BBQ Safety

By | Healthy Home, Home Maintenance, Summer | No Comments

Barbeque Safety

by Nick Gromicko
With barbeque season already here, homeowners should heed the following safety precautions in order to keep their families and property safe.
  • Propane grills present an enormous fire hazard, as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is aware of more than 500 fires that result annually from their misuse or malfunction. The following precautions are recommended specifically when using propane grills:
    • Store propane tanks outdoors and never near the grill or any other heat source. In addition, never store or transport them in your car’s trunk.
    • Make sure to completely turn off the gas after you have finished, or when you are changing the tank. Even a small gas leak can cause a deadly explosion.
    • Check for damage to a tank before refilling it, and only buy propane from reputable suppliers.
    • Never use a propane barbecue grill on a terrace, balcony or roof, as this is dangerous and illegal.
    • No more than two 20-pound propane tanks are allowed on the property of a one- or two-family home.
    • To inspect for a leak, spray a soapy solution over the connections and watch for bubbles. If you see evidence of a leak, reconnect the components and try again. If bubbles persist, replace the leaking parts before using the grill.
    • Make sure connections are secure before turning on the gas, especially if the grill hasn’t been used in months. The most dangerous time to use a propane grill is at the beginning of the barbeque season.
    • Ignite a propane grill with the lid open, not closed. Propane can accumulate beneath a closed lid and explode.
    • When finished, turn off the gas first, and then the controls. This way, residual gas in the pipe will be used up.
  • Charcoal grills pose a serious poisoning threat due to the venting of carbon monoxide (CO). The CPSC estimates that 20 people die annually from accidentally ingesting CO from charcoal grills.  These grills can also be a potential fire hazard. Follow these precautions when using charcoal grills:
    • Never use a charcoal grill indoors, even if the area is ventilated. CO is colorless and odorless, and you will not know you are in danger until it is too late.
    • Use only barbeque starter fluid to start the grill, and don’t add the fluid to an open flame. It is possible for the flame to follow the fluid’s path back to the container as you’re holding it.
    • Let the fluid soak into the coals for a minute before igniting them to allow explosive vapors to dissipate.
    • Charcoal grills are permitted on terraces and balconies only if there is at least 10 feet of clearance from the building, and a water source immediately nearby, such as a hose (or 4 gallons of water).
    • Be careful not to spill any fluid on yourself, and stand back when igniting the grill. Keep the charcoal lighter fluid container at a safe distance from the grill.
    • When cleaning the grill, dispose of the ashes in a metal container with a tight lid, and add water. Do not remove the ashes until they have fully cooled.
    • Fill the base of the grill with charcoal to a depth of no more than 2 inches.
  • Electric grills are probably safer than propane and charcoal grills, but safety precautions need to be used with them as well. Follow these tips when using electric grills:
    • Do not use lighter fluid or any other combustible materials.
    • When using an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the amperage required by the grill. The cord should be unplugged when not in use, and out of a busy foot path to prevent tripping.
    • As always, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Safety Recommendations for General Grill Use
  • Always make sure that the grill is used in a safe place, where kids and pets won’t touch or bump into it. Keep in mind that the grill will still be hot after you finish cooking, and anyone coming into contact with it could be burned.
  • If you use a grill lighter, make sure you don’t leave it lying around where children can reach it. They will quickly learn how to use it.
  • Never leave the grill unattended, as this is generally when accidents happen.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby.
  • Ensure that the grill is completely cooled before moving it or placing it back in storage.
  • Ensure that the grill is only used on a flat surface that cannot burn, and well away from any shed, trees or shrubs.
  • Clean out the grease and other debris in the grill periodically. Be sure to look for rust or other signs of deterioration.
  • Don’t wear loose clothing that might catch fire while you’re cooking.
  • Use long-handled barbecue tools and flame-resistant oven mitts.
  • Keep alcoholic beverages away from the grill; they are flammable!
In summary, homeowners should exercise caution when using any kind of grill, as they can harm life and property in numerous ways.
Credit of this article goes to Nick Gromicko of InterNACHI.

Is Acreage Life For You?

By | Buying/Selling Homes, Happy Home | No Comments

Acreages are so alluring, the large properties, the privacy, owning land and the endless possibilities! Though many buyers are unfamiliar with the lifestyle changes and different expenses that come with the package, such as wells, septic tanks/fields, lack of snow removal and many DIY projects. We are not experts on this, as we haven’t experience acreage life ourselves, though we can always connect you with a real estate professional that specializes in acreages!

