Monday, 16 January 2012

Carbon Monoxide - CMHC

Carbon Monoxide

The presence of carbon monoxide (CO) in our homes is dangerous. So, how can you protect your family from carbon monoxide? How do you choose the right CO detector for your home? The first step is to make sure that carbon monoxide never enters your home. The second step is to install at least one CO detector in your home.
This About Your House answers often-asked questions about carbon monoxide to help you make the right decision to make your home safe.

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless and odourless gas. Because you can’t see, taste or smell it, it can affect you or your family before you even know it’s there. Even at low levels of exposure, carbon monoxide can cause serious health problems. CO is harmful because it will rapidly accumulate in the blood, depleting the ability of blood to carry oxygen.1

Where Does Carbon Monoxide Come From?

Carbon monoxide is a common byproduct of the combustion (burning) of fossil fuels. Most fuel-burning equipment (natural gas, propane and oil), if properly installed and maintained, produces little CO. The byproducts of combustion are usually safely vented to the outside. However, if anything disrupts the venting process (such as a bird’s nest in the chimney) or results in a shortage of oxygen to the burner, CO production can quickly rise to dangerous levels.
The burning of wood, kerosene, coal and charcoal produces CO. Gasoline engines produce CO. CO production is at a maximum during the startup of a cold engine. Starting, then idling, your car or gas mower in the garage can be dangerous. The fumes that contain CO can enter a home through connecting walls or doorways and can quickly rise to dangerous levels.

How Can I Eliminate Sources of Carbon Monoxide in My Home?

The most important step you can take to eliminate the possibility of CO poisoning is to ensure that CO never has an opportunity to enter your home. This is your first line of defence. Review this list to minimize the risk of CO in your home.
  • Have a qualified technician inspect and clean fuel-burning appliances yearly, before the cold weather sets in, to ensure they are in good working order.
  • Have a qualified technician inspect chimneys and vents yearly for cracks, blockages (e.g., bird’s nests, twigs, old mortar), corrosion or holes.
  • Check fireplaces for closed or blocked flues.
  • Check with a qualified technician before enclosing heating and hot water equipment in a smaller room, to ensure there is adequate air for proper combustion.
  • If you have a powerful kitchen exhaust fan or downdraft cooktop, have a qualified technician check that its operation does not pull fumes back down the chimney.
  • Never use propane or natural gas stove tops or ovens to heat your home.
  • Never start a vehicle in a closed garage; open the garage doors first. Pull the car out immediately onto the driveway, then close the garage door to prevent exhaust fumes from being drawn into the house.
  • Do not use a remote automobile starter when the car is in the garage; even if the garage doors are open.
  • Never operate propane, natural gas or charcoal barbecue grills indoors or in an attached garage.
  • Avoid the use of a kerosene space heater indoors or in a garage. If its use is unavoidable provide combustion air by opening a window while operating. Refuel outside after the unit has cooled.
  • Never run a lawnmower, snowblower, or any gasoline-powered tool such as a whipper snipper or pressure washer inside a garage or house.
  • The use of fossil fuels for refrigeration, cooking, heat, and light inside tents, trailers, and motorhomes can be very dangerous. Be sure that all equipment is properly vented to the outside and use electric or battery-powered equipment where possible.
  • Regularly clean the clothes dryer ductwork and outside vent cover for blockages such as lint, snow, or overgrown outdoor plants.
  • Reduce or eliminate the use of fondue heaters indoors.
  • If you live close to a road with heavy traffic, outdoor carbon monoxide levels can affect your indoor air quality, especially during rush hour. Such levels should not set off a CO alarm, but slightly elevated CO levels might be observable on some types of CO detectors with a digital display.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Are They Really Necessary?

If you take the actions above, you greatly reduce your risk of CO poisoning. But unanticipated dangerous incidents may still occur despite your best efforts to avoid CO. The installation of at least one CO detector in your home is a good safety precaution and in some municipalities, it is the law. A detector might be your second line of defence, but it is necessary. You should have one in your home today.

How Do CO Detectors Work?

There are three basic types of CO sensors — metal oxide, biomimetic and electrochemical. Note that while there may be performance differences between these technologies, all detectors are tested and approved for their operation. The retail cost of a detector will generally relate to the number of features included and its warranty conditions.
Metal-oxide-semi-conductor (MOS)
This is the original technology for detecting CO. Heated tin oxide reacts with CO to determine the levels of the toxic gas. There is no need to remember to check batteries as units must be connected to house power. Models that offer up to 20 hours of battery backup are available.
Biomimetic detectors have gel-coated discs that darken in the presence of CO and the colour change sounds an alarm. This technology is less expensive and can be battery operated.
In this type of detector, a chemical reaction with CO creates an electrical current that sets off an alarm. Electrochemical detectors are highly sensitive and offer accurate readings at all CO levels. Most units come with a continuous digital readout and a memory feature that allows you to check past CO levels. This technology offers a fast reset time. Most units sound an alert when the sensor needs to be replaced.

What Features Should I Look for When Purchasing a CO Detector?

Most CO detectors are designed to give an alarm when CO levels reach a high level in a short time. However, health agencies advise that long-term, low-level exposure is also of concern, especially for the unborn and young children, the elderly and those with a history of heart or respiratory problems.1 Detectors that can display both high and low levels are more expensive but they do provide greater accuracy and more information.
Here are some features to consider when purchasing a CO detector:
  • Look for a detector that is listed with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standard. The logos of the testing agency will be on the product.
  • Choose a detector with a memory if you want to monitor long-term, low-level exposure and short-term, high-level exposure. Even though product standards do not allow manufacturers to display low levels of CO, these units monitor and store this information. Peak levels, no matter what the level of concentration, can be viewed by pressing a button.
  • Battery-operated units allow detector placement in the most convenient location. However, any battery-operated device requires the user’s diligence in replacing worn-out batteries.
  • Do not connect plug-in units to an electrical outlet that is controlled by a wall switch.
  • No detectors will operate properly forever. Replace them at least every five years, unless the manufacturer specifies a shorter or longer life. Eventually, manufacturers may be required to print expiry dates on their CO detectors. This will ensure that you are purchasing an up-to-date product with a full sensor life.

Detector Sensitivity Issues

The standards organizations of Canada (CSA) and the United States (Underwriters Laboratories or UL) have coordinated the writing of CO standards and product testing. The standards as of 2010 prohibit showing CO levels of less than 30 ppm on digital displays. The most recent standards also require the alarm to sound at higher levels of CO than with previous editions of the standard. The reasoning behind these changes is to reduce calls to fire stations, utilities and emergency response teams when the levels of CO are not life threatening. This change will also reduce the number of calls to these agencies due to detector inaccuracy or the presence of other gases. Consequently, new alarms will not sound at CO concentrations up to 70 ppm. Note that these concentrations are significantly in excess of the Canadian health guidelines.
Detectors with a digital display and a “history” option can provide the true CO concentrations in a house. A low-level display would be useful for people with existing respiratory problems or for those who like to spot evolving problems, rather than having to wait for the situation to become serious. Low-level CO detection products are becoming commercially available. They will not be certified to CSA or UL standards, as these standards currently prohibit low-level displays.

Where Do I Put a CO Detector?

Most manufacturers specify where you should locate their CO detector. In general, the best place to put the detector is where you will hear it while sleeping. CO is roughly the same weight as air and distributes evenly throughout a room, so a detector can be placed at any height in any location, as long as its alarm can be heard. Additional units could be installed in several other locations around the home, such as a child’s bedroom; check the following list before installing.
To avoid both damage to the unit and to reduce false alarms, do not install CO detectors:
  • in unheated basements, attics or garages
  • in areas of high humidity
  • where they will be exposed to chemical solvents or cleaners, including hair spray, deodorant sprays, etc.
  • near vents, flues or chimneys
  • within 2 m (6 ft.) of heating and cooking appliances
  • near forced- or unforced-air ventilation openings
  • within 2 m (6 ft.) of corners or areas where natural air circulation is low
  • where they can be damaged, such as an outlet in a high traffic area
  • where directly exposed to the weather.

Testing Your CO Detector

Most CO detectors have a test button that should be pressed once a week to confirm that the device is in operation. Detectors with displays can be tested with a known source of CO such as smoke from an incense stick. Hold the CO source about 20 – 25 cm (8 – 10 in.) away and watch the digital display respond to the presence of even a small amount of CO, but an alarm will most likely not sound with this test.
There are CO detector test kits available, where CO detectors are sold, that provide a vial containing a high level of CO (1,000 ppm) and a plastic tent to house the unit during the test. This test only proves that your detector will sound an alarm with a very high level of CO.

What Do I Do if I Hear the Carbon Monoxide Detector Alarm?

Do not ignore the CO detector’s alarm if it sounds. Treat each alarm as serious and respond accordingly. CO detectors are designed to sound an alarm before a healthy adult would feel any symptoms. Infants, the elderly and those with respiratory and heart conditions are at particular risk and may react to even low levels of CO poisoning.1

Response to an Obvious Source of CO

If your detector sounds an alarm and you have an obvious source of CO, such as an unvented kerosene heater:
  • evacuate the house, including pets and do a head count
  • if anyone is suffering from flu-like symptoms, call 911
  • remove or turn off the source
  • ventilate the house
  • reset the alarm
  • do not re-occupy the house until the alarm ceases
  • take steps to avoid this situation in the future.

