Articles by Keith Tripp
by Keith Tripp, February 2021
Real estate activity is crazy right now (February,2021) in the GTA, and in other parts of Canada. If it continues, it may well spell the death of the home inspection as we know it.
Home inspectors are hit with a triple whammy right now during the pandemic. Real estate sales have moved paradoxically to the pandemic, especially for non-condominium. Inventory is down and demand is way up, with people deciding this is time to have a real home to work from. Resale home inspections are not happening because most sales are going to multiple offer situations where any offer with conditions attached simply will not succeed. Houses are selling for up to 50% over and above asking price. I was recently tracking a house that was listed for just over $1MM and it sold for just over $1.5MM. I just saw another sale come across my social media from a respected salesperson I know. Listed at $1.6MM and sold for $2.2 MM. In Ontario, during the pandemic restrictions, home inspections are allowed if part of a real estate transaction, because real estate was deemed an essential service (go figure!).
Many home inspectors also do “warranty” inspections on new houses. These inspections and reports give homeowners the info they require to submit issues through the provincial Tarion warranty program. These inspections have been delayed by pandemic related restrictions, and even when allowed, homeowners and inspectors are reluctant to risk the amount of contact involved for what could be considered a non-essential service. Warranty inspection business can be a viable supplement to a home inspector’s income, as they can be scheduled to fill the voids as the resale market goes through ups and downs or just to fill in the gaps within a week. So, the second whammy is that warranty inspections have disappeared along with resale inspections.
The third hit is that because real estate has not officially been shut down, access to loans and supports for a home inspection business is difficult. Most inspectors pay about $2500 a year for liability insurance, plus about another $1000 for association memberships. When these renewals come up, expect to see a lot of home inspectors “pivoting” out of the business.
One format of inspection that may prosper in this environment is the so-called prelisting inspection. This inspection is done for the seller as the client, rather than the buyer. The sellers name usually will be on the inspection report, even though in some cases the listing real estate salespeople may pay for or subsidize the inspection. The selling parties will offer access to the inspection as part of the selling info package.
I recently did some house shopping with a family member. This exposed me to the full process from the buyer’s perspective. I of course was dragged along to look at houses in my unofficial capacity as Uncle Bob the know-it-all about houses guy. The kids just started calling me Dwight (as in The Office) because supposedly he does some pretty cool home inspection at the bosses’ party. I provided everyone with awesome powerful flashlights so we could look intimidating during the 15 minutes we had to look at the various million-dollar money pits.
We were quite interested in one house, and obtained the pre-listing “Inspection Report” from the sellers. I had made a business decision many years ago to not provide pre-listing inspections. A true home inspection report is a list of defects. The purpose is to prepare the buyer for future budget requirements, and possible issues of lack of comfort or safety associated with the home. The true home inspection does not list good features of a home. By exclusion, if an item is not listed as a defect or future risk in a home inspection report, then it is deemed to be OK. No balance is required in a home inspection report by identifying good features. The balance is provided in the process through all the sales pitches. Balance is the job of the salespeople, sellers and perhaps lawyers or appraisers, but not from the home inspector. If you ask a lawyer what the role of a home inspector is , they will probably say it is to discourage the potential buyer from proceeding. The most balance I ever provide to a client may be saying something like: “The list of defects is relatively short based on age and size of the house”.
My reports are typically a list of defects 30 to 50 issues per house. Some of these issues are long term risks that can’t be eliminated with a quick fix. Some of the issues are educational. I had decided that my reports, with lists of defects only, would not be suitable as sales tools.
I reviewed the “inspection report” provided by the selling parties, and it was even worse than expected. Not only was did it fall short on identifying risk, and frankly even fully describing the house, the writer had gone out of his way to add positive comments about the house. The client name on the inspection report was the listing agent.
The first line to catch my eye was: Structure: Overall well built house. This was listed in a section called Summary: Significant items. This section is intended as a summary of significant defects.
In the Summary, across the 8 sub categories, there were only 2 negatives mentioned.
