Archives for August 2011

UV Water Treatment

What is UV treatment?

Ultra-violet (UV) treatment is the disinfection process of passing water by a special light source. Immersed in the water in a protective transparent sleeve, the special light source emits UV waves that can inactivate harmful microorganisms. This method of treatment is growing in popularity because it does not necessarily require the addition of chemicals.

UV systems alone are neither intended to treat water that is visually contaminated nor intended to convert wastewater to safe, microbiologically potable water.

How does UV treatment work?

The ultra-violet rays, similar to the sun’s UV but stronger, alter the nucleic acid (DNA) of viruses, bacteria, molds or parasites, so that they cannot reproduce and are considered inactivated. UV treatment does not alter the water chemically as nothing is added except energy. It should be noted that inactivated microorganisms are not removed from the water. UV treatment does not remove dirt and particles, metals such as lead or iron, or hard minerals such as calcium. Other devices are required to remove particles, metals and minerals, and information can be found in other About Your House documents in the water treatment series.

Do I need a UV system?

If your drinking water is municipally supplied or your regularly tested water source is safe, it is likely that you do not need a UV system for health purposes. If further peace of mind for safe drinking water is your goal, UV may provide additional treatment to your water.

Is UV-treated water safe to drink?

UV-treated water is safe to drink. UV treatment does not add chemicals or change the chemical composition of the water. When properly sized and installed on a visually clear water source, UV can effectively protect from microorganisms in the water. Prolonged storage of water after UV treatment is not recommended.

Are there different types of UV systems?

There are different types of UV systems. UV systems exist to treat all possible flow ranges, from small point-of-use applications to entire municipalities. For household applications, a point-of-use or point-of-entry UV system can be used. A point-of-use system is a small, portable device that attaches to a faucet and rests on the counter. It can also be mounted under a counter. Larger point-of-entry systems are also available which are installed where the water supply enters the home, disinfecting the entire water supply.

Should you decide to purchase a UV system, there are two types: Class A and Class B.

Class A systems can be both point-of-entry and point-of-use (large or small); and, are designed to inactivate and/or remove microorganisms including bacteria, viruses,Cryptosporidium oocyst and Giardia cysts from contaminated water. However, they are intended to be installed on visually clear water (not coloured, cloudy or turbid water) and not for converting wastewater or raw sewage to drinking water.

Class B systems can also be point-of-entry and point-of-use systems (large or small); however, they are intended for supplemental bactericidal treatment of disinfected public drinking water (i.e. municipally supplied water) or other drinking water that has been tested and deemed acceptable for human consumption by the provincial or local health agency having jurisdiction. They are intended to reduce nuisance microorganisms and are not intended for disinfection.

Residential systems can treat from 4L (0.08 US gal) of water per minute to upwards of 152 L (40 US gal) per minute. All types of systems require a 110-V outlet for operation.

What are the parts of a UV system?

A UV system is comprised of the following:

  • UV light source called a “lamp” or “bulb”. Class B UV systems typically deliver a dose of 16 mJ/cm2, and are normally chosen by people on municipally treated water or private water supplies unlikely to be unsafe. Class A systems deliver a dose of 30 to 40 mj/cm2, enough to be used on water supplies which are not considered safe. A dose of 40/cm2is recognized by Health Canada as sufficient for this type of application. As there are a variety of wattages for the lamp, ensure your replacement bulb is the one the manufacturer recommends for that unit.
  • Protective transparent housing for bulb — usually quartz
  • Power supply
  • A water chamber for the water to travel through for treatment
  • Filters for pre- and/or post-treatment
  • For larger Class A systems, there may be a bulb replacement indicator light and/or alarm

How much do UV units cost?

Costs vary from $300 for a basic self-installed unit to $700 – $900 for a plumber-installed system — which includes a basic UV unit and labour. Costs can go up to $1,200 for a unit with more features. These include a flow-restrictor to make sure that the treatment capacity of the unit is not exceeded, a solenoid — a device that shuts off the water when the power is off — and an intensity meter to close down the system if the bulb is not producing strong enough UV rays. If the system is combined with filters, there are additional costs for regular filter replacement. An annual filter/lamp replacement can be approximately $150. A lamp/bulb alone may cost from $40 to $100.00 depending on the wattage of the bulb.

Electricity costs are another consideration; however, the system is similar to running a 60W bulb. There is no additional water cost for running a UV system, as all of the treated water is available for consumption.

Who installs the UV unit?

Point-of-use systems can be installed by you; however, it’s important to know the condition of your water before use in the case you need pre-filters. With point-of-entry systems, there are a number of aspects that need to be considered when installing a unit. These include assessing the condition of the incoming water, the need to install some pipes and the need to properly disinfect the system. This work is probably best done by a plumber, water professional or mechanical contractor. If you are in a rural area and wish to install a system by yourself, contact a local plumbing supply store. In all cases, carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions and follow them to the letter. You may want to consult a professional if a more complex system (one that uses filters) is required.

What are the installation considerations?

Water should be free of soil or sand particles (it should look clear and not cloudy). Such particles can block the UV rays and allow harmful particles to survive. Accordingly, a UV system normally has a five-micron filter installed upstream from the UV unit. For surface water usage (as opposed to well water), a one-micron absolute filter should then be installed after the five-micron filter to remove cysts (small capsule-like sacs that enclose organisms). The UV unit is installed after these filters. There are characteristics that can affect UV effectiveness such as water hardness, alkalinity, pH, and iron concentrations etc. Water should be therefore tested before installation to see if it will need additional treatment. This will assure proper UV disinfection. Contact a UV manufacturer or a water-testing laboratory to arrange a test.

How do I operate UV safely?

Simply follow the manufacturer’s instructions for operation and maintenance.

The basics for a point-of-use (tap) model, for example, is to attach it to the faucet and plug the device into an electrical outlet.

How do I maintain a UV system?

UV units operate at a low cost. The bulb gradually loses its disinfecting capabilities over time. It should be changed by you at least once a year — even if it is still operating. The quartz sleeve surrounding the bulb must be kept clean in order for the unit to function safely. It should be examined once a month; and if it becomes cloudy, it should be cleaned. Note: that no one system can treat water 100 per cent, and without proper maintenance it should not be considered 100 per cent reliable.

In cases where you suspect the water is unsafe due to a malfunction of the unit, you should boil water for one minute before using the water for drinking and brushing teeth. Should your plumbing becoming contaminated, it is recommended that you contact your local public health unit for the proper clean-up procedures.

Considerations

Other treatment devices may be required in addition to UV. Prolonged storage of water treated using UV, as the sole method of treatment, is not recommended.

If your drinking water comes from a private source, (such as a well), be sure to have your water tested periodically to ensure it safe to drink.

Certification

Health Canada strongly recommends that all products that come into contact with drinking water be certified to the appropriate health-based performance standard developed by NSF International. In the case of Ultra-Violet Light units, it is recommended that they be certified as meeting standard NSF/ANSI 55 for Class A or Class B devices. Components employed in conjunction with the UV system should also be certified to meet other applicable NSF/ANSI Standards. In Canada, CSA International, NSF International, and Underwriters Laboratories have been accredited by the Standards Council of Canada to certify drinking water materials as meeting the above-mentioned standards. These standards are widely accepted in North America, as they ensure the removal of specific contaminants, as well as the performance and mechanical integrity of the materials that come into contact with drinking water. Check the UV treatment unit’s packaging or ask your dealer for a listing of the substances that the unit is certified to remove.

Where can I get more information?

You can consult Health Canada’s Web site at: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/waterquality, which describes activities related to Canadian drinking water quality.

You can check the Web site of NSF International at www.nsf.org for information about health-based performance standard related to drinking water treatment units. NSF also lists certified systems.

The Canadian Water Quality Association is an industry source of information for drinking water treatment units, and can be found at www.cwqa.com You can talk to various retailers and dealers to discuss different approaches to water treatment. A municipal water department or local utility may also be of assistance to you.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation acknowledges the contribution of Health Canada to the development of this document. For further questions regarding water treatment and water quality, Contact: Health Canada at water_eau@hc-sc.gc.ca or call 613-957-2991, or 1-866-225-0709.

New Listing in King Edward Park

Single Family Bungalow in King Edward Park

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9stFoajvi6Y

8347 77 Ave. Edmonton, AB T6C 0L3

http://www.knock-knock.ca/kingedwardbungalow

This charming home just a few minutes walk from Whyte Ave is only 1 block up from its communitys namesake: King Edward Park . With new siding, this 2 bed,1 full bath up, plus 1 bedroom,1 full bath,and spacious rec room in basement (which has side entrance & could be converted to suite).Spacious living room w dining area.Former loft in Master has been converted to ample storage.Orig hardwood and new deck on main,laminate and carpet in basement,trendy cork flooring (& skylight) in kitchen.R20 insulation,new bathrooms, plumbing,taps,wiring is 100 amp.New kitchen cabinets and newer appliances,all windows replaced within 5 yrs,4 year old furnace, newer hot water tank.Big closets in bedrooms.Newer light fixtures.Excellent home for a couple or young family and is Zoned RF3 (Low Density Develoment Zone) for future developement.Huge backyard (lot=483 m2/5199 sq ft).Home professionally inspected with glowing reviews in 2007. Copy on dining table.

»crosslinked«

Selecting a New Home Builder

When you decide to buy a brand-new home, choosing the right builder is as important as choosing your home.

When you purchase a home, you also “buy” the company that will build it. Your satisfaction will depend on their experience, their skills and their commitment to customer service. An important part of the home buying process lies in determining that you are dealing with a builder who has these qualifications and is able to meet your needs and expectations — for the home and for the buying experience.

What you want to know

There are thousands of builders in Canada, ranging from small companies building a few houses a year to large builder-developers constructing thousands of homes annually. Whether you live in a large urban area or a smaller community, you will have a number of builders to choose from. Each company may offer a different selection of homes. Some may focus on specific market segments or neighbourhoods. Others may specialize in particular types of homes or have certain distinctive expertise, such as adult lifestyle design or energy efficiency. And every company does business in its own unique way.

As you look at homes and communities, also think about the company behind them. Before choosing which one to buy from, take a close look at each builder you are considering and ask these questions:

  • Who are they?
  • Do they build a quality home?
  • What are they like to buy from?
  • What is their after-sales service like?
  • What’s their reputation, what do others say about them?

This fact sheet will help you get the answers you need.

Where Do I Start?

Buying a home is a major purchase that usually takes place over a period of time. From the day you decide to buy a new home until the day you move in, the process can take a number of months, or longer, to complete.

New home buying begins with research and a lot of legwork as you look at homes and communities, and talk with builders. Before you get going, it is a good idea to do some pre-planning. This will help you to focus on the decisions ahead and prepare you for a successful house search.

Define your vision

Get everyone in your household involved in discussing what you are looking for in a new home and community. For instance:

  • Type and size of home; number of bedrooms; other space requirements, e.g. garage.
  • Layout: open or divided spaces; flexibility for future changes.
  • Outdoor living areas: space and privacy.
  • Desired features for looks or convenience.
  • Special considerations, e.g. accessibility for household members with mobility restrictions.
  • Distance to work, shopping and medical facilities.
  • Public transportation.
  • Schools, recreational facilities, places of worship.
  • Green spaces.

Make a list of everything that’s important to you and divide it into things you must have and things you would like to have. Use the list to help you evaluate each home and community you visit. It is also a great starting point for discussions with builders because it makes it easier to tell them what you are looking for, which in turn helps them to identify the homes that best match your needs and wants.

Get mortgage pre-approval

Early on, you need to determine the price range that suits you. If you plan to finance your purchase with a mortgage loan, sit down with your lender or mortgage specialist to discuss your needs and get mortgage pre-approval. That way, you know exactly how much you can spend on your new home. If you want to be able to make regular payments to the builder during the construction of the home, talk with your lender about a construction, or draw, mortgage.

Pre-approval means that your lender commits to giving you a mortgage loan up to a specified amount at certain terms and conditions, including the interest rate. This commitment will be valid for a specific period. Pre-approval doesn’t lock you into the mortgage. You are still free to pursue other arrangements, including getting a mortgage loan through a builder instead. Some builders offer pre-arranged mortgages with their lenders, sometimes at advantageous rates and terms.

