Today is Change a Light Bulb Day. Energy saving lightbulbs are generally more efficient, cheaper, and last longer than conventional lightbulbs. Do your bit for the environment, and upgrade your old bulbs to new, energy saving lightbulbs.
A hot air furnace heats and distributes air through its ducting system.The ducts are usually made of sheet metal and are most obvious in your basement, where they hang from the floor joists.The return, or cold air, ducts bring air to the furnace, usually collecting it centrally in the house. The return air trunk duct is the big rectangular duct along the basement ceiling that enters the bottom of the furnace. The supply, or warm air, ducting usually exits from the top of the furnace. It starts with a trunk duct on the basement ceiling.The individual supply ducts, in round or smaller rectangular sheet metal, branch off the trunk duct and go to each room, where they terminate in a floor or wall register. Over time, dust and debris will collect in these ducts, particularly in the return air ducts.You may be wondering whether it would be worthwhile to have these ducts cleaned.
Duct cleaning is a major industry. As a homeowner, you may be regularly solicited to have your heating ducts cleaned on a regular basis. Claims are made that duct cleaning will:
- provide you with better indoor air quality (or IAQ),
- reduce the presence of house molds and allergens,
- get rid of house dust,
- result in more airflow and better delivery of warm air, and/or
- reduce energy costs.
If you expect duct cleaning to make these improvements, you may be disappointed. It is difficult to find objective and independent research which substantiates these claims. You may want to find out more at the CMHC web site
In houses with forced-air heating and cooling systems, ducts are used to distribute conditioned air throughout the house. In a typical house, however, about 20 percent of the air that moves through the duct system can be lost due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts. For this reason alone, Gold Seal Homes seals the entire HVAC (heat, ventilation & air conditioning) system. The result is lower utility bills and a more comfortable house, no matter how the thermostat is set.
If your home was not sealed in this way, How do you know that your home has poorly performing ducts?
- you have high summer and winter utility bills;
- you have rooms that are difficult to heat and cool;
- you have stuffy rooms that never seem to feel comfortable;
- your ducts are located in an attic, crawl space, or the garage;
- you find tangled or kinked flexible ducts in your system.
Benefits of Duct Sealing
A duct system that is well-designed and properly sealed can make your home more comfortable, energy-efficient, and safer.
Simple Steps to Improving Duct Performance
Because ducts are often concealed in walls, ceiling, attics, and basements, repairing them can be difficult. But there are things that you can do to improve duct performance in your house.
Some homeowners choose to take on duct sealing as a do-it-yourself project. Energy Star has a great brochure on this topic. Start by sealing air leaks using mastic sealant or metal tape and insulating all the ducts that you can access (such as those in attics, crawl spaces, unfinished basements, and garages). Never use duct tape, as it is not long-lasting. Also, make sure that the connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet the floors, walls, and ceiling. These are common locations to find leaks and disconnected ductwork.
Many homeowners choose to work with a professional contractor for duct improvement projects. Most heating and cooling equipment contractors also repair ductwork.
Gold Seal Homes is excited to partner once again with Bullfrog Power as a source for our renewable energy needs. Since 2008, Gold Seal has been purchasing ‘green’ power through Bullfrog, and we have now contracted to purchase renewable natural gas through this ground-breaking company.
According to Gary Fredrich-Dunne (Sales & Marketing Manager at Bullfrog Inc.) “Renewable natural gas is sourced from organic material decomposing in landfills and commercial composting facilities. As it decomposes, it releases methane (natural gas) as part of the natural carbon cycle. By capturing this “bio-genic methane” you are using a fuel source that is part of the natural carbon cycle, rather than using conventional natural gas, which releases carbon that has long been sequestered underground. It is for this reason that renewable natural gas is considered ‘net-zero emissions’.”
You can find more detail on the product and process here, or if you have any questions about it.