Bobbi Morrison, a licensed realtor within the Danny Hansen Team, was asked today “What are the top 4 considerations that need to be addressed when considering the transition to acreage life?”

1) When starting to look for a country residential property it is SO important to find a realtor that specializes in rural real estate. This is not the same type of transaction as when purchasing in town.  There are so many things to consider when moving to an acreage it is important to have a professional that is specialized in this type of real estate helping you through the process. Knowing the right questions to ask, where to find the answers is the best way to avoid unpleasant surprises in the future.

2) Financing for an acreage is going to look substantially different than an in-town purchase. For example: Banks tend to lend on the house and a certain number of acres. Therefore, outbuildings and excess of land would not be considered on an appraisal. The extra value, therefore, must be covered by the Buyers in addition to the the down payment in order to secure financing thus facilitating a successful sale.

3) Weigh the PROS and CONS of city life vs country life and take a good hard look at the lifestyle you want to live. For example: a significant pro could be that you will enjoy the peace and quiet in the country and your kids can grow up with an enormous amount of freedom away the hustle and bustle and concerns that come with raising children in an urban environment.

However, a con may be the additional drive time for extracurricular,  work, and for school.  If you love going to the lake or camping on the weekends, acreage life might not be for you.   A lot of your free time on the weekends may be consumed by yard maintenance!

4) Be prepared to purchase equipment for the maintenance of your new property. In some situations it’s enough to own a small lawn tractor, providing that you purchase the proper implements.  You will have loads of mowing and snow  removal moving forward so it is important that you are prepared!

What do you think? Is the #acreagelife for you?

Thanks to Bobbi Morrison for sharing some insight on acreage life! You can reach Bobbi at:
www.dannyhansen.com
dannyhansen@remax.net 
(403) 948-7510

Ant Inspections

By | Home Inspections, Home Maintenance, Pests, Spring | No Comments

Ant Inspection

by Nick Gromicko

Ants are among the most prevalent pests in households, restaurants, hospitals, offices, warehouses, and virtually all buildings where food and water can be found. While mostly harmless to humans, ants (especially carpenter ants) can cause considerable building damage.  Inspectors can expand their knowledge base by being able to identify some of the telltale signs of ant infestation.
Ant Behavior
Ants are social insects that live in colonies divided into three castes: queens, males and workers. Most of the ants you may observe, which are responsible for gathering food, are sterile female workers. Winged males and females will leave the nest to mate, and to find suitable locations for new colonies. After mating, the males die and the impregnated females (queens) shed their wings and lay eggs that will hatch into the legless, grub-like larvae. The queen takes care of these larvae as they develop until they finally become pupae. Within a few weeks, adult worker ants emerge from these pupae and take over the job of tending the young.

Distinguishing Ants from Termites

Winged ants are often mistaken for winged termites, which also leave their nests to mate. These insects can be distinguished from one another by three main characteristics:

  • The ant’s body is constricted, giving it the appearance of having a thin waist, while the termite’s body is not constricted.
  • The ant’s hind wings are smaller than its front wings, while the termite’s front and hind wings are about the same size. Wings might not always be present, however, as both species eventually lose them.Ants and termites are different in three key ways
  • Winged female and worker ants have elbowed antennae, while the termite’s antennae are not elbowed.

Termites and ants both construct nests in moist wood, but ant nests are typically smoother and lack mud structures commonly found in termite nests. Also, termites actually subsist on wood, so the structural damage they leave it their wake is generally more severe than that caused by ants, which merely tunnel through wood.

Nests

Carpenter ants nest in both moist and dry wood, but they prefer moist wood. Accordingly, nests are more likely to be found in wood dampened by water leaks, such as wood around bathtubs and sinks, poorly sealed windows and door frames, roof leaks and poorly flashed chimneys. Nests are especially common in moist, hollow spaces, such as the wall void behind a dishwasher and in a hollow deck column. As there will often be no external signs of damage, probing the wood with a screwdriver helps reveal the excavated “galleries.” Another technique for locating hidden nests is to tap along baseboards and other wood surfaces with the blunt end of a screwdriver while listening for the hollow sound of tunneled wood. If a nest is nearby, carpenter ants often will respond by making a rustling sound within the nest.

