Posted by admin on July 5, 2012
If anyone needs to stay cool right now, it’s Shane and Jennifer Schick. The Scarborough parents of toddlers aged 2 and 4 are expecting their third child in about two weeks.
The couple also recently moved to an apartment in a fourplex after renting in the Mount Pleasant Rd. and Eglinton Ave. E. area for several years. That means they are making many adjustments to living in their new home as they unpacked during the recent heat wave. When you have two kids and one on the way and no air conditioning, finding relief in 30C and high humidity can be difficult.
To top it off, the Schicks learned after moving into their new apartment that the owner of the building did not want them to install a window air conditioner because he had just replaced all the windows.
“We’re using table fans right now and it doesn’t really do the job,” says Shane. “We used to live in a main-floor apartment and we’re finding that the heat seems to travel upstairs to the second floor. It’s been really challenging. I’ve even slept in the basement on a few nights.”
The alternatives aren’t that appealing, either.
“The floor model air conditioners take up a lot of space (and can be expensive) and look like a small washer or dryer,” he says. “This is probably the last year we will rent so I’m not sure we want to make an investment in something like that.”
There’s also the cost consideration of running air conditioning units if you pay your own hydro.
According to a recent survey conducted by Direct Energy, 77 per cent of Ontarians use air conditioning to escape the summer heat and 69 per cent are concerned about what the cost will be to keep a steady temperature.
Any AC units 12 to 15 years old may not be energy efficient. Most units older than 12 years operate at around 10 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating), which means they are a lot less efficient than newer models.
“The age of the equipment can impact not just the cost, but the overall effect and comfort level of the equipment as well,” says Dave Walton, director of home ideas with Direct Energy.
So if you rent and your landlord doesn’t offer central air or window air conditioners, what are your options?
If the home you’re renting has a programmable thermostat use it, or ask your landlord to install one. By raising the temperature by 5C at night and when no one is home, you can save as much as 10 per cent on an energy bill.
“Set it to keep the home just a little bit warmer during the day and have it start to cool down around 4:30 or 5 p.m. as you’re heading home,” says Walton.
Other tips include closing all the blinds and curtains on a hot day before leaving the house. “You can leave a few windows open, but especially on the south and west facing windows, keeping window coverings closed is quite an effective way of keeping the house cool,” says Walton.
When the sun goes down, open the windows. Opening selective windows so that cooler night air is blowing in throughout the evening can make a big difference, especially when combined with a good fan. Leaving all the interior doors open can help as well. Be sure to get up and close the windows and blinds as soon as the sunlight hits.
Avoid using heat sources in your living spaces, such as the stove, if you can avoid it. Eat cold meals, or use the microwave. Some light bulbs can also create heat, so switch to compact fluorescents. Turn off your lamps and computer when you’re not using them. The TV can give off a lot of heat, as well as some plug-in power adapters.
If you can use a window air conditioner in your unit, know that they have their limitations. “They typically can only cool so much of the room or home, can be noisy and not as energy efficient as a central air conditioning unit is, and they can also pose a few headaches like dripping water and rattling window frames,” says Walton.
Window units also need to be taken out in the fall and put back in the spring.
Like any new technology, efficiencies are improving and new units operate better than ones that are 10 years old. “A new window air conditioner does work a lot better than an old one,” he says.
If you’re in the market for a new window unit, Hydro One is having a saveONenergy exchange event Saturday and Sunday at participating Canadian Tire stores.
Take your old window unit and/or portable dehumidifier (in working condition and a minimum age of 10 years old) to the store and receive a $50 coupon towards a new model. Go to hydroone.com for more information.
By replacing your old, inefficient appliances with an Energy Star model, you’ll save energy and help the environment.
According to Hydro One, the savings amount to about $50 a year when you replace an older dehumidifier with an Energy Star model and about $14 a year when you exchange an older room A/C with an Energy Star model.
For now, the Schicks say they plan to investigate some of the newer, more expensive fans offering better air circulation, such as the Dyson air multiplier — and perhaps there will be more sleepovers in the basement.
By: Jennifer Brown
Posted by admin on June 18, 2012
An unprecedented land grab for new Web addresses began in earnest on Wednesday with fierce competition for new internet real estate including .app, .blog and .web from applicants hoping to break the near-monopoly of the .com top-level domain.
The ambitious plan to liberalise internet addresses attracted 1,930 applications, almost half of them from north America, with Web giants Amazon and Google applying for dozens of domains including .cloud, .buy and .book.
The liberalisation of top-level domains beyond the fewer than two dozen in existence – dominated by .com, .org and .net – is intended to stimulate competition and innovation by giving organisations more control over their Web presence.
Critics say the new suffixes are unlikely to catch on, and some trademark owners have complained that the move is causing them unnecessary expense – at $185,000 per application plus running costs – to defend their online turf.
Previous small-scale experiments in liberalising domains led to low take-up of suffixes such as .museum, .jobs and .travel.
“At the highest level, this is all about creating competition to .com,” said Jonathan Robinson, non-executive director of internet registry services company Afilias, which has applied for more than 100 new domains on behalf of clients.
“That’s where short, memorable, distinctive three-letter type terms become very interesting,” said Robinson, whose organisation already provides key infrastructure for .org, .info and .mobi.
