In the lower mainland, there are thousands of homes within viewing distance (and directly beside) High-Voltage transmission lines and towers. Such transmission arrangements are called “rights of way” (ROW) by BC Hydro. There are over 74,000 Kms of Power Lines in BC.

There is a level of controversy surrounding these ROWs, most notably due to the EMF (Electromagnetic Field) Radiation they create. Let’s take a look at some facts:

Transmission Voltages are Extremely High

Due to the great distances the electricity must be transmitted, a ROW will be between 69,000 to 500,000 Volts. At the high end, (250-500 Kilovolts), an audible buzzing and/or crackling sound may be noted. These voltages are obviously extremely dangerous and great care should be taken not to go anywhere near them.

A Map Showing The Bulk Transmission System in BC

Power Lines Can Move

Power lines may sway as much as 4 meters vertically during windy/bad weather. A fallen transmission can be disastrous, but luckily rarely occurs. If the home buyer is looking at a house directly beside a tower, this is a risk that they should take into consideration before purchasing the home.

No Buildings Permitted Below Them

Homes, Buildings, and even foundations may not be constructed on a ROW, or within 10 meters of one. However, golf courses (such as one in Surrey), sheds, roads, fences, and parking can be constructed with permission from BC Hydro.

Electromagnetic Fields (EMF)

EMF is a physical field that is present around all electronic devices and the equipment powering them. EMF is everywhere electricity flows. However, some groups/individuals believe that EMF causes negative health effects in humans – most notably from Power Lines and “Smart Meters”, about which there has been much media coverage. There have been a number of studies performed, particularly one early study that linked childhood leukemia to EMF. Later, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) performed a study that failed to establish a link between elevated EMF levels and leukemia. Only several, long-term studies have been performed, and all have failed to establish a link between EMF and cancer.

Another suggested health effect is Hormonal disruption – there is a anecdotal evidence of Hormone-related problems in people living near power lines, however as of this article’s writing we are not aware of any conclusive studies linking the two.

So Are They Dangerous?

The most real, empirical danger involved with overhead power lines is in the risk of contact with High-Voltage equipment, either from collapse or from accidental contact with the equipment (kites, ladders, trees, etc.)

EMF Radiation has been proven to drop dramatically over short distances, and is already present in areas without overhead power lines (such as near cell towers, microwaves, cell phones, TVs, etc). There is also (so far) no conclusive link between EMF and serious health issues. However, if you feel uncomfortable with power lines nearby you should investigate/research the issue carefully before proceeding.

A Final Note…

A quality home inspection is a thorough visual inspection of the major systems of the home, such as Roof, Exterior, Electrical, Heating, Insulation, and Plumbing. A home inspection will not include evaluation of EMF Radiation, and you should call a specialist if you have any concerns about the property.

Have us perform your next Home Inspection! Call us today at 604 395-2795.

Marijuana Grow Operations are common in the BC lower mainland, however this crime has diminished in popularity lately (most occurred in the 1990’s). They are incredibly destructive – a home may be filled with mold and hazardous wiring. If you’re buying a property in BC, this is must-read information… buying into a grow-op home could spell financial disaster.

Here are a few things to look for:

1. Check the Ceilings

Marijuana cultivation generates an enormous amount of hot, humid air, and the growers will look for the easiest way to vent it. Closet ceilings provide a discrete passage for ductwork. Look for circular/square patches in ceilings.

2. Modified electrical

Growing plants indoors requires a huge amount of power – and the operators don’t want anyone to notice. Look for evidence of tampering next to the electrical meter. Also look for high-amperage breakers (in the main panel) that don’t appear to have a purpose. If you see several 40-amp breakers, and there’s only one kitchen in the home, be careful.

3. Modified Heating

Look for bare/exposed radiators and pipe. The operators want to get as much heat into the room as possible.

4. Attic Mold

Look for staining and signs of moisture in the attic. Attics usually suffer badly – black mold and, in many cases, rotting wood, can be found. If an attic has been remediated (mold removed professionally by a contractor), there are usually still signs visible.

5. Ventilation

Check the attic and roof for added ventilation. A few roof vents or a turbine vent is normal; six turbine vents is not.

6. Construction Debris

Look for electrical tape, ducting, masks, gloves, loose wiring and bags of insulation, particularly in the attic. Criminals can be just like the rest of us – forgetful!

The best way to protect yourself

Have a quality, professional home inspection performed, every time you purchase a home. Your professional inspector is trained in finding problems, and can save you from potentially expensive mistakes.

Call us for a professional inspection today! – 604 395-2795

Leaky Condos are infamous in Vancouver, and rightfully so – they’ve cost homeowners, businesses and developers millions of dollars and caused heartbreak and frustration for almost twenty years. Here’s five minutes worth of reading that can save you countless hours of frustration.

Everything you need to know about Leaky Condos:

1). Leaky condos were built between 1982 and 1999. The building code changed around 2000 to require rain screens in stucco buildings.

2). Most leaky condos have stucco cladding. Stucco was popular during the Vancouver housing boom. The only problem is that it was installed face-sealed, which means it was installed tight against the building, with no cavity for water to drain from.

3). Leaky condos lack a rain-screen assembly: A rain-screen assembly is a thin cavity between the building and the stucco that allows air and moisture to flow – and not get held against the building to cause rot.

4). They kept being built because it took a long time for the problem to show up. By the time the industry realized what was going on, years had passed and thousands of buildings had been built with this faulty design.

5). Vancouver has high annual rainfall. This is key – in California there are many similar building designs – but with much less annual rainfall, their buildings tend to perform much better.

6). Problem buildings are easy to spot from the street. Take a look at the below photos.


A condo with a partial rain screen

In the above picture we can see expansion joints with flashings on the right-hand wall, between the floors.


A non rain screened elevation on the same building

In this picture we can see another wall from the same building – but no flashings.

The wall in the right side of the first photo has been rain screened. The wall in the second photo has not, and is face-sealed EIFS (Exterior Insulated Finishing System, also known as “Synthetic Stucco”)

This particular building had the east wall fail (and leak), but the strata elected to only remediate the one wall, instead of the entire building. However, this may be postponing the inevitable, as the other walls could eventually fail as well, and they will need to be repaired.

Rainscreening an entire building like this would cost millions of dollars, which will need to be paid by every owner. It is not uncommon to see strata owners have to pay enormous special levies for these types of projects.

Hopefully this article has helped you identify a rain-screened building. Knowing the difference will be beneficial when house-hunting in Vancouver.


Author David Fairbairn is a certified, licensed home inspector serving Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. He has spent years working with Stratas on leaky condo projects, and holds a Power Engineering License in BC. Why not give him a call for your next Home Inspection?

Call 604 395-2795 or email today!

Radon is a colourless, odorless, tasteless, naturally occurring, radioactive gas that is formed from the decay of uranium or thorium in the soil under a home.

Radon gas from natural sources can accumulate in buildings, especially in confined areas such as basements. The US Environmental Protection Agency reports direct evidence of Radon exposure causing lung cancer.

The BC Center for Disease Control performed two studies in the interior of BC to measure radon in homes and radon in schools.

The following radon maps for homes in BC were created from a survey performed in 2007 for radon in BC cities, giving an indication of the radon prone areas within the province.

According to the research done by the BC Center for Disease Control, Metro Vancouver is NOT a radon prone area in our province. Areas notable for their high levels of Radon are Clearwater, Barriere and Castlegar.