Response to an Unknown Source of CO

If your CO detector is sounding an alarm and there is no obvious source of CO:
  • evacuate the house, including pets and do a head count
  • if anyone has flu-like symptoms, call 911; if there are no health problems, call your gas utility, heating contractor or the fire department to have your house tested
  • if you live in a single-family home: do not ventilate your home, turn off fuel-burning appliances or reset your CO detector prior to someone testing your home. Many CO alarm calls have been classified as "false alarms" because the homeowner had ventilated the home and turned off the equipment before firefighters or technicians could measure the CO levels and find the source
  • if you live in a duplex, row house, apartment, or otherwise attached house, do ventilate the house and turn off fuel-burning appliances. In this case, the safety of your neighbours is more important than trying to find the CO source
  • have a qualified service technician inspect and repair all fuel-burning appliances, if they are identified as being the CO source
  • do not re-occupy the house unless those who tested the house inform you that the danger is over.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning2

Be sure that all members of your family know the symptoms of CO poisoning:

Mild Exposure

Flu-like symptoms such as headache, running nose, sore eyes, etc.

Medium Exposure

Drowsiness, dizziness, vomiting. The sense of disorientation and confusion may make it difficult for some victims to make rational decisions like leaving the home or calling for assistance.

Extreme Exposure

Unconsciousness, brain damage, death.

Continued Low-level Exposure to CO

While this may be not lead to observable symptoms, you should still avoid such exposure.
Table 1 — Carbon monoxide concentrations and their effects
CO concentration in parts per million (ppm)Effects
0 – 2Normal conditions in and outside Canadian houses.
10Recommended exposure limit over a 24-hour period.3
25Recommended exposure limit over a 1-hour period.3
30CO detectors are not allowed to sound alarm unless this concentration is maintained for more than 30 days.2
70CO detectors must sound alarm within 1 to 4 hours.2
150CO detectors must sound alarm within 10 to 50 minutes.2
200Slight headache, fatigue, dizziness and nausea after 2 to 3 hours. CO detector alarm must sound within 35 minutes.4
400CO detectors must sound alarm within 4 to 15 minutes.2
800Dizziness, nausea and convulsions within 45 minutes, death within 2 to 3 hours.4
1,600Death within 1 hour.4
13,000Danger of death after 1 to 3 minutes.4
1 Canada. Health Canada, Exposure Guidelines for Residential Indoor Air Quality (Ottawa: Ministry of Supply and Services Canada, 1989).
2 Canadian Standards Association, CAN/CSA 6.19-01: Residential Carbon Monoxide Alarming Devices (Canada: Canadian Standards Association, 2001).
3 Canada. Health Canada, Residential Indoor Air Quality Guideline: Carbon Monoxide (Ottawa: Minister of Health, 2010). Available online at
4 T. H. Greiner, Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (AEN-172) (Ames: Iowa State University of Science and Technology, 1997).
Last revised: 2011

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Windsor Housing Fall Report - CMHC

Mortgage Loan Insurance Windsor Real Estate

What is CMHC Mortgage Loan Insurance?

Compliments of
Mortgage loan insurance is typically required by lenders when homebuyers make a down payment of less than 20% of the purchase price. Mortgage loan insurance helps protect lenders against mortgage default, and enables consumers to purchase homes with a minimum down payment of 5% — with interest rates comparable to those with a 20% down payment.

To obtain mortgage loan insurance, lenders pay an insurance premium. Typically, your lender will pass this cost on to you. The premium payable is based on a percentage of the home’s purchase price that is financed by a mortgage. The premium can be paid in a single lump sum or it can be added to your mortgage and included in your monthly payments.

Mortgage loan insurance is not to be confused with mortgage life insurance which guarantees that your remaining mortgage at the time of your death will not be a burden to your estate.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Understanding Your New Home Sales Contract

Understanding Your New Home Sales Contract

Buying a brand-new home can mean a lot of different things — an opportunity to get the home you really want, a dream come true, an investment for the future, an achievement to be proud of.

It is also a legal transaction that should never be done without a detailed written contract!

The first rule of homebuying is to get it in writing! A contract, or Agreement of Purchase and Sale, as it is often referred to, spells out the terms between you and your builder — who, what, how, when and how much. It also sets out the rights, restrictions and obligations for each party.

Without a detailed contract, there may be no reference point in case of a misunderstanding or disagreement between you and your builder. It may be impossible to prove what was agreed to, and difficult to enforce any arrangement or promise that’s not written down.

Unlike resale transactions, there is no standard form of Agreement of Purchase and Sale for buying a new home. In some areas, builders may adapt model contracts prepared by their local home builders’ association or their new home warranty provider. Often, though, builders prepare their own agreements and require that you use those forms. As a result, new home contracts can vary considerably from one builder to another.

Typically, a contract will contain information that’s specific to you, the purchaser, and the home you are buying, as well as general information outlining the builder’s practices, limitations, disclaimers and warranty.

This fact sheet presents information on some of the terms and provisions that you may find in a new home sales agreement to illustrate what a contract can cover and why.

Before you sign a contract with your builder, make sure you fully understand what’s in it and what’s not, and that your interests and concerns are addressed and your questions are answered to your satisfaction.

What’s in a New Home Contract?

New home Agreements of Purchase and Sale are generally more complex than resale contracts. This simply reflects the fact that a new home is usually a more complex purchase.

Contracts can range from a few pages to sizeable documents with many schedules or attachments. A quick rule of thumb may be "the more specific, the better"— having things on paper, even minor items, reduces the potential for confusion and conflict.

The purchase of a brand-new home can happen in a number of ways. You may buy a home in a new development from a large building company, or buy from a custom builder to have greater flexibility and choice. You may own a lot and hire a company to construct your home. You may buy a factory-built home for a lot you own or lease. Or you may buy a condominium unit in a high- or low-rise building project.

Each scenario has its own practices and requirements that must be reflected in the contract; however, many contractual considerations are common to all. While this fact sheet is oriented toward the purchase of a home on a lot from a larger builder, it may provide helpful and useful information in other situations.

The following pages highlight some of the information you may find in a builder’s contract. Keep in mind that each builder does business differently. Beyond legal requirements that everyone must follow, each builder has its own unique practices, and the contract will reflect this.

Also be aware that a builder’s contract may include provisions or restrictions for the benefit of the builder. You want to go into your new home purchase with your eyes open. Read the contract carefully and make sure you are familiar and comfortable with everything in it. If you have questions and concerns, talk with your builder. Also have your lawyer or notary review the contract before you sign it.

Please note that “builder” refers to the company or the company representative that you will be dealing with when buying a home. This could be the owner of the company or, in the case of large companies, more likely a salesperson — either a staff member or an outside sales specialist.