How to clean up mold problems
“Small areas” of mold can be cleaned with a detergent solution. Wear a mask, safety goggles and rubber gloves. Seek professional help if there is a lot of mold or if mold comes back after cleaning. Bleach is NOT recommended, as the presence of organic (humic) materials, the pH (acidity/alkalinity) of the water, the surface material and contact time affect the effectiveness of bleach for disinfection. Since these factors are not generally controlled, bleach cannot be relied upon for disinfection. The most compelling reason for advising against bleach is that fumes are harmful but in addition, overuse of bleach will result in increased releases of chlorinated effluents which can be harmful to the environment.
“Small area” clean-up
You can clean up “small areas” of mold (fewer than three patches, each smaller than a square meter) yourself. The minimum protective wear needed are:
- safety glasses or goggles;
- a disposable dust mask (3M 8210 or equivalent); and
- household rubber gloves.
Infants and other family members with asthma, allergies or other health problems should not be in the work area or adjacent room during the cleaning.
Scrub with an unscented detergent solution; then sponge with a clean, wet rag and dry quickly. Using an unscented detergent will make it easier for you to detect residual moldy odours.
Clean the surface with a damp rag using baking soda or a bit of detergent. Do not allow the drywall to get too wet. Mold that comes back after cleaning is usually an indication that a source of moisture has not been removed. Seek professional help from a trained Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) investigator. ( Gold Seal Homes recommends Darrel Paul from Qualistat )
- Clean “moderate areas” of mold, but wear proper protective equipment and follow precautions.
- Seek professional help if there is a lot of mold or if mold comes back after cleaning.
If you follow the proper procedures and use the proper protective equipment, you can clean up “moderate areas” of mold. “Moderate” means more than 3 patches of mold, each smaller than one square meter, or one or more isolated patches larger than one square meter but smaller than 3 square meters (size of a 4 x 8 foot sheet of plywood).
- Wear a disposable dust mask (for example, 3M 8210 or equivalent), glasses or safety goggles and household rubber gloves.
- Isolate the area to be cleaned with plastic sheeting, taped to walls and ceiling.
- Infants and other family members suffering from asthma, allergies or other health problems should not be in the work area or adjacent room during the cleaning.
A small clean up should take minutes (not hours) to finish. When the clean up takes hours to a day to finish, it is suggested that you upgrade to a better filter, such as a half-face respirator with charcoal cartridges. An exhaust fan installed in a window in the room being cleaned would prevent contamination of other areas of the house as well as provide ventilation.
Vacuum surfaces with a vacuum cleaner which has a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter or is externally exhausted. Scrub or brush the moldy area with a mild unscented detergent solution. Rinse by sponging with a clean, wet rag. Repeat. Dry quickly. HEPA vacuum the surfaces that were cleaned as well as surrounding areas.
Cleaning wood surfaces
Vacuum loose mold from wood surfaces using a HEPA or externally exhausted vacuum. Try cleaning the surface of the wood with detergent and water. Rinse with a clean, damp rag and dry quickly. If the staining does not come off, sand and vacuum the surface of the wood with a vacuum/sander combination. It is important to vacuum at the same time to prevent mold spores from being dispersed into the air. Note that wood affected by rot may need to be replaced.
Cleaning concrete surfaces
Vacuum the concrete surfaces to be cleaned with a HEPA or externally exhausted vacuum cleaner. Clean up surfaces with detergent and water. If the surfaces are still visibly moldy, use TSP (trisodium phosphate). Dissolve one cup of TSP in two gallons of warm water. Stir for two minutes. Note: TSP must not be allowed to come in contact with skin or eyes. Saturate the moldy concrete surface with the TSP solution using a sponge or rag. Keep the surface wetted for at least 15 minutes. Rinse the concrete surface twice with clean water. Dry thoroughly, as quickly as possible.
