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Wed, Jan 20th - 3:47AM

Septic System Basics
A septic tank is a sealed underground container -- generally made of reinforced concrete -- that collects and processes sewage discharge from residential or commercial structures. Common sources of wastewater include toilets, showers, sinks, dishwashers, and washing machines. Septic tanks are used wherever it is not practical or cost-effective to tie into a city sewage network. As a result, most rural and remote structures use septic systems to discharge household wastewater. (Drawing reproduced courtesy Ohio State University). Naturally-present anaerobic bacteria attack wastewater solids, reducing them to a liquid state safe enough to discharge through a drainfield into the surrounding soil. While septic systems are simple in concept, the micro-bacterial processes are very complex. As a result, proper maintenance and common sense go a long way to ensuring an optimally performing septic system. Since residential septic systems are designed for specific capacities (generally in the 500-1500 gallon range), exceeding the design capacity will limit the effectiveness of the organic processing. This leads to early failure, which then becomes an inconvenience to the homeowners until the problems are remedied. Generally, newer systems must be at least 1000 gallon capacity or greater. Some municipalities even require dual-container systems, which provide better decomposition of waste solids. Since roughly half of the organic waste does not decompose naturally, periodic pumping is required every few years to keep septic tanks in peak operating condition (see Table 1). This removes any remaining organic sludge and other wastes that accumulate at the bottom of the tank. Limiting unnecessary water flow into the system also helps. Therefore, washing machines and dishwashers used with bio-degradable detergents that produce "gray water" could be discharged separately rather than through the septic system. Furthermore, since the organic environment inside a septic tank is susceptible to disruption, never introduce solvents, bleach, acids, or petroleum products into the system. Solids can begin to overflow into the drainfield, causing them to clog -- resulting in a very expensive repair. Expensive additives that claim to promote improved decomposition are not necessary. In fact, the larger scientific community specifically recommends against their use. Typical septic systems are full of bacteria, which if left on their own in a properly maintained environment, will promote natural decomposition. If you are injecting such additives, you may be wasting your money or, worse, hampering the natural processes at work. Evolution of the Septic Tank In the early days when man needed some privacy and protection from the elements, he dug a hole in the ground, lined it with stone, brick, wood or other available material and built an "outhouse" style structure. Delivery of waste to its final resting place was by gravity. Once the hole filled up, the outhouse was moved to a new location. Sometimes lime or ashes were used to subdue the odors. It wasn't until the mid-1800's that indoor plumbing and the toilet took root. Only in 1880 did toilet paper come into existence, courtesy of the British Perforated Paper Company. Alas, man was then able to relax in the comfort of home. Although the outhouse evantually began to disappear, proper waste disposal remained an issue. The practical solution was to connect a pipe to the pit that once served as the outhouse. Covering the hole provided protection from accidental falls and natural odors. The pit serving the toilet became known as a cesspool. Soon it became obvious that the cesspool couldn't handle the extra load of household wastewater. Eventually it was discovered that by putting a watertight tank in line between the house and the cesspool, much of the waste could be removed from the flow of wastewater, trapped in the tank where it would naturally decompose. This treatment chamber became known as the septic tank. Note that the septic tank has a baffle at each end to help keep waste in the tank. The original pit remained as the part of the system that returned "clarified" wastewater to the ground. It then became known as a dry well. Due to heavy use, poor soil conditions, age of the system or a combination of these factors, the drywell sometimes plugged up. (Wastewater still contains soaps, greases and other solids that seal the pores of all but the most porous soils.) Often a second (or third or fourth) drywell would be installed after the first to increase the soil absorption area. Note that an alert installer typically places a baffle at the outlet of the original drywell to help keep floating solids from passing into the new dry well. Then as environmental awareness increased, it was learned that many septic systems were built too deep into the ground. There was risk of polluting drinking water by allowing wastewater to flow directly into the water table before it was properly treated by filtration through the soil. It wasn't until 1967, for example, that the State of New Hampshire passed regulations requiring any leaching portion of a septic system (the part that sends water back into the ground) to be at least four feet above the seasonal high water table. This resulted in the switch from dry wells to leach fields, using larger "footprint" areas much shallower into the ground. About the same time, most installers switched from the old-style steel septic tanks to the more permanent concrete type. Then as man was forced to settle on poorer ground with higher water tables, leach fields began to get pushed out of the ground to maintain separation to ground water. In many cases, pumps now have to be installed to get effluent up to these mound systems. To save space and simplify construction of these raised systems, many new approaches have been developed including the use of plastic or concrete chambers as well as other innovations. If you have a relatively new system that employs one of these modern innovations, chances are that you have a plan available to show you the type of system and its location. If you have an old house with an unknown type of system, you could be anywhere on this evolutionary chart. Using the accompanying troubleshooting tips should help you determine what type of system you have and also what is wrong with it if you are having a problem. Contents Locating Septic Tank Remarkably, homeowners may not always know the location of a septic system. Older homes may have no written documentation or the former owners cannot be located. If the exact location of a septic system is unknown and the local city or county has no written records, begin looking for signs of a tank outside the house where the waste pipe exits the foundation or basement wall. Note the direction of the pipe through wall. When plumbing exits below a slab on grade, check the side of house with roof vents, especially if most of the plumbing is on that side of house. Look for a spot on the ground where snow melts first, grass turns brown or there is a slight depression or mound. Steel tanks will sometimes bounce slightly when jumped on. But be careful, steel lids rust out! Falling feet first into a septic tank is dangerous and unhealthful. A thin steel rod with a tee handle makes a handy probe. Carefully pierce the probe into the topsoil until achieving several "hits" at the same depth. This indicates the top of the tank. A metal detector can help locate even concrete tanks and cesspool covers as they generally have steel reinforcing bars within. Another trick is to insert a snake in the house cleanout and push it until it stops. Gently sliding the snake against the inlet baffle can often send a