Articles by Keith Tripp

Bad Air BNB guests: Raccoons

DSCF0475If there has been raccoon activity in an attic, there are two parts to the remediation. Firstly the animals should be removed by professional wildlife control people, and entrance holes should be covered.

Part two is to check for contamination and damage within the attic. Raccoons will set up bathrooms, often directly on top of the attic hatch as shown in the photo.  Raccoon feces can be dangerous stuff, so caution is required for anyone entering the attic.

Raccoons are strong animals that can tear through vapour barrier and cladding materials inside the attic. If bathrooms have been established on drywall where there is no polyethylene vapour barrier, that drywall may have to be replaced. Raccoons have a preference for sheltered locations for their bathrooms, such as lowered ceilings above bathroom showers and baths, and the attic hatch.

Their travels through the attic will compress and displace insulation, so insulation will have to be redone. Often the entire attic area has compressed insulation.

Raccoon activity in a lowered ceiling over a bath area.

Raccoon activity in a lowered ceiling over a bath area.

Raccoon bathroom in an attic.

Raccoon bathroom in an attic.

 

 

Prince George Pressure Cooker: Breaking basic TPR valve rules.

by Keith Tripp, November 2017.

Termination of TPR valve is not visible.

Termination of TPR discharge pipe is not visible.

The universal rule of temperature and pressure relief valves is that the output from that valve must not be restricted in any way, including installation of smaller diameter fittings or pipe. The discharge end of any pipe attached to the valve should not be concealed and ideally will be about six inches above ground. This provides a reasonably safe location for discharge, but also gives the opportunity to see if there is any slow leakage occurring from the valve. Valves are BTU/HR rated and this rating is partly based on the discharge diameter of the valve

The requirements at this rental property in Prince George, BC are no different than here in toasty Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Two strikes against this installation are the reduction in diameter by installing a reducing fitting, and that the termination of the tube is not visible, it is hidden in the floor drain. If you prefer three strikes, try and ID the water shut-off valve. Is it that yellow handle on the wall, maybe? FYI that extra device on the cold supply to the heater is a pressure actuated primer, feeding the floor drain.

 

Fitting and pipe installed at the TPR valve reduce the diameter.

Fitting and pipe installed at the TPR valve reduce the diameter.

 

In the unlikely event that the valve needs to discharge, restriction of flow may hamper the valve’s ability to do its job and relieve an over pressure situation. Water heaters can blow up and knock out walls and ceilings, and kill people. It’s never a good idea to kill the tenants so don’t mess with the temperature & pressure relief.

The Oakville Trifecta (new construction issues).

by Keith Tripp November, 2017

Fishing for defects can be hard work, especially on “warranty” ( 30 day or 1 year)  inspections of new homes where recent 2012 code changes have increased attention to detail and overall quality of the home building. I sometimes struggle to find more than 20 defects on these new homes.

So, I really appreciate when builders make my life easier by handing me the same three defects as I go house to house . I can find these defects quickly and leave the issue in my report template and save time on report writing.

Here are three recent winners that I can bet on finding, courtesy of  the “Preserve” area of Oakville, (North-East corner of Dundas and Neyagawa), Ontario, Canada.

FIRST PLACE: Recirculation loop connects to cold water infeed at water heater.

FIRST PLACE: Recirculation loop connects to cold water infeed at water heater without a check valve.

SECOND PLACE: A perforated basin will not hold water.

SECOND PLACE: A perforated basin will not hold water.

THIRD PLACE: DWHR connected only to cold infeed at mixing valve.

THIRD PLACE: DWHR connected only to cold infeed at mixing valve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Place:  No check valve after hot water recirculation pump. Without the check valve, the recirculation pump will drive hot water in to the cold lines, eventually turning all the house water to hot. Interesting that the builders are leaving the pumps turned off, and not even telling the buyers that they have recirculation systems.

Second Place:  Perforated sump basins used for foundation drainage. This is a classic case of using the wrong tool for the job. In a foundation drainage application, where the purpose of the sump is to act as a reservoir for water from the foundation drainage pipe (weeping tile), and to safely store it close to the footing until it can be pumped away, a solid sump basin is required.  In the photo I am running water in to the perforated basin to test it. Surprise, surprise the water just kept escaping through the holes. Perforated basins are for collecting water from wet areas, not for storing water in dry areas.

