Any home can have a radon problem – old or new homes, well-sealed or drafty homes, homes with or without basements. Health Canada estimates that 1 in 14 homes in Canada has an elevated level of radon. Prolonged exposure to unsafe levels of radon can increase the risk of lung cancer; in fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Lung cancer caused by avoidable radon exposure is preventable, but only if radon issues are detected and mitigated prior to prolonged exposure in homes and buildings. There is real risk in not knowing if a home has a high level of radon.
WHAT IS RADON?
Radon is a naturally occurring odourless, colorless, radioactive gas formed by the ongoing decay of uranium in soil, rocks, sediments, and even well or ground water. While radon that escapes into the atmosphere is not harmful, dangerously high concentrations can build up indoors, exposing occupants to possible health risks.
HOW DOES RADON GET INTO A HOME?
Radon can migrate into the home in several ways. Openings or cracks in basement walls, foundations or floors are common avenues. Sumps, basement drains, and spaces between gas or water fittings can also allow radon into the structure. Other entry points can include gaps in suspended floors and cavities within walls.
HOW CAN I MAKE SURE MY CLIENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES AREN’T AT RISK?
We encourage homeowners to add radon testing to the home inspection process. Your Pillar To Post Home Inspector will set up the monitoring equipment in the home and report on the results. If an elevated level of radon is detected, steps can be taken to reduce the concentration to or below acceptable levels inside virtually any home. This can include a relatively simple setup such as a collection system with a radon vent pipe, which prevents radon from entering the home in the first place. Professional mitigation services can provide solutions for a home’s specific conditions.
Contact Pillar To Post to schedule radon testing when you book your next home inspection.
With winter coming on to cool much of North America, it’s worthwhile to address a potential hazard that arises with increased use of fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces and water heaters: carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas produced by the combustion of fuels such as natural gas, oil, and propane in devices including furnaces, water heaters, and stoves. These items are normally designed to vent the CO to the outside, but harmful interior levels of CO can result from incomplete combustion of fuel, improper installation, or blockages, leaks or cracks in the venting systems. Very high levels of CO can lead to incapacitation or death, with victims sometimes never having been aware they were being poisoned.
Homeowners can take action against potential carbon monoxide poisoning by taking the following steps:
Never use gas stoves or ovens to heat the home, even temporarily.
Have all fuel-burning appliances professionally inspected annually, preferably before the start of the cold weather season when heaters and furnaces are first used.
These appliances include gas stoves and ovens, furnaces and heaters, water heaters and gas clothes dryers.
All such devices should be properly installed and vented to the outside.
If repairs are necessary, be sure they are performed by a qualified technician.
Always use the proper fuel specified for the device.
Have flues and chimneys for gas fireplaces inspected regularly for cracks, leaks, and blockages that may allow a buildup of CO to occur.
Do not start a vehicle in a closed garage, or idle the engine in the garage even when the garage door is open.
Gasoline-powered generators and charcoal grills must never be used indoors.
Purchase a CO detector (either battery operated, hard wired or plug-in) and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper location and installation. Installation of working CO detectors in residential properties is now required by law in most states.
Learn what to do if the CO alarm activates. If anyone in the home experiences symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, or confusion, everyone should leave immediately and seek medical attention. If no symptoms are felt, open doors and windows immediately and shut off all fuel-burning devices that may be potential sources of CO.
Enjoy the comfort and safety of home this winter and all year long.
Smoke alarms are an important defense against injury or death in house fires. Statistics from the National Fire Protection Association show that nearly two-thirds of home fire fatalities occur in homes with non-working or missing smoke detectors. Most building codes now require smoke detectors in all residential structures, which has resulted in a steep drop in fire- and smoke-related deaths. Homeowners should check with their local public safety office or fire department for specific information on these requirements.
As in real estate, location is key! Smoke alarms should be in installed every bedroom, outside every sleeping area, and on each level of the home.
Alarms should be placed high on a wall or on the ceiling. It’s best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement. High, peaked ceilings have dead air space at the top; in these instances smoke alarms should be placed no closer than 3 feet from the highest point.
For areas close to the kitchen, use a detector with a “hush button” that can be used to silence nuisance alarms triggered by cooking smoke or steam. Alternatively, consider installing a photoelectric alarm near the kitchen, which will not be triggered by cooking. No matter which type is used, never remove the unit’s battery to stop or prevent nuisance alarms.