shockwave that can be heard or felt at the ground surface by a second person. (Note that sometimes a snake can curl up within a septic tank, or particularly within a cesspool or drywell as there is no inlet baffle -- making this technique useless.) If the snake hits an obstruction but cannot be felt at the surface, remove it from the cleanout and measure its penetration into the pipe. Draw a arc on the ground at the distance of snake penetration from the house and try again with the probe along this arc. Remember that the pipe from the house may not be heading straight towards the tank. If all else fails, locate and uncover the waste pipe where it leaves the house and again every few feet until the tank is located. Or ask a previous owner, neighbor, or septic pumper who may have serviced the system in the past. Note: Devices are available that transmit a radio signal along a snake or from a thin " mole" that can either be flushed or taped to the end of a snake. This signal is traced by a receiver wand as the snake is pushed through the waste pipe with uncanny accuracy. Contents Determine Tank Type Next, determine the type of tank: Primary / secondary septic tank Two or more tanks are used in some installations for better settling and detention of solids. The first tank should have fresh waste entering directly from the house. (Flush colored water or similar recognizable item down the toilet and watch it enter at inlet check point.) The second tank should have a little floating grease and scum, with some settled sludge at the bottom, Note that a septic tank always has an outlet unless it is being used as a holding tank. Cesspool or drywell Cesspools and drywells generally have no outlet and seldom have an inlet baffle. Liquid level could be low in a septic tank if it is rusted out (steel tank) or if center seam leaks (concrete tank). If fresh waste is present, see glossary: cesspool. If no fresh waste is present, see glossary: drywell. Grease trap Found in restaurants, inns, markets, etc. Pump tank Used if system is not gravity fed. Sometimes called a pump chamber. Once you locate the septic tank, you may wish to have it pumped out. If water runs back into septic tank from the outlet pipe when the tank is pumped out, this is a sign that the system has failed. Possible causes include compacted soil or saturated drainfield. Contents Trouble- shooting Tips Check lowest fixture or drain If the problem is septic blockage, water should back up through any drain which is below the level of the toilet when flushed. Check washing machine outlet, floor drain, bathtub, downstairs apartment, or remove cleanout plug carefully (to avoid a flood). If no backup occurs, the problem is likely with the toilet or other household plumbing only. D-box problems If the distribution box for side hill trench system is out of level, one trench may be taking all water and "failing." Re-level pipes and block outlet to overloaded trench for several months. Or, roots could be blocking one or more pipes. Remove roots and seal joints where roots entered if possible. Note that an unlevel D box will not effect leach bed as severely, because water will find its own level through stone. Pumps and float failures Exercise care when handling pumps as they have 110- or 220-volt supply lines, which may not have GFIs (Ground Fault Interruptors). Some float systems (which turn pump and alarm on and off) may also contain full line voltage. Use insulating rubber gloves and follow procedures with a disinfecting hand wash for sanitation. Or call a licensed plumber if required by code. Snake safety Exercise care using snake in cleanouts or drains as some waterborne diseases can be transferred through contact. Use rubber gloves and surgical masks and follow with disinfecting wash. Stiff garden hose can sometimes be used in place of snake. Disinfect after use with chlorinated bleach and fresh water. Failed field Usually means soil plugged due to age, overuse, underdesign, lack of maintenance, or a combination of these. Requires field replacement or rest. See: Alternating Fields. Failed drywell Same reasons as above. However, drywells can sometimes be excavated around and repacked with crushed stone to create a new soil surface for absorption. Check codes. Pipe problems Settling, breaking, crushing, pulling apart and backslope are installation related. Freezing, plugging at joints, corrosion or decomposition and root plugging (though also caused by poor installation) can occur later. Insulating, replacing, releveling, sealing joints, and properly backfilling will resolve most problems. Inlet/outlet problems Plugging often occurs from scum buildup within baffles, roots entering through poorly sealed joints, tanks installed out-of-level or backwards, or pipes sticking into the tank too far and nearly hitting baffles, blocking waste. Correct as needed. Locating field or drywell Follow directions for finding a septic tank except start at the septic tank outlet rather than at the house. Snake will not hit a baffle within a drywell as there is none. It may or may not hit the side of a Distribution Box but could possibly pass through into one of the outlet pipes if pipe is in line with inlet. Contents Tips and Suggestions Reprinted from the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA) DO: Conserve water to reduce the amount of wastewater that must be treated and disposed Repair any leaking faucets and toilets Only discharge biodegradable wastes into system Divert down spouts and other surface water away from your drainfield Keep your septic tank cover accessible for tank inspections and pumping Have your septic tank pumped regularly and checked for leaks and cracks Call a professional when you have problems Compost your garbage or put in trash DONT: Use a garbage grinder Flush sanitary napkins, tampons, disposable diapers, condoms and other non-biodegradable products into your system Dump solvents, oils, paints, thinners, disinfectants, pesticides or poisons down the drain which can disrupt the treatment process and contaminate the groundwater Dig in your drainfield or build anything over it Plant anything over or drainfield except grass Drive over your drainfield or compact the soil in any way Contents Septic Tank Pumping Frequency Estimated Septic Tank Pumping Frequencies in Years (For Year-Round Residence) Tank Size (gal) Household Size (Number of People) # 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 500 5.8 2.6 1.5 1.0 0.7 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 --- 750 9.1 4.2 2.6 1.8 1.3 1.0 0.7 0.6 0.4 0.3 1000 12.4 5.9 3.7 2.6 2.0 1.5 1.2 1.0 0.8 0.7 1250 15.6 7.5 4.8 3.4 2.6 2.0 1.7 1.4 1.2 1.0 1500 18.9 9.1 5.9 4.2 3.3 2.6 2.1 1.8 1.5 1.3 1750 22.1 10.7 6.9 5.0 3.9 3.1 2.6 2.2 1.9 1.6 2000 25.4 12.4 8.0 5.9 4.5 3.7 3.1 2.6 2.2 2.0 2250 28.6 14.0 9.1 6.7 5.2 4.2 3.5 3.0 2.6 2.3 2500 31.9 15.6 10.2 7.5 5.9 4.8 4.0 4.0 3.0 2.6 Note: More frequent pumping needed if garbage disposal is used. Source: Karen Mancl, Septic Tank Maintenance, AEX-740-98 Ohio State University FactSheet Example 1: Pumping frequency for a 1,000 gallon tank in a home with 4 people is at least every 3.7 years. Example 2: Pumging frequency for 1,500 gallon tank in a home with 6 people is at least every 2.6 years. Glossary Alarm An electromechanical device that provides audible and visual indication that the water level in a pump or holding tank is above recommended levels. Alternating leach field One of two or more leach fields designed to be used while the other(s) rest. They are generally fed via a manually operated diverter valve located in the line from the septic tank. Baffles Pipe tees or partitions within a septic tank which reduce turbulence at the inlet and prevent floating grease and scum from escaping into the leaching system