Weathering the Winter: A Home Damage Prevention Checklist


The cold is coming. As we are sure you don’t really need reminding the average temperature in the Kitchener-Waterloo area between December 3 to March 10 rarely ever climbs above 36F. And it usually gets cold long before December hits anyway.

The are lots of things about winter – and even cold weather – that are fun. Skiing, sledding, even a stroll across a frosty park can be fun, as long as you are wrapped up nice and warm. And personally we love nothing more than a trip to one of our area’s great outdoor skating rinks followed by a steaming hot chocolate.

But winter weather causes its fair share of problems as well, especially at home. Snow, ice and below freezing temperatures can wreak havoc on your home. We know this all too well! Not all winter weather problems can be prevented, or even foreseen, but taking some preventative measures right now can go a long way towards helping ensure that falling temperatures don’t spell disaster for your home.

We’ve written and posted about many of these things in the past before but we thought now was a great time to pull some of the best of that advice altogether in one spot for you to refer to all winter.

Ice Dams

What’s an ice dam? Ice dams form when the air in you attic is just warm enough to cause any snow and ice on you roof to thaw and refreeze repeatedly, causing pools of water to become trapped under layers of ice. These often then seep underneath whatever is covering your roof – tiles or shingles – and begin leaking into the attic itself.

How can you prevent such things?

DO: Keep the Air in your attic cool. This means ensuring that the attic floor is well insulated so that the heat rising from below does not turn it into a mini greenhouse.
DO: Seal all openings that would allow vapor to rise into the attic; this includes any holes created from installing light fixtures, ceiling fans and cable TV installations.
DON’T: Fill your attic full of clutter. Clutter prevents good air movement, leading to increased temperatures.
DON’T: Use salt to melt the ice on your roof. It tends to cause more harm than good, especially on shingled roofs.
DON’T: Climb up onto the roof to clear off snow yourself. Not only are you likely to cause damage to the roof but there’s a good chance you’ll damage yourself as well!

Using Foam, Drip and Dome to Ward Off Frozen Pipes

In Canada in the winter, water damage from frozen pipes is one of the most common reasons homeowners have to make an insurance claim. But in just three simple steps you can do a lot to prevent such a disaster occurring in your home:

Foam: Pipes need to be insulated and they need to be insulated well, most especially those that are in any way exposed to drafts. Fortunately foam pipe lagging costs, on average, about $2 per six feet, and that is a small price to pay to keep things from freezing up.

Drip – A dripping tap can be annoying but it can also be the key to preventing ruptured pipes during a particularly cold snap. By allowing faucets to keep dripping, just a little, you will be releasing the pressure from the water system reducing the likelihood of a rupture if your pipes do begin to freeze.

Dome – Fit an insulating dome or other coverings over outdoor faucets and spigots also
reduces the likelihood of pipes freezing, expanding and bursting, resulting in problematic (to say the least) water damage.

Insulate and Insulate Some More

One of the biggest keys to helping your home – and you and your family – safe and warm in winter is to ensure that all of the warm air inside your home stays there and that as little of that biting cold air from the outside gets in as possible:

Look for – And Fix – Air Leaks Around Doors and Windows: The most common places air leaks are found in the home are around doors and windows. You can check for leaks in these places simply by using a lit incense stick. If smoke from the stick is sucked in towards a certain area as you move it around that indicates there is a leak and it should be caulked or weather stripped ASAP.

Attention to the Attic – The most important place to insulate adequately is the floor of your attic. Ideally the insulation should be at least 12-15 inches thick and without rips, holes or tears.

Worrisome Windows – If your home does not boast energy efficient windows that is an issue that also needed to be remedied ASAP. However the winter months are not exactly the ideal time to do that. To ‘tide you over’ until the warmer weather returns and they can be replaced however a well installed shrink wrap window insulation kit applied to each window will be a big help.

