Attic Bypass

Attic Bypass, the movement of heat around or through insulation, is a problem in some Calgary homes. Home inspectors make a visual inspection of the attic, checking among other things, ventilation, insulation and air leakage.

While most Calgary attics are adequately insulated, some problem(s) are often, obvious thermal breaks;

  • gaps between batts of insulation,
  • compressed insulation ("tucked-in" insulation)
  • electric cables "squishing" the insulation,
  • gaps resulting from service installations,
  • un-insulated skylights.

These few examples of thermal breaks are the easiest to rectify. It will reflect positively on home heating bills.

Home sellers should consider addressing these problems before the buyer's home inspection. Doing so, will help facilitate a "cleaner" report.

I'd like to quote Mike Holmes of "Make it Right" fame.

"I'd hate to guess how many homeowners, ...only ever consider the "lipstick and mascara" and never think about what's inside..."

Reuben Saltzman, has a good post at his Home Inspection Blog, Insulation vs. Air Leakage


Radon in Calgary Homes

The percentage of Calgary homes with Radon Daughter Concentration 0.02WL and higher was 0.08 in 1980. This study was undertaken by R.G McGregor (1980). The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) advises concentrations over 0.02WL are considered a concern.

Radon has been linked to Lung Cancer but there is considered debate over Radon levels in the home and the actual impact on occupant's health.

Nevertheless, Health Canada suggests, since there is some risk at any level, homeowners may want to reduce their exposure to radon, regardless of levels tested.

Source: The Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety

Telescopic Ladders

You don't have to be a Home Inspector to love these Metalteck ladders. You can find them at any Calgary Home Depot store.

It reaches up to 16 feet and is approved by the Canadian Standards Association.

Fenestration - A cool scrabble word

Last night I was playing Scrabble on line and was close to spelling, fenestration. In the building science world, it refers to the arrangement, proportioning and design of windows.

Not an everyday word but sounds cool.

Radon & Canadian Building Codes

"Radon rules likely to be included in National Building Code" writes Peter Kenter, a correspondent at the Journal of Commerce.

"Tough new Health Canada recommendations on radon exposure may soon affect forming and foundation contractors, if proposed changes to the 2010 National Building Code (NBC) take effect."

"Radon is a colourless, odourless gas formed in soil, rock and groundwater as radium decays.

“Recent scientific evidence has conclusively linked long-term exposure to high levels of radon to a higher incidence of lung cancer, said Gary Holub, a Health Canada media relations officer."

Read the rest at The Journal of Commerce - Western Canada's Construction News Paper.


Butterfly Effect

Three months ago, few would believe the top Canadian Mutual Fund Index would be Real Estate Equities.

The 3 month performance as of Wednesday, August 26, 2009 was 17%. Most of these funds don't have significant Canadian holdings. However, trends are trends and this might be an early indicator that recent activity in the Calgary Real Estate market has some depth.

Calgary Realtors, Mortgage Brokers, Builders and Home Inspectors should finish the year with a strong quarter.

The Morningstar Fund Indices are Canada's most comprehensive and reliable mutual fund indices. Updated daily, the Morningstar Fund Indices allow you to easily track the various segments of the mutual fund industry

Home Inspection Jobs In Bangkok

One needs a license to be a Home Inspector in Bangkok but not Calgary. Interesting.

Not as interesting as the price of an average Home Inspection in Bangkok, $260 CAD. A bit cheaper than Calgary's average price of $350 dollars.

However, the recent average selling price of a home in Bangkok is about $160,000 CAD compared to Calgary's average of say, $400,000.

Based on selling price, a Home Inspection in Bangkok costs .016% of the selling price compared to Calgary's 0.008%.

Comparatively, an inspection in Bangkok is double the price of an inspection in Calgary.

Below are some more quotes from the Bangkok Post,

"Building Safety Inspectors and Officers Association (BSA) to introduce a used-home inspection service, helping buyers and sellers establish selling prices that are as fair as possible..."

"This programme will enable a buyer to estimate whether the selling price is worth it or not. It will show facts based on a report made by certified inspector and approved by our committee..."

"Service fees for home inspection are 8,000 baht for a single house with a usable area of less than 400 square metres and 5,500 baht for a townhouse or condominium smaller than 100 sq m..."

"Currently, the BSA has a total of 800 certified inspectors for nine types of buildings covered by the building inspection law. The association expects to train 200 more inspectors during this year..."

4 inch X 4 inch X 6 foot Step Ladder

A very cool step ladder.

You don't have to be a Home Inspector to love this bad boy. Do they sell them in Calgary?

I'm not sure. I just emailed Global Product Logistics, to find out.


