Monday, March 30th8.3°C
About The House

The odds are stacked

Q. How close to the house can firewood be stored for a fireplace?


A. That stack of firewood you had up against the house all winter needs to be moved. When it gets damp it will be the perfect breeding ground for a variety of insects. With the Spring rain and snow melt, wood left on the ground will absorb moisture that can create a favorable environment for insects to nest.

If you have a wood burner you’ll appreciate the added convenience of having your wood pile handy, but it can lead to an open door for termites or carpenter ants. If you do happen to bring in a chunk of infested firewood indoors to burn chances are very, very slim that it will cause an infestation indoors, but firewood stacked against the house unused and left for the next burning season creates a real risk of infestation from carpenter ants, termites and other pests. If there is an infestation in wood that has been transported inside for burning it likely contains some workers and not the queen. Usually the wood is dry and there is insufficient moisture indoors to sustain wood destroying insects outside the wood they are protected in.

Keep your firewood off the ground, and don’t stack it against the house to limit rot and keep those nasty critters away. Most of the bugs found in wood piles are classified as nuisance insects and won’t do serious harm to your home.

Carpenter ants and termites can cause damage. They like a wood pile that is wet and undisturbed. If there is a colony, chances are the colony will be disturbed when you bring wood in to burn, so they’ll likely scatter and won’t become a problem in the house, unless the pile is too close to the house for too long. Once wood destroying insects establish themselves inside a structure extermination is a costly process, so the best plan is to prevent an infestation from ever occurring. To minimize the risk of insects, store wood away from the house, especially from the foundation.

Proper storage of firewood is not a mystery. Store firewood it in a dry, airy location away from the house and off the ground for best results. Experts say that firewood should be stored about 20 feet away.

For wood burners, stacking wood is full of lore. For some, a woodpile is a public display thing. Wood piles are regarded as a statement much like your garden or home maintenance. In the rural country, they say that a reliable, hardworking man will stack his wood square and straight like Rodney Bell, who by all accounts is one of the Okanagan’s firewood experts.

New home inspections

Q: We are buying a new home. Do we really need to pay for an inspection?

A: If you are buying a new home, if you consider what could possibly go wrong, the answer is more complex than you might think.


The fact is, any home, whether it is large or small, new or old, is an intricate maze of structural, heating, electrical and plumbing systems. Today’s brand new homes have many features that are specifically engineered for our health and comfort and may be compulsory because of building code requirements. Having a fresh set of eyes to evaluate these systems is plainly a good move as it’s not unusual for even the most responsible and dedicated subcontractor to inadvertently miss something that could evolve to be a real problem.

For the most part, the finishing work in a new home is very good and small flaws are easy to spot. However, it’s not the aesthetics that we are too concerned about with new home inspections. The problems you need to worry about are those that occur behind the scenes.

Sure new homes come with a new home warranty, but most problems don’t become apparent until several years after construction was completed. If you’ve ever bought a new home that experiences a problem and you sought relief through a builder-funded warranty, (the home buyer pays the premium in the purchase price) then you know that it can sometimes be like a bureaucratic filing cabinet. You see, builders apply for warranty coverage on your behalf through a warranty provider. The builder then constructs the home to an agreed recognized standard. Should the standard not be met and a claim is filed, the builder is called on to correct the problem first. When a builder fails to satisfactorily correct a problem or that avenue is exhausted, only then the warranty provider steps in to take over. So be prepared for a bit of a journey in the event of a claim.

Although the vast majority of homeowners buy new construction and experience no problems, the cost of an inspection is small compared to detecting and potential costs for repairing defects. Plus, most builders are quick to correct any defects once they have been identified by a professional building inspection report.

Hugh Cairns: Mobile home CSA stickers

Q. Hello, if there is a silver tag on the electrical panel of mobile does that mean it's up to code? Thanks for your help - Bonnie

A. The short answer is not necessarily.


Your first step is to determine the type of sticker on the panel.

Be careful not to confuse CSA stickers with Manufactured Home Registration (MHR) stickers. Both stickers can often be found on the electrical panel. However, the MHR number indicates that the home is registered with BC’s Manufactured Home Registry, a central register of ownership details that controls the movement of manufactured homes in BC. The MHR number is not an indication that the manufactured home is CSA approved.

CSA stickers

Used manufactured homes (whether de-registered or not) may only be offered for sale in BC provided they bear an approval mark such as a Canadian Standards Association (CSA) certification label (sticker).

Used mobile homes (whether de-registered or not) may only be offered for sale in the Province of British Columbia without re-inspection provided that they bear an approval mark and that the wiring has not been altered. Additional wiring done under permit does not invalidate the original label. When the electrical wiring has been altered without a permit, the mobile home must be inspected and a new approval label applied.

If the home’s wiring has been altered, you should take steps to discover whether the alterations were done under permit. When wiring has been altered without a permit, before the manufactured home can legally be offered for sale, it must be inspected by a licensed electrical contractor under permit, or accredited inspection body acceptable to the appropriate provincial safety manager to certify electrical equipment for a specific installation. In the case of an accredited inspection body, a new approval sticker must be applied to the home.

So, you can’t really go by the sticker alone. Evidence of substandard workmanship or materials usually points to un-permitted work which will require inspection (and applicable repairs) prior to sale.

Hugh Cairns: Pick a plumber

World Plumbing Day is on March 11. World Plumbing Day you say? If you consider it, we live in one of the best countries in the world and certainly in one of the best cities in Canada. We have the best of fresh water and state of the art sewage systems. Reports cite that there are some 2.6 billion people on the planet that lack any sanitation whatsoever and more than 200 million tons of their waste goes untreated every year. In the developing world, 90 percent of sewage is discharged directly into lakes, rivers and oceans.

I see residential plumbing systems every day and am thankful for the great role that they have on our health. The plumbing industry plays a huge role in the installation of technologies that provide clean water and take away our waste. When you make the connection between what is happening locally and in other parts of the world, take a moment on March 11 to thank our plumbers.

It’s safe to say that our plumbing systems are very reliable. Most of us don’t think about a plumber until we need one, but you should add the name of a licensed plumber to your contact list well before you need one.

Here are some other tips to help you find the right plumber:


1.  Ask neighbours or friends for plumbing referrals.

The best way to find a good plumber is by referrals from people that you trust. If you have had a good experience with another home service professional try asking for a referral.

2.  It’s not always about the money.

Sometimes a bit more money means peace of mind. When you’re looking at a big job, get a couple of quotes. If there are vast differences between quotes find out why. Make sure you ask your plumber up front about their fee schedule.

3.  Permits.

Not all plumbing fixes require a permit, but when they do, a good plumber won’t do the job without one.

Read more About the House - Hugh Cairns articles


About the Author

When you need advice or guidance with for DIY home improvement and repairs, Hugh Cairns can help you with the answers.

Home improvements can be rewarding and turn your home a nicer comfortable place to live and increase its value. Whether you are renovating your kitchen, converting a loft, giving a room a lick of paint or making improvements to your home’s energy efficiency this column is here to guide you with some useful information and key things to remember.

Do you have a renovation question or concern? Please feel free to send Hugh your questions. Contact him through


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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