To put the magnitude of failure of the report in perspective, this home was almost exactly 100 years old. I spent about 20 minutes in the house, and made a mental list of risks to convey to my family shoppers. There were additions at the front and rear of the house. The foundation was a stone foundation, mostly not visible. Stone foundations are considered high risk compared to other foundations of that era such as brick or block, because they can fail without much warning. The front of the house had been modified, possibly related to street infrastructure work, which resulted in a garage being installed in what was originally the basement. Floors had noticeable humps and dips. The inspection report even noted that the separation between the units in the attic was inadequate and this should be improved for fire separation, however this expensive repair issue did not show in the summary. Some gaps in the garage indicated some structural movement. Heating ductwork had not been updated since the early days, and would not serve the house well. Electric floor heat had been installed in some rooms, no doubt to compensate for inadequacy of the ductwork. Furnace had signs of leakage and failures that could even pose an immediate safety risk. Two windows had failed thermopane seals. Some of the drain plumbing was the original cast iron pipes.
Not only is the comment “overall well built”, an insult to improvements in building over the last 100 years, it is misleading for a buyer who may think everything is as good as new. It would also be extremely misleading and deficient for a anybody relying on that report that may not have seen the house, such as an absentee buyer. All home inspectors know that these 100 year-old houses have inherent risks based on construction methods and ageing of components. But more importantly, the positive comment has no place in an inspection report that should be a list of defects.
In total, the report had only 8 actions recommended, and 2 of those are what I consider trivial and could have been left out of the report.
The other aspect of the report, was that even though some improvements were recommended, there were NO risk statements. For example there was a recommendation to install some GFCI protection, but no statement of the risk existing with the current situation. This was true of all of the issues identified.
This report was a complete failure of what an inspection report should be. What is more disappointing is that the inspector was fully qualified as a Registered Home Inspector and a member of OAHI, the Ontario Association of Home inspectors.
If you are a home buyer, be aware that any so-called inspection report provided by the sellers is likely to be grossly deficient in identifying the brick and mortar risks associated with the house.
The last few years have seen dramatic swings in home inspection activity, as the GTA market, or segments of the market move through the cycles of sellers and buyer’s markets. What we are seeing in 2020 and 2021 is the most extreme seller’s market to date. If it continues, the home inspection as we know it could disappear completely. What does the future hold? I predict services being shifted to a different phase in the buying cycle, with home inspectors sharing their knowledge with buyers during the shopping process, and even accompanying the house shoppers as they visit properties. This will require bending the existing rules, which are mostly driven by insurance providers, that prevent inspectors from doing part inspections or modified inspections without full reports. As they say in pandemic language, the pivot is upon us.
Keith Tripp is a professional home inspector in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Send a Photo!
Do you live in the Greater Toronto Area and have a nagging house issue you would like to understand further?
Send photos to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will give you my opinion. This is a no-charge, no obligation agreement designed to keep us constructively occupied during the pandemic.
Along with the photo(s), provide your name and house address and a description of the issue or concern.
I will respond:
- Indicating if the issue is within the scope of a home inspection
- Probably ask you to send a few more photos and clarify the issues based on specific questions I send.
Once I feel we agree on what we are looking at, I will provide my opinion on:
- Description of the defect. This will include limitations on what we can see or not see, and what further information would add to a better understanding of the issue.
- Risk related to the defect
- Recommendations for improvement.
This offer is by no means a home inspection, it is a promotional dialogue intended as a learning experience for both parties. In a full inspection I will take 100 to 200 or more photos and address typically 30 to 50 defects for each home. That is a four hour or more process, plus the report writing time. Please send one issue at a time, and only for your own home.
I may ask permission to add you to my mailing list, and permission to use your photos in my posts. There is no obligation to agree to either of those conditions.
Keith Tripp is a professional home inspector in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
By Keith Tripp Text to 416 320 8863 email email@example.com
To prepare quotes and to prepare for inspections, the more I know about the house, the better. Today you can have almost as much info as the real estate salespeople, and at no cost. You should have this same level of info when house shopping and doing your own research.
