Love it or List it

Readers of my blog know I am a fan of the Canadian home renovation program, Mike Holmes on Homes. Mike and his crew help home owners who have been mislead (read screwed) by unscrupulous and/or incompetent contractors.

I am also a fan of another Canadian home renovation show, Love It or List It.

The lives of home owners change and sometimes their homes no longer fulfill their needs. They are faced with a tough decision. Do they move or do they renovate?

Hilary the designer renovates their home while David the Realtor, tries to find a preferable home. At the end of the show, the home owners make a decision whether to - Love their house or List it.

I'm not sure of the stats but it seem most owners choose to keep their house. Hilary is kicking David's butt. (Hear the Designers/Renovators cheering and Agents booing)

Check out their website here .

Researching building history in Calgary

If you are researching the history of a building in Calgary a good place to start is the pamphlet "A Guide to Researching Building History" put out by the City of Calgary. You can read a scanned copy here.

A.E. Cross House, Early 1900 & 2006

Home Fire Safety

The City of Calgary has made some recommendations on how to improve home fire safety. You can check out their recommendations here.

They also have a page about planning your escape which you can find here.

They had one good piece of advice that I never thought about. If you live on a street with a back alley, make sure there is a street address on the back of the house or garage. Paramedics might needlessly waste time, trying to find your home.

Foundation Repair in Calgary

I stumbled upon this site when searching for Calgary Contractors who specialize in basement foundations repair. I don't know the folks at Basement Systems Calgary but they have a well thought-out website.

Suggesting a contractor because they have a well thought-out website is not prudent. However, professionalism in one area usually reflects an overall commitment to professionalism.

This post was unsolicited. It is not meant to be an endorsement of the company. The Home Inspector Industry's Code of Ethics frowns on making referrals to specific Contractors.

That said.

If you think your foundation has serious problems or you are dealing with water problems it is recommended you contact a qualified contractor. Shop around and check out Basement Systems Calgary's site. it has some good information, specific to the Calgary area. They also give free estimates and have letters of reference.

You can find their website here.

Horizontal Cracks & Foundations

Cracks in foundations walls cause stress for home sellers, home buyers, Real Estate Agents, Home Inspectors, Builders, Contractors, Lenders and Insurance Underwriters.

It is obvious, not all cracks are equal. A half inch crack in a 50 year old house, with no water damage present, is much less of a worry than a half inch crack in a 3 year old house.

Concrete is rigid. Some cracks will be present. Cracks from shrinkage is less of a worry than stress-induced cracks. However, they should be filled with proper sealant and monitored.

Horizontal cracks, are generally, less a problem for the structure of the house than vertical cracks. They still need to be noted, repaired and monitored.

Again the size of the crack, in relation to the age of the house and recent environment changes, dictates how serious the matter is. An example of environmental change, is frost heave. In Calgary, this is generally more a concern for homes in newer communities.

Home inspectors note and report the presence of cracks. Structural Engineers, Soil Mechanic Engineers or Qualified Contractors, determine the seriousness of the problem and, if any, recommend remedial action.

US & Calgary pop culture connection

Bill Cowsill of band the Cowsills , passed away in his rented Calgary flat in 2006. His flat was in the same house pictured below.

The Cowsills were famous for being the inspiration behind the show the Partridge Family. However in the Calgary music scene, Bill was best known as the lead singer of the band, The Co-Dependents.

Read more about Bill at wikipedia.

Faulty GFCI

GFCIs have been around for many years. They are inexpensive devices that prevent electrocution. The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) did a survey...

"...inspectors turned in the results of more than 13,000 home and building inspections and found 15 percent of GFCI's were not working properly".

Read more at, simple device can prevent electrocution.

Life expectancy of a roof

A home inspector will not comment on the life expectancy of a specific roof. This falls outside, industry standards of practice. However, one can note life expectancies of general roofing systems.

