Thursday, Sep 27, 2012









Know before you reno
By MARK SALERNO, CMHC, Special to QMI Agency




Renovations can help you convert unused space like an attic or basement into living quarters, as well as provide an opportunity to upgrade or repair your home.

If you plan carefully, you can renovate your home to make it look better, work better, last longer and be more comfortable. Before you start a home renovation project, itís important to assess the condition of your home to determine if there are any significant issues that need to be addressed first. Failing to deal with these problems could cause trouble not only during your renovation but down the road, as well.

Unresolved water sources will cause your renovations to deteriorate quickly, whether the water comes from building envelope leaks, plumbing leaks or high humidity.

A systematic and thorough inspection of your home should start in the basement because thatís where many problems originate. Look for cracks, damp spots, chalky white stains or blistered paint on the concrete, finished walls or floors. Check for signs of high humidity, condensation or visible mould. These warning signs could mean that you have a moisture problem and need to find the cause and correct it.

Continue inspecting the rest of your house by checking for moisture or air leaks, and searching for problems with the mechanical, plumbing or electrical systems. Depending upon the size of your renovation project, you may want to ask a qualified home inspector or a professional renovator to help you assess your house and develop a plan.

When planning for a renovation, think of your house as an interactive system made up of many components: the basic structure; heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment; the external environment; and the occupants. Your renovation will provide an opportunity to improve how your house performs as a system. Just be sure to consider how changing particular components will affect the performance of the whole house.

For example, if you add a hot tub as part of a bathroom renovation, your existing ventilation system may be inadequate to handle the increased humidity levels. It will be important to provide proper ventilation to prevent mould growth, indoor air quality problems and damage to the house structure or finishes.

Your renovation plans should also include ways to make your house healthier for you, your community and the environment. Try to incorporate the five key elements of Healthy Housing into your project: occupant health, energy efficiency, resource efficiency, environmental responsibility and affordability. This can be as easy as selecting eco-friendly building materials, and choosing water-conserving fixtures and energy-efficient appliances, heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment.

Renovations can have risks. For instance, some types of insulation that you might find in the attics or walls of older homes may pose a health risk if disturbed. Other concerns can exist with other materials, such as lead paint or asbestos. Consulting with qualified contractors can help inform you of approaches to your renovation projects that can safely save energy and costs.

Renovations can make your home more pleasant, attractive and better suited to your lifestyle. While you are renovating you will also be able to take care of any maintenance and repair projects such as correcting structural flaws, fixing leaks and making sure that all services are safe and adequate.

To help you assess your house prior to renovating, you can use the checklist in Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporationís (CMHC) free About Your House fact sheet called Assessing the Renovation Project.

Mark Salerno is district manager for the Greater Toronto Area at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

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