are not obstructed, at least twice a year.
Proper lot grading is an important consideration when dealing with wet basements. No foundation wall system is completely impervious to water. Therefore, the likelihood of water penetration problems into basements and crawl spaces is partially dependent upon the grading of the lot adjacent to the foundation walls.
Walks and driveways may be gravel, asphalt, concrete, stone, or pavers. Regardless of the material, they should be slightly sloped to drain water away form the house, rather than toward it. Improper slopes often cause wet basement problems, and in some cases, erosion and/ or frost damage to building foundations.
When grading, difficulties may be encountered with basement windows. Increased soil height adjacent to the house may partially bury basement windows. Under these circumstances, or with any basement window which is at or near ground level, a window well should be provided. It will prevent water penetration through the window, prevent rotting of window frames, break wood/soil contact and keep the window cleaner. Window wells should be large enough to allow light in and should allow for easy cleaning of the window and well.
Tree branches, leaves…
Tree branches can cause mechanical damage to roof and wall surfaces, leaves can clog gutters and downspouts and roots can clog drainage pipes and in severe cases, dislodge foundations. Raised flower gardens or planters can cause wet basement problems, especially as a result of heavy watering of flowers during the summer months.
Regardless of the material used, all steps should be easy to negotiate. Steps should be at least 9 1/4 inches deep and no more than 8 inches high. They should be arranged in such a way so as not to collect water.
Railings should be provided wherever there is a danger of falling (when the difference in height is greater than two feet). Railing should be sturdy enough to resist a person’s weight and openings in the railing should be small (roughly four inches or less). Railings should be high enough to provide adequate protection; thirty-two or forty-two inches is common. On wide stairways, railings should be provided on both sides. Railings should not prevent drainage of water off porches, decks and balconies.
ROOFING, FLASHING AND CHIMNEYS
The primary purpose of a roof is to keep the building and its occupants protected from rain, snow, sun, wind and all the combinations of these. There are two main categories of roofing systems: sloped roofs and flat roofs. Sloped roofing systems are not watertight, per se. They shed water much like a pyramid of umbrellas. Flat roofs, on the other hand are watertight membranes which are designed to be impervious to water penetration. Flat roofing is actually misnomer as these roofing systems should never be perfectly flat. They should slope enough to allow water to drain properly, since water standing on the roof for long periods of time will accelerate deterioration of the membrane. Good practice includes a secondary drain for flat roofs.
Some roofing configurations are more prone to ice damming problems than others. Ice damming occurs when snow and ice collect in a certain area of the roof (often the eaves). Melting snow on the upper portion of the roof cannot drain properly as it is trapped behind the ice dam. If the dam is large enough and sufficient water collects, it will back up under the shingles and leak into the eaves or worse into the exterior walls of the building interior.
The typical vulnerable areas of a roof are where the roof changes direction, or where a change in materials occurs (for example, where the roof meets a chimney or a wall). Particularly vulnerable ares exist where two or more flashing intersect, for example, where a chimney occurs in a valley.
Flashings are designed to keep water out. They are used where dissimilar materials meet where a material changes direction or at joints in materials. Most flashings are galvanized steel and or aluminium.
All downspouts that discharge onto the ground should discharge a good distance away from the house (six feet or more, if possible). The slope of the ground in this area should be away from the house to direct water away from the basement to reduce infiltration.
The exterior components of a building work together to provide a weathertight skin, if all the parts are doing their job. Protection against intruders, both animal and human, is also offered by the building skin. Good exteriors are attractive, durable and require little maintenance. Exterior components are often the most neglected parts of a home.
Chimney deterioration is a very common problem. In most cases, water is the culprit. Metal chimneys corrode and masonry chimneys suffer deterioration to mortar, brick, stucco, etc. The source of the water can sometimes be wind driven rain. In many cases, however, the water is condensation within the chimney.
The structure of a home is its skeleton and includes the foundations and footings as well as the floors, walls and roof. Structures are judged by how well they are able to stand still. Successful structures do not move; less successful ones do, sometimes dramatically.
The structure is by far the most important part of the house. The safety and usability of the entire home depends on its structural integrity. The structural inspection is performed on both the interior and exterior. Since many of the structural components are buried below grade or behind finishes, much of the structural inspection is necessarily performed by looking for resultant movement. Where no movement has occurred, structural imperfections may conceal imperfections over the short term. In these cases, identification of problems is often impossible.