The paper facings of gypsum wallboard (drywall) grow mold when they get wet or repeatedly wet and don’t dry quickly. Cleaning with water containing detergent not only add moisture to the paper but also can eventually damage the facing. If the mold is located only on top of the painted surface, remove it by general cleaning (see above). If the mold is underneath the paint, the moldy patch and other moldy material behind it are best cut out and the surrounding areas also cleaned. This should be done by a mold clean-up contractor. New materials may become moldy if the moisture entry has not been stopped. If this is the case, replacement of the materials should be deferred until the source of the moisture is corrected. The affected areas should be temporarily covered with plastic sheeting and sealed at the edges. Any areas that show new patches of mold should be cleaned promptly.
Article credit: CMHC
A friend of ours called me over the weekend after they found mold in the home they have been living in for five years. She was very concerned for the health of her family, and rightly so. In past blogs I have covered the topic of moisture on windows and in attics, but what happens if the siding installer has not detailed the windows and door properly when installing flashings and weather seals. It appears that after some hail damage repairs a few years ago, due to improper siding details, moisture has been finding its way into the wall cavity in the basement below a north facing door.
We talked about the repair process. Step 1.: Locate the source of the moisture and repair the siding to prevent further moisture infiltration. Step 2.: Dry up the wall cavity. Step 3.: Clean the area affected by mold. This is where some care and attention should be paid. There is a health risk during the clean up process, so I have included a terrific article posted on the CMHC website on the issue of MOLD.
Molds are part of a group of microorganisms called fungi that also include mushrooms and yeasts. Molds are familiar to most people as food spoilers on items such as bread or fruit. Molds are nature’s decomposers in the food chain. If allowed to grow inside your house, mold can be a problem.
Mold can cause:
- unsightly stains;
- damage to paints, wood, drywall, ceiling tiles and fabrics;
- damage to personal items;
- allergies; and
- discolouration on surfaces such as walls, ceilings, or furnishings
- stains on carpets
- mold on drapes and backs of furniture
- stains on personal items close to affected areas such as storage boxes and clothing
- musty smells
- rotting wood
Mold requires high humidity levels to grow. Some molds require condensation to start growing. To avoid most mold problems, keep materials dry. If mold is present, clean the affected area as soon as possible, and identify the source of moisture that allowed the mold to grow in that location.
You can clean small areas of mold yourself using an unscented detergent and water. The mold area is considered “small” if there are fewer than three patches, each patch smaller than one (1) square meter. If you have more than three patches or the areas are larger, you need a trained professional to assess your house. You may also need a trained contractor to clean extensive areas of mold.
- use household rubber gloves;
- use a mask, rated N95, capable of filtering fine particles;
- use protective glasses;
- rinse well with a clean, wet rag;
Moldy ceiling tiles and carpets should be removed and discarded. Drywall that remains stained after cleaning with detergent and water may need to be removed. Try washing fabrics. If the mold odour or stain persists, discard. The proper cleaning procedure involves removing the mold. Chemicals, such as bleach and fungicides are not recommended. It is important to remove all mold residues as they can cause allergies or illness.
Windows and exterior doors are subject to the wear and tear that comes from constant use and exposure to the weather. Over time, weatherstripping, hardware and the door and frame materials can deteriorate or fail. Homeowners can either repair or replace window or door units. Repairs can be inexpensive, but may not give good long-term results. Replacement is generally costly, but will provide cost savings in energy use, make your house more comfortable and add to the resale value.
There are a number of factors to consider before making the decision about whether your windows or doors need to be replaced or whether they can simply be repaired.
Some important areas that you will want to consider include:
- Style and design — your existing windows and doors may not fit the style of your house or give you the features that you want. There may not be enough glass area to provide adequate natural lighting to the living space.
- Components and hardware — the components of windows and doors wear out over time. Failed seals on thermal pane window units, poorly operating windows or doors, damaged screens or hardware and air leaks are common problems. Older door and window hardware may not offer much protection against forced entry.
- Structural problems — there may be structural problems that are affecting the operation of doors and windows. Installation of larger units or units in new locations will probably also require structural changes.
- Moisture — windows and doors often deteriorate due to moisture problems, which will not necessarily go away if you install new units. In fact, moisture may even get worse, due to reduced air leakage.
