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Why it is Important to Have Your Home Checked by a Qualified Home Inspector

October 17, 2016 11:04 am
Why it is Important  to Have Your Home Checked by a Qualified Home Inspector

For most Canadians, purchasing a home is the single biggest financial undertaking they will make in their lifetime. Yet, many will purchase a home without having a qualified home inspector assess the condition of the property before the final purchase.

Serious repairs that come to light after a purchase can cost tens of thousands of dollars and in some cases more. House fires caused by faulty electrical wiring are not uncommon. Excess moisture from leaking pipes or a damaged roof can result in toxigenic mold. Does the home have proper insulation behind the walls and in the ceiling? What about foundation cracks or leaks? These hazards can be avoided by having your soon-to-be-home checked by a qualified home inspector before signing the purchase documents.

However, not all home inspectors are equal. Currently, there are numerous contractors in Ontario who are not qualified to do home inspections properly. To ensure the highest level of service, hire a Registered Home Inspector, the highest qualification in Ontario.

Jean Laframboise is one such home inspector. He has been doing inspections for eight years and reviews all the major home systems: roofing, exterior, structure, electrical, heating, cooling, insulation, plumbing and interior.

“I am an objective third party. My role is not to look after the agent’s interests as some home inspectors do,” Laframboise says. “I’m there for the client — the person who is going to purchase the home.”

Laframboise worked as a professional engineer (Mech.) for the Department of National Defence for twenty years, and after a career change, built up his home inspection company, InSpecRes Inc. He is a member of the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors, which protects both home buyers and sellers, and complies to the highest standards of practice for professional home inspectors. His passion for the home inspection field led him to become an Algonquin College instructor for future home inspectors. And, since 2011, he has been a contributing committee member of the nationally distributed The Canadian Home Inspector magazine.

Laframboise explains that the home inspection industry is not presently regulated in Ontario, but noted that, “it’s about to change”. Queen’s Park is in the process of regulating the home inspection industry through a certification regime designed to protect consumers and legislation on this is imminent. This will also prevent unqualified contractors with little or no training who offer lower rates from competing with qualified professionals.

With more than 850 home inspections of homes ranging from modest cottages to contemporary multi-million dollar Barry Hobin-designed homes, Laframboise is a recognized expert. He identifies underlying issues with the major systems in a home.

“A home inspection typically takes two and a half hours, sometimes much more. I encourage my clients to follow me around and ask all the questions they want.” He points out that by participating in the inspection, clients acquire a better understanding of their new home’s operation.

Both sellers and buyers contact Laframboise for home inspections. Buyers do so prior to closing the deal. With the home inspection report in hand and the assistance of a real estate agent, they are able to make informed decisions. Sellers contact him to learn about the home’s condition and to be aware of any major problems that may negatively impact the closing of a sale.

Still, it isn’t up to Laframboise to give a pass or fail grade.

“My job is to offer suggestions and make recommendations. In the end, it is the client who makes the decisions,” he says. “There are no homes without some kind of problem. I point out the issues, but it’s up to the client whether to act on them or not.”

Laframboise has found some life-threatening conditions over the years, such as a natural gas leak, and he has helped a lot of potential home buyers avoid homes plagued with significant problems.

“Some inspections reveal major problems, which causes the transaction to fall flat or helps the potential buyer to get a lower price.”

He says it’s important for a homebuyer’s peace of mind to ensure that they hire a home inspector with solid credentials and extensive experience.

inspecres_card-back-copyJean Laframboise, P. Eng., RHI
jean@inspecres.ca or www.inspecres.ca

Nissan Titan Trucks Square Off With the Domestics

10:35 am
Nissan Titan Trucks Square Off With the Domestics

CHARLEVOIX, PQ: There are few rides as complex as today’s pickup truck. And fewer still on which buyers have heaped so many expectations.

It was once the humble go-to vehicle for farmers, contractors and outdoor folk who needed something that could take a beating while hauling their hay bales, stacks of lumber, boats, and RVs.