Competing applications were received for 231 domain names. The most popular were .app with 13 bids, .home with 11, and .inc with 12. High bids are also reportedly expected for domains such as .pets, .porn and .pizza, according to reports.
Technology giant Apple’s claim to .apple was uncontested by the Apple music label or anyone else.
“The big names of the Internet have either invested massively or not at all,” said Stuart Durham, European sales director for Melbourne IT, which has handled 150 applications on behalf of clients.
“There appear to be no applications from Facebook or Twitter. There are different strategies in play here and some big gambles.”
Just 17 applications were received from Africa, and 116 for names in non-Latin alphabets. Expanding the Internet beyond the Latin alphabet was one of the original reasons behind the liberalisation drive, which began seven years ago.
ICANN will now spend the rest of the year assessing the applications, with contested domains going to auction where more than one party has a legitimate claim. The first new domains are likely to come online in the first half of 2013.
Some critics, including senior figures at Google, have warned that the liberalisation risks effectively privatising the Internet by giving already powerful Web players more scope to control portions of it.
“Our concern is that this could lead to more Facebook-style walled gardens as big brands seek to keep you in their own areas of the Internet,” said Stephen Ewart, marketing manager for Names.co.uk, a British domain-name registrar.
“Make no mistake, this change to the domain name world will lead to more competition and consumer choice, but it could also be viewed as a silent privatisation of the Web – for better or worse,” he said.
The project is a key test for U.S. non-profit organisation the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), whose authority to administer the Web’s naming systems is being challenged by emerging nations who say it is too U.S.-centric.
“The plan we have delivered is solid and fair,” ICANN Chief Executive Rod Beckstrom told journalists at a news conference in London. “It is our fundamental obligation to increase innovation and consumer choice.”
Nations including China, Russia and Brazil are pushing for ICANN’s functions to be transferred to a body such as the United Nations, in which governments would have more control.
ICANN is set to net some $350 million from the liberalisation project – about five times its annual budget.
Beckstrom said the organisation had priced the applications to cover its costs and that the use of any surplus would be decided by its community – which includes Internet companies, governments and ordinary citizens.
By: Georgina Prodhan
Posted by admin on June 14, 2012
You might not be the only one looking forward to your summer vacation.
July and August are the most popular months for home burglaries, according to the Insurance Information Institute, a trade organization.
And being away from home for an extended period can also lead to problems of the noncriminal variety — water leaks and storm damage, for example.
Jim Gustin, a senior property specialist with Travelers Risk Control, said that many of the precautions people need to take are pretty obvious. “But in the rush of trying to get out of town people are so anxious, they forget about what are fairly common-sense things,” he said.
One of those common-sense safeguards is adjusting the thermostat.
“We wouldn’t encourage people to shut off their air conditioner, because your home will increase in humidity, and that’s not good for furniture and other things,” he said. “But raise the temperature setting so you’re not paying for cooling when you’re not home.”
Keeping the air conditioner running can also be a deterrent to crime. A silent air conditioner on a hot day is an indication no one is home.
Gustin also suggested turning off your water while you’re gone — or at least check the water connections to appliances.
“We have a lot of losses from flex hoses to washers, ice makers. Obviously it’d be best to turn the water off, but if you can’t, check for damaged hoses.”
He cited several areas that should be checked outdoors.
Put away the patio furniture. That keeps it from being blown around during a storm and causing damage, or being swiped.
Swimming pools and trampolines are “attractive nuisances,” Gustin said. “You can’t put the pool away, but you can make sure the fence is in good shape and the gate is locked. A trampoline, put it away. You don’t want someone using it while you’re not home. Certainly it’s an attraction for kids when you’re not there.”
Check the roof to make sure there are no damaged or missing shingles that could lead to roof leaks while you’re gone.
Gustin had a few other suggestions, as did State Farm Insurance and the Florida attorney general’s office:
Set timers for interior and exterior lights, as well as TVs and radios. Vary the off-on settings.
Prevent power surges: Disconnect computers, TVs, stereos and other electronic devices, or make sure they’re plugged into surge protectors.
Don’t broadcast your vacation plans via Facebook or Twitter. And don’t leave a “we are on vacation” message on your answering machine.
Let immediate neighbors know you won’t be home, and ask them to keep an eye on your place. Give them your contact information, maybe even that of your insurance agent, in case something happens. You might even have a neighbor park his or her car in your driveway on occasion to make it appear somebody is home. If they’re really good neighbors, they might cut your grass and take in the mail (if they’re not, stop newspaper and mail delivery and hire a landscaper). “Have them … possibly even put out trash cans or collecting trash cans,” Gustin said. “Nothing says I’m away from home like a trash can sitting out at the curb four or five days after the trash has been collected.”
Give a set of spare keys to a trusted neighbor in case of emergency. Don’t leave keys in obvious hiding places — under the mat, beneath a flower pot, over a doorway. If they’re obvious to you, they’re obvious to a burglar.
Lock the garage. A burglar with easy access to an attached garage can work on getting into the house without fear of being seen. And even if the unlocked garage is detached, it’s probably full of items that can be stolen.
Make sure all windows and doors are locked. Sounds simple, but in the rush to start your vacation, it’s something that can be overlooked. According to a 2010 Department of Justice/FBI report, 32.6 percent of burglaries involved entries without force.
Invest in a safe-deposit box for jewelry and other valuables. Doing so also ensures that you don’t leave anything of value out in the open, where a burglar could spot it through a window.
