CARRIAGE WALK - South and North
IMPORTANT Newsletter for Home Owners ~ from “CAROLYNE” Realty Corp. ~ Call 905-458-6711
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Economic Life (term): This term is attached to almost all things tangible. Typically it has come to mean the life expectancy of a given item. Some prefer to call it planned obsolescence; a repeating of the life cycle requiring that an item be replaced.
As the communities both north and south have been with us for many years now, the north being older than the south by several years… things are beginning to show their age. Sometimes we can see the aging process; in other cases we cannot. Just like in humans.
Many original owners still live in both complexes, but many properties have changed hands, some several times over the years. Roofs have been repaired, some windows have been replaced, some units have experienced the need for greater exterior upkeep than others. But what about your private space? The interior of your dwelling. Being that Carriage Walk is a condominium complex, of course it means that you only “own” what is on the inside of the unit. The shared contiguous areas referred to as common elements are yours to enjoy, but there is no specific ownership by any unit owner. The responsibility for the care of these areas is delegated to a management company, and paid for by the homeowners.
Do you have enough interior insurance? Not just specific riders for contents insurance. It is a fairly simple exercise to evaluate your “valuables,” such as fur coats and jewelry and perhaps special artwork or treasured items.
What may be not so simple is to put a value on interior construction examples. What would it cost to replace all the drywall in your unit if the interior had to be reconstructed? What would it cost to replace your broadloom (more if it has been upgraded or you have installed hardwood flooring)? What would it cost to replace your bathtubs, sinks, tile? Window blinds, curtains and drapes and all the related fixtures that hold them all in place? Lighting fixtures? Kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room cabinetry? Ducting and furnace related items? Air conditioning systems and air cleaners? Stringers and pickets for stairs? Doors, hinges and handles? With no real effort, you can add to this list.
Can you even guess the thousands of dollars involved for the replacement of these items? And can you even begin to guess the cost of the contractors required to do the actual work? And how much money will you lose in time taken off work, even when a restoration company is involved to manage the situation? Guess in the tens times tens of thousands of dollars. Likely much more than you have insurance for ~ on your personal valuables.
But, seriously, have you ever considered if your neighbour’s house burned to the ground, the impact it might have on your unit? And the cost you would incur to redevelop the interior due to adjacent smoke damage perhaps? I came home from work one day, to learn that my neighbour had created thousands of dollars in damage to her home, having lighted a candle in the kitchen, then having gone downstairs for a few minutes. When she returned the candle had melted her cell phone, and the fire restoration people were in attendance for months, and that was just for dealing with the smoke damage. A few years earlier, they had brought the canister operated gas bbq into the house in cold weather season, and lighted it, on the sliding door landing. It caught fire. The smell was just awful in my unit, as a result. Thankfully that fire was put out quickly. Can you imagine your neighbour doing something like that?
When did you last have your furnace cleaned? Your ducts cleaned? Did you keep all your bills and receipts that explain exactly what was done and when? What you paid for, exactly? Did you stand behind the person sent to do the work, or did you presume he knew what he was doing? And you probably wouldn’t know whether he was doing an adequate job, even if you did stand behind him. Most of us wouldn’t know. After all, the company who sent him guarantees his work, right?
Well, not necessarily. And believe me when I say you don’t want to be in the position I found myself in recently. I have lived in the south complex for six years. Each autumn the gas company cleaned my furnace. About every fifteen months, I had the ducts cleaned. In February 2005, one morning about 8 am as I was getting ready to go to work, I thought I smelled gas, when I was in the third story bathroom, two floors directly above the furnace room. Yes. Definitely. Gas. Rotten egg smell. Hmmmm. Don’t panic. Go to lower level and open closed laundry room door, adjacent to furnace room. Smell of gas is overwhelming. Leave area immediately. Remember it is February. It is cold outside. Open glass sliding door, immediately, to ventilate the premises as per reading instructions prior to ever having this problem, and reach for the phone to call the gas company. More than an hour later the technician arrived. It wasn’t his job to fix the problem; he was only here to shut down the gas. He red-tagged the old furnace. Late that evening (it is cold in winter and the gas company has many such calls to make), another contractor appeared to evaluate the situation further. He discovered the need to replace a valve. Done. Heat back on. I was concerned about pipes freezing perhaps, with the heat having been off all day.
Backing up a bit ~ intermittently since late in the year, about autumn time, in 2001, occasionally, and only occasionally, fine black dust kept reappearing in the two piece washroom at the entrance way. Thinking it was coming from the dirty air outside because roofing work had been done in the area, and Queen Street was subsequently under construction along with other construction in the general, I just kept thinking how dirty the air in Brampton had become. Then, over time this fine black particulate started appearing in my white bathtub in the main bathroom. Ultimately, one day, it was floating in the water in the toilets in my “clean, white” fixtures. I was ready to call Peel Region to ask what on earth was in the water in Brampton.
The filters in the furnace were changed more often than in many homes due to allergies, and my home is kept very clean in general. There was just no explanation for this. So, to keep seeing reappearing fine black dust intermittently was really annoying. I have a glass-top dining room table, and it too started to attract fine black particulate. Remember, each year the furnace is cleaned and the ducts had also been cleaned regularly. What else could I do to get rid of this fine black dust?
Another year passed and another year passed, same routine. I even had the condo management folks come out to my house to see if the roof venting from the bathrooms was causing the problem. No luck there. They didn’t have any system in place to check that kind of venting. I suspected this “black stuff” was coming into my home from the outside somehow. No mold any place in the house; all the caulking was sparkling clean and white. Just “black” dust. So fine, initially you had to look close to see it. Most dust, typically, is not black. It is gray, white or beige fluff-like grime, not black, like baby powder.
The purpose of this “newsletter alert” is to highlight the necessity for two things:
1 - If your furnace and or your hot water is original, it is time to think about replacing them, maybe. Or, at the very least, have the situation evaluated by a professional (one recommended by someone who has had this type of work done themselves – don’t just rely on the gas company). If you haven’t had your ducts cleaned, now is the time to consider doing that as well. If you have a gas dryer, it is important to clean the vent trap every time you use the dryer, to prevent the possibility of a fire. A clogged dryer vent is a FIRE TRAP! An accident, waiting to happen.
2 - Double check your contents insurance: re-read the beginning of this newsletter, and see what “isn’t covered” sufficiently by your homeowners’ policy. I, for one, would not have had nearly enough insurance to cover a re-build as described. My insurance agent never asked me, other than for the value of my “personal contents,” for coverage amounts to be included in my policy. It never occurred to me what the replacement costs would be, and the labour intensity involved, in real dollars.
I thought I had enough contents insurance; that was certainly my intention. I discovered that I very nearly did not have sufficient coverage, and my coverage was substantial in number. The possibility of how my story might have ended is terribly frightening. I thought I had done all the right things. In fact, I did. All but evaluating what was covered by my homeowners’ insurance ~ perhaps the most important thing of all. We don’t know what we don’t know, until we find out we didn’t know it. Then it can be too late.
When a cleaning lady who had previously owned a fire restoration company in Halifax, arrived to wash my walls and wooden cabinets, because the black particulate had now even imbedded those areas, it was she who made me wise to the situation that was going on in my house. It was she who said, “Carolyne – you have to call your insurance company. This black dust you keep referring to IS SOOT!” The insurance agent told me I was not covered. That’s a whole other story. I got to the bottom of it, and yes, it IS covered. Thankfully. But, as a result of this personal experience, I share this newsletter with you, as a head’s up. Double-check your policy. I hope you never need it. Truthfully, contents insurance is a bargain at double the price. Don’t short-change yourself in this area. There are some valuables in each our homes that no amount of money can replace, but construction costs are enormous.
By the way, instead of replacing the valve on the furnace back in February, 2005, the contractor should have discovered a cracked heat exchanger. Gas should burn clean. It didn’t. It wasn’t, and a much bigger problem could have arisen. It was January 2006 when I smelled gas again. This time it was the original hot water tank. More than twenty repairmen and many weeks later, the gas company got the new hot water tank installed and working “properly.” It’s obviously hard to get good reliable help these days. Lucky nothing blew up in the process, during the many months and several “cleanings” later, wherein no one discovered the “real” problem.
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