Household Tips for Your New Home
With the arrival of fall it's a good time to prepare your house for the cold of winter. One area that should be attended to is the exterior caulking around windows and doors. As caulking ages it sometimes shrinks and cracks leaving gaps around these windows and doors. This could allow water or cold air to enter in. It is best to try and remove the old caulking, using a Flathead screwdriver or a small putty knife (it is not an easy job). When it is removed, new caulking should then be applied. I recommend buying a good quality caulking which is flexible, has good adhesion, minimal shrinkage and is relatively easy to use. The local lumberyard would be a good place to start to get some advice on this product.
Caulking comes in a tube which has a plastic cone shaped end on it. This tube fits in an applicator commonly called a "gun". The tip of the cone shaped end must be cut off and the tube punctured to allow the caulking to come out. The caulking comes out when steady grip pressure is applied to the handles on the caulking gun. When the caulking does start coming out the point of the tube it should slowly be moved over the crack to be filled. Applying caulking is an acquired skill that takes some practice. Good advice would be to apply it slowly with care until you gain some experience. Good Luck and Good Caulking.
When I talk to new home buyers I'm often asked what colour shingles, trim and brick I would suggest they use on the exterior of the home. That is a very subjective decision and it has to be made by the purchaser. I always suggest that they drive around and see what combinations appeal to them the most. It is much easier to make a proper choice by doing this.
Interior wall colours are also very difficult to have someone choose for you as everyone has different tastes. Wall colours are often drawn from the colours in the furniture you have. One should be very careful in choosing a colour based on a paint chip that you have seen at a paint supply store. They often appear quite different when actually applied to a large surface. My advice would be to choose a colour, buy a small amount of the paint, have one wall painted and see if you like it. If you do like it then buy more and carry on, if you don't then you can modify it until you have it just right and then carry on. I hope these tips may be of some help.
Getting Ready for Winter: Exterior Taps
With cold weather soon to be here it is a good time to make sure all exterior water taps are shut off and drained to prevent them from freezing.
To do this you have to shut the valve off on the inside of the house. This valve is usually located in the basement ceiling close to where the water line goes through the wall to the outside. After the inside valve has been shut off you must open up the drainage cap in the same valve which will drain the water remaining in the line. There may be about a cup of water, which will drain out, so have a container handy. When the line has been drained go outside and open the outside valve, then reach into the tap (in the hole where the water comes out) and pull down on the vacuum breaker which you will find there. This will release any more water remaining. I hope these tips may be of some help.
First Winter in the new home
As I write this article I'm looking out my office window at a very wintry scene. Snow covers the ground, the wind is gusting and there is a light snow falling. The trees behind my house are rocking in the wind (as are the streetlights). The temperature is about -5° but it feels like -25° with the wind chill factor. I'm very warm and comfortable in my new house, but in this weather not everything is perfect despite my best efforts to make it so.
As the wind howls outside (it is really loud as it whistles through the trees), I remind myself to check for any shingles on the ground or pieces of siding or eave trough. They sometimes blow off in extremely windy conditions, such as this, which means either the roof or exterior walls could be exposed to weather.
I notice my steel front door does not stay closed as well as it did in warmer weather. The extreme cold outside and warmth inside causes it to warp slightly. I ask everyone to take more care in making sure it's completely shut when they close it because it has blown open a couple of times.
The front bedroom of the house was built partially over the front porch, on the second floor. It is well insulated but has a large window and two attic access doors. These are areas where cold seems to come from in my home, especially if there is a strong east wind. For the few times this does happen, we keep the bedroom door open at night and run the furnace fan continuously to help circulate the heat.
Now that the furnace is running more often, I decided to check the filter. It was good that I did, as it was clogged quite badly with dust, so I replaced it to allow the furnace to work more efficiently (it is a good idea to check your furnace filter monthly). I have an H.R.V. (Heat Recovery Ventilation Unit) in my home, which exhausts humid household air and replaces it with dryer outside air. Condensation on the windows is not a problem with one of these. In my previous house we did not have an H.R.V. so we ran bathroom fans, kitchen fans and open doors and windows often during the heating season to keep the air fresh & drying in the house.
As I sit and watch TV by the window, I feel a cool draft. I used a good quality window and used foam insulation to seal the gaps around them, but on very cold nights I still feel the draft. My research has discovered that internal air currents rather than the outside air cause this "draft" from the outside. The windows of course are cold and the room air is warm. This causes a cold air current and is a normal occurrence.
I hope that the experiences that I have had while living in my own new home will help people understand situations which may arise in their own.
We have recently experienced some heavy snowfalls in our area, which over the last few years has not happened often. Snow accumulation on the roof does put a strain on the roof system and in some older homes in the area a few have collapsed. New homes are usually built with truss roofs, which are designed to handle a certain snow load. It is a good idea, especially on older homes, to shovel off extremely large concentrations of snow to prevent the possibility of collapsing. I realize it is easier said than done especially for older people. The elderly should seek the help of a relative or a handyman.
Snow build up around the perimeter of a house is also not a good thing. When a thaw occurs, or if it happens to rain on the snow, it forces the water to go in areas that it normally doesn't. This can cause leaks especially in the basement and most often around basement windows. These areas especially should be kept clean of snow so that any water coming near can drain away properly.
Snow laying on a roof can also cause problems in other ways. Freezing and thawing of the snow can occur causing ice build-ups. This ice sometimes causes water flowing down the roof to damn up and then back up under the shingles into the attic. This can cause damage to ceilings. Areas that are susceptible to this are usually on the south side of the home and the thawing caused by the effects of the sun. These roof areas should be kept relatively clear of snow to prevent potential problems.
