HomeFit proves useful tool for owner and landlord

01 April 2019

By Eion Scott.

Hamish Hopkinson is a stay at home dad, picking his kids up from school each day, and worrying about the home he’s bringing them back to. Is it warm? Is it dry? Is it safe?

He got a HomeFit assessor in for some independent advice, and in the process to provide a written summary of how he could make his house “HomeFit”. He didn’t want to be sold anything, just to know that what he was about to do, spending serious dollars, was going to be worthwhile.

The problem lay with his ‘architecturally-designed’ house from the late seventies which, he says, is another way of saying it is cold and inefficient. There were things he couldn’t alter much. For instance, a cathedral ceiling in a 90s lounge extension that had insulation, but hard to say how much. He’s added some LED recessed downlights, which should have been covered with insulation, but again hard to say how much.

He’s put in underfloor insulation, and generally done a good job, but there’s one patch where a suspended concrete slab under the entrance foyer remains uninsulated. There are products that can fix that, but they can be expensive – is it worth doing?

Worst of all is the second level bedroom above the garage. With no insulation underneath, and a draughty garage door, it’s a cold room for his daughter, and has single-glazed windows bringing in the winter chill, with only blinds to provide a semblance of protection. It’s not helpful that it has a single pane of glass above the door separating it from the cold stairwell – it lets light into the stairs but loses heat because it has no curtain at all.

“I had to spend some money on the house, and I wanted a second opinion,” Hamish says. “I had done heaps of research but there were questions I still had. I wanted to speak to someone to get independent advice. Someone who wasn’t going to sell me anything.”

The formal nature of the HomeFit Assessment, comparing a home to a national standard, and giving successful properties a stamp to prove it, appealed to him, and could be useful if he ever sells the house. But as he intends to keep living there for 20 years, it wasn’t his focus.

Similarly, he has a rental house that he also wants to improve, but again not for resale value. “The fact we could get a tick is a bonus.” His tenants complain, not of the cold, but of overheating in the upstairs of this two-storey early 90s house. Hamish laughs that he wishes overheating was a problem in his own home but has taken their wishes into account and is considering installing a heat pump to provide air conditioning in summer, after first ensuring the ceiling has a top up of thick wool insulation.

His own house has central heating as well as a gas fire with an open chimney – a source of draughts that the HomeFit assessment identified. He says that was an obvious gap to close off, which hadn’t occurred to him as toys were piled up in front of the disused fireplace.

The biggest spend was having double glazing installed into four south facing bedrooms. He had tried using some bubble wrap and draft stoppers as a temporary fix before biting the bullet and placing a deposit on a $16,000 glazing upgrade.

Other jobs are less expensive but can have a big effect. “I had this gnarly issue of the cold coming from the garage. The wind blows the stairwell door inwards.” He is looking at solutions, including reversing the door frame so that “the door gets blown shut”, sealing the edges to prevent draughts and hanging a curtain somewhere in the stairwell to help reduce the flow of cold air.

The other “brilliant” suggestion from the HomeFit Assessment was to install louvres for ventilation in the master bedroom on the third floor, replacing a fixed glass window with fixed wooden louvres that serve no purpose. “The hard work has been done in terms of creating the window space. I can purchase and install some professionally made operable louvres myself.”

“I was fully open [to hearing the advice] and it helped me to make sense of some of the spending decisions we have to make. We changed the batteries in the fire alarms, changed the shower head in our bathroom upstairs, and laid polythene under the house. It’s getting those little tips or prompts that spurs me on to do things. Things you can DIY.

“I tackled a bunch of issues. You people came and pointed out a few basic issues that I appreciated. I just wanted a second opinion before I spent serious money. Getting a HomeFit tick would be an added bonus. But now I have a received invaluable advice and a checklist from HomeFit that I can slowly use to guide my own DIY or the more costly work of paid professionals.”

Find out how HomeFit can work for you www.homefit.org.nz