What is a buyer's home inspection?
It is a visual inspection of the structure and components of a home to find items that are not performing correctly or items that are unsafe. If a problem or a symptom of a problem is found the home inspector will include a description of the problem in a written report and may recommend further evaluation.

Can a home fail inspection?
No. A professional home inspection is an examination of the current condition of your prospective home. It is not an appraisal, which determines market value, or a municipal inspection, which verifies local code compliance. A home inspector, therefore, will not pass or fail a house, but rather describe its physical condition and indicate what may need repair or replacement.

Why is a home inspection important?
Buying a home is more than likely the greatest investment you will ever make. A home inspection can help you identify those major defects which will end up costing you 10's of thousands of dollars in unexpected additional costs.


What if the report reveals problems?
If the inspector finds fault in a home it doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't buy it, only that you will know in advance what type of repairs to anticipate. A seller may be willing to renegotiate the purchase price because of significant problems discovered in an inspection. If your budget is very tight, or if you don't wish to become involved in future repair work, you may decide that this is not the house for you. The choice is yours. The goal of a home check is to make sure you are aware of all issues, big and small, before you sign on the dotted line.

Can I Inspect The Building Myself?
Even the most experienced home owner lacks the knowledge and expertise of a professional inspector who inspects homes on a daily basis. An inspector is equally familiar with the critical elements of construction and with the proper installation, maintenance and inter-relationships of these elements. Above all, most buyers find it difficult to remain completely objective and unemotional about the building they really want, and this may lead to a poor assessment.

Should I Attend The Inspection?
It is not necessary for you to be present for the inspection, but it is a good idea. By following the inspector through the inspection, observing and asking questions, you will learn about the new building and get some tips on general maintenance. Information that will be of great help to you after you have moved in.


It’s Brand New…What Could be Wrong?
It is not good business to pass on a home inspection on a newly constructed house, regardless of how conscientious and reputable your home builder.
No home, regardless of how well it is constructed, is totally free of defects. The construction of a house involves thousands of details, performed at the hands of scores of individuals. No general contractor can possibly oversee every one of these elements, and the very nature of human fallibility dictates that some mistakes and oversights will occur, even when the most talented and best-intentioned trades people are involved. It is also an unfortunate aspect of modern times that some builders/developers do not stand behind their workmanship or workers and may not return to fix or replace defective components installed after the sale is complete.

Can we ask you questions after the inspection?
Certainly. We would be glad to answer any questions you might have after the building inspection or even after you move in to your new home for as long as you own it.

How long will the inspection be?
An average inspection will take about 2 hours depending on the size and condition of the home.

Do you provide a written report?
Yes. Our report is ready for you within 24 hours upon completion of the home inspection. We can provide you with most information at the time however in order to to provide you with a clear and comprehensive report complete with digital photos we allow a 24 hr window to complete the report.

Is Radon a concern?
First, we test for Radon upon request as it takes several days to to get a accurate reading. Short-term tests remain in your home for two days to 90 days. Radon levels in a house can be reduced. This can be done by several methods, but one of the most widely used methods is the active sub-slab depressurization system. This technique will reroute the radon gas from the soil away from the house, by venting the soil gas from beneath the basement to a point above the roof. This technique is very effective and will typically cost between $1600 and $2500 to install.
What is a thermal Imaging ( INFRARED ) Camera - A thermal imaging camera is a reliable non contact instrument which is able to scan and visualize the temperature distribution of building surfaces quickly and accurately. Thermal imaging has contributed to substantial cost savings to homeowners around the world.

 
Why should I have my home scanned using an Infrared Camera - Infrared thermal imaging is the best method to detect energy waste, Insulation deficiencies, moisture and electrical issues in buildings.  An infrared camera shows exactly where the problems are and helps focus the inspectors' attention allowing him or her to properly diagnose areas with energy loss or other possible issues.


Moisture Intrusion, Leaks, Condensation
Because of the thermal properties of water and the phenomenon of evaporation, active wet spots will generally show up as "cold" spots in an infrared picture. While there is other equipment that detects active moisture, it is spot specific. Meaning it works for a very small specific location. Infrared Thermal Imaging, with the proper equipment, allows the operator to quickly and efficiently scan larger areas for suspicious active moisture spots. When a suspicious area is found, the area can be checked with a moisture meter to confirm or deny the presence of active moisture. Often with our sensitive camera we can even determine where the moisture came from.

