Basement heartbreak month

Installing a second sump pump in your basement is never a bad idea. Postmedia Network

If your home made it through the fall months without incurring any flooding damage due to power failures, general mishaps, or acts of nature, then congratulations, your home’s water dispersal system is seemingly in good working order.

However, fall weather to a home is kind of like Japan showing up to face Team Canada in pre-tournament Olympic hockey. In other words, the ol’ homestead has yet to be truly challenged. A few days of rain, perhaps a little snow, combined with maybe a heavy downpour of leaves, is usually all the fight you’re going to get out of October and November, and, relatively nothing compared to what’s coming this March.

Besides having long been the heartbreak month for Maple Leaf fans, as they helplessly watch their team play themselves out of playoff contention, March has also earned the reputation as the month for basement heartbreak. This due to after months of sweat, blood, tears, and expense put into a basement renovation, the odds favour an exhausted homeowner waking up some morning in the month of March, to a just installed floating composite floor, actually floating, in about four inches of water.

What happened? Well, the various weak spots in your home’s drainage system were working well enough to handle a little rain, but when it came to diverting the water from those banks of melting snow and ice, the systems obviously fell well short of the task.

So, if you’re planning on turning your basement into extra living space this winter, let’s look at how to avoid heartbreak this spring.

First, if your home’s basement floor is below the water table, thereby requiring you to have a sump pit, and accompanying sump pump, in order to collect the water surrounding the foundation, and pump it clear of the home, get a second pump. When one little bobble floating up and down a thin steel shaft is all that protects your $20,000 basement renovation from disaster, it’s time to re-evaluate your risk management.

Sump pumps can jamb, get clogged, or just stop working. So, invest in a second pump, two bobbles are definitely better than one. Plus, have this second pump tie into your water line. This way, you’re not depending on electrical power, or a backup battery (that requires a constant trickle charge) to power the pump, it’ll all be done by the existing water pressure in the line.

Call your local plumber in order to have this job done properly.

Next, let’s check the foundation, and make sure those systems designed to properly divert rain and snow melt away from your home are intact. Checking the foundation means essentially looking for cracks. Whatever the size of a crack, be it hairline, or severe, they’re all potentially problematic, allowing water into the home, while further deteriorating your foundation. Cracks can be temporarily covered, or filled, with a pre-mixed, just add water, hydraulic cement powder. The next step, if weather, and your skill set will permit, would be to cover these repairs with parging, a thin coat, smooth finishing compound that you see on most finished foundations.

Next, if you’ve got window wells, cover them. Window wells collect water and deposit it against the foundation wall, basically the two things you absolutely want to avoid. Easy to install, clear plastic “flip up” covers can be ordered to size, are durable, and lightweight, allowing any basement dwellers to easily escape in an emergency.

Next, clean your eavestroughing, and, make sure those downpipes are depositing rain water at least five feet from the home, not into your weeping tile. Back in the olden days, it was thought efficient to run the downpipe straight down into the weeping system. We now realize this strategy unnecessarily overburdens the drain pipe with water and various debris.

Finally, grade the landscape so that rain and snow melt flow away from the home, with a slope of at least one inch per foot for the first ten feet.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Flats overhead

Today we’re talking flat residential roofing, and specifically, how to get them to stop leaking.

Now, why would anyone choose to have a flat roof? Well, like the lawn dart (banned in 1988, after having skewered more individuals than those wounded at the Battle of Grunwald in 1410), and clacker ball toys (banned in 1985, after it was discovered that with vigorous clacking, the resulting explosion was second only to the M67 fragmentation grenade) it seemed like a good idea at the time. Theoretically, flat roofs aren’t a bad idea, and are normally the least complicated way of covering a carport or back porch. Plus, the material cost of flat roof joists are often cheaper than a peaked, or truss system of roof. And, with a little added engineering, a flat roof can be turned into an outdoor terrace, providing a bird’s eye view of the neighborhood.

Having living space on the roof can also be quite private, unless you live by the airport, and provide a unique type of entertaining area for guests. Flat roofs rarely leak because they can’t disperse water properly. After all, flat roofs are like a table top, allowing precipitation to simply flow over the edge into an eavestrough type of system. So, even snow, which melts eventually, shouldn’t be an issue. However, in our part of the world, we get freezing rain, followed by a 24 hour thaw, then 20 centimeters of snow, with a 10 day severe cold spell to wrap up a typical January month end. When that happens, the snow melt buried under the exterior crust will pool in the middle, usually for several weeks, providing a true test of your flat roofing membrane. Eventually, and after years of pooling, the water will make its way through.

So, how does a homeowner with a flat roof avoid the inevitable? By using the best in materials, and by providing adequate drainage. First, a flat roof, or even one that is slightly sloped, requires a solid plywood base. So, if you’re repairing or replacing an existing roof, remove all asphalt or granular roofing materials that are presently on the roof.

Never apply modern day products over existing materials. One, you’re leaving two Volkswagen Jetta’s worth of material weight on the roof, which will only lead to roof sag, more water pooling, and eventual leakage. And two, the planks or plywood under this existing roof could be in lousy condition, or even close to rotting if the leaking has been ignored for some time. Left unchecked, adding a couple of tons of new roofing material to a flat roof with a weakened joist system, could make things really uncomfortable for the fellow in the top bunk when that first heavy snowfall hits.

With the old materials cleaned off the roof, check the condition of the underlay material. If you discover the underlay to be a series of 1×6 or 1×8 planks, replace the ones that have cracked or rotted, then cover the planks with a ½ inch thick plywood sheeting. Roofing materials, whether it be steel, asphalt shingles, or flat rubber membranes, absolutely require plywood as an underlay.

Next, you’ll be applying a two part roll roofing product such as the Henry Bakor Duratac system. The system consists of first installing what’s referred to as a base sheet, which is a rubberized, self-sticking, 39”x65 ft. roll-on membrane that gets applied directly to the plywood. If applying the base sheet in late fall or early spring, first apply a primer to the plywood to help adhesion.

Next, apply the cap sheet, which is essentially the same type of self-sticking roll as the base sheet, except the cap sheet has a granular surface to effectively defend against the elements. Further keys to a successful flat roof application? Use a heavy roller to effectively seal the membranes to the plywood, and each other. Plus, avoid leakages due to pooling by properly flashing around chimneys, plumbing stacks, and everywhere the roof meets a ledge or wall.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Up on the roof and get ready to shingle

What’s the first thing a homeowner should do upon receiving his load of asphalt shingles, felt paper, and various other roofing materials? Take the receipt, place it in a shoe box labelled ‘House expenses’ and set this box high upon a shelf in the bedroom closet for the next 30 years.

Even if roofing shingles are poorly installed, or get nailed to an unsuitable surface, or are otherwise forced to suffer through conditions that would in no way permit proper tab adhesion, they’ll probably do the job for at least six-eight years. By year nine the granular surface will begin to loosen, rolling down the roof into the eavestroughing. Then the shingle tabs will start to curl and buckle. Years 10 through 12 will show further deterioration, and as the shingles begin to detach from the nails, the next big wind will have the tabs flying off so fast you would have thought a flock of crows had just been disturbed off their perch.

Then the roof leaks. Then the customer questions why their 30 year asphalt shingles lasted barely half that long. That seems to be the pattern for most consumers who fail to keep their roofing receipts. Perhaps it’s just fate, but those persons who keep their receipts, rarely run into issues. So, keep your receipts. Without them, the claim or warranty process will be nothing but frustration.

Which brings to question, what’s with all the class-action lawsuits against the asphalt shingle industry? Because Canadians simply lay blame and brood, while Americans tend to skip this emotional state and move directly into the game of suits and litigation, most of the issues are State side.

With a home’s roof taking the brunt of all weather conditions, while receiving the least care upkeep wise, it’s easy to find a lot of unsatisfied consumers. Basically, most of the claim issues are directed towards what is referred to as an organic shingle. Organic shingles were the original specie, and had a felt base that was dipped in tar, then covered with ceramic coated granules. Production of organic shingles ceased in 2010, and were replaced by what the industry now calls a fiberglass shingle, because the substrate is a sheet of woven fiberglass, as opposed to a heavy paper felt.

However, the process of shingle making remained the same. Impregnate the substrate with tar, then cover with granules. So, an asphalt shingle is basically the same as it ever was, and of course looks the same as before, since the only modification to the new version is the hidden fiberglass base. Why the change to fiberglass? Because it proved to have a higher resistance to heat and wind, which really meant little to the Canadian market, since we lack the necessary trailer parks to attract tornadoes, and might get two days in July with temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius. However, it was cheaper to manufacture, and that’s all that counted.

Why did the organics fail? Could have been the product, or installation, or any number of factors. What we do know is that to ensure your new fiberglass shingles last as long as possible, we’ll need to change our traditional way of installation. Because all new homes use plywood or OSB (oriented strand board) on the roof, having a smooth, clean, reliable substrate, isn’t an issue. Older homes, whose foundations were framed with 1×8 spruce planks, with these planks salvaged and subsequently installed on the roof, are going to have a problem. Plus, it was also common practice to layer shingles, burying two generations of shingles under a brand new third layer. With the organic shingle of the day being so malleable, and quite adaptable to the inconsistent surface created by the 1×8 lumber and layers of shingles, it wasn’t uncommon to get 20 years out of a shingle. With fiberglass shingles, the practice of layering will need to stop.

Next week, installing the modern asphalt shingle.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard