As a homeowner, seeing a crack in your foundation can certainly be cause for concern. Here in Toronto, the harsh Winters and rainy Springs and Summers can cause havoc on our home’s foundation.  Even if it hasn’t happened to you, many of us have heard horror stories of water damage and shifting foundations that can cost a pretty penny to repair. So, how can you tell if the small crack you discovered signifies a much larger problem? Read on to find out.

What Different Types of Cracks Can Signify

There are several different types of cracks that commonly occur within the foundation of a home, each of which can signify a different problem:

  • Horizontal Cracks – A crack in your wall that extends horizontally, or looks like a stairstep, commonly signifies a problem for homeowners. These cracks leave your foundation susceptible to lateral pressure and with the natural expansion of the ground around your foundation, with moisture, it can actually cause your wall to bow around the crack. A horizontal crack can eventually lead to the entire failure and snapping of the foundation walls if not cared for appropriately. This type of crack cannot be fixed by simply filling it, it will require professional attention to truly repair.

Horizontal crack in Toronto foundation home

  • Vertical Cracks – As concrete and the foundation of your home settle it can cause vertical cracks to occur throughout your foundation. These cracks are quite common and can be easily repaired by filling the crack with filler materials to prevent further spreading.

Toronto home with vertical crack in foundation

  • Diagonal Cracks – A diagonal crack is typically an indication of a fracture that has spread over time, so a simple filling might not fix it permanently. It is a good idea to get these types of cracks stabilized and reinforced by professionals so that further spreading does not occur.ConcreteDiag220DFs (1)

Depending on the types of cracks that you are noticing within your foundation, you can better determine the next step that you need to take to protect your investment.

Even Minor Cracks Need to Be Monitored

Even if you have a vertical crack, you want to be sure that you monitor all cracks regularly. Expansion, bowing of walls and leaks can only cause more damage to your home and cost you more money. A great way to monitor your cracks is to use a pencil to mark the ends of a crack with the date reviewed. A few months later you can return to the crack and see if it has changed or expanded. If you notice an expansion then perhaps it is a good idea to seek professional assistance to ensure that you home is not in danger.

When to Get a Professional Involved

If you notice that a crack in your foundation has seemed to worsen, or you have a horizontal or diagonal crack, then you are going to want to consider bringing in a  professional. A contracting company that specializes in foundation repairs can give you an assessment of whether it’s a minor problem or a more serious matter.  If it’s a very serious problem, a structural engineer will likely be recommended to assess the foundation.

Your home is your sanctuary and an investment that should be protected, don’t let a little foundation crack threaten your home and family.

 

Have questions about cracks in your foundation?  If you live in Toronto or the surrounding GTA, we Nusite Group offers a free in-home inspection and assessment of your foundation cracks.  You can contact us here for more information.

 Radon Contracting Toronto

Chances are that you have heard the word Radon before. Most people have. They have heard the word and know it’s supposed to be bad, but as far as what it is and where it comes from, most people don’t know. It’s hard to protect yourself and your family from something you know little or nothing about; so here are the basics to help you stay safe.

The city of Toronto lists it on their website as a major indoor environmental pollutant.

 

What is Radon?

Radon can be found all over. It is a colorless, scentless and radioactive gas that forms as uranium breaks down in the earth’s ground. This means that radon is everywhere in the world.

The radon gas works its way up through the soil and then into the air. The radon in the air then makes its way into your home from cracks and gaps in your home’s foundation. There have also been cases of radon entering a home through well water. This means as you run your kitchen sink or take a shower the steam is releasing radon gas into the air.

Once the gas enters your home it becomes trapped. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 1 out of 15 homes has radon levels that are elevated. You might be wondering, “If radon is everywhere what’s the problem?”

Radon Testing Contractor Toronto

How Radon Enters The Home

What are the dangers of Radon?

Most people understand the risk of a fire in their home or that smoking causes cancer, so they take action and buy a smoke detector or stop smoking, but what about radon?

Radon is believed to be the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking. As a radioactive gas, radon is a carcinogen. The EPA estimates that 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year are caused from radon exposure. If you happen to be a smoker and you have high levels of radon in your home, you actually double your risk of getting lung cancer.

Just as you install carbon monoxide detectors in your home to alert you from possible carbon monoxide poisoning, it’s important that you take action to reduce your exposure to high levels of radon. So, how do you protect yourself from something that you cannot see, hear or smell?

