Monday, January 25, 2010

Inspection number 9:

Hello, nice to see that you are tuning in for yet another home inspection. The adventure today takes us to the City of Kawartha Lakes, This was an interesting inspection for me. Not your typical home, you could almost say that this house was in disguise.

As I sit in my office filling out my report system in preparation for the afternoon inspection I try to predict what type of home I will be looking at. I am very accustom to the area I have done thousands of inspection over my career in this part of the city. Century home, I surmise. Maybe a large two story, possibly even a three story, there is a chance that it could be a home from the 50’s as well. Pulling up to the site about 15minutes early I pull up to the driveway and then park just out front of the house, on the street. (another good practice, if you have another inspection to get to the last thing you will want is to be stuck with the agent and buyers car blocking you in.) I am puzzled?

The home has a very traditional 3 story look about it, a small back room addition, standard Hip roof line with dormers. The puzzle is the siding. A brick veneer which is not uncommon but this exterior finish is missing the tradition brick arches over windows and doors and is a very odd colour, almost a pale white colour. Not what you typically see on century homes. Other clues are that there are some weeping holes present in the veneer. This practice to the best of my knowledge did not start happening until the mid to late sixties. Even then they were used sparsely. The concept of brick veneer weepers is twofold. The first consideration is to provide an avenue for moisture to escape. The brick veneer should be maintaining an air space of about one inch. Inevitably all homes will experience some degree of heat loss through their walls. When this heat loss passes through the building envelope the warm air comes into contact with the colder exterior finish, the warm air cools, condenses and turns to moisture and in theory, via the weep holes has an avenue to pass through the brick work. The second purpose of the weeping holes is that they allow the equalizing of air pressure on both sides of the veneer there by resisting the movement of exterior driven vapour or moisture from entering into the wall cavity.

When my client arrives I give the standard disclosure of what the process will entail and I ask her if the agents gave her an approximate age for the home? The young lady buying the home replies “Yes, they believe it is about 35 years of age”. I consider that for a moment and then proceed to tell my client that that estimate may be a little off and while we are going through the inspection I will try to establish a little more accurate circa of age for her. The first tell tale is present as soon as I walk in the front door. As we pass into the entrance we are greeted by a beautiful pine stair case that has been completely painted with a very dark choice of finish, but the beautiful lines of the meticulously turned balusters and the stout curves of the newel post are screaming “I am a century old”. Prior to commenting, I wonder if it has simply been recycled from another home. As I quickly scan the floor plan it is certainly not a typical layout for a 100 year old home. I am intrigued. I am excited to get down into the cellar to see what is going on down there. (true sign of a house geek) Time to start the head scratch, the foundation is concrete block. If I was looking at a century old basement, surely I would be looking at stone or maybe a first generation, very porous concrete pour. I reserve judgement until I can get a little more of the puzzle. I was hopeful that I was going to be able to see some of the floor framing, but no luck there, the ceiling has been completely sheathed with plywood. My next clue is when I start to check what we refer to as a representative number of receptacles I find that I am seeing a large amount of ungrounded circuits. The service panel had been upgraded but still had some of the old ungrounded romex wire. This is a good clue to age I now know that this wiring was done in the late 40’s or early 50’s. Once I get to the 3rd story another clue is uncovered, “vermiculite insulation” this product had two strong spurts of use. The first was in the early 50’s which is matching the age of the wiring. The second was in the late 70’s and early 80’s. This second era of use is the basis for my only real major concern as we go through the inspection.

The vermiculite insulation that was used in the 70’s had two main producer of this product, the name brands used were “Micafil” and “Zonolite” The concern is that the Zonolite was discovered to have a higher than acceptable level of asbestos within the product. While the remedial actions as prescribed by Health Canada and CMHC are relatively simple, encapsulation (cover with another insulating product).Assuming the insulation is not disturbed the health implications are minimal. That being said, the true concern is the financial impact it has on resale. The cost of removal of this product can easily exceed $10,000. The unfortunate part of this for my client is that it is impossible to establish the asbestos content without lab analysis. At my clients request and the permission of the homeowner I extract a sample and send it to the lab. Now we wait.

Wrapping up the inspection I still am perplexed as to the exact age of the home. I suggest to my client, who needs the information for her insurance company that from what I can surmise the home is at least 70 years old.

We all pack up and are ready to leave and an elderly gentleman walks past me on the sidewalk and he asks me if the home has been sold? I reply, not sure yet I was just providing an inspection. The gentleman than said “yes I remember when they moved this old stable up the hill” my ears perk up.

“Really” I replied, are you familiar with this building? He proceeded to give me the “in a nut shell” history.

It is in fact a circa century building. It was originally a stable on the mainfloor and a boarding house upstairs for the workers. In the 50’s it was moved up the hill and converted to a home. In the seventies it was lifted off the rubble foundation and a new block full basement was put under it and then the wood siding was stripped and the brick veneer was installed.

Now I can sleep at night

Thanks for tagging along


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