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  JUNE 2005
Renovations Can Be Deadly
by Ivan Mose


A couple of weeks after last Christmas I received a phone call from a young man who told me he had a terrible smell in his apartment and could I come over as soon as possible and take a look. I am a building inspector so smells usually mean drains, mouldy basements and the odd rat or two. A little questioning and I started to build a case. Last summer Dany, his wife Lauren and baby moved into a newly renovated condominium apartment in the plateau Montreal area, their dream home. Everything about the place was perfect; or so it had seemed, until the start of the heating season when this odd acrid smell took over the apartment, getting worse by the day. It eventually got so bad that they had to flee and move in with some friends. This sounded like an interesting problem so I invited my colleague Paul to join me.

Here are the facts.
The building was originally a triplex built around 1910 and converted into three condominium apartments. Theirs was the middle unit. The lower unit was heated with a gas fired boiler in the crawl space, using the original chimney to exhaust the flue gases. During renovations some of the interior of the masonry structure had been exposed, including the chimney breast, as is the current fashion with these older buildings. The exposed chimney appeared wet.

Any ideas yet what the problem might be?
Paul and I headed for the crawl space to check out the boiler. We found a 60 year old boiler that had been converted from oil to gas about 25 years ago. We checked the flue clean out and found it to be completely clogged with plant debris, and removed at least a garbage bag full of rotting birds and squirrels nests. With mirror and flashlight we found there was no liner in the chimney. All we saw was bricks.

That's the problem! The flue gases were migrating through the bricks of the chimney, and since the plaster had been removed on the inside, were entering the apartment. Flue gasses contain a lot of water vapour, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and few other compounds. Carbon monoxide being the most deadly of them all. Dany did the right thing in moving out it may have saved his and his families lives. We went outside and saw this huge moisture stain on the outside of the building. As one can see in the picture it extends from the ground up three stories to the top of the building.

Next step was to turn off the boiler and call the gas company. They came the next day and installed a liner. Since then the smell is going away and Dany, Lauren and baby we able to return home.

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Water Damage in Your Home - How to avoid mold, minimize damage - and deal with your insurance agent!

For many homeowners, it's their worst nightmare come true: a burst water pipe, leaky roof or heavy summer storm, and you wake up or come home to find your house flooded with water. You hope that your insurance will cover it, but you're not sure what to do to protect your home, your pocketbook - and the health of your family.

To help you minimize the damage, reduce the chances of mold - and deal effectively with your insurance agent - Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has a series of steps you can take if your home has experienced extensive water damage:

First, call your insurance broker or agent and report the water damage within 24 hours or less, to allow for quick drying and repairs.

Next, hire a professional contractor to clean up the water and make repairs as soon as possible. The contractor reports to and is paid by you, but your insurance adjuster can make recommendations.

As the work progresses, make sure the adjuster and contractor follow the best possible procedures to look after your concerns. A fast, thorough cleanup will help avoid mold growth and significantly reduce cleanup costs. So when selecting a contractor, look for qualities like speed, competence in water cleanup practices and certification or training in water damage restoration and mold remediation.

Make sure the moisture source is stopped, and all wet areas are completely dry. Wet items that can't be salvaged should be removed, and what can't be removed must be dried quickly, preferably within 48 hours to minimize the growth of mold. Be sure all cavities and crawl spaces are dry. And confirm that no refinishing is done until the entire area is thoroughly dried. If you have mold growth, make sure it is removed safely by the contractor, and that there is no remaining mold anywhere in your house, including behind wallpaper, in areas adjacent to the mold growth or where water may have seeped (such as wall cavities, basement subfloors and crawl spaces), and under carpeting.

Finally, make sure that all repairs and cleaning have been completed thoroughly and properly before you tell your adjuster that you are satisfied.

For more information or a free copy of the "About Your House" fact sheet on Water Damage, Mold and House Insurance or other fact sheets on virtually every facet of owning, maintaining or renovating your home, ask CMHC at 1 800 668-2642 or visit our Web site at www.cmhc.ca . Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is Canada's national housing agency and a source of objective, reliable housing expertise.
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A Couple of Quotes

Home is where you can say anything you like cause nobody listens to you anyway.
Author Unknown

Home computers are being called upon to perform many new functions, including the consumption of homework formerly eaten by the dog.
Doug Larson

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