 

How to protect yourself from radon

You can protect yourself and your family by having the radon levels in your home tested. There are several testing options:

  • “Do It Yourself” test – You can purchase DIY kits online or at many retailers to self-test the radon levels in your home. There are short term kits, which test the levels over the period of a few to 90 days and there are long term kits that test the levels over a period of 90 days or more. Radon levels can vary with the seasons and long-term test kits can be more reliable.

 

  • Have a professional radon contractor test your home for you. You can pay a qualified technician to complete the testing in your home. They can also make recommendations and help you reduce the radon levels in your home if they find that your house has elevated levels.

 

Since radon is created naturally in the environment you might be wondering if there are solutions that can lower the exposure level in your home; you’re in luck. According to the EPA website, “Some radon reduction systems can reduce radon levels in your home by up to 99%. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels.

 

You can make improvements to your existing home by sealing cracks in the foundation to help reduce the radon gas from entering your home in the first place. Some building materials in homes also introduce radon gas into your home, but current building materials are more environmentally friendly for all.

 

What do I do now?

If you are in the process of buying or selling a home, call in a professional to have your home (or future home) tested. Many buyers are looking for this information when buying a home and elevated radon levels could break the sale of your home.

 

Not in the process of buying or selling? Have your home tested to keep your family safe and lower their risk of lung cancer. Most people cannot imagine having a home without a smoke detector to keep them safe from the danger of fire, don’t delay in protecting those you love from radon gas in your home. Contact Nusite Group today or call us at 416-622-7000, we are a qualified Radon Contractor and can perform a comprehensive inspection and testing procedure for your home.

One of the most common foundation problems for older homes in Toronto is the crumbling of mortar joints between the stones. The repairing process of a stone foundation will depend on several factors since not all repair jobs are the same. However, repairing the bad joints isn’t generally considered to be a big task as long as it’s completed before the basement walls begin to move and the stones fall. Repairing the joints isn’t as expensive as completely rebuilding a wall section.

Crumbling Stone Foundation in Toronto

Using Your Basement as a Living Area

Some stone basements are used as living areas by homeowners, but more commonly, the basement will be used as a storage area for the furnace and water heater etc. And in some cases, the basement isn’t used at all as it’s basically just a foundation and is comparable to a high crawl space. The way the basement is utilized by a homeowner will usually dictate how the repairs will be carried out. If the basement is being used as a living area, then the homeowner will want the finished product to be attractive.  If the height of the basement is inadequate for living purposes, basement lowering is also an option.

Appearance is important in this scenario, but it takes more time and work to make sure the basement looks nice after repairing it due to crumbling mortar joints. If the basement is being used as a storage area and to house utilities, then most homeowners aren’t too concerned how attractive the finished wall is as long as it’s been properly repaired. In this case, their main concern is the structural integrity and function of the finished job. The same is true of homeowners who simply use the basement as a foundation.

Repairing a Crumbling Stone Foundation

Repairing crumbling mortar in stone walls is a relatively easy job, but it’s also quite tedious. The rotting and crumbling mortar is taken out and replaced with new mortar. The type of new mortar used is important and it’s generally determined by the condition of the stones and the type of the stones used to construct the wall. A bonding agent is typically used when new mortar is placed in the wall. Many foundations will be rotted in some areas while other areas have held up quite well.

The joints are investigated with a brick hammer by tapping it on them. If there is a hollow sound, then the mortar is replaced. The process is then repeated over and over again, which makes it tedious. In some cases, the dirt and mortar can be blasted out with a high-pressure garden hose. However, it’s important to make sure the stones aren’t disturbed. In most cases though, the old mortar is removed with a brick hammer or a pneumatic hammer.

Stone Foundation Repairs in Toronto

The crumbling mortar is usually removed from the top down and the wall is cleaned before new mortar joints are installed. It’s essential that the new mortar is placed behind the stone to make sure its bale to bond and bind. Some homeowners with stone basements try to support the floor joists and/or beams as they believe this will help take the weight off the wall. But in reality, this won’t stop the wall from crumbling or moving.

