About Your House
Assessing the Renovation Project
Over the years, we’ve developed a good understanding of how
buildings perform. Construction techniques for new homes have
changed rapidly. Most of these improved techniques also apply
If you plan carefully, you can renovate your home to make
it look better, work better, last longer and be more
comfortable. Before renovating, it’s important to assess the
condition of your home to determine if there are any
significant underlying problems that must be addressed before
or during your planned renovation project.
In Canada, we need affordable houses to provide shelter
from the elements. We also want our homes to be pleasant,
comfortable and attractive.
Homeowners have higher expectations than in the past,
particularly about comfort and interior design. Renovations
are an opportunity to address some of these expectations.
Some of the reasons people decide to renovate are to:
- Upgrade or improve outdated or deteriorated
systems — replacing an outdated furnace, old siding or
windows are common upgrades.
- Maintain and repair various elements of your
house — reshingling a roof or fixing foundation cracks
are typical renovations.
- Address lifestyle needs — converting unused attic
space to living quarters, add a sunroom or build a home
Renovating is an ideal time to make your house healthier
for you, the community and the environment. When assessing
your renovation project, be sure to consider the five
essentials of Healthy
House as a System
A house is much more than just four walls and a roof — it’s
an interactive system made up of many components including the
basic structure, heating, ventilating and air conditioning
(HVAC) equipment, the external environment and the occupants.
Each component influences the performance of the entire
system. A renovation provides an opportunity to improve how
your house performs.
As you assess your renovation project, ask yourself how
changing particular components will affect the performance of
the whole house. For example, as part of a bathroom renovation
you may want to add a hot tub that will generate large amounts
of humidity during operation.Your existing ventilation may be
inadequate to handle the increased moisture levels. It will be
important to provide proper ventilation to avoid mold growth,
indoor air quality (IAQ) problems and damage to the structure
or finishes. You may need to consult with a qualified home
inspector or a professional renovator.
A systematic and thorough inspection will help you to
assess the condition of your home. Look for any signs of
deterioration and the possible causes. Start your inspection
in the basement. Many problems in other parts of the house
originate there. Depending upon the size of your project, you
may want to ask a qualified home inspector or a professional
renovator to help you assess your building and develop a plan.
Here are some of the likely questions that you’ll want to
- Are there any cracks or is there damage to
concrete walls or floors?
- Are there any damp spots, stains efflorescence
(white, chalky stains) or blistered paint on the
concrete, finished walls or floors?
- Does anyone notice bad smells or experience nausea
or headaches when in the basement?
- Is there high humidity, any condensation or
- Repair minor cracks if they leak. Seek an
engineer’s opinion on serious structural problems such
as major or expanding cracks, bowed walls or uneven
- Clean up mold; discard moldy or rotting materials.
- Ensure that the floor drain has a trap or install
a retrofit backflow preventer. Make sure that all
plumbing fixtures (including washer) are vented and
have traps. Install a sealed cover on the sump pit.
- Direct outside surface water away from the
foundation. Improve underground drainage.
- Repair or replace damaged interior finishes.
- Keep the relative humidity between 30 and 55%.
Ventilate and circulate air. Dehumidify or air
condition in summer. Clean up mold according to CMHC
- Serious structural problems could cause further
damage or collapse.
- Water pressure on the outside of the foundation
can contribute to leaks and structural problems.
- Odours will continue to be annoying and can pose
health problems, depending on the source.
- Unresolved water sources will cause renovations to
deteriorate quickly, whether the water comes from
building leaks, plumbing leaks or high humidity.
- Mold can grow on almost anything and be a source
of serious indoor air quality (IAQ) problems.
|Basement ceiling or main floor
- Are there any headroom problems?
- Are there signs of rot, sagging floor joists or
- Are there water stains on the main floor structure
or basement finished ceiling?
- Assess structural problems carefully. Expert help
may be required. Repair or replace structural elements
so they will accommodate renovation plans and expected
- Fix any water leaks.
- Unresolved structural problems, poorly planned
structural changes or new loads may cause future
settling or collapse.
|Mechanical and electrical
- Are there unusually high heating or cooling bills?
- Are mechanical systems capable of supplying
current and future needs?
- Is the house too dry or too humid? Is the heat
- Is there ever a noticeable smoky or fuel smell?
- Is the electrical service and wiring capable of
supplying current and future needs?
- Do fuses keep blowing or circuit breakers keep
- Are there any exposed electrical wires or crumbled
- Do any lights dim or outlets spark?
- Are there leaks from pipes, taps, toilets or the
- Have a qualified service company inspect your
heating system to ensure that equipment is up-to-date,
functioning properly and sized to handle current and
- Air seal the house to keep it from becoming too
dry. Use a humidifier (that has a humidistat) as
required. Provide ventilation using exhaust fans or a
heat recovery ventilator to reduce humidity in winter.
Dehumidify or air condition to reduce the humidity in
summer. Check for heat flow to each room.
- Repair any sources of smoky or fuel smells
immediately. The smells could indicate serious fire or
- Have an electrician assess the electrical systems
and any problems such as fuses blowing repeatedly,
sparking outlets, exposed wires or connections.