DIY Ideas: The Many Benefits of Rainwater Harvesting


At Restoration 1 Kitchener as we spend so much of our time dealing with water damage and water damage restoration it makes sense that we actually have quite an interest in everything related to it, including how we can, as a species, keep more of it around on the planet (but only where it’s supposed to be of course)

For some, the rain can be a welcome sight, while for others it is simply a nuisance. A downpour, can, it’s true, ruin a day’s plans in an instant, but it is also essential to life. It the 21st century rain has a new purpose as well. Rainwater harvesting is fast becoming an effective way to help conserve quickly disappearing natural water sources, and for homeowners who take up the practice it can be a great way to do a little extra for the health of the planet while also maybe even saving themselves some money!

Rainwater Collection Basics

The idea of rainwater harvesting is quite possibly a concept that you may never really have heard of, especially if you happen to live in a very urbanized area. However, increasingly, for those who live a little further out of a metropolis, who have a garden to take care of, and cars to wash, the idea is one well worth looking into.

Rainwater harvesting lowers many households costs and does so quickly. For many people, water is not free. Either a homeowner has to pay a quarterly water tax to the local municipality or, as is more often the case in suburban and rural areas, they actually have to pay for water by the gallon, as supplied by a private water company.


And yet, as high as these bills get – and they can can get very high, especially for a large family, few homeowners pay as much attention to conserving and saving on water usage, in the way they probably do for electricity, something that is costing them and costing the planet!

Setting up a basic rainwater collection system does not need to be difficult, nor does it need to be expensive. Most people simply invest in a large rain barrel, which looks like a regular recycling bin, just one with a small spigot at the bottom. These barrels often cost less than $40, so they pay for themselves almost instantly!

You can however choose to buy a far more decorative system, a barrel that blends in with the landscape a little better and can even double as a decorative fountain. You can even buy rain collection walls, that can be used to create a barrier around a deck or patio, while still collecting and storing rainwater for later use. If you are interested in these options larger garden centers and home stores like Lowes can be great places to shop for rainwater harvesting supplies, as can online outlets like Amazon.

Why Bother Saving Rainwater?

If you were to take a long look at all the things you use water for in and around your home you might be surprised by how much you could save by just using rainwater instead. While you would need a special system to make rainwater drinkable, it can be used in lots of other ways.

For example, it can almost completely replace mains water for use in the garden. A hose can be attached to a rain barrel and for smaller watering tasks it is easy to fill a smaller watering can. Just simply by doing this, some homeowners see a noticeable difference in their water bill the very first month.

Inside the home, rainwater has lots of uses as well. Rather than running water from the faucet to clean floors and counters, a few buckets of rainwater from your barrel can do the same job. You can, if you buy a filter pitcher like a Brita, even purify enough rainwater to use for basic bathroom tasks, and some women swear that by switching to rainwater to wash their face they see smoother, healthier skin!

Rainwater harvesting is also a huge help to the health of the environment as well of course. As corny as it might sound, every drop of water saved around the home is a drop left in a river or stream, and that is very important.

Is it Time to Replace the Pipes in Your Home? A Basic Guide


As the old saying goes, nothing lasts forever, and that includes the pipes that run through your home. Over time it rusts, corrodes and even decays, and unless you are vigilant this damaged plumbing system could leak to troublesome leaks which, in turn, could also lead to a flood of water – or, worse still sewage – that may cause all kinds of water damage.

But how likely is this kind of scenario to play out in your home? After all, replacing the old pipes in a 1,500 square foot home can cost up to $10,000 and calls for cutting open all kinds of walls and floors (ie: it’s messy) so no one would ever want to commission such a job if it really wasn’t necessary.

Getting to Know Your Pipes

The type of plumbing pipes that are installed in your home can give you a big clue as to how long they can be expected to last. To determine that – if you don’t know – review the home inspection report commissioned when you purchased your home. If you don’t have that you’ll need to consult a plumber, but many will do a basic inspection for free.

Know Your Pipes

The type of plumbing in your house determines how long you can expect it to last. So review the home inspection report you got when you bought your home to see what kind of pipes you have—or bring in a trusted plumber to do a free inspection of your plumbing system.