Electrical Problems
Hot spots are often found with electrical problems. Electrical outlets, switches, wires or circuit breakers that are malfunctioning, overloaded, or compromised in some manner. These are very dangerous as they can easily lead to a catastrophic fire. Our Infrared Thermal Imaging process allows us to easily and efficiently scan for these electrical hot spots which may not have been visible to the naked eye and would have escaped notice. If the scan gives indications of problems follow-up investigation is called for to verify the problem and resolve it.

Insulation Anomalies
Insulation anomalies are also alarmingly common in construction, both new and old, in our area. With energy costs soaring, these deficiencies can lead to huge energy costs. Again, our Infrared Thermal Imaging process allows us to efficiently scan the home and identify areas that are improperly or incompletely insulated. Because this scan is completed from inside, we can see areas that may otherwise be inaccessible and therefore not visible to traditional visual inspection procedure.

Improperly Connected HVAC Ductwork
If your HVAC flex duct has not been properly sealed you could have significant leakage at joints in the attic. Infrared Thermal Imaging can identify this problem, if the connection is visible. We have found both poor connections at plenums and registers in our infrared scans. These situations are simply costing the homeowners money and comfort. Left unfixed, with the right atmospheric conditions, these can even lead to moisture problems from condensation.

Why do you charge more for a thermal imaging Inspection?
WE DON'T
The camera is used in all inspections to some point at no cost however if you require us to perform a complete thermal imaging scan of the entire home this adds extra time to the traditional home inspection and as a result may end up costing you more in the end.

Aluminum Wire requirements

 

1. Is aluminum wire allowed?
Yes, the Canadian Electrical Code (CEC) which is adopted by the Province allows the use of aluminum wire in all types of construction at present, and in the past when aluminum wire was first introduced.

2. Is Aluminum wire safe?

Yes, when installed and used in it's proper application per the CEC it will operate as safely as copper wiring.

3. Background of aluminum wiring use
.
Aluminum wiring was used quite extensively in residential homes from 1965 to 1976. It was also used in other applications such as commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings. After the late 1970's aluminum wire became unpopular, and it was not until the early 1990's that it started to be used again, though still not as much as copper.

4. The problem and consequences with aluminum wiring installs.

As mentioned above, aluminum wire is safe...it is the connections that cause the problem. When aluminum wiring was first used the connection points on electrical equipment such as panel board breakers, receptacle and light switches etc had copper terminations. Aluminum has different properties than copper and the the two react differently and expand and contract differently when under electrical load (terms you may hear used are creep or cold flow) which may cause the connections to become loose. When the connections become loose this can result in sparking, arcing, oxidation and heat build up and finally the possibility of a fire through the ignition of surrounding combustibles such as the insulation on the wire, wall insulation or wallpaper in the area of the electrical box etc.

Oxidation is the build up of a thin layer of aluminum oxide which creates a thin insulating layer increasing the electrical resistance of the connection and thus increasing heat build up - copper does oxidize but does not act as an insulator and copper does not expand or contract as much when under load as does aluminum.

The main problem with aluminum wiring is a phenomenon known as "cold creep". When aluminum wiring warms up, it expands. When it cools down, it contracts. Unlike copper, when aluminum goes through a number of warm/cool cycles it loses a bit of tightness each time. To make the problem worse, aluminum oxidizes, or corrodes when in contact with certain types of metal, so the resistance of the connection goes up. Which causes it to heat up and corrode / oxidize still more. Eventually the wire may start getting very hot, melt the insulation or fixture it's attached to, and possibly even cause a fire.

5. Innovations to address the problems with aluminum wire connections.
In order to address this problem of aluminum wire connections during this time, the industry came out with dual rated connectors that would accept either copper or aluminum wire. Items with the dual rating were indicated by a marking such as CU-AL, CO/ALR, AL/CU or something similar. This solution offered some relief to the problem, and with the many fires that had occurred its use in the industry basically stopped in the late 1970's. During this time such things as anti oxidants were developed that would be applied to connections to reduce the oxidation of the connectors but this involved continual maintenance and was too time consuming and therefore not a very favorable solution.