Begin your search

  • Check the home section and ads in your newspaper to find out which companies are building in your area, the types of homes they offer and the prices you can expect to pay.
  • Ask friends, family and coworkers for names of reputable builders they have dealt with.
  • Call or check the Web site of the local Home Builders’ Association for the names of builders in your area.
  • Call the new home warranty provider(s) in your province for a list of registered builders, or check their Web site (the Ontario New Home Warranty Plan administrator lets you check the builder’s warranty record at the same time).
  • Home builders in British Columbia and Quebec must be licensed. In British Columbia, contact the Homeowner Protection Office (www.hpo.bc.ca) for a list of companies. In Quebec, contact the Régie du Bâtiment du Québec (www.rbq.gouv.qc.ca).
  • Visit the Web sites of builders in your community.
  • Call builders to find out where they are building, or where you can see some of their homes.
  • Check the Yellow Pages™.
  • Go to home shows to meet builders and to explore the latest in features and finishes.
  • Visit builders’ sales offices, model homes and communities.

As you go through your home search, collect as much information as you can — pamphlets, brochures, builder’s packages, product literature, warranty information and so on. Read through it all and create a file of everything that interests you.

Always carry a notebook with you and write down information about the builders and the homes that you see. If you don’t, it can be difficult later to remember the details of a particular home or discussion, or to recall which builder said what.

You may also want to bring a camera along. When you keep track, it is easier to remember to collect the right information from every builder you visit. It also makes it much easier to compare the companies, their products, their selling process and their reputation, when you are ready to make a decision.

Who is Who in Home Building?

The type of builder you will be looking for depends on the area you live in, and the home you want. Here is a general overview of different types of home building companies.

Developers are responsible for getting large tracts of land ready for building. This can involve infrastructure and services (utilities, roads, sewers), community layout and design, including recreational spaces — whatever it takes to turn the land into a neighbourhood. Developers may also construct the homes, or the lots may be sold to individual home building companies.

Large building companies specialize in building homes in bigger developments. These companies generally offer a selection of homes designed specifically for the development. Minor customization by homebuyers is usually permitted, but there are usually limits to the amount of change possible. Most will also have a set process for all aspects of the purchase, from the contract signing to the pre-delivery inspection.

Medium-sized companies range from 10 to 50 homes a year, depending on your region. Medium-sized companies can be quite diverse — building in developments as well as on individual lots; constructing single-family dwellings as well as townhouses and other low-rise buildings.

Small-sized companies build under 10, and often less than five homes a year.

Custom builders build one-of-a-kind homes, each one usually designed and built for a particular customer who may or may not already own the lot. The custom building process allows for complete flexibility, within the limits of municipal regulations and what’s possible technically.

Construction contractor is another term for builder. Most commonly, it is used for companies who are contracted by purchasers to build a home on land they already own.

Manufactured housing builders construct homes in a factory and bring them to the building site as panels, modules or fully completed units. The amount of work required on-site to complete the home depends on the type and size of the building, the type of foundation and the customization required.

Selecting a Builder: a Profile of the Company

Home building is a complex job. It takes 16 to 30 weeks (and sometimes longer), 45 different skilled trades and thousands of components to construct an average home. It combines many disciplines, from constructing a solid, energy-efficient structure and installing state-of-the art plumbing, heating, cooling and ventilation systems to fitting the home with a wide range of products and finishes, inside and out. It requires design and planning upfront, and careful management throughout the process. Everything must be done within a context of municipal and provincial regulations, permits, inspections and approvals.

A home builder needs to deal with it all, and do it well. Here are some of the questions you can ask to find out about a builder’s skills, experience and professionalism.

  • How long has the company been in business?
  • Are they a full-time builder, and approximately how many homes do they build annually? Be cautious if someone is a parttime builder — they may not have the same experience, up-to-date knowledge and network of suppliers and sub-trades as someone who has made a career of homebuilding.
  • What is their background and experience?
  • What kind of training do key people in the company have? For instance, is the company an R-2000 builder or does it have industry certification? In a number of provinces, there are industry-sponsored certification programs for builders.
  • Is the company a member of an industry organization such as the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA), l’Association provinciale des constructeurs d’habitations du Québec, l’Association de la construction du Québec, the Canadian Manufactured Housing Institute or its regional affiliates, the Manufactured Housing Association of Canada, the Canadian Construction Association or the Urban Development Institute? Membership helps companies to keep up with training and industry developments and to build business networks, and it is an indication of a company’s commitment to professionalism.
  • Does the company have the required licences and registrations? In British Columbia, new home builders must be licensed by the Homeowner Protection Office. In Quebec, all building contractors must be licensed by Régie du Bâtiment du Québec. In Ontario, new home builders must be registered with the Ontario New Home Warranty Plan. Also, some municipalities require home builders and other contractors to obtain a business licence — check with your municipal office.
  • Are they a member of a third-party new home warranty program? Third-party warranty is mandatory in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia (some exceptions apply). In other provinces, it is optional, however most builders provide third-party warranty on their homes to ensure the greatest protection for their customers.
  • Does the company have an established after-sales service policy, and how does it work?
  • Will the company provide a list of previous clients for a reference check?
  • Do they have an established network of sub-trades who work with the company on all or most of their homes, and who are they?
  • Does the company focus on a particular niche market? Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or looking for an adult lifestyle community, it is reassuring to deal with a company that understands your particular needs and concerns.
  • Is the company familiar with new trends in housing, such as Healthy Housing™ and FlexHousing™?.
  • Has the company won any awards? Some organizations, such as the CHBA and new home warranty providers, have award programs for new home builders, recognizing excellence and outstanding performance in areas such as construction, design, innovation, marketing and consumer satisfaction.
  • Is the company active in the community? For instance, are they involved in job entry programs? Do they sponsor local sports or youth groups or participate in fundraisers? Community involvement speaks to the company’s commitment to good corporate practices and “giving back” to the people in the community.

Selecting a Builder: the Quality of the Homes

Everyone may have a different idea about what makes a good home, but most people have a strong sense of what quality means to them. Think about the specific characteristics you equate with quality; make a list and check it against homes you visit. If you don’t like the quality of a builder’s homes, there is little reason to pursue discussions with the company. Go on to the next builder.

Check model homes

  • Look carefully at each home you visit. Then return to those you like and look again.
  • Go through the house in detail. Keep in mind that the builder created this home as a model home, so what you see represents the best quality that you can expect. Take your time in each room. Stand in every corner, sit down and look up — don’t be shy. Jump on the floor to feel the solidity of the construction. Listen to sounds that carry through the home. Notice how doors and windows fit and operate. Pull out drawers and open cabinet doors to see if they work smoothly. Check that baseboard, door and window trim is installed neatly without gaps or poor seams, and that paint and stain coverage is smooth and even. Examine the exterior with the same attention to detail.
  • If you don’t feel you know enough about construction, bring someone with you who does and can help you to evaluate the home.
  • Consider the design and layout. Does the home make efficient use of space? Would it work for your lifestyle, could you see yourself living there or what changes would you want to make?
  • Check the products used in the homes. Are they brand-name products that you are familiar with, and do they come with a manufacturer’s warranty?
  • Note which features are upgrades and extras to get a better sense of the basic model. It should be indicated in the model home; if not, ask the builder or salesperson to explain.
  • Is the home environmentally friendly — is it energy-efficient, does it use recycled materials, as well as low-off-gassing products for better indoor air quality?

Not all builders have model homes. Instead, they may try to arrange for you to visit the home of past clients — this still gives the builder a chance to show you what the company is capable of. Being in someone else’s home may temper your explorations somewhat. However, it lets you see how the home stands up to daily wear and tear, and possibly get some helpful information from the owner.

Visit a work site

Ask builders you are considering buying from if you can get a tour of a home in progress. Visiting a home under construction offers a great opportunity to see the quality inside the walls, floors and ceiling before everything gets covered up. While it may be difficult for a layperson to evaluate construction techniques, there are many obvious things to look for — straight lumber, smooth cuts, neat seams, well-installed insulation, wellsealed air barriers, and so on. Again, you may want to ask the builder if you can bring someone knowledgeable along for a second opinion. Be aware though, that builders are becoming more restrictive in their site visit practices, due to stricter legislation and growing liability concerns.

Whether the home is being built on a single site or in a large development, you can tell a lot about the builder by looking around the job site. Does it look well organized, with tools and materials stored neatly and no garbage lying around? Are workers wearing safety gear such as hard hats, boots and safety harnesses? Do they appear to be working efficiently? Are they courteous? Do they seem to have a good rapport with the builder?

If you are considering the purchase of a factory-built home, ask for a tour of the plant. Many manufacturers also have a virtual factory tour on their Web site.

Read the builder’s information materials

A builder should be able to give you written information about the company and their homes — brochures, packages or simple information sheets. In fact, large builders often make a significant investment in glossy, colourful information packages to help them stand out among competing companies. No matter the format, look for substantive information — what do they offer, what do they tell you about the homes and when relevant, about the community?

If not included, ask for a list of specifications, i.e. an itemized description of the materials, products and finishes that go into the homes — this should also tell you what’s “behind the walls”, such as insulation. Take note of the standard features that are included in the basic price of the home. Compare this to the builder’s model home — if a feature is not listed as a standard, it is most likely an upgrade or option that you will have to pay extra for.

Also check the specifications against the builders’ printed renderings, or drawings, of the exterior of the home — builders often take artistic license in their marketing materials.

Check out the community

If you are considering buying in a new development, the community itself will be a factor in your decision. The developer will have created a detailed master plan covering everything from the location of each home to street design to recreational facilities. Ask for a detailed description or even better, for a personal tour of the community.

There may be a scale model or map in the sales office that can help to give you a realistic impression of the community when completed. The sales representative should also be able to give you a sense of the people who have bought in the community to date — for instance, are they young families with children or empty nesters?

It can be difficult to get a sense of a community when it is still a construction site. Ask for the location of projects that were completed in recent years and take a walk or drive through them. Look at the streetscape, the landscaping of communal areas, the layout of the roads and pathways and other features — is the community attractive? Has it stood up over time? Is this similar to what you can expect in the community you are looking at?

When you are considering a specific lot, ask about things that could affect your enjoyment of your property, such as community mailboxes next to your lot, or a bus shelter directly across the street. While it may not be an inconvenience to you, you should know about it in advance. And while you are looking at the lot, get a sense of light and sun patterns — for instance, will you get the morning sun where you want it?

Finally, the salesperson should be able to answer any questions you have about schools, hospitals, shops, traffic, public transportation and so on, that could influence your decision.

Selecting a Builder: the Home Buying Process

Every company has its own way of doing business. Even if you really like a builder’s homes, you still need to be sure that you will be comfortable buying from this company — it has often been said that the single most important key to a successful new home purchase is a good working relationship with the builder.

At some point during your house search, you need to start talking business. This can happen as you visit sales offices or model homes, or you can call builders or their salespeople, depending on the size of the company, to arrange a meeting. Think of these meetings as an interview — you are interviewing them to find out if you want to buy from them. Bear in mind, that they are interviewing you at the same time to find out whether you are able to buy from them, and what kind of customer you will be.

Talk about your new home — your vision, your needs, your desires and the price range you are considering. Let the builder know which of the company’s models and floor plans appeal to you. Or alternatively, ask them to show you different models and plans that reflect your vision and fit your budget.

Ask questions

The key to getting information is to ask questions. Don’t worry that you are demanding too much or that some of your questions may seem obvious to others — ask about all the things that are important to you, both about the house and about the buying process.