Inspection

The following clues are evidence that a building is host to an ant infestation:

  • long trails of ants, perhaps numbering in the hundreds or thousands. Ants assemble in long trails along structural elements, such as wires and pipes, and frequently use them to enter and travel within a structure to their destination. Follow the trail to locate their nest or their entry point, such as an electrical outlet, or gap along a baseboard or around a water pipe;Ants entering, or exiting, a lightswitch
  • a few straggler ants. These are scouts in search of food and nesting sites. They, too, may be followed back to the nest to betray their family;
  • holes or cracks in walls or foundations, especially where pipes enter the building, and around windows and doors. These can provide entry points for ants and other insects. Kitchens are other food storage and preparation areas are particular problem areas;
  • frass deposits. Frass is the fine sawdust produced after galleries are carved out of the wood. If you suspect that a piece of woodwork hosts a gallery, you can tap on it with a screwdriver tip and see if any dust falls away;
  • a distinctive rustling sound similar to the crinkling of cellophane. Ants are small, but nests are large enough to produce perceptible noise; and
  • outside, inspect for nests in mulch and vegetation next to the foundation. Check under potted plants, patio blocks, stepping stones, in piles of rocks, lumber and firewood.
Exclusion Practices
A number of steps can be taken by homeowners to reduce the potential for future ant problems, such as:
  • Store food items that attract ants, such as sugar, syrup, honey, and pet food in closed containers. Wash them to remove residues from outer surfaces.
  • Rinse out empty soft drink containers or remove them from the building.
  • Thoroughly clean up grease and spills.
  • Remove garbage from buildings daily and change liners frequently.
  • Correct roof and plumbing leaks and other moisture problems that will attract ants.
  • Eliminate wood-to-ground contact, such as where landscaping has pushed soil or mulch up against the wood siding of a home.
  • Clip back tree limbs and vegetation touching the roof or siding of the house. Limbs and branches serve as bridges between tree limb nests and the structure.
  • Seal cracks and openings in the foundation, especially where utility pipes and wires enter from the outside.
  • Stack firewood away from the foundation, and elevate it off the ground. Never store firewood in the garage or other areas of the home, as firewood is a major ant nesting area.
In summary, ants are complex creatures that create structural defects in buildings. Inspection and exclusion techniques should be practiced.

Credit of this article goes to Nick Gromicko of InterNACHI.

Early Spring Lawn Care

By | Home Beautification, Home Maintenance, Spring | No Comments

Caring for your lawn depends on the climate. For cool-seasons, there is a technique gardeners can do in order for their lawn to maintain the lush and green characteristic. There is some tweaking here and there whenever the season changes, but the basic program indicated here is what most lawns in Canada need.

Know Your Soil
During growing season, you have to know your soil by conducting soil tests. Some of these come in pre-paid boxes that can be ordered online or bought in the store. The soil test indicates the amount of acidity (pH), the main nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium, present, the organic matter and the micronutrients. The test will also point out the deficiencies which can be corrected.

Healthy soil needs biological activity. Therefore, there is a need for microorganisms and earthworms. The biological activity entails enough organic matter in order for the lawn to flourish in its natural green state.

In early spring, there must be the cleaning up and aeration of the lawn. Here is how you can do it: Wait for the snow to melt and the lawn to dry, then power-rake to remove excess and aerate the lawn by using spiked clogs.

Why Aerate?
Aeration alleviates the compact thickness in between the ground’s density which results from gravity and winter snows. Through this cleaning up process, the soil gets injected by oxygen, making it easier for biological activity to take place. It also helps the penetration of fertilization in the roots.

It also helps to apply organic herbicides. The amount should be at least 20 lbs for every 1000 sq. ft. Choose organic herbicides that are made from corn gluten meal or have been proven to be a pre-emergent herbicides that are organic.

Afterwards, apply complete organic fertilizer. The amount is the same as that of the herbicide – 20 lbs for every 1000 square feet. You can alternately apply herbicides and fertilizers every six weeks. Choose a fertilizer that is made from the best blended organic materials.

