Home Maintenance Tips for the Summer

Keeping up with seasonal repairs upkeep not only shows pride of ownership, but can reduce the risk of costly and preventable home expenses. Prepare your home for the summer with the following considerations.

Home Exterior

  • Check all window and door locks to make sure they are secure. Open and close them, and apply lubricant when they are hard to open.
  • Inspect your roof and gutters, clean out gutter debris and check shingle integrity.
  • Inspect your home’s foundation, sealing cracks, and leveling yard depressions with compacted soil.
  • Check wooden structures, such as decks and steps, for rotting, loose wood, or exposed nails.

Home Interior

  • Hire a qualified heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor to tune up your air conditioning unit.
  • Examine electrical outlets and cords for potential fire hazards, such as frayed wires.

Garage

  • Examine your garage door to ensure that it is in proper working order.
  • Declutter by reviewing the contents of your garage. Donate or dispose of items you no longer use or need.

Driveways and Walkways

  • Inspect your pavement for cracks and holes, and remedy them. This can go a long way in preventing accident slips, trips, and falls.

These tips are brought to you by Scrivens Insurance and Investment Solutions.

Dos and Don’ts for First-time Homebuyers

Purchasing your first home is an exciting milestone. However, home buying is not simple task, and many first-time purchasers fall into common, sometimes costly, traps.

So, before you start searching for your dream home, keep in mind the following dos and don’ts.

First Time Home Buyers DOs.jpg

Get Pre-Approved – When shopping for a home, it’s important to know what kind of credit you have and your overall budget. In some cases, real estate agents won’t even work with you until you’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage.

Get a Real Estate Agent – While it’s true that real estate agents aren’t required for buying a home, they can be invaluable – especially for first-time buyers. A good agent will walk you through the necessary steps and offer market insight and specific advice.

First Time Home Buyers DON'Ts

Get over excited – It’s common for first-time home buyers to act on their emotions. But when it comes to such a large purchase, acting on impulse can be dangerous and commonly leads to overspending. Experts recommend that buyers only close on houses they can see themselves in for at least five years.

Get careless about money – When purchasing a house, you want to avoid making other big purchases before you are approved for a mortgage. In addition, many first-time buyers forget to budget for closing costs. Consider putting aside anywhere from 1 to 4 per cent of the purchase price to cover them.

Keeping in mind the above tips will ensure that, when it comes time to sign on the dotted line, you made all the right steps to secure your dream home. Get a free home insurance quote from Scrivens Insurance and Investment Solutions.

GREEN Living Tips for Your Home

Live Green in Every Room in Your Home

Living green, building green, and surrounding yourself with earth-friendly products minimizes the negative impact you have on the natural world. By abiding by green principles, not only are you keeping your family from getting sick, you are also looking out for Mother Nature’s limited resources.

Here are some earth-friendly GREEN tips for your home this St. Patrick’s Day!

  • Use recycles, chlorine-free toilet paper, facial tissues and petrochemical-free cosmetics.
  • Use baking soda, vinegar, and tea tree oil to disinfect your bathroom as opposed to traditional cleaning products made with harsh chemicals.
  • Line dry your clothes instead of drying them in the dryer.
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and only turn it back on to rinse.
  • Install natural linoleum, cork, ceramic tile, or recycled rubber instead of vinyl flooring.
  • Keep your heat low. For every two degrees that you turn your thermostat below 21, you can sage 145 kilograms of greenhouse gases (natural gas heat) or 107 kilograms of electric heat.
  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) throughout your house to significantly reduce your electricity bill and the amount of energy used.
  • Increase insulation in your attic, walls, and flooring.

GREEN THUMB TIP

Growing native plans in your garden is much friendlier on the environment since they have evolved to survive in the climate in which we live. These plants do not need much help to grow and require less than half the amount of water to survive as compared to non-native plants.

Visit www.scrivens.ca, your home insurance experts!

The top chimney maintenance tips

Did You Know?

In spite of the ambiance and relaxation that a fireplace provides, there are also inherent fire dangers. To combat the risk of fire or inhalation of dangerous carbon monoxide (CO) gas, it is important for you to make chimney maintenance part of your home loss prevention plan.

chimney-maintenance-tipsChimney Maintenance

Both metal and masonry chimneys require maintenance so that smoke and flue gases are ventilated properly. At the very least, you should have your chimney inspected annually before each heating season. In addition:

  • Have your chimney cleaned on a regular basis to reduce creosote build-up.
  • Make sure your masonry chimney has a flue liner in place to reduce the possibility that the masonry could absorb creosote.
  • Replace cracked or damaged liners, as they will allow creosote to accumulate and heat to escape.
  • When hiring someone to reline your chimney, only allow the contractor to use a product that has been tested and listed by a nationality recognized testing laboratory.