This is because a block or stone wall receives lateral strength from the pressure or weight that’s applied down onto it. If the weight is taken off of the wall there’s a better chance it will fall in, buckle, or move. Of course, the best way to preserve a home’s stone foundation is to replace any crumbling mortar. But until you can get it fixed, you should try to make sure that any ground water around the building’s foundation runs away from it at ground level. This is because dirt is moved by water and it can also move mortar. When you get your foundation repaired usually depend on your schedule and financial budget. When it comes to the cost, you may find it’s less expensive to repair the damage during the winter months when contractors usually aren’t as busy and they may be looking for work.

Have The Condition Of Your Stone Foundation Inspected

If your basement is in really bad shape you may want to consult a professional contracting company to have your foundation repaired or the basement underpinned. Nusite Group offers a free in-home inspection and estimate on all stone foundation issues and consult with you on the several improvement options that may be available to you so you can make an informed choice.

WSIB Covered Basement Contractors Ontario

Insurance and income tax are said to be among mankind’s greatest grudge expenses. They seldom seem to provide the benefits to match their cost. That’s why we try to put off settling those bills for as long as possible, and do our best to cut them back to the minimum. Sometimes it seems we’re hoping they’ll go away.

The problem with computers is that we are becoming far too used to having an undo button, and that’s spreading beyond our keyboards too. However time machines do not exist, the revenue service has a habit of getting its way, and medical bills for accident injuries have become outrageously expensive.

Ontario WSIB for Waterproofing Companies

Accidents Will Happen

Work-based accidents in Ontario are still surprisingly common.  Power tools (and the fact that some contractors work alone on jobs in order to remain competitive) ensure this. When an uninsured worker is hurt, the costs of emergency transportation, surgery, after care, rehabilitation and temporary loss of income are horrendous. An uninsured worker, if not covered by their waterproofing contractor company, will either have to pay their own medical bills or look to other liable parties for to pay for medical costs.  Those liable persons can be the homeowner where the work was being performed.

So the question is, are you comfortable getting sued by a worker because their employer does not carry the required insurance?  You may say that couldn’t happen, but it happens every day.  Lawyers look for the person who carries the most insurance and liability, and that person is the homeowner when it comes to workplace accidents on their property.

WSIB Insurance

Until the Ontario Workman’s Safety and Insurance Board introduced its accident insurance scheme, local contractors and employers were both at risk. Contractors who do not enjoy the Board’s accident coverage and do not employ other means of workplace employment still face their costs of injury alone. However they also have the right to sue their customers – and some successfully do. It is not only their homes that sometimes have to be sold.

But Isn’t this Coverage Automatic?

It’s supposed to be. However a contractor still has to register with the WSIB and pay an annual fee. Some waterproofing contractors may take the risk of not being insured to save money (and try and undercut reputable companies who carry the necessary insurance), while some think they can’t afford it or for the employees they hire. Others simply forget.

A related problem is that some employers either don’t know about Ontario’s WSIB insurance, or just assume that everything’s under control. When that happens, both parties are literally surfing naked on a potential time bomb, if you’ll excuse the mixed analogy.

What If a Contractor is Injured on my property as a homeowner?

The law requires that you as the homeowner take reasonable steps to minimize the effects of injury, and ensure the individual receives the necessary attention. After that, your involvement should be over. Unless, of course, a lawyer thinks they can prove your negligence. In the latter case the legal bills alone could break you.

How Can I be Sure a contractor has proper coverage?

Ask to see a waterproofing company’s Ontario WSIB clearance number, which is now valid for ninety days. If they’re not insured, think twice before you hire them. It’s simply not worth the risk. There are many waterproofing companies operating in Toronto with very little insurance or none at all.  They operate out of the back of their van and charge low rates because they are taking big risks for themselves, their workers and you the homeowner.  These same waterproofing companies will offer generous warranties, knowing full well they have no intention (or means) of hounoring them.  If they’ve forgotten it (or think they’re covered), the WSIB website is able to provide instant confirmation online.

If you really want to hire a waterproofing contractor but the insurance angle isn’t crystal clear, then this should be your first port of call. After all, it costs you nothing yet could and will prevent you from potential liability if an injury occurs on your property.

 

Foundation cracks in Toronto are common due to the age of the housing in the GTA, as well as the weather (rain-snow-freezing-thawing).  Foundation cracks develop over time for a variety of reasons and leads to basement water leaks as water makes its way into through the foundation.