Third Place: Drain Waste Heat Recovery output connected directly to the cold side of the thermostatic mixing valve. This contravenes manufacturers installation instructions and will greatly reduce any savings from the DWHR. Full output water flow (to approximate the drain flow volume) is required to realize the design savings, so that means connecting the output to the cold-water lines. Flow at the mixing valve is much less than full flow, and could even be zero depending on temperature of water in the water heater.

I find the DWHR issue and perforated sump basins in other jurisdictions also. If you want to check for any of these issues in your new house, feel free to contact me.

Attic Mould: Watch the buyers run!

By Keith Tripp, November, 2017.

comp1 articleHigh prices and  bidding wars can trivialize the cost of common and predictable repairs such as roof replacements, window replacements, HVAC replacements,  and grading. There are however, some issues that will send buyers running even at the best of times, and attic mould is a #1 “runner”.

Attic mould can be fixed for a price, but many buyers do not want to go through the ordeal of identifying the cause and getting the remedial work done, and they  don’t want to live in a house that may be harmful to their health.

I’ve always done full attic inspections, so I’ve been in hundreds of mouldy attics, and I’ve been in hundreds of squeaky-clean old attics that look as good as the day they were built. I challenge myself at inspections by guessing if the attic is mouldy even before I go in. I know the contributors and I know the smell. Sometimes I can smell the mould when I’m on my ladder at the edge of the roof. Who needs a mould dog?

What is mould and how much is a problem?   There are many types of mould and fungus and it requires an expert and laboratory work to identify them and assess the risk by type. This is not something that a home inspector does.

Mould is everywhere, so when I refer to mould in an attic what I mean is:  Visible deposits of mould in locations consistent with warm air leakage from the house condensing on the cold roof deck. Chronic attic mould is typically dark green to black in colour. I will often see small amounts of mould on the rafters, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

The old school of thought for home inspectors is that we are not supposed to use the word mould, and should pretend we can’t identify mould. They used to teach us to say: “black mould-like substance”. The problem with that school of thought is that I’ve known what mould was since I was about 8 years old. The expectation as per CMHC writings is that a homeowner should be able to identify mould. So much for the old crotchety home inspector school of thought. Good riddance to that!

comp3 articlecomp2 articleFor report writing purposes, if it’s green or black and fuzzy looking I call it mould. If it’s white or brown and stringy or mushroom-like I call it fungus. I never use the term mildew.  Any level of detailed identification beyond that I leave up to the experts.

Health hazard and other risks?  The purpose of the roof is to protect the house, and not to act as a garden for mould growth, so any visible concentrated mould growth DOES represent a defect that should be reported. It can not be classed as part of the charm of the neighbourhood or the “norm” for a certain age of house.  In theory, the attic is a separate air space from the house. In the perfect attic, there will be no mould problems. Once mould is found in an attic, it is an indicator that there is air movement between the heated areas of the house and the attic.

If air can get in to the attic from the house, which is the typical cold weather and heating season scenario, then air can also move in the other direction in different weather conditions. Mould odours and perhaps contaminated air can move in to the house from the attic, and yes, this MAY pose a health hazard. Attic air in general is not pleasant stuff. There can be fibres  and odours from insulation, animal feces, and general dust and dirt.

Plywood and OSB  are common roof sheathing materials. Both are hardy material, but the mould and fungus growth MAY eventually cause deterioration. With heavy growth, moisture and mould will spread to the rafters, and this wood can also be damaged. Wood deterioration occurs slowly and is not usually the main concern with attic mould.

comp4 articleAttic mould growth is caused by Old Man Winter. Canada is classed as a cold climate in building science terms. Even here in toasty Toronto, that means our primary concern is keeping our homes warm, without trapping moisture in places where it can do harm. I can find mouldy attics at any time of year, but that mould is only flourishing when it has moisture to feed on, which is generated in cold weather. Cold is a relative term. “Cold” means the interior roof surface is colder then the dew point of the air coming in to contact with it.

