Orillia Home Inspector Tips

Providing Valuable Home Owner Resources for Maintenance

Category: Basements

Basement issues and problems that may be encountered. Solutions to some common problems.

Purchasing a Century Home

Don't Buy a Money PitPurchasing a Century Home requires doing your homework.  When buying an older home you are usually buying a home with built in character which has withstood the test of time and is hopefully still in living condition. There are some common issues that you might discover when purchasing an older home. Having your home inspected by someone with years of experience is paramount to ensure you invest your money wisely.  I have listed some of basic problems encountered over the years..

Your century homes foundation is probably constructed of cement and rock. Older homes do not have exterior waterproofing and there will be no weeping tile draining into sump. This inspection area is one of the most important and expensive to repair if faulty.  Many century homes will have little trenches in concrete around perimeter that drain into a dug drain hole.

Knob and tube wiring was typically installed in older homes when electricity became available. You have to have a home inspector or electrician check to ensure all the knob and tube wiring was replaced, many times I have found live Knob and Tube in service chases or in attics. Even if knob and tube was upgraded, the installed cable may not have a ground wire attached.  Some homes have upgraded outlets but no ground is not available.

Asbestos was installed in most older homes as it was the insulation of choice back in theold boiler - asbestos removed day.  Many older homes had hot water boilers with cast iron radiators. This systems were typically insulated with asbestos insulation. Many times during an inspection I find the basement asbestos has been removed but the heat ducts passing through the home still have asbestos insulation attached.  Asbestos requires professional removal which is very expensive.

Lead plumbing pipes and galvanized plumbing lines can be very expensive to replace and were used on most older homes. Most insurance companies in Ontario will not insure a home with galvanized plumbing pipes. Galvanized pipes are past their life expectancy and there is the possibility of water contamination from corroding pipes.

Older homes may have many layers of lead paint which has built up over the years. Lead-based paint is a major source of lead poisoning for children and can also affect adults. In children, lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage and can impair mental functioning. It can retard mental and physical development and reduce attention span. It can also retard fetal development even at extremely low levels of lead. Thus, young children, fetuses, infants, and adults with high blood pressure are the most vulnerable to the effects of lead.

Your house is old and gorgeous but how is it heated.  During inspections I have had clientsOil Tank Costs who were quite surprised to learn that the only heat on second floor were some grilles in the floor.  So much for privacy or toasty warm beds.  Also older homes sometimes buried their oil tanks which is no longer permitted.  Removing a buried oil tank can easily cost upwards of $20,000.00 and if it has leaked, the sky’s the limit on costs.

The Orillia Home Inspector has over ten years of experience in inspecting Century Homes and is also a Certified Building Code Official with the Ontario Building Officials Association.

Inspecting Century Homes

Poor Foundation Support Footing

Today’s home buyers cannot seem to get enough old fashioned Century Homes. Many times when inspecting a well maintained century home there was multiple offers on property and often a “bidding war”. Century homes can require a lot of time and money to restore to their former splendour. Century homes can sometimes be either a money pit or a beautiful example of restoration, and sometimes it is hard for the home buyer to recognize the difference. Any home that has stood the test of time has most likely had many renovations over the years and at least some of them may have been “do it yourself” projects. It takes a professionally trained eye to spot the differences in workmanship but the end result could make a difference in thousands of dollars in repairs if deficiencies are not identified.

There are some common deficiencies that maybe an issue with century homes and if the seller have not properly dealt with them the new owners will most likely be dismayed to discover the amount of work and costs they could be facing. Some of the more standard issues found are structural, asbestos, knob and tube wiring, 60 amp service and galvanized plumbing. Building materials and construction methods have changed dramatically over the years. Materials once used in normal practice are now considered toxic and may require expensive remediation.

Stone Foundation is Failing

Foundations on a century home were typically different on every home. There were no enforced building codes years ago and everyones home was constructed differently although basic concepts remained the same. Most foundations are supported on rock and cement walls. Most of these old style foundations will still be standing long after we have gone. Water issues can affect the integrity of mortar between rocks and if you have signs of movement you may have to bring in a structural engineer for guidance. If your mortar is failing or deteriorating you can remove loose bits and re-point the stones and even give it a coat of white wash for more appealing look. If your wall is bowing or showing other signs of significant movement there may be an issue with expansive soils causing pressure on your foundation wall. This will require the services of a an experienced foundation contractor and will most likely be an expensive repair. Some foundations may require a sister wall to be poured to strengthen the existing foundation, this also is a job for an experienced contractor. Many older homes have a concrete base poured around the existing foundation to add to stability and prevent movement.

We deliver a narrative style report which includes pictures of every deficiency.  Our report is broken down into individual sections which make it easy to comprehend and digest the detailed information provided.  Industry standard maintenance suggestions are provided for the individual defects noted.  A handy PDF copy of report is also included which maybe emailed to contractors or used in negotiations.

When contemplating the purchase of  an older home, call Roger at 705-795-8255 to Book your Century Home Inspection

Building Your Fence

As a rule, you should set fence posts about 6′ to 8′ apart. The spacing of the posts depends on the type of fence you build, the terrain, the purpose of the fence, and other such factors. Set the corner or end post first. Then stretch a line from each corner or end post to align all the posts in between. Drive a stake every 6′ to 8′ at the exact position where the post hole is to be dug. Take time to measure and position the posts accurately. The appearance and the structural strength of your fence depends a great deal on the positioning of the fence posts. Most areas have companies who install your fence posts for you. This is usually a good investment as the quality of post installation will determine the overall quality of finished product. A wise investment for most do-it-yourselfers.