at the outlet. (They are usually the first part of a steel tank to rust away, leaving the leach field or drywell unprotected from excessive solids overloading.) Cesspool The original type of sewage system, often still in use in older homes. They were simply a single hole in the ground loosely blocked up with locally available materials - stone, brick, block, or railroad ties - and capped either with ties covered with a layer of old steel roofing or a cast-in-place concrete lid with a cleanout hole near the center. All household wastewater entered and the liquid portion was absorbed into the ground. When the soil plugged, a new cesspool was added. Wiser installers placed an elbow, or better still, a tee in the outlet pipe from the first cesspool, creating a baffle to hold back floating grease and scum. In a sense, this created the first type of septic system, because the first cesspool in the line, sealed by its own demise, served as a septic tank and the subsequent tank provided a greater degree of settling and separation of soil-plugging solids and some absorption. (Owners often have the first tank pumped out to maintain system operation.) Chambers Open-bottomed pre-cast concrete or plastic structures placed next to each other in an excavation to take the place of crushed stone in a leach field. Unlike leach fields, heavy-duty chambers can be driven over. Cleanout A removable plug in a "wye," or a "tee" in a sewer line where a snake can be inserted to clear a blockage. Distribution box or D-box Usually a small square concrete box within a leach field from which all pipes lead to disperse effluent within the field. Newer boxes should be marked at the surface to protect from vehicle traffic. Drywell Constructed identically to a cesspool and differs only in that the clarified effluent from a septic tank or the wastewater from a washing machine or other grey water may enter. Modern drywells are often pre-cast perforated rings surrounded by crushed stone to increase the absorption area. Drywells can also be used to return storm water to the ground or to relocate basement drainage water to another location above the water table. Drywells are not commonly installed today because of laws requiring the bottom of a leaching system to be 4 feet above the seasonal high-water table. Dug Well A water supply well that is simply a hole in the ground lined with stone, brick, concrete, plastic or steel to hold its shape. The lower portion of the lining is perforated, or pierced, to let in water from the Aquifer or ground water table. The upper portion of the lining is water tight to keep surface water from entering and contaminating the well. Dug wells are often called shallow wells to differentiate them from drilled or driven wells that extend much deeper into the ground. Dug wells in our area are often a minimum of ten feet or so into the ground and a maximum of 20 to 25 feet, a practical and safe limit for machines to dig. Shallow wells for water supply are very similar in concept to dry wells which return wastewater or rain water back to the ground. Both are designed to exchange water between the structure and the soil. The major difference is that water wells are purposely built into the ground water table and dry wells are built above the water table to keep wastewater from entering untreated. Effluent The clearish liquid that flows out of the septic tank after the tank has "taken out the big pieces." Filter Fabric: Synthetic cloth-like material that is used for several different types of construction-related applications such as erosion control, road stabilization and soil separation. Can consist of either woven or non-woven fibers of varying thickness and weight. Available in 12 to 15 foot wide rolls, several hundred feet in length. Woven fabrics (usually black) resemble the modern day grain bags while non-woven fabrics can resemble a range of materials from soft felts to the stiff shiny house wrap (to which they are closely related) usually seen enveloping homes under construction. Grease trap An in-ground chamber similar to a septic tank, usually used at restaurants, markets and inns to trap grease from the kitchen wastewater before it reaches the septic tank. Unusual to find in private homes. Grey water All liquid wastewater except for the toilet wastes (sink, shower, washer, etc.). Leaching system The part of a septic system that returns water to the ground for re-absorption. Could be a drywell, leach field, trench, chamber, etc. Leach bed A leaching system consisting of a continuous layer of crushed stone about a foot deep -- usually in a rectangular layout -- with perforated pipes laid level throughout to disperse effluent as evenly as possible over the entire bed. Leach field Term often used to describe either a leach bed or leach trenches. Leach trenches Built essentially like beds, except that each pipe is in its own stone-filled level trench, usually 3 feet wide. Each trench can be at a different level than the other trenches. Well suited to sloping ground. Mound (or raised) system A leach bed built on a mound of fine to medium-grained sand to elevate it above the seasonal high water table and/or to accommodate a system on a hillside. Percolation test A shallow, hand-dug hole saturated with water, performed as a part of a septic design to determine the soils permeability - the rate at which water is absorbed by the soil - which dictates the system size. Pump station, pump tank: A watertight container, usually (but not always) separate from the septic tank, into which effluent flows by gravity and is then ejected by a submersible electric pump through a pressure line to the leaching system. Pump tanks often are hooked to an alarm to warn of pump failure. Seasonal high water table The highest elevation that groundwater reaches within the year (usually in the spring). Many states require the bottom of a leaching system to be at least 4 feet above this point. Septic design Usually consists of a topographic survey, test pit, and percolation test plus information about the water supply and subdivision and a filing fee to the state prepared by either a licensed designer or the owner. Septic tank A watertight chamber, which all household wastewater enters for settling and anaerobic digestion of greases and solids. Original tanks were made of asphalt-coated steel. Modern tanks are made of concrete, fiberglass, or plastic. All tanks should have a set of baffles, which are critical to their operation. Most tanks have and inspection hatch ot both the inlet and the outlet and some have a third hatch in between for pumping access. Locations of each of these should be recorded and/or marked. Steel tanks often have one round lid that covers the entire tank. Septic tanks should be pumped every three years or so in normal operation. They should not be treated with any additives and should be protected from receiving any of the harmful chemicals used in many homes and commercial workshops. This includes disinfectants or bleaches, which can kill bacteria in the tank, and solvents, darkroom chemicals, or other materials that could pollute the water supply. Test pit A hole dug to determine soil type, seasonal high water table, and depth to ledge. Some states require a test pit of specific depth (to determine that ledge is a minimum number of feet below bed bottom) while others require only a shallow pit to determine depth to hardpan soils. Contents References Home Inspection and Construction Information Website (Septic) National Association of Waste Transporters (NAWT) National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA) National Small Flows Clearinghouse (NSFC) SepticTank.com Sump and Sewage Pump Manufacturer's Association (SSPMA) US Enviornmental Protection Agenecy Office of Wastewater Management