It should be noted that these ‘life expectancies’ are guidelines only. Well maintained pipes may last longer while, conversely, poorly maintained ones just won’t last as long. hard water can cause premature pipe aging as well, so if you are fairly sure that the water flowing to your home is on the hard side then investing in a water softener is something to seriously consider.
There are two other types of water supply pipe that should be removed immediately no matter how old they are. Lead pipes, which were very commonly used in the early 1900s, have a life expectancy of 100 years, but they can leach lead into your drinking water, which is a serious health hazard.

Polybutylene pipes, used from the 1970s through the 1990s, are extremely prone to breakage and they should be replaced as well.

Watch for Signs of Trouble

If your house is more than about 40 or 50 years old, make it an annual task to check any exposed pipe—in basements, crawlspaces, and utility rooms—for telltale signs of trouble. Check or discoloration, stains, dimpling, pimples, or flaking, which are all indicators of corrosion. If you find such things, bring in a plumber to do an inspection as soon as possible.

You’ll want to keep a watch for leaks too, of course. Even small ones that are easily repaired may be indicators that the time for whole-house replacement is approaching. After all, the original pipes in your home should all be same vintage, they’re made of the same material, and they’ve all been subjected to the same water supply and usage patterns.

5 Crucial Things You Must Know About Your Plumbing to Avoid Water Damage Disaster


How well do you know your home’s plumbing system? Chances are that your answer is not very well at all. While no homeowner really needs to know the system inside out with a plumber’s level knowledge there are some basic facts you should be aware of, especially when it comes to solving problems and preventing water damage. Here are five things you really should know about the water flowing in and out of your home:

How to Shut it All Down – Many homeowners have never been a position that called for their home’s water supply to be shut off so they really don’t know how to do it, and in some cases they are not even sure where to go. This however is crucial knowledge, as in the event of a water emergency shutting everything off can prevent an awful lot of damage.

It’s not just the main water supply you should be concerned about though. Do you know how to shut off the water flowing to the toilet in your bathroom? Or to the washing machine and dishwasher. If the answer is no then this is something to figure out now rather than having to run around panicking if disaster (even a minor one) strikes.

What Your Water Pressure Is – One of the biggest causes of household leaks is water pressure that is too high. High water pressure puts undue stress on the pipes it flows through, weakening them and reducing their useful life. You can purchase an an easy to use water pressure gauge for less than $10 and when you do check it it should be no higher than 80 psi. If it is running high calling in a plumber to help you figure out why really is a must.

What Kind of Waste System Your Home Has – Do you have a septic system or is your home directly connected to a sewer system? Many homeowners are actually not really sure. And even if you do know, do you know where the clean out plugs are? Knowing where the clean-out plugs are is often the first step to solving a clog or backup problem before it becomes a big issue, so this is essential knowledge to have.

How to Shut Off the Water Supply to the Water Heater – No water heater lasts forever and even with the proper annual maintenance it is not that unusual for one to fail without too much warning. A broken water heater will leave you without hot water until it can be repaired/replaced and there’s not too much you can do about that. But if you know how to shut off the water supply to the unit you will still have water (albeit cold) for things like washing, cooking and flushing.

How to Read Your Water Bill – Many water leaks go unseen and unnoticed for months, often not ‘showing’ themselves until something disastrous happens. Keeping an eye on your water bill is one way to root out such leaks though. If a bill is higher than the last but nothing has changed in terms of your day to day water usage then that is normally a red flag that a water leak somewhere is gobbling up extra water. Check your usage with each bill to catch these leaks. Your local water company can help you read your bill and meter if you have questions.

Avoiding DIY Plumbing Disasters


DIY is something a lot of people love, and something that a lot more people don’t actually like so much but they do their own home repairs to save a bit of cash here and there. Painting a couple of walls on a rainy weekend when there is nothing much on the TV is one thing, but tackling your own plumbing is quite another. Ask any home improvement or repair professional; there are more DIY plumbing disaster stories out there than any other kind.

