Preventative Maintenance is Key

You may think your winter blues will go away after the sun melts off all the snow, but homeowners may find their problems are about to get bigger.

The water runoff can seep through all of those cracks nature caused last summer during the drought. That water may find cracks in basement walls and leave many basements flooded.

“Do not put it off. It will not repair itself,” “It will get worse. It won’t go away.”

Here are some tips to keep foundation problems at bay:

  • Make sure gutters are clear of debris so water can drain through a downspout
  • Make sure downspouts drain at least 10 feet away from the house
  • Make sure sump pump drains at least 10 feet away from the house
  • Get a professional to install underground pipes to drain water away from the house
  • Have a foundation repair specialist come and repairs all cracks
  • Move trees at least 15 feet away from the house

The problem with trees

There are many advantages to having a tree on your property. It adds visual appeal, can increase the value of your home, provide much needed shading in the hot summer months, even savings in your home cooling bills in the summer due to that shading, but did you know that these gorgeous trees can also cause problems to your foundation?

While tree roots may not seem dangerous, they can put incredible pressure on the foundation of your home, causing cracks or movement. For these reasons, you want to be sure to watch the growth of existing trees and pay attention to new tree planting around your home. The roots from very large trees that have been planted too close to your home can push up against the foundation and cause problems such as:

  • During times when there is not a lot of moisture/rain, roots can deplete the soil moisture under the foundation which can cause the home to settle unevenly due to dry and unstable soil.
  • Cracks in your foundation
  • As tree roots increase in diameter, they wedge themselves between the basement wall and the surrounding soil, creating more pressure with each passing year. The pressure they can exert, especially in conjunction with the expansion and contraction of frost heave, can crack basement walls.

Planting new trees? Here are some steps you can take to avoid future foundation problems:

  • Research the type of tree you plan on planting. Some trees are safer than others. Some have very complex root systems. Be sure that you ask questions before purchasing your tree.
  • Roots can travel very far and can grow very large (sometimes 3 times the height of the tree!), so be sure that the tree is planted far from your foundation. Again, it is best to consult with an expert before planting.
  • If the tree on your property is an existing tree, make sure that you keep it pruned. This will keep it at a safe height and keep its root system under control.

Problems with your foundations and tree roots is something that is 100% avoidable. By planting your tree mindfully, and keeping a watchful eye on existing trees, you can keep your foundation in tip-top condition and the value of your home intact.

“Due Diligence” Inspect Your Foundation

Proper care of your foundation is very important in preserving the integrity of the structure.  Soils have the ability to expand (when wet) at alarming rates.  This requires that an even and relatively constant level of moisture be maintained in the soil supporting the foundation.   Defects in foundations occur when the supporting soil is too wet or too dry or when one area around the foundation is overly wet, while other areas remain dry.  Improper foundation maintenance can result in severe movement in just a few days.  This is true regardless of the type or age of the foundation.  To avoid additional problems, you must avoid non-uniform moisture content in the soil supporting the foundation.  Non-uniform moisture content can be caused by any of the following:

  • Improper drainage
  • Allowing the soil to become dry
  • Excess watering near the foundation
  • Plumbing leaks
  • An improper watering program
  • Neglect
  • Runoff water not properly diverted away from the foundation/eavestroughing
  • Improper grading of soil away from the foundation
  • Trees and large bushes growing too close to the foundation
  • Improper interior sealing of the foundation

CFRA Ask the experts

Patrick LeCours will be on CFRA Ask the Experts April 16th @ 2:00.  Please call in with any foundation questions you may have. 613-521-talk(8255)

Ottawa Home and Garden Show

Please come visit us at the Home Show March 24th to 27th. Booth # 2118

Patrick LeCours, the foundation Expert will be there to answer any foundation questions you may have.

Home reno black market expected to boom

Aldergrove B.C. StarJuly 13, 2010

Construction industry insiders say the Harmonized Sales Tax is likely already driving more of the home repair and renovation business underground, fuelling an increase in under-regulated and potentially dangerous workmanship.

Business ads have already popped up on Craigslist promising ways to skirt the 12-per-cent HST.

Port Coquitlam-based renovator Jeff Bain, of JKB Construction Ltd., said he’s already had one big project put on hold because of a customer’s reluctance to pay HST.