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Wed, Jan 20th - 3:43AM

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in the Home
Carbon monoxide is invisible and odourless, but high enough concentrations can kill. Carbon Monoxide (CO) is colourless, odourless and tasteless; it is also a toxic gas. CO is produced as a by-product of combustion. Any fuel fired appliance, vehicle, gasoline-powered tools and devices have the potential to produce dangerous levels of CO. Poorly maintained appliances can also produce dangerous levels of CO. When appliances are kept in good working condition they produce little CO. Poorly maintained appliances can produce fatal CO concentrations in your home or place of work. The Consumer Products Safety Commission reports that more than 200 people in the United States die from CO poisoning every year. When carbon monoxide is inhaled, it bonds with part of the red blood cells called haemoglobin. This results in a lack of oxygen to the blood cells. Your blood will accept CO 300 times more readily than oxygen; this is why it is so dangerous. The brain and heart require large amounts of oxygen and quickly suffer from any oxygen shortage. Because carbon monoxide reduces oxygen delivery to the brain, persons with elevated levels of carbon monoxide do not think clearly and may not recognize the warning signs. High concentrations of carbon monoxide can kill in less than five minutes. Continued exposure can cause irreversible damage to the nervous system, personality deterioration and severe memory loss. Health Effects 1. CO poisoning symptoms may mimic flu symptoms. Common symptoms include headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness and confusion. Because the symptoms mimic so many illnesses, it is often misdiagnosed. 2. Continued exposure can lead to vomiting, weakness and difficulty breathing. 3. High exposure may result in loss of consciousness, convulsions and death. 4. Presence of CO may worsen underlying heart disease by causing heart irregularity and muscle weakness. What to do in an emergency If you believe that you are suffering from CO poisoning, you should: 1. Open doors and windows and leave the vicinity immediately. 2. Notify your fuel supplier or a competent mechanical contractor. 3. Inform your primary health provider that you were exposed to CO. CO poisoning can often be diagnosed by a blood test, if done soon after the exposure. Tips 1. Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent. 2. Never use unvented fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent. 3. Never leave a vehicle running in an attached garage, and minimize the amount of time the vehicle is in the garage when you start it each morning, even with the garage door open. Move the vehicle out as soon as possible after starting. 4. Have a competent contractor service your fuel-fired appliance on a regular basis. 5. Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryers for heating your home. 6. Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room without adequate ventilation or in any room where people are sleeping. 7. Do not use, or service, gasoline-powered tools and engines indoors or in attached garages. About carbon monoxide alarms Carbon Monoxide alarms should meet Underwriter Laboratories, Inc. standards. Check the packaging or product for a UL label. In addition, they should have a long-term warranty and be easily self-tested and reset to ensure proper operation. Some carbon monoxide alarms may have dual functions such as smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. If these dual units were to go into alarm, do not wrongly assume they are malfunctioning in the absence of smoke. Battery powered devices should have the batteries changed yearly. The Consumer Products Safety Commission recommends that a carbon monoxide detector be placed on each level of your home, with a minimum of one near each sleeping area. Ontario requires one smoke detector on each level and interconnected in new homes. What to do if the CO alarm goes off -Check to see if any member of the household is experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning. If they are, have them leave the home and see a physician immediately or call 911. It is important that everyone leave the home if CO poisoning is suspected. -If no one is feeling symptoms, open the windows and doors to allow fresh air in and notify your fuel supplier. Make sure to turn off all potential sources of CO-your oil or gas furnace, gas water heater, gas range and oven, gas dryer, gas or kerosene space heater and any vehicle or small engine. -Have a qualified technician inspect your fuel-burning appliances and chimneys to make sure they are operating correctly and that there is nothing blocking the fumes being vented out of the house. This article based on the American Lung Association is brought to you by Barrie Home Inspections

Tue, Jan 19th - 3:39PM

Curing Wet Basements
Problems with water in your basement can often be corrected by controlling water above ground, according to a North Dakota State University engineer. "Correcting those above-ground problems may prevent structural damage to your home as well as dry up those basement damp spots," says Ken Hellevang, an agricultural engineer with the North Dakota State University Extension Service. He notes that saturated soil increases the soil pressure on the basement wall which can lead to cracks, shifts, collapses and other structural problems. Start first by looking to the roof, Hellevang advises. An inch of water on 1,000 square feet of roof amounts to about 623 gallons of water. A foot of compacted snow on that same roof could contain up to 4 inches of water, or nearly 2,500 gallons. "Getting all that water away from the house is a big first step to preventing basement problems," Hellevang says. "That's why all eavetrough downspouts should have extensions to carry the water several feet from the house." Just as the roof is sloped to shed water, the ground around your home should be sloped too, he notes. A slope of about 1 inch per foot near the wall is usually adequate, Hellevang says. Also, the ground should be sloped to carry the water away from the downspout discharge. "In some cases it is desirable to place an impermeable material under the soil next to the wall to ensure that the water flows away from the house," he says. In addition to good drainage above ground, a drainage system below ground is important to keeping your home dry, Hellevang says. A properly installed drainage system at the house foundation and under the basement floor will ensure a dry basement and eliminate saturated soil conditions next to the wall. A study of leakage problems showed that more than 90 percent were due to improperly installed drainage systems. The engineer says a properly installed foundation drainage system includes drainpipes placed alongside the footing. In areas with high water tables, a drainage system can also be installed around the inside of the footing and under the basement floor. Using granular material to allow the movement of water and filtering material to keep soil from plugging drain pipes is essential to keeping the system functioning for the life of the house Hellevang says. Granular backfill should be used next to basement walls, he notes. Using soils that don't drain well can cause pressure on the walls if the soils become saturated. Poor- draining soils also increase the potential for moisture or water vapor to move through the wall into the basement. In certain areas, that moisture can carry minerals that are detrimental to the concrete. Window wells also need to be correctly constructed with drains linked to the foundation drains. Soil elevation in the window well should be several inches below bottom of window and sloped to the drain. "The cost of installing the drainage system during new construction is minimal and the benefits are priceless," Hellevang says. "Because so many problems can result from a poorly designed or installed drainage system, it's important to install the system correctly or find a contractor who knows how to do the job. "In existing houses with wet basements, correcting the problem may be as easy as controlling the water above the ground," Hellevang says. "If that's not successful, then an exterior and interior drainage system may need to be installed."

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Thu, Jan 14th - 12:56PM

Smoke Detectors Save Lifes
Working smoke alarms save lives. Don’t be foolish enough to think a barking dog will awaken you or that you will smell smoke – don’t bet your life on it!

SMOKE KILLS:
Toxic smoke and fumes kill. In a house fire, it is the flames that do the structural damage, but smoke is the primary danger to people. The majority of deaths in fires come from smoke poisoning.

Modern homes contain many materials, such as wood, wool, nylon and plastics, which when burning, produce heavy smoke and toxic fumes such as carbon monoxide and cyanide gas. These materials can smoulder for extended periods of time, producing substantial smoke and fumes before they burst into visible flames.