The 1% Rule

I just read a great post by Carson Dunlop & Associates at Muddy York blog discussing, THE 1% RULE.

"When you consider the life cycle of every component of a house, a reasonable annual estimate of the cost of normal maintenance is 1% of the value of the house. One year you may replace the furnace; a few years down the road you may re-surface the roof. Throw in the odd unexpected repair in between and you average 1% per year. It’s incredible but this rule is not far off even for very expensive and very inexpensive houses..."

This is great advice from arguably, the most established and respected Home Inspection company in Canada.

Read the rest of the post: In search of the perfect house

Home Inspection in Cambodia?

Of course not. Most Cambodians are happy to have clean drinking water and a roof over their head. A working toilet would be nice too.

I appreciate some in Calgary are hurting financially. I hear about it. I hear, how bad things are. I believe it. Trouble is, I don't see it.

I see nice cars and bars filled with people. The average price of a Calgary home, is north of 400,000 dollars.

What am I going on about?

I was thinking of a trip I took to Cambodia 5 years ago. I met a Brit who was working for an NGO, drilling water wells for Cambodians living in rural communities. I tagged along for a couple of days and met some really happy people, living in dismal conditions. Most seemed satisfied, they smiled and laughed easily. There was no maliciousness or meanness. Always, giving to a fault.

I don't know what their secret was, if I knew I would share it.

Really, what am I going on about?

We should be more thankful for what we have. Things could be much worse.


Sustainable Housing - Extention Courses

Certain Teed is a building material manufacturer that has been around for over 100 years. As a community initiative they offer "Building Solutions" continued education courses. They are free and I know what you are thinking -sales promotion. Surprisingly, they never push their products.

Many courses are approved for credit by; AIA (American Institute of Architects), USGBC (USGBC-US Green Building Council), ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors), NAHI (National Association of Home Inspectors), and InterNACHI (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors)

If you are a home owner and interested in educating yourself about your investment, some of these courses will be of great value.

Certain Teed Building Solutions Continued Education

Marijuana Houses - Better for the Enviroment?

Other than her wacky government conspiracy theories, the cool hippie lady who lived down my street, was right about a few things.

Here are some quotes from Science Daily (UK),

"Hemp, a plant from the cannabis family, could be used to build carbon-neutral homes of the future to help combat climate change and boost the rural economy, say researchers at the University of Bath."

“Using renewable crops to make building materials makes real sense - it only takes an area the size of a rugby pitch four months to grow enough hemp to build a typical three bedroom house.

Will courses be offered by Home Inspection Associations, on how to properly inspect cannabis homes? I suspect, if any, they will be offered in Vancouver before Calgary.

As Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a changing".


Fireplace Inspection & an Offer to Purchace

It is still a buyer market and I suspect in Calgary, a WETT inspection report may soon be a condition included in an offer to purchase a home. Bob Aaron, a Toronto Lawyer and blogger at Move Smartly writes,

"I was reviewing an offer to purchase a Toronto house last week and was surprised to see a condition that I had never seen before in an offer on a city home.

The clause made the agreement conditional on the buyer obtaining a satisfactory Wood Energy Technology Transfer (WETT) inspection report for the fireplace in the house."

Read the rest at Move Smartly.

If you need a WETT certified Inspector in Calgary, there is a data base at their website.

Nitpicky People

Barry Stone is a Home Inspector and nationally syndicated columnist. Recently, one of his articles touched on a point that may be of interest to Calgary home owners, Realtors and Home Inspectors.

Note. Mr. Stone writes for the American market. In general, our friends to the south can be very litigious. It is a bit sad that a home inspector is more worried about writing a report, that ensures he or she does not get sued, rather than writing a report that best serves the needs of the consumer. Please read some quotes,

"DEAR BARRY: A home inspector recently came to our house and scared off our buyers with false assumptions about our foundation and with nit-picky disclosures of all kinds..."

"DEAR GINNY: When home inspectors report defects, they should state what they see and limit their conclusions to things they can confirm..."

"...There is a reason why home inspectors try to list every apparent defect. Many inspectors have had claims and lawsuits for problems that were not included in their reports. This is an unfortunate aspect of the business of home inspection..."

"Unreasonable liability pressures are placed on inspectors by a minority of nitpicky buyers. This leads to outrageously nitpicky reports for the rest of us".

Read the rest at New Ok

Without knowing more information, my sympathies are with Ginny.

Your Home Inspector should have caught that!

