Avoiding Scams When Doing Home Improvements

Remodels and other home improvements are an important part of being a property owner. When done correctly, these projects can add value to a home and make it more attractive to future buyers.

Unfortunately, hiring a contractor to complete home improvement projects is not always simple. The average homeowner is often unaware of the average cost of materials and labour. What’s more, construction projects can be stressful, and it’s common for individuals to rush when choosing a construction firm just to get a job done faster.

As a result, homeowners are an easy target for contractor fraud, which is when a firm performs substandard repairs or offers services that deliberately cheat another party. To avoid contractor fraud and ensure that your home improvements are done to a high standard, look out for the following:

  • Contractors that contact you looking for work
  • Unsolicited, free home inspections that turn up problems you were previously unaware of
  • Contractors that want you to commit to repairs immediately
  • Contractors that request money in advance
  • Contractors that do not get the right permits or want to sell extra materials to you for a cheap price

When choosing a contractor, obtain as many references as you can and be diligent about researching reputable firms. If you are the victim of contractor fraud, you can report it to your local police department or notify services like the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

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Protecting Your Home From Storms

Heavy rainfall, high winds, hail and lightning from storms can cause severe damage to your home and endanger you and your family. In fact, flooding alone can cost Canadians an average of $42,000.

Make sure to protect your home from storm damage by taking the following steps:

  • Be aware of the types of storms that are likely to affect your area, and always listen to the weather forecast so you can stay informed of potentially dangerous weather patterns.
  • Update your home inventory at least once a year in case a storm causes damage to your home or possessions.
  • Inspect the outside of your home for any damage that could cause a leak. Even a small leak in your home’s roof, siding or foundation can cause severe damage and weaken the structural integrity of your home.
  • Prepare a home disaster kit that includes a first-aid kit, flashlight, battery-powered radio and clean water. You should also create emergency shelter and evacuation plans with your family in the event that any of you are separated during a severe storm.
  • Check your home’s windows, doors and gutters to ensure they can withstand heavy rainfall and high wind speeds.
  • Contact Scrivens Insurance and Investment Solutions to make sure that your home insurance policy offers enough protection to cover storm damage, or to learn more about home storm protection.

Chemical Safety Tips for the Home and Cottage

Though you may think that your family is protected against household chemical dangers, accidents can still occur. In fact, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, an average of three children (ages 14 and younger) die each year due to unintentional poisoning and another 900 are hospitalized with serious injuries.

To ensure the safety of your loved ones, take extra precautions when storing and handling poisonous chemicals in your home or cottage. Use the following tips to protect your family:

  • Place the local poison centre contact information next to your phone in case of an emergency. For added protection, program the number into your mobile device as well. The Ontario Poison Control Centre phone number is 1-800-268-9017.
  • Store harmful products out of the kitchen and away from food and drinks.
  • Read product labels when purchasing new items. If they contain the words caution, warning or danger, be extra cautious when storing and using them.
  • Keep chemicals and products in their original packaging so usage and handling instructions remain available.
  • Refrain from storing products that may release harmful fumes or catch fir inside your home. These items include paints, solvents, gasoline, fuels, and varnishes.
  • Check the City of Ottawa’ guidelines for instructions on how to dispose of chemicals and other hazardous waste. Never pour chemicals down the drain unless instructed.

Keeping in mind the above tips, you’ll ensure that you and your loved ones are safe from potentially deadly household chemicals.

Preparing a Household for a Disaster

Homeowners throughout Canada face a variety of natural hazards, including earthquakes, floods and wildfires.

If you are unprepared for one of these disasters, you and your family could be left without food, electricity or even shelter.

To prepare your household for a disaster, consider the following tips:

  1. Know the risks. Depending on where you live, your home could be impacted by any number of unique hazards like landslides or hazardous material spills. Familiarize yourself with the risks that are most likely to occur near your home to guide your preparation.
  2. Create a phone list. Create a master list of family and emergency contacts. Ensure that every member of your family has a copy of this list and stores it in a safe and easy-to-access area.
  3. Pick a meeting place. If you get separated from your loved ones during a disaster, it’s important to have a meeting place set up. This could be a neighbour’s house, library or community centre.
  4. Stay informed. Once impacted by a disaster, you will want to know how to receive updates on the situation. You and your family should know how to get this information ahead of time. Contact your local government to learn the best ways to receive alerts.
  5. Know how to turn off utilities. If you suspect a leak, knowing how to turn off your home’s gas and electricity can protect your family from fires or explosions. Locate and label your electrical panel as well as your water and gas valves.
  6. Store emergency supplies. Above all, in the event of a disaster, you will need access to clean water. You will need at least 4 litres (1 gallon) of water per person, per day. In addition, emergency supplies like first-aid kits, whistles, flashlights and cellphones will be critical to have on hand. Keep all of these items in a safe area or create an easy grab-and-go bag for quick access.

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.

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