Age Counts! :For a home inspector, age of the house is extremely important. The age will determine risks related to older electrical and plumbing components, energy performance, and foundation (basement) leakage risk. The true age of the house is often not highlighted in the selling material. Some physical age indicators include: street date (on the sewer caps), installation tags inside the house, window manufacture dates, HVAC equipment dates, type of construction, construction materials used and location. Always find out the year of construction of the OLDEST part of the house when house shopping.
Here are some of the (FREE!!!) tools I use to get info on the property here in the Greater Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada.
HOUSESIGMA.COM : Now my “go-to” site. It is the first site I open up when I have an address to work with, and it also has a map search function that shows not only active listings, but recent activity in the area. It has bigger and better photos than realtor.ca. There is also an alert system that will email you when status of a listing changes. This is one of the “new kids on the block”, arriving when laws were changed to allow for access to the MLS info. This is a powerful tool that real estate salespeople wish did not exist. These new sites are constantly under the scrutiny of the powerful real estate lobby group. Prior to HouseSigma I was using Bungol.ca. Bungol was shut down in August 2020.
HouseSigma has all of the info from realtor.ca except not the name of listing agent. It does have the listing# in the Key Facts section, so that can be used to quickly find the listing in realtor.ca, where the listing brokerage and salesperson name will be provided. The big plus is it shows previous listing history such as terminations, price changes, and previous sales. It shows listing date and time on the market. It also shows when a conditional offer is in place and the expiry date of that condition. Age is shown but the range is quite broad. There is also an indicator of market conditions for each house, ranging from Buyer’s Market to Balanced to Seller’s market , and an estimated selling price.
REALTOR.ca.: This is the public version of the MLS info. It does not show all the info the real estate salespeople can see, for example names of owners and age of house. Search by address on the map, or by listing number: shows house description and names of listing agent. It has recently added Annual Property Taxes. This is probably the best site for cruising neighbourhoods. When reading the listings, keep in mind they are sales pitches with all the positives, but rarely mention any of the negatives of the property. All real estate salespeople in the Ontario system are paid by the sellers, whether they class themselves as the listing agent or the “buying” agent. The so called “buying” agent also has an obligation to maximize benefit for the seller.
Google maps: Photos over previous years can show dates of exterior renovations and even date of construction for newer homes. Click on Street View and the option to look at photo view going back over the years. I can often determine the approximate date that a roof was redone, or significant changes to exterior cladding by looking at this feature. Also good to look at proximity to highways, bodies of water, railroad tracks, industrial areas. Using satellite view shows green spaces and can give a sense of water flow through the area. Satellite view can even show some roof details such as vents and skylights.
mpac.ca: MPAC is the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation. This organization does the property assessments to determine property taxes. You can sign on by using the tax roll number of your existing property. Unfortunately, without a tax roll number I believe you can’t access this info. Once registered, you can go straight to aboutmyproperty.ca. Use the “About My Property: Browse My Neighbourhood” function to search the map. This is the best place to confirm year built. Also shows: Square Feet, Lot size, Number of storeys, Current Value Assessed, Sales Indicator (date of previous sales only back to 2012, not amount). A note of caution on year built on MPAC: If a house underwent significant renovation or rebuild, MPAC may only indicate the date of the newer work. I have inspected homes that were listed as new on MPAC, only to find old foundations and floor structures left in place.
Keith Tripp is a professional home inspector in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
By Keith Tripp, 2020 Text to 416-320-8863
This new build on Park Lane Circle in Toronto’s (does anyone call it the Six ?) prestigious Bridle Path area is, according to multiple media reports, the property of Toronto recording artist Drake, Aubrey Drake Graham aka Drizzy.
This style of roof is called mansard. This mansard roof style is increasingly popular on new infill mansions. Height restrictions, and the demand for interior ceiling heights of 10 feet and up are probably contributors to the popularity of the mansard. It is a way of disguising an otherwise unattractive flat roof.