Keep shades up and blinds and curtains open to make it appear you’re home.
By William Hageman
Posted by admin on May 25, 2012
Q: Our landlord has instituted a policy of online rent payments only, using a bill-paying service on the Internet. We object to this, as we don’t have a computer at home and would rather use a check. Can we refuse to go along with the new policy?
A: If you refuse to pay rent online, and the landlord rejects your check, you may get hit with an eviction lawsuit for nonpayment of rent. But if you are renting with a fixed-term lease, your landlord’s unilateral change in an important term (how rent is paid) would probably be ruled illegal by a judge. The essence of a lease is its terms remain in place until it expires or both parties agree to make a change.
On the other hand, if you’re renting month to month, the landlord can announce a change of terms with proper notice (30 days in most states). After that, you’d be obligated to pay online.
Or would you? Perhaps it’s worth asking why the landlord is instituting this change. Maybe it’s to cut down on administrative costs and paper, but maybe a more sinister motivation is at hand.
Recently, just such a policy was instituted at apartment complexes in Los Angeles. Tenants objected, claiming that the landlord was targeting older, low-income tenants who had two things in common: Many were protected by rent control, and many did not own a computer. They argued that apart from the notice issue, the landlord was targeting a particular class of tenants — older ones — with the intent of inducing them to move out or, if tenants refused to pay, creating a reason to evict them. This would create vacancies that could rent at market rates, presumably to younger people who were not averse to paying rent online.
But the policy sparked a rebellion. Tenants demonstrated, filed a lawsuit handled by venerable legal aid group Bet Tzedek and inspired a bill in the state legislature that would forbid online-only rent payment clauses.
Q: In our apartment complex, there are two ways to the garage: around the side of the building or out the back. The walkway around the side is quicker but has never been lighted, and the landlord has signs saying, “To access garage at night, use back entrance.”
I used the side path one night and tripped on a raised part of the walkway, which I didn’t see. I think there should have been lights, and that the landlord should cover the cost of treating my injured knee. What do you think?
A: You may have a hard time pinning the cause of your fall on the landlord. Here’s the problem: In spite of being told to use the back entrance, you chose a path that you knew was not lighted.
Lawyers might say that the risk of walking on a pathway in the dark was a risk that you willingly assumed, and that the consequences (not being able to see variations in the pavement height) were also something you knowingly took on. In legal jargon, you may have “assumed the risk” of a fall, which will defeat, if not lessen, any responsibility of the landlord for your injuries.
As with most personal injury situations, there’s room for argument, depending on the facts of the situation. Sometimes, no matter how many warnings a property owner may make, he cannot shield himself from liability. This is particularly true if the danger involved is a serious safety problem or a significant code violation, and certainly if tenants have little choice but to ignore the warnings.
Imagine, for example, that the garage could be accessed only from the side path, and that the “variation” in sidewalk level actually involved chunks of broken concrete. It’s unreasonable to expect tenants to avoid the garage except during the day, and the condition of the sidewalk is dangerous even during daylight. A tenant who used the pathway and tripped over a protruding chunk would have a better shot at recovering damages from the landlord than one who chose a risky, alternative route whose imperfections were slight.
By: Chicago Tribune
Posted by admin on May 1, 2012
Q: The lease for our single-family house specifies that we will do “routine maintenance.” The landlord claims that this includes fixing the roof and doing exterior painting. We had no idea that he saw it this way; we were thinking drain repair and so on. When we refused to reroof the garage, he told us he’d sue us for the water damage that will result from a leaky roof. Can he?
A: Your question illustrates the dangers of handing over maintenance duties to tenants without a clear understanding of what those duties involve. Fortunately, the problem is relatively rare, because most states do not allow landlords to contract away their duty to maintain a fit and habitable rental. Of those that do, the statutes limit the practice to single-family homes, and typically require that the duties be spelled out in writing and that the arrangement be a fair bargain (in other words, the tenant must be paid for the labor or get a good deal on rent).
The landlord must treat the arrangement separately from his other duties as a landlord. This means, for example, that if the landlord is unhappy about the job the tenant is doing, he cannot retaliate by shutting off the water.
Even in states that allow landlords to delegate legally required upkeep, few do so. Most owners are not willing to entrust the integrity of their property to tenants who may not know much about property maintenance, and have less incentive to do things right than if they owned the property themselves.
Let’s assume for now that your state allows the landlord to pass along the obligation to maintain the property, and you decline to re-roof the garage. If your landlord sues you for the resulting water damage, the burden will be on him to convince the judge or jury that you broke the maintenance agreement. And he could have a hard time doing so: The agreement, which the landlord wrote, is so vague as to be meaningless. A judge may well conclude that the landlord had a chance to write it correctly, failed to do so, and cannot now complain about the consequences.
Your landlord will be similarly out of luck if he tries to get his insurance company to cover the damage. Property damage policies cover damage that results from a sudden event, such as water that pours in after a tree has fallen on the roof. Deferred maintenance that causes water damage over time won’t be covered.
Before it comes to that, get together with your landlord and revisit the delegation issue. Although the lease was signed some time ago, there’s no reason why the two of you can’t amend it now and fix it. Make sure that if you want to take on minor repairs only, their precise nature and extent is described thoroughly in the lease, and that you are fairly compensated for your efforts.