During the late 80's, manufacturers made improvements on the aluminum wire itself by adding a small percentage of another type of metal. This additional metal helped in the reduction to creep and cold flow and, combined with the dual rated connectors, almost eliminated all past problems.

At present aluminum wire may be referred by some of the following manufacturers names:

·         NUAL

·         STABILOY

·         ACM


6. Recommendations to address existing problems with aluminum wiring installations
.
Where an existing building has the older aluminum wire installed this does not mean that it has to be removed or disconnected. There are corrective actions that can take place to make sure that the installation is safe.

A construction electrician with experience in older aluminum wire installations should inspect the entire electrical system and do any of the corrective work using one of the following methods.

If the aluminum wire is terminated on devices (including breakers or fuse terminations in the panel) that are approved to accommodate aluminum wire (such as dual rated items marked as listed above and marked by CSA or equivalent as shown below) then all that needs to be done is for the electrician to possibly apply some anti oxident and tighten all the connections. The connections may be required to be tightened again. Continual maintenance may be required and therefore this is considered a temporary solution.

If the aluminum wire is not terminated on properly approved connectors then one of two procedures can occur:

First, all of the devices can be replaced with properly approved devices to accommodate aluminum wire. This could be costly and therefore is to be considered a last alternative.

Second, is to have the electrician pig tail a small piece of copper wire to the aluminum wire and terminate the copper wire portion of the cable to the device. In order to pig tail the two different wires together you have to use an appropriate connector (dual rated) and it must be approved for use in Canada (ie: marked with a CSA, cUL, cENTELA, cMET, Warnock Hersey, cTUV, or cQAI - *NOTE* the small 'c' is required in front of some of those listed for them to be allowed in Nova Scotia.) Typically, this connection is done using twist-on connectors called marrettes.

The use of marrettes, even those properly approved, is considered by many not to eliminate the possibility of future problems occurring.

It is therefore considered by many that for proper pig tailing to occur between copper and aluminum wire, a high pressure bonding crimp type connector be used. One that is recognized and used extensively is a connector by AMP called COPALUM.

 

Connections between aluminum and copper wire need to be handled specially. Current Canadian codes require that the connectors used must be specially marked for connecting aluminum to copper. The NEC requires that the wire be connected together using special crimp devices, with an anti-oxidant grease. The tools and materials for the latter are quite expensive - not practical to do it yourself unless you can rent the tool.

 

[Note that regulations are changing rapidly in this area. Suggest that you discuss any work with an inspector if you're going to do more than one or two connections.]

 

6) Any non-rated receptacle can be connected to aluminum wiring

by means of a short copper "pigtail". See (5) above.

7) Shows reasonable workmanship: neat wiring, properly stripped

(not nicked) wire etc.

 

If, when considering purchasing a home, an inspection of the wiring shows no problems or only one or two, we believe that you can consider the wiring safe. If there are signs of problems in many places, we suggest you look elsewhere. If the wrong receptacles are used, you can replace them with the proper type, or use pigtails - having this professionally done can range from $3 to $10 per receptacle/ switch. You can do this yourself too.

 

7. General rules of thumb with regard to copper or aluminum wiring and its age.

The following would be used only as a rough guideline. Whenever specific problems occur, or when additional electrical loads are added, an electrician should review and/or install the system.

If the wiring is more than 40 years old and has not undergone a recent inspection, it is long overdue. Have an electrician inspect the entire system.

If the wiring is 10-40 years old it is advisable to have an inspection done...especially where additional loads or extensions to the building were carried out, or any electrical problems exist, or the wiring is aluminum.

If the wiring is less than 10 years old, an inspection is typically not required unless additions or renovations have occurred that have added electrical loads or changed the loading from the original design, or if any problems exist.

8. Specific things to watch for
.

Items that indicate electrical problems exist and that an electrician should inspect the situation are:

·         arcing or sparking at an electrical device - unusual sounds such as sizzles or buzzes

·         an item is hotter than it typically should be to touch

·         breakers or fuses continually trip or blow

·         equipment or wire is damaged

·         discoloration of receptacle or light switch cover plates


General items to watch for: The following items, if not reviewed and maintained or upgraded, may cause problems down the road that may lead to an increase on the possibility of fires or shock.

- One item that you may come across in an older home even today is "knob & tube wiring" - this type of wiring can be identified possibly in the attic or basement if the ceiling is open and appears as open type wire supported by porcelain type insulators. It is recommended that due to the age of this type of wiring (over 50 years) and its limitations (not having a ground wire) that it be replaced.