In cold weather, warm air condenses on cold roof sheathing. The sheathing is supposed to be cold. The whole attic space above the insulated ceiling is supposed to approximate the outdoor temperature both winter and summer.  The warm air is not supposed to be floating up to the cold roof sheathing. The bad guy in the attic condensation situation is the warm air leakage in to the attic. Because the air is warm, it can hold moisture. Ongoing moisture accumulation can result in mould and fungus growth.

The challenge with resolving attic mould is identifying the sources of air leakage. One big culprit is leakage through the exterior walls, sometimes originating from the basement. Pot light installations, bathroom fan installations, leakage around attic hatches, leakage through interior walls, and defects in original construction can all allow excessive air leakage in to the attic space.

 

comp5 articleContact of warm air with the roof deck is exacerbated by low slope roof designs and poor attic ventilation. Excessive insulation can decrease roof deck temperature, increasing the risk of condensation. Attic mould is mostly found in houses from the late 50s, through the 60s and seventies and in to the 80s. But there are many variables at play, and many exceptions. Most of the worst cases of attic mould I have found are houses built in the 1960s.

Cold weather is a great time to stick your head up in to the attic space and see winter wonders at work. Get a safe ladder, don a dust mask, check your compass, and remove the attic hatch. Stay on the ladder and look around. Don’t go in to the attic unless you know what you’re doing. Mould growth is most likely to be on the North and East slopes, because they get the least amount of sun. It is most likely to be at the lower part of the roof, because of air leakage upwards through the exterior walls. You may see condensation or frost glistening on the surface.

Not a slippery slope is not good. (new construction, Oakville)

Oakville: Shingles installed on a roof that is too flat.

Oakville, Ontario: Shingles installed on a roof that is too flat.

Shingles are a highly reliable product used on most of the residential roofs in the Greater Toronto Area. There are limitations however, and one of those is that shingles are intended for sloped roofs, not flat.

Shingles have gaps between the sections, and they rely on overlapping layers to create a water-resistant barrier. They work because water can’t run uphill. If water is going to run uphill, such as in an ice dam scenario, then underlayments at those locations are required to prevent leakage.

Flat and sloped are terms used in roofing that can be open to interpretation, but the minimum slope for shingles is specified in codes and manufacturers’ instructions.

The minimum slope for shingle use is 1:6 (rise over run) which is the same as 2:12, expressed in the OBC as 1 in 6. Shingles installed between 1 in 3 and 1 in 6 require special installation methods, including increased overlap.

Shingles are not recommended at all for less than 1 in 6.  The photo shows shingles installed on a 1.5:12 slope, which is less than the 2:12 minimum recommended. New construction at the N-E corner of Trafalgar/Dundas in Oakville, Ontario, Canada.

Trap Primer: Friend or Foe?

A 1960's style floor drain with a copper trap primer tube supplying water to the trap seal.

A 1960’s style floor drain with a copper trap primer tube supplying water to the trap seal.

Trap Primer: Friend or Foe?

by Keith Tripp,  August 2017

In this land of milk and honey we have the best and cheapest water supplies anywhere in the world. But times are a-changing, and water costs are increasing in leaps and bounds. In this article, I explain a small device that can be the source of huge water wastage.

Officially called a trap seal primer, the purpose of this device is to maintain water level in the trap seal at the floor drain in the basement or any other drain that is not connected to a fixture. From here on in I‘ll just call it a primer.  The most common primers are serving floor drains in the basement. The purpose of the trap seal is to create a barrier between the house air that we breath, and the nasty (The bad nasty not the good nasty) air of the sewer pipes on the other side of the trap. Sewer gasses are hazardous to human health and since the early days of plumbing, trap seals have been employed in the drain systems to prevent exposure to sewer gasses. Failure of primer systems can result in sewer gasses entering the house, or in extreme waste of water.

All fixtures such as sinks and baths have traps installed in the drain just below the fixture. These traps receive water each time the fixture drain is used, so they are not at risk of drying out as long as the fixture is used at least once in a while. Toilets have built in traps so there is no trap installed in the drain pipe from a toilet. The water you see in the toilet bowl is acting as the trap seal. Floor drains do not receive water on a regular basis, so they are at risk of drying out.