What to look for in a contract

Why? Details, explanations

Description of your home
  • Model name or number
  • Lot number (or legal description)
Possible attachments:
  • Site plan (location of the home on the lot/street)
  • Floor plan
  • Builder’s rendering (artistic drawing) of home
  • Elevations (drawings of the front, rear or side of the home)
  • Specifications
  • Construction plans (working drawings)
  • Disclosure statement (condominium or strata lot home)
All attachments, or schedules, should be dated and initialed by you and the builder.
You want to eliminate all possibilities for mistakes. If a builder offers several versions of a model or variations on the exterior appearance, verify that the contract describes the right home and the correct details.
Also verify the lot and orientation of the home. Developers may assign certain models to specific lots in order to create a diverse and attractive streetscape — if you have looked at several models and several lots, make sure you know which lot you are buying. Sometimes homes may be built as "reverse plans" to fit into the overall community design — check with your builder if this is the case with the home you chose.
Be aware that renderings (drawings) used to showcase builder's homes in the sales office as well as in printed sell sheets may be an artistic impression only, not a precise depiction of the home. Items such as windows, doors, cladding and landscaping, for instance, may be enhanced for presentation purposes.
Specifications list the materials and products that will be used in building your home, from lumber and mechanical systems to windows and bathroom fixtures.
Usually, the construction plans for your home will not be part of the contract. Minor changes will be marked on the floor plans. However, if you are making significant changes to the builder’s model, the modified construction plans may be attached to the contract. Plans for custom homes are generally included — if you have paid a separate design or architectural fee, you normally own the plans.
  • The home
  • Upgrades and options
Most builders offer a range of upgrades to the standard products used in the home, for example, higher quality carpeting or premium countertops; or additional, optional items, from built-in wine-racks to sunrooms.
  • GST/HST and the GST/HST New Housing Rebate
Homebuyers can choose to apply for the rebate themselves, or they can assign the rebate to the builder, in essence redirecting payment from Canada Customs and Revenue Agency to the builder.
  • Payment schedule
Possible attachments:
  • Detailed pricing sheet
  • Listing of upgrades and options
  • GST/HST rebate assignment form
  • Receipt for deposit
The cost of buying a new home normally consists of two parts: the actual price of the home and other costs associated with the purchase (see later).
Know what’s included in the price of the standard model, and what’s not. If your buying decision is based on a model home, the model most likely has upgrades and options that are not included in the standard price. If you are uncertain, ask the builder to walk through the model to clarify standard items as well as upgrades and options. Further, the contract should note if there will be any rental equipment in the home you are buying, such as the hot water heater, furnace or heat pump.
All the upgrades and options you select for your home should be listed and described in detail (such as brand, model name, product number, colour and cost). Some builders may ask you to choose upgrades and "extras" right away, and the additional cost will be included in the purchase price up front. More commonly, you will have an opportunity to choose upgrades and extras at a later date, usually as part of the colour selection process (see below) and the contract will be amended as needed. Usually you will pay the cost of these “extras” at the time of closing, when you take possession of the home.
A new home purchase is subject to GST/HST; however, there is usually a rebate of up to 2.5 per cent of the GST payable. To qualify, the home and the purchaser have to meet certain criteria.
In the vast majority of new home purchases, the GST/HST rebate is assigned directly to the builder. In fact, the rebate is often calculated right into the purchase price of the home, and when you sign the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, you’ll be asked to sign a rebate assignment form at the same time.
Contact your local Canada Customs and Revenue Agency office for more information, or visit
The contract should set out a schedule of payments with dates and amounts. It normally begins with a deposit when you sign the contract, and often an additional deposit once all conditions (see below) have been met. Your builder may require progress or milestone payments throughout construction. The balance is normally payable on closing, i.e. the day you take possession of the home.
The deposit amount required by builders can vary significantly; ask upfront what is considered "normal" and reasonable. You will also want to know if your deposit will be held in trust, if it will be insured and for how much, and whether it is refundable if you have to back out of the sale.
Builders may differentiate between "deposit" and "reservation" money. The latter may be used in cases where the builder is putting a hold on a particular lot or home for you for a short period of time, while you "think it over". Some builders may also allow you to reserve a home for a longer period while they may be waiting for municipal approvals, for instance.
Other costs
  • Additional costs and charges
  • Adjustments
  • Closing costs
Possible attachments:
  • List of additional charges
Builders may charge for a variety of other items, to be paid on closing. Check the contract carefully for mention of any additional costs. Also ask the builder to list all additional charges — you want to avoid surprises when you sign the final cheque in your lawyer’s or notary’s office.
Additional costs may involve, but not be limited to: installation and hookup of utilities; connection of appliances; tree planting; a second coat of asphalt on the driveway; the cost of the new home warranty and fees for the builder’s lawyer/notary to prepare the deed. Builders may also include a clause in the contract related to additional charges in the event they hit bedrock when excavating, or encounter other soil conditions that could add significantly to their cost.
There may also be costs related to adjustments on closing, such as utilities and pre-paid taxes, or insurance premiums if you assume the builder’s policy. Again, check the contract and talk with your builder and your lawyer/notary.
Finally, you will have a number of other closing costs, such as legal fees, land transfer tax and mortgage fees. While not directly involving your builder, most companies will be able to give you a list and an estimate of these costs. Also talk with your lawyer/notary and mortgage lender about closing costs, so you have a clear idea of your final financial obligations.
  • Builder mortgage
  • New mortgage
Pre-approval usually means that your lender is committed to giving you a mortgage loan up to a certain amount, at a set interest rate and other terms. This commitment is for a specific length of time, after which you have to negotiate new terms and conditions with your lender.
Possible attachments:
  • Mortgage information
  • Financing conditions
Some builders offer mortgages through their financial institution, sometimes at preferential rates or with added incentives. Before you accept, check the conditions and requirements carefully, and any processing costs involved.
You can also arrange for your own mortgage. If you have pre-approval from your lender, you already know how much you can borrow and on what terms. If not, you want to make the purchase conditional upon obtaining a mortgage. Also be sure that you understand the timeframes — a “pre-sale” home (a home from plans) may take a long time to completion; check that your lender’s mortgage commitment doesn’t expire prior to the closing date on your new home.
Some builders, particularly those building custom homes, may require regular milestone payments during construction. Construction loans (known as draw mortgages in some areas) can be established to allow you or the builder to draw advances from your future mortgage at agreed intervals during the building process. Your builder may decide to pay for fees or accrued interest when using this process.
Other conditions
  • For the purchaser’s benefit
The language in a condition should be easy to understand — what needs to be done, by whom and by when.
  • For the builder’s benefit
Possible attachments:
  • Conditions
In addition to financing, a contract can include other conditions to protect your interests. For instance, you will want your lawyer/notary to review the contract before you sign. Some builders' agreements contain a standard clause to that effect; in other cases, you may have to add a condition in the body of the main document or as an attachment.
There are other circumstances: for instance, you may want to make the purchase of the new home conditional upon the sale of your current home. Or if your spouse or partner is not available during discussions with the builder, you may want to add a condition related to their approval of the contract.
The agreement may also include conditions for the benefit of the builder. For instance, your purchase may be conditional upon the builder getting a building permit. Or the builder may not yet have municipal approval for the subdivision plan; if not approved, construction cannot go ahead. Your contract should set timeframes and state what will happen if the builder has to terminate the agreement, for example, refund of deposit.
Restrictions on title
  • Easements
  • Covenants
Possible attachments:
  • Restrictions on title
  • Community or subdivision plan
  • Community guidelines
"The builder promises that the title is free and clear of all encumbrances, except for…" Your contract should include information about any restrictions on title. Subdivisions may have some form of restrictions that limit what you can do on your property, so it’s important to know.
For instance, developers may have agreements with the municipality or other landowners that must be passed on to the purchaser. Easements normally allow access or use of your land by others, including rights of way for utilities, telephone and cable lines, drainage or sewers, and backyard access for other residents. Usually, you cannot build permanent structures (e.g. garden sheds, decks or play equipment) over easements. Sometimes, easements can be temporary, giving the builder or developer access to your lot until the community is fully developed and built.
Covenants normally deal with things you may or may not be able to do, such as hang laundry in the backyard, plant certain kinds of trees, take down or erect a fence, or change the exterior colour scheme of your home. They may also dictate the location of satellite dishes or condensing units for air conditioners. Some developments publish detailed community guidelines.
Your decision to purchase may in part be influenced by the community itself, so make sure you understand what it offers — for instance, green spaces, landscaping, fencing, recreational facilities and schools. You want to know about other things that could affect your enjoyment of your home, such as nearby community mailboxes, future bus stops and passenger shelters. This is part of the community plan — ask the builder to "show and tell".
You or your lawyer/notary may also want to contact the local municipal office for information about the development, and to find out if there are future plans for adjoining areas or nearby that could affect you and your property. This could include new or expanded roads, industrial parks, commercial strips or residential developments.
Construction schedule
  • Start and completion dates
  • Delays
Possible attachments:
  • Process/details regarding delays
The builder should be able to identify a start and/or completion date in the contract; however, there may be exceptions. For instance, the builder may be waiting for you to meet certain conditions or for final municipal approvals. In such cases, the contract may note that start dates are approximate. It may also specify what will happen, for example, "If the builder is not able to begin construction of the home within xx days of the signing of the contract (or approval of the mortgage by the buyer’s lender, or … ), the contract is null and void, and the purchaser’s deposit will be returned in full."
Ask the builder to explain whether the completion, or occupancy, date appearing in the contract is tentative or a confirmed date. This may have implications for notification and coverage of delays under warranty.
Look for the contract to cover completion delays, either in the main section of the contract or a separate attachment. The contract may note that the builder participates in a new home warranty program with an established process for dealing with delays. In any event, make sure you understand exactly how it works — what constitutes a delay, when and how you will be notified, and what happens if you have to move out of your old home before the new one is ready. This is crucial information because you likely need to coordinate your move with your current landlord or with new owners of your current home. Delays can also affect your mortgage by postponing the closing of your home beyond the period of your guaranteed interest rate. Ask your builder to explain, and also contact the builder’s new home warranty provider for information on delays, including rules and procedures.
Remember that your builder wants to avoid delays as much as you do. Delays can happen for many reasons beyond a builder’s control, from bad weather to labour and material shortages; this is often spelled out in the contract. However, when all parties have discussed the possibility in advance and are familiar with the process, it is usually a lot easier to deal with delays, should they happen.
Construction standards Builders often insert a clause in their contract stating "that the dwelling will be built to the building code standards of the province and the work will be performed in a workmanlike manner", or similar wording.
Some third-party new home warranty providers have developed guidelines for construction performance for work and materials, providing objective criteria for performance and evaluation of defects.
Site visits during construction
  • Practices
  • Process
Possible attachments:
  • Liability waiver
The construction site can be a dangerous place. Until recently, many builders took a fairly casual approach to site visits. However, given current provincial and national legislation in such areas as labour, safety and negligence, as well as growing limitations on builders’ insurance coverage and greater concern about liability, many builders are now restricting access to the site for homebuyers.