If you are asleep when a fire starts, you could suffer from smoke inhalation before you wake up. In fact, the combination of toxic smoke and gases and reduced levels of oxygen in the air can make waking up extremely difficult and in some circumstances, tragically impossible. So, it is essential to install and maintain working smoke alarms that will detect the smoke and sound an alarm.

Recent research indicates that house fires today burn faster and kill quicker than house fires 30 years ago. Research in the 1970s showed a safe escape time of 17 minutes. In 2005, this has decreased to an escape time of 3 minutes, or less in some circumstances. This drastic drop in escape time is primarily due to the contents of our modern homes, such as furnishings, that burn faster and more intently. This reduced escape time highlights the need for home fire escape planning and performing periodic practice drills.
SMOKE ALARM FACTS:
• Over 90% of residential fires in Ontario are preventable.
• An injury is reported in 1 out of every 17 preventable home fires, and not all injuries are reported.
• 1 out of every 100 preventable residential fires is a fatal fire.
Research from 1995 to 2004 regarding preventable, fatal residential fires in Ontario indicates:
• 35% of fires – a smoke alarm was present and operated.
• 25% of fires – a smoke alarm was present and did not operate.
• 21% of fires – no smoke alarm was present.
• 19% of fires – smoke alarm operation was undetermined.
This research pertains to 609 fatal fires that occurred in Ontario from 1995 to 2004. In about 50 per cent of fatal home fires, there was no smoke alarm warning. In the majority of these fatal home fires, it was determined a dead battery or no battery installed was the reason for the smoke alarm failing to activate.

Statistics also indicate the holiday season between November and the end of January to be the highest point of the year for fires and related fatalities. From November 1, 2004 to January 31, 2005, alone there were 35 fire fatalities in Ontario. This highlights the need to exercise extra caution during the holiday season when we may be most distracted.

(Statistical Source: Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal)
Visit the Ontario Fire Marshal's website to learn more about Ontario Smoke Alarm Status in Residential Fires 1996 to 2005

SMOKE ALARMS vs. SMOKE DETECTORS:
Often you hear people using the terms smoke alarms and smoke detectors interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two. What’s the difference?

A smoke alarm is an all-in-one, self-contained device, with a detector, which senses the products of combustion (smoke) and sounds an audible, and sometimes visual warning or alarm. Smoke alarms are widely used in residential settings. Put simply, a smoke alarm detects smoke and sounds an alarm.

A smoke detector is strictly a sensing device only, which senses the products of combustion (smoke) and sends a signal to a building’s fire alarm system to activate an audible, and sometimes visual warning or alarm. Smoke detectors must be connected to a building’s fire alarm system and are NOT a stand-alone unit. Put simply, a smoke detector senses smoke only and must be connected to a fire alarm system control panel. Smoke detectors are a detection device only – not an alarm.
SMOKE ALARM TECHNOLOGIES AND FEATURES:
Technology:
There are two types of technologies used in smoke alarms to detect the presence of smoke or the products of combustion. Smoke alarms will employ one or both of these types of technologies. Each type of detector has its advantages and disadvantages.

Ionization smoke alarms activate more quickly for fast, flaming fires with little visible smoke. Photoelectric smoke alarms are particularly more responsive to smouldering fires and the dense smoke given off by foam-filled furnishings.

When properly installed and maintained, both types of alarms alert you to a fire and save lives. As in all things relating to your family’s safety, buy the highest quality smoke alarm your budget will allow. Do not select a detector based solely on its low cost.

Smoke alarms are designed to be battery-powered or powered by a permanent connection to the household alternating current (AC) electrical supply (110v).
It is important when replacing smoke alarms that the correct type is installed. Smoke alarms that are installed with permanent electrical connections, also known as direct-wired or hard-wired smoke alarms, cannot be replaced with battery-powered units.

When purchasing a smoke alarm, look for a product that has been manufactured and tested to an acceptable standard, indicated by a marking for the Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC), or Underwriters Laboratories Incorporated (cUL).


Ionization Smoke Alarms
Ionization smoke alarms use a small amount of radioactive material that ionizes the air between two electrically charged plates, causing a current to flow between the plates. When smoke enters the chamber, it changes the flow of current, which is detected and activates the alarm.

Ionization smoke alarms activate more quickly for fast, flaming fires with little visible smoke.

Advantages:
• Cheaper than other types of smoke alarms
• Very good with fast flaming fires with little visible smoke
• Suitable for general use
• Less prone to false alarms due to dust and steam
Disadvantages:
• Very susceptible to nuisance alarms due to cooking
• May be slow to respond to slow smouldering fires
• Contain radioactive material

Photoelectric (Optical) Smoke Alarms
A photoelectric (optical) smoke alarm “sees” the smoke. NOTE: The term photoelectric does not refer to the power source for the smoke alarm. The power supply can be battery or direct-wired on the household electrical current (110v A/C). Both types are available to the consumer. Photoelectric (optical) smoke alarms operate on the principle of light scattered from the surface of particles. Smoke entering the sensing chamber reflects light onto the sensor, which triggers the alarm. Because large particles have much more surface area than small particles, a photoelectric smoke alarm is more sensitive to the large smoke particles produced in a smouldering fire.

Photoelectric (optical) smoke alarms are particularly more responsive to smouldering fires and the dense smoke given off by foam-filled furnishings.

Advantages:
• Good for smouldering fires and dense smoke
• Not as prone to cooking nuisance alarms
• Contain no radioactive material
• Suitable for general use
Disadvantages:
• Prone to nuisance alarms from dust and insects – must be kept clean
• More expensive


In the normal case, the light from the light source shoots straight across and misses the sensor. When smoke enters the chamber, however, the smoke particles scatter the light and some amount of light hits the sensor, activating the alarm.

Learn more on the HOW STUFF WORKS WEBSITE at http://home.howstuffworks.com/smoke1.htm
Combination Ionization / Photoelectric (Optical) Smoke Alarms
Combination Ionization / Photoelectric (Optical) alarms combine the two technologies, ionization and photoelectric, to detect the presence of smoke or products of combustion. An alarm can be activated by either of the sensors within the unit. A combination Ionization / Photoelectric (Optical) alarm gives you the benefits of both types of technologies.
Combination Smoke Alarm / Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Smoke alarms that combine carbon monoxide detection and smoke detection capabilities are also available in a single unit. These units incorporate different sounding alarms, or in some cases voice alerting of “Fire / Fire” or “Warning Carbon Monoxide” when detecting the presence of smoke and/or carbon monoxide. If a combination smoke alarm / carbon monoxide alarm is used, it must be installed on the ceiling to ensure that it will detect smoke effectively. Follow the manufacturers instructions.
Battery-Operated Smoke Alarms and Direct-Wired or Hard-Wired (A/C) Smoke Alarms
A 9v alkaline battery powers most battery-operated smoke alarms. Some manufacturers also offer battery-operated smoke alarms powered by a long-life lithium battery.