At this Park Lane Circle home, based on photos available on the internet, there is a flat roof hidden by the mansard sides. This mansard roof is finished with a combination of shingles and metal roofing material. The metal has a nice pewter look. The sides project vertically above the flat roof level. The mansard sides offer protection from view for substantially sized HVAC equipment installed on the flat roof. The mansard roof is doing double duty as functional cladding and a false front for aesthetics. The attic space behind the sides is presumably about half way up the walls. The portholes through the mansard sides (a wee bit on the ugly side do you agree?) most likely are for ventilation of that attic space. These are my assumptions based on viewing the property from the road and looking at photos on-line.
What’s unique about this house is that the roof is offset to the inside of the exterior cladding. There is effectively a ledge on top of the exterior cladding. Note the snow sitting on this ledge. There is no visible gutter system, and you have to look very closely to see a downspout. Because there is no roof overhang to provide air flow for attic venting, the large portholes will be providing cross-flow venting through the attic space. With this roof, most of the roof water will be collected at the flat roof and disposed of through a drain system that may be built in to the walls of the house. Some water will be captured by the mansard sides and will require management. I suspect there is a gutter trough neatly concealed at the base of that mansard roof, behind the masonry units, and downspouts are either concealed or are at the sides of the house. The porthole style vents on this house are not a common thing. They look nice and large, however the screens will have to be kept clean. The porthole design also provides harbourage for birds, who will no doubt be tempted to nest at the base of the circle, or on the top protrusion. Even with the gutter system, I suspect the snow melt and rain water will have some tendency to flow down the exterior cladding, unless there is a good drip edge (capillary break). Protrusions in the cladding may catch the water as it falls. I will have to check out the performance on a wet day to see how it’s doing. If water runs down the cladding, it will cause staining, and eventually deterioration of the cladding and mortar.
This is a more traditional mansard roof. The flat roof is above the mansard sides, and vents and HVAC equipment are visible on the roof. Water is running down from the flat roof, and is captured in gutters at the bottom of the mansard sides. The sides project slightly beyond the exterior cladding, and are probably vented to allow some air flow in to the attic space.
This is another mansard style roof house under construction, just down the road from Drake’s place. This is the more common approach where a flat or almost flat top roof where water from the top flat or almost flat roof will drain down the sides of the mansard. This roof has a generous overhang that is good for ventilation and for protecting the exterior cladding from water.
There is good reason to worry about where your drizzle goes. See this relatively new building with a mansard style roof. Fancy architectural features at the front of the house combined with poor management of water flow have led to significant premature brick deterioration.
The decision to create a complicated roof line with a small section not served by a gutter to accommodate some fake foam balusters has backfired. Staining down the finish shows that water likes to flow downhill unless told otherwise. The brick in the area of flow is already significantly damaged from freeze-thaw action, with spalling occurring even a dozen rows down the wall and significant mortar loss at the units above the window opening. The situation is exacerbated because this area of roof is receiving water from the gable roof above. Some costly brick repairs will soon be required.
I have never understood any benefits of the mansard design. I regard it as an unfortunate design that results from height restrictions. On older installations (60s and 70s) there is high risk of leakage and subsequent rot occurring around window openings. The roof tops are more difficult to access because ladders can’t be placed at a suitable angle to traverse the mansard sides and reach the top. Smart design would include an access hatch to the roof, but most houses I inspect do not have a roof hatch. Roof inspection or repair requires professional crews with lifts and cranes or extra long ladders.
It remains to be seen how the Drizzy mansion will perform. The front has a South-West exposure that will be relatively dry, however the rear of the building with the North-East exposure is going to be subject to direct rain impingement , and will be slower to dry out. This is where I would expect to see water staining occurring on the masonry within a few years. Maybe one day someone will call me on my cell phone to check it out!
by Keith Tripp, 2020
phone or text: 416-320-8863
This is the eighth in a series on construction defects found in the Greater Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada. Two issues are described: 1) Fraudulent substitution of materials 2) Underfill of volume of materials, which could also be considered as fraud.
This photo shows insulation materials in an attic. To the untrained eye, there may be nothing amiss. Those working in the insulation business and attic sleuths like myself however can see that there are two different materials present. The darker material is cellulose, with a typical R value of 3.8 per inch. The white material is fiberglass which provides about R value of about 2.8 per inch.