Some builders allow homeowners regular site visits, when accompanied by a company representative. Others permit visits only for specific purposes, such as verifying location of electrical boxes, or for a pre-delivery inspection (see below). By law, you must wear proper safety gear whenever going on a construction site — hard hats and safety footwear. Some builders may also ask that you sign a waiver releasing them from liability in case of accident.
Your builder’s contract may include a provision or restriction about site visits. If not, ask: "When can I come on site? How much notice is needed? Can I bring others, for example, family, friends or a professional home inspector?"
Also discuss how to deal with any issues or questions arising from a site visit. Builders may include a clause in the contract that purchasers cannot discuss anything directly with workers and sub-trades onsite, only with the appointed contact person, to prevent confusion and misunderstandings.
Colour selection
Possible attachments:
  • Colour selections, upgrades and options
Builders usually offer a variety of colours, patterns and options for many of the finishing products in your new home, such as flooring, counters and cabinets. Many builders offer the services of experienced in-house designers to assist you in this process. At the same time, you may have an opportunity to further customize your home with upgrades and extra features. Depending on the architectural controls in the community, you may also have choices for the exterior finishing (for example, colour and type of cladding, doors, garage treatment).
The contract may stipulate certain timeframes for your colour selection in order to ensure the timely progress of construction. For instance, you may need to decide on the exterior finishing before a building permit can be issued. You may also be required to make your interior selections within a few weeks of signing the contract; this allows the builder to order early from suppliers and may help prevent the construction of your home from falling behind schedule. If not done within a certain period, the builder may reserve the right to select the finishing products on your behalf.
Change orders: when you want to change something
  • Policy
  • Process
  • Payment
Possible attachments:
  • Change orders
From start to completion, the construction of your new home will usually take several months. During that time, you may change your mind about some of your decisions, or want to add extra items.
Most builders, but not all, allow for change orders, when possible. Some builders will give their clients a schedule of construction phases, and certain alterations may not be permitted once a particular phase has been reached. Or alternatively, you may have to accept significant extra cost and possible construction delays.
Change orders are considered to be separate and independent contracts. Change orders should be made in writing and signed by both parties — this prevents surprises such as finding out that an order you placed over the phone with "someone" in the office or on site was not executed, and there is no record of it anywhere.
You may be asked to pay for change orders on signing, or the cost may be added to the amount payable at closing. Some builders may also charge an administration fee to process the order.
Deviations from the plans: when the builder needs to change something
Dealing with the prospect of builder changes is also a matter of knowing whom you are dealing with. Choose a reputable builder and check with previous homebuyers on their experience buying from the company — that way you are one step closer to avoiding surprises, disagreements and having to live with choices you didn’t make.
Most builders' agreements contain provisions that allow the builder to make minor changes to the home, if needed, without notifying the buyer. As a rule, builders avoid making changes whenever possible; however, there are times when it’s unavoidable.
Typically builders reserve the right to substitute products and materials of a similar or superior quality. This can be necessary if the builder faces shortages, delayed deliveries or discontinuation of a product or material; otherwise work on your home could fall behind schedule or come to a standstill.
Your contract may also state that your builder can make minor changes without notification for other reasons, for instance, "siting, plans and specifications of the home, including architectural details and exterior finishes may be subject to approval by the municipality, and homebuyers shall accept minor modifications". Such changes could include sizes and dimensions of the lot as well as the house or rooms within it.
There is no standard industry agreement on what constitutes a "minor" change. Contracts typically include a statement to the effect that the value of the property shall not be diminished by any such alterations. In addition, some third-party new home warranty programs may cover substitutions where purchasers have exercised a selection option, and for items of construction and finishing referred to in the contract; this may include discrepancies in design or square footage.
The key issue for homebuyers is one of degree: what is reasonable for builders to change without telling you, and what’s not? How extensive is the modification? Will it alter the home, and would it have made a difference to your buying decision? For instance, you may not even notice six inches off the width of your driveway; on the other hand, you will undoubtedly want to be notified if the builder has to reduce the number, size or location of windows and doors, or reverse the plan of your home.
If you are concerned about the possibility of unexpected changes, talk with your builder and try to be as specific as possible. How often does this occur? How likely is it to happen with your home? How does the builder define "minor" and "major" modifications? In the event of a "major" change, will you be notified and have the option of canceling the contract, or choosing another lot, for instance? Also contact the builder’s warranty provider for information and advice.
  • Builder’s warranty
  • Third-party warranty
Depending on the province you live in, builders' third-party warranty is provided by non-profit new home warranty programs and/or by private insurance companies.
The contract should spell out the builder's warranty on your new home. Almost all builders offer a one-year after-sales warranty on workmanship and materials. In addition, third-party warranty from an independent warranty corporation is mandatory in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia (some exceptions apply); everywhere else it is optional. Third-party warranty programs set minimum warranty requirements that builders must comply with; these often go beyond what’s offered by builders who are not covered. The contract should note if your builder is registered with a new home warranty provider, and also specify if your home will be covered by that provider — normally each home is enrolled separately and given an identification number.
Ask the builder to explain: how does the warranty work and what's covered for what periods of time? Is your deposit protected? Is construction completion guaranteed and what’s your recourse if the builder is not able to complete construction? Get written information, so you can study the details further on your own.
Also check with the builder's warranty provider: visit their Web site, request their publications and call for further information and answers to any questions you may have.
You may also want to check with your financial institution — lenders may insist that your home purchase be protected with a third-party warranty as a condition of giving you a mortgage loan.
Usually there is a standardized approach to what's covered under warranty, and what’s not. Some builders (and some warranty providers) will itemize what's excluded from warranty. Many builders also provide buyers with a manual on home maintenance — lack of proper homeowner care may void warranty.
Manufacturers’ warranty
Possible attachments:
  • Warranty information
  • List of items not covered
  • After-sales service policy
In addition, the builder will pass on to you the manufacturers’ warranties on products used in the construction of your home. However, this does not mean that the builder assumes responsibility for these additional warranties.
Finally, find out about the builder’s after-sales service policy. Most have an established process and timeframe for regular contact and visits during your first year in the home, as well as an emergency service, should you need it.
Pre-delivery inspection, or homeowner walkthrough
Deficiencies are items that have not been completed at the time of the inspection (for example, missing cabinet handles).
Defects refer to items that are supposedly finished but require additional work to meet quality standards (for example, windows that stick, a gouge in the floor).
Put everything you note during the inspection in writing, even the smallest item; this helps to eliminate confusion or dispute.
Possible attachments:
  • Copy of Certificate of completion and/or possession
Before you take possession of your new home, your builder will usually schedule a time to go through the home with you, usually about a week before closing. The purpose of this is twofold — to inspect the house for completion and to show you how the systems work. Going through the house from top to bottom, inside and out, you will be asked to note any deficiency or defect. This written record, often referred to as the Certificate of completion and/or possession, will be forwarded to the builder's warranty provider. Most items will be corrected or completed by the builder before you move in, or shortly thereafter. "Seasonal deficiencies" related to items such as decks and landscaping will usually be addressed as soon as weather conditions allow.
Different builders take different approaches to the pre-delivery inspection. Some will allocate several hours to a thorough walk-through, looking at everything in detail with you. Others may keep it short and focus on familiarizing you with the home and identifying outstanding items, but will give homebuyers 24 or 48 hours after taking possession to conduct a detailed inspection on their own.
Builders also have different policies regarding who can attend the pre-delivery inspection. Many permit you to bring other family members who may lend an expert eye to the process, or a professional home inspector. Other builders restrict participation to the principal purchasers only.
Know the company's inspection system and policies before you sign the contract. Ask your builder to explain, and check for details in the contract.
Insurance Normally the builder is responsible for insuring the home during construction. Buyers may be asked to take over the builder's insurance policy after closing, if they are also assuming the builder's mortgage on the home.
Disputes Once the contract has been signed, and the conditions have been met, it is binding. There is no easy way for a purchaser to terminate the agreement or change any parts of it, unless the builder agrees.
Disputes between home purchasers and builders are usually resolved through discussion. If the parties have difficulty in reaching a solution, disputes can be referred to a third party for mediation. This may be the builder's new home warranty provider or someone else that both parties can agree to. Failing that, you need to pursue legal remedies through your lawyer.
Completion Many contracts contain a provision to the effect that "the home shall be deemed to be completed when all interior work has been substantially completed so that the building may be reasonably occupied, notwithstanding that there may be outstanding exterior work, such as painting, driveway, grading, sodding and landscaping," or similar wording.
The legal transfer of the house should take place only after the municipality has approved the plumbing, electrical and gas systems to verify that the house is ready for occupancy.
Buyers may be required to pay the builder in full on closing even when there is still work outstanding. The contract may make provisions for holdbacks to account for unfinished work such as seasonal items that cannot be completed by closing. In such cases, the buyer holds back a certain amount from the final payment; this money is usually placed in trust with a lawyer/notary. Check the contract for details.
Be aware that financial institutions may require a certain degree of completion before releasing mortgage funds. Ask your lender about their policy, if you believe there may be significant work outstanding on your home on closing, such as siding or brickwork.
"This is the whole agreement" Many contracts also include a statement noting that "the final Agreement (i.e. contract) supersedes all previous agreements and understandings", or similar wording.
In plain language, this means that any agreements or understandings that are not included in the written contract are not part of the deal. A salesperson may agree over the telephone to change the colour of the carpet, or a worker onsite may promise to move an electrical outlet, but if there is no written record of your request, there is little you can do about it if the change hasn't been made. That is why it is so important to deal with the appointed contact person only, and to get everything in writing.
Privacy and consent to disclosures
Possible attachments:
  • Authorization for disclosure
  • Privacy policy
Much of the information that you provide to the builder is covered by privacy legislation. This includes your contact information; location of the property; construction and finishing details; payment instructions; and insurance and warranty information. Your builder will ask you to sign an authorization to relay this information to the company’s suppliers, the warranty program and other parties as relevant, including your condominium corporation, if applicable. The authorization will also specify that this information cannot be used except for those purposes. If you want further clarification, ask for the builder’s privacy policy.
Purchaser's acknowledgement The purchaser acknowledges that he/she has read and understands this agreement and the terms, conditions, limits and exclusions as described therein.
You may find a statement such as this in your builder's contract. Your builder may also go through the contract with you point by point, explaining the significance of each, and what it means. This is also your opportunity to ask questions—how do things work, what if, and so on.
Also discuss with your lawyer/notary before you commit to the purchase — is there anything in the contract you should be worried about? Are you protected well enough?
It is advisable that before signing the contract, you carefully read it in its entirety, seek the advice of your lawyer/notary and have all your questions answered to your satisfaction.