From: The National Association of Home Builders/Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components. (view)

"The life of a roof depends on local weather conditions, proper building and design, material quality, and adequate maintenance. Slate, copper, and clay/concrete roofs have the longest life expectancy – over 50 years. Roofs made of asphalt shingles last for about 20 years while roofs made of fiber cement shingles have a life expectancy of about 25 years, and roofs made of wood shakes can be expected to last for about 30 years".

I found the chart below but was unable to establish its original source.

Guess who lived in this Calgary house?

I will give you a hint. It is the same guy who designed our Canadian Flag.

This house, at 1111 7th St. S.W. in Connaught, most recently the Da Michelangelo Restaurant, is the former home of Dr. George F.G. Stanley, an esteemed historian, educator and public figure best remembered across Canada as the designer of the Canadian Flag.

Go Calgary!

Read more here, at the Calgary Heritage Initiative forums.

Attic Ventilation Calculator

An attic needs ventilation.

The problem is, Building Science Tecks, Architects, Engineers, Manufacturers and Roofers, don't fully agree on how much ventilation is required. Further, there is some debate on the best way to ventilate. There are many climatic consideration as well.

To top it off, Provincial and State codes vary.

Here is an attic ventilation calculator.

Bathroom Vintage Ads

Retro Renovations is a pretty cool site.

I realize retro renovations are not to everyone's tastes. Lots of people follow the retro movement because it is trendy. I suspect though, there is a bit of counter-culture mixed in.

Check out Retro Renovation here.

More Roofing Terminology


Roof Cupolas

We see a lot of cupolas on Calgary roofs. Interestingly, many are not set up to ventilate the attic - they are purely decorative. The best way to check? Get up into the attic and take a look.

Buying a Condo?

Then you should check out Emery Leraand's Calgary Condo Consulting web page here.

Secondary suites & safety standards

Secondary suites, also know as basement suites or granny suites, are usually listed by Realtors as non conforming. We know what it means and it is a fair description.

The government of Alberta, Municipal Affairs section, has tried to make these suites safer. You can check out some of their safety standards for secondary suites here.

Some stuff is common sense though.

Make sure there are working smoke alarms and CO2 testers.

Double check - at least one window in the bedroom can be exited easily. No locked bars or obstacles blocking the window on the outside.

Next, make sure there is a fire extinguisher beside the exit.

This list is not exhaustive. There is a lot more that can be done to make sure people are not needlessly injured or killed.


Chances are, before you get a home inspection you have already applied for a mortgage. Melanie & Rob McLister at Canadian Mortgage Trends have posted the top-10-reasons-not-to-lie-about-your-income.

Thinking about stretching the truth?

Read it first.

The Hart House

Maybe you are not a fan of wrestling but it is hard not to love Stu Hart and his family. They have done a lot of great things for our community. I suspect their old home is one of the most famous in Calgary. Read more about the Hart home at wikipedia.

photo via: Flicker

Calgary Pathways

Moving to Calgary? If you are looking for a location to live and don't like driving, it is a good idea to think about the Calgary pedestrian and bike paths. I cut and paste this from wikipedia.

The City of Calgary also maintains a network of paved multi-use pathways. The dedicated pathway network in Calgary is among the most expansive in North America and spans 635 km.

There are also about 290 km of signed on-street bicycle routes. The pathways connect many of the city's parks, river valley, residential neighbourhoods, and downtown. Even the airport is on the pathway network. Calgarians make year-round use of these paths for walking, running, and cycling to various destinations.

Roof Dormers

Roof Types

Facisa, & Soffits

When discussing roofing components the meaning of Fascia & Soffits are often confused. They are different components of the roofing system as you can see in the picture below.

Support your local recycler

A painting contractor told me she drops off unused paint at a Recycle Paint Company here in Calgary. She also tries to uses their finished product when she can. I have never heard of the company before but what a great practical business. You can check out here.

