Tag Archives: water

Plumbing In Your Home

Knowing about the plumbing in your home is a required skill when working as a Realtor. Being able to identify plumbing types is part of the job. Prior work experience in construction is definitely a big plus. Of course I learned about plumbing in Real Estate College too. But my biggest source of knowledge about plumbing when I first became a Realtor is the very old house I call home.

Having said all that I’m pretty quick to note what’s in a home, both the good and bad. So here’s a quick break down of the various types of plumbing in your home and your neighbours.

Plumbing Supply Types

On the supply side copper pipe is the most prevalent here in Ontario. I’d say it’s in 95% of the homes, with the balance being mostly PEX tubing. There are other types as well but they are way less common.

PlumbingCopper is an excellent material for water sources that are slightly alkaline in nature. A pH above 7 stops metal leaching and corrosion that occurs if a water source is acidic. This keeps your pipes intact and prevents lead from leaching out of the 50/50 lead/tin soldered joints common in older properties. Municipal water supplies are made intentionally alkaline for this exact reason. Alkalinity also protects against lead leaching in places where lead supply piping still exists such as the Beaches area of Toronto.

Plumbing

Pex Tubing Photo Claude Taylor

PEX tubing is the other popular choice for water supply. It’s easy to install and cheaper than copper which is why it’s found in so many modern homes. But there are several different manufacturers so it’s important to know which brand you are working with. Concerns about PEX center on chemicals leaching from the plastic over time. I think this is a valid worry due the relative newness of this material in supply piping.

Kitec is the other type of plastic supply piping. It’s bad stuff! You still find it from time to time unfortunately. This piping eventually ruptures if given enough time. It was used in Canada from 1995 to 2007. The manufacturer settled a class action lawsuit a number of years back. It’s big bucks to have it ripped out and you would be entitled to a hefty discount if you were buying a property with Kitec.Plumbing

The last type of supply piping you’ll find is galvanized steel. You can still get this stuff although it’s hardly ever used anymore. It rusts out over time both inside and out and can become clogged and even plugged up from internal corrosion. It can be hard to identify by sight alone. Using a magnet is a great way to find out.

Plumbing Drain Types

PlumbingIn Ontario the gold standard for single family residential waste plumbing is ABS plastic. It has been in use since the 1970s. It’s cheap, durable and really easy to work with. PVC is a great alternative too. It’s less common though and a bit more complicated to join together. The usage of one type or the other is dependent on your local building code.
Plumbing
You’ll often find other types of waste lines in older properties. Homes in the 1960s and early 70’s had sewer lines entirely of copper. This material can be a poor choice in many applications. Waste water is acidic and eventually corrodes copper from the inside out. Runs of line that hold standing water are especially problematic.

PlumbingIn many older homes cast iron was the material of choice. It’s durable due to its very thick walls but brittle and will rot out eventually due to corrosion. Cast iron was common in properties from early last century into the 1950’s. Large vertical sections of cast iron (called the stack) will often have galvanized steel or even copper coming in from sinks and bath tubs. Toilets are usually connected directly to the stack with bronze and lead.

I’ve come across many older homes with several types of waste plumbing from various repairs or renovations over the history of the property. Replacing the entirety of the waste system is an expensive and daunting proposition and it’s rarely done. So knowledge really helps. Get a good Realtor and an inspection too. And make sure you know what to look for when buying property.


Your Home Plumbing

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

Mould, moisture and sump pumps

My buddy Joel and I covered the topic of mould, moisture and sump pumps in a recent video. I wrote about sump pumps a while back so I thought I’d dig up the old post for you and also share some information about mould from Health Canada. Mould, moisture and sump pumps

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. Continue for the entire post.

Here’s a quick video on the subject of mould, moisture and sump pumps, and more videos can be found on my YouTube Channel or on my Videos Page.


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