Set all wood fence posts with about 1/3 of their total length buried in the ground. This is especially important on corner posts and any posts that will carry heavy weight or withstand high wind pressure. Use a regular post hole digger to dig the post holes. Dig the holes straight to the proper depth at each stake marker. You can anchor the posts more firmly by making the holes slightly larger at the bottom than at the top. Place a large stone or two shovels full of gravel in the bottom of each hole. This provides drainage to avoid excessive moisture at the base of each post. Use a wood preservative to treat the section of the post that will be underground. Allow the post to stand overnight in the preservative so it can become well-saturated. You can pack the posts with either dirt or concrete. In either case, place two or three shovels full of gravel in the bottom of each hole before the post is placed into position. Be sure the posts are in an exact, upright position. You can check the alignment of each post with a regular level. You can also check the alignment of the posts in one direction by sighting from one end of the row of posts to the other. Brace each post with stakes after it is properly aligned. Keep the stakes in position until the concrete (if used) has thoroughly set. Remove the nails holding the braces and readjust the post until it is in accurate alignment. When the post is properly aligned, tamp it thoroughly to pack the dirt (if used) around the base of the post. Be sure you do not alter the alignment of the post during the tamping process. When the post is firmly in position, build a mound around it to help eliminate water standing at the post base. Slope the concrete slightly away from the post and round it off with a trowel. Tamp the concrete lightly to eliminate any air bubbles left in the mixture that can act as water pockets. Provide extra bracing at all corners. A corner post must carry the weight of fence stretched in two directions, so it should be set in both directions. Allow the posts to stand several days and settle firmly in position before adding the fence. The heads of posts should be rounded, capped or slanted to help eliminate accumulating water, which can cause rotting. This is well-worth the effort since it allows the posts to last.

Attach a top and bottom rail to the fence posts. There are three basic ways to do this. The top rail is nailed to the top of the post. This is an ideal installation for many types of fencing structures. The top rail can always be joined to another rail in the center of a post this way. If the rail is added on the body of the post rather than at the top, attach it with a groove, a wood block or a metal bracket. You can attach the bottom rail to the post. The type of joint you use to attach the fence supports to the post depends primarily on the type of fence you are building. The lap joint is one of the easiest to use. The grooved joint does basically the same job, but the rail is grooved into the post rather than being nailed to the post surface. The butt joint is a little more difficult to make but is often better. The mortised joint is even neater than the butt joint, but you must cut a mortise into the post for this joint. The slotted joint is commonly used on decorative fences. Treat all slotted joints with preservative to prevent rotting in the grooved areas. Take time to measure from the top rail to be sure the bottom rail on each is in perfect alignment. After you have measured one post, cut a measuring stick to prevent having to make an actual measurement on each post. The stick can be used to apply the same measurement to each post.

There are literally hundreds of variations in fence styles and construction materials. There is pre-assembled wood fencing sections as well as fencing materials made from recycled milk jugs. The type of fence you use depends primarily on the purpose. Some fences are used primarily for barriers. They are easy to build and provide an adequate barrier. However, they are usually not very decorative and they provide very little, if any, privacy. With a little shrubbery or plants, such fences can provide very attractive barriers along property lines. Other fences are built primarily as privacy screens. They can be built as tall as needed out of many different materials. Their primary purpose is privacy. Consider your needs when selecting the style of your fence. If you want a simple barrier, a wire fence, a simple style fence for a barrier or a fence that enhances the appearance of your property, consider the many styles that are available in books, internet or neighbourhood. Regardless of the type of fence you plan to build, be sure you know exactly where your property line is located. If you are uncertain about the location of the line, check into it or work out an agreement on the fence location with your neighbor. Also, check any local ordinances applying to fences before beginning construction. Call the building department of your local city hall or ask for the local government office that regulates construction to be sure you abide by city codes. Try to keep the bottom rail of any fence at least 2″ above the ground. This helps eliminate the problem of decay and makes it easier to trim grass around the base of the fence. Picket fences are very popular and easy to build. With a little ingenuity you can create attractive picket designs. Use your imagination to create a distinctive style picket fence. Make sure that all the pickets are spaced by inserting a loose picket between the picket previously nailed into position and the picket to be nailed. Use this easy method throughout the entire fencing construction. A basket weave fence is often used on a sloping terrain. This style of fence allows you to raise or lower each post. Use a good-quality board to build a basket weave fence. Boards full of knots may break easily when placed under the stress of basket weaving. A simple board fence is easy to build and can be quite attractive. You can place the boards on one side or alternate them from side to side. The board fence provides both a barrier and privacy. It can be built as tall as needed and then stained, painted or left natural. You can design a siding fence to match the siding on your home of this style. In fact, you can use the same siding that was used on the home to build the fence. The siding fence can be covered on one side or both. Then, you can paint it to match or harmonize with the paint on your home. These are only a few of the many styles of fencing available. Fences are easy to build, and the materials are readily available.

TOOL AND MATERIAL CHECKLIST Boards & Posts Power Saw Post Hole Digger Paint or Outdoor Stain Steel Tape Marking Pencil Small Axe or Hatchet Gravel or Sand Nails Hand Saw Hammer Work Gloves Level Ready-Mix Concrete Wood Chisel Tamping Rod Wood Preservative Check your local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions.

Check with your municipality prior to erecting your fence. Although most municipalities follow common guides some may have their own bylaws regarding your property. If you live in Barrie you may want to visit the City of Barrie site for information.

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