By: Janet Portman
Posted by admin on April 22, 2012
Selling a home in a buyer’s market can feel like you’re playing a game you can’t win. But buyers don’t necessarily hold all the cards. “You have to be able to see it from both sides of the table,” says Jeffrey Stanton, who teaches a Realtor certification course in negotiation. Armed with information and a smart strategy, you can play your hand wisely and get the best value for your home.
First, determine the best price you can reasonably expect given the home’s market value and the minimum you can accept. All negotiation will take place somewhere in between those two limits. Your goal is to stay as close to the top of that range as possible.
Next, count your bargaining chips. A buyer’s position is weakened and yours is strengthened by anything the buyer wants that you’re able to provide or withhold. “Price is one of the many things you negotiate for, but you need to make the pie bigger,” says Stanton. Additional slices might include flexibility with the closing or move-in dates, extra items for sale, cash concessions, bragging rights – even the deal itself, since you can always walk away.
WHEN TO USE IT: Throughout the process.
HOW TO PLAY IT: The first time the price chip comes into play is when you list your home. Look up similar homes that have sold in the area recently with online tools such as the sold properties link on the Multiple Listing Service site or Newsday’s recent home sales search tool. Use those prices to zero in on your home’s market value and to weed out lowball offers. Padding your asking price to leave room to haggle is not helpful, says Lynne Kleinman of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty in Manhasset – instead, price it to attract multiple offers. “You’re putting yourself in a position to be bid up if you’ve chosen the correct number.”
When you receive a written offer that’s in the ballpark, you may use a price adjustment as part of your counteroffer. A small move tests the water; a big reduction announces your willingness to negotiate, Stanton says. You can reduce the price more than once to nudge the discussion along, but in a strategic pattern: Your price concessions should get smaller and smaller as the deal progresses. This signals to the buyer that you’re approaching the bottom.
2. Bragging rights
WHEN TO USE IT: When the buyer shows a competitive streak.
HOW TO PLAY IT: “Sometimes in order for you to win, you have the make the other party feel as if they’ve won,” says Stanton. “A lot of people are competitive negotiators who want to win by taking that very last thing off the table.”
And it’s not just about ego – it’s also about nerves. Buyers who fear they could have gotten a better price are more likely to get cold feet, which could jeopardize the deal.
Satisfy the buyer’s need to win with a pattern of increasingly stingy price concessions. This creates the reassuring and gratifying impression that you’ve scraped the barrel and given up every last crumb of value – even if you haven’t.
To enhance this effect, trade away any other chips with conspicuous reluctance, regardless of their actual importance to you – and try to get something you secretly do care about in return.
3. Financial incentives
WHEN TO USE IT: When you’ve got a serious buyer and lack of funds is the only obstacle.
HOW TO PLAY IT: Consider a seller’s concession to bridge the gap: If the price is $300,000 and the buyer needs $6,000 for closing costs, you would pay those costs upfront but raise the price to $306,000. “The purchase price is artificially inflated so the buyer can finance an additional cost,” says Chandra Ortiz, an attorney on the Nassau County Bar Association Real Property Committee. This allows the buyers to make a bigger down payment, or pay points for a lower interest rate, which could increase their purchasing power to close the deal.
There are limitations and risks: The lender will appraise the home and restrict concessions to a certain percentage of the appraised value, which may turn out to be less than the purchase price you and the buyer agreed to. “When it doesn’t appraise at that figure, the bank won’t give additional money to cover the concession,” cautions Ortiz. Include language in your contract to protect yourself from having to pay the concession if the appraisal is low, she advises. Also note that a higher price will cause your transfer tax payment to go up – make sure the buyer agrees to pay for that, she says.
WHEN TO USE IT: When the buyer is on a deadline and you can be flexible – for a price.
HOW TO PLAY IT: “The way it works is whoever has the shorter time frame isn’t negotiating from a position of strength,” says Stanton. Buyers often want or need to close or move in by a certain date – they may be trying to get into their new school district before September, for instance.
If you have the ability to help them meet their deadline, you’ve got currency. Keep it in your pocket and remain noncommittal about dates until you need that extra push.
For instance, if your buyer is considering a competing property but the other sellers can’t vacate soon enough, that closing date could become the deciding factor. It can also help your bottom line, Stanton says. “If I know you have to be in by the first, that may be more important to you than price.”
WHEN TO USE IT: Periodically offer these in place of price reductions, or along with smaller reductions.
HOW TO PLAY IT: This chip could fall into your lap during talks – or it could take some creativity on your part. Pay attention; if a buyer shows interest in something, such as a piano or window treatments, you’ve got yourself an unexpected chip.
The best kinds of extras are those that are of little value to you, but could matter a lot for the buyers. For instance, if you’re leaving a grassy two-acre property for a maintenance-free condo, you won’t be needing that ride-on lawn mower anymore – but your buyers sure could use it. Swap it for a more favorable deal. A home warranty is another good one; it may only cost you a few hundred dollars, but it provides a benefit that could be far more valuable to the new owners. Get something in return for it, even if you planned all along to include it in the sale.
6. Your Plan B
WHEN TO USE IT: When you’ve exhausted your chips without reaching an agreement – or you suspect the buyer is bluffing.
HOW TO PLAY IT: “Buyers feel like they have all the time and all the choices, but when they feel a sense of urgency because another couple wants that house, then the seller holds the cards,” says Diane Saatchi of Saunders & Associates.
