Giving you the information you need to improve the safety, comfort and value of your living space. .

Get your mind in the Gutter!

The gutters (aka eavestroughs) on your house need to be minded – to make sure your house stays dry!    No it’s not fun to be outside right now, but it’s not fun to be inside a water damaged house either.

Leaves in Gutter

Leaves in gutter

Now that most of the leaves have fallen, and the wind is working hard to remove the rest, inspect your gutters and downspouts. If they need cleaning, now is the time, before debris in them freezes up for the winter, and they overflow and leak onto your house in the spring.

Many houses I inspect have debris in the eavestrough or problems with downspouts. As a home owner, even if you don’t want to get on a ladder, there are still some things you at least need to be aware of, and some things you can inspect before you call a professional to service your eavestroughs and downspouts.

If you have an upper storey window that looks out over a lower roof you may be able to see what’s in the gutters.

From the ground here’s what you can look for:

20130828_095333-trough-roof-cropped

Worn shingles from water draining out of trough

➢ Are there trees that overhang or are quite close to your roof ? If you haven’t had the eaves cleaned in the past year, it’s likely they need it.
➢ Watch the gutter during a rain event for overflow, water should not be flowing over the gutter’s edge or between the gutter and the house.
➢ Look at where spouts discharge – they should be at least 6 ft from house. If it’s closer than that, extend the spout further away.
➢ Make sure water coming out the spout doesn’t dump into an area that ponds next to the house – redirection to another spot is recommended and/or re-grade the area so that the ground slopes away from the house.
➢ Do you get icicles hanging from your troughs in the winter? You may have clogged gutters, or possibly ice damming from inadequate insulation/venting in your attic,
➢ A second storey trough or spout should not dump water ONTO your shingles, it should be extended to meet a lower trough. Water channeled over shingles will wear them out faster in that area.

➢ You can also look at foundation wall of house where it meets the ground for cracking – now we are getting into a topic for another newsletter!

Stay tuned for future posts about condominium units.

What sucks in, must blow out!

WHEN you turn on that bathroom  fan, you want to get rid of odours FAST. If the fan sounds loud and the smell dissipates – end of story – right? But do you check the other end of the pipe? During my home inspections in the Toronto area, I try to at least verify that suction is effective, and FIND the other end of the pipe.

bathroom fan grill - dirty
One really important function of fans is to push stale and moist air from inside to out. The exhaust end must vent all the way to the outside of the house, and be dedicated to one duct only. Here’s some cases when it doesn’t and why that’s a bad thing;

    • Venting into attic, ceiling or wall space – puts moist air into a confined space which can cause mold and deteriorate roof structure. Sometimes you can see the duct ends inside the attic. A clue to a problem, even if you can’t see a duct venting in here, is lots of spider webs. A dry, well vented attic actually has very few spider webs visible. Moisture attracts bugs, and in turn other critters.
    • Connected to plumbing waste stack vent – an unprofessional shortcut. The waste vent carries sewer gasses, and these can backdraft into your fan ducting, causing smells, corrosion/leaking and possibly electrical/fire hazard.
    • Connected to another fan duct – laundry or kitchen. Again, not good – air can go back down into the other room in the right conditions.

The fan duct may terminate on the roof, through the soffit (not ideal) or through the wall. The ideal configuration depends on the location and type of house structure.

The first step a homeowner can do to see how their stuff works is to check the fan’s suction by putting a piece of paper against the grill in the ceiling while the fan is on. The air suction should be able to at least hold the paper against the grill by itself. Now close the bathroom door and window – is the fan pulling air under the door into the room? This is how it should be. If you can’t detect a strong airflow with these methods, it’s not working right.

The second step is to locate the exhaust on the outside of the house. You should be able to match each fan, if more than one, with each exhaust port. duct terminus

Make sure the inside grill and exterior exhaust hood are clean and free of debris or blockages. Look inside from both ends.

Sometimes on a really cold day, if you are venting from a warm humid bathroom, you will see the vapour coming out the exhaust. If the discharge point is reachable from the ground, you may be able to feel the airflow with your hand. For higher vents, you can check from a ladder.

If you have a clear intake and exhaust but you are not getting good airflow from inside to outside, there could be problems with the ducting between them (too long, kinked, blocked, open joints).

If you can tell air is being sucked from the inside but you can’t tell where it is going, there are various devices for generating a visible smoke for visual testing. Test matches, puffer sticks, smoke candles, smoke bottles, etc.

A little bit of investigation of your fans can go along way to preventing major damage in your house. If it’s not working right, have it professionally fixed – and check it after it’s been done.

Does Your Home Suck? Keep it Fresh!

VENTILATION – How to Breathe Easy in your Home.

Most people don’t think about the air pressure in their house, or more accurately, the difference in pressure within the house  relative to the outdoors. But pressure affects airflow and the movement of dust, moisture, gases, and smells; in other words, your indoor air quality (IAQ).

You, the resident, have the most to lose or gain in controlling airflow in your house or condo. Become your home’s expert – learn how the air moves around your home !

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Vents

Between 1986-1990 many new homes were built with increased vapour/air tightness, however due to the lack of understanding at the time, ventilation to compensate for the tightness was not put in.

Lower air pressure in the house relative to the outdoors can promote incomplete combustion of gas/wood burning appliances (furnace, water heater, fireplace) therefore carbon monoxide levels could be a concern.  

Furnace draws combustion air from house

Furnace draws combustion air from house

Areas of your house with very little air circulation can allow excess humidity to form which can lead to mold.

         TAKE INVENTORY

Go through your house and make a list of air controls using the AIRCHART table below as a starter guide.

As you walk through, check to see if kitchen fans actually discharge indoor air to the outside or do they just pull it through a filter and blow back into the kitchen. 

Stove with hood fan

Stove with hood fan

Check the suction of a fan or return duct by putting an 8.5 x11 piece of paper on the grill. Locate exhausts on the outside and check for signs of air movement. 

Do you have an HRV(Heat Recovery Ventilator)? Most new houses come with one. Read the manual and learn how to use the controls and clean the filters.

If you have a forced air furnace/central air, figure out which registers are pushing air into the room and which ones are pulling air back to the furnace (“returns”). Airflow in these registers or ducts can often be adjusted with dampers they come equipped with for temperature comfort. Ensure furniture does not block any grilles.

See also my article about changing filters.

Air Chart

AIR-TABLE

Unless you have an HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator), if you have fans that exhaust only – the house SUCKS!

HOW DO I MANAGE MY AIR – FANS and WINDOWS

In areas where you make smells and moisture – if you have a fan, USE IT!   

If any part of the house gets stale or stuffy, open windows on different levels and different sides of the houses to get a breeze going through.    This is called cross ventilation, and  is most useful during spring and fall when you are less likely to have the heat or cooling on to blow air around the house.   You will find through experience that certain windows or combinations of windows will vent better than others.   

Casement window

Open to let hot stale air out

During one of my home inspections, I will walk around with you to show you how the ventilation systems work, point out any problems or concerns, and my report will have more background information for you.

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basement window – use to let cool air in

Maximize your comfort by managing your airflow – MAKE YOUR HOUSE BREAK WIND!