1955 Calgary Map

Here is another map I found at geocities. 1955 was not that long ago. Check out the town of Bowness. It looks like Beddington and Forest Lawn were mere hamlets 50 years ago. I don't recognize the name Turner but Barlow, Ogden and Shepard are all familiar names.

Only 50 years ago!

What is Efflorescence?

Efflorescence is a white powder on the surface of walls due to evaporation of water. It forms on the surface of bricks and concrete. Read more at wikipedia.

1926 Calgary Street Map

I found a real cool site at a Geocities site with some old Calgary Maps. Check it out here.

I walk by older people in the Mission area, who were born before this map was even made. It is amazing how much has changed.

Balusters and Balustrade?

Balusters are usually small vertical members in a railing used between a top rail and the stair treads or a bottom rail.

Balustrade is a railing made up of balusters, top rail, and sometimes bottom rail, used on the edge of stairs, decks and porches.

Read more at wikipedia.


Alligatoring: A condition of paint or aged asphalt brought about by the loss of volatile oils and the oxidation caused by solar radiation. Causes a coarse checking pattern characterized by a slipping of the new paint coating over the old coating to the extent that the old coating can be seen through the fissures.

"Alligatoring" produces a pattern of cracks resembling an alligator hide and is ultimately the result of the limited tolerance of paint or asphalt to thermal expansion or contraction.

A Good Cause

I am not involved with Habitat for Humanity but I do support them by donating materials to their renovation store. I like collecting old hardware and sometimes find some pretty cool stuff.

It is all for a good cause.

A link to their Calgary Website is here.

More Home Inspection Realities

"Home inspectors are generalists, and as such, are usually not equipped to report on the nuances of the many types of structural defects except to note areas of concern and, perhaps some detail when the defect is obvious. So, as a home buyer or seller, you may be told that a structural defect was found, and that an "engineer should be consulted to evaluate and make recommendations". Mind you, this is not a cop-out by the home inspector, its just that they are not specialists and indeed, there are structural issues that do require an engineer to give the final word. However, because many a real estate deal has hit the wall because of a simple statement like "consult with a structural engineer", I thought it appropriate to elaborate on my somewhat unique perspective as a licensed NJ home inspector and professional engineer".

This came from a Cape Cod Inspector who is both a Home Inspector and an Engineer. You can read the rest of the post here.

Home Inspection Realities

"Older houses pose a challenge when it comes to heating and cooling systems. Today’s methodologies which incorporate zoned systems or separate heating and cooling systems to climatize each level of the property are common place. Older properties follow the guidelines of “accepted” trade practices at the the time the property was built and upgrading duct work and units to properly condition a property can get quite expensive."

This Tennessee Inspector brings up some very good points. You can read the rest of his article here.


Regulation of Home Inspectors

Here is a Calgary Herald article about the proposed regulation of Home Inspectors in Alberta. Some interesting comments follow the article.

The government still has not made a final decision. It seems like a no-brainer though. There should be some kind of regulation. How much and what kind of regulation is a bit tricky. I suspect the real fight will be over who gets to govern. Historically, this is when the blood flows.

The article is from May 2009. There should be a final decision by the end of the year.

Great Shakes

Just stumbled across Peters' Drive-In website. If you are new to Calgary check it out. Sincerely, great burgers and deadly shakes. The website is here.

Eaves Troughts

Are there any mature trees close to your house? You should be inspecting your Eaves Trough every Fall. (Eaves Troughts are also know as Rain Gutters or just Gutters)

If you are listing your house take the time to inspect and clean all your Eaves and downspouts. Make sure your downspouts are free of debris. Also, it is important there is a pipe connected to the bottom of the downspout moving water away from house. It is preferable the pipe does not cross over a sidewalk.

Realtors tell home sellers this all the time, yet not everyone listens.

LEED Accreditation

Accreditation in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is being offered by the Canada Green Building Council. Check out more at their website here.