In the undisturbed state, a thin layer of cellulose covers the underlying fiberglass as seen at the photo to the left.
A little digging below the surface reveals the underlying fiberglass as seen to the left.
If finding this in an older house, there would be no cause for alarm as often newer materials get layered on top of existing old insulation materials. However, these photos are all taken on warranty inspections on new construction in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, so it is not acceptable. I consider claiming to use one material, substituting a cheaper, lesser material, and covering it with a thin layer of the correct material to be fraud. The installer is aware that the chances of the insulation being inspected at close range are quite low. Attics are difficult and unpleasant places to get in to. The builder does not do a detailed inspection, the City inspector does not go in the attic, and the average homeowner will never know what is overhead. The loser in the end is the unwitting homeowner who has not received what they paid for and will pay the price in heating and cooling bills and possible discomfort in the years to come.
The ceiling insulation requirement on new construction in the GTA is R50 or R60 depending on which menu of SB12 energy compliance package the builder chose to use to meet basic code. A label at the entrance to the attic will display the material used, claimed R value, and the required depth to provide the R value. Often the installing company’s name is on the label.
Let’s use R60 as an example to see the impact of the substituted material.
Depth of Cellulose required for R60 is 16.1 inches.
Depth of fiberglass required for R60 is about 21.5 inches.
If claiming to use cellulose, and really using mostly fiberglass:
16.1 inches of fiberglass= R45= 75% of claimed value. That is assuming that the full depth is installed. It is common to find the depth of insulation to be underfilled in new construction. Based on checking insulation in hundreds of attics, I find that installing about 2/3 of the claimed amount reflects common practice. It seems this is not a new practice either, and it’s what I expect to find in attics constructed within the last 30 years or so. The dilution of materials when combined with a typical under-fill, ( note in the photos above the total depth being only about 10-12 inches or less vs. a 16 inch requirement for example), often being about 2/3 of the claimed fill at the front part of the attic, will reduce the actual R value to 2/3 times 45 =R30. That is the sort of insulation value that we had in ceilings more than 30 years ago. So much for “Green” building eh!
In one of the same attics where I recently found substituted material, there was also extreme under-fill. The flashlight at left is standing on the drywall ceiling above the front of a bedroom. Depth of insulation is about 1 inch or less vs. the 16.1 inch requirement. They do say sleeping in the cold is good for you right?
Don’t hesitate to have new or nearly-new homes inspected by a professional to check for insulation underfill or substitution of materials.
It’s a common sounding from builders and the selling parties on new or almost new homes. “Don’t worry, the City inspected it”. As an inspector serving the buying community, I am often amused by that statement. My income on new and nearly new home inspections relies directly on identifying the leftover issues after all the builder and municipal inspections are complete and the first owner has taken possession. These issues don’t go away on their own, and I also find “builder issues” on resale homes, even up to 50 years after original construction.
Keith Tripp lives, works and plays in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
by Keith Tripp, 2020
This is the oldest house in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. It is the Osterhout log cabin located on the grounds of Guild Inn, surrounded by interesting architectural fragments saved from demolition by the Clark family in the 1960s and 1970s.
Age is everything when it comes to home inspection. Often the age of older renovated houses is disguised in advertising material, and even MPAC may not indicate the true age of the oldest parts of the house, such as original foundations that were left in place.
Old foundations may be left in place intentionally so a significant rework of a house is classed as a renovation rather than a new build, and the builder may avoid requirements for Tarion warranty coverage.
When I inspect heavily renovated houses, or houses with multiple additions built in older areas, I am on a mission to find the oldest components because these represent the highest risk to the buyer. That could be foundation and structure, HVAC ductwork, and old electrical and plumbing components.
Some indicators of house or component age are: dates printed in thermopane windows, “street date” as found on sewer drain caps, date on insulation installation tag, dates on HVAC and gas line tags, dates printed on electrical wiring, dates printed on plywood and other wood panel materials, construction materials and techniques.