Adfreezing is a phenomenon whereby damp soil on the outside of the building will actually freeze to the building and as the soil heaves, it will pick up the top part of the foundation wall. Horizontal cracks in foundation walls just below grade typify this phenomenon.
Water penetration can deteriorate the mortar in masonry foundations, reducing its strength and ultimately allowing shifting to occur. This is usually a slow, long term process.
Water related problems
Water related problems such as adfreezing and wall deterioration due to moisture penetration, can be minimized or eliminated with control of surface water on the exterior, in many cases. Good exterior grading with ground sloping down and away from the buildings important. Proper performance of gutters and downspouts is equally important. All roof-off must be directed into a drainage system, or onto the ground at least six feet away from the building.
The purpose of a heating system in the North American climate is obvious. How well a heating system performs is not so obvious. A well designed heating system is large enough to provide adequate heat on the coldest day, is reliable, is inexpensive to install and to operate (efficient), is quick to respond to its controls, is able to heat all parts of the home equally or differentially, as the occupants desire, and is safe. There is no one heating system which performs all these functions to perfection. Every heating is a compromise in one way or another, with low initial cost often being the predominant criteria for selection.
Simply put, the goal is to generate bundles of heat and to distribute them to the various parts of the building. Several fuels can be used to generate the heat. Some burn oil or gas, commonly referred to as fossil fuels and others use the heat released by electricity flowing through coils. There are newer systems where existing heat is simply captured, stored and released in the home. This includes heat pumps and solar heating, for example. Decisions as to which fuel is the best are based on the fuel cost, how much of the heat generated can be used (the efficiency of the system) and the cost and durability of the equipment used to provide the heat.
The heat is often generated centrally, in a furnace or boiler and is distributed throughout the house via air in ductwork or water in pipes. If the heat developed by the gas, oil, or electricity is transferred to air, the system is called a furnace. Where water is the heat transfer medium, this is a boiler. Any fuel can be used with either distribution system.
It is possible to generate some heat in each room and not bother with a distribution system. Old English castles with fireplaces in each room are examples of this approach. Another example is a house warmed with electric baseboard heaters. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach.
COOLING / HEAT PUMPS
There are many types of air conditioning systems; however, they all work on the same principle. They move heat from a relatively cool space to a relatively warm space. The systems all evaporate into gases, they absorb a considerable amount of heat. When gases are condensed back into a liquid state, they give off heat. In addition, if the pressure of a gas is increased, the temperature will also increase. Most systems use the refrigerant “Freon”, a substance which changes state at temperatures and pressures which are well suited to this application.
The purpose of a house plumbing system is twofold. On the supply side, the idea is to get water for drinking, washing and cooking to the appropriate areas of the house. The waste side of the plumbing system is intended to get rid of water and waste.
The supply water is under pressure and the waste water flows by gravity. Serviced communities provide the fresh supply water and carry away the waste. In rural properties, wells usually supply fresh water and septic systems handle the waste.
In a completed home, the majority of the piping, both supply and waste, is concealed within walls, ceilings and underground. Leakage, obstructions, or other problems may not be picked up during an inspection.
The examination of wells is not included in this visual inspection. It is recommended that you have well water checked for purity by the local health authorities.
Main shut-off valve
The main shut-off valve should be located and tagged. This valve allows one to shut off all the house at one location. The valve should be readily accessible and it should be verified that it is operable. Since these valves are operated infrequently it is not unusual for them to become stuck over time. They often leak when operated after a period of inactivity. For this reason, they are not tested during a home inspection.
Water heaters may be gas, oil or electric. In some cities, it is possible to rent water heaters from the utilities or oil companies. This is usually less expensive than owning a heater. The life expectancy of water heater is typically eight to twelve years, although there are exceptions on both sides. If the heater is a rental, or is owned but rentals are available, there is very little concern.
Temperature/pressure relief valve
The temperature/pressure relief valve lets water escape if the temperature or pressure is too high. This valve should be connected to a tube which discharges 6 t 12 inches above floor level so hot water won’t be sprayed onto anyone nearby.
The electrical system is very important from both a safety and convenience standpoint. Generally speaking, electrical systems are expanded and upgraded over the life of a house, rather than taken out and replaced on a regular basis.
It has always been required on all residential electrical systems. Up until approximately 1960, it was required only on the service panel. Subsequent to 1960, it has been used on all branch circuits, including lights and electrical outlets. A ground wire is a wire that connects an electrical system to ground. Ground is a safe place to dispose of unwanted electricity.
