How Serious is Radon in a Home?

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Radon in Toronto Home Graphic

Many Toronto area homeowners have heard of radon, but aren’t exactly sure what it is and how serious of a health problem it may pose. Radon is a natural radioactive gas which can be found in the ground when radium and uranium  decays. On average, there may be up to 50 pounds of uranium in the ground in an acre of land and it decays into radium, which in turn naturally decays into radon. Radon by itself doesn’t pose any health hazards since it’s an inert gas. However, the gas can decay into lead and polonium articles which are both radioactive and chemically active. The radioactive particles can then be breathed into your body and lodge in your trachea, bronchi, and lungs. Human cells can be disrupted and mutated by the radiation and this can eventually cause lung cancer. In fact, it’s estimated that radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in America.

Radon Systems Toronto

Radon is odourless and invisible can find its way into a home by creeping through small spaces in the rock and soil which the house sits on. It can also seep into a building through floor drains, dirt floors and sump pits as well as any cracks in the basement floor, foundation, and foundation walls. A level of 70,000 atoms in each litre of air can be a cause for concern as it represents approximately two million atoms of radon in a cubic foot of air. Even though this is a low concentration of atoms in the air radon is dangerous because it’s radioactive. Humans breathe approximately 20 litres of air into their lungs per minute which results in about 10,000 atoms of radioactive radon each minute. This exposure to the gas can then lead to lung cancer.

CDC Stata Radon Deaths

Testing for Radon
The best way to find out if there’s radon present in your home is to have a professional contractor conduct a test. Short-term tests take between two and seven days with a charcoal accumulator system while long-term tests can take between three and 12 months and are carried out with an electrets or by alpha track. First time testing is usually the short-term option. It’s important that you have a qualified technician conduct the test so the proper mitigation system can be installed if the radon level is too high.

If there’s too much radon in your home there are several ways to alleviate the problem. One of the most common is known as a sub-slab depressurization system which includes the installation of fans and pipes. This system is designed to prevent the radon gas from seeping into the building below the foundation and concrete floor. Other methods can be used to rid the home of radon and these will typically depend on the design of the building. Also, radon can creep into homes of any age and also those which don’t have a basement.

Dangerous levels of radon in a home mean it’s time to take action. Having a home tested is easy and relatively inexpensive. While you may be able to find do-it-yourself test kits you may feel more confident by hiring a professional contractor to carry out the test with specialized equipment. A qualified technician will advise you on the most effective way of ridding your home from its specific level of radon. You may also want to have a professional contractor test for radon before buying a home to make sure level is acceptable. In addition, some new homes are being built with radon-resistant features.

To find out more about radon testing and how to properly eliminate the potentially dangerous gas please feel free to contact us at Nusite Waterproofing at your convenience. We’ll be able to fully test your home for radon levels and then install the correct system for keeping it at bay and keeping your home as healthy as possible.

How Does a Hot Water Radiant Floor Heating System Work

Radiant Floor Heating Intsallation Toronto

Hydronic radiant floor heating systems can create heat in different and specified areas of a home by sending warm water through something called PEX tubing, which is made out of flexible plastic. The tubing is located within the building’s floors or underneath them with PEX standing for cross-linked polyethylene. Along with PEX tubing, the radiant floor heating systems also consists of a heat source, manifolds, pumps, and controls. There are no joints in the PEX tubing used therefore uncut lengths of the tube are designed to snake through the floor and they both start and end at a manifold.

Whereas forced-air heating systems work by blowing warm air through ducts, the hot water radiant systems use a boiler or water heater as their source of heat. However, high-efficient solar and geothermal sources may also be used to provide heat. Since the radiant floor system can heat specific rooms and areas of a home you can have different temperature settings for each one. This makes it a highly energy-efficient system since you can lower the heat settings on unoccupied rooms and those that are less-frequently used.

Radiant Floor Heating in Toronto

The radiant floor heating system works when the circulating pump sends hot water flowing through the tubing and then returns it to the heater. The manifold is designed to balance the water in individual lengths of tubing which are known as loops and this vents the heating system. When the water makes it back to the water heater or heat source it is approximately 10 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than it was when it left. When the PEX tubing is installed it goes down in long loops which are placed approximately nine inches apart and it’s attached to the floor via a staple gun. Mortar or concrete is then poured on top of the PEX tubing.