Mowing Tips
When it comes to mowing, it is best to do so at a cutting height of 3 inches as a short lawn will be less resistant to weeds and will dry out and burn faster. The root system mimics the length of the length of the blades of grass, so the longer the stronger. The exception to this rule is when they are the last cuts of the season by cutting low to an inch. We recommend to leave clippings on the lawn and keep the blade of your mower sharp. Research shows that there are benefits to cutting the lawn. One of which is that the weeds are choked out, therefore making the roots develop and resistant to hardiness and drought.

Thanks to Carlos Armando Siguenza for providing the information above! If you are in the Calgary, Alberta area and looking for a landscaping specialist – check out Armandos Gardening!

Armandos Gardening
www.armandosgardening.ca
(403) 589-0019

Landscaping services in the Calgary Area.

Landscaping services in the Calgary Area.

Other Helpful Articles:
Green Law Care – Edmonton Journal.

Home Buyer’s Due Diligence

By | Buying/Selling Homes, Home Inspections | No Comments

When considering purchasing a home it is important to consider more than just the style, price, layout, size, and location. We wanted to share some other ways to ensure that you are doing your due diligence when considering whether a particular property is the right one for you!

Choose an Appropriate Realtor

Be sure seek the assistance of an experienced real estate professional who can provide you advice, knowledge and resources to assist in finding the right home for you. Realtors do so much more than just open the doors and negotiate on your behalf. They are there to help guide you towards finding a home that properly suits your needs, desires and budget. Though not all realtors are created equal, they each have their different strengths and unique expertise.

We strongly suggest when searching for an acreage to find a realtor that is experience and specialized in acreages. There is alot more to consider when buying land outside of a city that has a well and septic tank system -for starters.

Another example is when searching for a condo it is recommended to find a condo specialist. It is important to have someone experienced with condos and can suggest a reliable professional to review the condo documents to protect your investment.

If you are looking for a income property, we suggest choosing a realtor with experience in that area. Someone who is familiar with the required permits and zoning.

If looking to move to a new city, it is beneficial to hire a realtor who is familiar with the area and can provide their insight. Different neighborhoods and communities have different demographics, amenities and property values.

We work with a large number of realtors, if you would like a referral we would be happy to connect you with a few realtors that suit your unique needs. 

Research the Area

Prior to falling in love a house, it is important that the area and location will work for you and your lifestyle. Walk  and drive around the community and to get a feel for the area.

Consider:

  • How will the commute be?
  • Are there amenities nearby that you frequently need?
  • Are you happy with the nearby walking paths, playgrounds and off leash areas? Schools district?
  • Is it a high water table or flood area?
  • Do you have a support system nearby?

Ask the Previous Owners

It is good practice to have your realtor ask the seller’s realtor to disclose any previous water leaks or major deficiencies that the previous owners have experienced. They are legally required to disclose these types of things when asked.

Get a Home Inspection

As many of our readers would agree, getting a home inspections completed is a very important step in buyer’s due diligence. During a home inspection the inspector will investigate whether the home’s components and systems are operating as they should and should point out maintenance items as well as other areas to monitor over time. Findings from this report can often be used to renegotiate the purchase price of a home, and provide you with a good understanding of the condition of the home.

Hire Specialists for Specific Concerns

Prior to waiving conditions it is helpful to hire a trade specialist to do a further in-depth investigation into specific areas of concern that have been highlighted during the home inspection.  This also provides an opportunity to obtain a realistic quote on repairs to budget for.

Keep in mind that home inspectors are generalists and are not journeyman of all areas of a home as this would take many years of school and would results in home inspections costing 4-5x as much! It can be handy to book your inspection earlier on in your condition period to allow for further due diligence on any deficiencies discovered before waiving conditions on the purchase agreement.

Budget Accordingly

When buying an older home, and even a new home, it is important to budget for repairs, maintenance and the unexpected. The life span of the following components varies based on brand, installation, maintenance and other factors, and should are only a rough estimate of the typical life span. Though it can be helpful to consider when budgeting for home maintenance. Here’s a rough estimate of the lifespan of major components of a home:

  • Hot water tanks typically have a life span of 10-12 years
  • Furnace lifespan is 20-25 years, though annual maintenance is required
  • Roofs vary based on the thickness of the shingle, type of materials and weather conditions, though roughly 12-25 years.
  • Windows vary depending on position of the home, care and installation, though on average you can expect windows to last 20 years.

In the end, many buyers go with their gut when choosing their next home though we hope you consider some of these other factors to ensure that your journey of home-ownership is a pleasurable one!