“There’s a good portion of the population that isn’t educated on the pitfalls who are going to go in that direction,” he said of the black market. GST previously applied on construction work, but the HST gave cash-only operators another seven-per-cent advantage over legitimate contractors as of July 1.  Bain said his illicit competitors typically don’t take out city business licences or building permits, pay Work Safe BC insurance premiums or pay income tax on their cash deals– adding up to a big cost differential.

“It’s hardly a fair playing field when somebody can undercut you 40 per cent or better,”he said.

Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association president and CEO Peter Simpson warns customers run multiple risks if they hire under-the-table operators. Besides the potential to get ripped off – it’s hard to sue someone if there’s no writtencontract – a renovation done without permits or inspections leaves no protectionagainst shoddy electrical work, for example.”They’re putting themselves at tremendous risk if things go dreadfully wrong,”Simpson said.

A cheap deal can backfire years later.

Unpermitted renovations can come to light when a homeowner tries to sell or have new work done – at which point city inspectors can order walls ripped up to prove a past renovation or addition was done safely.

A less obvious danger is liability, Simpson said, noting that if there is no written agreement, the homeowner is deemed to be the contractor and legally responsible for things like worker safety.

He points to the case of an Ontario couple who hired two men to refinish their hardwood floors.

It was the dead of winter and the duo kept the windows closed up.  One of the workers stepped back to admire his work and lit a cigarette, detonating the flammable fumes that had filled the room.

“They were both blown right through the window and one of them died,” Simpson said,adding the couple is now being sued because the workers weren’t covered underworker’s compensation.

“If somebody falls off a ladder or drops something on their foot on the property, they’ll look to you to get compensated.

“The home builders’ organization is lobbying the federal and provincial governments to create a permanent tax rebate for home renovations, along the lines of the temporary home renovation tax credit that was briefly offered as a recession-fighting measure.  One of the advantages of such a mechanism, Simpson said, is that homeowners would have to have receipts to qualify.

That paper trail would disqualify the cash-only operators and help narrow the disadvantage legitimate contractors are now under as a result of the HST.

“Government has to find ways to make it easier for homeowners to resist the lure ofthe cash deal,” Simpson said.

Finance minister Colin Hansen has said the provincial government is continuing tostudy the impact of the HST on home renovations.  Home renovations are a big business in Metro Vancouver, accounting for 31,000 jobshere and $1.6 billion in wages annually.

The total value of all home renovations performed last year in Metro Vancouver was estimated at $3.7 billion.

Simpson said at least 30 per cent of that is believed to be underground.

Is your basement leaking?

Unfortunately, wet basements cannot be assessed for their severity, frequency, and inconvenience factor during a one time visit. There may or may not be clues that indicate a history of basement dampness. Visible signs may be concealed by new paint or storage piled against the area. If there has been a dry period before the time of the inspection, signs of past water penetration may not be visible. Even if visible, the clues usually do not give an indication of the severity or frequency.

Even a basement with no seepage problems during a heavy rain does not guaranty the basement will remain permanently dry. A single rain may or may not result in seepage. A heavy rain may not raise the groundwater level sufficiently to cause water to seep through the foundation walls.

Moisture problems are also intermittent. In some houses, water penetration will occur after virtually every rain. In other houses, it will occur only after periods of prolonged rain, and in still others, it will only happen with wind driven rain or during a spring thaw. In most cases however, the resultant damage gives no indication of frequency.

Since virtually all basements leak at some point, the question is probably not, “Will the basement leak?” but, “When and How often?”.

Analyzing Foundation Cracks

Analise your foundation before is too late! Here’s some tips:

Crack Appearance

Vertical or Diagonal Cracks in a foundation wall:

Cracks start at floor and run to ceiling. Cracks are wider at the top or the bottom.

Possible Cause

Vertical movement between the two pieces of foundation. Crack is the hinge. Poor fill, soil creep, erosion, etc. are possible causes.

Horizontal Crack in a foundation wall:

Commonly seen in concrete block walls. Crack is usually 4 to 5 feet off the floor.

Possible Cause

Poorly designed foundation wall. Wall is actually a retaining wall trying to hold back dirt from falling into basement. Can be fixed with beams or helical piers

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