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About the House - Hugh Cairns  

Is that garage door to code?

Nov 23, 2015 / 6:00 am
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...

Open those registers!

Nov 16, 2015 / 6:00 am
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...

Attics, vermiculite, rodents

Nov 9, 2015 / 6:00 am
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...

TFW housing inspections

Nov 2, 2015 / 6:00 am
The Okanagan is the hub of wine making and fruit growing in BC. We have well over 700 vineyards, over 160 wineries, and over 800 orchards. Each year, the Okanagan requires more and more workers for orchards, vineyards, ranches and nurseries that cultivate organic and conventional crops for...

Use that fireplace!

Oct 26, 2015 / 6:00 am
​ Q. Does running your gas fireplace in winter cost you energy? A. The evening temperatures are dipping down and it’s time for some warmth after a long day. If you have a natural gas insert – go ahead and use it. With a flick of a switch, demand from a thermostat, or...

Making a mould sandwich

Oct 19, 2015 / 5:00 am
If you’ve been on one of my inspections, you’ll know that water and moisture are the number one foes of your home. Quite often moisture-related problems are a result of things we do. A large chunk of a home inspection goes towards looking for moisture-related conditions, such as where...

Good electricians and bad

Oct 5, 2015 / 5:00 am
Home inspectors are in a unique position to view homes of all sizes, shapes and ages. As homeowners are hurtling through the age of convenience, their electrical system may not keep up with their desire for new appliances or gadgets. This is when the homeowner decides whether or not they are...


Jul 20, 2015 / 5:00 am
Air conditioner manufacturers generally build dependable, high quality products. If it seems that your air conditioner isn’t keeping up with cooling demands then there are some things you should do before you call an a/c technician. In order for your air conditioner to meet cooling demands...

Container workshop

Jul 6, 2015 / 5:00 am
There is a surplus of unused shipping containers sitting on docks around the world. The reason being is that it’s likely that it’s cheaper to send goods in new containers than to co-ordinate and ship a used one back for redeployment. In areas where wood framing materials are scarce,...

Geothermal made simple

Jun 29, 2015 / 5:00 am
For the most part, construction techniques used to build today’s home have pretty much arrived. One emerging technology, geothermal heating and cooling, is sure to change the way we heat and cool our homes forever. When you buy a home that incorporates a geothermal system, you will own a...

Fish tank flood

Jun 22, 2015 / 5:00 am
During home inspections it is not uncommon to see the odd example of a small scale flood. It's good that most people are aware of water stains and what they can represent, but often the type of staining is misunderstood. It's pretty safe to say that most people think of water supply piping...

It’s pooltime!

Jun 15, 2015 / 5:00 am
Break out the sunscreen, it’s summertime in the Okanagan, and yes, that means it’s time to sit poolside. Backyard pools can provide hours of entertainment throughout the hot summer months. As entertaining and fun as it can be, it can also be dangerous. Tragically most drownings and...

Gutter add-ons

Jun 8, 2015 / 6:00 am
Gutters and downspouts may look innocuous but they sure are important to protect your home from water damage. Managing collected moisture off your roof goes a long way to protecting your investment. The problem with gutters is they are often up high and out of mind. As you can see in the photo...

Electricity theft

Jun 1, 2015 / 5:00 am
It can be dangerous out there. Thank goodness we live in a part of the world where our electrical distribution systems are well planned and safe. That is until people tamper or steal it. Electricity theft is costly and dangerous. Now I know that there are those that have a beef with smart...

Additional inspections

May 25, 2015 / 5:00 am
Q. In addition to my home inspection, are there other inspections that I should consider when purchasing a home? A: You bet. As a part of your purchase agreement, it is a good idea to specify a period of time after acceptance to complete any inspections and investigations that you feel are...

Four types of maintenance

May 18, 2015 / 5:00 am
Most people think that home maintenance is only about fixing broken things, but there’s a whole lot more to maintaining a property than meets the eye. Most of the maintenance that I see on home inspections is a result of having to fix something or wanting to. Every home owner should know...

Baseboard thermostats

May 4, 2015 / 5:00 am
Most of the furnaces that I inspect during home inspections are controlled by programmable thermostats. The same cannot be said about electric baseboard heating. Like a radiator, a baseboard heater is a type of convection heater. As it heats up, it spreads air through its metal fins, warming...

Diamond in the rough

Apr 27, 2015 / 5:00 am
Looking for that diamond in the rough? We’ll it’s out there! Since homes are moving fast you’ll need the help of a professional Realtor to help you find one. Q. My partner and I are considering buying a fixer-upper house rather than a new home. What should we look...

Finished grade level

Apr 20, 2015 / 5:00 am
Concrete foundation walls should extend higher than the finished grade level (concrete patios, sidewalks and landscaping improvements) adjacent to the foundation wall at all points. There are industry recognized preferable minimum finishing heights to be achieved in relation to framing, cladding...

Home buying seminar

Apr 13, 2015 / 5:00 am
When you buy a home, it isn’t like most things that if you don’t like it you can’t simply return it. I can tell you from experience that the vast majority of my clients have bought less than a handful of houses over their lifetime, with most being first, second or third time...