Now pickup buyers come from all walks of life. From weekend renovators to genteel horsey-types, all demand civilized ride and handling, along with luxo features that rival most premium SUVs.

This hasn’t taken the focus off capability – far from it.

The escalating war for bragging rights has boosted max payload and towing to where these trucks might pull a small planet. This, along with driver tech that makes it easier for guys like me – who lack any long-haul trucking skills – to hook up and safely tow big trailers.

We can thank the Domestic Three for raising this bar. Despite stiff competition in every other segment, they’ve reigned supreme among full-size pickups.

But there’s been a second disturbance in the Force.

The first being in 2007, when Toyota finally produced a Tundra that could stand toe-to-toe with the likes of F-150, Ram and Silverado.

And now there’s the Titan.


The Titan XD Diesel may have a payload capacity of 12,037 lbs, but is seen here pulling the 167,000-lb Charlevoix tourist train.

Nissan’s full-size pickup debuted in 2003, but never really gained much traction. It could be argued the intense brand loyalty of truck buyers is to blame, but this first effort also lacked the brawniness of its North American counterparts.

So Nissan went back to the drawing board, tapping the psyches of target purchasers, and applying their findings to an all-new Titan XD diesel that debuted in late 2015.

Rich Miller, director of product planning, said at the time that although diesel versions are higher up the price walk, and typically arrive later, the company decided to launch with its best foot forward.

You know what they say about having one chance to make a first impression. Which for the Titan XD is a truck that looks very North American.

I don’t say this as a knock. Nissan has responded wisely in a market – currently Titan’s only market – where people buy pickups in massive numbers.

So if you note a resemblance to F-150, that’s no accident.

Big, slab sides, a high beltline and hood that rises to chest level – at least for me – harmonize with its burly, squared-off profile. There are, however, dips at each side mirror (like Ford), allowing for better visibility.

Even more in-your-face is the colossal chrome grille, flanked by “half-T” light signatures and projector headlamps. This pulls back into wheel wells more than capable of swallowing its 17-, 18- or available 20-inch aluminum alloys and beefy tires.

The look is more angular, yet with active grille shutters, extended overhangs and roof spoiler, it is 10 percent more aerodynamic. Which is a good thing because at more than 20 feet long and with a 151.6-inch wheelbase, the XD is a behemoth.

Its first release came with a 5.0-litre Cummins Turbo Diesel V8 that delivers 310 hp, and more importantly, 555 lb/ft of torque starting at a low 1,600 rpm. It is mated to a six-speed Aisin automatic transmission with manual column shifter.


The V8 gas-powered Titan XD boasts a payload of 2,523 pounds – ready for this very large box of apples.

All that and a 2,000-lb payload, not to mention 12,037-lb max towing, puts Titan XD in that sweet spot between light- and heavy-duty pickups. Starting price for 2017 is $53,400, topping out at $74,900 for the Platinum diesel.

A conventional V8 gas-powered XD joined the lineup last spring, with a new V8 half-ton entering showrooms now. All offer five trim levels: S, SV, Pro-4X, SL and Platinum.

I had an opportunity for seat time in the XD diesel, starting in Charlevoix on route to the nearby Le Massif ski area, which boasts some of the highest verticals east of the Rockies.

Here it made light work of the elevation changes. This XD may not be a sprinter, but launches with gusto and has no trouble accelerating on steep grades.

Earlier, it even pulled the 167,000-lb Charlevoix tourist train. I’m guessing this kind of stunt may void the 160,000-km warranty, but it proves the new truck is no wimp.

I also took part in an exercise. Not so dramatic, and I didn’t make full use of its towing muscle. Other than a little tugging, the 4,000-lb trailer made little impact in my tester’s ability to climb hills, stop or remain dead stable at highway speeds.

Thanks to trailer sway control, downhill speed control and an integrated trailer brake control, I didn’t end up sideways in a ditch. And the backup camera makes lining up easier, as does an automatic trailer light check that allows you, with the key fob, to perform this singlehandedly.