It is a good idea to write down your questions in advance; it helps you stay focused and ensure that you get the information you need in order to make a decision. Here are some suggestions:

  • If the company offers standard plans, how much change is allowed? How flexible is the company? Will the builder modify the floor plans to your needs? Can you change some of the finishes? Add more features?
  • If you are dealing with a small or custom builder, does the company have experience with the type of home you are contemplating? Can they design a home for you, or recommend a designer or architect?
  • Will you get a written contract? (If the answer is “no”, look for another builder.) Could you see a blank copy of the company’s Agreement of Purchase and Sale form (i.e. the contract)?
  • What are the standard features included in the basic price of the home?
  • Does the builder offer a selection of standard finishing products, such as flooring and tiles, and can you have a look? Does the builder offer upgrades and options, and what do they cost?
  • Does the company have someone on staff who can help you coordinate the final look of your home? Do they have a separate design centre where you can browse around and make your choices with expert assistance?
  • Beyond the basic price of the home and any upgrades or extras that you choose, what other building or closing costs will the builder charge you for, if any? (This could include a second coating of asphalt on the driveway, the cost of the new home warranty, the fee for the builder’s lawyer to transfer title or adjustments on utility bills, to mention a few items.)
  • Are the GST/HST as well as the GST/HST New Housing Rebate included in the price quoted to you?
  • Does the builder offer a mortgage? How does it compare to the financing offered by your own lender? What’s involved in getting approved? What are the processing costs to you?
  • What’s the payment schedule? What size deposit is required, will it be placed in trust and is it insured? Does the builder require construction draws, i.e. payment at various stages during construction?
  • When will the builder be able to start construction on your home? What would be the completion date?
  • Will there be a pre-construction meeting to review everything before starting construction, to make sure every last detail is clearly understood?
  • Will you be able to visit your home during construction? Are there any restrictions, such as number of visits or who can accompany you? What’s the procedure for arranging visits?
  • Will you get regular updates during construction, and will the company appoint a contact person that you can easily reach, if needed?
  • What is the builder’s policy on change orders? Will you be able to make changes after construction begins?
  • If the builder has to make alterations to the plans or specifications for any reason during construction, will you be advised and how? A builder’s contract may include a provision dealing with minor changes and modifications.
  • Will your home be covered by a third-party new home warranty? (See below)
  • What happens if construction falls behind schedule? Does the company have a clear process in place for dealing with delays, including informing you within a reasonable timeframe?
  • Will the builder conduct a pre-delivery inspection of the home with you before you take possession, to verify that things are done as agreed and to identify any outstanding items to be completed? Can you bring others to this inspection, such as a family member or a professional home inspector?
  • Does the company have any written information, e.g. a brochure or manual that explains the buying and construction process step by step?

Throughout the discussions, also note the following

  • How well does the builder listen?
  • Are your questions answered clearly and fully?
  • Does the builder seem knowledgeable and able to offer suggestions or alternatives to meet your needs and preferences?
  • Are you treated with respect?

It can take several visits and a number of conversations before you have covered everything to your satisfaction and feel that you are ready to make a decision. Don’t rush. Take your time and make sure that you have a good sense of each company that you may be considering — how their process works, how they would treat you, and what it would be like to buy from them.

Selecting a Builder: Warranty and Aftersales Service

You will also want to take a close look at builders’ warranty and aftersales service. You need to know that your builder will stand behind the home, that the company’s commitment to you goes beyond the closing day, and that you have access to recourse if anything goes wrong.

Warranty

When you are interviewing builders, find out about the warranty provided on their homes. Ask them to explain what’s covered and for how long; also ask for written information that you can read through at home to become more familiar with how the warranty works, and what’s included and what’s not. It’s important to have realistic expectations from the outset.

Builders commonly offer a one-year warranty and after-sales service on workmanship and materials in your new home. This “promise” to customers is most often backed up by a third-party warranty. As noted earlier, third-party new home warranty is mandatory in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec; elsewhere it’s optional.

While varying from one province to another, third-party warranties generally include coverage and provisions for:

  • One-year warranty on workmanship and materials.
  • Additional warranty on the building envelope against water damage (some programs).
  • Major structural defects, up to 10 years in some regions.
  • Deposit insurance, up to a certain maximum amount.
  • Completion insurance (some programs).
  • Practices regarding construction delays and customer notification.
  • Customer inspection of the home prior to taking possession.
  • Dispute mediation between builders and customers.
  • Guidelines for construction performance, workmanship and materials (some programs).

As a home buyer, you should think very carefully about buying from a company that doesn’t offer a thirdparty warranty. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t build a good home, but it does mean that you may be taking a risk. A builder’s own warranty is only as good as the level of service the company decides to provide, or for as long as it stays in business. If something goes wrong, will your builder be able to deal with it? Will the company still be there? Also, will it affect your ability to get financing? Lenders may require your home purchase to be protected with a third-party warranty as a condition of giving you a mortgage loan. Fortunately it is not difficult to find builders that offer this extra protection.

To get third-party warranty on your home, you must buy a home from a builder who participates in a warranty program and who will register your home with this program. Warranty providers can tell you if a builder is a member and provide a list of companies. In provinces where third-party warranty is optional, it’s a good idea to contact warranty programs for the names of professional home builders before you begin your house search.

Once you have decided on your home, you should also make sure it is registered with the warranty program — ask the builder for proof, or contact the warranty provider. Most providers have a Web site with helpful information, or you can call them directly for information, or with specific questions or concerns.

Warranty coverage usually begins when you sign a Certificate of completion and/or possession, following a predelivery inspection just before you take possession of your home. During this inspection, anything left to do in the home should be written down and included with the certificate, down to the smallest detail on missing items or things requiring repairs. The builder is obliged to take care of all items on this list before you move in or shortly thereafter, with the exception of “seasonal holdbacks”, which are items that have been delayed due to weather. For detailed information, ask the builder or call the warranty provider.

After-sales service

Ask builders to explain their aftersales service policy — what can you expect from the company once you have moved into your new home? If there are items outstanding, when will they be completed? How should you deal with warranty items that may emerge later? Who can you call if you have any questions? What if you have an emergency and need immediate help?

Knowing upfront that your builder has a well-defined after-sales service process helps to take the anxiety out of your purchase decision. While varying from one company to another, the process will typically include a number of contacts and visits to your home, as required.

  • If there is any work outstanding after the pre-delivery inspection, it will be done as soon as possible before or after you take possession.
  • The first service call may be 30 to 120 days after move-in. Normally, you will be asked to make a list of non-urgent items for that visit, so that everything can be dealt with at the same time.
  • The second service call usually takes place around the eleventh month, just before the one-year warranty on workmanship and materials expires.

Larger companies may have a separate service department; as a minimum, there should be an appointed contact person or number for service. Your builder should also outline what to do in case of emergencies, when you need immediate assistance.

There may be other aspects to the builder’s after-sales service. Some companies contact homebuyers a month or so after move-in to see how they are doing in their new home, and to ask questions about the home buying experience. This is a chance for you to discuss any thoughts you may have, negative or positive, about the company and your home, and for the company to find out how it’s doing and where it may need to make improvements. Other builders may stay in touch with their customers through newsletters or bulletins, providing updates on the community, seasonal homeowner advice and other information of interest.

Maintenance

Before handing the home over, most builders will give you an “orientation” tour to show you how everything works — how to operate and maintain the mechanical systems, for instance. This is usually done at the same time as the pre-delivery inspection.

Many builders will provide you with a homeowner’s manual describing the various elements of your home and setting out the requirements for regular maintenance and service. This not only helps you to keep your home in great condition, it also helps to ensure that you don’t void the warranty on your home. Failure to follow the builder’s or manufacturer’s instructions may mean that they are not responsible for any repair work needed.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has developed a Homeowner’s Manual with practical information about homes and their upkeep, including lots of easy-tofollow instructions, illustrations and photographs. Contact CMHC for more information at 1 800 668-2642.

Selecting a Builder: What Others Say

A company’s reputation is an important consideration when choosing your builder — how do others see the company, what kind of experiences have they had with the company, and would they recommend that you buy from this builder?

Previous buyers

Builders should be able to give you a list of references — past customers who have bought from them within the last couple of years. Do check the references — too often homebuyers neglect this step. Don’t worry about disturbing people; they have agreed to let the builder give out their names and will not mind you contacting them.

Before you call, make a list of questions you would like to ask, such as:

  • In general, what was the builder like to buy from? Was it a good experience?
  • What particularly did they appreciate about the company? What did they not like about it?
  • Did they run into any problems, and if so, were the problems solved to their satisfaction?
  • Was the home completed on time and on budget? If not, what were the circumstances?
  • Were there missing or incomplete items at the time of possession, or items that had to be fixed?
  • Were all of their colour selections, upgrades and extras done as requested?
  • How was the company’s after-sales service?
  • Are they happy with their home? If not, why?
  • Would they buy from the company again?
  • Would they recommend the company?

You may also want to do a random check of past customers. Visit communities on a Saturday morning and talk to people who may be outside doing chores, “I’m considering buying a home from such and such builder. Can I ask you a few questions about your home and the community?” Most people are happy to talk about their experiences and offer their opinion and advice.

Warranty programs

Check with the new home warranty program(s) in your province to see if a builder you are considering is a member, and to learn about their track record — e.g. the number of claims and conciliations. Some programs provide this information online; otherwise contact them by telephone.

Better Business Bureaus

Better Business Bureaus (BBBs) can tell you if there are any complaints against a company. They don’t recommend or evaluate, they simply share information that other customers have taken the time to report, good or bad. If there are complaints on file, you can also find out if they were resolved, but bear in mind that a lack of negative reports is not a guarantee. If the builder is affiliated with other companies, subsidiaries or parent companies, you may wish to inquire about complaints against those companies as well. You could also ask if the company is a member of the BBB since membership can indicate a commitment to professionalism. Call the BBB in your area, or access it through the Internet.

Local Home Builders’ Associations

Many home building companies are members of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, the national organization representing the residential construction industry (www.chba.ca). Contact the local home builders’ association in your community — they cannot make recommendations for individual companies, but they can tell you if someone is a member in good standing and provide a list of member companies. In Quebec, contact l’Association provinciale des constructeurs d’habitations du Québec (www.apchq.com) and/or l’Association de la construction du Québec (www.acq.org).

Others

While well acquainted with the builders in their community, municipal building departments are usually not in a position to make specific recommendations. You might be able to find out from sub-trades (e.g. plumbers, electricians) what a particular builder is like to work for. However, be aware that these people may have an ongoing business relationship with a builder and may hesitate to offer opinions and recommendations.

Selecting a Builder: Comparing Companies

Your choice of builder will have a big impact on your entire buying experience. It is also key to your satisfaction with your home.

As you get ready to make the final decision, carefully look over all the information you have collected and compare builders to determine who offers the greatest overall value for your investment. There are a number of areas to consider:

Price

The first point of comparison is often price — how the price of one builder stacks up against those of others. Price is important, of course, but you are well advised to consider carefully what’s included in the price, and what’s not.

Compare standards and upgrades. The standard features offered by one builder may be an upgrade and cost extra with another company. Some builders include a wide range of features in the basic price of the home; others include far fewer features or use products of a lower quality to keep the price down.

Look closely at the bottom line. Beyond upgrades and options for your home, what other additional items will builders charge you for, if any? From utility hookups to tree planting, a builder’s extra charges can add significantly to the cost of your home. When it comes to taxes, make sure you are comparing “apples to apples”. Some builders include the GST/HST in the price quoted, as well as the GST/HST New Housing Rebate. Others don’t, and you may need to calculate the tax as well as the rebate, when applicable, in order to compare prices effectively. To find out more about the GST/HST new housing rebate, call your local Canada Revenue Agency office or check www.ccra-arc.gc.ca.

As you are comparing prices, remember that the old adage of getting what you pay for holds true for home buying as well.

Quality construction, attention to details, the use of brand-name materials and products, and good before-and after-sales service come at a cost — it may not be wise to select a home based on its price alone.

Quality

Compare the quality of the labour and materials from one builder to another. Is the construction quality satisfactory? How does the finishing compare? Does a builder use standard products and finishes of a good quality, or do you have to upgrade many items to reach the level of quality you’d like? Are you comfortable with the brands used by a builder, are they warranted and for how long?

Also consider the quality of the “living environment” that each builder offers. Are their designs attractive, and will the layouts work well for your household? Are they paying careful attention to light, heating, cooling and ventilation — in other words, creating a healthy, comfortable place for you to live?