Use smart marketing to level the playing field. Pricing, staging and photography are key to attracting buyers – and offering a higher fee will get the agents’ attention, Kleinman says. “Brokerage fees speak very loudly to the agents who will be showing your house.” More showings could translate into more offers – and a better bargaining position.
Reserve the right to keep showing your home if the deal is contingent upon the buyer’s home getting sold and look into the possibility of renting out the place. This will ease your pressure – and, if all else fails, it allows you to walk away. It’s not easy, but sometimes that’s your best option – either your buyer will reconsider, or you’ll get yourself out of an unacceptable deal.
By: KRISTIN TAVEIRA
Posted by admin on
If a king-size bed is your choice then opt for the split-box spring. Each piece is the size of a single box spring, which makes it easy to move around in tight spaces. You can also choose two smaller mattresses (called twin plus), which is great for customizing your comfort level from one side to the other, and still enjoy the size of a king bed. Co-ordinate the split bed with one king-size headboard and bedskirt to give a finished king-size look to the bed.
If a comfy sofa is just too large to be brought up a skinny staircase, consider a grouping of lightweight, small-scaled club chairs. You’ll create a lounge feel with the chairs around a cocktail table or large round ottoman and you’ll be seating as many people as if you had the traditional sofa and chair set. Plus, you’ll have more flexibility for re-arranging the furniture during holidays and parties (see the Tess Chair, above).
Forget about a sleeper sofa altogether; not only are they heavy, they are usually much deeper in size than a regular sofa (the extra depth helps contain the mattress mechanism).
Armoires and china cabinets too large? Find furnishings that disassemble or can be placed together once inside the desired room. If choosing a china cabinet, make sure it comes in the form of a credenza and hutch; each piece will be easier to move up and down stairs.
You can also purchase three or four smaller cabinets or bookshelves and line them up along a long wall for the look of one large piece of furniture (see the Stockholm Glass Cabinet, left).
Like a ‘ship in a bottle’
Here’s a list of easily-moved items that can offer big impact and still move easily up the stairs:
• Area rugs. Look for colourful, large patterned rugs to fill a room with style.
• Draperies. Make small windows look larger by hanging draperies on the dead wall space beside windows.
• Artwork. A big mirror or a piece of art helps create a focal point in a room and offers something large-scale without taking up precious floor space.
• Paint. If you’ve got a naturally dark room in your place paint it a dark colour for unexpected drama.
• Lighting. Whether you are renting or own your home, new lighting is a great way to make a place feel sexy at night. A single spotlight on a piece of art or a dramatically painted wall washed with light will help create a special mood in your new place.
By: Karl Lohnes
Posted by admin on November 14, 2011
After a flood, it’s important to restore your home to good order as soon as possible to protect your health and prevent further damage to your house and belongings. Whether you do the work yourself or hire a contractor, this handy checklist will help you organize the clean up.
Immediate action is important. Your house and furnishings are less likely to grow mold if they are dried within 48 hours.
Before You Begin
- Put your own safety first. Avoid electrical shock. Wear rubber boots. Keep extension cords out of the water. Shut the power off to the flooded area at the breaker box. Ask your electrical utility for help if needed.
- Record details of damage, with photos or video if possible. Contact your insurance agent immediately and register with your municipality—your municipality may have resources you need, such as future financial assistance.
- Set up a step-by-step action plan to:
- remove all water, mud and other debris
- dispose of contaminated household goods
- rinse away contamination inside the home
- remove the rinse water
- clean and dry out your house and salvageable possessions.
- Be prepared to make difficult decisions about what to keep and what to throw out. Household items that have been contaminated by sewage, or that have been wet for a long time, will have to be bagged, tagged and discarded according to local regulations.
- Assemble equipment and supplies:
- gloves, masks (N95 respirators) and other protective gear
- pails, mops, squeegees and plastic garbage bags
- unscented detergent
- large containers for wet bedding and clothing, and lines to hang them to dry
- you may also need to rent extension cords, submersible pumps, wet/dry shop vacuums, and dehumidifiers or heaters.
- Store valuable papers that have been damaged in a freezer until you have time to work on them.
- Remove standing water with pumps or pails, then with a wet/dry shop vacuum.
- Remove all soaked and dirty materials and debris, including wet insulation and drywall, residual mud and soil, furniture, appliances, clothing and bedding.
- Hose down any dirt sticking to walls and furnishings, then rinse several times, removing the remaining water with a wet/dry shop vacuum. Rinse, then clean all floors as quickly as possible. Flooring that has been deeply penetrated by flood water or sewage should be discarded.
- Work from the top down. Break out all ceilings and walls that have been soaked or that have absorbed water. Remove materials at least 500 mm (20 in.) above the high-water line. Removing only the lower part of the wall applies if action is taken immediately after the flood or wetting event. Gypsum board walls that have been exposed to high humidity or standing water for a prolonged period of time should be removed in their entirety and discarded. Ceiling tiles and panelling should be treated like drywall.
- Wash and wipe/scrub down all affected or flooded surfaces with unscented detergent and water. Rinse. Repeat the process as needed. Concrete surfaces can be cleaned with a solution of TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) in water (one half cup TSP to one gallon of warm water).When using TSP, which is highly corrosive, wear gloves and eye protection.