It is critical to determine house age. Otherwise the only thing you will know for certain is that the house is newer than the Osterhout log cabin.
Perforated sump basins used for a standard foundation drainage system are the wrong tool for the job, yet are common in new construction in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada area. They are full of holes (no surprise!) so water entering the basin will escape to surrounding soil under the slab, until it is fully saturated. When I test these basins by pouring water in, it will often escape and not activate the pump. The pump will only activate if the surrounding soil or other materials acts as a well and allow the water to rise.
The codes (OBC) and common sense say that storm water may discharge to a sump or drywell or to “daylight” ( outside to a drainage ditch) but NOT to the underside of the slab. The codes do not specify what type of basin is to be used, and unfortunately City building officials accept the perforated basins. This doesn’t make it right. Rather it shows weakness in their understanding of the requirement and interpretation of the code.
Ontario Building Code 9.14.5. Drainage Disposal: 188.8.131.52. Drainage Disposal (1) Foundation drains shall drain to a sewer, drainage ditch or dry well.
184.108.40.206. Sump Pits (1) Where gravity drainage is not practical, a covered sump with an automatic pump shall be installed to discharge the water into a sewer, drainage ditch or dry well. NOT UNDER THE SLAB
Collecting all the water from the perimeter of the foundation drainage, and discharging it all under the basement slab close to the footings just is not a good idea. There is a code statement that could apply to this:
Ontario Building Code Section 9.16. Floors-on-Ground: 9.16.3. Drainage: 220.127.116.11. Control of Water Ingress (1) Except as provided in Article 18.104.22.168. or where it can be shown to be unnecessary, ingress of water underneath a floor-on-ground shall be prevented by grading or drainage.
A solid basin is the right tool for standard foundation drainage systems. The perforated basins are intended for collection from problem soil areas, and would typically be installed in a central location, surrounded by granular fill that facilitates water flow towards the basin. The perforated basin may also act as a well and collect water from deeper than necessary. Most basins are about 24 inches deep. Digging a 24 inch hole under the house is likely to attract water from the surrounding soil, and this can result in significant and unwarranted water collection.
by Keith Tripp, 2020
Sump systems used to be associated with rural properties or older house. Sumps are now, for about the last 15 years or so, making a comeback in new construction. They are installed in new subdivisions where the City does not want to assume the risk of damage to houses caused by storm system backups, and on new construction in areas with older infrastructure, where the height of the house foundation drainage system may not match the existing City storm water system.
Staring down the barrel of this sump infeed pipe, a few things become evident:
a) this is a perforated pipe with slots cut around the circumference.
b) there is no top or bottom to the pipe, it is installed with random orientation
c) the pipe looks quite clean, there has not been much water flow through the pipe
Add in a dash of common sense: a pipe full of holes will lose water unless it is submerged in water.
Conclusion: this is the wrong pipe to use as a sump infeed.
This pipe is deigned to collect water from the surface of saturated and compressed soil . This is the type of pipe commonly used here in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada region for foundation drainage around the perimeter of the footings. As per OBC (Ontario Building Code) they are OK as COLLECTION pipes to be installed alongside the footings, with the top of the pipe being below the level of the underside of the basement floor slab, and must be installed on undisturbed or compressed soil (not on gravel) and installed level, not sloped. In this application, the pipe will collect water that rises above the level of the saturated soil. Rising water will enter the pipe through the slots, then seek the path of least resistance, which will cause it to flow through the pipe until an escape route is reached. That escape route may be out through the slots in areas where the soil is not saturated or where there is no water above the soil surface, or it may be the ends of the pipe where it terminates at the sump basin, or flows in to a City storm system, or to “daylight” if the house is built on a hillside. So in theory, ( the theory being the assumption that the pipes are installed level and on compressed soil), the pipe is moving water from wet areas to dry areas, until all areas are wet and then flow out of the pipe will occur. This may explain why some some sump basins are always dry, the pipe may just be moving water from the wet side of the house, to the dry side of the house where it dissipates in the soil.