What Else Should I Know Before We Get to the Contract Signing?

Buying a new home is a big decision. Here are a few more things to consider before you sign on the dotted line.

  • Before you even sit down with a builder to "put it on paper", find out if you can "pre-view" a blank copy of their contract form. That way, you will know in advance what concerns you may have and what questions to ask. Also consider asking your lawyer/notary to review it and advise you on questions and points to discuss with your builder before writing up the contract.

  • Often you will deal with a builder's sales representative and not the "builder" personally, particularly when buying from a larger builder. The new home salesperson should be knowledgeable, professional and able to guide you through the whole sales process. If you are not comfortable with a sales representative, ask to deal with someone else. Also request that all decisions and agreements be written down, dated and signed by both parties. That way, both the administrative office and the construction department should have a clear record of everything agreed to in the sales office.

  • Don't sign anything unless you are ready. Don't let yourself get pressured into making a premature decision. Instead, ask the builder if they can hold the lot or house for 24, 48 hours or even longer for you — they usually will if they know you are seriously interested.

  • When you are purchasing a condominium, or strata lot home, as they are called in some parts of Canada, read the disclosure statement carefully to understand what items are part of your unit and which ones are common elements. Statements often include a description of the site and buildings, landscaping, common facilities and a proposed budget of expenses for the first few months of operation. Condominium buyers may have a cooling-off period — generally three to ten days — when they can review the disclosure statement. During this time, condominium buyers may cancel the deal with written notice to the builder.

  • Not all builders may allow changes to the standard clauses in their contract. This is a factor that you have to balance against the builder's reputation, the quality of the homes and the recommendations of past customers, as well as your own impressions of the builder.

  • Some builders may include allowances in the price of the home. Allowances are "lump sums" allocated to finishing products, for instance, lighting, flooring or/and kitchen cabinets. Homebuyers can decide themselves how to spend this money, often working directly with the builder's suppliers. If your choices end up costing more or less than the allowance, the price of your home will be adjusted accordingly on closing. It is not uncommon for allowances to be set at the low end, so it may be wise to allocate additional money for finishing products to make sure you can get what you want.

  • A new home contract is most often a "living document"that keeps growing, with the addition of schedules, attachments, waivers, colour selections, change orders and so on. Start a file and keep a copy of everything. Read everything in the file, even the smallest print. Also keep note of all meetings and discussions with the builder — a good paper trail makes for a good relationship with your builder.

  • The purchase of a new home can be time-consuming. While your home is being built, you will have to be available to the builder, sometimes during working hours or at short notice, to deal with your obligations under the contract, such as colour selection or site inspections.

Removing Ice on Roofs

Removing Ice on Roofs

The 1998 Ice Storm

The ice storm that hit eastern Canada in January, 1998 was a laboratory for concentrated research into severe ice accumulation on roofs.

Removing ice on roofs describes some of the techniques developed from the research for dealing with extensive roof icing and ice dam problems.

Please note: Some of these techniques are for skilled tradespeople only. No ice problem on your roof is serious enough to risk broken bones — or worse.

The balance between removing ice and damaging the roof

Thick ice is hard to remove.You must decide if trying to remove it will cause more damage than leaving it on the roof. Tools, such as hammers, shovels, scrapers, chain saws, and devices such as shoes with ice spikes can damage roofing materials or the structure below. Chemical de-icers can discolor shingles, break down membranes and corrode flashings and drains. De-icers can also damage plants on the ground.

What to do in an ice storm emergency

First: Observe and evaluate the situation every day. Is the ice causing a structural problem? Is there water damage? Do you have to do anything?

Second: Evaluate your capabilities and limits. Do you have the equipment, the agility and the help to work safely and efficiently? If you don’t, get professional help before the situation becomes urgent.

Third: To prevent damage, do as little as possible.Total clearing has the greatest potential for damage to the roof and to people and property below. Often, clearing dangerous overhangs and icicles and making drainage paths is enough.

Recommended Procedures for Sloped Roofs

When is there a problem?

The lower the slope, the greater the weight problem. During the ‘98 ice storm many flat roofs had 15 cm (6 in.) of solid ice, while most sloped roofs had little more than 5 cm (2 in.). Most of the ice collected at roof junctions, behind obstructions such as chimneys or skylights, and at roof edges. Drainage, not removal, solved the problem in most cases.

The information in Signs of Stress will help you decide if weight is causing problems on your roof. If your house doesn’t show signs of stress, then there is no need to remove all the ice.


On a sloped roof, your goal is to make drainage paths through the ice on the lower edge of the roof. That’s where most ice dam and water back-up problems occur. Always shovel off loose snow to expose the ice.

If you have power and electric heating cables, making drainage paths is fairly easy. Attach loops of electrical roof de-icing cables to one or more long boards. With ropes tied to the board and thrown over the roof, pull the board up beyond the ice dam, letting the electrical loops hang slightly off the edge of the roof (see Figure 1).

Cables secured to roof
Figure 1: Cables secured to roof

If you want drainage paths higher on the roof, use bundled loops of electrical de-icing cables. They can be drawn high on the roof. Make sure that they hang off the edge of the roof so you get complete water drainage.

You can use chemical de-icers on the edge of the roof. Clear the snow. At about every three feet along the edge of the roof, break the ice crust just above the ice block on the edge of the roof. Put de-icer in each hole above the ice dam and in a vertical line down to the edge of the roof. Use noncorrosive de-icers (see De-icers) and use as little de-icer as possible. Repeat as necessary rather than overdoing it the first time.


Removing ice mechanically from a sloped roof is always dangerous — both for the person doing it and for the roof. Removing ice will probably invalidate your shingle warranty. If ice must be removed, have it done by a professional with proper equipment and training.

Researchers learned a great deal about removing ice from sloped roofs by mechanical means in the winter of 1998. The most important lesson: always start at the top and work down. Starting on the bottom can release ice above you that can slide down and hit you. Small bumps of ice that remain on shingles are caught by ice blocks sliding down. As they slide, they catch and rip off the shingles.

Working from the top down allows you to use the ice on the roof as a slide for the ice that is being freed. Use a sledge hammer rather than an ax.The flexibility of the roof deck will cause the ice to fracture and you will not cut into the shingles.

Freezing Rain

Freezing rain is caused when there is a particular atmospheric “sandwich” of cold and warm air. Precipitation, usually snow, is formed in cold air high up in the atmosphere. As it falls, it travels through a layer of warm air that thaws it into light rain. Just before it hits ground level, it moves into another layer of cold air that brings its temperature to below freezing, but it doesn’t have time or the conditions necessary to crystallize yet. When it hits an object, it immediately freezes.

Snow will collect and then fall off wires and tree branches, and remain relatively light as it accumulates on roofs. Freezing rain compacts into tenacious ice that can weigh almost as much as water. The ice storm of 1998 was in fact a continuous series of small storms, one right after the other, that deposited up to 15 cm (6 in.) of ice on tree twigs, telephone wires, electrical lines and roofs. There is no way to stop freezing rain and it is not generally considered a hazard unless it becomes unusually thick.

The 1998 ice storm created two problems: direct weight and blockage of the natural flow of rain and melting ice. The freezing rain stuck all over the roof, not just on the bottom edge, and created ice dams. The dams backed up run-off water just about anywhere on the roof. Flat roofs suffered serious weight problems, while sloped roofs tended to suffer more water-penetration damage.

Common Winter Ice Dams

Under normal winter conditions, many houses in Canada form ice on the edge of sloped roofs or over part of flat roofs.

This is very different from freezing rain. It is caused by heat from the attic melting the bottom of the snow on the roof. When outside temperatures are just below freezing (0 to - 10°C), water flows down the roof under the snow and freezes when it reaches an unheated portion of the roof. This can create an ice dam on the lower edge of a pitched roof. Water can then back up under the shingles and into the roof space.