For the most even heat, it’s recommended that the hot water is circulated through PEX tubing and is also covered over in a layer of material and ceramic tile flooring. This material could be dry-tampered mortar, Gypcrete or lightweight concrete. When the tiling is combined with this cement-type layer, it is able to store heat in it for quite some time and it can still radiate the heat even when the hot water is no longer circulating through the system. This makes a radiant floor heating system an ideal heating source in areas with colder climates.

Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating Example

The cost of the radiant heating system typically goes by square foot and generally depends on the size of the job and where you reside. Installation of radiant floor heating systems includes the all of the necessary tubing as well as the water heater, manifold, and the pump. The tubing will need to be embedded, usually with dry-tampered mortar, and the floor is then finished with ceramic tiling being the best option. Many Toronto area homeowners install radiant floor heating systems in additions to their homes since the operating costs are lower than a furnace. In addition, the water heater takes up less space than a furnace and the ductwork.

For more information about hot water radiant floor heat systems please contact our professional team of contractors us at Nusite Waterproofing.

Unfinished Basement: Turn It Into A Useful Space

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Finished Basement in Toronto

Most homeowners don’t make very good use of their basement.  If it’s an unfinished basement, it’s probably a laundry room and a very big storage space.  As a waterproofing company here in Toronto, the two biggest reasons people do not finish their basements are finances and chronic water leaks in their basement.

It’s hard to have a bright and airy basement when it feels and smells like you’re in a dungeon.  Chronic dampness and mold will do that.  If you have the budget, finishing your basement, or even creating a walkout basement can do wonders for ventilation and lighting.  Often times, finances don’t allow for a fully finished basement, though stopping the water leaks is probably a pre-requisite if you want to use the space, finished or unfinished.

Even in you don’t finish your basement, there are lots of creative ways you can make use of the space, and you won’t have to spend a fortune to do it.  Some ideas are:

 

Children’s Play Space

Create a safe and open space for you children to play.  It gets them out of the main living areas, reduces the traffic and cleanup for you, and creates a nice out of the way space for your little ones to play.  If they’re little, it can be a great downstairs play area while you take care of the laundry!

Kids Basement Playroom Toronto

Home Office

Need some peace and quiet so you can get some work done?  Find a cozy corner of the basement to concentrate on your work.  Often times, it may be simply running a cable line or power cord from the first floor so you can have your internet and power for you electronics and lighting.

Basement Home Office Toronto

Fitness Room

With some floor mats, a heavy bag, and some music, you can turn your dark basement into your own training center.  Exercise equipment can be loud and heavy, making it disruptive if there is living space below so the basement is a perfect place.

Basement Family Room

Family Room

A couple of couches, an area rug and a TV….and you have a great place to host family night!

Basement Family Room


Step 1: Make Sure It’s Waterproof

As you can see, there are lots of great ideas for turning that unused space into something you can enjoy.  Before you start, here are some ideas to keep in mind.

While a little moisture in an unfinished basement may seem unimportant, it matters a great deal when you’re investing money to build it out. Consider this. Damp is going to stain your new finishes and eventually ruin the job. You’re also going to have to rip them out to make repairs.

Moisture and lack of ventilation will ruin your basement fun if left untreated.  If you do have a water leak in your basement, find the source and call in a waterproofing company to fix it before you start.  Adding ventilation in the form of fans and possibly a dehumidifier will also help keep the air dry and circulating.

Step 2: Have a Proper Plan

Do you have electrical outlets?  Will you need them?  Is the space away from your utilities, especially if it’s a children’s play area.  Making sure the area is safe and that you have the proper resources before selecting the section of the basement for your new space.  Remove any clutter in the area and move it to a remote part of the basement.

Step 3: Lighting

One of the things that make an unfinished basement somewhat depressing is that lack of lighting.  If it’s going to be a space where you’re going o be spending any sort of time in, be sure to brighten the place up.  Ikea can give you some great, low-cost ideas for track lighting as well as floor and table lamps.

Step 5: Apply Finishes

Your choice of colors can make a big impact on the look and feel of your space.  There are several options for painting bare concrete walls and floors that can turn your basement into a bright and happy atmosphere without spending alot of money.  Also consider area rugs and child/gym mat flooring options that are also inexpensive.

