Ice dams: What causes them, why they're a problem and what you should do about them

Ice damming is pretty common in areas that get lots of snow and very cold temperatures like Saskatchewan. We seem to be coming across quite a few this year. The image below from the University of Minnesota gives a quick overview of how they happen.

This article from the same source goes into more detail and includes some suggestions on how to fix it if you’re experiencing damming on the roof of your home.

Act now to keep water out of your basement

At a social outing this weekend a former Saskatoon home inspector told me that he’s “buying up as much drying equipment” as he can get his hands on right now. He’s expecting a busy and profitable spring. We’ve had a lot of snow this winter. Some of that will end up in basements.

If the Weather  Network’s 14-day weather trend for Saskatoon is correct some of this snow is going to be melting. The good news is that it looks like it should be a slow melt. The bad news? A lot of ice will be created overnight. That ice could back up your gutters and downspouts and prevent water from moving away from your house. A lot of snow will produce a lot of water if the weather is even a little warmer than predicted. Act now to protect yourself from costly flooding by having snow removed from your roof (use a professional to avoid falling) and then move that snow away from your home’s foundation.

If you don’t get to it and water gets to you I’d be happy to refer you to a guy with a lot of drying equipment for hire.

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I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

 

 

Mold: A growing problem in the home

I happened across this video today and I thought it was worth re-posting here. Its a report done by CBC in Ottawa about mold in the home.

In my experience, it’s not unusual to find traces of mold in resale homes. As the video suggests, some of them are toxic while others pose far less of a health risk. In any case, if you notice the presence of mold in a property you’re interested in buying it’s definitely worth having tested. The cost of remediation can be significant if the mold is toxic and at an advanced stage.

A company like Canadian Indoor Air Quality Investigators can assist you with testing if you discover traces of mold in your home or in one that you’re considering. They’re both well equipped to remediate as well.

CMHC has also published a helpful guide titled, Fighting Mold – A Homeowners Guide that’s worth checking out.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Vidorra

Obtaining proper home improvement permits is the only way to go

When I first entered the real estate business in 1993 it was common to find improvements in homes that were completed without a required permit. At the time, it just wasn’t a big deal to move ahead with your basement development without one. Almost everyone did it.

In recent years, the failure to obtain proper permits has become a much bigger deal, and in fact, a point of contention that has caused many residential sale transactions to collapse at the last minute. In instances where the transaction can be salvaged (the seller agrees to obtain and close the required permits and the buyer agrees to complete the purchase), it often involves lots of “jumping through hoops” for homeowners and real estate agents. Occasionally, these hoops are hard, if not impossible to clear in a short period of time.

Let’s not debate whether the government has a place in regulating what we do with our private property. As a real estate agent, I’m likely at least as geeked up about your property rights as you are. Insisting that the government has no place to tell you what to do and refusing to play by the rules may be an example of “cutting off your nose to spite your face” when it comes to the resale value of your home.

Building codes are intended to ensure safe construction standards are met to protect occupants from structural failures, potential fire hazards and electrical shock. When a Saskatoon home owner, or a contractor acting on behalf of a home owner obtains a permit for home improvements they commit to completing the work in accordance with current building codes. Ultimately, they allow access to a qualified inspector who inspects the work and verifies that the improvements meet the code. Where deficiencies exist, the inspector will require adequate repairs before the permit can be closed.

When a potential home buyer discovers that improvements were completed in your home without the required permits, they lose the assurances that the work was done correctly and safely. Even if the buyer is comfortable moving forward on that basis, a lender may refuse to provide financing, or an insurer may refuse to insure the home. On the other hand, if the proper permits were obtained everyone who has an interest in the purchase can have some reasonable measure of confidence that the improvements are durable, valuable, and most importantly, safe. Simply put, your home improvements add more value to your property when they are completed with a permit.

More and more, home buyers who discover missing permits after entering into a conditional purchase agreement are insisting that the proper permits be obtained and closed by the seller before the purchase is completed. In most cases, this is completely possible but it is almost always far more difficult and costly to do after the fact. It’s not something that you want to be doing when you’re trying to coordinate a move.

In a short series of future posts we’ll talk about which home improvements require a permit and how home buyers might discover that your home improvements were completed without one.

Mean time, here’s some building permit information from the City of Saskatoon and some electrical/gas permit information from SaskPower.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Vermiculite: How it can affect health and resale of your home

Vermiculite is a mica-like mineral mined around the world and used in a variety of products including insulation. Vermiculite mined from the Libby Mine in Montana between 1920 and 1990 is known to contain asbestos, which can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma in people who are exposed to airborne particles.

Vermiculite was one of a number of loose fill insulation products approved for installation under the Canadian Home Insulation Program (CHIP) that provided grants to home owners who improved energy efficiency in their property between 1977 and 1984. Health Canada believes that vermiculite was installed in approximately 250,000 Canadian homes during that time. There is no information available as to where vermiculite use was most common but I can tell you that I have run across Saskatoon homes containing vermiculite insulation a number of times during my sixteen-year real estate career.

Health Canada’s position is this; “If vermiculite-based insulation is contained and not exposed to the home or interior environment, it poses very little risk.” Perhaps this provides some comfort to homeowners who have vermiculite insulation in their home, but in my own experience, the presence of asbestos is a growing concern for home buyers. Asbestos which is contained and undisturbed may never cause you or others in your home health problems but there is some significant likelihood that it could cause problems in completing a home sale when you’re ready to move. Some home buyers may be totally disinterested in purchasing a home that contains such a potentially toxic substance insisting that it be remediated as a condition of the sale, or they may walk away from the deal all together once they know.

It’s important to note that not all vermiculite insulation contains asbestos. If you suspect that you may have vermiculite insulation in your home you should avoid disturbing it. Contact a qualified expert for assistance in obtaining a sample for testing. In Saskatoon, Pillar to Post Home Inspections is qualified to gather samples and they can submit them to a lab on your behalf for testing. Testing costs can vary from one day to the next, but generally, a range of $150-$200 is what you should expect to pay for the service.

If vermiculite is present in your home and it does not contain asbestos, a lab report will be helpful in eliminating the concern that potential buyers for your home may have when you’re ready to sell. If it does contain asbestos, you can decide to remediate now, begin saving for an eventual remediation, or you can choose to leave it and deal with it at the time of sale. Remember though, leaving it until that late stage almost certainly raises significant concerns for your prospective buyer and could derail your sale.

One should probably consider that knowing your home contains asbestos might require you to disclose its presence when you offer the home for sale. The Property Condition Disclosure Statement (PCDS), which is not mandatory for home sellers, but is commonly used in Saskatchewan, has the following question. “To the best of your knowledge does the dwelling contain asbestos or urea formaldehyde insulation?” If you know asbestos exists, you are legally required to answer this question in the affirmative, if you choose to utilize the form. Home buyers are often suspicious of sellers who refuse to complete a PCDS. Even if you choose not to use the form a buyer could argue that disclosure is required based on the potential health implications of asbestos. In any case, professional home inspections are so common that it’s doubtful that vermiculite in your home could escape scrutiny when selling.

Health Canada has some good information online about vermiculite and asbestos including precautionary steps you can take to avoid contaminating your living space if vermiculite containing asbestos is present in your home. Check it out here.

Related posts: Asbestos in the home.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

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Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate