Tag Archives: eaves troughs

Check Your Sump Pump!

It’s fall, check your sump pump!

Flooded basements make the news in the spring and fall each and every year. Neglect, power failures, poor drainage, changing seasons, and rapidly changing weather are almost always one or more of the causes of a flooded basement.

You can’t control the weather or the seasons. Sudden heavy rains, warm snaps in the dead of winter, the spring thaw and the onset of rainy fall weather can all cause wet basements.

sump pumpBut battling mother nature isn’t always hard. Checking your sump pump and making sure you’ve got good drainage for your eaves troughs is often all the work you need to do to keep your basement dry.

Living in a 130 year old home and working as a Realtor has taught me quite a bit about drainage and sump pumps. My 1889 property has a sump pump just like almost every new home built over the last 20 years.

sump pumpThese are installed in new homes as a preventative against water penetration and as remediation in old homes such as mine. The system consists of perforated piping (called weeping tile) on the outside of the foundation that directs ground water to a sump, which is a shallow pit in the basement that collects the water. The sump pump sits in the sump and periodically empties this water to the outside of the home.

Your sump pump has to work extra hard if you live in an area with a high water table, or have soil with poor drainage such as the clay that is quite common in Waterloo region. Ground water simply wants to go wherever it can, running as water does, from high places to low. Draining water away from the foundation is the weeping tile’s job since it sits lower than your basement walls, but it’s also a good idea to get the water away from your foundation so your sump pump doesn’t have to deal with it.

sump pumpYou can do this by adding extension pipes to the ends of your downspouts. 10 feet is a good distance, or you can get really ambitious like I did. A couple of years back I dug drainage piping for my eaves-troughs a good 20 or 30 feet from my house.

Prior to my hard work, the spring thaw and heavy thunder storms would often mean a wet laundry room but now the room is bone dry. As an added bonus my sump pump hardly comes on at all except for a couple of weeks in the spring.

Needless to say, having a working pump is even more important than good drainage. Pump failures definitely cause the vast majority of flooded basements. Check your sump pump now and keep your basement dry! Watch the video if you want to learn even more.


Everything You Need To Know About Sump Pumps

Should I Get A Home Inspection?

‘Should I get a home inspection?’ is actually a question for a lot of buyers, but I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want one. It’s a trivial amount of money to spend for some real peace of mind, and an inspection can save a buyer thousands of dollars if things are uncovered.

should I get a home inspection

US Navy photo Jimmy Johnson https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

I’d never advise against getting an inspection but sometimes market forces make it impossible to secure a property with an inspection condition, or any conditions for that matter. This was the case in the multiple offer environment we saw in the spring of 2017.

Things are better now but a significant number of homes are still selling ‘firm’ with no conditions. It’s very much a sellers’ market and it can be difficult to buy conditionally.

Nevertheless the vast majority of my offers have inspection conditions. No doubt we’ve lost out on a few properties because of this. But I’m pretty certain several of my clients who answered ‘yes’ to the question ‘Should I get a home inspection?’ are pretty happy having spent four or five hundred dollars.

should I get a home inspection

Photo Laura Scudder GFDL / CC-BY-SA-2.5

In one property the inspection uncovered some significant roof and siding issues. In two other cases asbestos was found. Lastly a supposedly rewired house had knob and tube hidden away between floors.

If significant issues are uncovered a buyer has the option of abandoning the deal, renegotiating on price or having the seller remedy the deficiencies. We’ve done all three of these things at one time or another, saving my clients tens of thousands of dollars as a result.

Even if nothing serious is found the inspectors have a wealth of invaluable knowledge and experience to pass on to the buyer. My clients get a thorough education on every aspect of the home which is why it’s essential that they attend the inspection.

Should I get a home inspection? Yes, without a shadow of doubt you should. Getting a home inspection is a good thing.

Here’s three great inspectors I work with:
Canadian Home Inspection Services
Green Trust Services
Pillar To Post

DIY Ladder Safety

I am falling. It’s always a variation of the same dream, rolling hills, goosing it way too hard over the crest of a hill in a fast vehicle only to see the landing way too far down and I know I’m going to die.

I have never fallen, only ever jumped and I hate heights. The water that was 50 feet away is a blur. The wind screaming in my ears, pitch rising in a crescendo. I am terrified and hit the water looking face down with my arms out and legs spread. My idiot friends love the rush and go off again and again.

I am an apprentice. The school board gives us a ton of business because of broken windows. The broken gymnasium window is at the top of the ladder and I am scared. An old man, Eddie, who survived both the Russians and the Germans scoffs at me. I cannot carry the replacement unit in one arm and climb the ladder with the other. He goes up instead.

Still an apprentice. We are pulling what’s left of the curtain wall down from the church peak. It’s 3 storeys up and the caulking finally yields to the journeyman’s crowbar. The framing falls down 7 or 8 feet, landing on our scaffolding and I am hanging off the edge of the platform wrapped around the piece of metal in a death grip. For the rest of the day I crawl around up there, too afraid to stand.

Continue reading

The Sump Pump and the Spring Thaw


My sump pump has been running a fair bit lately with the spring thaw well underway. All that freezing rain last week and then this week’s 24 hour rainstorm has saturated the ground which is also in the process of thawing out. My very old house is not unlike new houses since I too have a sump pump. These are installed in new homes as a preventative against water penetration and as remediation in old homes such as mine. The system consists of perforated piping (called weeping tile) on the outside of the foundation that directs ground water to a sump, which is a shallow pit in the basement that collects the water. The sump pump sits in the sump and periodically empties this water to the outside of the home. Maintaining the pump is essential for having a dry basement. I’ve experienced two floods, once from a power failure and the other time from a blocked float. Luckily my basement is unfinished and the damage was minimal. However, several people I know have had major damage from a sump pump failure. Rehabilitation could easily cost a homeowner $20,000 plus.

You might be wondering why weeping tile, a sump and a sump pump are needed especially in new homes and the answer may surprise you especially if you are middle aged like me. In my era, growing up, homes didn’t have sump pumps because builders believed they could make a water tight foundation. This hasn’t stood the test of time and all foundations will eventually crack and leak. Weeping tile installed during construction is a dirt cheap preventative compared to digging up an entire foundation to add waterproofing when the basement starts to leak. When my house was built in 1889 it was a given that basements leaked and no one actually used the space for anything either. At some later point long ago, weeping tile and a sump were installed at a very heavy cost to the owner, probably in the 1950’s from what I can tell.

Your sump pump has to work extra hard if you live in an area with a high water table, or have soil with poor drainage such as the clay that is quite common in Waterloo region. Ground water simply wants to go wherever it can, running as water does, from high places to low. Getting the water to run away from the foundation is the weeping tile’s job since it sits lower than your basement walls, but there is another way to get that water away from the foundation that doesn’t break the bank.

only 15 feet to fill in...

only 15 feet to fill in…

What if rain water never gets to your foundation because you’ve collected it and sent it away even before it hits the dirt? Get your downspouts away from your house, and preferably as far as possible. A couple of years back I dug drainage piping for my eaves-troughs a good 20 or 30 feet from my house because part of my 1889 foundation hadn’t been bone dry in many years. Prior to my hard work, the spring thaw and heavy thunder storms would often mean a wet laundry room, (the laundry room doesn’t have weeping tile installed) and I’m super happy my solution didn’t mean breaking the bank, or breaking my back. My sump pump comes on maybe a quarter of the time it used to, although it has been working hard dealing with the spring thaw this week. It never comes on anymore during thunderstorms and doesn’t come on at all during the fall like it used to.

Seriously, fellow home owners, if you’ve got the room get your eaves-trough downspouts away from your house, as even ten feet makes a huge difference, and don’t forget to check and maintain your sump pump, preferably before the next rainstorm.

CBC published a story a few days after I posted this: CBC on sump pumps

Winter is coming……

Yes, winter IS coming, for GOT (Game of Thrones) fans and home owners alike. While I am quite happily awaiting the arrival of monsters and the demise of more of my favourite characters in season 5, I am definitely dreading another Canadian winter, especially if it is anything like the last one.

For me winter is hibernation and there is so much to do beforehand. That ‘to do’ list seems to get longer as one ages and I wonder if this is because I am ageing, my house is ageing, stuff isn’t as well made as it once was, or I have too much crap. The answer is some combination no doubt, plus some other factors I haven’t even considered. Maybe it’s because my ‘holidays’ aren’t, as I’m always fixing stuff and putting out fires so to speak, leaving me tired instead of refreshed when I return to work.

Oddly enough when bad stuff happens it usually happens at the ‘right’ time so that I can deal with it. Last week was a classic example: I’m two days into my holiday sitting at the computer when I hear water dripping from my left. It takes a minute or two for it to register and I get up to investigate only to find water dripping from my kitchen ceiling. Long story short, 10 feet of 60 year old copper drain pipe had rotted out coming from the sink in our main bathroom. The girls were washing up in the sink using lots of water as girls seem to do, which saturated the plaster below the leak enough to drip through. Why did this happen on the 1st Sunday of my holiday instead of the last? ‘Lucky’, I guess and I had several days work ahead to make things right. The plumbing is fine now but the holes I busted out of the ceiling to gain access still need to be mended. In the meantime I had/have other things on the list that need my attention more. Continue reading