Radon health risks require testing
(NC) Since you can't smell, taste or see radon gas that is present in most homes, how can you make sure your home is safe? The only way to know for sure is to purchase a radon test kit and measure the levels of radon in your home.
Outdoors, radon gas is diluted and doesn't pose a health risk. The problem occurs when radon enters enclosed spaces like your home and accumulates to high levels, contaminating the air you breathe.
The amount of radon in homes across Canada varies widely. On average, seven per cent of homes are estimated to have high radon, but in some areas that number jumps to 20 to 40 per cent.
Radon exposure is the second-leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking. In fact, Health Canada estimates that over 3,000 people a year — more than eight a day — die of radon-related lung cancer. That's why it's essential that you test your home for you and your family's health.
Your risk of developing lung cancer due to radon depends on its concentration in the air you breathe and the duration of exposure. Time between exposure and the onset of cancer is usually many years — all the more reason to test sooner rather than later. For smokers, the exposure to radon combined with tobacco use can cause a significant increase in their risk of lung cancer.
Fortunately, indoor radon levels can be reduced easily and affordably. Find more information and learn how to reduce radon in your home at www.canada.ca/radon.
Keeping your roof top of mind
(NC) Winter can be tough on many parts of a home. Whether it's snow, ice or rain, our windows, porches and driveways take a beating. When performing seasonal maintenance, be sure to look up — your roof is one of your property's most vulnerable areas.
“Canadians are always clearing their driveways or scraping their windshields after the snow or ice, but the roof is out of sight, so it can get overlooked,” explains Glenn Cooper from Aviva. “By taking steps to check and care for your roof during the season, you can help avoid a leakage and extend the life of your roof at the same time.”
No matter what material makes up your roof, snow and ice can cause severe and expensive damage. If left untended, the result could be water damage that trickles inside your house as well. Cooper recommends these tips to check and clear off your roof:
Hire a professional snow removal company. If your roof is particularly high, it is much safer to hire a professional snow removal service to remove the snow from your roof.
Use binoculars. Try to see your roof's condition by using binoculars. In most cases, you can see everything you need without having to get on top.
Rake it up. Use a rake to force built-up snow onto the ground.
Do warm weather installations. Consider installing radiant heat in the warmer months to keep your roof temperature above freezing. You can also install an ice barrier, used mostly on metal roofs, to prevent snow from sticking.
Find more information at www.avivacanada.com.
How do you know who's a reno pro?
(NC) For anyone planning a home renovation or improvement, finding the right contractor for your project can be bewildering. You want someone who knows what they are doing, has the track record to prove it, and a lot of happy clients to back this up.
Professional contractors who deliver great results are in business for the long term. They aren't just folks who are handy with tools and have some free time. This is what they do for a living, and their reputation matters to them. Contractors building a legitimate business tend to invest in their network, usually by becoming a member of the local Home Builders' Association.
Today, professional contractors are also joining RenoMark, the national program that aims to set the real pros apart. To qualify, a contractor must agree to always provide clients with a proper written contract, carry adequate business liability insurance and offer a two-year warranty on their work, among other conditions. You can find a contractor associated with this program in your community by going to www.renomark.ca.
Hidden health hazards that could be lurking in your home
(NC) Many of us like to make our homes cozy retreats during the chilly winter season, stockpiling blankets and firewood. But another important way to prepare for spending so much time indoors is to make sure our homes are safe and healthy places to live. Here are some common risks that could be present and what you can do about them.
Carbon monoxide. This gas causes illness and can lead to death. Carbon monoxide can be present in your home or cottage at any time of the year, but the risk is greater in winter months because homes in Canada are usually heated by furnaces, wood stoves, water heater or boilers and other appliances that run on fuels — devices that can release the gas if they are not installed correctly or malfunction. Protect yourself with a carbon monoxide alarm and by properly ventilating your home.
Radon. This is an invisible, radioactive gas that causes lung cancer and comes from uranium in the ground. The only way to know the radon level in your home is to take a simple and inexpensive test that can be done by using a do-it-yourself kit or by a certified measurement professional. If the level in your home is high, it can be fixed at an affordable cost. A radon mitigation system can be installed in less than a day and in most homes will reduce the level by more than 80 per cent for about the same cost as other common home repairs such as replacing the furnace or air conditioner.
Wood smoke. Whether your wood stove is your main source of heat, a back-up or a fun way to add some warm ambiance, wood smoke contains a number of pollutants that can be harmful to your health. You can help reduce the environmental and health impacts of wood smoke by maintaining your stove, cleaning your chimney and using your dampers. Choose dry, seasoned wood, let it breathe and burn smaller pieces of wood. If renovating, consider switching your heating source or purchasing a low-emission stove.
Find more information at www.canada.ca/radon.
Exploring new opportunities for affordable home ownership
(NC) As more millennials look to become first-time homebuyers and boomers search for housing that better fits their needs, smart solutions are needed to ensure home affordability for years to come.
One idea being recommended by Ontario Realtors is more housing supply. To meet the needs of diverse families, it's important to add more variety of homes to the market, such as townhouses, stacked flats and mid-rise buildings — and government can support these efforts.
“Over the past year, Ontario Realtors have been sounding the alarm on the lack of housing supply in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. It is imperative that governments work collaboratively with municipalities and developers in reducing the barriers that have impeded necessary growth in the housing market,” says Ettore Cardarelli, President of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA).
According to Ontario Realtors, increasing housing supply in the province is the best long-term solution to keep home ownership within reach for young buyers and future generations.
“OREA's plan for increasing housing supply in Ontario includes speeding up building approval processes, encouraging building more 'missing middle' type homes and making sure infrastructure funding is targeted towards water, sewer, roads and transit to land already designated for development,” says Cardarelli.
Find more information at www.orea.com.