- Repair any water leaks. Repair or replace leaky
- Without regular service, heating systems may
gradually deteriorate unnoticed, leading to serious
health and safety concerns.
- Problems can arise if HVAC needs cannot be met by
the capacity of the services available. The heating
supply must be enough for comfort. Proper ventilation
is needed to control excess humidity.
- Electrical service, wiring and outlets may be
unsafe or inadequate for increased loads.
- Plumbing leaks will continue to damage the
finishes and the house structure. The leaks may also
contribute to mold growth and IAQ problems.
|General living areas, floors and
- Are floors or stairs springy, sagging, warped or
- Are floor surfaces damaged or carpets musty?
- Are handrails or guardrails loose?
- Assess the supports underneath the floor. Contact
a carpenter for help. Repair as needed.
- Refasten or shim squeaking floors or stairs.
- Repair serious safety hazards immediately such as
damaged floors or stair boards and loose coverings.
- Replace damaged flooring. Eliminate moisture
- Repair loose handrails or guardrails.
- Damaged or uneven floors and stairs may be unsafe.
- Musty carpets are usually a source of mold.
- Loose handrails or guardrails are a safety hazard.
- Is there any water seepage around fixtures or
condensation on windows or toilets?
- Are floors damaged around bathtubs or showers?
- Repair or replace leaky fixtures.
- Repair or replace damaged flooring.
- Provide proper ventilation to reduce humidity,
indoor pollutants and stale air.
- Leaks will continue to cause damage.
- Excess humidity will continue to cause damage, may
cause mold growth and affect the IAQ.
|Walls and ceilings|
- Do walls and ceilings have any cracks, holes,
bulges, water stains or peeling finishes?
- Do any doors or windows bind or stick?
- Are any windows drafty, broken, operating poorly
or is there moisture between panes?
- Are there water stains or rot on windows or walls?
- Repair any holes. Eliminate moisture sources that
cause bulges, water stains or peeling finishes.
- Assess cracks, binding doors or stuck windows for
changes in moisture levels or structural movement.
Repair or replace as required.
- Replace broken windowpanes and poorly operating
hardware. Replace sealed unit windows that have broken
seals or rot.
- Replace rotted wall materials. Eliminate moisture
- If the problem sources are not fixed, the bulges,
cracks or binding will re-occur.
- Hiding moisture damage behind new finishes will
cause continuing deterioration and mold growth.
- Faulty windows will eventually result in damage to
surrounding wall areas.
- Are there water stains or excessive dampness?
- Is there black mold on any of the roof framing or
- Is the attic adequately ventilated?
- Are there air leaks in the ceiling of the rooms
below the attic? Is the attic hatch sealed?
- Find moisture sources. Repair roof leaks. Air-seal
the ceiling using polyethylene sheeting, sealed over
octagonal boxes for lights, caulk holes for wires
through sheeting or wall top plates and weatherstrip
- Ventilate the attic at the soffits and roof peak.
- Seal any air leaks in the ceiling of the rooms
below the attic. Install a sealed attic hatch.
- Moisture damage will continue to deteriorate the
house. Unventilated attics will allow moisture to
- Air leaks in ceilings below the attic will reduce
heating efficiency and can be sources of odours and
- Does the roof have any curled or cracked shingles,
bare patches, leaks, moss, or damaged flashing?
- Do eavestroughs and downspouts direct water away
from the foundation?
- Repair or replace damaged roofing.
- Clean leaves and debris from eavestroughs every
spring and fall. Extend downspouts to direct rainwater
away from the foundation.
- Roofing will continue to deteriorate.
- Surface water near the house can put undue stress
on the foundation and is a primary cause of water
- Is there any blistered paint, rotted wood, buckled
siding, stained or crumbled brick or damaged stucco on
- Find and eliminate the source of water
penetration. Repair or replace damaged exterior
- Water penetration may lead to more serious siding,
structural and interior finish problems.
- Undertaking maintenance and repair projects such
as correcting structural flaws, fixing leaks and
making sure that all services are safe and adequate
will make your home safer, more efficient and more
- After you have ensured safety, efficiency and
durability, other renovations can be done to make your
home more pleasant, attractive and suited to your
Skills to Do the Job
You can assess most of your house j1 with the help of
one of CMHC’s inspection checklists. Professional home
inspectors are also available to do a thorough
inspection for you.
Repairing serious structural, mechanical or
electrical problems will require the help of an
Use the House Assessment Worksheet to record the
present condition, any problems in your home and to help set
priorities for your renovation.
||Present Condition /
|Basement Ceiling or Main Floor Structure
|Heating, Cooling and Ventilation System
|Electrical Service and House Wiring
|Plumbing and Fixtures
|Floors and Stairs Structure/Finishes
|Wall and Ceiling Structure/Finishes
|Exterior Wall Finishes
|Windows and Doors
Other Useful Information From Canada Mortgage and Housing
Although this information product reflects
housing experts’ current knowledge, it is provided for general
information purposes only. Any reliance or action taken based
on the information, materials and techniques described are the
responsibility of the user. Readers are advised to consult
appropriate professional resources to determine what is safe
and suitable in their particular case. CMHC assumes no
responsibility for any consequence arising from use of the
information, materials and techniques