These features are also found on the petrol-burner, which is powered by 5.6-litre V8 with gasoline direct injection (390 hp/394 lb/ft of torque), also with part-time four-wheel-drive, but mated to a seven-speed automatic with column shifter.


With a payload of 2,000 pounds, this Titan XD Diesel has doubled it with the Micra Cup racecar, lift mechanism and gear in the cargo bed.

Despite being the same displacement as the first-gen Titan, this new engine has 73 more hp and nine more foot-pounds, with a broader and flatter torque curve. It’s also 28 percent more fuel efficient.

This XD shares the diesel’s content and trim levels, but at lower price points, starting at $45,900 for the base and climbing to $67,400 for Platinum.

The driving experience is a little different, with more lively acceleration – and a throaty exhaust note.

I took it on a highway run from Quebec City’s Jean Lesage International Airport to Charlevoix, and found it as comfortable and smooth-riding as any truck I’ve driven. With more insulation and body sealing, it’s SUV-quiet, and thanks to a tuned suspension and hydraulic cab mounts, less bouncy and jiggly over expansion joints and rough patches.

Ditto for the diesel.

There’s little doubt Nissan was listening to those who haul and tow. The usual overhead cargo light, for example, isn’t much help to those with a tonneau cover or those carrying tall objects like ATVs. Solution: install LED lights under the cargo rail.

Equally thoughtful are the lockable – and removable – dry storage boxes in the cargo bed, integrated gooseneck hitch (XD only) and inside, the lockable compartments below the rear seats.

But trucks aren’t just workhorses. Like its competitors, Titan offers an off-road version.

Pro-4X trim provides more ground clearance and proper gear: Bilstein shocks, skid plates, electronic locking rear differential and off-road tires.

Surrounded by ski hills and trails at Le Massif, I did a little rock crawling. It was scenic, with the gleaming St. Lawrence below, but hardly a white-knuckler, thanks in part to organizers recognizing our varied capabilities and to the vehicle’s surefootedness. This was aided by standard hill descent control that uses the brakes – noisily, but effectively – to keep a slow, constant speed down steep inclines.

I also spent time in the half-ton. With the same powertrain as the petrol XD, but significantly lighter and with a smaller footprint, this Titan was more lively.  Wheelbase is a foot shorter, and overall length drops 14.7 inches, but the cab size is the same as XD (currently crew cab only), although smaller king cab and standard cab versions are on the way.

Bed size for the half-ton crew cab is 5.5-feet (6.5 for XD), but with the new models coming, the entire lineup will include bed lengths up to eight feet.

We’ll get more into the interior next review, but I’ll make mention of the standard-equipped (and comfortable) “zero gravity” seats, which in Platinum trim are leather-upholstered, heated and cooled, with power adjust up front. Also available are two-zone climate control, heated rear seats, navigation, heated steering wheel, and 12-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio, along with wood inserts, chrome accents and more leather on the dash and doors.

These are premium amenities for the well-heeled, but with new models set to join the lineup, Nissan execs say there’s a Titan for just about every truck buyer. Which is a good thing when there are 28,000 ready to buy pickups this month alone.

The company doesn’t expect to catch or overtake the domestics, but with a more robust and handsome Titan competing in a segment that is now second largest in Canada – they are well positioned to ‘pickup’ a few more sales.


Nissan’s new gas-powered Titan XD hits the sweet spot between regular- and heavy-duty pickups with a payload of 2,523 lbs. This crew cab model is seen against the backdrop of fall colours near Charlevoix, Quebec.