Warranty

Compare the builders’ warranties. Do they all offer a third-party warranty on their homes? If not, you could find yourself without protection if something goes wrong before, during or after construction of your home. At the same time, not all new home warranties are the same; in provinces with several warranty providers, you may need to compare different warranty programs offered by different builders.

After-sales service

Part of the confidence of buying a home from a reputable builder comes from knowing that you can rely on the company to continue to provide service after you have moved into your new home. This could mean dealing with warranty items, responding to your concerns or just staying in touch with you to make sure you are enjoying your new home. Compare: does a builder have a clear after-sales service process that’s written down, with milestone check-ups? A separate service department? A separate telephone number with a 24-hour emergency line? A clear policy on returning phone calls from homeowners? A good track record?

Personal comfort

Last but not least, you need to select a company you feel comfortable with. The “personal fit” between you and your builder, or the builder’s representative, should be an important part of your decision.

You may respect a builder’s credentials and appreciate the quality of their homes. You may learn that a builder is highly valued and recommended by past customers. This doesn’t automatically mean that this is the right builder for you.

A satisfying home buying experience depends on open communication, a good working relationship and mutual trust. Consider what it would be like to build your home with each company and compare. Does the company’s approach to the buying and building process work well for you? Will you be able to work well with the people in the company throughout it all? Does the company offer the kinds of information, assistance and reassurance that you want? Are there any restrictions that you would have difficulty with? Do you feel confident that they will deliver the home you want?

Making the final decision

Carefully compare the builders you are considering — who they are, what they offer and what they would be like to buy from. Then choose the company that offers the best overall value and quality, and gives you the greatest sense of confidence.

Once you have selected the builder, you are ready for the next step — working out the details of your new home and putting it in writing. Before you sign a contract, ask your lawyer to review it. No matter how carefully you have selected the builder, you still have to take all the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your investment. Then you can enjoy the home buying experience and look forward to the day you move into your new home.

Understanding Your New Home Sales Contract

Buying a brand-new home can mean a lot of different things — an opportunity to get the home you really want, a dream come true, an investment for the future, an achievement to be proud of.

It is also a legal transaction that should never be done without a detailed written contract!

The first rule of homebuying is to get it in writing! A contract, or Agreement of Purchase and Sale, as it is often referred to, spells out the terms between you and your builder — who, what, how, when and how much. It also sets out the rights, restrictions and obligations for each party.

Without a detailed contract, there may be no reference point in case of a misunderstanding or disagreement between you and your builder. It may be impossible to prove what was agreed to, and difficult to enforce any arrangement or promise that’s not written down.

Unlike resale transactions, there is no standard form of Agreement of Purchase and Sale for buying a new home. In some areas, builders may adapt model contracts prepared by their local home builders’ association or their new home warranty provider. Often, though, builders prepare their own agreements and require that you use those forms. As a result, new home contracts can vary considerably from one builder to another.

Typically, a contract will contain information that’s specific to you, the purchaser, and the home you are buying, as well as general information outlining the builder’s practices, limitations, disclaimers and warranty.

This fact sheet presents information on some of the terms and provisions that you may find in a new home sales agreement to illustrate what a contract can cover and why.

Before you sign a contract with your builder, make sure you fully understand what’s in it and what’s not, and that your interests and concerns are addressed and your questions are answered to your satisfaction.

What’s in a New Home Contract?

New home Agreements of Purchase and Sale are generally more complex than resale contracts. This simply reflects the fact that a new home is usually a more complex purchase.

Contracts can range from a few pages to sizeable documents with many schedules or attachments. A quick rule of thumb may be “the more specific, the better”— having things on paper, even minor items, reduces the potential for confusion and conflict.

The purchase of a brand-new home can happen in a number of ways. You may buy a home in a new development from a large building company, or buy from a custom builder to have greater flexibility and choice. You may own a lot and hire a company to construct your home. You may buy a factory-built home for a lot you own or lease. Or you may buy a condominium unit in a high- or low-rise building project.

Each scenario has its own practices and requirements that must be reflected in the contract; however, many contractual considerations are common to all. While this fact sheet is oriented toward the purchase of a home on a lot from a larger builder, it may provide helpful and useful information in other situations.

The following pages highlight some of the information you may find in a builder’s contract. Keep in mind that each builder does business differently. Beyond legal requirements that everyone must follow, each builder has its own unique practices, and the contract will reflect this.

Also be aware that a builder’s contract may include provisions or restrictions for the benefit of the builder. You want to go into your new home purchase with your eyes open. Read the contract carefully and make sure you are familiar and comfortable with everything in it. If you have questions and concerns, talk with your builder. Also have your lawyer or notary review the contract before you sign it.

Please note that “builder” refers to the company or the company representative that you will be dealing with when buying a home. This could be the owner of the company or, in the case of large companies, more likely a salesperson — either a staff member or an outside sales specialist.

What to look for in a contract

Why? Details, explanations

Description of your home

  • Model name or number
  • Lot number (or legal description)

Possible attachments:

  • Site plan (location of the home on the lot/street)
  • Floor plan
  • Builder’s rendering (artistic drawing) of home
  • Elevations (drawings of the front, rear or side of the home)
  • Specifications
  • Construction plans (working drawings)
  • Disclosure statement (condominium or strata lot home)

All attachments, or schedules, should be dated and initialed by you and the builder.

You want to eliminate all possibilities for mistakes. If a builder offers several versions of a model or variations on the exterior appearance, verify that the contract describes the right home and the correct details.Also verify the lot and orientation of the home. Developers may assign certain models to specific lots in order to create a diverse and attractive streetscape — if you have looked at several models and several lots, make sure you know which lot you are buying. Sometimes homes may be built as “reverse plans” to fit into the overall community design — check with your builder if this is the case with the home you chose.Be aware that renderings (drawings) used to showcase builder’s homes in the sales office as well as in printed sell sheets may be an artistic impression only, not a precise depiction of the home. Items such as windows, doors, cladding and landscaping, for instance, may be enhanced for presentation purposes.

Specifications list the materials and products that will be used in building your home, from lumber and mechanical systems to windows and bathroom fixtures.

Usually, the construction plans for your home will not be part of the contract. Minor changes will be marked on the floor plans. However, if you are making significant changes to the builder’s model, the modified construction plans may be attached to the contract. Plans for custom homes are generally included — if you have paid a separate design or architectural fee, you normally own the plans.

Price

  • The home
  • Upgrades and options

Most builders offer a range of upgrades to the standard products used in the home, for example, higher quality carpeting or premium countertops; or additional, optional items, from built-in wine-racks to sunrooms.

  • GST/HST and the GST/HST New Housing Rebate

Homebuyers can choose to apply for the rebate themselves, or they can assign the rebate to the builder, in essence redirecting payment from Canada Customs and Revenue Agency to the builder.

  • Payment schedule

Possible attachments:

  • Detailed pricing sheet
  • Listing of upgrades and options
  • GST/HST rebate assignment form
  • Receipt for deposit
The cost of buying a new home normally consists of two parts: the actual price of the home and other costs associated with the purchase (see later).Know what’s included in the price of the standard model, and what’s not. If your buying decision is based on a model home, the model most likely has upgrades and options that are not included in the standard price. If you are uncertain, ask the builder to walk through the model to clarify standard items as well as upgrades and options. Further, the contract should note if there will be any rental equipment in the home you are buying, such as the hot water heater, furnace or heat pump.All the upgrades and options you select for your home should be listed and described in detail (such as brand, model name, product number, colour and cost). Some builders may ask you to choose upgrades and “extras” right away, and the additional cost will be included in the purchase price up front. More commonly, you will have an opportunity to choose upgrades and extras at a later date, usually as part of the colour selection process (see below) and the contract will be amended as needed. Usually you will pay the cost of these “extras” at the time of closing, when you take possession of the home.

A new home purchase is subject to GST/HST; however, there is usually a rebate of up to 2.5 per cent of the GST payable. To qualify, the home and the purchaser have to meet certain criteria.

In the vast majority of new home purchases, the GST/HST rebate is assigned directly to the builder. In fact, the rebate is often calculated right into the purchase price of the home, and when you sign the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, you’ll be asked to sign a rebate assignment form at the same time.

Contact your local Canada Customs and Revenue Agency office for more information, or visithttp://www.ccra-adrc.gc.ca.

The contract should set out a schedule of payments with dates and amounts. It normally begins with a deposit when you sign the contract, and often an additional deposit once all conditions (see below) have been met. Your builder may require progress or milestone payments throughout construction. The balance is normally payable on closing, i.e. the day you take possession of the home.

The deposit amount required by builders can vary significantly; ask upfront what is considered “normal” and reasonable. You will also want to know if your deposit will be held in trust, if it will be insured and for how much, and whether it is refundable if you have to back out of the sale.

Builders may differentiate between “deposit” and “reservation” money. The latter may be used in cases where the builder is putting a hold on a particular lot or home for you for a short period of time, while you “think it over”. Some builders may also allow you to reserve a home for a longer period while they may be waiting for municipal approvals, for instance.

Other costs

  • Additional costs and charges
  • Adjustments
  • Closing costs

Possible attachments:

  • List of additional charges
Builders may charge for a variety of other items, to be paid on closing. Check the contract carefully for mention of any additional costs. Also ask the builder to list all additional charges — you want to avoid surprises when you sign the final cheque in your lawyer’s or notary’s office.Additional costs may involve, but not be limited to: installation and hookup of utilities; connection of appliances; tree planting; a second coat of asphalt on the driveway; the cost of the new home warranty and fees for the builder’s lawyer/notary to prepare the deed. Builders may also include a clause in the contract related to additional charges in the event they hit bedrock when excavating, or encounter other soil conditions that could add significantly to their cost.There may also be costs related to adjustments on closing, such as utilities and pre-paid taxes, or insurance premiums if you assume the builder’s policy. Again, check the contract and talk with your builder and your lawyer/notary.

Finally, you will have a number of other closing costs, such as legal fees, land transfer tax and mortgage fees. While not directly involving your builder, most companies will be able to give you a list and an estimate of these costs. Also talk with your lawyer/notary and mortgage lender about closing costs, so you have a clear idea of your final financial obligations.

Financing

  • Builder mortgage
  • New mortgage

Pre-approval usually means that your lender is committed to giving you a mortgage loan up to a certain amount, at a set interest rate and other terms. This commitment is for a specific length of time, after which you have to negotiate new terms and conditions with your lender.

Possible attachments:

  • Mortgage information
  • Financing conditions
Some builders offer mortgages through their financial institution, sometimes at preferential rates or with added incentives. Before you accept, check the conditions and requirements carefully, and any processing costs involved.You can also arrange for your own mortgage. If you have pre-approval from your lender, you already know how much you can borrow and on what terms. If not, you want to make the purchase conditional upon obtaining a mortgage. Also be sure that you understand the timeframes — a “pre-sale” home (a home from plans) may take a long time to completion; check that your lender’s mortgage commitment doesn’t expire prior to the closing date on your new home.Some builders, particularly those building custom homes, may require regular milestone payments during construction. Construction loans (known as draw mortgages in some areas) can be established to allow you or the builder to draw advances from your future mortgage at agreed intervals during the building process. Your builder may decide to pay for fees or accrued interest when using this process.
Other conditions

  • For the purchaser’s benefit

The language in a condition should be easy to understand — what needs to be done, by whom and by when.

  • For the builder’s benefit

Possible attachments:

  • Conditions
In addition to financing, a contract can include other conditions to protect your interests. For instance, you will want your lawyer/notary to review the contract before you sign. Some builders’ agreements contain a standard clause to that effect; in other cases, you may have to add a condition in the body of the main document or as an attachment.There are other circumstances: for instance, you may want to make the purchase of the new home conditional upon the sale of your current home. Or if your spouse or partner is not available during discussions with the builder, you may want to add a condition related to their approval of the contract.The agreement may also include conditions for the benefit of the builder. For instance, your purchase may be conditional upon the builder getting a building permit. Or the builder may not yet have municipal approval for the subdivision plan; if not approved, construction cannot go ahead. Your contract should set timeframes and state what will happen if the builder has to terminate the agreement, for example, refund of deposit.
Restrictions on title

  • Easements
  • Covenants

Possible attachments:

  • Restrictions on title
  • Community or subdivision plan
  • Community guidelines
“The builder promises that the title is free and clear of all encumbrances, except for…” Your contract should include information about any restrictions on title. Subdivisions may have some form of restrictions that limit what you can do on your property, so it’s important to know.For instance, developers may have agreements with the municipality or other landowners that must be passed on to the purchaser. Easements normally allow access or use of your land by others, including rights of way for utilities, telephone and cable lines, drainage or sewers, and backyard access for other residents. Usually, you cannot build permanent structures (e.g. garden sheds, decks or play equipment) over easements. Sometimes, easements can be temporary, giving the builder or developer access to your lot until the community is fully developed and built.Covenants normally deal with things you may or may not be able to do, such as hang laundry in the backyard, plant certain kinds of trees, take down or erect a fence, or change the exterior colour scheme of your home. They may also dictate the location of satellite dishes or condensing units for air conditioners. Some developments publish detailed community guidelines.

Your decision to purchase may in part be influenced by the community itself, so make sure you understand what it offers — for instance, green spaces, landscaping, fencing, recreational facilities and schools. You want to know about other things that could affect your enjoyment of your home, such as nearby community mailboxes, future bus stops and passenger shelters. This is part of the community plan — ask the builder to “show and tell”.

You or your lawyer/notary may also want to contact the local municipal office for information about the development, and to find out if there are future plans for adjoining areas or nearby that could affect you and your property. This could include new or expanded roads, industrial parks, commercial strips or residential developments.

Construction schedule

  • Start and completion dates
  • Delays

Possible attachments:

  • Process/details regarding delays
The builder should be able to identify a start and/or completion date in the contract; however, there may be exceptions. For instance, the builder may be waiting for you to meet certain conditions or for final municipal approvals. In such cases, the contract may note that start dates are approximate. It may also specify what will happen, for example, “If the builder is not able to begin construction of the home within xx days of the signing of the contract (or approval of the mortgage by the buyer’s lender, or … ), the contract is null and void, and the purchaser’s deposit will be returned in full.”Ask the builder to explain whether the completion, or occupancy, date appearing in the contract is tentative or a confirmed date. This may have implications for notification and coverage of delays under warranty.Look for the contract to cover completion delays, either in the main section of the contract or a separate attachment. The contract may note that the builder participates in a new home warranty program with an established process for dealing with delays. In any event, make sure you understand exactly how it works — what constitutes a delay, when and how you will be notified, and what happens if you have to move out of your old home before the new one is ready. This is crucial information because you likely need to coordinate your move with your current landlord or with new owners of your current home. Delays can also affect your mortgage by postponing the closing of your home beyond the period of your guaranteed interest rate. Ask your builder to explain, and also contact the builder’s new home warranty provider for information on delays, including rules and procedures.

Remember that your builder wants to avoid delays as much as you do. Delays can happen for many reasons beyond a builder’s control, from bad weather to labour and material shortages; this is often spelled out in the contract. However, when all parties have discussed the possibility in advance and are familiar with the process, it is usually a lot easier to deal with delays, should they happen.

Construction standards Builders often insert a clause in their contract stating “that the dwelling will be built to the building code standards of the province and the work will be performed in a workmanlike manner”, or similar wording.Some third-party new home warranty providers have developed guidelines for construction performance for work and materials, providing objective criteria for performance and evaluation of defects.
Site visits during construction

  • Practices
  • Process

Possible attachments:

  • Liability waiver
The construction site can be a dangerous place. Until recently, many builders took a fairly casual approach to site visits. However, given current provincial and national legislation in such areas as labour, safety and negligence, as well as growing limitations on builders’ insurance coverage and greater concern about liability, many builders are now restricting access to the site for homebuyers.Some builders allow homeowners regular site visits, when accompanied by a company representative. Others permit visits only for specific purposes, such as verifying location of electrical boxes, or for a pre-delivery inspection (see below). By law, you must wear proper safety gear whenever going on a construction site — hard hats and safety footwear. Some builders may also ask that you sign a waiver releasing them from liability in case of accident.Your builder’s contract may include a provision or restriction about site visits. If not, ask: “When can I come on site? How much notice is needed? Can I bring others, for example, family, friends or a professional home inspector?”

Also discuss how to deal with any issues or questions arising from a site visit. Builders may include a clause in the contract that purchasers cannot discuss anything directly with workers and sub-trades onsite, only with the appointed contact person, to prevent confusion and misunderstandings.

Colour selectionPossible attachments:

  • Colour selections, upgrades and options
Builders usually offer a variety of colours, patterns and options for many of the finishing products in your new home, such as flooring, counters and cabinets. Many builders offer the services of experienced in-house designers to assist you in this process. At the same time, you may have an opportunity to further customize your home with upgrades and extra features. Depending on the architectural controls in the community, you may also have choices for the exterior finishing (for example, colour and type of cladding, doors, garage treatment).The contract may stipulate certain timeframes for your colour selection in order to ensure the timely progress of construction. For instance, you may need to decide on the exterior finishing before a building permit can be issued. You may also be required to make your interior selections within a few weeks of signing the contract; this allows the builder to order early from suppliers and may help prevent the construction of your home from falling behind schedule. If not done within a certain period, the builder may reserve the right to select the finishing products on your behalf.
Change orders: when you want to change something

  • Policy
  • Process
  • Payment

Possible attachments:

  • Change orders
From start to completion, the construction of your new home will usually take several months. During that time, you may change your mind about some of your decisions, or want to add extra items.Most builders, but not all, allow for change orders, when possible. Some builders will give their clients a schedule of construction phases, and certain alterations may not be permitted once a particular phase has been reached. Or alternatively, you may have to accept significant extra cost and possible construction delays.Change orders are considered to be separate and independent contracts. Change orders should be made in writing and signed by both parties — this prevents surprises such as finding out that an order you placed over the phone with “someone” in the office or on site was not executed, and there is no record of it anywhere.

You may be asked to pay for change orders on signing, or the cost may be added to the amount payable at closing. Some builders may also charge an administration fee to process the order.

Deviations from the plans: when the builder needs to change somethingDealing with the prospect of builder changes is also a matter of knowing whom you are dealing with. Choose a reputable builder and check with previous homebuyers on their experience buying from the company — that way you are one step closer to avoiding surprises, disagreements and having to live with choices you didn’t make. Most builders’ agreements contain provisions that allow the builder to make minor changes to the home, if needed, without notifying the buyer. As a rule, builders avoid making changes whenever possible; however, there are times when it’s unavoidable.Typically builders reserve the right to substitute products and materials of a similar or superior quality. This can be necessary if the builder faces shortages, delayed deliveries or discontinuation of a product or material; otherwise work on your home could fall behind schedule or come to a standstill.Your contract may also state that your builder can make minor changes without notification for other reasons, for instance, “siting, plans and specifications of the home, including architectural details and exterior finishes may be subject to approval by the municipality, and homebuyers shall accept minor modifications”. Such changes could include sizes and dimensions of the lot as well as the house or rooms within it.

There is no standard industry agreement on what constitutes a “minor” change. Contracts typically include a statement to the effect that the value of the property shall not be diminished by any such alterations. In addition, some third-party new home warranty programs may cover substitutions where purchasers have exercised a selection option, and for items of construction and finishing referred to in the contract; this may include discrepancies in design or square footage.

The key issue for homebuyers is one of degree: what is reasonable for builders to change without telling you, and what’s not? How extensive is the modification? Will it alter the home, and would it have made a difference to your buying decision? For instance, you may not even notice six inches off the width of your driveway; on the other hand, you will undoubtedly want to be notified if the builder has to reduce the number, size or location of windows and doors, or reverse the plan of your home.

If you are concerned about the possibility of unexpected changes, talk with your builder and try to be as specific as possible. How often does this occur? How likely is it to happen with your home? How does the builder define “minor” and “major” modifications? In the event of a “major” change, will you be notified and have the option of canceling the contract, or choosing another lot, for instance? Also contact the builder’s warranty provider for information and advice.

Warranty

  • Builder’s warranty
  • Third-party warranty

Depending on the province you live in, builders’ third-party warranty is provided by non-profit new home warranty programs and/or by private insurance companies.

The contract should spell out the builder’s warranty on your new home. Almost all builders offer a one-year after-sales warranty on workmanship and materials. In addition, third-party warranty from an independent warranty corporation is mandatory in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia (some exceptions apply); everywhere else it is optional. Third-party warranty programs set minimum warranty requirements that builders must comply with; these often go beyond what’s offered by builders who are not covered. The contract should note if your builder is registered with a new home warranty provider, and also specify if your home will be covered by that provider — normally each home is enrolled separately and given an identification number.Ask the builder to explain: how does the warranty work and what’s covered for what periods of time? Is your deposit protected? Is construction completion guaranteed and what’s your recourse if the builder is not able to complete construction? Get written information, so you can study the details further on your own.Also check with the builder’s warranty provider: visit their Web site, request their publications and call for further information and answers to any questions you may have.

You may also want to check with your financial institution — lenders may insist that your home purchase be protected with a third-party warranty as a condition of giving you a mortgage loan.

Usually there is a standardized approach to what’s covered under warranty, and what’s not. Some builders (and some warranty providers) will itemize what’s excluded from warranty. Many builders also provide buyers with a manual on home maintenance — lack of proper homeowner care may void warranty.

Manufacturers’ warrantyPossible attachments:

  •  Warranty information
  • List of items not covered
  • After-sales service policy
In addition, the builder will pass on to you the manufacturers’ warranties on products used in the construction of your home. However, this does not mean that the builder assumes responsibility for these additional warranties.Finally, find out about the builder’s after-sales service policy. Most have an established process and timeframe for regular contact and visits during your first year in the home, as well as an emergency service, should you need it.
Pre-delivery inspection, or homeowner walkthroughDeficiencies are items that have not been completed at the time of the inspection (for example, missing cabinet handles).Defects refer to items that are supposedly finished but require additional work to meet quality standards (for example, windows that stick, a gouge in the floor).

Put everything you note during the inspection in writing, even the smallest item; this helps to eliminate confusion or dispute.

Possible attachments:

  • Copy of Certificate of completion and/or possession
Before you take possession of your new home, your builder will usually schedule a time to go through the home with you, usually about a week before closing. The purpose of this is twofold — to inspect the house for completion and to show you how the systems work. Going through the house from top to bottom, inside and out, you will be asked to note any deficiency or defect. This written record, often referred to as the Certificate of completion and/or possession, will be forwarded to the builder’s warranty provider. Most items will be corrected or completed by the builder before you move in, or shortly thereafter. “Seasonal deficiencies” related to items such as decks and landscaping will usually be addressed as soon as weather conditions allow.Different builders take different approaches to the pre-delivery inspection. Some will allocate several hours to a thorough walk-through, looking at everything in detail with you. Others may keep it short and focus on familiarizing you with the home and identifying outstanding items, but will give homebuyers 24 or 48 hours after taking possession to conduct a detailed inspection on their own.Builders also have different policies regarding who can attend the pre-delivery inspection. Many permit you to bring other family members who may lend an expert eye to the process, or a professional home inspector. Other builders restrict participation to the principal purchasers only.

Know the company’s inspection system and policies before you sign the contract. Ask your builder to explain, and check for details in the contract.

Insurance Normally the builder is responsible for insuring the home during construction. Buyers may be asked to take over the builder’s insurance policy after closing, if they are also assuming the builder’s mortgage on the home.
Disputes Once the contract has been signed, and the conditions have been met, it is binding. There is no easy way for a purchaser to terminate the agreement or change any parts of it, unless the builder agrees.Disputes between home purchasers and builders are usually resolved through discussion. If the parties have difficulty in reaching a solution, disputes can be referred to a third party for mediation. This may be the builder’s new home warranty provider or someone else that both parties can agree to. Failing that, you need to pursue legal remedies through your lawyer.
Completion Many contracts contain a provision to the effect that “the home shall be deemed to be completed when all interior work has been substantially completed so that the building may be reasonably occupied, notwithstanding that there may be outstanding exterior work, such as painting, driveway, grading, sodding and landscaping,” or similar wording.The legal transfer of the house should take place only after the municipality has approved the plumbing, electrical and gas systems to verify that the house is ready for occupancy.Buyers may be required to pay the builder in full on closing even when there is still work outstanding. The contract may make provisions for holdbacks to account for unfinished work such as seasonal items that cannot be completed by closing. In such cases, the buyer holds back a certain amount from the final payment; this money is usually placed in trust with a lawyer/notary. Check the contract for details.

Be aware that financial institutions may require a certain degree of completion before releasing mortgage funds. Ask your lender about their policy, if you believe there may be significant work outstanding on your home on closing, such as siding or brickwork.

“This is the whole agreement” Many contracts also include a statement noting that “the final Agreement (i.e. contract) supersedes all previous agreements and understandings”, or similar wording.In plain language, this means that any agreements or understandings that are not included in the written contract are not part of the deal. A salesperson may agree over the telephone to change the colour of the carpet, or a worker onsite may promise to move an electrical outlet, but if there is no written record of your request, there is little you can do about it if the change hasn’t been made. That is why it is so important to deal with the appointed contact person only, and to get everything in writing.
Privacy and consent to disclosuresPossible attachments:

  • Authorization for disclosure
  • Privacy policy
Much of the information that you provide to the builder is covered by privacy legislation. This includes your contact information; location of the property; construction and finishing details; payment instructions; and insurance and warranty information. Your builder will ask you to sign an authorization to relay this information to the company’s suppliers, the warranty program and other parties as relevant, including your condominium corporation, if applicable. The authorization will also specify that this information cannot be used except for those purposes. If you want further clarification, ask for the builder’s privacy policy.
Purchaser’s acknowledgement The purchaser acknowledges that he/she has read and understands this agreement and the terms, conditions, limits and exclusions as described therein.You may find a statement such as this in your builder’s contract. Your builder may also go through the contract with you point by point, explaining the significance of each, and what it means. This is also your opportunity to ask questions—how do things work, what if, and so on.Also discuss with your lawyer/notary before you commit to the purchase — is there anything in the contract you should be worried about? Are you protected well enough?

It is advisable that before signing the contract, you carefully read it in its entirety, seek the advice of your lawyer/notary and have all your questions answered to your satisfaction.

What Else Should I Know Before We Get to the Contract Signing?

Buying a new home is a big decision. Here are a few more things to consider before you sign on the dotted line.

  • Before you even sit down with a builder to “put it on paper”, find out if you can “pre-view” a blank copy of their contract form. That way, you will know in advance what concerns you may have and what questions to ask. Also consider asking your lawyer/notary to review it and advise you on questions and points to discuss with your builder before writing up the contract.
  • Often you will deal with a builder’s sales representative and not the “builder” personally, particularly when buying from a larger builder. The new home salesperson should be knowledgeable, professional and able to guide you through the whole sales process. If you are not comfortable with a sales representative, ask to deal with someone else. Also request that all decisions and agreements be written down, dated and signed by both parties. That way, both the administrative office and the construction department should have a clear record of everything agreed to in the sales office.
  • Don’t sign anything unless you are ready. Don’t let yourself get pressured into making a premature decision. Instead, ask the builder if they can hold the lot or house for 24, 48 hours or even longer for you — they usually will if they know you are seriously interested.
  • When you are purchasing a condominium, or strata lot home, as they are called in some parts of Canada, read the disclosure statement carefully to understand what items are part of your unit and which ones are common elements. Statements often include a description of the site and buildings, landscaping, common facilities and a proposed budget of expenses for the first few months of operation. Condominium buyers may have a cooling-off period — generally three to ten days — when they can review the disclosure statement. During this time, condominium buyers may cancel the deal with written notice to the builder.
  • Not all builders may allow changes to the standard clauses in their contract. This is a factor that you have to balance against the builder’s reputation, the quality of the homes and the recommendations of past customers, as well as your own impressions of the builder.
  • Some builders may include allowances in the price of the home. Allowances are “lump sums” allocated to finishing products, for instance, lighting, flooring or/and kitchen cabinets. Homebuyers can decide themselves how to spend this money, often working directly with the builder’s suppliers. If your choices end up costing more or less than the allowance, the price of your home will be adjusted accordingly on closing. It is not uncommon for allowances to be set at the low end, so it may be wise to allocate additional money for finishing products to make sure you can get what you want.
  • A new home contract is most often a “living document”that keeps growing, with the addition of schedules, attachments, waivers, colour selections, change orders and so on. Start a file and keep a copy of everything. Read everything in the file, even the smallest print. Also keep note of all meetings and discussions with the builder — a good paper trail makes for a good relationship with your builder.
  • The purchase of a new home can be time-consuming. While your home is being built, you will have to be available to the builder, sometimes during working hours or at short notice, to deal with your obligations under the contract, such as colour selection or site inspections.

Buying a House With a Well and Septic System

In rural areas, many homes do not have connections to municipal water and sewer lines. Homeowners rely upon privately owned or communal (shared) wells as their drinking water source, and individual septic systems to treat and discharge their wastewater. Homeowners must ensure that their well water is safe to drink, and that their well and septic systems are properly maintained. A malfunctioning well or septic system can pose a health risk to your family and neighbours, and can be expensive to repair or replace. It is therefore important to conduct a detailed inspection of both the well and septic systems prior to purchasing a home. This document will describe how well and septic systems function and how to inspect them.

Wells

When you are purchasing a home with a private water supply (a well), there are three key items to consider:

  • well system
  • water quantity
  • water quality

Well Systems

There are three common types of wells: dug, bored and drilled.

Dug and bored wells (60 – 120 cm/24 – 48 in. diameter) are commonly used to produce water from shallow surface aquifers (less than 15 m/50 ft. deep); and are prone to contamination from surface water infiltration and to water shortages (see Figure 1). Anaquifer is an underground formation of permeable rock or loose material, which can produce useful quantities of water when tapped by a well. Another type of well used in surface aquifers is a sand point well (2.5 – 5 cm/1 – 2 in. diameter), which is a pointed well screen connected to a small diameter pipe driven into water-bearing sand or gravel.

Dug well
Figure 1: Dug well

Drilled wells (10 – 20 cm/4 – 8 in. diameter) are commonly used to penetrate deeper aquifers (15 to greater than 60 m/50 to greater than 200 ft. deep), are more costly to construct, but generally provide a safer source of drinking water (see Figure 2).

Drilled well
Figure 2: Drilled well

Common features of well systems include:

Casing — structure around the well hole, which keeps it from collapsing. It could be a steel casing, concrete rings or an open hole in the bedrock.

Inlet — allows water to enter the well from the bottom. There might be a screen at the inlet to prevent fine particles from entering the well and a foot-valve (check valve) to maintain the system’s prime and pressure.

Pumping system — includes pump, piping and necessary electrical connections to pump water from the well into the house, and a pressure tank to maintain constant water pressure in the house. Submersible pumps are usually used in drilled wells, while shallow wells usually use centrifugal pumps, which are located out of the well, most likely in the basement or in a pump house.

Surface protection — prevents surface water and contaminants from entering the well. It includes a watertight seal placed around the casing (annular seal), a well cap 0.3 – 0.4 m (12 – 16 in.) above the ground, and mounded earth around the top of the well casing to divert rainwater.

Well Inspection Checklist

The well should be inspected before the house is purchased. If there is a problem with the physical state of the well (for example, cracked seals, settled casing) contact a licensed well contractor to correct the problem. Check the Yellow Pages™ under “Water Well Drilling and Service” to find a local licensed well contractor.

Well record — Obtain a copy of the well record from the owner or the Ministry of the Environment. This should include: location of well, date of well drilling, depth and diameter of well, static water level, pumping water level, recommended pumping rate and the recommended pump setting.
Location — A well should be located at least 15 m (50 ft.) from any source of contamination if the casing is watertight to a depth of 6 m (20 ft.); otherwise, the separation distance should be at least 30 m (100 ft.). Sources of contamination include: septic systems, manure storages, fuel storages, agricultural fields (manure or fertilizer runoff), and roads (salt runoff). Wells should be located at least 15 m (50 ft.) from a body of water (see Figure 3).
Well cap — The cap should be at least 0.3 m (12 in.) above the ground. The well cap and seal should be securely in place and watertight. A locking cap would give some added security against tampering. Well caps are on drilled wells and well covers are on dug wells. Both types should be inspected.
Well casing — No cracks or settling of the casing should be visible. The ground should slope away from the casing.
Drainage — Surface water should drain away from the well and water should not pond around the well casing.
Well pump — The well pump and distribution piping should be in good condition.
Grass buffer — A permanent grass buffer of a minimum 4 m (12 ft.) width should be maintained around the well head. Fertilizers and pesticides should not be applied to the grass buffer.
Abandoned wells — All abandoned wells on a property must be decommissioned (plugged) by a licensed well contractor. Ask the owner if there are any abandoned wells on the property and if they have been properly decommissioned.
Inside the house — Check for sand or grit in the faucet strainer which indicates a corroded well screen. Verify that the pressure tank reads between 250 to 400 kPa (40 and 60 psi). Ensure that the check valve (or foot valve) is able to sustain the system pressure by drawing no water for 30 minutes to an hour and monitoring the pressure. The pressure should not drop nor should the pump start up during this dormant period.

Well separation distances
Figure 3: Well separation distances

Water Quantity

Wells draw water from aquifers, which are zones of saturated permeable soil or rock. Some types of soil make for good aquifers, such as gravel and fractured bedrock that can support high water pumping rates, while other types of soil make for poor aquifers, such as silty sand and clay that cannot support high water pumping rates.

Wells can run dry for the following reasons:

  • The pumping rate is higher than the groundwater recharge rate.
  • The water table (level of saturated water in the soil) has dropped to below the pump suction or inlet.
  • The well screen has become plugged by fine sand, chemical precipitation, bacterial fouling or corrosion.
  • If a well vent becomes blocked, a negative pressure may occur (in the well) during draw down and reduce or stop the pump from drawing water.

If there is a water supply problem, a licensed well contractor should be consulted. Solutions may include: water conservation in the home, digging a deeper well, unplugging a fouled well screen or replacing a corroded well casing or screen. The cost of fixing the problem should be considered when negotiating the sale price for the home.

There are three sources of information to help determine if a well can produce a sufficient quantity of water:

  • local knowledge
  • well record
  • water recovery test

Local Knowledge

The best indication of whether there is sufficient water supply is to ask the owner, neighbours or local well drillers if there have been any problems with wells running dry on the property and in the area. Generally, shallow wells are more likely to have problems with water shortages than deep wells, as shallow wells draw water from surface aquifers, which can fluctuate greatly depending upon the amount of precipitation.

Well Record

Obtain a copy of the well record from the previous owner or the Ministry of the Environment. The pumping water level indicates if the well is shallow or deep (less than 15 m/50 ft. is considered a shallow well). The recommended pumping rate should be greater than 14 L/min (3.6 US gal/min).

Water Recovery Test

A licensed contractor can be hired to conduct a recovery test which involves pumping water out of a well and then giving it time to recharge. This can help you determine how much water you can draw from the well. A well should be able to pump 14 L/min (3.6 US gal/min) for 120 minutes or 450 L/person/day (119 US gal/person/day). Source: MOE, Procedure D-5-5, 1996.

Water Quantity Checklist

Ask the owner, neighbours or a local well contractor if there have been any problems with the well or area wells running dry.
Verify the depth of the well and pumping rate from the well record. A surface well is more likely to run dry in times of drought.
Have a licensed well contractor conduct a recovery test, if necessary.

Water Quality

The quality of the well water is very important. Poor water quality can lead to health problems, unpleasant taste and odour, costly treatment systems and/or the costly use of bottled water. Well water can be contaminated with bacteria and chemicals. Common sources of contamination include: infiltration from septic systems, manure runoff, pet waste, road chemicals as well as dissolved chemicals naturally present in the groundwater such as calcium, sulphur, chloride or iron.