What looks simple in a book (or in a YouTube video) is quite a different thing when it comes to putting your amateur plumbing skills to work in real life. Even if you can get hold of instructions that tell you exactly what to you are supposed to do in words and pictures that are easy to understand (good luck with that, by the way), after a busy work week, it can be a little difficult to get too hyped about snaking your toilet because it won’t flush (again)

So while plumbing should really be left to the professionals there are some things you and everyone else in your household can do to prevent plumbing problems from occurring in the first place:

Avoiding Clogs

Clogs are one of the biggest causes of all kinds of plumbing problems so avoiding letting them build up in the first place is the best course of action. Never flush anything down the toilet that is not bodily waste or proper toilet roll. Even if the packaging says something is flushable, all too often that turns out not to be the case.

Little kids can be a problem here as they seem to have an inbuilt desire to flush things just for the fun of it. Keep an eye on what they are doing in the bathroom and try your best to explain why the flushing game is one they should not be playing.

Another big clog cause – maybe the biggest culprit in fact – is too much hair in the shower drain. Make sure you have a good grate of some kind fitted to catch all that loose hair and that you actually remember to clean it out on a regular basis.

Pre Planned Plumbing

Clogs are far from the only thing that can cause homeowners all kinds of plumbing headaches. Leaky pipes, slow toilets, frozen pipes can all wreck havoc and often just when you least expected it. That is why it pays to find yourself a good plumber now, when you really don’t need one. Finding a good plumber is like finding a good mechanic or a great hairdresser – once you have located them you will never, ever want to let them go.

Plan for the Worst Too

Sadly, not all water related problems in the home can be prevented even if you know the best plumber in the world. That’s why when you are hunting for that perfect plumber you should also take a little time to locate a reputable water damage restoration company servicing your area as well. Hopefully you’ll never have to call them, but if the need arises you’ll be glad you knew who to call rather than trying to do a Google search while water is raining through the ceiling or pooling around your feet!

Let Your Basement Help You Make the Most of Your Home But Do it the Right Way


Home owners who are lucky enough to have a full or a partial basement may be ignoring a potential real estate gold mine by leaving it unfinished. According to many surveys basement remodeling ranks third, just behind kitchen and bathroom renovations, in measures that can be taken to raise the value of a home.

Why you Should Consider a Basement Renovation

Remodeling your basement can provide you with not only additional living space downstairs but can free up space above ground too. By moving an older child’s bedroom to the basement (an idea that is very appealing to many teenagers) or creating a central entertainment room there frees up space to change the way your home looks overall.

Bring your Business Home

The basement is also a great place for a home office. You will get far more work done in an environment that is separated from the traffic of the rest of the house and that is specifically designed for the purpose of conducting business.

The possibilities are in fact endless. But before any work begins at all, most basements have structural issues that will need to be addressed first, in order for the renovation to be successful. Usually the number one issue to contend with in any basement is moisture.

Address Problems First

Even if your basement is considered ‘finished” already, calling on the services of a professional water proofing expert is money very well spent. They can help you determine where you basement is vulnerable to moisture problems and offer you solid, lasting solutions to the problem. There could be no more distressing scenario than spending a good amount of money to renovate your basement space only to have it all undone by moisture problems and water leaks that lead to serious water damage.

Moisture May be Hiding

Moisture is also a factor that should be taken in to consideration when choosing flooring. Installing a sub floor is always advisable, as although the carpet salesman may tell you that his products can be installed right over a concrete floor it is never a good idea. The warm (and at least slightly moist) air in the basement can creep through the carpets fibers and cause a layer of mildew to form underneath it, which not only makes for an unappealing damp smell it can also be bad for your health too.

The Importance of Insulation

The way you choose to heat and insulate your basement area can make a real difference to the moisture level and air quality too. Fiberglass is an ideal insulating material for many basement rooms but polystyrene can be almost as effective and tends to retain les moisture, which can actually be a bonus in the basement room. When it comes to heating, your existing furnace (which is probably located right in your basement anyway) may be sufficient, but adding radiant floor heating of some kind may help reduce the dust and debris that builds up in the area.

