Nachi Members In The News

One-year inspection needs a pro
Last kick at the can to repair any problemsIt’s wise to wait until a winter has come and gone

It can take some time and wear for problems to show
May 6, 2006. 01:00 AM

The world we live in thrives on outsourcing. Got kids? Send them to daycare or hire a nanny. Need a meal? Let the folks at a restaurant or your favourite fast food joint cook it. So why not do the same with those tasks that are even more mundane and detail-oriented, like the one-year inspection of your new home? The one-year warranty form that you are required to submit to Tarion is your last kick at the warranty can for some of the items that have been outstanding since your 30-day inspection and new ones that you’ve discovered during the year. It’s a stress inducer and the fear that you might miss something only makes it worse. But rather than dashing around with a clipboard and pen looking for cracks in your basement walls, what if you could, instead, carry only a coffee cup and watch while someone else climbed ladders and poked their head into dusty spaces? And what if you got an education on your house at the same time? That’s the theory behind Hilain Home Inspections, the company started 18 months ago by Michael Bertrand and Darryl Johns, to offer a fresh perspective to new homeowners. The two men were originally in the home renovation business and carpenters by trade before earning their home inspection certificates from George Brown and becoming members of the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors. Their combined total of more than 50 years’ experience building houses (including working on the show *Real Renos *with host Jim Caruk) is an asset to new homeowners who often know as much about home building as they do about rocket science. “How do you know if your insulation is installed right or if your roof is properly secured?” asks Bertrand. Janice Jordan, 33, and her husband, Ross Scott, certainly didn’t. Two years ago they bought their new home in Brooklin and decided that a home inspection —before they sent in their one-year warranty form —was important for peace of mind. “As first-time new homeowners, we weren’t sure what to look for,” says Jordan. The call to Hilain went out after a neighbour’s recommendation, she adds. “He was very thorough and he noticed things we certainly wouldn’t have noticed,” Jordan continues. “He spent 45 minutes up on the roof and we wouldn’t have done that.” The session usually lasts from 2 1/2 to four hours, depending on the size of the home. He visits everywhere from the basement to the attic, flashlight in hand. Even better is the fact that they fill out the Tarion forms for you using the appropriate building terms and lingo “It was the best money we could’ve spent. We were investing in our house,” Jordan adds. “I tell every customer at the end of the warranty inspection to call me if there’s any problem,” Bertrand says, adding that he has only ever received two calls — both from builders who agreed with the assessment of the problem but were unsure how to fix it. I, too, have had my new home inspected, I tell Bertrand, expecting praise for my foresight. Instead, he shakes his head. According to Bertrand, hiring a home inspector prior to completing my 30-day inspection was a mistake. “Too early,” he says. "People ask me to come out and help with the PDI (pre-delivery inspection) and 30-day (inspection) and I say `no.’ “I want a winter on your house. In Canada, our winters are hard on the houses. I want to see what it does to yours,” he says. “I want that new homeowner glow gone. I want you to have experienced the furnace and the air conditioning. With those clues in my hands I can really take a good look and find the source of the problems.” After betting me that he could find things I missed on my one-year inspection form, Bertrand arrives at my home and within 30 minutes has identified several things I would never have even known to check for: missing caulking, exposed nail heads on the roof, missing mounting screws in vents, insulation that isn’t puffy enough and missing in key places, ducts that aren’t connected, exhaust fans that don’t open and a sock in the attic. While many of the items he finds aren’t going to cause the house to crumble, they could affect my comfort in the home and they could have been fixed if highlighted on my Tarion form. “The biggest misses happen with the attic, the ventilation system and the roof,” says Bertrand. On average, he finds about 40 items per house. His record is 98. He says that despite having written 150 pages of a book he hopes to call “Lies The Builder Told Me,” he is not out to persecute all builders. “They’re human and sometimes there are oversights,” he says, adding that 80 per cent of workers on any job site are subcontractors. But their oversights can become your problem if you’re not careful, he adds. “You paid a heck of a lot of money for your house,” says Bertrand. “You pay $60 for a drill and you get a two-year warranty. You pay $450,000 for your house and you get 11 months.” Use them well. For more information on choosing a home inspector visit Hilain Home Inspections can be reached at ***Heather Greenwood Davis *is a freelance writer. Reach her at

Here is another one

Efficiency pays — eventually
Grants are hard to get and it can take years to recover cost of improvements
Feb. 9, 2006. 01:00 AM