Fuses and breakers
Fuses and breakers perform the same function. The advantage of a circuit breaker is that it can be turned back on after the overload situation is corrected. A fuse has to be replaced. When a new fuse is put in or the circuit breaker is reset, if the overload situation has not been corrected, the circuit will trip again. While it is a nuisance to have to reset a breaker, it is more of a nuisance to have to replace a fuse, particularly if a spare is not available.
Practices such as wrapping a blown fuse with foil or putting a penny in a fuse block, are foolish and may result in a major fire.
The most common electrical flaw found residentially is fuses which are the wrong size for the circuit wire. This is an unsafe condition and should be corrected promptly. As a very coarse rule of thumb, stoves have 40-amp fuses, dryers and air conditioners have 30-amp fuses and general household circuits have 15-amps. There are a multitude of exceptions to these rules. A broken or damages fuse holder or circuit breaker should be replaced. Poorly secured fuse holders or circuit breakers should be rescued or replaced as necessary.
Aluminum wiring was commonly used from the late 1960’s until about 1978. It was introduced because it was less expensive than copper. It was recognized from the beginning that aluminum wiring is not quite as good a conductor of electricity as is copper. Therefore, for a conventional 15-amp household circuit, for example, a #12-gauge aluminum was used in place of #14-gauge copper. Other wire sizes were also suitably increased.
These special electrical devices shut the power off to a circuit when as little as .005 amp is leaking. These devices may be incorporated into a circuit breaker, or into an electrical outlet. Most codes require their use on outdoor outlets and bathroom outlets. The ESA, for example requires GFI protection for counter outlets within six feet of a sink. They do make sense wherever water and electricity may be brought close together. For example, GFCI’s are also required on swimming pools and whirlpool electrical systems.
The building interior is looked at for a number of reasons. The interior provides clues to structural problems and is often the area where water leakage is first detectable. The interior finishes themselves, usually reflect the overall building quality and their condition helps indicate the level of overall maintenance. The house interior contains the distribution points of the major systems. For example, each concern of the home inspector is function rather than appearance, and emphasis is placed on wether the room will work as it was intended. The inspector does not comment on matter of personal taste.
Floors provide a durable surface for foot traffic and furniture. Good floors are level, have an even surface and stand up for many years with little maintenance. Floors can be an architectural feature of the home. Different flooring materials have different properties. Some resist water damage; some are soft to walk on, some require no sealing or waxing, some are quiet; some are particularly long lasting.
Wall and ceiling finishes provide a decorative skin to conceal building components. Wall finishes hide structural members, insulation, ductwork, pipes and wires. Good wall finishes are plumb and straight. Surfaces may be smooth or textured and better wall finishes are durable. Some wall finishes are versatile, taking decorative finishes such as stain, paint or wallpaper readily. Walls may make a decorating statement, or may be simply background. In some cases, the combustibility of wall finishes may be of interest. In kitchens and bathrooms, resistance to water damage is an asset.
Plaster and drywall are essentially the same material. Drywall is pre-manufactures while plaster is mixed and applied by trowel on site. Plaster and drywall are made largely of gypsum. In some cases, aggregate or fibbers are added to the gypsum as stabilizers and strengtheners. Horse hair was one of the materials commonly added to older plaster to help strengthen it. Lime may be added to improve workability. The interior finishes are very common because they are inexpensive, relatively easy to apply and afford good fire resistance.
Water damage is one of the most common problems on interior finishes. Common sources of water damage include roof leaks, flashing leaks, ice damming, window and skylight leaks, plumbing leaks, leaks from hot water heating systems and condensation. Water damage may also result from such things as aquariums, room humidifiers or dehumidifiers, over-watering of plants, melting snow and ice from boots during wintertime, etc. Windows provide light and ventilation for homes, at the expense of some heat loss (windows let more heat escape than even uninstalled wall). They also allow air leakage, and can allow water leakage if poorly installed or maintained. Well designed windows add to the aesthetic appeal of a home.
Fireplaces and wood stoves may be unsafe for a number of reasons. Common problems include cracked hearths (often a result of building or fireplace settlements), deteriorated firebrick, inadequate clearance from combustibles (walls, mantles, lintels, etc.), openings in the fireplace or chimney (as a result of building settlement, poor construction technique or deterioration of materials). Wherever safety related problems are suspected, a specialist should be engaged.