Bleach is NOT recommended
The presence of organic (humic) materials, the pH (acidity/alkalinity) of the water, the surface material and contact time affect the effectiveness of bleach for disinfection. Since these factors are not generally controlled, bleach cannot be relied upon for disinfection.The most compelling reason for advising against bleach is that fumes are harmful but in addition, overuse of bleach will result in increased releases of chlorinated effluents which can be harmful to the environment.
- Surfaces that are dry and/or have not been directly affected by the flood water should be vacuumed with a HEPA vacuum cleaner. Further cleaning of concrete surfaces can be done with TSP. Washable surfaces can be washed with unscented detergent and water. Surface mold on wood can be removed with a vacuum-sander. Do not sand without simultaneous vacuuming.Wood that looks moldy after sanding may need to be replaced.
- After cleaning the surfaces, ventilate or dehumidify the house until it is completely dry. Rapid drying is important to prevent mold growth. When the outside weather permits (low humidity and moderate temperature), open doors and windows and hasten the drying process with fans. If the outside weather is not suitable and you notice that drying is not happening fast, use dehumidifying equipment, renting extra units as necessary.
To determine if the outdoor air can help dry the air inside, place a hygrometer in the area to be dried. Let it stabilize then open a window and monitor the Relative Humidity (RH). If it goes down then it means the air is dry enough to assist the drying process. If the RH increases, close the window.
- Carpets must be dried within two days. Sewage-soaked carpets must be discarded. Homeowners can’t effectively dry large areas of soaked carpets themselves. Qualified professionals are required.
- Ensure that all interior cavities and structural members are completely dry (which could take weeks) before closing cavities.
What to Keep or Discard
- Discard and replace all insulation materials, and all less-expensive articles that have been soaked, including particleboard furniture, mattresses, box springs, stuffed toys, pillows, paper and books.
- Separate valuable papers. Ask a lawyer whether you should save the papers themselves or just the information on them.
- The frames of good quality wood furniture can sometimes be salvaged, but must be cleaned and dried by ventilation away from direct sunlight or heat. Consult a furniture restoration specialist. Coverings, paddings and cushions must be discarded and replaced.
- Scrape heavy dirt from washable clothes, rinse and wash several times with detergent and dry quickly.
Before Moving Back In
- Do not use flooded appliances, electrical outlets, switch boxes or fuse/breaker panels until they have been checked by your local utility.
- If they have been soaked, consult an HVAC (Heating,Ventilation and Air Conditioning) contractor to replace the furnace blower motor, switches and controls, insulation and filters. Inspect all flooded forced air heating ducts and return-duct pans and have them cleaned out or replaced. Seek advice from your local utility about a water heater that has been wet. Refrigerators and freezers may need to be replaced.
- Flush floor drains and sump pits with detergent and water and scrub them to remove greasy dirt and grime. Clean footing drains outside the foundation if necessary.
Posted by admin on November 13, 2011
Asthma, an inflammatory disorder of the airways, is one of the most common chronic respiratory conditions affecting Canadians. Physicians have diagnosed more than 2.3 million Canadians as being asthmatic — 8.4 per cent of adults (Statistics Canada, 2009) and 13.4 per cent of Canadian children (Garner, 2008).
While the exact cause of asthma is unknown, it appears to result from a complex interaction of predisposing factors (tendency to have allergies), causal factors that may sensitize the airways (such as animal dander, dust mites, mold, cockroaches and workplace contaminants) and contributing factors, such as tobacco smoke during pregnancy and childhood, respiratory infections and indoor and outdoor air quality (National Asthma Control Task Force, 2000).
Management of asthma involves the individual, his family and his physician. Asthma specialists recognize the importance of avoiding or controlling known environmental factors, or “triggers,” that aggravate asthma. Triggers include biological pollutants, such as mold, house dust mites and pollen, as well as irritating pollutants, such as nitrogen oxide, ozone and formaldehyde (Canadian Asthma Consensus Group, 1999). For some individuals, avoiding allergens (substances that produce allergic reactions) can be the most important element of asthma management. The National Asthma Control Task Force recommends a management plan that includes reduction of aeroallergens, molds, tobacco smoke, vehicle and industry emissions, noxious odours and scents that can trigger asthma episodes. The Canadian asthma consensus report, 1999 says that increasing medication should not be a substitute for avoiding exposure to allergens and irritants.
This About Your House deals with reducing your exposure to causal and contributing factors in the home. It provides a global approach consistent with the recommendations of the National Asthma Control Task Force and the Canadian asthma consensus report, 1999. The recommendations are aimed at reducing exposure to allergens and other substances that are known to have a potential impact on respiratory health and indoor air quality. When allergens are involved, elimination is preferable to reduction, since even very small amounts can provoke symptoms. Although evidence of an association between the development or worsening of asthma and some non-allergenic contaminants, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), is lacking, the Institute of Medicine (2000) suggests that it is prudent to limit exposure where practical.
The Importance of Thorough Vacuuming
House dust is a reservoir of dust mites, fungal glucans (cell wall components) and bacterial endotoxins. As exposure to these potential allergens occurs when house dust becomes airborne, it is important to reduce house dust as much as possible. A recent CMHC study demonstrated that this can be challenging.
The study found that four to five successive vacuuming sessions with a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter-equipped vacuum cleaner, at a rate of one minute per square metre for carpets and half a minute for non-carpeted areas, were required to significantly reduce the amount of fine dust in the homes tested.