Flooring Wear and Tear
After living in our new home for just over 1½ years, I decided to examine the condition of our floors. Having a blended family of the nineties, we have at times between 2 and 6 teenagers living under our roof. We took that into consideration when we chose our various types of flooring and also the fact that I work in construction, which means at times I come home dirty.
For our foyer we chose a ceramic tile. This choice has probably worked out the best because it does not show the dirt and still looks like new. The kitchen was a designer solarian vinyl sheet flooring. It is also still very attractive, does not show the dirt and is in great condition (except for one small tear made while wallpapering). Our living and dining area is prefinished hardwood flooring. There are some small scratches on it near our table. This is from sliding chairs over the floor even though
We have felt strips under the chair legs. I'm not overly concerned and I think the floor still looks great and is fairly easy to maintain. In the bedrooms we have a light coloured carpet. In the traffic areas it is showing some signs of wear and there is the odd blemish on it. This spring would be a good time to shampoo the carpets. Of all the flooring choices we made, I think I would rather have had hardwood in our bedroom. I believe its easier to keep clean and aesthetically more pleasing. Unfortunately money does have quite a bearing on flooring choices.
In the kids bedrooms I think more of a Berber type of carpet would have been better. Instead of the light coloured carpet we used I think more of a "Coke" coloured carpet would have been more appropriate, because quite a lot seems to have been spilt on it. Our basement rec.-room was set up for teenagers to be teenagers. We have some well-seasoned furniture for them to use and their own entrance door to come and go, as they will. We chose a corlon floor, which is thick and quite durable. There are a few gouges in the corlon from chairs being dragged around but all in all it has stood up quite well. It still looks good and was the right choice for us.
In summary you can see that most of our flooring choices were based on aesthetic appeal, our lifestyle and available money. I hope that what I have shared may help you make your flooring choices.
Nail pops and cracks in drywall are a common occurrence in new homes. There are two main reasons why they occur.
The first reason is poor quality installation, especially in the case of nail pops. Nails or screws not put in straight have more of a tendency to protrude through the drywall because there is not as much drywall compound covering them.
Another problem occurs if the sheet of drywall is not snug against the framing material. Pressure against the sheet will cause drywall "popping". Too much moisture in the framing material will also cause the nails to pop, once the wood dries out.
Cracks in drywall usually occur over windows, doorways and archways. This is the result of the house settling and drying out. This is a common occurrence, however a well framed house with tight joints and securely nailed members will not settle as much as one which is shoddily constructed. Also a home constructed of Kiln dried lumber and not air-dried will have less problems associated with drying and therefore less cracking.
At Doug Tarry Limited, we approach this problem right from the start by using all kiln dried material so there is less shrinkage. Also, before any drywall is applied, our carpenter checks all the framing in the house to ensure it is straight and sound. Conscientious workmen with many years of experience install the drywall. A key member of their crew is the drywall taper who checks all screw and nail heads to make sure they are secured properly. This approach has served us fairly well in that we seldom need to return to a home for drywall repairs.
Grading of the Yard/ Backyard Swales
Final grading is completed soon after the curbs and sidewalks are installed. The grades for each lot are determined before the house is even started. Our engineer, at the request of the City of St. Thomas approves the "grading plan". These grades fit in to the overall grading plan of the entire subdivision. These grades cannot be altered by the homeowner after he takes possession of his home. Changes to these grades may prove OK for the person making the changes, but could pose a problem for adjacent homeowners. Critical areas are the swales between houses and any rear yard swales. Rear yard swales are always potential problem areas because they are at the back of the lot where storage sheds and gardens are commonly located. They cannot be located in the swales, as they will block the flow of water between lots. The City has the right to remove any gardens or sheds which are inhibiting the function of the swale. It is best to stay clear of these areas, or ask the city for information as to how close one can encroach to them. As a developer, I often find that builders are not the best people to ask such advice, as they are often not as knowledgeable as they should be in such matters. The City engineering department is the best source of such advice as they are ultimately the government body, which polices this property issue.
Finishing Your Basement/dryness
Many people decide to finish a room in the basement soon after they move into a new home. A successful rec. room project would include that it be warm and dry.
To make sure the basement is good and dry, a drainage layer on the exterior of the basement wall will help by directing any water which comes in contact with the wall down to the weeping tile. This drainage layer is made up of compressed sheets of insulation, plastic membranes or a sprayed rubber compound. All are good in providing you with a drainage layer.
Although a drainage layer is not a building code requirement it is required is you want to fully insulate your basement walls from floor to ceiling. A fully insulated basement wall would insure that you achieve the warmth that you would desire in a finished rec. room. If you're building a new home and have plans on a future rec. room, check to see if your builder provides a drainage layer.
In my previous articles I have recommended that homeowners check the filter in their furnace regularly and change them if necessary. I recently checked my own furnace filter and to my amazement I discovered that it was as black as charcoal. It surprised me because usually when it's dirty there is a light covering of dust on it.
I wanted answers to this situation, so I talked to my heating contractor, Home Warranty Representatives and fellow builders. The Ontario Home Warranty rep. asked if I burned candles in my home. My wife is a candle burning fanatic and around Christmas time we would have as many as 15 candles burning in the living and dining room. It started to make sense to me because I checked my filter the first week of January, right after the holiday festivities. Since that time we have burned far fewer candles and the filter has not been black.
On further examination of my home, I have noticed a faint grey film around the white cabinet frames in my kitchen. This, I assume, is also a result of my candle burning. When I mentioned this to my wife she said I had better get used to having a black filter, etc., because she is not giving up her candles. This is my dilemma, but I am sure also one that is shared by other homeowners. Candles, cleaners, cigarette smoke and grease from cooking, can circulate in the tightly built new home of today and be deposited on furnace filters, cabinets and even carpets. Care needs to be taken in the use of the aforementioned items to help control or eliminate potential or existing problems.