Finally, in most cases running a good dehumidifier in your remodeled basement area can easily take care of any lingering moisture issues that remain but do be on the watch for mould, damp patches and other tell tale signs of a water damage problem waiting to happen. If you see anything like this, don’t wait, get a professional opinion right away, otherwise all of your hard work could be quickly undone.

The Mould/Bleach Myth: Why It’s so Dangerous to Keep Believing


You’ve almost certainly heard/seen/read the advice many times before, especially in how-to and DIY forums; bleach is the answer to your home’s mould problem. Except that is a long way from the truth and what you don’t know about the long perpetuated myth mould/bleach may hurt your home – and your health – if you find mould becomes an issue in your home.

Understanding How Mould Reacts to Bleach

Mould is a living organism and has many of the traits of other living organisms, including a self defense mechanism. When bleach is sprayed on mould it reacts as though it were being attacked, which of course it is. This means it throws off as many new spores as possible as quickly as possible.

If the ‘bleach treated’ mould is then scrubbed or rubbed, the surface mould will indeed appear to be gone, but it’s already assured its ultimate survival with all of the new, yet to grow spores that are now circulating in the air looking for a new home they are likely to find in minutes.

More serious mould patches also benefit from a bleach bath. Because the mould’s ‘roots’ are likely to be well established (yes mould eats into the surfaces it covers, it doesn’t just sit there) the bleach will do little harm. But it will provide moisture, mould’s favorite thing. So it’s actually, in many cases, a bit like giving the mould an energy drink and boy will it thrive off it.

The Root of the Problem

More serious mould patches also benefit from a bleach bath. Because the mould’s ‘roots’ are likely to be well established (yes mould eats into the surfaces it covers, it doesn’t just sit there) the bleach will do little harm. But it will provide moisture, mould’s favorite thing. So it’s actually, in many cases, a bit like giving the mould an energy drink and boy will it thrive off it.

Mould has roots? It most certainly does, and for well established mould, those icky looking surface patches are little more than decoration at this point. It’s real power lies in those roots, roots which can penetrate sheetrock, wood and fabric with relative ease and will not be affected by the random, frantic spraying of bleach on a homeowner’s part.

Bleach Can Cause More Problems Than it Solves

The acidity levels in chlorine bleach can wreak havoc on the fibers that compose most home building materials such as drywall, sheetrock and wood. Not only will the bleach spread the mould, but it can ruin the integrity of the material it has attached itself to. In addition, this compromise of the material can allow the mold to spread quickly to otherwise unaffected areas of the property.

So what’s the answer, if bleach is not? Professional mould remediation. In order to really solve a mould problem you also have to understand and address the underlying reasons the mould is there in the first place, otherwise any kind of treatment will be an exercise in futility as it will just keep coming back. Qualified, trained and certified mould remediation specialists, like Restoration 1 Kitchener’s expert team, are the very best people to do that.

When Should a DIYer Hire a Roofer?


Some homeowners pride themselves upon their do-it-yourself skills and on many projects around the home they do indeed do a good job. For those DIY enthusiasts there are a number of books and step by step guides to roofing that may encourage them to attempt a roofing job as one of their spring or summer weekend projects. However, even for the most accomplished of amateurs this is not always the best of ideas.

Your roof is one of the most important elements of your home, even if you don’t always take too much notice of it. It keeps out the wind, and far more importantly the rain, and anyone who has ever had to contend with water damage caused by a leaking roof knows how crucial that is!

Financial Issues

Before even getting to the physical aspects of such jobs there are financial and planning considerations to be made by the homeowner trying to determine whether or not to tackle a roofing project alone or call in a professional roofer.

To complete any roofing work beyond a few very basic repairs, a building permit is likely to be required which does cost both time and money to obtain. All of the supplies needed for the job have to be budgeted for and located (a number of roofing suppliers sell to the trade only) and any new tools needed for the job purchased or rented. When the costs on this list are calculated often a homeowner will discover that it would actually be cheaper to hire a professional roofing company after all.