A traditional style laundry faucet with primer tube attached to the faucet body.

A traditional style laundry faucet with primer tube attached to the faucet body.

The most common water source for the primer system is the laundry tub faucet. At the underside of the traditional laundry faucet body is a fitting to which a tube can be attached.  See photo. Whenever the valves, hot or cold, are opened, water flowing in the body of the faucet runs through the primer tube. On older houses (60s and 70s) the tube was copper and is routed  through the cement floor slab and enters the floor drain pipe through the side of the vertical drain, just above the trap seal water level.  On newer houses, the tube is plastic and is routed through a larger plastic conduit that runs through the concrete floor slab to the drain. If there are multiple floor drains the tubes may be split to flow to all the floor drains. This type of direct flow primer system has been installed in original construction since about the early 1960s.

What can go wrong? Too much water! The only thing worse than a primer that doesn’t work is one that works all the time!  Failure of primer systems can result in a continuous flow of water to the drain, often going undetected. This can be hot water, which means energy as well as water are wasted. Worn washers or washer seats, or a partly open valve at the laundry faucet can result in water flowing continuously through the primer tube, often without detection. If water is leaking past the washers in the faucet, it will take the path of least resistance. Based on location, that path is the trap primer tube connected to the underside of the faucet body. The leakage can occur through either the hot or the cold side or both. The faucet won’t drip, so this condition will often go undetected. Sometimes a slight gurgling noise can be heard, as air is drawn in to the faucet to replace water that escapes through the faucet body to the floor drain. If hot water is leaking through, over time the concrete floor slab may get warmed up by this. Substantial amounts of water can be lost this way resulting in HUGE water bills and water heating bills.

What can go wrong? Not enough water! If the primer fails to provide water to the trap, the trap seal water in the drain may evaporate, resulting in an open trap and sewer gasses will enter the house. This is most common at drains supplied from a split tube where the flow really is not adequate to service more than one floor drain. Tubing or conduit could be damaged or poorly routed and preventing flow of the water to the trap. Strangely enough, the dried-out trap does not always emit an offensive odour to warn of what has happened. The extent of odour depends on where the drain is located relative to the rest of the sewer drains, and air flow through the house. I have however, walked in to cold rooms with dried out drain traps where the odour could knock you off your feet. This is relatively common in new construction where builders have failed to commission the primer system.  (note: not all cold rooms have floor drains.)

To test the primer, simply operate the fixture it is attached to, such as running the laundry tub water, and water should be visible or audible flowing in to the floor drain just below floor level and above the trap seal water.

The white tube is a primer tube, split to serve two floor drains.

The white tube is a primer tube, split to serve two floor drains.

If there is no laundry tub, or if the laundry faucet is not a traditional laundry faucet then it is important to confirm presence of a trap primer system. Sometimes its hard to find them. In a new house, ask the builder to identify the primer location if you can’t find it. Primer tubes of the direct flow type described above can also be connected to toilet flush systems, and to shower-head supply pipes, but this is less common.

There are primer devices that are actuated by a pressure drop. These are used when a traditional laundry faucet is not available at a reasonable distance from the drain. They can be installed on any water line and will direct a flow of water to the drain when pressure drops because of water usage on that line.

There are primer substitute devices that don’t require water flow. These are sometimes used in laundry room floor drains in new construction. Look down the drain. If the opening is blocked with a rubber diaphragm this is probably a trap sealing device. Don’t confuse this with a device that may be installed in a basement floor drain to prevent backflow.

If the primer doesn’t work, repair accordingly. In the short term, pour a few buckets of water down the drain every month or so to maintain water level in the trap.

Related Tips

Baby clothes washers? Recently I came across clients who had installed “baby clothes” washers in their laundry rooms. These are small washing machines that require the water hose to be connected to a faucet. The washing machine has a solenoid valve that controls flow of water in to the machine, so it is not necessary to shut off the water at the faucet.  The washer supply hoses were attached to the threaded laundry faucet spout, and the laundry faucet taps were in the open position. With this arrangement water was flowing full time through the primer tube to the floor drain even though no water was flowing to the washing machine.