These days you can add something else to those other inevitable standards of death and taxes: Higher home heating costs.
So, anytime you get a chance to get some of those taxes back and save energy costs on your home, it’s worth a look.
The federal government is offering up to $3,348 in grants to owners who improve their home’s energy efficiency and help reduce greenhouse gasses as defined by the Kyoto Accord. It’s all part of the EnerGuide program run by Natural Resources Canada.
But getting your hands on that cash isn’t easy. In fact, for the 25,600 Canadians who have participated in the two-year-old program, the grants have so far been averaging $750 — well short of the maximum. The 8,300 Ontarians who participated received on average, $650 each.
The complex process starts with an in-home energy assessment from one of 30 government-picked contractors across Canada, including Yuri Olhovsky of Residential Efficiency Training Resources Ontario (RETRO), who spends about two hours looking at everything from furnace to the attic.
The final part of his assessment is to perform a “blower test,” which involves literally putting a big fan blower over one of the doors and “pressurizing” the house to identify leaks.
The test costs $150 plus GST and provides homeowners with a written report based on a software program’s calculation. Should the homeowner decide to upgrade based on the recommendations, a second test is performed free of charge to determine the level of grant based on energy efficiency improvements.
“You can never tell just looking at the house what the efficiency is,” says Olhovsky, who is also a home inspector when not performing the assessments. “You have to input all the data and let the software give the answer.”
A couple of weeks later the end result is a detailed report which scores the home’s efficiency on a scale of 100, zero being a house with no insulation and high energy costs and 100 being the equivalent of a hermetically sealed box, well insulated, airtight but ventilated and requiring no purchased energy to heat. (Windows, apparently, are a necessarily evil in energy efficient homes. We like the light and view they afford but they allow heat to escape in winter and suck in solar heat during the summer.)
My south Scarborough three-storey, detached home — built in 1939 and added to in 1983 — scored 49 which puts it just in the lowest percentile of efficiency. The report also suggests that by making the improvements recommended, the score could hit a target of 69.
And if the second test confirmed the upgrades raised the score to that target I would be eligible for a grant of $1,050. If I really went hog wild and raised my score to a maximum of 85 (scoring 100 isn’t even considered on the chart) the maximum grant I could get is $2,063.
At issue, noted Olhovsky, is not just the poorly insulated basement, but the wooden sash windows in the older part of the house, the 20-year-old furnace and rental water tank, which together send half my gas heating energy up the flue as waste.
Based on the heat loss calculation, the report also suggested the furnace should be a little smaller than the 85,000 BTU unit I have now.
While the 1983 addition is well sealed with six-inch walls and R20 insulation, I should consider insulating the old part of the house’s walls by injecting isocyanurate plastic foam behind the lath and plaster walls, Olhovsky said.
But here’s the rub: To get the grant I’d have to invest around $6,000 in new windows, about $3,500 for a high-efficiency furnace, $2,500 for a high-efficiency tankless water heater and $5,000 for basement renovations to insulate properly. To be fair, the grant money isn’t the only payback. The assessment also calculated I could save about $1,400 a year in natural gas costs based on a more efficient furnace and better insulated home.
Surprisingly, though, my electricity costs wouldn’t change that much, down only $20 on the year, the report projected. That’s because of two things: One, a better-insulated home, more efficient furnace and better windows won’t really change my hydro demands. Better I should crack the whip on my teenagers who leave a trail of lights blazing and blaring TVs in empty rooms, and install energy efficient bulbs.
And two, the anomaly that the EnerGuide program does not include an assessment or calculation around air conditioning costs because cooling is seen to be “unnecessarily adding to greenhouse gases.”
Given the scorching summer we had in the GTA this year, it’s a strange position to take. But using the pile of pamphlets and documents which came with the assessment, I was able to figure out a way to cut my electricity costs by installing an EnerStar rated energy efficient air conditioner, washer, dryer, dishwasher and fridge. The $5,000 investment would probably generate about $500 a year in savings. (EnerStar appliances are so designated because they are energy efficient — they have a sticker on them attesting to their status.)
All together I’d have to spend upwards of $22,000 from which I’d hopefully get about $1,050 or more back from the feds and save about $1,900 annually in energy costs, making the upgrades pay for themselves after about 13 years, still not a bad investment considering the added resale value the house itself would gain. And some of those items are going to have to be replaced soon anyway.
While a new kitchen, hardwood flooring and perhaps a bathroom upgrade might sound sexier, none of those pay for themselves. It’s a tough call.
Homeowners have 18 months after their first assessment to make the upgrade, have the test repeated and submit their applications for a grant. The closing date of the program for assessments is March 31 2007.
“For most people, they have the second test and they get back the cost of the assessment and they’re happy,” said Olhovsky. “They can see the improvements they have made have had an effect. And they can do other things like using energy efficient bulbs to save energy costs.”
For more information visit the Office of Energy Efficiency at
***Ian Harvey **is a freelance writer who is trying to keep heating costs down in his Toronto home. Email him at