There are two types of chimneys that require specific maintenance to minimize the dangers in your home.

  • Fireplace inserts (hearth stoves):
    • Vent should be connected to the flue of the chimney.
  • Factory-built metal chimneys:
    • Do not use natural gas, fuel oil vents, well casing, stovepipe or other material in the chimney, as they cannot withstand the heat in the wood burner.

Safety First

Do not vent more than one heater or appliance into a single flue, as major complications car arise. If one fuel-burning appliance is connected to a flue and then you attach another appliance, such as a water heater, you are running the risk of the following serious problems:

  • Heavy creosote accumulation
  • Deterioration of the flue
  • Creosote blocking the lower heater vent
  • Carbon monoxide drifting into your home

Preventing Ice Dams

During cold winter months, a row of icicles on your home’s eaves may be a sign that a ridge of ice is forming at the edge of the roof. This ridge, also know as an ice dam, can be the result of uneven heat loss from your home, which causes the roof to warm above freezing and melt accumulated snow. When the snow melts and then re-freezes before reaching the roof’s edge, an ice dam forms, causing water to collect behind it. This pool of water can cause extensive damage to the roof, attic, ceilings, walls and contents of your home.

ice-dams

  • Keep the attic well ventilated. One-third square metre of free ventilation opening is recommended for every 45 square metres of attic space.
  • Seal air leaks to prevent warm air leakage from plumbing vents, attic hatches, and junction boxes.
  • Keep the attic floor well insulated (between 40 and 56 centimetres of insulation) to minimize the amount of heat rising into the attic from below.
  • Clean leaves and other debris from gutters before the first snow to help prevent ice buildup.
  • Install an ice shield under your shingles if you’re considering getting a new roof.
  • Use a roof rake to clear snow about one metre above the gutters to allow water to drain freely.
  • Consider hiring an energy specialist to evaluate the performance of your home and recommend some things you can do to minimize energy waste.

To protect your home from winter perils, always be sure your homeowners insurance fully covers all your risks. Find out more from Scrivens Insurance and Investment Solutions.

Spring Maintenance Checklist

spring flowerAs Spring tries to make its way into Ottawa, preventive measures and general maintenance tasks can help prepare your home for the rest of the year. This is especially important, as winters have been known to wreak havoc in homes, and a spring checklist can help ensure that potential issues are addressed. In general, the following items inside and outside your home should be included in your general maintenance overview:

Inside your home

  1. Have your air conditioning system inspected by a professional.
  2. Inspect water entry points for leaks (a day like today is a great time to check).
  3. If you haven’t done so already, change the batteries in smoke detectors and CO detectors.
  4. Replace your fire extinguishers.

Outside your home

  1. Inspect your roof and gutters for blockage or damage caused by wintery conditions.
  2. As trees begin to regrow their leaves, you’ll want to be sure they are properly trimmed and away from utility wires.
  3. Ensure your sidewalk and driveway are smooth by repairing cracks or uneven surfaces.

For more helpful checklists, contact Scrivens Insurance and Investment Solutions today.

Are there really benefits to having a smart home?

IMG_20160316_100326As technology continues to advance, more and more aspects of the home are becoming automated. When a home is outfitted with an array of these electronic systems, it is often referred to as a “smart” home.

In general, smart homes are equipped with a variety of devices that can detect hazards like smoke, fire, carbon monoxide, water leaks, break-ins, and more. In addition, smart home technology allows homeowners to have complete control over their homes – locking doors, managing audio equipment, dimming lights, adjusting the temperature, etc. – all through the use of smartphones.

The integrated systems of a smart home often improve safety, as the technology within can be linked to alarms and motion sensor cameras or designed to contact the proper authorities in the event of burglary, fire, or other emergency.

And, because smart homes give homeowners the ability to adjust lighting and temperature, they often create more energy-efficient spaces.

For example, I purchased a Nest thermostat before the new year. It controls my central heating and central air conditioning (I have yet to use the air conditioning, but I can’t wait until the weather is warm enough). Anyway, my HydroOttawa bill decreased by 14.4% in one month. A small sample size, but still encouraging nonetheless!

Going a bit further I compared my kWh usage averaged daily in January, February, and so far in March (as of today). These are the results:

  • January: 14.29 kWh per day
  • February: 13.73 kWh per day
  • March: 13.92 kWh per day

What is most important however, is the on-peak usage. Over three months, my daily average in On-Peak has decreased by nearly 15%. Of course the weather has something to do with it but considering the weather in February, it’s encouraging to see I used less energy than January.

While smart homes can improve security, lower energy bills, improve resale value, and add convenience, it can be expensive to retrofit older homes with smart home updates. To avoid overspending, include the cost of implementing smart home technology into a renovation or new home budget.