The Ontario Building Code has required direct-wired smoke alarms be installed in all new home construction since 1986, with amendments and additional requirements over the years.

When smoke alarms are being replaced, the replacement unit must not reduce the level of detection required by the Building Code in effect at the time of construction of the residence, or by municipal by-laws in effect before the Fire Code adopted this requirement. This requirement is contained in Sentence 6.3.3.5.(1)of the Fire Code. In other words, existing direct-wired or hard-wired smoke alarms or electrically interconnected smoke alarm installations must be maintained to provide the same level of protection as originally required. Any replacement smoke alarms must be of a type comparable to the original or better. Any smoke alarms installed in addition to the requirements of Section 2.13 of the Fire Code are permitted to be battery powered.

Direct-wired smoke alarms can be “interconnected” or linked to one another, which means that should one smoke alarm activate in the home it will automatically sound the alarm on all smoke alarms within the home that are connected. People who sleep with their bedroom doors closed or may have difficulty awakening to a smoke alarm sounding outside the sleeping area should strongly consider installing interconnected direct-wired smoke alarms in their home.

Remember, smoke alarms connected directly to your home's electrical power supply (A/C) will not work during hydro outages unless they have a battery back up feature. Some older models of these alarms do not have an internal battery backup. Find out what type of alarms you have in your home and ensure you are protected by battery operated smoke alarms in the event of a power failure in your home.
Smoke Alarms for the Deaf, Deafened or Hard of Hearing
Both the Ontario Building Code and Ontario Fire Code require the installation of smoke alarms in residential occupancies. By definition, a smoke alarm must sound an audible alarm to alert the home’s occupants. Unfortunately, an audible alarm may not alert an individual who is deaf, deafened or hard of hearing.

There are numerous smoke alarms available on the market today that address the specialized needs of these individuals. Some devices utilize a bright flashing strobe light, as well as an audible alarm, to alert the residents in the event of a fire. Due to the electrical supply requirements to operate these strobe lights, they must be wired directly into the home’s 110v A/C electrical system. Some models have a 9v battery backup that will ensure the audible alarm will activate in the event of a power failure, however the battery will not activate the strobe light.

Additional options also exist that allow the individual to connect their smoke alarms to an alerting system that may incorporate a flashing strobe light, vibrating pager and/or vibrating bed shaker to alert the resident to the emergency. Other suitable options are also available.

A catalogue detailing all available options for the deaf, deafened or hard of hearing is available through The Canadian Hearing Society. You can contact The Canadian Hearing Society in Windsor by calling 519-253-7241 (TTY: 519-254-1704). Their Head Office contact numbers are 1-800-465-4327 (TTY: 1-800-537-6030) and their website is www.chs.ca.
Smoke Alarms featuring “HUSH” Control Feature:
Cooking vapours and steam can sometimes activate a smoke alarm when no fire emergency is present. These are considered nuisance alarms and are the primary reason for people illegally disabling their smoke alarms by removing batteries or disconnecting the power supply to their smoke alarms. This practice of disabling a smoke alarm is extremely dangerous and against the law!

The Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal has introduced a website, http://www.makeitstop.ca/ , giving detailed instructions on ways to eliminate nuisance alarms. As well, smoke alarm manufacturers offer smoke alarms with a “HUSH” or “PAUSE” feature that allows the resident to temporarily silence the nuisance alarm. Generally, the HUSH feature will silence the alarm for approximately 7 minutes and then automatically reset itself. The smoke alarm will indicate that it is in HUSH mode by use of a periodic “chirp” or a visual indicator, such as a flashing LED light.

NOTE: Dense smoke will override the “HUSH” control feature and sound a continuous alarm to alert you to a fire emergency.
CAUTION: Before using the “HUSH” feature, identify the source of the smoke and be certain a safe condition exists.
ONTARIO FIRE CODE REQUIREMENTS FOR SMOKE ALARMS:
The Ontario Fire Code requires all single family, semi-detached and town homes in Ontario, whether owner-occupied or rented, have a working smoke alarm on every storey of the residence and outside all sleeping areas. Failure to comply with the Ontario Fire Code smoke alarm requirements could result in a ticket of $235 or a fine of up to $50,000 for individuals or $100,000 for corporations. The Ontario Fire Code specifies that “no person shall intentionally disable a smoke alarm so as to make it inoperable”. This includes, but is not limited to, removing the battery. A tenant, or any other person, who intentionally disables a smoke alarm is guilty of a provincial offence and may be subject to a fine.
Homeowners
Homeowners are responsible for installing and maintaining smoke alarms.
Landlords
Landlords are responsible for ensuring their rental properties comply with the law. They must also provide tenants with a copy of the smoke alarm manufacturer’s maintenance instructions. A “Smoke Alarm Maintenance Checklist” can be downloaded from the Ontario Fire Marshal’s website.
Tenants
Tenants of rental properties should contact their landlord immediately if their occupancy does not have the required number of smoke alarms, or if there are any problems or concerns with the alarms. A “Smoke Alarm Maintenance Information for Tenants and Occupants in Rental Units” information sheet can be downloaded from the Ontario Fire Marshal’s website.
SMOKE ALARM INSTALLATION:
• The Ontario Fire Code requires all single family, semi-detached and town homes in Ontario, whether owner-occupied or rented, have a working smoke alarm on every storey of the residence, including the basement and outside all sleeping areas. Smoke alarms are not required in individual bedrooms unless required by the Ontario Building Code at the time of construction. However, to help ensure ultimate protection, we encourage smoke alarms be installed in each bedroom within the residence. Where bedroom doors are closed at night, smoke alarms should be installed in each bedroom.