Water Penetration Trough Concrete Floor

Foundation cracks may not seem appear too serious at first, but there’s always a chance they could cause some damage further down the road. This is why it’s a good idea to have them inspected by a professional. Horizontal and/or vertical cracks in a foundation usually won’t threaten the building’s structural integrity as cracking from earth settlement below the foundation and drying of drywall tape or concrete typically won’t cause a problem.

Foundations Move and Shift Over Time

Buildings continually move when the framing shifts and the earth contracts and expands due to heat and humidity fluctuation. Most homeowners won’t even notice the movements since they’re so small, but older homes were often constructed with a reliance on friction and gravity to hold the components of the building in place. The structure can weaken over time and then settle and spread. If the problem isn’t looked after, the building could collapse under its own weight. However the components are all tied together in newer buildings to form a single unit to stop this from happening.

Some structural defects are often hidden inside of walls and under the ground while others are more obvious. Since damage to the structure can be caused by moisture you should inspect the foundation if water from any source is running to it. If the foundation has been penetrated by water it’s generally due to a drainage problem. Salt will wash through a foundation and the rebar and wire mesh will rust away. When this happens the concrete will crumble as the foundation fails.

Leaks in plumbing, doors, windows and/or siding can cause rotting in wood and this can damage a structure’s integrity as the wood can turn to dust. If you find any rot in the trim around doorframes or windows or in there could be some hidden damage. If wood is untreated it may become moist due to contact with earth or concrete and start rotting on the inside. This is often a problem supports and columns for porches and decks.

If termites are present the wood can quickly turn to powder and when a wooden structure is touching the ground there’s usually some hidden damage. The easiest place to visually see any structural damage in a building is the top floor as shifting caused by rot or the movement of the foundation is more pronounced on the top level. Door and window frames will move more on a higher level than a lower one. If the higher levels have uneven floors it’s usually because the structure below isn’t properly supported.

Inspecting For Foundation Cracks

One way to check for structural problems is to inspect the corners of door and window frames with a carpenter’s square. If you find they’re not square it could be because there’s been structural movement below. Be aware that improper installation of the window or door could result in the corners not being square. If just one window or door frame isn’t square this is the likely cause since structural movement will generally affect more than just one frame.

You can check for uneven floors by placing a marble on the floor and see if it rolls. A slightly uneven floor isn’t necessarily bad news since some foundations are designed to ride the movement of the soil the same way a ship rides the waves. Buildings with these types of foundations may not always be perfectly even at all times. But if the floor is sloping in more than one direction then you should have it checked out.

When there’s structural movement it can result in cracking and the cracks can more or less tell the direction and location of the force which caused them. A crack shaped like a V could indicate upward-moving pressure. Upward-moving forces can happen when the soil expands and when the level of moisture is increased in the earth beneath foundations, patios, driveways and sidewalks. Float walls are usually built into basements of structures erected in expansive soil and the float wall is designed to expand and contract with the movement of the soil. If the walls are rigid the force of the expanding soil can push on them and damage the floors above.

Downward Pressure

A downward force will create a vertical crack which is wider at the bottom than the top and the force often originates from subsidence of the soil located below the building’s foundation. A structure can also be damaged by outward or inward force. Horizontal cracks usually aren’t serious, but if the surface below or above the crack has been forced outward or inward there could be problems. Inward or outward pressure can be the result of improper backfill, pressure of moving water and earth, or vehicle traffic that is too close to the foundation.

If you can determine the direction and lace of the force which has caused the cracks then it’ll be easier to find the source. If the damage is hidden though, it can be very hard to determine and costly to repair as floors, ceilings and walls may need to be opened to reveal the damage. It’s also possible you won’t realize there’s any damage until the structure eventually fails.

Foundation Tips When Buying a Home

When buying a home, it’s recommended that you inspect the patios, driveways and sidewalks to see if they’re sunken, heaved, cracked or twisted. If they are then the property may have expansive soils. If the foundation and other structures have been built for the conditions and water is routed away from concrete pads and the foundation you should find little indication of any concrete damage. Remember that most homes erected on expansive soils generally show some defects due to the constant expansion and contraction of the earth. It’s a good idea to have your home inspected if you’re unsure of any damage or contract a structural engineer for a professional opinion.

Have a questions about a crack in your foundation?  Nusite Waterproofing serves Toronto and the surrounding GTA.  We offer a free in-home inspection and estimate and can advise on how to repair your foundation crack.  Contact us here today to schedule an appointment.