- Heating and ventilation — the glass area of windows and doors accounts for a high degree of heat loss at night or heat gain when the sun is shining. Energy efficient glazing can reduce heat loss. Heating system modifications or some type of shading may be needed to improve comfort near large window areas.
Renovating is an ideal time to make your house healthier for you, the community and the environment. When assessing your renovation project, be sure to consider the five essentials of Healthy Housing™.
House as a System
A house is much more than just four walls and a roof — it’s an interactive system made up of many components including the basic structure, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, the external environment and the occupants. Each component influences the performance of the entire system. A renovation provides an opportunity to improve how your house performs.
Tighter and more energy efficient windows and doors will reduce the heating load on your house, reduce heating costs and improve occupant comfort. Energy efficient glazing can also reduce condensation problems that damage finishes and lead to mold growth. Increased house airtightness can improve energy efficiency, but may also lead to a greater need for mechanical ventilation. A sufficient air supply may also be needed to prevent combustion appliances from backdrafting.
There are many choices available to homeowners who want to upgrade or make changes to the windows or doors in their homes. Taking the time to examine your needs and the options that are available is the right way to start to plan for your renovation or repair job. Here are some of the likely situations that people encounter.
Painting is not the chore it used to be. A professional look is now easier to achieve. Whatever your project, talk to the paint experts where you purchase your paint. They are a valuable resource. If you are having a hard time visualizing the colour, inexpensive computer software programs can allow you to try out different colours. Or, there may be a decorating service where you buy your paint.
There are two main types of paint depending on the thinners and binders used; water-based (or latex) and oil-based (or alkyd).
Water-based paints use water as a thinner. They are often called latex paints even though they don’t use real latex, since rubber is not used as a binder any more. Today synthetic latexes are used, most commonly acrylic or polyvinyl acetate. Paints with a high acrylic content tend to have a tougher skin and can perform almost as well as oil-based paints. Latex paints can be easily cleaned up with soap and water.
Oil-based paints use a solvent thinner. Despite the name, oil-based paints are usually not made with oil. Instead, most use polyester resins, called alkyds. Although alkyds may be more durable and achieve a higher gloss finish, they are usually a less healthy choice than latex. Alkyd paints require mineral spirits for cleaning up.
Because paints are applied wet, and because they cover such a large area, paints can create a significant health problem during a renovation project. The problem is mainly caused by alkyd or solvent-based paints. They give off a number of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as the solvent evaporates after painting. These VOCs can be a strong irritant and can add to air pollution. Once the paint has completely dried and formed a tough skin, the emission levels drop. However, some paints can emit odours at low levels for a long time. Exposure to VOCs varies from person to person. Effects include coughing, headaches, dizziness, or more serious conditions. It is especially important for respiratory sufferers, those with allergies, asthma, and households with young children or pregnant women to avoid paints with VOCs.
Comparing the VOCs of one paint to another is not an easy task. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are helpful, but manufacturers don’t have to list components which make up one per cent or less of their product’s weight. This means that some toxic components may not show up on the MSDS. The only sure way to know what the paint contains is by asking the manufacturer to list trace compounds. There are some paints on the market that are solvent and VOC free. Look for the key words: Low VOC, or better yet. No VOC.
Contrary to popular belief, you can paint over oil or alkyd paint with latex paint. To do so the walls should be cleaned, painted with a super adherent acrylic primer, then latex paint can be applied.To test if the paint on the walls is oil or alkyd some stores carry inexpensive test kits, or you can use methyl hydrate (gas line anti-freeze) or non acetone based nail polish remover. Apply a small quantity of one of these products to a pad and rub vigorously on the painted surface. If the surface remains shiny it is oil/alkyd; if the paint is stripped it is latex.
Types of paint
It can be confusing when selecting the sheen of paint you want since the term used for the sheen varies by manufacturer.
Low-sheen (low-gloss) paints have none to little observable sheen. The amount varies slightly by manufacturer. Low-sheen paints can be called: flat, matt, eggshell, satin and velvet.
Higher sheen paints are semi-gloss, gloss and enamel. They have the most visible shine to them.
Low-sheen paints can be washed, but with care, higher sheen paints are the most washable and have the most durable finishes.
Most people select semi-gloss or high-gloss paints for rooms with high moisture levels such as kitchens and bathrooms, and high traffic areas such as main stairways and halls. Most people prefer to use semi-gloss or high-gloss paint on windows, trim and doors.
Bedrooms, dining and living rooms are more commonly painted with lower sheen paints.
Years ago, enamel meant oil-based paints.Today the term enamel can also mean durable latex paint.
Sealers are primarily used on new wood or masonry surfaces. They seal the surface of the material, forming a base coat which keeps the topcoat from being absorbed unevenly. They can be used to encapsulate materials to seal in gases thus preventing them from offgassing.
Primers are used to make the substrate more uniform, and to create a tight bond between the topcoat and the surface to be painted.
Cementious or masonry paints are used on concrete walls and floors.
Ceiling paints are designed not to drip.
Melamine paints are used for cabinets and shelves, and are very durable and washable.
Choosing paint by the brand is not enough. Many brand manufacturers make higher and lower quality lines of paint. As you move up in quality so does the price. Each grade is usually a few dollars more expensive than the previous grade. Avoid mixing the brands by using the primer of one brand with the finish paint of another. Paint will adhere better if you use the same brand for both applications.
If you buy all the paint you need at one time you have a better chance of getting a uniform colour.
Brushes and other tools
Ensure the rollers and paint brushes you buy are rated for the type of paint you are using. Better quality brushes help ensure that the paint strokes are less visible.
Estimating how much paint you will need
Measure the height and width of each wall to be painted then multiply to obtain the square footage. For rooms with lots of windows and doors deduct the square footage of the windows and doors. A 4-litre (1 gallon) pail of paint will usually cover 37 square metres (400 square feet). When calculating how much paint to buy, check how well it is expected to cover the surface to be painted. This is called hiding quality. Painting over very dark colours may require using primer as the first coat or more coats of paint. Having the primer tinted the same colour as the finish coat can provide better hiding qualities. Latex based paints should not be stored for extended periods of time as they can go bad. When buying paint look for the most current date of manufacture on the container.
Preparation is the most important and most time consuming part of painting. Usually at least 80 per cent of the time spent on a painting project is spent getting ready and cleaning up.
- Assess the surface that requires painting for needed repairs. Popped nails in the drywall or wallboard can be corrected by screwing a new screw into the stud either two inches above or below the popped nail. The popped nail can then be nailed in and the holes filled with wallboard or spackling compound. Make the patch on the hole as smooth as possible to minimize sanding. Wear a mask while sanding using no. 100 or no. 120 grit sandpaper if using wall repair compound and no. 220 grit for spackling compound.
- For larger holes the compound may need to be applied in layers. Each layer should dry before the next one is applied. To help the compound bond to the drywall, apply a layer of glass fibre (mesh) tape. It comes in a roll similar to cellophane tape.
- Vacuum the whole room and damp mop the floor if possible. Wash the surface to be painted with mild detergent and water. If there are grease marks on the walls, or if someone in the household smokes, you may first need to clean with TSP (tri-sodium phosphate). If using TSP, be aware that it is not a benign product, and should only be used while wearing rubber gloves and eye protection. Rinse well with clean water.
- For very textured walls or ceilings, vacuuming may be the only pre-cleaning option.
Painting new drywall or wood
Previously unpainted drywall, or plaster must be primed. Previously unpainted wood can be stained, painted or urethaned.
Lead in paint
Lead in interior paint was taken off the market in 1979. Paint in houses or apartments built before that date almost certainly contain small amounts of lead paint. Exposure to large amounts of lead can cause serious illness. Infants and children are especially vulnerable to lead. However, lead paint is not generally a problem if it is not flaking, peeling or blistering.To check if the walls contain lead, you can obtain a lead paint test kit at most major hardware and some health food stores. Sanding or heat stripping lead paint requires safety precautions, including protective clothing, a mask, goggles and gloves. Lead paint in the form of sanded particles are a health hazard. Pregnant women and children should never be exposed to dust or fumes caused during lead paint removal. For further information on lead, order the free booklet Lead In Your Home from CMHC.