Step 6: Install the Furniture and Fittings

Once the lighting, walls and flooring are in place, it’s time to move your furnishings in.  If you’ll be using furniture, consider using it in a way that sections off that part of your basement to give it it’s own unique space.

It’s easy to get more use out of your basement creatively. As long as your basement is dry, it’s not expensive to turn it into a space you can enjoy.    If you’re looking for ideas, check out there Pinterest images for some inspiration!

Nusite Group is a Toronto based basement waterproofing and foundation specialty company, we help get your basement ready so it can be finished for years of family enjoyment.  Contact us today to learn more about how we can help create get your damp, cramped basement into a fully functional living space.

 

Can I Install Radiant Heating In My Basement?

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Radiant Floor Heating in Toronto Basement

If you’re thinking about renovating your basement and are thinking about adding radiant heating to your flooring, then read on.  Not only is radiant heat possible for your basement floor, it can turn a cold, damp basement into the main gathering place for your home.

We’ve been renovating basements in Toronto and the surrounding GTA for over 30 years.  We’ve also installed several radiant heating floor systems as part of converting damp basements into full height, finished basements.

In-floor radiant basement heating is based on the principle that the amount of energy required to maintain the existing temperature is low, when compared to that required to raise it. In a nutshell, the system comprises two main components. The first part is a network of flexible tubing around which the concrete slab is poured. The second is a hydronic pump that forces heated liquid through this piping to create a warming effect.

 

When to Install Basement Radiant Heating

A hydronic basement heater is an efficient way to keep a basement comfortably warm, especially as heat eventually transfers to the entire structure if it is left ticking over. However, it is not recommended for drying out a damp basement despite what some salespeople may say. This is because it does not prevent moisture entering the structure, and gradually degrading it.

Manifestly, the preferred solution is to cast the radiant piping into the slab at the time of original construction. Should you decide to retrofit the system, there are two possibilities, though not as ideal as installing it with a new floor:

  • Chop up the floor slab, compact the rubble, cover it with a layer of sand and cast a fresh reinforced concrete floor with integral, radiant system.

 

  • Add an above-floor grid covered over by a false floor. However, this option is not integral with the structure and consequently less energy-effective.

Convenient Energy Sources

Almost any energy source can be used to heat the liquid and power the pump that circulates it. Common solutions include coal, electricity, a heat pump, natural gas, oil, propane, solar energy, and wood. Factors influencing the final choice incorporate local building codes, general safety considerations, architectural constraints, the level of ambient temperature desired, and, of course, the homeowner’s budget.

 

Why You Should Consider Radiant Heating in Your Basement

Assuming that you have in mind to keep your basement warm – as opposed to drying it out which is counterproductive for reasons mentioned – then in-floor radiant heating has a number of significant advantages as follows:

  • It is economic to install and operate, especially when fitted during the construction phase.

 

  • It is gentle to the environment as it produces less greenhouse gases and can be fired by renewable energy.

 

  • It is unusually quiet as does not rely on electric fans, rattling ductwork and hammering pipes.

 

  • It is exceptionally clean and healthy as it is totally concealed and releases no pollutants to the air.

 

  • Being ideally integrated with the floor slab, it does not rob your basement of precious headroom.

In Conclusion, is Radiant Heating a Good Idea?

Anything that adds value to your home in a cost-effective manner is an investment worth considering. This is especially true if it converts a chilly basement into useful living space. If you plan on creating a finished basement that will be a hub for the family, then consider adding radiant heating during your renovations.

Have questions about basement renovations or radiant heating for your basement?  Nusite Group has been repairing and renovating basements in Toronto for over 30 years.  We offer a free onsite evaluation for your radiant heating project and will provide you a list of recommendations as part of our free estimate.  You can contact us here.

Beware Of Dangers That Lurk In Your Basement

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Finished Basement Family Room Toronto

With the housing market boom going on in Toronto, homeowners are trying to make the most of the living space they have.  One of the biggest opportunities for additional living space is down in the basement.

Most basements in Toronto were not originally designed to be used as living space and can be dark, wet and cramped with the utilities that service the home.

Unfortunately, a home’s basement can often be a breeding ground for problems such as mold, radon, carbon monoxide from faulty HVACs, water-borne bacteria, and hazards caused by electrical wires being exposed to water. Most homeowners may be familiar with most of these problems, but radon could be something they aren’t too familiar with.