Installing a new laundry faucet? Only the basic laundry tub faucets have the primer connection. If installing a kitchen style faucet at a laundry sink, a different primer system will be required.

Leaving a house vacant for more than a few weeks? A primer is only effective if water is run on the pipes or faucet that will trigger the primer action.  If a house is vacant, no primer water will be flowing. If a house is vacant, or a laundry faucet it not regularly used, then it’s a good idea to run water every few weeks for all fixtures including those that do not have primers.

Questions about trap primers or home inspections? Email to Keith Tripp ,  ktripp@rogers.com

 

Home Inspector Licensing

ROOF WITH LICENCE PLATES

by Keith Tripp. May 2017

Home Inspection in Ontario is not a licensed profession.

For a few years in Ontario there has been a movement toward licensing for home inspectors.

Currently there are several voluntary professional associations in Ontario that a home inspector may be a member of.  The Ontario Association of Home Inspectors (OAHI) is the only “government endorsed” association and was supported by provincial legislation in 1994 which gave OAHI the right to use the Registered Home Inspector designation. (Ontario Association of Home Inspectors Act, 1994, being chapter Pr65)

Despite the valiant efforts of volunteer members over the years, OAHI never became large enough or wealthy enough to fully promote their members to the real estate world and the public. Membership that typically has been less than 500 inspectors and trainees simply hasn’t generated enough revenue or capability for the organization to advertise beyond word of mouth. OAHI members go through mandatory training programs that I can vouch for as being excellent, and the benefits of conferences and meetings among the members make a strong resource for an inspector. An OAHI member inspector represents at least a basic standard of a good inspector. OAHI is a not for profit corporation that does not receive any government support either financial or publicity or administrative assistance.  If the Home Inspection Act 2017 goes through (it is not in force yet and may never be), OAHI will continue to exist but the provincial bill that supports the RHI designation will be repealed.

Many inspectors operate (nobody knows the real numbers) in Ontario without being a member of any legitimate association.  But lack of training or association membership is not the real root of the problem. With Ontario’s system of real estate, where all real estate salespeople are obliged through their agency agreement to get the best deal for the sellers, there is little motivation for real estate salespeople to seek a qualified and diligent inspector. Unscrupulous inspectors, including those who are well trained and members of professional associations, have been able to prosper by keeping real estate salespeople happy, getting referral business from them, and doing inadequate inspections and reports.

Misconceptions about the scope of home inspections have also fueled discontent. The most common constraint is that the inspection is visual only. At the time of a typical “conditional offer” inspection, the house is still owned by the seller, so the inspector can’t pull anything apart or cause damage. Based on what is visible, the inspector must assess the risk of what might lie behind walls and other surfaces, and write a report that conveys this. In the fantasy world of TV, inspectors are cast in a bad light where they didn’t reveal issues that are behind walls and under floors. TV heroes flex their biceps and pull apart the house and fix everything that the evil inspector missed, bringing tears of joy to the eyes of the homeowners.

In this environment of real estate salespeople supporting sellers, and buyers beware, real unscrupulous inspectors, and TV heroes casting false hopes, it’s no surprise there have been some unhappy customers. The provincial government threw home inspectors into the pot with pay-day loan operators and door to door sales crooks and created a bill called:  Bill 59 Putting Consumers First Act. This received Royal Assent April 13, 2017 and paves the way for the Home Inspection Act 2017.

I say “threw into the pot” because there was always the option of the government modifying the existing bill, supporting OAHI, and making the RHI designation mandatory. There was no effort from the provincial government to support and improve the existing structure.

Key Points of Home Inspector Licensing

Disclaimer: (All the following are based on my layman’s interpretation of the Act and related processes. It is a wordy and complicated document. If you’re a legal-eagle and can see that I have got it wrong, let us know.)