• One smoke alarm is required to be installed in each storey of a home and adjacent to any sleeping areas within the home. As illustrated below, a storey can consist of more than one level. When a home contains multiple sleeping areas, a smoke alarm must be installed to protect each separate sleeping area. This may necessitate additional smoke alarms on some levels of a split-level home. The following illustrated example of a split-level home, indicating required smoke alarm placement, is provided for clarification. Note that since smoke rises, the smoke alarm serving the 1st storey is installed in the upper level of that storey.
ALTERNATE WORDING
• One smoke alarm is required to be installed in each storey of a home and adjacent to any sleeping areas within the home. When a home contains multiple sleeping areas, a smoke alarm must be installed to protect each separate sleeping area. In some home construction, such as with split-level homes, a storey may consist of more than one level. Normally, one smoke alarm would suffice to serve both levels of a split-level storey, except in the case where both levels contain separate sleeping areas. In that instance a smoke alarm must be installed on both levels containing sleeping areas.

The following illustration of a split-level home and the required smoke alarm installations is provided for clarification.
NOTE: Both the upper and lower levels of the 2nd storey require smoke alarm installation due to separate sleeping areas contained on both levels. However, only one smoke alarm is required to service both the upper and lower levels of the 1st storey since neither level contains a sleeping area. Also note that since smoke rises, the smoke alarm serving the 1st storey is installed in the upper level of the 1st storey.


• Read and familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s instruction manual. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installing, testing, and maintaining smoke alarms.
• Smoke, heat and combustion products rise to the ceiling and spread horizontally. In order for the smoke alarm to properly sense the presence of smoke, the ideal location is on the ceiling in the centre of the room. Ceiling mounting is preferred in ordinary residential construction.
• When installing the smoke alarm on the ceiling, ensure it is a minimum of 10cm (4 inches) from any wall.
• If wall mounting is necessary, use an inside wall, ensuring it is a minimum of 10cm (4 inches) below the ceiling, but no lower than 30.5cm (12 inches) below the ceiling.
• If the hallway serving the bedrooms is more than 9 metres (30 feet) long, install smoke alarms at both ends of the hallway.
• Install smoke alarms at both ends of a room if it is more than 9 metres (30 feet) long.
• In stairways with no doors at the top or bottom, install smoke alarms anywhere in the path of smoke moving up the stairs. However, always install smoke alarms at the bottom of closed stairways, such as those leading to the basement. Dead air trapped near the closed door at the top of the stairway could prevent smoke from reaching the smoke alarm if installed at the top of the stairway.
Locations To Avoid:
• Do not install smoke alarms in “dead air pockets”, for example within 10cm (100mm - 4 inches) of where a ceiling meets a wall or a corner of a room.





• Do not install a smoke alarm within 1 metre (3 feet) of a doorway to a kitchen or bathroom, forced air ducts used for heating or cooling, ceiling or ventilation fans, air conditioner units or other high airflow areas.
• Do not install the smoke alarm where drapes or other objects may block the sensor.
• Do not install in the peaks of vaulted ceilings, “A” frame ceilings or gabled roofs. For “A” frame type ceilings, install the smoke alarm 10cm (4 inches) below the peak. See the illustration below for clarification.

• When installing a smoke alarm in a room with a sloped ceiling, position it 90cm (36 inches) horizontally from the highest point, as illustrated below, since dead air at the peak may prevent smoke from reaching the unit.

• Electronic “noise” may cause nuisance alarms. Install smoke alarms at least 30 cm (12 inches) away from fluorescent lighting.
• Avoid excessively dusty, dirty, greasy or insect-infested areas. Dust particles and insects may cause nuisance alarms or failure to alarm.
• Do not install in areas where the temperature is colder than 4.4ºC (40ºF) or hotter than 37.8ºC (100ºF). Extreme temperatures may adversely affect the sensitivity of the alarm, as well as diminish the lifespan of the battery, if so equipped.
• Do not install in areas where the relative humidity is greater than 85% or within 3 metres (10 feet) of showers, saunas, dishwashers or any other steam-producing appliance. Very humid areas along with steam can cause unwanted nuisance alarms and adversely affect the battery, if so equipped.
• Do not install smoke alarms in your garage. Combustion particles produced when you start your automobile will cause unwanted nuisance alarms.
DEALING WITH NUISANCE ALARMS:
• Avoid installing smoke alarms in or near kitchens and bathrooms where steam or cooking are present;
• If a smoke alarm is installed within 6 metres (20 feet) of a cooking appliance it should be a photoelectric (optical) smoke alarm or one that incorporates a “HUSH” silencing feature;
• Keep ovens and stovetop burners clean to eliminate minor smoke flare-ups;
• Clean out accumulated crumbs from the bottom of toasters and/or toaster ovens and turn down the timer setting;
• Use the kitchen vent hood fan, that exhausts to the outside, when cooking to remove steam and smoke during cooking;
• Use bathroom ventilation fans, that exhaust to the outside, to remove steam build-up;
• Relocate the smoke alarm from the ceiling to a spot on an adjacent wall;
• Move the alarm further away from the source of the nuisance alarm;
• Replace ionization type alarms with photoelectric (optical) alarms.
• NEVER DISABLE A SMOKE ALARM BY REMOVING THE BATTERY OR SHUTTING OFF THE ELECTRICAL SUPPLY! If your alarm does not have a “HUSH” feature, use a towel or newspaper to fan the alarm to dissipate the smoke or steam.
Visit the O.F.M. "MAKE IT STOP" WEBSITE at www.makeitstop.ca, TO LEARN MORE ABOUT NUISANCE ALARMS
TESTING AND MAINTENANCE OF SMOKE ALARMS:
• Read and familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s instruction manual. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installing, testing, and maintaining smoke alarms.
• Ensure the smoke alarm is secure and unobstructed.
• Test all smoke alarms monthly by pressing the “TEST” button. Pick a familiar, meaningful date to help remind you each month, such as a birth date or anniversary. A broom handle or cane can be used to depress the test button eliminating the need to climb a ladder or stand on a chair.
• Test all smoke alarms after being away from home for more than 3 days (alternate 7 days). The low battery “chirp” may have activated while you were away from home and the battery is dead, leaving you without protection.
• Once a year test your smoke alarms with smoke from a smouldering incense stick or a smouldering cotton string placed in an ashtray or other suitable noncombustible container. CAUTION: Smouldering materials used in this test should be disposed of in a manner that does not create a fire hazard. No open flames from matches, lighters or candles should ever be used to test smoke alarms. Doing so may damage the smoke alarm as well as start a fire in your residence.
• Install a fresh battery in your smoke alarms at least once a year or whenever the low-battery warning sounds. Fire Prevention Week, which is the week of Thanksgiving, is an ideal time of year to replace your batteries annually.
• For proper operation, smoke alarms must be kept clean and free of dust, cobwebs, etc. Never clean your smoke alarms using water, solvents or cleaners as they may damage the unit. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's cleaning instructions at all times. Clean your smoke alarms by gently vacuuming them using the soft brush attachment on your vacuum. For battery-operated smoke alarms vacuum the outside only; do not try to open the unit. For electrically connected (direct-wired) smoke alarms, disconnect the power to the unit, open the alarm cover and gently vacuum the inside of the alarm, and then reconnect the power supply to the alarm. This cleaning should be done at least twice a year. Test your smoke alarm after cleaning to ensure it’s working. (OFM SITE - AC powered smoke alarms should only be vacuumed externally and no attempt should be made to open the case. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions at all times. If specifically recommended by the manufacturer, open the battery cover on battery operated smoke alarms and gently vacuum the circuit board.)
• Clean the exterior of the smoke alarm to remove dirt and grease following the manufacturer’s instructions. Most manufacturers suggest using a damp cloth only.
• Never paint a smoke alarm. Paint can seal the vents and interfere with the sensor’s ability to detect smoke, hampering its proper operation.
• Replace smoke alarms if they fail to operate properly when tested.
• Replace smoke alarms every 10 years from the date of manufacture. The date of manufacture is noted on the smoke alarm.
CHILDREN AND SMOKE ALARMS:
Ensure that your children recognize the sound of your home’s smoke alarms and know what to do when they hear that sound. Develop and practise a home fire escape plan with your family. LINK TO HOME FIRE ESCAPE PLANNING
Research has shown that children tend to sleep much more deeply and longer than adults. The sound of a smoke alarm may not penetrate the deep sleep patterns of children. As children can be “deep sleepers”, caregivers should never assume that activated smoke alarms would awaken and alert their sleeping children. As part of their home fire escape plan, caregivers must make it their responsibility to awaken and evacuate children in the event of a fire.