Water Sampling

Your offer of purchase should always include a requirement that closing is conditional upon an acceptable water quality evaluation. It would be ideal to take three water samples, about a week apart, with one of the samples taken after a rainstorm when surface water contamination is most likely. If possible, take the water samples yourself. The three samples should be analyzed for: total coliform, E. coli, and nitrate while one of the samples should also be analyzed for: sodium, hardness, sulphate, chloride, lead, iron, manganese and pH. Ask the laboratory to indicate the drinking water standards along with the results. Additional analyses can be conducted including: metals scan, pesticides if the well is in an agricultural area with heavy pesticide use, or gasoline and solvents if the well is near a gas station or industrial area.

Contact your local public health office for instructions on where to obtain appropriate sterile sampling bottles and where to submit water samples for testing. Bacteria and nitrate are analyzed free of charge in some provinces through local public health or Ministry of Environment offices, while the additional parameters will have to be analyzed at a private analytical laboratory for a fee.

If possible, samples should be taken from a tap between the well pump and any water treatment units and/or pressure tank. Follow the directions on the sample submission form for proper water sampling procedures.

Test Results — What Do They Mean?

If concentrations are higher than the limits described below, consult a water treatment systems supplier to determine if a water treatment technology is appropriate. It is preferable to get several quotations.

Health Indicators

Escherichia coli (E. coli) or Faecal Coliform

These bacteria are found only in the digestive systems of humans and animals. Their presence in your well water is usually the result of contamination by manure or human sewage from a nearby source such as a septic system or agricultural fields. Drinking water contaminated with E. coli or faecal coliform causes stomach cramps and/or diarrhoea as well as other problems and can even cause death. The drinking water standard for both E. coli and faecal coliform is 0 counts/100 ml. A value of 1 or more indicates that the water is unsafe to drink.

Total Coliform

This group of bacteria is always present in manure and sewage, but is also found naturally in soil and on vegetation. The presence of these bacteria in your well water may indicate that surface water is getting into your well. A total coliform value of 1 – 5 suggests that the safety of the water is doubtful, while a value of greater than 5 indicates that the water is unsafe to drink.

Nitrate

The presence of nitrate in your well water is usually the result of residential yard or agricultural fertilizers, or seepage from septic systems. Infants less than six months old can become sick from drinking formula made with water high in nitrate (greater than 10 mg/L). If you have an infant less than six months old, it is recommended to use bottled water.

Sodium/Potassium Chloride

Individuals who are on a sodium- (salt) reduced diet should consult with their physician if the level of sodium in their well water exceeds 20 mg/L. Domestic water softeners typically use sodium chloride and this increases the level of sodium in the drinking water. Potassium chloride is an alternative to sodium chloride for softening water. However, individuals suffering from hypertension, kidney disease or congestive heart failure should consult their physician prior to using drinking water containing high levels of sodium or potassium. A separate, unsoftened water supply (by-passing the water softener) can be installed for drinking and cooking purposes if sodium or potassium is a health concern.

Sulphate

At concentrations above 500 mg/L, sulphate can have a laxative effect and give a bitter taste to the water.

Lead

Lead concentrations in water are likely due to lead piping. Concentrations as low as 0.01 mg/L could cause long-term health problems.

Aesthetic Indicators

Hardness

Hardness is a measure of calcium and magnesium in water. These elements precipitate with carbonate in boilers and pots to form scale. Hardness also makes it difficult to form lather, requires more soap, and creates a soap scum. Many homeowners decide to purchase a water softener, which replaces calcium and magnesium ions with sodium or potassium ions. Hardness (as calcium carbonate) above 80 mg/L could require a water softener.

Chloride

Chloride concentrations above 250 mg/L can give a salty taste to the water and may corrode piping.

Iron and Manganese

Well water with iron concentrations above 0.3 mg/L and manganese concentrations above 0.05 mg/L could stain plumbing fixtures and clothing; water may appear rust coloured or have black specks in it; can also cause a foul taste in the water and bacterial fouling of the well screen.

pH

pH values of less than 6.5 or greater than 8.5 may cause corrosion of piping.

Water Quality Checklist

Water sampled on three different dates — preferably a week apart — from a tap between the well pump and any water treatment units and/or pressure tank for: total coliform, E. coli and nitrate.
Water sampled once for: sodium, hardness, sulphate, chloride, lead, iron, manganese and pH.
Obtain copies of previous water quality test results from the homeowner. Ask if there have been any water quality problems: frequent stomach illness (bacteria), odours (hydrogen sulphide, methane), rust spots (iron), scale (hardness), slime growth in faucets (iron or manganese), salty taste (chloride), bitter taste (sulphate).
Review with the owner the operation and reason for any water treatment systems (water softener, disinfection system, reverse osmosis system, chlorination unit, etc.). Ask to see all treatment device operating manuals.
Sample a glass of water for taste (salty, bitter), odours (hydrogen sulphide, methane), cloudiness (small particles) and colour (a rusty colour can indicate a high iron content). Remember you will be drinking this water every day.
Look for scale on fixtures or around the faucets indicating hard water. Lift the lid and inspect the back of the toilet tank (the cistern) for sand, sediment, rust particles, scaling, biological growth and any other visual clues which may indicate water problems.
Is there a “rotten egg” smell from the hot water heater? This indicates hydrogen sulphide gas, which can corrode piping.

Drilling a New Well

The cost of a new well depends on the depth of the well and the local market. For drilling and casing, well contractors usually charge a fixed rate per meter (or foot) of depth, whereas grout, seal, cap and screen installation is usually charged at a fixed rate per well.

Septic Systems

The septic system accepts wastewater from the home (sinks, showers, toilets, dishwasher, washing machine), treats the wastewater and returns the treated effluent to the groundwater. A conventional septic system is comprised of two components: a septic tank and a leaching bed.

Septic Tank

A septic tank is a buried, watertight container, which accepts wastewater from your house (see Figure 4). Septic tanks can be made from concrete, polyethylene or fibreglass and in the past were sometimes made from steel (if the property has a steel tank, it is likely rusted through and needs replacing). Older tanks may be smaller than those found today (the minimum current size in Ontario is 3,600 L (952 US gal). Current tanks have two compartments, while older tanks may only have one compartment. Solids settle to the bottom of the tank to form a sludge layer, and oil and grease float to the top to form a scum layer. The tank should be pumped out every three to five years or when 1/3 of the tank volume is filled with solids (measured by a service provider such as a pumper). Some municipalities require that septic tanks be pumped out more frequently. Bacteria, which are naturally present in the tank, work to break down the sewage over time.

Common septic tank
Figure 4: Common septic tank

Leaching Bed

The wastewater exits the septic tank into the leaching bed — a system of perforated pipes in gravel trenches on a bed of unsaturated soil (minimum 0.9 m/3 ft. — see Figure 5). The wastewater percolates through the soil where microbes in the soil remove additional harmful bacteria, viruses and nutrients before returning the treated effluent to the groundwater. In cases where there is more than 0.9 m (3 ft.) of unsaturated soil from the high water table or bedrock, a conventional system is used, where the network of perforated drainage piping is installed either directly in the native soil, or in imported sand if the native soil is not appropriate for treatment. In cases where the groundwater or bedrock is close to the surface, the leaching bed must be raised 0.9 m (3 ft.) above the high water table or bedrock. This is called a raised bed system.

Septic system
Credit: Eric Brunet, Ontario Rural Wastewater Centre, University of Guelph
Figure 5: Septic system

Alternative Systems

Under certain site conditions such as limited lot area, high groundwater table or poor soil conditions (clay or bedrock for example), a conventional system will not provide sufficient treatment of the wastewater. Under these conditions, it is often possible to install an alternative treatment unit. The two most common types of alternative treatment units are trickling filters, where the effluent from the septic tank trickles through an unsaturated filter media (such as peat or a textile filter), and aeration systems, where the effluent from the septic tank passes through an aerated tank.

Alternative treatment units provide a higher level of wastewater treatment, allowing the effluent to be discharged to a smaller area than in a conventional leaching bed. Effluent from an alternative treatment unit can also be discharged to a shallow buried trench, which is a pressurized pipe system 15 cm (6 in.) below the ground surface. In most provinces homeowners with alternative treatment units are required to have a maintenance contract with a service provider to inspect and maintain their systems.

Inspecting the Septic System

You should have the septic system inspected by a certified on-site system professional (such as a certified installer or engineer) prior to purchasing the home. Call your local municipal office, public health office or Ministry of Environment office for a list of qualified professionals.

The inspection should include: a discussion with the homeowner, a review of the system permit, a tank inspection, a leaching bed inspection and a house inspection.

System Replacement or Repair

A septic system should last anywhere from 20 – 25 years, or even longer, if it is properly installed and maintained with regular pump-outs every three to five years.

Questions to ask the homeowner:

Do you have a copy of the septic system permit?
When was the last time the septic tank was pumped out? Are there records of system maintenance (tank pump-outs, system repair)?
Have there been any problems with the septic system: system backing up, foul odours, effluent on the surface, soggy ground in the leaching bed, system freezing, toilet and drains gurgling or draining slowly?
Have there been any potable water quality problems (E. coli, faecal coliform, nitrate)? This could be due to infiltration of the well by leakage from the septic system and could indicate a malfunctioning system. Results from the water quality samples that you take of the well water may help indicate septic system problems.

Permit Review Checklist

The septic system permit can be obtained from the homeowner or the local municipal, Ministry of Environment or public health office, depending on the jurisdiction. There may not be a permit for older systems.

Review the system permit: age, size and type of system and separation distances (particularly from wells).
Verify the size of the system with respect to the size of the house.

Tank Inspection Checklist

Never enter or stick your head into a septic tank. Dangerous gases are present in septic tanks, which can be lethal, even after the tank has been pumped out.

Compare the size of the tank and the expected water use, observe the general condition of the tank: baffles, partition wall, look for cracks and leaks. A steel tank is likely corroded and in need of replacement.
Observe the water levels in the tank (too high suggests a clogged leaching bed while too low suggests a leaking tank).
Have the septic tank pumped out (the owner should pay).
Observe connections to the house and to the leaching bed (leaking pipes, crushed pipes), look for direct discharge of surface drainage into the tank. Tire tracks on the leaching bed could indicate crushed pipes.
Clean the effluent filter (if one exists) by rinsing with an outdoor hose, allowing the rinse water to drain into the septic tank.

Leaching Bed Inspection

Check for effluent on the surface, odours, lush growth, soggy field/ saturated soil.
Check for obstructions to the leaching bed (pavement over bed, trees in bed).
Verify that surface drainage is directed away from the leaching bed (for example, downspouts are not saturating the leaching bed).
Dig test pits in the tile lines for signs of ponding water and biomat (slime) growth. This indicates plugged tile lines, which may require repair or eventual replacement.
Inspect all mechanical equipment (pumps, aerators, alarms) to ensure they are in good working order.

Indoor Inspection Checklist

Check for leaking faucets and run-on toilets (a run-on toilet can flood the septic system). Slow moving drains and sewer-gas smells from flowing drains can indicate a failing system.
Verify the plumbing (storm water and sump pump to ditch or dry well, toilet and sinks to septic system). If there is a direct grey water discharge (sinks and bathtub are not going to the septic system), it likely does not meet building code or health department standards. Connecting the grey water to the septic system may require the installation of a larger septic system.
Water softener discharge: USEPA reports suggest that it is appropriate to discharge water softener backwash to a septic system. However, many jurisdictions encourage the discharge of the water softener’s backwash to a sump pump, ditch or dry well.
Under exceptional circumstances, the home may have a holding tank as opposed to a septic system. A holding tank must be pumped regularly (every few weeks) which can add a considerable expense to the household.
Inspect the sewer vent stack for damage or blockage. Simply removing an old bird’s nest might eliminate sewer-gas problems.

Where Can I Get More Information?

  • local municipal offices or public health offices
  • licensed septic system installers and well drillers (check the Yellow Pages™)
  • provincial ministries of the environment

Websites

Canadian Council of Independent Laboratories (CCIL) (July 2008)
http://www.ccil.com

Health Canada (July 2008)
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index-eng.php
Enter “water quality” in the search box.

National Environmental Services Center (July 2008)
http://www.nesc.wvu.edu/wastewater.cfm

Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour (July 2008)
http://www.gov.ns.ca/nse/water/

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (July 2008)
http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/environment/water/publications.htm

Ontario Rural Wastewater Centre (July 2008)
http://www.orwc.uoguelph.ca

Standards Council of Canada (SCC) (July 2008)
http://palcan.scc.ca/SpecsSearch/GLSearchForm.do

USEPA Septic (Onsite) Systems (July 2008)
http://cfpub.epa.gov/owm/septic/index.cfm

WellOwner.org (July 2008)
http://www.wellowner.org

CMHC acknowledges the contribution of the Ontario Rural Wastewater Centre, University of Guelph and Health Canada to the development of this document. For further information regarding water treatment and water quality, contact Health Canada at water_eau@hc-sc.gc.ca or call 1-866-225-0709, or 613-957-2991 from outside Canada.

Water Damage, Mold and House Insurance

You’ve had water damage in your house due to a burst pipe, a roof leak or a heavy summer storm. You hope that your insurance will cover the damage. What to do? First, read about mold below. You may not know the implications of water and mold damage.

What Is Mold, and Why Should You Care?

Molds are part of a group of micro-organisms called fungi that also includes 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.

Mold requires the following conditions to grow:

  • Mold spores (which are always present indoors and outdoors)
  • The right temperature range, from 2°C to 40°C
  • A food supply, which means anything organic such as books, carpets, clothing, wood, drywall, etc.
  • A source of moisture

The last condition, moisture, is the only practical factor to control in most houses.

If allowed to grow inside your house, mold can be a problem because:

  • It can damage your possessions
  • It can cause health problems, for example:“ … mould … can cause … allergic reactions such as asthma or allergic rhinitis, non-allergic reactions such as headaches, and other symptoms [including] lung and breathing infections” (Health Canada, 2003).

Dry Quickly to Avoid Mold!

1 — Contact your insurance broker

First, call your insurance broker or agent and report the water damage. You can expect to discuss these questions and issues:

  • How did the water damage occur?
  • Is this damage covered by your policy?
  • Did the damage occur during the period your policy was in effect?
  • Are you reporting the water damage promptly (within 24 hours) to allow quick drying and repairs?

2 — Hire a Contractor

Hire a contractor to clean up the water and make repairs as needed to your house. Your adjuster can recommend contractors, but you must confirm the selection with your adjuster — the contractor reports to and is paid by you. You need to be sure that the adjuster and the contractor are following the best possible procedures to look after your concerns.

A thorough and fast cleanup will help avoid mold growth. If you wait too long and mold growth starts, cleanup costs will increase significantly. This is what you should be looking for:

Speed
Mold grows quickly; your adjuster should ensure that you have a contractor in your house promptly.

Knowledge
The contractor you select should have certification or training in water damage restoration and mold remediation.

Competence
The contractor should follow basic, good clean up practices after your water damage. Here are some things to look for:

  • The moisture source is stopped
  • Wet items that can’t be salvaged are removed
  • What can’t be removed is dried quickly
  • Ideally, drying is done within 48 hours (to minimize mold growth)
  • No refinishing is done until the area is thoroughly dried

3 — Make sure everything is dry

Confirm that the contractor checks thoroughly to make sure all wet areas are completely dry. Be sure all cavities, such as crawl spaces, are dry.

4 — Verify the work

Make sure all repairs and cleaning have been done properly before you tell your adjuster you are satisfied.

You’ve Got Mold

If you already have extensive mold because, for example, you’ve had water damage while you’ve been away for two weeks, or there was a long delay between the water damage and the arrival of a restoration contractor, then you and your adjuster will have to discuss the following points:

1 — Drying the damaged area

In addition to the items discussed in steps 1 and 2 of the previous section, your adjuster will ask you about pre-existing mold and discuss minor or hidden water damage with you. See the text boxes below for more information.

2 — Removing the mold safely

To protect the workers and you and your family from exposure to mold, the contractor must follow certain procedures. Here are some things to look for:

  • The affected area should be sealed off from the rest of your house.
  • The workers should be wearing protective gear.
  • There will need to be an exhaust fan removing air from the affected area to the outdoors.
  • No chemical disinfectants, such as bleach, should be used during clean-up, only fragrance-free detergent.
  • If transported through your house, moldy materials should be sealed in plastic.

3 — Inspecting for mold

Confirm that the contractor checks thoroughly to make sure there is no remaining mold in your house. This means inspecting:

  • All areas adjacent to the mold growth
  • Behind wallpaper
  • In areas where water may have seeped, such as wall cavities, basement subfloors, crawl spaces, etc.
  • Under wall-to-wall carpeting

4 — Verifying the work

Make sure the repairs and cleaning have been done properly and check for the possible spread of the mold before you tell your adjuster you are satisfied. This is what you should ask yourself:

  • Do you smell mold?
  • Do you see mold?
  • Have all affected items been either properly cleaned and dried or discarded if cleaning was not effective?
  • Are you or your family experiencing health problems that could be mold-related?

Pre-existing Mold

Typically, most insurance policies cover mold damage if it is directly related to a “covered peril” or insured loss. This means that the direct cause of the water damage, and consequently the mold growth, can be identified. Your adjuster will want to determine whether the mold you are reporting is pre-existing. In other words, was mold in your house prior to the water damage? The adjuster may make a visit to your house to assess the cause of the mold.

If you have a damp basement already full of moldy furniture and stored items, for example, and a water pipe bursts, you cannot claim for the material that was damaged prior to the water damage caused by the burst pipe. A good inspector should be able to tell the difference between pre-existing mold and recently developed mold.

The adjuster may determine that the mold is the result of some factor other than the water damage (the burst pipe) you reported, such as lack of maintenance or poor house design. If the mold was not the result of a specific occurrence that is covered by your insurance policy, the mold damage is unlikely to be covered by your policy.

Mold From Ongoing Minor or Hidden Water Damage

Minor or hidden water damage means that you had a leak for a long time before you became aware of it. The water seepage may be, for example, from a defective water pipe, hot water heater, or window seal. You almost certainly have mold along with the leak and water damage. The adjuster and contractor will need to deal with both issues, the water damage and the mold. Again, the cause of the leak will determine what costs your house insurance will cover. Discuss with your adjuster whether the cause of the minor or hidden water damage is covered by your policy and whether the mold was pre-existing.

EDMONTON REAL ESTATE NEWS ROUNDUP – August 27, 2011

Alberta mortgage arrears decline

The latest Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. housing forecast sees the average MLS sale price in Alberta rising to $363000 in 2012 from $354800 this year. As a comparison, the average price in 2006 was $286149. It might have something to do with the …

 

http://blogs.calgaryherald.com/2011/08/25/alberta-mortgage-arrears-decline/

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Most expensive homes in Alberta? Not in Calgary

According to the most recent Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., housing forecast, the average MLS sale price in the Wood Buffalo area is expected to hit $589000 this year. Just goes to show how the impact of the oil industry and its presence in these 

 

http://blogs.calgaryherald.com/2011/08/25/most-expensive-homes-in-alberta-not-in-calgary/

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Edmonton house prices forecasted to rise in 2012

“Market conditions that favoured the buyer in 2011 will limit price growth in Alberta this year,” said the CMHC in a release. “Housing market conditions across Alberta are expected to experience improved market balance over the duration of the forecast 

 

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/business/Edmonton+house+prices+forecasted+rise+2012/5300815/story.html?cid=megadrop_story

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House prices remain relatively affordable to previous years: RBC

The most affordable area in Canada now seems to be in Alberta, where the affordability measure was the lowest of all regions for all three categories of homes: two-storey homes, condos and bungalows. For Alberta, a two-storey home on the RBC 

 

http://www.canadianrealestatemagazine.ca/news/item/763-house-prices-remain-relatively-affordable-to-previous-years-rbc

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Edmonton among most affordable housing markets

“The last time I checked, Edmonton was running $100000 less than Calgary,” he said. “I think that’s an indicator of how lucky we are in Edmonton.” The real estate industry keeps an eye on rental industry numbers, and a lower vacancy rate is encouraging …

 

 

http://www.edmontonsun.com/2011/08/22/edmonton-among-most-affordable-housing-markets

New Listing in Summerside

Bi – level Single Family Home in Summerside

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bo1C0U6MIgY

6708 11 Ave. SW Edmonton AB T6X 1L1

http://www.knock-knock.ca/bilevelsummerside

This beautiful custom built Bi-level in the sought after neighbourhood of “Sunset Valley Estates” in Summerside offers 4+3=7 large bdrms w/2
master suites, in-law suite, 5 baths & a separate entry to the fully finished bsmt. This home has 2200 sq ft above grade, plus approx
another 1700 in the fully finished lower level.  Almost 5000 sq ft of living space! Extensive upgrades including granite, gleaming mocha
hardwood, detailed tile, lights, baseboards, iron spindle staircase & more. Formal dining and living room w/large windows and French doors
lead to a large mocha maple kitchen w/extra cabinetry & island. Decorative pillars & arches accent the family room w/fireplace &
eating nook.  Convenient main floor laundry, full bath, 2nd master w/4pc bath & 2 additional bedrooms. Huge main master suite, located on
a separate level, w/jacuzzi ensuite. Oversized, attached 3 car triple garage with also allows private access to the basement in-law suite.
Custom Hunter Douglas window coverings throughout, as well as top of the line stainless steel appliances – upstairs AND downstairs in the full suite IN ADDITION to a family room area with custom bar, rec room, 5 piece bathroom, and bedroom.  This home is set up so that the
suite is self-contained but you have access to the family area in the basement without having to enter or go through the suite.  Just go
downstairs and turn left to enter the suite, or right to enter the family area.  Very effective floor plan!  Brand new deck and gazebo
off the back for entertaining looked over the DOUBLE LOT.  This gorgeous home sits on a huge, pie shaped lot (Almost 900 m² (9687 ft²) as opposed to the more typical 450 m² for a home of this size) at the top of a quiet cul de sac. The land value on this home is double that of other homes on the street. All beautifully landscaped, front and back. That’s value!   2 blocks from Junior High School. Brand new furnishings contained in the home are negotiable with the sale”.

 

 

 

New Listing in Redwater

1 and a half Storey Home in Redwater

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LboFGzGp7sc

4824 47 Ave. Redwater AB T0A 2W0

http://www.visualtour.com/1andhalfredwater

This charming 1 and a half storey home has been well maintained and updated by the current owners over the years. 4 peice bathroom has been completely re-done. Master bedroom on main fits Queen, then 2 smaller bedrooms upstairs. Most windows are new as is front door. Great curb appeal with brand-new siding, front veranda looking on to quiet street, and colourful perennials and Saskatoon bushes. Double over-sized garage (24 X 24 and fits large truck) with additional parking for 2 vehicles outside the garage on the parking pad. Treated back deck (with concrete patio to the side), vegetable garden and shed. Fence is in great shape. Hot and cold water shut offs in rear. Newer hot water tank and furnace. In the partially finished basement, you will find new red front-load over-sized Fridgidaire washer and dryer, woodstove (heats the whole home in Winter, no need for furnace or to just cut down on heating costs), cold room, and enough room left over for a rec room to be finished. Good quality home.

New Listing in Akinsdale

2 Bedroom Condo in Akinsdale

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzZGE7oFuw8

103 51 Akins Dr. St. Albert AB T8N 3M6

http://www.visualtour.com/applets/flashviewer2/viewer.asp?t=2570493&sk=200

2 bedroom condo in the professionally managed Acadia Terrace on Akins Drive. Excellent opportunity for 1st time Buyer or Investor with little money down. Cheaper than rent and is one of the lowest priced condos in St. Albert; why rent when you could own this updated 2 bedroom condo. Clean and well maintained by owners with a great floor plan that has generous sized rooms. The building itself has new windows and interior mailboxes, plus the unit has the following updates: new laminate, paint, vanity, toilet, mirror and medicine cabinet, and shelving. Main floor patio wiht grass beyond is great for BBQ’s, plus no need to carry groceries upstairs. Wood burning fireplace, built-in dishwasher and in-suite storage, this unit has everything you need to get started. Freshly painted throughout in a nice neutral colour, ready for you or your tenant to move in and call home. Tenant currently pays $1,200/mnth and is willing to stay, or can be flexible on move out.