Concrete Block Wall Basement in Toronto

Many homes in Toronto and the surrounding GTA have poured-concrete foundations, but some of them are made of concrete block, which is often referred to as concrete masonry units (CMUs) or cinder blocks. The walls of concrete block foundations sit on a footing which is a concrete-poured pad that is wider than the building’s foundation wall. This helps to distribute the home’s weight load. The foundation’s construction starts with pouring the footing inside a trench which contains metal or wood forms. The footing needs to sit lower than the freeze line and possibly deeper if there’s going to be a full-height basement.

 

Foundation Footings

The footing’s thickness and width depends on the construction and size of the home as well as the soil’s load-bearing capacity. During the basement excavation, the first row of concrete block is laid on the footing when it has cured to describe the structure’s perimeter. For foundation walls, the typical thickness of the concrete block is eight inches. However, foot-thick blocks are sometimes used for heavier loads and higher walls. More courses of block and mortar are added in a brick-like pattern until the proper height is reached. At this time, any openings and windows are built and the mortar in the wall is given time to  cure.

If there are hollow cores in the block walls they may be filled completely with mortar, but usually the edges of openings and corners of the wall are filled. In addition, extra strength may be added with steel rebar. Once the walls are finished the basement floor is poured with concrete and the ground floor framing is completed. The foundation is now supported at the bottom and top and it’s backfilled and compacted with soil while construction begins above the ground.

 

Fixing a Leak in a Concrete Block Foundation

Poured-concrete and concrete block foundations both have identical load-bearing strength, but concrete block walls are more susceptible to any type of lateral pressure which can result in seepage problems. This is because water can seep into a basement through concrete block walls via the porous blocks and any cracked mortar joints. It’s recommended that you waterproof a home’s block foundation by installing a waterproofing membrane to the exterior. This method can be done while the building is being constructed or by excavating around it.

The exterior membrane consists of asphalt-modified polyurethane. It’s applied in a thick coating to the exterior of the foundation walls and it created a barrier which helps keep out water. The waterproofing membrane is different than a damp-proofing spray as the spray is a thinner liquid which is sprayed over foundation walls when the home is built to keep condensation out of its interior. The membrane can be improved with exterior drain tile when the water table is high. The drain tile is designed to carry ground water away. In addition, drainage board can be installed on the walls as a method to help protect the exterior membrane by channeling the water downward.

If you don’t have the option of exterior waterproofing, then interior drain tile can help keep a block wall from allowing water through it. This often sees the installation of a vapor barrier on the inside walls which transports any water to the drain tile. This can be kept from view as a finish wall can cover the vapor barrier.

No matter what the reason is for your damp basement, if you have a concrete block foundation that needs to be waterproofed please feel free to contact our team of professional contractors at Nusite. We have over 30 years of experience dealing with concrete block walls in the GTA and will gladly schedule a visit to your home for a free inspection and estimate.

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.