The first line of defence against ice dams is to reduce the attic temperature by stopping air leaks from the house below and adding sufficient insulation to the attic floor. Heating cables and other de-icing techniques are a last resort to minimize ice build-up and prevent water damage. For full details on dealing with common ice dams, see the CMHC's Attic Venting, Attic Moisture, and Ice Dams.

Signs of stress

Water leaks showing up inside the house are troublesome and expensive to repair, but don't necessarily mean that there is a structural problem requiring total clearing of the roof. Opening drainage paths may stop or minimize the leaks and avoid the expense and danger of clearing the roof. Structural stress shows up first at internal doors. They begin to jam.

New cracks show up in drywall and plaster. Jammed doors and cracks in drywall and plaster are usually near the centre of the house, not on outside walls.Watch carefully for these signs of stress. If there is significant change as an ice storm continues, take action. If signs of stress appear but do not change from day to day, the structure is holding solid.

On sloped roofs, another indicator is excessive sagging of the ridge line. If in doubt, arrange for an inspection by a professional, although during a crisis, that is easier said than done.

Recommended Procedures — Flat roofs with central drains

When is it a problem?

In most areas, flat roofs are built to safely hold a maximum of 17 to 20 cm (7 to 8 in.) of solid ice, or 38 to 43 cm (15 to 17 in.) of hardened snow, or 70 to 80 cm (about 30 in.) of fresh snow.

If there is more than 15 cm (6 in. ) of hard ice on your roof, you will have to lighten the load. Freezing rain accumulation can often resemble a hard snow more than a solid block of ice. Testing and judgment is useful. Pour hot water from a thermos in one spot. If it melts a small bowl and holds water, it is probably hard ice. If it cuts through to the roof, the accumulation is more likely hardened snow.

There may have been significant renovations below the roof to many older dwellings with flat or basin roofs. If walls have been removed or modified without full structural compensation, the roof may not even support 15 cm (6 in.) of ice. If signs of stress (see above) are significant, reduce the weight on the roof no matter how much ice is on the roof. You may also have to build temporary bracing inside the house.

Under certain freeze-thaw-freeze conditions, ice can exert strong lateral pressure on the parapet and other roof flashings.The pressure can cause roof leaks. It is a good idea to use one of the drainage techniques described below to separate the ice field from all flashings, leaving room for expansion of the ice field.


Electrical Cables

If electrical power and wires are available, this is the easiest and most effective method of creating and maintaining drainage paths on flat roofs.

Shovel off loose snow. Clear about 60 cm (2 ft.) all around the drain. The safest way to do this is to use non-corrosive de-icers or hot water — a hammer or shovel may cause the drain to leak.

Lay electrical de-icing cables from near the drain to each corner of the roof. (Do not put the electrical cables inside the drain — the drain pipe may contain inflammable gases). Run a loop around obstructions, such as skylights and ventilation hoods. If you can work safely near the edge of the roof, run a cable around the inside perimeter (Figure 2).

'X' formation on flat roof
Figure 2 : 'X' Formation on Flat Roof

The cable will melt its way to the roof surface and keep drainage paths open. It will not penetrate the ice until it is warmer than -10°C and, of course, will not work if there is no electricity.

De-icers for cutting into ice

Pour a 6-mm thick by 75-mm wide (1/4 in.-deep by 3-in. wide) path of de-icer from the drain to each corner of the roof and circle obstacles such as ventilators and skylights. Use the same drainage pattern as you would for electrical cables. See Chemical De-icers for details on products. You may need to use a de-icer more than once to melt through to the roof and to keep drainage paths open.

Ice removal is not a good do-it-yourself project. But homeowners can shovel heavy snow off the top of the ice, which might keep the weight load under control.

Ice thickness and weight of ice can be reduced with de-icers such as urea or even wood ashes. Both are slow and work only in relatively mild weather. To ensure water run-off, create drainage paths as described above. Ashes must be directly on the ice, with no snow over or under the ashes, so they can trap the sun’s heat.

Chemical De-icers

Many de-icers don’t show their ingredients on the packaging. Others list ingredients without showing the relative importance of each.This is no help in deciding which de-icer is safe for a roof or better at cutting drainage paths or reducing ice weight.

In general, the least expensive, most effective de-icers are highly corrosive and should not be used on a roof. Urea, the least corrosive, is also the least effective. In between are several products that are a bit more expensive, still effective and reasonably low in corrosive action.

In general, larger rock-like products tend to cut through ice quickly. Finer, powder-like products tend to perforate the ice. This creates a honeycomb effect that makes the ice lighter. Liquid products are the most effective for detaching blocks of ice from the surface.


Salts containing oxidizing agents (these accelerate corrosion and rust and can deteriorate other roofing materials) such as:

NaCl (Sodium Chloride)
CaCl2 (Calcium Chloride)

Safer materials

CMA (calcium magnesium acetate)

The following are normally used as fertilizers:

KCl (Potassium chloride)
(NH4)2 SO4 (Ammonium Sulfate)

Life Safety

Ice is slippery and in emergency conditions medical help may not even be able to get to you. Not only can you slip, but ladders can slip. Removing ice from the edge of a sloped roof can release large fields of ice higher up that can slide down on top of you. During the 1998 ice storm, more than one person died from icicles falling from above when they were simply standing in the driveway below.

Double and triple your safety precautions, or stay away from the roof. Rope off areas and access doors where overhead ice is heavy or slides made occur (Figure 3). Never work alone. Always have someone on the ground to ensure that what you throw off the roof is landing safely.

Caution falling ice
Figure 3 : Rope off areas where overhead ice is heavy or slides may occcur.

On a sloped roof, always tie the ladder down and have a safety rope over the top of the roof secured on the other side.The safety rope should be attached to a full safety harness, like mountain climbers use — it is not there just in case you slip — it is there because you will slip and more than once.

Special ice cleats are available in shoe repair and hardware stores for attaching to shoes and boots, making them much like golf shoes. These are good for not slipping, but are not good for shingles. Walking on icecovered sloped roofs is best left to professionals with professional equipment.

Detaching ice blocks from surface

Liquid de-icers (e.g. Clear Away) were efficient at melting the bond between blocks of ice and roof membranes.

Methyl alcohol worked as well.

Techniques with moderate success

Cutting drainage paths with hot water

This is actually rather effective if you can get hot water very close to the ice (50 to 100 cm — about 2 ft.) and prevent the hose and nozzle from freezing (Figure 4).

Hot water being sprayed from dormer window
Figure 4 : Hot water being sprayed from dormer window.

The drain must first be freed of ice, so that the water can drain away. However, this means you will be undercutting the mass of ice above you, and this ice may come down.

The only safe way to do this job is to cut thin slices off the ice — about 30 cm (1 ft.) — all the way from the gutter up the roof. Keep your ladder off to the side, so it won’t be hit by ice coming off the roof.

Hot water jets from regular garden hoses proved very effective on metal sheds and glass sunrooms when directed from dormer windows above. Do not walk on metal or glass roofs. Cut the ice into sections with the jet, then flood the glass to unhook and slide the ice off. Windows below may need protection from rebounding ice.


In the research conducted in 1998, no suitable contractors were found to be using steam.

Subsequently, CMHC has heard from contractors who have had success with this method. If you can find an experienced contractor, this method may work for you.

Experiments that did not work

Solar Collectors

Both clear and black polyethylene and solar swimming pool covers were tested for melting ice.Wind problems (how do you keep the cover in place?), lack of evaporation, as well as snow cover rendered them all just about useless.

Liquid De-icers

Although they did work to liberate the ice blocks cut by chain saws off flat roofs, they were not effective in cutting drainage paths on the edge of sloped roofs.

Friday, 6 January 2012


Compliments of

Windsor-Essex County Residential Market
For the Period Ending December 31, 2011

  • During the period ending December 31, 2011 there were 4,786 residential sales in the market place this compares to 4,806 residential sales for the same period in 2010.
    As of December 31, 2011 there were 9,364 residential listings received this compares to 9,779 in the same period for 2010 and is a decrease of 4%.

  • The sales to listings ratio (listings sold expressed as a percent of listings received) for the period was 51% in 2010 it was 49%.

  • The inventory of the active residential listings as of December 31, 2011 was 2,450, this compares to 2,629 in 2010. This is a decrease of 7% in active residential listings.

  • The average residential selling price was $169,972 for the period ending December 31, 2011. This is an increase of almost 4% from 2010.

  • The average listing during the period took 76 days to sell (75 in 2010) and sold for 95% of the list price.

For a similar report of statistics about condominiums sales, contact one of our sales representatives.

Statistics are provided courtesy of the Windsor Esssex County Real Estate Board.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Replacing Your Furnace Windsor Real Estate

Compliments of

Replacing Your Furnace

There are usually two major reasons why you are choosing another forced-air furnace. The first is that your furnace does not function. It has just broken down, irrevocably, or it has been “red-tagged” or condemned by gas inspectors. If it is winter, and your house is getting colder quickly, you may not have the luxury of making a reasoned choice on what to buy next. The other situation is that your furnace is getting old, or your fuel bills are becoming too excessive to tolerate. In this case, you have the time to shop around and get the best furnace and fuel for your situation.
This About Your House is written to address both situations. If you have a dead furnace and a chilly house, you will probably take some shortcuts in your selection process.