Dust mites are microscopic bugs that live on pillows, mattresses, bedding, stuffed toys, upholstered furniture, fabrics and carpets. They feed on skin flakes from people and thrive in humid environments. They can trigger asthma symptoms and can cause asthma in children with no previous asthma symptoms (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2008). Strategies to control dust mites include:
- Reducing the relative humidity (RH) in your house to reduce dust mites and mold. Dust mites need RH above 55 per cent to grow. The most effective way to prevent the growth of dust mites is to reduce the RH of your house in the winter. The Canadian asthma consensus report, 1999 recommends humidity levels below 50 per cent.
- Vacuuming thoroughly and often, since dust mites are a component of household dust. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter or a central vacuum that exhausts to the outside.
- Wearing an N95 respirator while vacuuming. Sensitive individuals and children should keep away from the immediate area. This will help reduce exposure to dust mites that become airborne with fine dust.
- Properly maintaining furnace filters. This can reduce fine particles in your air distribution system that can be a home for dust mites. To further reduce the amount of dust circulated by your air distribution system, regularly vacuum as far as you can reach into air registers and return ducts. If you find that the return air ducts are dirty, or if the ducts have not been cleaned since the house was built or you moved in, have your ducts cleaned. Ensure that the contractor does not spray chemicals, such as fungicides, disinfectants or essential oils into the ducts.
- Reducing the amount of particulates you bring into the house by taking off your shoes upon entry and using washable doormats.
- Dusting with a HEPA vacuum or a damp cloth instead of dry dusting to help control dust (Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health & Environment, 2005).
- Reducing the amount of upholstered furnishings and fabric coverings in your bedroom that can provide a home for dust mites.
- Vacuuming upholstered furnishings with a HEPA vacuum while wearing an N95 respirator.
- Avoiding carpets – they are good dust collectors that can hold dust mites.
Sleeping area strategies include:
- Changing bedding frequently.
- Washing bedding in warm water. Contrary to popular belief that hot water is needed to kill dust mites, a warm water wash with pre-soaking is effective at controlling dust mites (Vyszenski-Moher, Arlian & Neal, 2002).
- Using washable linens such as cotton with small enough pore size (for example, 200 thread count). Washing bedding frequently is more important than encasing a mattress with a cover that cannot be removed easily for cleaning.
- Vacuuming mattresses with a HEPA vacuum periodically.
- Replacing pillows at least once a year.
- Avoiding the use of “acaricides” — pesticides that kill dust mites.
- Allowing bedding to dry by keeping beds uncovered when you get out of bed.
Typical recommended measures for avoiding dust mites include encasing mattresses, box springs and possibly pillows with mite- and allergen-impermeable covers (Health Canada, 2007). Impermeable covers will protect new mattresses from infestation and keep mites already contained in older mattresses from passing through to the surface. However, everyday use leaves skin flakes on surfaces, on which dust mites feed. Exposure to dust mites can be reduced by frequently changing the bedding and vacuuming the mattress.
Molds are microscopic organisms that grow on wet or damp surfaces. Under normal circumstances, preventing moisture from reaching high levels in your house is the only way of limiting mold growth. To control the growth of molds, the RH should be low enough to prevent moisture condensation on windows. This may mean 35 per cent RH or less.
Exposure to indoor mold is associated with an increased prevalence of asthma-related symptoms, such as chronic wheezing, irritation symptoms and non-specific symptoms. Asthma-like responses, inflammatory responses in the lungs of rodents and severe histological and biochemical changes have been observed in laboratory animal studies.
Health Canada considers mold growth a health hazard and recommends controlling dampness and cleaning up mold regardless of the type of mold.
There are several no-cost and low-cost measures:
- If your house has a crawl space with a dirt floor, cover the floor with a continuous sheet of 6 – 12 mil (0.15 – 0.30 mm) polyethylene. Signs of potential moisture and rodent problems are more visible on opaque sheets of white polyethylene than on clear or black ones. Overlap and tape any seams.
- Make sure water from your roof runs away from your house by having downspouts lead away from the foundation.
- Ensure that the ground around your house slopes away from the house.
- Run a dehumidifier in your basement, even if you have an air conditioner. An air conditioner dehumidifies only when it is running, which may be only a small fraction of the time.
- Do not keep mold-susceptible items, such as paper, cardboard and clothing, in your basement. They absorb moisture and can grow mold.
- Carpets in the basement or bathroom are likely places for molds to grow. It is best not to have carpets in these areas.
- Do not hang clothes to dry in the basement. Use a clothes dryer vented to the outside.
- Do not store firewood inside the house.
- Reduce the number of house plants. Watering them is a source of moisture. The soil can be a source of molds.
- Do not humidify unless absolutely necessary. First, measure the RH with a hygrometer. Readings of 25 to 35 per cent in the winter are generally acceptable. For information about buying and using a hygrometer.
- If you need humidity at night, use a portable humidifier in your bedroom. Monitor the RH and cycle the unit on and off as necessary. Air the room out to dry during the day. Clean the humidifier after each use. Check windows for condensation and wipe up as necessary.
- When you shower or bathe, use the bathroom fan and let it run for 15 minutes or longer after you are finished.
- Bathroom and kitchen fans should exhaust outside.
- When cooking, use the kitchen fan to get rid of moisture and odours.