SNAPSHOT: 2017 Nissan Titan XD and half-ton pickups

BODY STYLE: full-size pickup truck
ENGINE: XD: 5.0-litre Cummins Turbo Diesel V8 (310 hp/555 lb/ft of torque); 5.6-litre gas V8 with GDI (390 hp/394 lb/ft of torque); half ton: 5.6-litre gas V8 with GDI (390 hp/394 lb/ft of torque)
TRANSMISSION: Diesel – six-speed Aisin automatic; gas-powered – seven-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY: Titan half ton 15.2/11.1/13.4 litres/100 km (city/hwy/comb); XD models – n/a
CARGO BED: XD Crew Cab – 6.5 feet; half-ton Crew Cab – 5.5 feet
TOWING: XD Diesel – 12,037 lbs; XD Gas – 10,999 lbs; half-ton – 9,390 lbs
PAYLOAD: XD Diesel – 2,000 lbs; XD Gas – 2,523 lbs; half-ton – 1,610 lbs
PRICING: half-ton S $44,650; SV $48,150; PRO-4X $57,100; SL $62,050; Platinum Reserve $65,800; XD S (gas) $46,250; S (diesel) $53,400; SV (gas) $50,850; SV (diesel) $57,300; PRO-4X (gas) $59,800; PRO-4X (diesel) $64,950; SL (gas) $64,750; SL (diesel) $71,250; Platinum (gas) $68,500; Platinum (diesel) $74,900. Note that gas models are 2017; diesel models are 2016.

WEBSITE: Nissan.ca

But First, Coffee

9:35 am
But First, Coffee

Photos by Ali Matthews & Andaz Hotel.

Top coffee connoisseurs gathered at Feast + Revel in the recently opened Andaz Hotel for a Barista Invitational showcasing some of the top talent in Ottawa. Baristas from La Bottega, Origin Trade, Planet Coffee, Bar Robo and Feast + Revel faced off to win the title of top barista for their signature hot coffee drinks, signature cold coffee beverages, and best latte art creations.

img_7069The three judges sat front row to oversee all of the creative beverages. Sarah Jennings from the ByWard Market BIA was looking for a flavourful espresso, Chris Petrie from Equator Coffee gave the advice to try and “keep it simple” and Julia Weber from Bank Street BIA was keen to see how creative the latte creations could be.

Guests in attendance we treated to a wide array of sweets, including pumpkin spice squares, scones and even cookies that were shaped like coffee cups. It was a full house as event registration was booked up days in advance of the weekend event.

Local fashion bloggers Chantal Sarkisian, who is always on the hunt for creative and unique events to feature on her blog, saw the event as an ideal opportunity to see what the Feast + Revel pastry shop had to offer.

“I love Andaz’s local outreach and their efforts to feature the best Ottawa has to offer. They are creating an inviting space with delicious food that will help build a community and showcase local talent. But the main reason why I couldn’t miss out on this opportunity was to taste the delicious new sweets by Feast + Revel, and get a free cup of my favourite Ottawa roaster: Equator Coffee. That’s a no brainer!”


Food and beverage offerings at Andaz are handled by Executive Chef and Ottawa local Stephen La Salle, who was on site to oversee the friendly competition spoke with Ottawa Life.

Ottawa Life: Thanks for inviting Ottawa Life Magazine to your event! How did the idea of a friendly competition of baristas come about?

Stephen La Salle:  We we’re pretty stoked about having a team of baristas in Andaz Ottawa’s signature restaurant, Feast + Revel, our baristas have an amazing energy and were trying out new drinks for our menu so we wanted to give them a creative outlet. We reached out to our coffee roaster, Equator and got the ball rolling.  We just wanted to have some fun and promote coffee shops that we love and create a fun neighbourhood event that could also showcase our new restaurant.

img_7023Tell me why the judges chose Zachary Pantalone from La Bottega was the winner.

Zack had the most cumulative points in our 3 rounds! Equator Coffee came up with the scoring system for all three rounds, we wanted to see what kind of coffee drinks the baristas could come up with that showed off great coffee and great latte art so we had three rounds, a hot beverage, a cold beverage and latte art. Scores were tallied for all three rounds and Zach came out on top! Great latte art, a beautiful Turkish iced coffee for his cold beverage and pistachio infused latte for his hot.

The event registration was booked up days in advance of the event – Congrats! How is Andaz redefining the so-called ‘foodie culture’ and bringing it to forefront in Ottawa?

