Do You Really Want To Live In A Fireman’s’ Reno?

Do You Really Want To Live In A Fireman’s’ Reno?

balcony reno


I saw this a few weeks ago while inspecting the neighbouring property. I couldn’t resist taking a shot of it. The selling agent noticed and told me  a fireman owned the property and was fixing it up, renovating it in his off time.

Her tone and attitude to this told me she thought this was admirable and she was ‘wowed’ by this industriousness.

That’s all fine but as a home inspector and understanding structure a well as I do, am somewhat less impressed.

Yes, the joists are cantilevered but the building is very narrow so this length is over extended and originally was actually build with the outer posts transferring weight to the ground.

The top floor deck is fully renovated. The second floor one is not, but the ground floor unit is mostly demolished.  Doing things a section at a time is fine but for the fact of gravity in this case. Gravity is serious, both in the sense that it is a serious risk condition and the failure, basically falling from this height, or having something fall on you from that height. That’ll be injury, likely serious too.

All these apartments are occupied, including the top one occupied by the fireman. Maybe that’s why the top one was done first.

Too bad, cause its just hanging there. Dangerously!

A pro contractor could safely renovate in this sequence but it would all be supported in the interm with no safety risks and all openings to the apartment would be blocked to keep people out of the hazardous zone.

But a real builder would do a full demolition and build it back up, from the ground up.  Buildings are erected from the ground up for a reason; gravity.

This fireman though industrious, is actually working dangerously, both for himself and his tenants.

You don’t frame the roof before building the basement. Remember ‘ ground up’ not ‘ top down’.



Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post

Is Your House Sporting A Beret? It’s That Time Of Year. Keep Looking Up.

Is Your House Sporting A Beret?   It’s That Time Of Year. Keep Looking Up.

snow on roof

2  4 5

It is that time of year. Snow does build up on roofs. You even get snow drifts on roofs with windy conditions.

You also get what I like to call snowbrows. Which may look like your roof is wearing a snow beret.

The right conditions can create built-up overhangs, or ‘brows’ at eves and other roof edges. They often get heavy enough to break of and fall with a big ‘whump’ sound as this pile of snow hits the ground or a lower roof.

Sometimes this happens while it is still snowing.  But  if the conditions are right they can ‘hang’ there for days, even weeks.  They can look ominous but some people think ‘it’s only snow so it’s not a danger’. But that’s not right.

It’s a lot of snow.  If it drops on you, you’re going to know it.  Remember; a ton of bricks sounds heavy and a ton of feathers (or snow) doesen’t conjure up the same weighty image.  But a ton is a ton.  You don’t want to be under it.

The second factor here is ice. Did you notice the icicles present?  There’s lots of them and they are big.  That means something is happening under that snow.

Because snow is cold to the touch, few people think of it as functioning as an insulation, but a thick snow layer is very effective insulation because it is light and airy, it does not allow much heat transfer by conduction. (Igloo and Ice Hotel builders use that to their advantage.)

So when we have deep snow cover on roofs the insulating effect allows heat (loss from the house or solar heat gains from other surfaces) to warm up the roof surfaces.  Snow in contact with the roof melts, the water runs down to the cold eve edges and refreezes. This causes the big icicles and ice dams. Those ice dams can back up water till the point that it may run under the shingles and sometimes leak into the interior.

Even if you don’t get interior water, the ice dams build up deeper and thicker and heavier. All or mosly out of sight under the deep snow and snowbrows.

So now  if  when they fall they will be heavier, harder and pack more punch. Their impact will feel like bricks.

So don’t slam that door!

3 This front entry door is right under this brow!

Ever when there are no snowbrow buildups, the weight of the snow and ice accumulation can be considerable.

Add rain into that deep snow layer.  What do you think happens.?  No it does not drain off or melt the snow.  The snow soaks it up like a sponge and holds it there.  It all stays on the roof.

Was your roof designed for that? Most likely not.

Construction costs usually dictate code minimums designed for average conditions, plus a certain safety factor. The roof should not fail structurally, but it can still be damaged (shingles, sheathing, gutters, water entry, etc.).

It is a good maintenance practice to knock off all over hanging ‘brows’ as soon as they are formed and befor large ice buid-ups can occur.

Big snow accumulations on roof edges are better removed, also early –  before ice is allowed to buildup.  But this is not cause for panic or drastic action every time you have a big snow fall.

Once you’ve cleared your driveway and walks, have a look at how much is on the roof. The most important areas to clear are the lower half of the sloped roofs.

We recommend using a roof rake (with pole handle extensions) from the ground.  Don’t try to remove ice that is too big to break off easily.  We do not recommend ice removal.  It is to easy to damage roofs, walls and windows this way.

Ice left in place, with no snow cover, will safely freeze to the spot, generally till spring weather gradually reduces them.

If ice mass has to be removed because of damage or water entry problems, have it professionally done.  They have the safety equipment, the experience and usually the capability to repair any damaged they may cause.

Avoid slamming the door on winter mornings and remember to “keep looking up”.


Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post

The Free Pool – A True Story And A Cautionary Tale.


The Free Pool – A True Story And A Cautionary Tale.

This true tale was brought to mind by a photo I saw in Charles Buell’s recent blog: Summer time—time to jump in the Pool!

His pool shot (photo) reminded me of a local incident.

Married friends of mine had kids and bought a house in a near by commuter city. The price was right, etc, etc.

Come spring they discovered a 15′ deflated pool in the tall grass of the back yard. My friend , a fairly handy guy took weeks of spare time checking it out, reassembling it and making sure all the equipment was present and working. (This had been an above ground pool.)

On the Saturday that it was all ready to go, they started filling. And just in time as it was approaching the end of June and it was getting hot.

But it was slow going. They only had the one garden hose to fill it.

By noon it was only 2/3rds full so they gathered up their kids (2) and 6 of their friends who had been playing in the yard waiting for the pool to be ready and took them off to MacDonald’s for lunch and left the pool slowly filling.

There certainly was no danger of it over flowing and they took their time with the kids to keep them entertained.

Then they went back home to see how close it was to full.


It was gone! They couldn’t see it as they drove up the street!

They got there. Parts were strewn all over the yard. The children’s toy were washed up against the fence and house. The basement windows were smashed in and the basement was flooded.

The pool had burst. The kids , to say the least were dismayed.

The parents looked at each other.

They were both white as a sheet.

They were both professional ambulance drivers.

They knew how lucky they were (the children were not in that yard when the pool burst).

They didn’t open the van doors. They just drove the visiting children home, brought their kids to her mothers, before coming back to start the clean up.



Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post