Be careful out there

Apr 6, 2015 / 6:00 am
I’ve always said that anything about a house can be fixed except for its location. Once a house is completed for occupancy, it is pretty much set for its expected lifespan. It is when we want to improve or change the purpose of the home that we need to recognize and comply with local...

The odds are stacked

Mar 30, 2015 / 5:00 am
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...

New home inspections

Mar 23, 2015 / 5:00 am
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...

Hugh Cairns: Mobile home CSA stickers

Mar 16, 2015 / 7:00 am
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...

Hugh Cairns: Pick a plumber

Mar 9, 2015 / 5:00 am
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...

Hugh Cairns: Cast iron sewage pipes

Mar 2, 2015 / 5:00 am
Cast iron sewage waste pipes have been in use for more than 100 years. In commercial and multifamily construction applications, cast iron pipes are still installed today, mostly where large diameter requirements are required. In residential construction, cast iron waste pipes were phased out in the...

Hugh Cairns: Selling your home in 2015

Feb 23, 2015 / 5:00 am
With some of the great weather we have had this winter it is not a stretch to start thinking about Spring. If you have plans to sell your home in this year’s Spring real estate season then now is the time to get started before you list. Engaging a professional realtor is sure to...

Hugh Cairns: Pack rat

Feb 2, 2015 / 6:00 am
Pack rats are nest builders. They build great nests. They use all kinds of materials ranging from branches, foliage, debris to sofa stuffing. The nest in this attic measures five feet in diameter and almost three feet high. (I gotta tell ya, that on first sight during this home inspection, I...

Hugh Cairns: Thermal imaging is key

Jan 19, 2015 / 5:00 am
Okanagan Valley homes may not be susceptible to dry rot thanks to our drier weather, but fungal rot caused by water infiltration is a different story. When out inspecting homes, inspectors in our area are sharp to seek out moisture related concerns. Excessive moisture in homes is often due to...

Hugh Cairns: Home inspection guarantee's

Jan 12, 2015 / 5:00 am
What is a home inspection? Well, that’s a great question and the answer varies greatly between inspectors and consumers. One thing we can all agree on is that home inspections are very important. The best case scenario is that the home inspection will determine that the home is performing...

Hugh Cairns: The perfect house

Dec 22, 2014 / 5:00 am
People are often curious to know what kinds of conditions are found during home inspections. In older homes, the inspection report often leads itself to deficiency recognition and how aging components are likely to last. The inspection of new homes tends to lend itself towards the proper...

Hugh Cairns: Attic frost

Dec 15, 2014 / 5:00 am
Q. How much attic frost is too much? A. After sticking my head into hundreds of attics every year, I can tell you that seeing some frost low on the underside of the roof sheathing in the dead of winter is nothing to be immediately concerned about. In fact, most people don’t even know...

Hugh Cairns: Mouse!

Dec 1, 2014 / 5:00 am
When I’m out inspecting it’s not uncommon to find evidence of rodents. Evidence can be found year round, but just like us humans, in the winter, rodents want to be safe, warm and dry. Rats and mice search out shelter and invade our homes through cracks and holes. Rats can fit through...

Hugh Cairns: It’s not going to be perfect

Nov 24, 2014 / 5:00 am
In my book, there are three primary outcomes from home inspections and they are all categorized as good. There are the inspections where a significant existing condition is communicated that the buyer may not be aware of, or where the conditions observed are anticipated and explainable (these...

Home inspection fees could soar

Nov 17, 2014 / 5:00 am
If you have had a home inspection or are about to have one, in probability it will be conducted by a member of BC’s predominant association of home inspectors, The Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors BC (CAHPI BC). Members of CAHPI BC perform home inspections in accordance...

Hugh Cairns: Excessive dryer lint build-up

Nov 10, 2014 / 5:00 am
A quick look at your dryer venting can be very illuminating. Up on the roof and out of the way this dryer vent is causing problems. Notwithstanding long drying times, clogged vents contribute to the danger of a fire. Considering what is at stake, dryer venting deserves more attention than it...

Hugh Cairns: Do this before winter

Nov 3, 2014 / 5:00 am
For homeowners, the end of Fall means that your home should be prepared for winter. Beyond yard cleanup and irrigation blowouts, homeowners should be completing their Fall maintenance inspections. If you’ve already done yours good for you, if you haven’t, the good news is there is some...

Hugh Cairns: Your aging hot water tank

Oct 27, 2014 / 5:00 am
How old is the hot water tank? Does it need replacing? These are some of the hot water tank questions that I am routinely asked while conducting a home inspection. They are actually simple questions with many different answers. The bottom line is that we should make calculated decisions to replace...

Hugh Cairns: Hot topic - WETT reports

Oct 20, 2014 / 5:00 am
Nothing beats a toasty fire on colder days. Wood burning inserts, wood stoves and fireplaces provide a house with warmth and ambience. It is estimated that burning wood (or pellets and other wood derivatives) as a primary or supplemental heat source accounts for about 10% of the energy used for...

Five reasons to service your furnace

Oct 13, 2014 / 5:00 am
In most homes, the furnace is the primary heat source. There is a lot at stake should break down or require replacement. Furnaces are a big investment, new furnaces cost well into the thousands of dollars, so why not maintain the one you have to its optimum service level. It seems that furnaces...
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.