“It’s extremely rare that I open up a wall and don’t find a problem that needs to be fixed,” says Bryan Baeumler. For that reason, he suggests earmarking between 24 per cent and 30 per cent of your renovation budget for unforeseen problems. “There are always changes, surprises or things that need upgrading.”
One thing that is predictable, however, is the likelihood the host of HGTV’s Leave it to Bryan and co-host of Disaster DIY can walk you through any problem you throw his way. This week, he answer Star readers’ questions about wayward sump pumps, water damaged window sills and sinking driveways.
Hi, Bryan. My basement wall is insulated with a particle-board covering. A recent sump pump failure caused water to seep into that area, as well as other areas of the basement, causing water damage. Insurance got involved, the sump pump got replaced. All areas were restored to prior condition. But, since the clean-up, there’s a strange-looking mould growth on the floor below the wall with the particle board. It is white with a brown centre. What do you think is happening?
Sharon P., Toronto
Hi, Sharon. That is odd. It looks like a type of fungus you’d see on an old tree — or on top of a crème brulee that’s been in the oven too long. A lot of people don’t think about how important their sump pumps are. But if it does fail and the water table is high around your house, obviously that sump pit is going to overflow and run into your basement.
A great idea with the sump pit is to look into putting in a battery so your pump will continue to operate if the power fails. Typically, power failure happens during a storm when you get lots of water coming in — and when you’ll need that pump working. You can also look into installing a backup pump. There’s even the option of installing a high-water alarm; if you’re upstairs or away, and your pump fails, you really won’t find out until you go down to the basement and realize it’s been damaged and there’s all kinds of cost involved. So these alarms — which they call water bugs —get installed partway up the high water mark in your sump pit. If the water rises, it triggers that alarm so that you have time to deal with the problem before it ruins your basement. You can even tie them into your home alarm system. I get phone calls when the power’s out and the sump pits starts to rise at the cottage.
The mould-like growth on your floor seems atypical. There are two things required for mould to develop: moisture, which you have, and organic material. It won’t grow on its own. So if you can get the area totally dry, that should stop the mould growth. But this looks like a fungus to me. I would get in touch with a remediation specialist and have them determine what it is.
Hi, Bryan. We renovated our kitchen last spring and replaced all the windows. We have a very large window above our kitchen sink, about a half-inch above the quartz counter. When we wash dishes, water inevitably splashes onto the painted window sill. There were signs of water damage so I had to sand and repaint the window sill this week. To prevent this from happening again, can you recommend a product to use over paint that would seal the wood from water damage?
Lino L., Stouffville
Well, Lino, I see this a lot with windows that are installed flush to the counter. It sounds like yours isn’t quite flush. Most paints today, weather latex or semi-gloss, are fairly water-resistant. The problem you’re having is likely the joint between the countertop and the trim itself. Water is getting in there and penetrating the wood, not necessarily through the paint.
You could also try using silicon to seal that gap between the countertop and window frame. Something else to consider is either marble or quartz sills to wrap around the window and then try replacing the wooden frame with strips of marble sills — or any type of manufactured countertop material. But, basically, it’s a matter of sealing the gap between the countertop and the window frame, and using a good quality high-gloss paint that’s going to keep that water out of there. There’s no real waterproof coating that can go over paint that will be effective long-term.
Hi, Bryan. I have a long, approximately 35-foot covered concrete porch on the front of my home. It has developed a hairline crack in it, running from the front entrance door to the steps in the middle of the porch. There is a cold cellar below and in the wet and snowy weather, water seeps down into it. How can I repair this without having a new porch done? Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Alan B., Newcastle
Hi, Alan. If there’s water standing on a concrete slab above a room, that water will seep into the concrete — which isn’t waterproof. Eventually that moisture will come out of the ceiling and you’ll get moisture down in the cold cellar. What you can look at doing — and this is something foundation repair specialists often do — is fill that crack with epoxy. Typically, you can drill into it a bit and at different points inject the epoxy into that crack to fill and seal it. Then, you can clean it up over top and flatten it out.
Depending on how big the crack is, you can get a trowler tool and scrape along the top of the crack to open it up. Then you can get some hydraulic cement, mix it with water and fill in the gap with it. The moisture reacts with the powder and creates crystals that repel water and that fill that crack in. Once you’ve done that and smoothed it out, you can get a concrete sealer and use it on the entire patio to waterproof it. It won’t last forever, with all the foot traffic on it, so you’ll need to reapply it from time to time.
Bryan: We had a semi-detached custom home built three years ago. In the second year, our driveway dropped. Last winter, it dropped again more than two inches. As well, the steps started coming away from the porch and sloping slightly toward the front. Our contractor said that he could not guarantee the prevention of natural flaws like cracking, salt damage, stone popping or minor heaving due to frost. His only suggestion was that if six people in the neighbourhood would each pay half, he would bring someone in to inject foam into the steps and driveway. He admits he doesn’t know what it would look like after time because he hasn’t seen it done. Do you have any suggestions? I thought paying over $340,000 would get me more than a disposable property.
Nancy L., Grey Bruce Co.
Alright, Nancy. You haven’t told me what material the driveway is. If it’s a natural flagstone, nobody can secure that; water will get into those stones and freeze and pop and flake. But if the driveway itself is dropping — meaning there aren’t sufficient bases and drainage beneath or that the excavated soil it was installed upon is now sinking — I’d say that’s certainly the contractor’s problem.
When people build a house, they typically dig a hole for the foundation, and then put the down footings, weeping tile and a stone layer around the outside for drainage. Then they’ll backfill around the house. Now, if you dig a hole and fill that hole in again with all the dirt you just dug out of it, there’ll be a mound there — it won’t fill in perfectly. But over time it’ll settle down. So, if you put those stairs right on top of that excavated soil, those stairs are going to sink.
It sounds like the contractor said he’d come in and do some slab-jacking: they drill a hole underneath the concrete and inject foam to raise it up. Essentially what they’re doing is filling up that space between the concrete and the soil beneath. So the foam is the new thing supporting the concrete. Slab-jacking is very effective.
But, for stairs, I don’t know how effective how it would be. You’d need to have a slab-jacking expert come look at it. The stairs look like they’ve dropped a couple inches. That suggests to me that they were installed on excavated soil without a footing. And if that’s the case, they’re going to sink and continue to do so for the first few years until the soil is compacted again.
If the contractor built a new home for you, it must be registered with the Tarion new home warranty program. I’d suggest you call Tarion. There are minimum standards for new home warranties and they will enforce those. If the home wasn’t registered with Tarion, he’s in trouble.