Covering water stains, marks and knot holes
Water stains on ceilings, wax crayon marks on walls and previously unpainted knot holes will bleed through most water based paints. A special stain blocking sealer should first be applied sparingly on the knots, stains or marks before applying the paint. For these special situations you may need to use shellac, alkyd or a polyvinyl acetate primer.
These products have an odour and therefore should be used only on the affected areas. When using these products ventilate well, preferably by running a fan. Place the fan in an open window and have the fan facing out.
Severely damaged walls
If walls are badly damaged, it may be quicker and cheaper to install an additional layer of new drywall.
Peeling is usually a result of moisture under the paint, or of using the wrong type of paint. If moisture is the cause, it must first be corrected, then the surface can be scraped and sanded before painting.
Covering mold and water stains
Mold which appears as dark spots on the painted surface must be washed with soap and water, rinsed and dried before repainting. The cause of the moisture which resulted in mold, if not corrected, will allow the mold to come back.
- Do not excessively thin paints as this decreases their wear resistance and washability.
- If you use solvents of any kind, store the used solvents in an old paint container with a seal and take them to the toxic waste centre in your community. Do not pour solvents down the drain.
- Always paint with a window open and when the temperature is above 10°C (50°F).
- You can remove solvent based paint from your skin by using vegetable oil.
- Smooth evenly painted walls are more readily achievable if you:
- Sand really well after patching.
- Use a roller which you have taken a lint brush to, before using.
- Use a roller designated for the type of paint you are using.
- Clean the surface to be painted thoroughly after sanding.
Many property owners are not concerned with yard drainage until they have a problem. Water naturally follows the path of least resistance to lower elevations and problems arise when original pathways constructed by the builder become blocked or were inadequate from the beginning. Not having suitable slopes and drains on a property to direct or divert water runoff can allow the water to find a path directly to areas where you would least want it such as foundations, under pavement, in your basement etc. Flooding basements and cracked foundations are good wake-up calls to the issue but addressing problems beforehand can save you thousands of dollars, and headaches, down the road. Continue reading
It’s official, Gold Seal Master Builder will be starting two semi-detached bungalows in Carstairs for Habitat for Humanity Southern Alberta. After a few years of talks, it was announced yesterday that Habitat SA is pleased with the offer Gold Seal has made to build two affordable, safe and energy efficient homes in the Havenfields community.
The close proximity to Hugh Sutherland School, the Memorial Arena and the fact that Gold Seal is a Built Green builder all were contributing factors. Gold Seal will be building these two homes at a reduced cost and offering up over $60,000 donation of product and services.
Many of Gold Seal’s suppliers have already stepped up to the table with donations. All Weather Windows, whom we have a 23 year relationship with have already constructed all of the energy efficient windows and doors necessary for the project. Uponor (our plumbing pipe manufacturer) has committed to supplying all plumbing materials necessary for potable water services and the fire sprinkler system.
It is interesting to note that this will be the first Habitat home to feature a fire suppression system. Click here to see what Murray has to say about Uponor.
Contributing to Habitat Southern Alberta not only helps support a new home, but also a brighter future for so many deserving families. With each new home, Habitat comes one step closer to its goal of breaking the cycle of poverty. Building with donated time, funds, materials, and professional services is what keeps the cost of Habitat homes within reach for families in need, helping Habitat SA continue to offer a ‘hand-up’ to parents wishing to break the cycle of poverty for their children. Habitat homes help families avoid making impossible choices between rent and other basic necessities by providing them with a mortgage they can afford. An affordable mortgage allows our partner families to ensure their needs are met – including childcare, transportation, groceries, education, school supplies, medical and dental expenses, clothing, furniture, and more.