I. G. "Zack" Lilienfeld, PE, CEM, Licensed Home Inspector, and Consulting Engineer is one of my favorite HI bloggers. He writes about some of the challenges faced by Home Inspectors,

"Recently, I received two phone calls where my clients explained that there was repair work required by them due to a defect, and that their plumber/electrician/handyman exclaimed "your home inspector should have caught that!" The implication was that I missed the problem, and if so, I'd be liable for the repair. These calls naturally left me with a sinking feeling, so I wanted to get to the bottom of things to see if I had indeed slipped up. In my fact-finding, I was alarmed to find out that the "issues" were not so much defects requiring repair, as they were contractors looking for work in a declining home repair market." Read the rest at Home Inspection Blog

It does not matter if your Home Inspector is from Calgary or Cape May County, he or she might have missed something. However, just because a trades person or your Uncle Bob - says its so, it doesn't mean it is.

It is normal for people to get emotional when they are given a huge home repair estimate. The Best thing to do is a get as second or third estimate and/or opinion. If your think your Home Inspector was in error, at least give him or her the chance to see the defect and make an assessment.

Urban Toponymy

I love houses and I love Calgary. Recently, I have been reading books about Calgary's historical homes & buildings. I came across a word I was unfamiliar with, "Toponymy".

Like we do, I googled the word and learned that Toponymy is the scientific study of place names, their origins, and meanings. wikipedia

Urban Toponymy goes deeper than just knowing your street is named after a famous dead guy.

What was the guy's religion; Catholic, Jewish, or Protestant? What are the histories of the names of the surrounding streets. Is there a pattern?

Are there any wealthy neighborhoods named after indigenous people? Why or why not? Any historic buildings named after settlers from minority communities? Why or why not?

Urban toponymy is indeed interesting.

Street Names & History

I was in the James Joyce Bar on 4th, having a beer and talking with a woman from Toronto. She mentioned she found the street numbering system in Calgary to be "bland" and "soulless". I could see her point.

I was curious if she knew the history of Yonge Street in Toronto. She did not. I told her correctly, it was built to help the British defend against a suspected attack from the Americans. And, I suspected it was named after some famous British Person.

Many want to keep the past yet they are disconnected. If they have no interest in learning the history of the name, why do they cling to it. That confuses me. It seems, well, "soulless".

Licensing Home Inspectors

From the Herald Times,

"Buyers should only work with registered Wisconsin home inspectors. It may be tempting to save the money and let "Uncle Harry" do the inspection but with one of the biggest purchases of your life you want to use the right person..."

In Calgary, Home Inspectors are not licenced. Should there be licensing? In the industry, there are two camps. The "yes" camp and the "no" camp. There is no middle camp. I suspect consumers fall into the "yes" camp.

Simply being licensed, doesn't necessarily make one a good Home Inspector. Just as being a licenced Realtor, Insurance Agent, or Stock Broker, make them good at their profession.

However, licencing does give the consumer an added level of protection and I'm for it.

But then, should Roofers and Renovators be licensed? I don't know.

Quotes from Mike Holmes

Mike Holmes, Make It Right,
Canwest News Service Published: Friday, August 21, 2009

"I'd hate to guess how many homeowners, when planning a renovation, only ever consider the "lipstick and mascara" and never think about what's inside..."

"If your house "sucks" - that means it has uncontrolled airflow or leakage - then your envelope is poor ..."

"When you are planning your renovations and upgrades, you've got to make sure the choices you make are the best ones. Remember, these are choices you'll be living with a long time - for the life of your house..."

I am a big fan of Mike Holmes. You can read the rest of the article at the National Post.


Dendrochronology & Terbity

I am taking some extension courses on sustainable homes and green building practices.

Along the way I've needed to google a couple of words. I had never heard of dendrochronology, and turbidity before. Without knowing it, I practiced dendrochronology along the banks of the Elbow River in Calgary. I was always checking out the trees gnawed through by the beavers.

I understood the meaning of "nomenclature" but doubt I could pronounce it. It is a fancy word that is better understood listening to two trades people from different provinces,

"Well, that's not what we call that sh*t around here"

Retro-future homes

I love these old retro-future ads. Jo Kotula, illustrated this 1958 ad for the Vanadium Corporation of America.

Fifty years ago, futurists saw homes being constructed of metal and glass with solar energy being the sole source of power. There was a lot of optimism back in the 50's. Of course, the 60's were a different story. Later, I am going to search for some retro-future home ads from the late 60's.

It interesting to consider the impact culture and economic cycles have had on past housing designs and consumer demands. Calgary's boom and bust cycles, have had huge impact on urban development and home design in the city.


WETT certified Inspectors

Some Calgary Home Insurance Brokers are insisting home owners have their fireplaces WETT inspected and certified before the underwriter will write the policy.

Check out Wood Energy Technology Transfer (WETT) for more information or to find an Inspector near you.

WETT also has a database of certified chimney sweeps. If you know your chimney needs cleaning, it might be a wise to beat the fall rush.