Below is a list of some common basement issues we come across, which should all be inspected before considering turning your basement into a living space.

Radon
Radon is basically a type of dangerous as which is caused by radiation. Radon is tasteless, colourless and odourless, making it hard to detect. It’s created by the decay of radioactive minerals or uranium which can be found in the earth’s crust. It’s harmless if it is able to disperse into the atmosphere, but creates a problem if there’s a home or some other type of structure in the way. In this case, the radon can enter a basement through the soil and will begin to accumulate. A cement basement floor will help fight it off as long as it doesn’t have any cracks and is nonporous and solid. But radon can enter through a drainage system or water sump hole and then rise through a home via the heating ducts.

Radon can also possibly be emitted through things such as fireplaces, stone foundations, wood, concrete, wallboard and even water supplies via deep wells. Radon gas is a health risk if breathed in since it can damage the lungs and cause cancer. This is the reason homeowners should have a radon-detection-kit in their house or have a professional contractor inspect the home. The kit consists of a charcoal-filled canister which positioned in the home’s lowest living level or basement and in a still area, away from windows and doors. After a specified period of time the test kit is delivered to the manufacturer and it will be evaluated for the results.

Radon levels in a home can be lowered via a variety of methods and costs. The method used will depend on the type of soil around the home, the design of the building and level of radon in the air. The best solution is to seal entrance points to keep radon out. This means caulking floor cracks, sealing drains, waterproofing basement floors and walls, covering up bare crawlspace floors and capping sump-pump holes. Basically, any type of method which is used to lower the level of moisture in a basement can be effective when trying to lower the levels of radon.

Mold, Mildew and Fungus
Most homeowners are aware of the damage that mold and fungus can do to a home as well as the health risks they present. Most molds aren’t toxic, but can produce mycotoxins which can cause health and respiratory problems if you’re exposed to them. Mold spores are often absorbed through the skin or inhaled while fungal infections can originate inside the lungs or on the skin. The elderly and infants are typically more susceptible to mold, mildew and fungus health risks. Some types of mold found in basements care more dangerous and toxic such as black molds and these can cause pulmonary hemosiderosis, which is a rare lung disease which causes internal bleeding.

Mold is typically caused by flooding, moisture or condensation in the basement along with high humidity and can often go unnoticed. It usually starts in the insulation, carpeting, piping, floor, vents, ducts, furniture, the ceiling, wallpaper, wood or drywall. If your basement has been flooded it’s recommended that you contact a professional waterproofing company to have it inspected. You may need to have any wet materials removed such as drywall. Moisture can also enter a basement through leaking pipes and cracks in the floor or walls. You may realize you have mold in the basement as it usually smells musty and stagnant. If you suspect you have mold, but can’t find a sign of it, don’t hesitate to seek professional help from a waterproofing company.

Carbon Monoxide
Another odourless, tasteless, and colorless gas is carbon monoxide, and this can prove to be fatal if it gets into your home. This is why it’s imperative you have carbon monoxide alarms installed. In fact, in many areas of the world it’s the law. Carbon monoxide is a by-product of fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil, propane, and wood and is created in appliances such as stoves, furnaces, and gas fireplaces (electric fireplaces are a good alternative). It can cause flu-like symptoms, but be deadly if it escapes into your home while you’re sleeping. Make sure a carbon monoxide alarm isn’t placed next to a basement furnace.

The alarms should be located in the living areas and close to bedrooms since the gas travels through vents and ductwork. It’s important to have your gas appliances inspected regularly by a licensed HVAC company to make sure they aren’t faulty and leaking carbon monoxide. They need to be vented properly and unblocked. Chimneys and fireplaces also need to be free of any blockage so the air can escape. Also, don’t forget to test your alarms on a regular basis too.

Electrical Wiring
It’s important that all electrical wiring in the basement and anywhere else for that matter be protected from water. Electricity and water don’t mix and can result in fire and other damage. If your home has ever been flooded or subject to any type of water damage you should have all of the electrical wiring and equipment in those locations properly inspected. Any water-damaged wiring and/or equipment should be repaired or replaced immediately. One way to make sure you aren’t subject to any electrical damage is to have your basement properly waterproofed.

Nusite Group is a Toronto waterproofing and foundation repair company that has been serving Toronto for over 30 years.  We provide free, in-home inspections and estimates, schedule your today.