You may have recently seen news reports on television showing children sleeping through the sound of smoke alarms, but awakening rather quickly to the sound of a familiar, abrupt voice coming from a smoke alarm with voice recording capabilities. Although smoke alarms with voice recording capabilities may seem like a good idea, the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office is not aware of any voice recording smoke alarms that have met the Canadian standard for smoke alarms, CAN/ULC-S-531, Standard for Smoke Alarms, or that they will consistently awaken sleeping children. We understand that Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is currently reviewing this product, and that Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC) approval will be sought in the future.

Anyone who purchases one of these alarms should use discretion when recording a message. It is important that the message be applicable to any and all fire situation.

DISPOSAL OF SMOKE ALARMS:
Residential ionization smoke alarms contain an extremely small amount of radioactive material, americium 241 (33 kilobecquerel – kBq). This is comparable to the background radiation already present in many materials.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has confirmed that individual smoke alarms containing americium 241 may be disposed of in the regular garbage. However, if the smoke alarm contains radium or if there are large numbers of smoke alarms to be disposed of, more than 10 units, they should be shipped to the Low Level Radioactive Waste Management Office for disposal. Their contact number is 613-998-6748.


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Thu, Jan 14th - 12:53PM

Water Problems and Basements
Most water problems that homeowners encounter can usually be by controlling water above ground. Simple but effective means of controlling those above-ground problems may prevent structural damage to your home as well as dry up those basement damp areas. Most home owners are un-aware that saturated soil increases the soil pressure on the basement wall which can the lead to cracks, shifts, collapses and other structural problems. Start first by looking to the roof,. An inch of water on 1,000 square feet of roof amounts to about 623 gallons of water. A foot of compacted snow on that same roof could contain up to 4 inches of water, or nearly 2,500 gallons. Getting all that water away from the house is a big first step to preventing basement problems and can prevent needless costs in repairs. Ensuring your eaves trough have extension or splash pads that adequately remove water from around your house is the first step in preventing water intrusion or damage to your home. A slope of about 1 inch per foot drainage near the foundation wall is usually adequate. Also, the ground should be sloped to carry the water away from the downspout discharge.

In addition to proper drainage above ground, a properly installed drainage system below ground is important to keeping your basement dry. A properly installed drainage system at the house foundation will prevent many water problems from entering your basement and eliminate saturated soil conditions next to the wall. A study of leakage problems showed that more than 90 percent were due to improperly installed drainage systems. The engineer says a properly installed foundation drainage system includes drainpipes placed alongside the footing. In areas with high water tables, a drainage system can also be installed around the inside of the footing and under the basement floor. Using granular material to allow the movement of water and filtering material to keep soil from plugging drain pipes is essential to keeping the system functioning for the life of the house. Granular backfill should be used next to basement walls, he notes. Using soils that don't drain well can cause pressure on the walls if the soils become saturated. Most contractors now use a dimpled wrap installed against the foundation ensuring water drains down to weeping tile thus preventing hydraulic pressure from building against foundation walls. Poor drainage will also increase the potential for moisture or water vapor to move through the wall into the basement.

In certain areas, that moisture can carry minerals that are detrimental to the concrete. Basement walls that have had water or moisture leaks will usually leave an effervescent stain which is typically non-removable. Homeowners and home inspectors always view effervescence as indication of water penetration.

Window wells also need to be correctly constructed with drains linked to the foundation drains. Soil elevation in the window well should be several inches below bottom of window and sloped to the drain. The cost of installing the drainage system during new construction is minimal and is minimum building code requirement. As a home inspector window wells are usually an area where there is some deficiency that is noted on inspection report.

Window drains are usually installed in two ways; one is to place window well drain on top of foundation weeping tile and then fill with clean stone, thereby preventing entry and possible blockage from debris; two is to connect window well drain with Tee into foundation weeping tile and close off top of window drain with mesh sock or other means of preventing debris entry. As a home inspector I find many window well drains that are open and partially filled with leaves and toys etc. A blocked window well drain will allow build-up of water in heavy rain or snow melt and could enter basement windows.

Many homes have in ground drains for roof drainage discharge. These usually work well in warm months but in winter they are prone to freezing. I always recommend to my clients that they install a Tee at the top of ground drain which will serve as run off if ground drain is frozen but water is melting on roof. As the ground is the last are to un-thaw water will back up downspout and then freeze at night, installing a Tee will prevent this.

Professional home inspectors can identify problems and potential problems before buying a house or before major and expensive repairs are required. Always check your home inspectors qualifications prior to hiring,

CAVEAT EMPTOR - BUYER BEWARE


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