We’re not so much redefining it but celebrating it! Partnering with our local producers, artisans, suppliers, growers, artists and more is at the core of our ethos, it just made sense to us to celebrate Ottawa coffee culture and our neighbours! The ByWard Market boutique hotel is well known for its design-forward interiors reflecting Ottawa’s heritage, art pieces curated by the Canada Council Art Bank and locally sourced amenities.


Escape, Could You?

October 16, 2016 4:27 pm
Escape, Could You?


All photos by Andre Gagne.

“We’re definitely locked in,” Mahigan Giroux to the group of five others.

Though he was smiling the security cameras above weren’t needed to pick up what all of them felt after the door had slammed shut. You may tell yourself it’s only a game, but once locked inside what remains of the Bytown Asylum the chill of nervousness creeps up the spine and the insecurity of what comes next clutches your insides. Or maybe that’s just fear.


Suffice to say, this was not how the typical Ottawa Life staff member filled their lunch hour.

We had just been told that the room we were now sealed up in once belonged to the infamous Dr. Johnson, rediscovered by a construction crew still preserved in its eerie glory from where it was left condemned in the early 1900s. Strange experiments, it is said, once took place there.

escape-manor-10-of-16wConfirmation of this only takes one glance at the rusty instruments, left over x-rays and dried blood on the walls that surround you. Something wanted out of here once, it appears, and now we all felt the same desire to do nothing more but get the hell out of this place. The clock on the door ticked down the first minute reminding us that if we were to get out we only had 44 more left to do it in.


Welcome to Escape Manor, Ottawa’s first escape room attraction. It was created by a group of friends in the late summer of 2014 building off the puzzle and problem-solving room experiences that have only grown in popularity in North America  –and probably owe a little to the Saw film franchise. Founder and co-owner Steve Wilson says people’s enjoyment of being locked away, mystified and frightened is easier to figure out than one of the puzzle rooms.

“We are all gamers by nature. Having a physical environment within which to play out these exciting interactions and then an online forum within which to share the resulting excitement, is a perfect recipe for creating fun while satisfying a restless desire to competitively and creatively interact with like-minded folks,” Wilson tells Ottawa Life before our staff were locked away.


Standing there in the first minute, with a room full of potential puzzles, the thought that instantly crosses your mind is: Now what? You are armed with very little to work with at the outset and need to rely on what everybody can bring to the group, each other’s individual strengths, to your advantage as a form of strategy.

Or you can just do what we did and tear the place apart like a cyclonic collective of Dervishes until everything that wasn’t nailed down was placed helter-skelter on an operating table you wish you never actually really need to lay back on.

Ok, but what did it all mean?


Outside the room, the Escape Manor staff had all the answers we were seeking. Creating the rooms and puzzles, Wilson says, is a riot. His team of game masters gather together and try to think up new and fun ways to isolate people and drive them mad while playfully creeping them out. However, he assures, it’s all done fairly. Once themes are decided upon and the rooms are built they are tested thoroughly by staff. Each clue does lead to something and each room can be fully escaped in the allotted time and while the room is designed to lead players down one particular path, some people have chosen to go down it in pretty bizarre ways.

“We used to have a room called Prison Break where you were physically locked into a cell. You needed to actually reach something from inside the cell that was outside the bars. One time we were monitoring the room and we saw someone holding something, reaching out of the bars, that we didn’t know what it was,” says Escape Manor’s General Manager Miranda Jones, still perplexed by what she had seen that night.

Oddly, and with a bit of genius, this player had achieved the extra reach by removing his prosthetic arm. Both Jones and Wilson agree that this was the strangest of things to occur in one of the rooms. To date, they have had nine wedding proposals take place inside an escape room, have locked up The Mayor’s Special Police Forces, had a couple of the Sens try an escape before hitting the ice and at least two filmed rock videos.