- Do not leave areas of the house unheated. Cold, unheated or damp areas in the house are likely to get moldy. Excessive thermostat setbacks at night may also encourage mold growth.
- Act immediately if there is a leak or a flood. Solve the problem, then remove and dry wet flooring, walls, furnishings and other belongings. Discard what you cannot dry.
- Clean up small areas of mold yourself, following the measures provided in CMHC’s Clean-up Procedures for Mold in Houses.
- Get professional help if there is a lot of mold.
- Keep potentially mold-laden dust to a minimum by vacuuming with a HEPA vacuum or central vacuum exhausted to the outside.
Some people with asthma are allergic to animal dander, which comes from the saliva and the oil glands of fur-bearing animals, such as dogs, cats, hamsters, gerbils and mice. Even short-haired cats and dogs produce dander.
- The most effective way of dealing with animal dander is not to have pets in your home. The Canadian asthma consensus report, 1999 says reducing exposure to pet allergens cannot be effective without removing the pet from the home. After a cat is removed, cat dander decreases steadily over six months. Restricting a pet’s access to your bedroom and living areas does not rival the effectiveness of not having the pet in your house. Reducing pet dander by washing pets is only a temporary solution.
- Consider housing pets outdoors.
Cockroaches are a recognized source of allergens that can trigger asthma reactions in cockroach-sensitive people with asthma.
- Remove open sources of food and water.
- Use non-toxic baits.
- Use a HEPA vacuum in areas that may hold reservoirs of allergens.
- Refer to CMHC’s Farewell to Cockroaches for ways to prevent cockroaches.
Outdoor pollens (tree, grass, ragweed and other weeds) can trigger asthma in people who are allergic to pollen. Pollen concentrations are highest early in the morning. Keep the windows closed at nights.
- Make your house airtight to reduce pollen entry. Natural Resources Canada maintains a list of residential energy advisors who can conduct a test of your home to identify air leakage pathways and suggest ways of making your house more airtight.
- Air conditioners can be beneficial in warm weather. However, check that the air-conditioning unit is not a source of mold. A moldy smell detected when the unit is turned on may come from somewhere in the house or from the air-conditioning system. Have the air-conditioning coils inside your furnace plenum inspected and, if necessary, cleaned. Ensure the drain pan under the coils is clean and drains properly.
- Ensure that your air distribution system has a filter, such as a pleated paper filter. A HEPA filter may be more effective in capturing pollen particles, but it requires special installation and is costly to replace.
- When the pollen levels are high, you may need to turn off your Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) and other outdoor air intake systems, to prevent them from bringing pollen-laden air into your house. HRVs are also called air-to-air heat exchangers.
Posted by admin on October 25, 2011
Want to know how bad the real estate market is? Just drive down almost any street in the U.S. and you’re likely to see “for sale” signs lining the road. Come back a month later, it’s a good bet the same signs are still there—and quite possibly a few new ones, too. But while there’s a lot of housing pain, there’s also some good news. That’s because in some markets across the country not only have home values improved, a few have even seen double-digit growth.
So where is this miracle occurring? Believe it or not, the city that has seen the biggest increase in home value is in Florida. That’s right—the state that has seen home values plummet 52.3 percent from 2006 peak levels. Nearly 96,000 loans were modified in Florida through August 2011 under President Obama’s Making Home Affordable program. Joblessness, foreclosures, and high inventory hamper recovery in nearly every corner of the state, with rare exceptions. In this case, the rare exception is Weston, a high-income city of more than 65,000 people near Fort Lauderdale where the median home value has risen 15.1 percent to $280,000 from February 2009 to August 2011.
A survey of the 1,000 largest cities nationwide by online real estate marketplace Zillow for Businessweek.com identified the markets with the biggest gains and losses in home value, ranking Weston the best-performing city since Obama took office. In contrast, the U.S. median home value fell by 9.9 percent over the same period.
What’s behind Weston’s success? Ines Garcia, an agent for EWM Realtors in Weston, describes the city as “Broward County’s cul-de-sac.” “It’s like driving into a gated community: the landscaping, the manicuring all around the city,” she says. “We were very lucky. Weston was one of the last communities to fall and one of the first to recover.”
Other winners: Arlington, Mass., where the median home value increased by 14.8 percent since February 2009; Brookline, Mass., at 13.6 percent; and the D.C. suburbs of Burke, Va., at 13.5 percent, and Vienna, Va., at 12.8 percent, Zillow data indicate.
Of course, the winners are far outnumbered by the losers. The city with the worst-performing market in the survey is only 50 miles from Weston in Homestead, Fla., where the median home value dropped by 48.8 percent since February 2009. Rounding out the bottom worst-performing markets: former manufacturing city Pontiac, Mich., with a 47.4 percent decrease, and New Jersey capital Trenton, at 46 percent.
While those in depressed housing markets hope for solutions from the White House, “I don’t see how any President is responsible for the housing market in a particular area,” says Steven Blitz, director and senior economist at ITG Investment Research in New York. The federal government and national housing policies have a limited impact on a local level.
According to Senior Economist Svenja Gudell, under current conditions the median U.S. home value will likely fall another 3 percent to 5 percent and not reach trough until 2012 at the earliest. The Obama years have been bad ones for housing, yet government was not alone in breaking the housing market—and it cannot be alone to fix it.
By: Venessa Wong