Child Safety in the Home

My wife and I recently had our first child. A healthy baby boy. He is almost a year old now and is getting into everything. We've tried hard to "baby proof" our home without becoming neurotic, like some of our friends.

Most home safety is common sense. If you are looking for more information check out the Home Safety Council here.

What does GFCI mean?

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) are designed to protect people from severe or fatal electric shocks.

The picture to the left is a receptacle type you might find in the kitchen and the bathrooms. If you can't find one, it does not necessarily mean you don't have protection. There should be GFCI circuit breaker in the main service panel, sevicing the required area.

Different areas have different code requirements, to be on the safe side, ask you Electrical Contractor to double check you have protection and your service meets current codes.

Read more at the circuit detective.

A word to all the "Handyman Harrys". Yes, you are better off getting an Electrical Contractor.

William Nimmons, 1826-1919

Check out the story behind this old Calgary Home builder.

Vintage Ads

I love these old vintage ads. While Qualico is a Winnipeg based company they do have an office and projects in Calgary. You can check out more of their history at their web page.

Building Movers

I have secret to share., I have a deep fascination with the Building Mover Industry. How cool is that...moving buildings. Calgary has primarily two building mover companies and only one has a web site. Check out McCann's Building Movers here.

Federal Pioneer (Canadian) Electrical Panels & Circuit Breaker Hazards

There are very few Federal Pioneer Electrical Panels in Calgary. If you have one, bring it to the attention of you Electrical guy or girl. Not everyone is on the same page as to whether they are dangerous or not. You can read more at InspectApedia.

Our Yank Friends

I mentioned before, Canadian Mike Holmes is the rock star of the Home Renovation Industry. However, in TV programing, he is the new kid on the block.

Old School TV home renovation host, Bob Vila of "This Old House", is of course the grand daddy.

Yes, he is a Yank, but we love him. The show was never the same after he left.

Speaking of Yanks, "This Old House" also gave Master Carpenter, Norm Abrams his start on the PBS television programs "The New Yankee Workshop".

Today this day, I don't know if "Yank" is a derogatory address. If it is, to those I have offended - I apologize. (Kind of)


Cool Old Calgary Steet Map

This is a pretty cool old map of Calgary I liberated from google images. I suspect Lacombe St.(right of the river) is now in Lindsay Park. But I can't see the Holy Hospital so I might be mistaken.

It is easy to see the influence the Catholic Church had in the early part of the century. Lacombe, Grandin and St. Mary's are all names of current High Schools in Calgary. Who knew a 100 years later, homes in this area would sell for as much as a million dollars. A link to the history of Lindsay Park area is here.

Dryer Vents

The International Code Council makes the following recommendations;

M1502.5 Duct construction.
Exhaust ducts shall be constructed of minimum 0.016-inch-thick (0.4 mm) rigid metal ducts, having smooth interior surfaces, with joints running in the direction of air flow. Exhaust ducts shall not be connected with sheet-metal screws or fastening means which extend into the duct.

M1502.6 Duct length.
The maximum length of a clothes dryer exhaust duct shall not exceed 25 feet (7,620 mm) from the dryer location to the wall or roof termination. The maximum length of the duct shall be reduced 2.5 feet (762 mm) for each 45-degree (0.8 rad) bend, and 5 feet (1,524 mm) for each 90-degree (1.6 rad) bend. The maximum length of the exhaust duct does not include the transition duct.

M1502.2 Duct termination.
Exhaust ducts shall terminate on the outside of the building or shall be in accordance with the dryer manufacturer’s installation instructions. Exhaust ducts shall terminate not less than 3 feet (914 mm) in any direction from openings into buildings. Exhaust duct terminations shall be equipped with a backdraft damper. Screens shall not be installed at the duct termination.

M1502.3 Duct size.
The diameter of the exhaust duct shall be as required by the clothes dryer’s listing and the manufacturer’s installation instructions.

