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fix up your home

When you move in: five ways to fix up your home

Before we moved into our 10-year old resale home, we heard this advice from our real estate agent and home inspector: expect to fix up your home over the next couple of years. We knew there were some things we needed to address to ensure the safety of our home. We just didn’t truly know how many things needed to be updated, despite having a thorough home inspection! Boy, were we in for a surprise…

We knew the roof would need to be replaced in the next couple of years (and we’re planning to do so in early 2015), and there were some electrical issues that needed to be done as soon as possible to be up-to-code. The rickety, sliver-infested wood deck was falling apart and needed to be replaced – frankly, it was an eye-sore we like to call the “builder’s special”.

There were some things that came “out of the woodwork” well after we had all the boxes unpacked and had settled in. After all, in many cases, the seller slaps on the spackle and fresh paint, puts in hardwood flooring and does a few “jimmy jobs” to hide the imperfections just so that they can sell their house at top dollar.

The five things that I’ve listed below are key things we had to update and fix. Unless you are extremely lucky, you will need to fix up your home when you move in. While the list isn’t definitive, it gives you an overview of the most important things to consider.

Electrical

Your home inspector will go through the electrical as much as possible to see if there’s anything that’s not to code. However, there may be some surprises lurking in places unseen. For example, if you have a dishwasher, check behind it to see if it is hardwired or if a jimmy job of an outlet has been created and a plug attached to it. Most units don’t use a plug system – they need to be hardwired, and if you aren’t sure how to do this, call a certified electrician to help out.

fix up your home

The “jimmy job” not-to-code electrical outlet for the modified second-hand dishwasher the previous owner had put in to help sell the house.

Sometimes having a reputable Master Electrician come in to check out your home is well-worth the cost. They can spot things that you may not notice.

We were lucky that an improper plumbing job with our dishwasher that was making it super-smelly made us take a look behind it. As a result, we found the dedicated electrical outlet was not-to-code and connected to a light bulb in the basement directly below and not a separate circuit.

Spending a bit extra to ensure your wiring is up to code and safe, and that you aren’t putting too many appliances on one circuit can greatly reduce your chances of an electrical fire which can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage.

Plumbing

Unless your new resale home has completely new toilets, sinks and faucets that were installed by a professional plumber, you may want to do a quick check to see if they are all in working order.

Are faucets leaking? Are seals starting to wear? Do you hear the sound of trickling water coming from your toilet? Do you have shut-off valves to make maintenance easier?

fix up your home

The inexpensive toilet that the builders put in, in our resale home, was starting to fall apart and leak.. and it wasn’t efficient with water usage.

When you have a plumber in to fix plumbing issues, you may want him or her take a look at your dishwasher and fridge hook-up. Why? Your dishwasher may not be hooked up correctly to the hot water (as was the situation in our case) or the outtake pipe may not be installed and placed in a way to ensure water drains out and doesn’t sit in the pipe, getting smelly.

Also important is to open up drains, such as the shower drain, and clear it of hair and other debris which can cause water back-up. It’s a stinky process but it’s best to be done before you end up with a big problem. The kitchen drain is also a key one to check out, particularly if your water drains slowly on a regular basis.

Old Appliances

Sure, the former owner is kind enough to leave behind their fridge, oven, dishwasher and laundry machines etc. But did they maintain them? Are they old enough to be out-of-date in terms of energy-saving technology? Are they failing to do a good job due to years of use?

Builder-grade appliances are often inexpensive entry level units, unless the first owner splurged for an upgrade. It’s always good to do a bit of research as to what you have installed in your kitchen and laundry room. If the previous homeowner doesn’t leave behind the manuals, see if you can find model numbers and search online for more information.

One key thing to find out is if the appliance has been declared a fire hazard by the manufacturer and discontinued.  Often people who want to sell their home for the top dollar will purchase a second-hand appliance (and install it improperly to save a few more bucks) without further thought as to what the future owner will encounter. This is penny-pinching at its worst and you’re stuck with a potential issue or an item that fails you within a few months.

If the former owner has left you with all details of purchase and manuals, read through to find out how old the appliance is and if there is any maintenance that needs to be done.