Getting the Job Done Right

Monetary concerns aside, no matter how many books a homeowner reads on the subject or how to videos they watch roofing is one of the many crafts in the building and remodeling field where a great deal of expertise is called for and a number of small steps and tricks are needed to ensure that the new or renovated roof is actually leak free and functional when the project is completed. It only takes a few missing shingles, a badly placed gutter or a relatively tiny hole for moisture and water to begin seeping (or worse) through the roof and then you have a lot more to contend with than you ever bargained for.

These things are usually not covered in DIY books, they are things learned over the course of years of roofing not over the course of a chapter or two.

Staying Safe, Staying Covered

The last things to consider are the safety and insurance implications of doing a roofing job yourself. Even the best professional roofer may have an accident at some point over the course of their career but for them the good news is that they have extensive insurance policies in place to cover damage done both to the property they are working on and to themselves. Homeowners usually do not have such things in place. Health insurance may cover the ER visit if an amateur worker falls from the roof or otherwise injures themselves using unfamiliar tools, but will not pay for the time off work it may take for the homeowner to recover.

Homeowners insurance is a different matter. The majority of policies specify that major renovations or home improvements be completed by a professional and if damage is caused to the home thanks to the inexperience of a DIY roofer they will certainly make it difficult to collect on the policy. In most cases the roof will also have to pass an inspection by the local building department and meet all the applicable codes.

In conclusion? The perceived savings of DIY roofing just aren’t worth the risks. The risks to you, your home and your financial security. This really is one of those times to call in the pros and plan yourself a different DIY challenge that is less problematic.

Low Water Pressure – What You Need to Know to Prevent Water Damage


Your shower head regularly refuses to do little more than trinkle. It takes your washer over an hour to fill, despite the fact that it is a relatively new model, or cleaning your teeth is a daily nightmare as the bathroom faucet simply does not seem to want to work very well at all. All of these problems are usually related to low water pressure and they, and a myriad of other possible household low water pressure issues, are a real nuisance and that can be putting it lightly.

Low water pressure can be more than an annoyance though. Sometimes it is indicative of a larger problem, like a blocked or leaking pipe, issues that could lead to unexpected flooding and water damage, things that are far more than just a pain in the you-know-what.

That is why, however busy you are, ignoring, or just ‘putting up’ with a low water pressure problem in your home is never a good idea. It could be that the issue can be solved in minutes or you may need to call in the professionals. Whatever the case ends up being you need to do something about it other than moan.

What could possibly be wrong? Here is a little about the most common causes of household low water pressure and what you can begin doing about it.

Debris and Mineral Buildup in Pipes

Often a low water pressure problem that seems to get gradually worse is caused by a relatively straightforward issue to address; a build up of debris and minerals in the pipes leading to the affected outlets.

There is very little you can do to prevent this from happening, especially if you live in an area with hard water (although a water softener may help) but you can see if it might be the problem by investing in plumbing chemicals to loosen and disperse the blockages. Sometimes the stuff you can buy at the local hardware store will do the trick and if not your plumber will have access to stronger ‘tools’ to help.

Corroded Pipes

Did you know that it reality the average useful lifespan of a steel or galvanized water piping system is really only 20 years or so? And obviously many of us have systems in place that are older than that, in many cases far more so.

The reason for this limited life span is corrosion and sadly there is very little you can do to prevent it, it just happens over time. So if all of the chemicals haven’t made a difference the possibility that sections of your piping system need to be replaced is something that has to be considered.

Leaking Pipes

If a low water pressure problem seemed to appear almost overnight then it very well may be that a leak somewhere in your pipes is the culprit. The reasons why that is are pretty obvious as is the need to get the leak(s) fixed as soon as possible. A burst water pipe – or even one with a ‘slow’ leak will lead to all kinds of water damage.

Municipal Water Supply Malfunctions

Sometimes, somewhat fortunately perhaps, a low water pressure issue is not anything to do with your home and its systems at all, its an issue with the municipal water supply you are hooked into. Such systems are as prone to problems as their household counterparts.

While obviously you can’t personally diagnose these systems yourself you can call to inquire if there are any known problems and if so, when are they likely to be addressed. Having this information won’t solve your personal low water issues but it may save you spending money when you really don’t need to.