If the pipe is installed on gravel. It will only collect water that rises above the gravel, and it will quickly lose water back on to the gravel. Pipes installed on gravel or are basically useless.
To pass from the exterior to the interior where the sump basin is installed, pipes will pass through a sleeve in the footing. Water will be lost at this sleeve if a perforated pipe is used. At the areas around the sump basin, there is often gravel, and the soil has been disturbed by the digging and installation of the basin. A perforated pipe will lose water as it approaches the basin. This can be a considerable volume of water, as it has been collected from the full perimeter of the house. This water may cause erosion damage, or weaken soil by ongoing cycles of saturation and drying. Sump basins are typically installed just inside the basement wall, where they are close to the structural footings. Long term soil weakening around or under the footings is undesirable, and may result in movement of the structure.
The pipes passing through or under the footing and under the basement slab to the sump basin should be solid pipes (not perforated) that CONVEY water without losing it along the way. These are the pipes that connect the foundation drainage pipe (a.k.a. weeping ) tile, to the sump basin which acts as a collector. From the sump basin, the water will be pumped to the exterior.
by Keith Tripp, 2020
A client recently asked about converting their cold room space to use as conditioned storage space or a wine cellar. Cold rooms are typically located underneath the front entrance porch and stairs. The walking porch surface is the concrete ceiling of the cold room. The sides of the cold room are poured concrete , similar to the main foundation walls. Brick is sometimes installed on the sides of the cold room walls above ground, but this is installed as decoration and is not required to be a draining veneer wall.
Here are some of the some considerations for converting a cold room here in the Greater Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada.
- Cold rooms were not built as living space, and are often subject to water leakage especially under entrance stairways where there will be melting snow in the winter
- Cold rooms are uninsulated, so require the addition of insulation and vapour barrier and possibly an air barrier if being used as heated space or even a cool space.
- Cold rooms are not built to meet an air barrier standard. To the contrary, they are vented to the exterior. Even though concrete makes a good air barrier, an air barrier may be required to compensate for openings at joints.
- The walls and ceiling of cold rooms are solid concrete, without a vented cladding wall. They are likely to be subject to inward solar driven vapour diffusion. This means vapour barrier selection is important. This would be a good application for a “smart” vapour barrier.
- Cold rooms are vented to the exterior, so if being converted to heated space they require air flow to be connected (so installation of ductwork) and blockage of the venting to the exterior.
- Proper wine storage requires temperature control and usually the installation of a refrigeration unit
Home inspections are not just for buyers or sellers. Having a professional inspection of your existing home can reap benefits for years to come.
I recently did an inspection where the sellers were providing an inspection report from 4 years ago. This report was one of those useless checklist types in a small binder. It contained many pictures of theoretical conditions that did not apply to the house in question. I flipped through it, and struggled to find any issues identified with the house. I thought that type of report had disappeared long ago, but I guess they are still out there. This is the type of inspection and report that has given the industry a bad reputation over the years, and contributed to the call for licensing of the profession. It was a reminder that the report I have developed over the last 13 years is probably one of the best available in the home inspection market. As an aside, if you are a home buyer, keep in mind a 4 year-old home inspection is too old to be relied upon. A lot can happen in 4 years. At this house, a foundation crack had opened up considerably since a parging coat had been applied. That parging was fresh when the last inspection was done, and the foundation cracks would have been concealed.
The ProVantage report is written in an Issue-Action-Risk format. What I saw- the recommendations-risks of inaction. It is written in full sentences that make sense, not cryptic jargon. Each issue (defect) is assigned a priority of 1,2 or 3, with 1 being the highest. The report comes in two parts. Firstly, the full electronic report with defect photos, issues and description of the house. Secondly a word document list of issues in table format. The table can be sorted or cut and pasted as required. This table becomes the to-do list.
Consider a home inspection on the home you already own, for the following benefits:
1) Separate the important issues: Often homeowners are stressed about issues that may not be that important
2) Reduce risk of contractor rip-off. Knowing priorities and risks means you can make smarter purchasing decisions.
3) Develop a to-do list and rough budget for the upcoming years.