We also started monitoring our water and electricity bills over various months using certain appliances more during select times. We quickly identified the energy guzzlers (the fridge, dishwasher) and had them replaced.

Windows

Did you know that in most cases windows in new homes are replaced within two to three years due to poor quality and incorrect installation? Home builders will cut costs by using windows that barely meet energy rating requirements, and if rushed to complete construction, will cut corners.

Over the span of several years, vinyl windows will have warping and torquing from contraction and expansion – in some cases the vinyl will discolour. Seals will flake off and become drafty, leaving you with very little protecting you from the elements outside.

In our case, our vinyl sliding windows in our master bedroom and master bathroom were two-paned.  The builders  didn’t insulate the window frame properly or use the protective red tape around the edge under the frame. During the very chilly 2013/2014 winter, we noticed drafts, cold air seeping in and insane amounts of condensation despite the air inside our home having only 40% humidity.

We decided replacement windows were needed when we ripped off the frame of one window and found water damage on the drywall surrounding the frame.

fix up your home

Drywall should not be crumbling!

TIP: Do your homework. Read up on the latest technology in window products and on the types of questions to ask replacement window salesmen. Have more than one salesman showcase what their company has to offer and their service. Cheap is not always best, but also beware of the hard sell for a very costly “new technology” in window glass or panes etc and inability for the sales rep to answer simple questions… such as about two-pane or three-pane windows.  If the price of windows is double what most will offer, you may want to do a double-check online for reviews etc. Ask to look at the warranty – and take the time to read it carefully.

As with any situation where you are seeking a contractor/expert, checking online for homeowner testimonials is very important. We looked at several sites such as Homestars.com for reviews on any given company to see what the general consensus is about quality, warranty and customer service.

Finally, word-of-mouth is extremely important, when it comes from a trusted friend or family member. Ask around and find out who others have used for their window replacement. We had excellent referrals from a family friend for our window replacement company, QSI, based in Hamilton, Ontario, which made us feel more sure of the quality of work we were getting.

fix up your home windows

We went with the Hamilton-based company, QSI Windows and Doors due to strong recommendations, excellent service from start to finish and a great product.

Caulking

The caulking around your windows and ledges will degrade over the years. UV damage from the sun, hot and cold temperatures and rain and snow all have an effect on caulking.

Cracks in caulking can leak in cold air and moisture into your home at windows, and if bad enough, can cause greater damage than just a cold draft… think mold!

When we pulled off the window frame from our bedroom windows, we noted some moisture damage with the drywall flaking off and the nails rusting. We also had a view right through to the outside as the caulking had cracked completely open. Talk about drafts!

While caulking will be replaced when you get your windows replaced, you can also do it yourself, or call in a caulking company to help out. The only downside of recruiting help from professionals is the scarcity of good master caulkers.

Put In the Effort Now For Peace Of Mind Later

All of this may seem to require time and money, but in the bigger scheme of things, addressing these issues can be a very good thing in the long run. Fixing them now can eliminate expensive renovations later on. We’ve made a priority list – items that need to be changed ASAP because they are a potential dangerous hazard, and those things that we can put further down the list.

Other key things to consider replacing/having serviced:

·       The roof

·       The furnace and air conditioner

·       Furnace air filter

·       Water heater

·       Air duct cleaning

·       Foundation cracks checked out and fixed (inside unfinished basements too!0

·       Air fans in bathrooms

·       Wooden decks that haven’t been maintained

·       Rotting wooden columns

·       Rickety steps and railings

Purchasing a book (and I mean a physical hard copy book) that covers home ownership, home maintenance and information on code etc, is a good idea and it will come in handy. I’ve learned that you need to become your own general contractor to live happily in your home.

No home is perfect – even new, freshly built ones by builders. Knowing this, you can anticipate and prepare for all emergencies that pop up. We’ve learned from our experience and continue to find new challenges that we address every few months. Now only to keep saving for that rainy day…

How have you had to fix up your home when you moved in? Have you had any hidden issues that the home inspection didn’t reveal that cost you dearly? I’d love to hear your stories.

One comment

  1. These are things I considered when I bought in 2001 … and that’s why I ended up in a condo. Ha!

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