There are two primary types of smoke alarm technology: ionization and photoelectric. According to the National Fire Protection Association, ionization alarms are more responsive to flames, while photoelectric alarms are more sensitive to smoldering fires. For the most comprehensive protection, both types or a combination unit should be installed.
Test each alarm unit monthly. It’s helpful to put a reminder in your calendar to do this on the first or last day of the month, for example. The units have a test button that will sound the alarm for a moment or two when pressed. Any alarm that fails to sound should have the battery replaced. If the test button fails with a new battery, replace the entire detector immediately. Monthly testing is also an ideal time to dust off the unit so that it continues to work properly.
Replace the batteries at least once a year. A common rule of thumb is to do this when changing to or from Daylight Saving Time in fall or spring. Remember, a non-working alarm is no better than no alarm at all. Many newer alarms now come with 10-year lithium batteries that eliminate the need for new batteries, but the unit itself must be replaced after its stated lifespan.
If the alarms are hard-wired to the home’s electrical system, make sure they are interconnected for maximum effectiveness – meaning that if one alarm is triggered, all of the others will sound as well. Any hard-wired alarms, interconnected or not, should be installed by a licensed electrician for safety and proper operation.
The newest type of interconnected smoke alarms are wireless. This technology allows detectors to communicate with one another and, like their hard-wired cousins, will sound all of the units at the same time even if just one is triggered initially.
Early alerting is key to surviving a fire. Following these simple but important measures allows occupants to be warned, helping to prevent injuries and fatalities.
The days are getting noticeably shorter, and maybe there’s a nip in the air – sure signs that fall is on its way. Now is the perfect time to put these ideas on your to-do list and get your home in shape before winter rolls in.
Seal it up: Caulk and seal around exterior door and window frames. Look for gaps where pipes or wiring enter the home and caulk those as well.
Look up: Check the roof for missing or damaged shingles. Although you should always have a qualified professional inspect and repair the roof, you can do a preliminary survey safely from the ground using binoculars.
Clear it out: Clear gutters and eaves troughs of leaves, sticks, and other debris. Consider installing leaf guards if your gutters can accommodate them – they are real time savers and can prevent damage from clogged gutters. Check the seams between sections of gutter, as well as between the gutter and downspouts, and make any necessary adjustments or repairs.
No hose: In climates with freezing weather, shut off outdoor faucets and make sure exterior pipes are drained of water. Faucets and pipes can freeze and burst, causing leaks and potentially serious water damage.
Warm up time: Have the furnace inspected to ensure it’s safe and in good working order. Most utility companies will provide basic inspections at no charge, but there can often be a long waiting list come fall and winter. Using a clean filter will help the furnace run more efficiently, saving you money and energy.
Light that fire: If you enjoy the crackle of a wood-burning fireplace on a chilly fall evening, have the firebox and chimney professionally cleaned before lighting a fire this season. Creosote, a byproduct of wood burning, can build up to dangerous levels and cause a serious chimney fire if not removed.
5 Tips to de-stress at work
Stressed out? Learning how to manage work stress can help restore calm, productivity and job satisfaction.
Recognize what’s causing your stress. Deadlines? Conflict? Work/life balance out of whack? Then work on tackling the issue(s) productively.
Try to understand your specific reactions to those stress triggers. How can you better control your response? It’s not always easy to do this but it can be very effective.
If you work at a desk, take short breaks to stretch and breathe. If you’re on your feet all day, find a comfortable spot out of the way to sit for a bit and relax.
Have too much on your plate? Don’t agree to unrealistic deadlines if at all possible. If this happens regularly, you should consider your commitments more carefully in the future.
If possible, take a short walk outside to stretch your legs and remind yourself that work isn’t all there is!
Whether it’s a big project such as a bathroom remodel, something small like putting up shelves, or repairs and routine maintenance, many homeowners turn to handymen to get the job done. Here are some tips to ensure that you choose the right person for the job:
MAKE SURE THEY ARE QUALIFIED Certain projects require specific skills that all handymen may not have. Professional licenses may be required to perform certain work. Electrical and plumbing often fall into this category.