  • The short title of this Act is the Putting Consumers First Act (Consumer Protection Statute Law Amendment), 2017. See the act and other info at: http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_detail.do?locale=en&BillID=4333&detailPage=bills_detail_status
  • The Bill enacts a new Act, the Home Inspection Act, 2017, see: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/17h05
  • The bill received Royal Assent on April 13, 2017 however mandatory licencing is not in place until proclamation. For the time being it is business as usual. (the Act set out in this Schedule comes into force on a day to be named by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor.)
  • Next Provincial election is June 7, 2018. The new act may not receive proclamation before that date, so everything related to enactment is an IF, not a given.
  • An administrative authority must be formed before licencing can commence. This will probably be a lengthy process. Timing is unknown. I have requested further info from my local MPP Mitzie Hunter but haven’t heard back yet. Safe to say this administrative authority will not be in place before the next provincial election on June 7, 2018. I imagine this new body will be similar to the TSSA, but on a much smaller scale.
  • The Act is VERY detailed, especially when compared to the legislation that exists for BC and Alberta. Regulations, the next level of detail believe it or not, still need to be written. Presumably the administrative authority will write these regulations, and they will have to be written before proclamation.
  • Upon commencement of the Home Inspection Act, pr95 will be repealed and the title of Registered Home Inspector will become meaningless. The OAHI will continue to exist as a corporation with the same “objects” after implementation of the new bill
  • Small corporations (like me) will require two licences. One for the company as a provider, and one for the inspector. Only a sole proprietor can function with one licence.
  • Details of contract and reporting requirements are included in the Act. Insurance coverage will have to be written in to the contract.
  • Professional Engineers and Architects are completely exempt from the licensing requirement.
  • Nobody really knows how many home inspectors there are in Ontario. Financial support for the Administrative Authority is a big question mark. Will there be enough revenue from licensing to support this governing body? Who will provide the initial funding to get the administrative authority formed before any licensing revenue is available?
  • Under the broad wording of the Act, tradesmen such as plumbers, electricians, roofers, and renovators and even real estate salespeople may find themselves in contravention of the act in their normal course of business when they are “providing an opinion as to the condition of a dwelling or residential property based on a non-invasive evaluation of any of the features and components of the dwelling or property”. Common sense dictates, we hope, that wording in the regulations will exempt them from the licensing requirement.

 

No Chocolates for Scarborough

House Shopping: Talk to the Neighbours

DSCF4094

Neighbours can be a great source of information when you are house shopping. If possible, talk to the neighbours and ask about issues specific to that area such as flood risk and sewer problems and about the schools and parks. They may also tell you about comings and goings at the house, how long the previous owners lived there, approximate dates of significant additions and modifications, and if they were glad to see the old neighbours leave.

Look over the neighbouring properties to see what impact they could have on your property in terms of possible fencing issues, easements, pedestrian traffic, large trees, grading and surface water etc. and add your concerns to the list of questions for your lawyer.  Try and walk around the neighbourhood to see if you feel comfortable and like what you see.

The monument in the picture is for the Secor family in Scarborough. It occupies a lot between two houses on a residential street. The lot forms the entrance to Secor Memorial Park. The park address is on Markham Rd, however the sign in the picture fronts on to Stevenwood Rd. which is at the top of the valley overlooking the creek where the Secors once owned a mill.  If you could speak to the Secors, they could tell you a long history of Scarborough going back to the early 1800s when Isaac Secor settled here, but not much about the houses that were built adjacent to the memorial in the mid to late 1950s.

Per A History of Scarborough, edited by Robert R. Bonis, 1968, the Scarborough Secors are descendants of Ambroise De Secor who came from France to New York State in the 1600s. “While one branch of this old Huguenot family established itself in the Niagara peninsula and won fame through the legendary Laura Secord, Isaac Secor eventually settled in Scarborough.”

DSCF4096DSCF4097DSCF4098

So, all the historical fame went to the Niagara branch of the family despite the hard work of the Scarborough Secors. Laura Secord is a chocolate company that was established in 1913 using the story of Laura Secord’s heroics in the war of 1812 as a marketing platform. On the monument, you can see that Major Joseph Secor of Scarborough also served under General Brock in the war of 1812.Peter Secor was the first postmaster of Scarborough in 1832 and first Reeve of Scarborough in 1850.