Choice of Fuels

For many years, CMHC and others could offer sound advice on what fuel choice would be the most economical. During that period, heating systems based on electricity or propane cost the most to operate. Heating oil was somewhat more economical, and natural gas (if available in your community) was the least expensive choice.
Since 2000, the prices of these commodities have been fluctuating, and it is difficult to offer reliable advice on pricing. At one point in 2001 – 2002, heating with electricity in Manitoba was as economical as heating with natural gas. Predicting these prices over the next two decades (a common life span for a furnace) is nearly impossible. The best advice is to make a calculation based on the current prices quoted to you in your locality. See the text box entitled “Calculating fuel costs.”

Calculating Fuel Costs

Here is a rough comparison of the relative costs of heating an older house in Ottawa. You can put in your own fuel prices and the efficiencies of the appliance that you are choosing to compare relative costs.
Calculating fuel costs
Note: It is often difficult to isolate the cost per unit of fuel, be it gas or electricity. Include all the costs that relate to the m³ of consumption for gas (for example, gas supply charge, gas delivery charges, gas surcharges). Electric utilities often also have a bewildering range of charges. Apply all the charges except fixed charges (for example, $10/month connection charge).
For oil appliances, use an energy content of 38.2 MJ/litre of oil. For electricity, use 3.6 MJ/kWh and 100-per-cent efficiency.
Note: 80 GJ (or 80 gigajoules) is the energy required for heating the example house over the winter (heat load). Your own house will likely be different. However, the relative costs calculated for alternative fuels and furnaces in the example house should help you make a selection for your house.

Furnace Sizing

You probably do not need a furnace with the output of your current furnace. Most furnaces in Canadian houses can provide far more heat than the house requires. A properly sized furnace will be running almost continuously during the coldest day of the winter. Having a furnace of a correct size will result in efficient operation during the whole heating season. A grossly oversized furnace will run only for a short period, never coming up to peak efficiency. Note, however, that sizing may not be a big issue with high-efficiency, condensing gas furnaces. Due to the design of condensing appliances, they are efficient even when oversized.
So, how do you size your furnace? You can have the contractor use a home heat loss calculation that is available from Canadian Standards Association (CAN/CSA F280) or a sizing procedure from the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI). Having a proper sizing will cost you $150 – $300 from a qualified contractor.
Those who keep their heating bills, and who are mathematically inclined, can try the calculation in the text box entitled “Calculating house heat loss from utility bills.”

Calculating House Heat Loss from Utility Bills

Here is a sample calculation, using a three-month meter reading for a typical house. You can use any period (but at least two weeks of winter weather is necessary). You can read the meter yourself for the information, look at your furnace bills or phone your utility to see if they have appropriate records. The natural gas usage of other gas-fired appliances in the house is estimated from gas utility data and subtracted from the total for the period in question, so that the gas requirement for heating can be isolated. (Oil furnaces are harder to size using this method, but it may be possible using oil fill-up intervals and the number of litres delivered.)
The goal is to find a relationship between the gas consumed and the heating degree days (HDD). A heating degree day is essentially the number of degrees of heating required over the course of 24 hours, compared to a reference temperature of 18°C. For example, if the average daily outside temperature is 10°C, then the number of heating degree days for that day is 18°C - 10°C = 8 HDD. You can get the approximate HDD for your calculation period from the Environment Canada website. Use the data from the “Degree Days: Below 18°C” row.
Once the relationship of the HDD and gas consumption is established, then you can calculate gas consumption for the design temperature in your area. This temperature is usually available from a mechanical contractor or your local building officials. It is not the extreme minimum temperature; it can be estimated from the average temperature over 24 hours on the coldest day of the winter. To approximate the design temperature: go to the historical weather data for your community on the Environment Canada website; find the coldest January over the last several years; then pick out the lowest daily average temperature in that month; and use that as the design temperature. Being a degree or two out will not make a huge difference in the calculation.
The example below uses a design temperature of -35°C. At that temperature, the maximum HDD per day is equal to 53, which is the difference between 18°C and -35°C. Calculating the size of the furnace necessary on the coldest day of the year will mean that the furnace has the capacity to handle any expected local temperature. You can find a furnace’s efficiency rating on its EnerGuide label or in the product documentation.
Total gas consumption from December to March = 1,320 m3
Estimated consumption for other gas appliances (data from utility) = 306 m3
Therefore, gas consumption during the period for heating = 1,320 - 306 = 1,014 m3
Heating degree days for that period (from Environment Canada data) = 2,840 HDD
Heating consumption by degree day = 1,014 m3/ 2,840 HDD = 0.3570 m3/HDD
Heating consumption at 53 HDD/day = (53 HDD/day)(0.3570 m3/HDD) = 18.9 m3/day
Where gas has an energy content of 37.5 MJ/m3, and the existing furnace has an efficiency of 72 per cent, then:
Heat loss at 53 HDD/day = (18.9 m3/day) (37.5 MJ/m3)(0.72) = 510 MJ/day or 21.3 MJ/h*
According to the energy content of electricity, 3.6 MJ/h = 1 kW, then 21.3 MJ/h = 5.9 kW
This heat loss would require a furnace that produces an output of 5.9 kW or about 20,100 Btu/h (1 kW is approximately 3,412 Btu/h).
If we allow the CAN/CSA F280 permissible oversizing of 40 per cent, then the proper furnace sizing would be (1.4)(20,100 Btu/h) = approximately 28,100 Btu/h.
If you are calculating for an oil furnace, heating oil has an energy content of 38.2 MJ/litre.
* Note: This calculation is correct, although many people think the efficiency factor is in the wrong place. It is not. We are calculating the house heat loss based on fuel used and furnace efficiency. A more efficient furnace will have delivered more heat to the house, and the heat loss will be higher.

Furnace Efficiency

There is a wide range of furnace efficiencies, although only high-efficiency gas furnaces are sold in Canada as of 2010. The range of efficiency will vary by fuel.
Electric furnaces work on electric resistance. The full 100 per cent of the energy consumed goes towards the heating of the house. The inefficiencies with electric heating happen before the electricity reaches your house. If the electricity is created by burning fuels, there are inefficiencies in that process plus losses as the electricity moves through the lines.
Oil furnaces have become far more efficient since the height of their popularity in the mid-twentieth century. Efficiencies have risen from roughly 60 per cent to well over 80 per cent as a result of advanced technologies — first to flame retention head burners and then to high static pressure burners. The more efficient oil furnaces require a better chimney than their conventional counterparts, so you will probably need to upgrade the chimney with a stainless steel liner inside the old clay tile. Make sure this is included in the quote.
Failure to have a properly sized chimney will result in excessive chimney condensation and eventual destruction in the case of masonry chimneys. There are high-efficiency, condensing oil furnaces as well. Earlier versions had reliability problems. The new generation, launched in 2003, may have resolved these difficulties.
New gas furnaces in Canada are high-efficiency (89 – 96 per cent) condensing furnaces. The high-efficiency furnaces use a plastic vent and are most often vented out the side wall. Propane furnaces are usually modified natural gas equipment.

So… What Do I Buy?

Here are the most common questions about furnace replacements to CMHC staff from Canadians, and our usual answers:
Should I switch my heating fuel?
In most parts of Canada, it will be more expensive to heat with an electric furnace than one using oil or gas. An exception would be if you heat primarily with a wood stove and use the furnace only infrequently as backup. In this case, the low cost and low maintenance requirements of an electric furnace may be a major advantage. Deciding between oil and gas furnaces is a matter of choice. Make the calculation to see if it is significantly cheaper to use one fuel or another based on current prices in your area. Oil furnaces require a tank and usually a chimney. There may be additional costs for chimney modification or oil storage tanks when purchasing an oil furnace. Some home insurance companies require periodic oil tank replacements. Check if a new gas furnace would also require relining the chimney. Consult with your contractor and make sure that these costs are included in your estimates.
Some dealers recommend a furnace of 100,000 Btu/h, and some say 80,000 Btu/h will be fine. How do I choose?
See the previous discussion on sizing. If you are buying an oil furnace, proper sizing will affect the durability and efficient operation of your appliance. Your choices are either to pay for a proper heat loss analysis, to calculate house heat loss or to accept the dealer's estimate. Sometimes government or utility programs subsidize house testing. If such a program is in effect in your vicinity, this can be an economical way to have your house heating load established.
Are there any advantages to multi-stage, multi-speed furnaces?
Multi-stage furnaces have become more popular lately, although they are more expensive than the single stage furnaces that have been sold for decades. Multi-stage furnaces have two or three levels of burner function, and an efficient, modulating circulation fan to move the heat into the house. They can provide additional heat when a quick temperature rise is required, such as in the morning when a house with a setback thermostat is being heated from 15°C to 21°C (59°F to 70°F). A traditional single speed furnace would take longer to get up to temperature. The multi-stage furnaces are no more efficient than single-stage furnaces; they offer more flexibility and perhaps more comfort.
Is Furnace "A" better than Furnace "B"? How can I find that out?
There is little or no available data to show that one manufacturer's furnace will operate longer and with less trouble than a furnace from another manufacturer. This is frustrating for consumers. We are used to being able to read ratings of one product versus another product and to make a choice based on those ratings. However, a good furnace will last 25 years. A poor one may break down prematurely at 15 years. With lifetimes of this length, and with furnace design and model changes, it is hard to predict which furnace will provide the best service.
There are two factors to help you in your choice. Pick a furnace with a long heat exchanger warranty, 20 years or more. If manufacturers are willing to back the most expensive part of their appliance for a long time, this should inspire some confidence. Also, pick a furnace manufacturer and a dealer that have been in business for a significant period of time. A furnace with a lifetime warranty offered by a company that has been in operation for only three years may not be the best deal. One would expect to pay less for this level of uncertainty. Look for contractors with memberships in trade organizations such as HRAI, which would indicate an interest in professional qualifications.