“The entire experience is an emotional roller-coaster,” says Wilson. “From the anticipation of booking and arrival, to the fear of the unknown, to the frustration of a puzzle, excitement of a solve, frustration again when another lock appears and the adulation of solving a mystery. Win, lose, or draw, our guests leave exhilarated. We are often the water-cooler chat for weeks to come after a daring escape!”

escape-manor-11-of-16wMeanwhile, for us Ottawa Life staff, our time was ticking down and if we didn’t hurry we’d find our water-cooler talk –if we had a water-cooler– would peak with wondering what the strange array of items were for on a cold, steel operating table. Our daring escape needed a push in the right direction. We decided to split up –as much as being locked in a small room can allow– to cover more ground. Hey, it worked on Scooby-Doo!

escape-manor-15-of-16wStaff writer Danika Leminski tried one lock while our interns Mahigan and Melanye searched through the paperwork and tapped on walls. Could there be some kind of passageway here leading elsewhere? Surely, we thought, there must be more. Our Director of Operations, Isabel Payne, expressed what we all felt: whatever we needed had to be looking us right in the face. We just needed to put it together and we now only had 20 minutes left to connect a whole lot of dots.

Staff relish at least a little bit in watching people try to figure it all out but they are always at the ready with a clue or to rush in case things get a little out of hand. Sometimes a guest finds themselves a bit to freaked out to continue. Outside of a few unwanted scares, generally things for the staff on the other side of the doors are just as fun as it is for those locked behind them.

“There’s a lot of monitoring. We want to make sure everything is running smoothly in the group, see if anything is not working the way it’s supposed to be, if any other issues come up along the way,” Jones says adding that the second most important aspect of the staff’s job is giving out clues to help players along once they get stuck. “That’s a fun part for us!”


It had come to the point where our group needed a little helpful prodding. We had15 minutes to go and, after our clue, things started to click. We started working in tandem now to move to the next objective. Hearts were racing and a few elated cheers burst out when a lock opened or something new was discovered.

“Oh my God! What is that?” gasped Melayne, pointing towards something in the shadows.

Outside the door, surprised screams could be heard from the other rooms where other players were facing their own shadowy mysteries. Escape Manor has quickly grown since their first two rooms a few years ago. Now they have three locations and eight different theme rooms to choose from.  Along with the Asylum, there’s The Darkness where a pact with the devil may await, The Tomb in which players try to avoid the Pharaoh’s curse and the new Outlaw Saloon where you just might run into one of the most feared outlaws in the old West. Escape Manor has also joined up with the Diefenbunker for a Cold War themed espionage escape.

“We never thought we would be where we are today this rapidly. We are very thankful for the support of our friends, family, and communities and for the loving embrace they have given Escape Manor,” says Wilson, proud of the 5-Star ratings they’ve achieved and to be ranked among one of the top activities in the city.

“We receive dozens of letters from corporations having loved their team-building sessions, tourists having had an escape make their stay, and locals thrilled with a fun day or night out with friends. Giving folks a great experience and putting smiles on as many faces as humanly possible is why we all got into this business and we are thrilled with the results so far!”

escape-manor-6-of-16wOur own thrills continued for us right down to the final minute where, one clue away from a hopeful escape, we frantically tried to figure out the last puzzle as our seconds ticked away to an eventual still locked door.

“It’s pretty intense,” said Mahigan afterward. “You have to think a lot but, at the same time, there’s a lot of teamwork involved. You really have to pay attention to details.”

“I really like the atmosphere. They did such a great job with props and everything there. You really had to keep your eyes open,” said Danika.

Despite our group not escaping, the experience of Escape Manor is really all about that creepy, brain teasing journey and not the unlocked destination. When it’s over you really feel you haven’t seen 45 minutes fly by, your adrenalin is flowing and your brain is working in overdrive. It’s all a very intense, exciting rush no matter what the result.

Wilson and his team only hope to offer that excitement to others as the company grows. Along with a new location in Regina, they have a working partnership in The Cayman Islands, look to expand more into the United States as well as open a new location in Australia this winter.

“We love what we do and have a great recipe with our partnership,” says Wilson. “We intended to continue creating fun and amazing experiences for anyone willing to play with us!”

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