“Strangely Strange but oddly normal”

“Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal” *

Here’s what my client said about my work;
“Thanks again for yesterday – I really liked your approach, and would . definitely recommend you to my friends.
I’m looking forward to seeing the report.
Also, the house owner was also impressed by your approach.” JSY

Strange, odd?               Some days, on some inspections, that’s the way it seems.
For most inspections its ordinary. You see pretty much the usual, the average, … what you expect to see.
But now and then you turn a corner, open a door, and you do a double take. You just weren’t expecting to see THAT.
But then it becomes normal, there’s no other ‘parts’ to find. Well …… If you’re the inspector you look again; “The pair in the left don’t match, they’re not the same size.”

*(lyrics/music – Mott The Hoople, Ian Hunter)


Global Warming – Cause Found!


Global Warming Cause Found!

Yes, It would seem like it!  Here at a home in a West Island community !

I was there doing a home inspection for the potential buyers. While there, my clients asked me if I could find out why the heating bills were so high for this property.

And I did.   There were three major contributors: (1) The fire place. (2) The ceiling lights and (3) The thermostat setting.

(1)  The photo shows the least of them.  For those who don’t know, this is the fireplace damper. It’s in the open position (partly open).  This is how you’d expect to find it the morning after you had a fire the evening before. Then you close it until the next time you use the fireplace.

The problem here is that the current owners have been there for 9 years and never used the fireplace. That means there has been a steady heat loss literally up the chimney for nine winters. I had been thinking about why an unused chimney was in such good condition. Now I knew. A warm chimney is a stable chimney.

(2)  This is a large and generously proportioned house. The entry hall, living room and stairway areas have a high two story ceiling that is continuous along the second story hallway and balcony/mezzanine space. (And lovely bright two story windows.)

The large ceiling common to all these spaces had 16 pot lights. The big ones that were standard 25 years ago. They are safely housed in metal cases as per fire and electrical codes of the time, but they allow air to pass freely through them to the attic. Effectively bypassing all the attic insulation meant to keep the heat in.

(3)   If that wasn’t enough heat loss, then there is the cost. The heating here is not bi-energy but it is a dual mode electric system. It has a heat pump that transfers heat from the exterior in milder temperatures and when it gets down around -10 to -12 degrees C the system switches over to a  back-up electric furnace. This is because there is not enough heat in the outside air to extract any appreciable amount.

This furnace is a resistance heater (works like stove elements only bigger and hotter). In terms of power consumption resistance heating is the MOST inefficient way to use electricity. So it uses a LOT of power and therefore costs A LOT.

Once the high demand is met the system is set up to go back to the heat pump mode automatically. HOWEVER there is a thermostat control setting called “Emergency heat” that you would switch on if you returned home to a cold house after being away or woke up to a particularly cold morning. This switches all all the functions to the electric furnace  and bypasses all the other controls. It is meant to be manually switched back to automatic when the setting temperature has been reached. But the owners left it there as they found it more comfortable.

That means the controls kept the furnace doing all the work and left the efficient economical heat pump idle. There is the big dollar cost right there, but then add the fact that the home lost heat comparitively rapidly because the 16 pot lights and the open chimney act as vents.

This one house, by its self, obviously isn’t the cause of global warming, but it contributes to the total effect. Every heating system operating inefficiently is a contributor, part of the problem. So it’s worth correcting, and it will save you money.

If you or someone you know has high home operating expenses, it’s time to have it inspected for cause. Most times it’s more than one factor, so a systematic overview of the house as a system is required.

Robert Butler – Home Inspection.

The Weather, Water, and your Basements


Snow, rain, hail, freezing rain, rain and even more rain.  We got it all in the last 24 and the next 24 hours is not much different.

First thing this morning 2 people asked me about this weather and if it increased roof leak risks.   Any time you have prolonged precipitation there is always a chance to discover any developing roofing failure but this morning is not a particularly high risk condition.

Your basement however is another story.

We’ve been blessed with a relatively mild winter so far this year.  And that means that we’ve not had the prolonged periods of extreme cold that cause the ground frost to freeze to deeper depths.  Last year we had pipes bursting and water lines freezing all over the place.

This winter the frost depth is not especially deep and around the perimeter of most homes the ground will not be frozen for a few inches next to the foundation basement walls.  This is normal and is a result from heat loss from the homes interior.  (Remember insulation does not stop heat transfer – it just slows down the rate of that transfer.)

Given these current ambient conditions the areas next to your house are the water routes for ground absorption, while your lawn, drive and walkway surfaces are sealed (frozen, therefore sealed until it thaws).  That creates the condition conducive for water to build up in the ground outside your basement walls.

The effect is as if your house was sitting in a puddle.  Unless of course, you have excellent groundwater drainage.  For example if your soil is a thick layer of gravel or sand the water won’t stay.  Unfortunately for the majority of us the soil is clay.  When that’s the case, the water is going nowhere.

That’s why your basement has a higher chance of leaking during this weather.

To be proactive about it I’d recommend checking your sump pump pit and pump.  Verify the pump is plugged in and working.

All lower basement wall surfaces should be clear and open to air circulation, everywhere, including closets.  Monitor these areas more closely from now and through the spring thaw. Look for signs of water, staining or odour.

Call me for further consultation if you, or your referrals, see suspect conditions.  I can evaluate what it is, how serious it may be and counsel you on how to economically manage, mitigate or correct the situation.

Robert Butler               514 914 1249                           robert.butler@aspectinspection.com