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Sagging gutters

Most of us don’t spend much time looking at our gutter systems. If you’ve been on one of my home inspections, you’ll know I stress that water is the biggest enemy of homes, so evaluating gutters and how they manage roof surface water is a primary exercise. 

Management of collected roof covering surface water is extremely important to prevent water-related damage. It is encouraged to prevent damage to concealed structural components located above and below grade, and exterior siding materials. 

The most common gutter and downspout materials are formed aluminum, and they should be installed so that water is not directed into the building during extreme rainfall. It’s always important that gutters be installed with a continuous slope to encourage good drainage. The slope should be sufficient to drain standing water. Standing water can encourage insects and small animals to congregate, and encourage the decay of accumulated organic materials. Most of all, poor slope has the potential to direct water towards the structure and cause damage.

Over time, some gutters sag due to backed-up water and debris, changes in temperatures, and high winds. Today’s contemporary homes have 5” gutter systems. These large gutter systems have the potential to hold 150 lbs of water every 10 feet when full. Most gutter systems are either held to the roof with long spikes, or on brackets or hangers. When a gutter system loosens, or otherwise becomes unattached, the potential for water damage escalates. 

As prevalent and important as gutter and downspout systems are, many people are surprised to learn that they are not required by most building codes. Surprisingly, even where they are required, building codes do not set requirements for design or minimum requirements for installation and performance. That is why I see so much inconsistency in the design and installation of gutter and downspout systems.

Sagging gutters often occur when the brackets holding them against the homes facia fails or pulls away. Without proper installation, gutter systems can sag in the middle of each section. Water, sludge, and debris tend to collect in sagging gutters, adding weight, and have the potential to damage your home from overflow.

All components in a gutter and downspout system need to be installed properly and be well maintainedfor  the system to achieve peak performance.

Bottom line: Check those gutters!



Is that garage door to code?

Q. We recently purchased a home, built in 1975. We have been told by a friend that the entry door leading from the basement to the garage is apparently a fire hazard, as it has glass in it, and it needs to be replaced. Is glass in a garage door against code?

A. The BC Building Code and the National Fire Code of Canada address this issue. Both are big documents filled end to end with rules upon rules. While your friend may have your best interest at heart, the reality is that code inspections and information regarding codes are best obtained by local building authorities.

The original configuration of this home included a carport. At some point the carport was enclosed, and an overhead door installed. It appears that the man door installed to enter the home is not the original door. The door between the garage and basement is of a newer retrofit exterior metal clad type with a window in it. 

While doors that lead from the house to the garage must provide a gas-tight barrier to prevent automobile exhaust fumes from entering the house, there is no code requirement regarding glazing placed in man doors. The intent of the door is to make a smoke seal between the enclosed garage and heated living area of the home. Therefore, the presence of a tight seal is what professional home inspectors look for. The presence of glass then becomes a moot point. 

Under normal circumstances, garage doors are not a ‘required exit’ from a building. In other words, buildings are not usually designed to incorporate a garage door as a necessary means for people to exit, particularly in an emergency situation; therefore, unless otherwise specifically designed as such, garage doors are not considered either an ingress door or an egress door.

Building codes are often bantered around, and hearsay and misinformation can play a role. So it’s always beneficial to contact your local fire and building authority for the straight and current goods.

Open those registers!

Sure, your furnace makes heat to keep you warm, but the other thing it does is move air. In my opinion, today’s furnaces are a lot more about moving air and less about making heat.

Moving air from the cool side of your home to the warm side - and vice versa - creates an even temperature in your home. In order to maintain an even ambient temperature, it’s important to have your floor registers open. 

I regularly see closed floor registers in unused or seldom used rooms. The motivation for closing them is often linked to saving a little money on energy costs. Many people still believe in this energy-saving myth, despite proven research that points otherwise. Closing registers you aren’t using may cause more harm than good, and will realize higher energy bills over the long run.

Today’s contemporary home is well-insulated and pretty much airtight. Moving conditioned air continuously through the home is a primary function of newer furnaces, and in doing so, we enjoy comfortable temperatures and continuously filtered air. There is less demand on the furnace for heat, and if you have a furnace with a two stage heating system, the second stage rarely engages.

By closing the registers, though, you change the system pressure and increase duct air leakage. The warm air that’s blocked from entering the closed-off room will simply find other places to go - through leaks and cracks in your ductwork, or back through your basement and into floor cavities.

The added pressure can be hard on your furnace by causing it to work harder than it is designed to work. It creates more work for your HVAC system, reduces its energy efficiency, and is proven to shorten its reliable working life.

So, take a moment to go through the house - make sure those registers are open to allow your furnace to run at maximum efficiency.


Attics, vermiculite, rodents

Chances are, if your attic was insulated or refurbished before the mid-1980s there is a slight chance that that you may have loose fill vermiculite insulation. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the federal government offered a grant to people who installed loose fill vermiculite products in their attics, because when loose fill vermiculite is heated, the material expands like popcorn, and creates pockets of air, making it a great attic insulation. Builders and homeowners sought to use this material due to its lightweight and fire-resistant features. 

Vermiculite on its own, left undisturbed does not cause concern to many of us. However, if the material is disturbed, the asbestos has the potential to be a health risk when the fibres are present in the air and inhaled (what we call ‘friable’). Asbestos is widely known to cause many harsh health risks, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, and pleural effusion. Caution is necessary, and there are WorkSafeBC regulations for this, when vermiculite is voluntarily removed to reduce the possibility of friable exposure. 

If you are buying or selling a house, you need to be aware that some vermiculite contained asbestos, because home inspectors in B.C. are required to look for, and report, on the presence of loose fill vermiculite insulation. When it is found to be present, it is, in most cases, sent off for laboratory testing to determine the presence of asbestos. I’ve been keeping a running tab for years, and the results are pretty much 50/50 that the vermiculite does not contain asbestos.

Once the presence of asbestos is determined, professional vermiculite remediators such as Steve Ball, of BugMaster Pest Control, take over. 

Now, I know that vermiculite isn’t a pest, but what is the connection? 

Well, Steve and his team are in attics, regularly seeking out and removing pests. 

“Rodent infestations in attics cannot be properly dealt with, in homes containing vermiculite, without the vermiculite being removed to deal with the rodents. Without removing the vermiculite, doing the job properly is pretty much out of the question,” advises Steve, who adds, “In the past two years, the scale of rodent population has largely increased, and will continue to do so unless the local authorities in the Okanagan valley treat the issue with greater severity than they have been.”

I agree with Steve. Local home inspectors see the results of the rat boom every day, in and around homes.

“The ongoing rodent problem has grown so much over the past year that BugMaster technicians have recently completed training in high-risk asbestos work in order to tackle this issue at the same time. With technicians having certification to safely remove this dangerous asbestos-containing material, they are essentially able to kill two birds with one stone, in hopes of creating an easier experience for homeowners along the way.” 

Because BugMaster already has the necessary skill set and experience to take care of rodent infestation and vermiculite remediation, which can be found independently or in combination, in attics across the Okanagan, Steve’s team is able to keep these important services under one umbrella.

More About the House - Hugh Cairns articles

About the Author

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

Home improvements can be rewarding, turn your home into a nicer more 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 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 www.subject2homeinspections.com

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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