What are your favourite memories of spending summer at home in Ontario? There’s nothing like grilling burgers outside over the August long weekend, or spending a quiet afternoon at work on the garden.
What most homeowners probably won’t reminisce about is everyday maintenance jobs. But even the smallest ones make a big difference, especially if your house or condominium is still covered by a new home warranty.
Keeping Things Cool: Air Conditioner Maintenance
With the summer we’ve been having in 2018, Ontario’s air conditioners have certainly been getting plenty of use.
With proper maintenance, your air conditioning system may be able to do an even better job of busting the summer humidity – not only in 2018, but for many summers to come.
Here are some of our best tips for new homeowners with air conditioning in their house or condo:
- Check your furnace filter – to perform at their best, air conditioners rely on these too! Changing the filter regularly can help with your indoor air quality and prolong your system’s lifespan.
- Distribute air more evenly throughout your home by setting your thermostat to ‘ON’ instead of “AUTO,” so that the fan can circulate air all day long during the hot summer.
- Check and make sure your windows are closed when the air conditioner is running.
If you live in a condominium, your condominium board may arrange for annual maintenance (such as changing the filter) to be performed within your unit. Check with a representative of your board to confirm whether this is the case.
Even if you’ve done your best, your air conditioner might still run into problems. But luckily, they might be covered if your home is under warranty. The ways in which Tarion can help depend on how bad the problem is:
- If there’s a defect in your system but the air conditioning is still functional, that can be reported on your 30-Day or Year-End Form. Your builder should be able to resolve the issue during the builder repair periods in the statutory claims process.
- If the air conditioning is completely non-functional between May 15 and September 15 of your first year owning your new home, Tarion may be able to help get it fixed more quickly. Start by reporting the situation to your builder, then call Tarion at 1-877-9TARION to obtain an Air Conditioning Form.
Surviving Soupy Weather: Tips to Keep Humidity in Check
Whether you’re in a house or a condo, you will want to keep the indoor humidity level between 30 and 45 per cent. The level can be measured with a hygrometer (we spoke about those in an earlier episode of Tarion Talks).
In summer months, a common problem is humidity levels in excess of 45 per cent. If things are a bit too humid, you may want to consider installing a dehumidifier (some builders will sell these as an HVAC system add-on or feature).
On drier days during the summer, consider opening some windows – especially in the basement – to air out your interior space.
One of the best ways to prevent excessive humidity is to always use your exhaust fans when showering, cooking or doing the laundry. When preparing your summer home maintenance checklist, don’t forget to add cleaning these exhaust fans, too. Here are a few tips for tackling that task:
- Before cleaning the bathroom or laundry fan, make sure you use your circuit box to turn off the power to that fan.
- After removing the fan grate, using a vacuum is the best way to suck up dirt and dust that has collected on the fan. After that, give it a wash with warm water and dish detergent.
- Some exhaust fans – especially those found in the kitchen – come with reusable filters. These can be washed (remember to soak them in boiling water for a few minutes!), or exchanged for a new one – it’s up to you to decide.
If your home’s humidity stays above 45 per cent for too long, it could lead to mould or affect the wood finishes in your home, such as hardwood flooring – so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on it.
Seasonal Items, Special Seasonal Items and your New Home Warranty
While tending to outdoor maintenance around your home, it can be hard to focus on the job at hand if you’re distracted by an issue with your home’s exterior.
The warranty process is different for many exterior “seasonal” items. Your builder is only expected to repair seasonal items during each year’s period of suitable weather conditions – namely, May 1 to November 15 – so this will extend the builder’s repair period.
Here is a quick list of seasonal items:
- Exterior painting
- Exterior cement or concrete work, including parging application or repair
- Exterior mortar work, including brick installation or repair
- Exterior stucco work or repairs, including repairs to exterior insulation finishing systems
- Exterior caulking
- In-ground support for decks
A complete list, and some more information about repair timelines for seasonal items, can be found here. If your builder cannot complete or repair these items within the required timelines due to unsuitable weather conditions, they must do so as soon as possible after suitable weather conditions return.
There is one more category of outdoor warranted items: “special seasonal.” Here are a few examples of items that would fall under this category:
- Completion of final grading
- Landscaping (laying sod, etc.)
- Installation of driveways, patios and walkways
When it comes to “special seasonal” items, your builder has 270 days of “seasonal weather” (May 1 through November 15) from your home’s date of possession to complete the repair for any of these items.
More specific information about this category – and a complete list of the items that fall under it – can be found here.
If you are planning to report a defect affecting any item in either of these two categories, Tarion recommends doing so on either your 30-Day Form or Year-End Form.
Planning a Dream Yard? Landscape with Care!
Without proper planning and caution, those efforts to transform your home’s exterior into an oasis could result in unintended issues – such as water penetration into the home.
If you’re thinking of doing some DIY landscaping work this summer, here are some tips to keep those changes from impacting your new home:
- Do your landscaping ideas require any changes to the slope around your home? If so, you might want to reconsider tackling them yourself. These changes can lead to issues such as poor surface drainage, ponding, or even flooding into your home’s basement. When the work is done, land surrounding the home should slope away from it, so that water cannot accumulate near the foundation.
- Before doing any landscaping that may affect drainage systems – such as planting flowers or installing a pool – first you should make sure the work won’t cause water to accumulate anywhere near your home’s foundation. Surface drainage should be directed away from window wells and exterior stairwells.
- Don’t cover up exterior weeping holes, or raise the grade to a level above these holes. These gaps are intentionally left between some bricks in your home’s external masonry and serve two important purposes: ventilating the internal wall cavity and providing a means for water to escape following a flood.
Before making any changes to the grading that was done by your builder, it is important to check with your local building department, as grading requirements vary in different municipalities across Ontario.
The approval of your new home’s grading plan – which must be done by the municipality – can also affect your builder’s timelines for important exterior work such as landscaping or installing driveways, patios or walkways. This is important to keep in mind during the first couple of years after you have taken possession.