M1502.4 Transition ducts.Transition ducts shall not be concealed within construction. Flexible transition ducts used to connect the dryer to the exhaust duct system shall be limited to single lengths not to exceed 8 feet (2438 mm), and shall be listed and labeled in accordance with UL 2158A.

What is an AFCI breaker?

An arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) is a circuit breaker designed to prevent fires by detecting non-working electrical arcs and disconnect power before the arc starts a fire. You can read more at wikipedia or at the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The use of these safety breakers were written into Canadian code, in January 2002. Code and products are always changing. Next time your Electrical Contractor is in your house ask him/her to ensure your electric service is safe and up to code.

What is EIFS?

Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS) are a type of building product that provides exterior walls with an insulated finished surface, and waterproofing in an integrated composite material system. Read more at wikipedia or at the EFIS Members Association. The CMHC has an old report from 1991 you can read here.

Calgary's Oldest House

Hunt House 2006Hunt House 1968

HuntHouse 1910



Window Egress

It is old, sad news. In January of this year some people died in an Edmonton basement suite fire. The bars on the basement windows were screwed into the windows frames. Later, the Fire Inspector found the the bars bent inwards and hand prints all over the wall. The people had no chance.

Inspectors talk a lot about window egress. Collins Essential English Dictionary defines egress [ee-gress] as; 1. the act of going out and, 2. a way out or exit [Latin egredi to come out].

Basically, can you get out the window in an emergency? It is something to think about this summer before it gets cold. It does not matter where you live house or condo - have a mini emergency drill.

Think about which window you would climb out of? Can you get out the of that window? What would make the job easier? Is there anything in the way? Teach your children the best way to exit the home in case of an emergency. Plan ahead.

Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor

Wow, it has been 10 years since the hit TV series Home Improvement went off the air. I loved that show. Time does fly by.

Heritage Park

If you really like old homes and architecture I suggest a trip Heritage Park. The management and staff really have done a great job in preserving the old Alberta buildings. It is hard to imagine which "new" buildings in Calgary will be standing in 100 years.

Make it Right

Mike Holmes is the rock star of the home renovation industry. I have heard other contractors bash him but I really like the guy and his T.V. show.

Mike goes on about "Making it Right" which reminds me of my deceased father. Whenever I helped him build or make something he would tell me, "What ever you do, do with your might. Things done by halves are never done right". I hope I am able to teach my son, what this really means.

You can read more about Mike at wikipedia.

Get it in Writing

We all have great ideas for our homes. At some point we might even talk to a contractor.

If you decide to go ahead - get in in writing. You know this already. But, what does it really mean? The Canadian Home Builders Association has a great website appropriately named, Get it in Writing that will fill in some of the blanks.

It must be a good site as the Canadian Revenue Agency provides a link on their own site explaining the eligible and ineligible expenses you can claim for Home Renovation Tax Credits, which you can find here.

Get it in Writing is here.

New House Smell ?

"Do you love the "new" smell? That interior of a new car, a freshly painted room or a newly installed carpet? Experts are discovering that the new smell carries chemicals you breathe that can be harmful to your health..."

Mike Holmes (the rock star of the home renovation industry) has written a great article for the National Post about Off-Gassing. As a father of a young baby, I found it very informative. You can read the rest here.

Love the Calgary Tower

Wow, who can not love the Calgary Tower! The old Petro Canada Centre is behind and to the right. It is of course called Suncor Energy Centre now. I am just old enough to remember when it was called Red Square.

I liberated this picture from google images. I suspect it was taken early 1980's. Around 25 years ago. Stuff changes quickly does it not?

I was downtown last Sunday. The traffic was pretty thick. I sat there thinking about all the new Condo development in the belt line. Probably, if you work downtown and it is in your budget - you must be entertaining the idea of moving closing to work.

Welcome Calgary

If you have just arrived in Calgary....Welcome.


Welcome to Calgary

I love Calgary.