The Hot Water Heater Conundrum

There are very few high-efficiency hot water heaters available. Changing your furnace may lead to having to think about your hot water heater. Existing hot water heaters are often located vertically below the kitchen and bathrooms, where the water is used. If you are changing from an electric to a conventional gas hot water tank, and the new gas appliance has to be installed across the basement to be near the chimney, you will be waiting longer for the hot water at the tap. Consider a gas hot water tank that has side-wall venting and does not require a chimney. This way, it can stay close to the plumbing appliances that use it.
Another hot water tank issue can occur when you switch from a conventional gas furnace and hot water tank to a new, high-efficiency side-wall vented furnace. Now the hot water tank has to heat up that big chimney all by itself, and you probably will have to pay for chimney relining. It is often better, when choosing a chimneyless furnace, to switch your hot water tank to side-wall venting at the same time and seal the old chimney closed. However, side-wall vented hot water heaters are more expensive than conventional hot water heaters and can be noisier.
Instantaneous hot water heaters, which do not use a storage tank, are becoming more common. They may be more economical to operate.

Furnace Circulating Fan Choices

Most furnace circulating fans consume high amounts of electricity (300 – 700 watts). If you will be using your furnace circulating fan to move ventilation air around the house (for instance, if you have a heat recovery ventilator connected to it, or a high-efficiency air cleaner on the furnace), then look at upgrading the circulating fan to a high-efficiency DC motor. The best furnace fans now will use less than 100 W on low speed. This will result in considerable electrical savings over the life of the furnace.

Other Choices

When replacing the furnace, you may want to look at integrated systems that heat your house and your water and also provide ventilation. Devices known as “combo” units provide house and water heating. New appliances with advanced, integrated systems will provide ventilation as well as space and water heating. For some replacements, these integrated appliances will be your best choice.

Additional Resources

For further detailed information on all heating appliances, there are excellent booklets published by Natural Resources Canada in the Heating and Cooling Series.

Your Furnace Filter Windsor Real Estate

Your Furnace Filter

Compliments of

What a Furnace Filter Can do for You

Traditionally, furnace filters were designed to protect the furnace and fans. With increased air quality awareness, some filters are now being installed to reduce exposure to particles which can affect your health.

There is a wide variety of furnace filters available. However, you may find it confusing to select one which is suitable. This purpose of this document is to provide you with guidance when selecting your furnace filter.

What Airborne Particles are Found in Your Home?

The particles you breathe in your home come from a variety of sources including:

  • dust on floors or other surfaces that is disturbed by activity in the house
  • dust generated by smoking, burning candles, cooking, doing laundry, etc.
  • hair and skin flakes from humans or pets
  • particles from the outside air which come into your home with infiltrating air

Some particles are so small that they are inhaled and then exhaled without being trapped in your lungs. Some larger particles are trapped in your nose and throat and never reach your lungs. Still other particles are too large to be inhaled.The particles most dangerous to you are those that enter your lungs and lodge there.

You can see the particles of dust which accumulate on your television screen, shelves, and furniture. But you can't see the respirable particles. Respirable particles can be easily inhaled into your lungs and provoke respiratory illness. Although you would probably like to keep visible dust out of your home, the main health risk comes from respirable particles, which include tobacco smoke, spores, bacteria, and viruses.

The activity levels of the people in your home can affect the air you breathe. Activity such as vacuuming and cooking can create or stir up particles. On the other hand, during periods of inactivity such as the middle of the night, particle concentrations tend to be much lower.

Filter Research

CMHC conducted a study to verify filter manufacturer claims and to determine whether good filters will significantly reduce your exposure to airborne particles. All results are compiled and discussed in the research report: Evaluation of Residential Furnace Filters (1999). You can obtain a copy of this report by calling the Canadian Housing Information Centre (CHIC) at 1 800 668-2642. A summary of the results of this study follows.

Research Program

The CMHC study first tested ten filter types in a single home and then the following filters in 5 additional homes:

  • i) 25 mm (1") premium media filter
  • ii) Charged media type electronic
  • iii) 100 mm (4") pleated media filter
  • iv) High efficiency bypass filters, such as a HEPA (high efficiency particle arrestor)
  • v) Electronic plate and wire (ESP)

Air in the houses was tested when these higher efficiency filters were in use. The results were compared to when no filter was used.

The electronic plate and wire filter (ESP) produces some ozone during its operation. Exposure to elevated ozone can irritate your lungs. Separate testing was done to verify whether the amount of ozone produced by the ESP could affect the occupants of the home.

Testing Limitations

Each filter was in use in each house only for one or two days. The effects of dust accumulation on filter performance could not be evaluated in these tests. If a filter actually cleaned dust out of a house by cleaning house air, these tests were too brief for such effects to be seen.

Research Results

The research showed that exposure of the house occupants to airborne particles appears to be directly linked to their activities when they are in the home. The furnace filter appears to have only a moderate effect on the exposure of an individual to respirable particles in the home.

Consider each member in your home to be followed by a cloud of dust—like "Pig Pen" in the "Peanuts" comic strip by Charles Schulz. When occupants are moving around, they stir up the dust. The dust in this cloud is usually not affected by the quality of the furnace filter because the filter is far away down a duct.

Table 1 shows the percentage of improvement provided by each filter versus having no filter. The improvements are greater when there is no activity in the home, but particle levels were quite low in the test houses during these periods whether or not the air was being filtered.

Table 1 : Filter Results

Filter % improvements during active periods in
the home
% improvements during non-active periods in
the home
25 mm premium 21 57
Charged media 9 29
100 mm pleated 9 13
HEPA bypass 23 38
ESP 31 71

The Cost of Clean Air

For a furnace fan filter to be effective, your furnace fan would have to run almost all the time. Unless you already have your furnace fan operating all the time, this additional fan use can add $200 or more per year to your electric bill, unless you have a high efficiency furnace fan motor. Table 2 shows the cost, including maintenance, of each filter over a period of 15 years compared to the cost per unit of clean air they provided.

The table shows that filters which cost the least produced very little clean air. The 25 mm pleated filter actually had the greatest cost per unit of clean air. The ESP filter was the most cost effective because it produced the most amount of clean air, and cost very little to do so.

Table 2 : Cost of clean air

Filter Maintenance and capital costs, per year, over 15 years ($) Amount of clean air produced (litres/second) Cost of clean
air per year ($/litres/second)
25 mm pleated 48 17 3.36
25 mm premium 100 97 1.13
Charged media 43 44 1.25
100 mm pleated 93 60 1.71
HEPA bypass 240 175 2.03
ESP 67 298 0.26

What About Ozone?

Despite being the most effective filter in the tests, the ESP produces small amounts of ozone during operation. In the research project, a survey of fifteen homes with ESP filters showed that all ESPs created ozone in the air stream of the duct. None of these raised ozone levels in the house air above the safe concentrations recommended by health guidelines. During the test period, ozone levels were always higher in the outside air than in house air, despite the ozone production by the ESP filters.


This research showed that the particles in the duct air can be reduced when an upgraded filter is installed.The results also showed that this reduction will only moderately reduce indoor exposure to respirable particles.

Since the research was undertaken, the filter industry has developed a new testing standard and rating system. Look for the “MERV” rating on the filter; the higher the MERV rating, the better the filtration. Make sure that your furnace technician approves a change to a high efficiency filter. Some of the filters with higher MERV ratings will reduce the amount of air passing through the furnace and affect its performance.

So... How do You Reduce Levels of Respirable Particles?

Our best current guess is to reduce dust entry by:

  • removing footwear on entry;
  • keeping major dust generators (smoking, pets, etc.) out of the house;
  • reducing dust collecting surfaces (open shelves, carpets, upholstered furniture, etc.);
  • diligent and frequent vacuuming with an efficient vacuum cleaner;
  • reducing the entry of particle-laden outdoor air by closing windows, improving house airtightness, and installing an intake filter on the air supply;
  • using a good furnace filter.

Most of these recommendations will also reduce the amount of visible dust in your house.