- Also, older homes may have the older two slot type receptacles. It is recommended that these be replaced by an electrician with the newer type receptacles (3 prong), ones that have two different sized slots, the neutral being the larger slot, (this ensures proper polarity for equipment) and a ground pin (this will protect against typical shock hazards). The installation of a newer type receptacle (3 prong - 1 hot - 1 neutral and 1 - ground) will not work properly unless properly installed, that is the neutral and hot wire must be properly connected to the proper points on the receptacle and a ground (bond) wire must be installed and properly connected to the receptacle and junction box in which the receptacle is installed in. Therefore this work should be done by a qualified person.

- Some older homes still have 60 amp services. To ensure that the service does not get overloaded it is recommended that this be increased to a minimum 100 amp service. Many insurance companies will require this upon sale of the home to someone else. Also there are requirements to upgrade other aspects of the electrical system per NSPI bulletins when the service is upgraded.

Note: Where major electrical work is performed, such as the wiring of a new home, the rewiring of an existing house, or the upgrading of a main service the electrician must, by law, obtain a wiring permit to do this type of work. When the electrician obtains this permit they are then responsible to contact the local electrical inspection utility and have the work inspected. While the cost of the permit may add an additional dollar amount to the consumer, having the work inspected ensures that the work was done per the electrical code and should provide a safe installation. The risk of fire or shock should always outweigh the small additional cost to ensure safety by obtaining a permit. Your safety should always be number one.

Aluminum wiring has been problematic in many areas because it is very soft, subject to easier damage than copper, and excess oxidation can cause an increase in fire hazards. For these reasons, special devices have been developed for use with aluminum.

The designation CU/AL was stamped or printed on original electrical devices approved for this use. While these are still acceptable for circuit-breakers and many light switches, duplex receptacles with this rating should be upgraded. Many homes were found to have problems with excessive oxidation, overheating and damage at these receptacles.

For that reason, newer devices with the rating of CO/ALR were developed and are required to be used in these areas. The newer receptacles have fasteners with metals that were more compatible with aluminum, reducing the chance of oxidation and overheating.

To determine if your home has the properly rated CO/ALR units, or outdated and potential dangerous CU/AL, you could remove a few cover plates and inspect the receptacles. For safety, this should be done after the circuit-breaker is shut off at the panel. This can be done by plugging in a radio with the volume turned up, and shutting off breakers until the radio becomes quiet.

Removal of the plastic cover plates with a simple screw driver should reveal the top and bottom tabs of the receptacle, where it is secured it to the metal box. Look for stamped printing of the CO/ALR, normally on the top tab. This may be obscured by old paint, dirt or other debris, but use of a flashlight and a dry rag to clean the surface may help you see the imprint.

If it is not present, or CU/AL is seen there or in another location on the unit, repairs or replacement should be done. You should also look for any obvious soot, stains, scorching, discolored wiring or melting on the receptacle, wiring or surrounding area. If this is seen, immediately discontinue use of this device and call an electrician for further evaluation and repairs.

If you can see the proper designation stamp on the tab and no physical evidence of damage or overheating is visible ,there may be nothing to worry about. Several other receptacles should be inspected to ensure they are also properly rated and not damaged. The ones most prone to overheating are in high-use locations with appliances that draw considerable current. This is often above the kitchen counter where microwaves, toasters and kettles are used or hair dryers in bathrooms. Homes nowadays use a lot more power due to computers and other electronics.

 

If they all seem to be in satisfactory condition, you should replace the covers, re-energize the circuits by switching the breaker to the ON position and monitor for ongoing issues. If there is any visible damage or evidence of overheating, particularly on older CU/AL devices, upgrades will be required.

The solution to damaged receptacles or wiring may range from simple replacement of the receptacles with the properly rated devices to removal and replacement of melted wiring. Installation of CO/ALR receptacles may be quite simple, but the cost of these devices is quite a bit higher than regular ones, so upgrading an entire home may be a moderately priced expense.

Because your home has aluminum wiring, which has been known to be problematic, calling a licensed electrician to check all of your receptacles is a wise move. The results of this inspection will either provide a greater sense of security or lead to repairs that may dramatically improve the safety of your electrical system.

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