 

Pioneer life was no box of chocolates. You knew it would be rough and tough and short-lived. These pioneers basically lived off the land and had to take breaks occasionally to fight wars. It’s surprising to see on the monument that many of the Secors lived in to their 70s and 80s.

The Secors would make good quiet neighbours.

By Keith Tripp, 2017

 

There’s a Hole in my bucket, Dear Liza, Dear Liza

by Keith Tripp October, 2016

So, what really happens if the sump pump system fails? In most cases, water will back up in the foundation drainage pipes where it may lead to leakage or seepage around the base of the foundation wall. It may also result in higher water levels under the concrete floor slab, that can show up in undesirable locations such as the access box for the backwater valve. The basement usually won’t flood, but this depends on where the water is coming from.

268 princess sept 27 2016I often find sump systems that have been out of service, sometimes for years, and the basin is full of water up to the infeed pipe level.

One risk of a failed sump pump or float system is that water may escape to the underside of the slab through holes in the side of the basin. In new construction for the last few years, most builders are installing low cost plastic corrugated sump basins. The infeed pipe to the basin enters through a holecut-out in the side of the basin. The junction of the infeed pipe to the basin is not sealed. To the contrary, there is often a substantial gap around the pipe where you can see the gravel.

In the attached photo, showing a typical builder installed basin, there is water flowing from beneath the slab, back in to the basin. This photo was taken after triggering the start of a sump pump that had a stuck float, so at the onset of the inspection the water level in the basin was above the cut-out in the side of the basin.

As soon as I touched the basin lid, the pump started and the water level dropped. So, when the pump was not working, water was flowing in to the basin, up to the hole in the side of the basin, and then out of the basin and to the underside of the slab.  Not a desirable situation. Even though there may be some naturally occurring water under the slab, the sump is collecting a large volume of water from around the house, and concentrating it to the area around the sump basin. Risk is even greater if the sump is collecting water from a basement walkout drain, which was the case with the sump in the photo. It’s really not a good idea to send a concentrated flow of water close to structural footings for foundation columns or walls.

So what’s the solution? Options include: a) make sure the pump and float system are working properly so water never rises to the cut-out in the basin b) Install a better quality basin with sealed infeed pipes and an airtight lid.

Go with the Flow, avoid the Pressure

3 palisades july 2 2016 hi pressure paul peng

One potential drawback with old houses is effectiveness of the water supply.  In the good old days houses typically had fewer bathrooms, and the requirement for water supply to the house was less.  Old houses tend to have smaller water supply pipes to the house from the City main. In the GTA, 1950s and earlier supply pipes tend to be ½ inch size. In the sixties and seventies, they bumped up to 5/8, and by the 1980s, ¾ inch copper was the most common size. Today even larger supply pipes are used. There was a lot of overlap in the phase-ins so this is rough information only. Some municipalities use larger supply pipe (you lucky folks in Newmarket) presumably to compensate for a lower pressure supply

Recent codes list minimum and maximum water pressures and also describe effective flow requirements at fixtures.  The water pressure range is 30 psi (200kPA) minimum and 80 psi (550kPA) maximum. Pressure less than 50 psi typically is going to give unsatisfactory performance for modern day living. 30 psi would be basically useless.  Anything over 80 psi poses risk of damaging fixtures and connections. Connecting a pressure gauge at the exterior hose outlets or laundry tub faucet or washing machine hose connection will provide an indication of water pressure.

Pressure is interesting to know, but pressure and pipe size work hand in hand so what really counts is flow rate at the point of use. City of Toronto uses 7 L/ min after the meter as a minimum acceptable level.   http://www.toronto.ca/311/knowledgebase/16/101000049116.html . Effective flow within the house will be less than at the meter, and will be impacted by length of piping, number of bends and connections, and height that water must rise to the fixtures.

For poor flow rates, options include upgrading the supply line to the house, or the use of booster pumps within the house. Both are costly options, so when buying an older house, find out if the water supply pipe has been upgraded. Sometimes streamlining of the plumbing within the house can improve flow. For high pressure, (such as in Oakville close to the pumping stations) the installation of a pressure reducing valve is required to maintain pressure below 80 psi.

by Keith Tripp 2016