ASK FOR REFERENCES Online referral sites can give you a good indication of overall customer satisfaction. You can also ask the handyman for references from previous customers. Ask about the quality of the work, timeliness, professionalism, and how satisfied they were with their project.
CHECK ON INSURANCE COVERAGE Ask for evidence of liability insurance coverage before agreeing to any work. If the handyman or another worker is injured while working on your property, you may be held liable for medical costs.
GET WRITTEN ESTIMATES AND A CONTRACT
Ideally, ask three handymen for written estimates for the work you have in mind. Be sure that each estimate contains enough detail so that you can make an accurate comparison. Read all contracts carefully and be sure to ask about anything that you are unsure of.
REAL ESTATE SMARTS
Do you need a home inspection?
A home inspection is the perfect opportunity to really get to know the property you’re considering – an unbiased evaluation that can prove extremely useful and help you avoid unpleasant surprises.
A professional home inspection includes a visual assessment of the home’s systems and structural components, including heating/cooling, plumbing, electrical, roof, foundation, walls, chimneys, doors, and windows. In addition to undergoing visual inspection, appliance systems, heating/cooling and plumbing are tested to ensure proper operation. The report will include detailed findings and indicate any recommended repairs based on the inspection results. At that time, your agent may recommend that the seller complete needed repairs, or if not, that the cost of doing the repairs be reflected in the selling price.
However, in many of today’s overheated real estate markets the home inspection contingency is often waived in order for an offer to be considered at all. In these cases, a home inspection is still extremely important because it allows you to learn about the home and gives you a comprehensive picture of the home’s condition. This is invaluable in planning for future repairs, upgrades, or addressing other issues.
To get the most out of the home inspection, accompany the home inspector during the process. This allows you to ask questions on site and get any needed clarification about potential issues that come up along the way. It’s a great way to get to know the property and locate key items such as key shutoff valves, the breaker panel and more. Attending the inspection will also give you a better understanding of any repair recommendations.
Budget-friendly updates for kids’ rooms
From food and clothing to their bedroom decor, children’s likes and dislikes are ever changing. Here are some ideas on how to pull off a stylish bedroom re-do using some imagination and not a lot of money.
Paint is your friend! Nothing transforms a room like a new coat of paint, especially if you go with a bright or trendy color selected by your child. If she is old enough, get her involved in painting the walls or trim. Be sure to keep some extra paint for those sure-to-be-needed touchups. Complement the color scheme with inexpensive throw pillows or pillow covers.
Instead of investing in lots of themed décor, consider using just a few relatively inexpensive elements to recognize your kids’ interests. Posters and collages are just a couple of ways to include a theme without going overboard. Garage sales can also be a good source of well-priced themed items.
For dressers, bed frames and other furniture, see if your community has a website that lists items for sale or trade. A quick coat of paint and minor repairs may be all that’s needed to transform an inexpensive (or free) piece into a real find.
Shelves and bookcases make great places for children of any age to create ever-changing displays that reflect their interests. The flexibility of these spaces will be appreciated by small children to teenagers for years to come.
HOME & GARDEN
Curb appeal: It’s not just for sellers
Curb appeal. It’s all about how your home looks to people walking or driving by. If you’re selling, you can boost that first impression by making sure your home looks great before it hits the market. If you’re staying put, making your home more beautiful is never a bad idea!
Cleanup and Repair – Clean windows and siding, stow away yard tools and equipment, and clean up dead branches and leaves. Make sure fences, walkways, and the driveway are in good repair, too – a home that looks well taken care of is always more attractive.
Landscaping – Trim any overgrown shrubs, remove weeds, and tidy up planting areas. If the season is right, add some colorful flowering plants to brighten up around walkways and at the front entrance.
The Entrance – If replacement is cost prohibitive, consider revitalizing a tired, faded door with a fresh coat of paint in a great accent color and swapping out the hardware. Updated house numbers are another impactful but inexpensive addition.
Paint It New – Brighten up the exterior with new, neutral paint. If the existing paint is in good shape, have the exterior pressure washed to get rid of dirt and grime. Have the windows washed inside and out to brighten the overall appearance of the home.
There’s nothing worse than home “lookers” who drive by – and keep right on going because they’ve already decided a home doesn’t appeal to them based on looks alone. With these tips in mind, chances are your home will catch the eye of more potential buyers. And for those of you not selling, you’ll love your home even more.