4 Subtle Signs Your Home Has a Drainage Problem to Watch For

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You really don’t have to be an expert to know that the appearance of puddles of water in your basement or a developing lake on your lawn (that you did not put there) are definite signs that your property has a drainage issue. However, not all potentially very troublesome drainage issues are quite so obvious. If however you become a little more familiar with the subtler signs of poor drainage then you could end up saving yourself a lot of headaches, hassles and expense in the long run. Here is a little about just some of those signs:

Gutters That Gush

A veritable mini Niagara of water gushing over the side of your gutter after a rain storm should tell you right away that something is wrong, probably that the guttering is clooged with debris and needs to be cleaned asap. But you don’t need to wait for the rain to spot other gutter problems. If you see streaks of dirt running vertically on the outside of your gutters, mud splatters on your home’s siding or vertical strips of peeling paint on the house near the gutters these are all signs that you have a problem. Left unaddressed gutter problems can lead to ruined paint jobs, rotten siding and eventually to structural water damage.

In the best case scenario here all you will need to do is get those gutters cleaned up and then resolve to try and keep it that way. If that does not help you may have gutters that are either undersized for purpose or incorrectly pitched, leading to the possible need for reinstallment or even replacement. Which will be a pain, but far less of one than what you’ll face if you ignore the problem.

Downspouts That Dump

Did you know that for each inch of rain that falls on 1,000 square feet of a roof more than 600 gallons of runoff is produced—enough to fill 10 bathtubs to the very top? If your downspouts are dumping that much water too close to the foundations of your home it’s probably only going to head one way, down, into your basement or crawl space. The continual water dump also puts pressure on the foundations themselves and over time they will begin to crack, putting the whole safety of the property at risk.

Fortunately, the answer to this problem is usually to install gutter extensions to ensure that all the water is carried away a safe distance from the home. And at $10-15 a piece and maybe a couple of hours learning how to install them (YouTube it) they are an absolute bargain compared to what could happen and how much that would all take to fix.

Water Stains Below

Basement water stains should always be at least a small cause for concern. But depending on just where they have shown up you can begin to tell why. If they are high on the foundation wall then the problem is often that water is coming from an overflowing gutter, or that surface runoff backed up against your house because the soil around your foundation doesn’t slope adequately (6 inches for every 10 horizontal feet is best). To solve the latter problem you may need the help of a landscape contractor but it will be money well spent.

If the water marks extend themselves in a line around the lower part of the basement then you may have a bigger problem on your hands. This often indicates that a basement floor has been set below the level of municipal storm drains and the water seeps in when they back up during heavier rains. Or the stains may be an indication of a high water mark caused by a fluctuating water table. Either way a proper interior drain and sump pump system should solve the problem, keeping both your home and your old hockey trophies dry.

Basement Walls That Flake

If you begin to notice spots of whitish/greyish crusty ‘stuff’ on your basement walls that is something called efflorescence, the mineral deposits left behind after water evaporates. It’s not actually harmful to your home but just where the water came from is something you’ll need to investigate further. And yes, you can just scrape it off, and you’ll want to because it’s pretty ugly.

If on the other hand the walls are flaking in big patches spalling is likely to blame. Spalling occurs when water has seeped inside the masonry. It too can just be an eyesore issue but if the new cracks run deeper than a half inch, or seem to keep growing it may be a sign that poor drainage is threatening the foundation’s integrity.

Protecting Your Pipes From Nasty Grease Clogs

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There are all kinds of things that really should not go down a kitchen drain but one of the biggest no-nos, even if you have a garbage disposal is fatty grease. You know, the kind you might have left in the pan after frying up some yummy bacon.

Why is grease such a problem? Because often rather than going straight down the drain it hardens and clings to the sides of the drain pipe. Do it often enough and you’ll end up with a clogged pipe. If everyone in your neighbourhood does it it can even eventually lead to clogged sewer pipes.

Preventing Greasy Drain Pipes

What’s the best way to keep grease out of your drain and yet still actually cook and eat all the foods you love? Many people think that garbage disposals remove grease, but it’s not true. To avoid grease getting in your drain:

• Make sure you scrape greasy foods off your plates into the garbage can instead of your garbage disposal. You should also use a strainer in all of your sink drains so that greasy leftovers don’t accidentally slide in.

• For cooking grease, let it solidify in the pan, then throw the solid waste into the garbage can.

If you create a lot of grease at one time, like when you use a deep fryer, this oil should be collected and then taken to a collection facility where it is usually accepted for free. A tallow company typically picks up this cooking oil and then recycles it.

Accidental Grease Spills

What if, despite your best efforts, you accidentally get grease in your drain?

Well, one spill isn’t going to cause your pipes to clog but it is better to be safe than sorry (and standing in a kitchen full of water at some point because a clogged sink overflowed.) In this case it’s always a good idea to boil some water and then pour it down the drain regularly. This will help to turn the grease from a solid back into a liquid so that it will move along smoothly as it should. By adding vinegar and baking soda to the boiling water you’ll break the fats down and make your drains smell fresher too.

Dealing with a Grease Clog

It’s pretty easy to tell if grease is starting to clog your pipes. You’ll see that the water is draining slowly. There may also be a gurgling sound as it flows through the pipes. And there may be bad smells coming from the drain. This can indicate a grease clog just waiting to cause a problem.

If there is a small clog often the baking soda and boiling water trick will solve the issue. If that does not work you can try (gently) plunging the clog away. Should that fail don’t be tempted to waste your cash on drain unclogging potions. They often do not work, are not designed for grease removal anyway and may contain chemicals that harm your pipes (or you!) Instead call the plumber to have them degunk your pipe properly. Yes it’s an extra expense you could probably live without, but better to live with that than the headaches and hassles a water damage incident as a result of an ignored clogged drain pipe can bring.

How to Safely Clean Your Home’s Gutters Yourself

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Clogged gutters lead to overflowing gutters which can then lead to all kinds of problems. Leaks in your walls, ceilings and basement, damage to your foundation and even a dead garden can all be caused by the overflow from a clogged up gutter. Cleaning them on a regular basis can prevent much of this trouble though. This is especially true when those autumn leaves start tumbling down and as we’re sure you know, many of them end up clogging up your gutters rather quickly.

Gutter Cleaning Basics

Cleaning a gutter is rather more complicated process than cleaning the rest of the house, indoors or out. However if you have a basic idea of what you should do and a head for heights then you can do the job yourself. Here are the basic steps:

 

  • Find the sturdiest ladder you can. It may be a good idea to have a friend with you to help steady the ladder.
  • Once you are at roof height and can see the gutters, begin clearing out any debris that is loose with a plastic garden trowel or even, in a pinch, a plastic spoon. We emphasize plastic as most modern gutters are made of it and metal tools can easily damage them, leading to new holes and leaks that were not there before.
  • Some people try to use a leaf blower to clean their gutters. This, on the face of it would be efficient and if you have a low roof it may work well. Standing on a ladder and trying to use a leaf blower can be very awkward and dangerous and will usually be something that a homeowner should not attempt.
  • Flush the gutters with a garden hose to remove as much of the remaining debris as possible. This can also be a good way to discover leaks before the snow arrives and they are allowed to cause all kinds of problems unchecked.
  • Check the downspouts around your home as well. If you do find a blockage you may be able to clear it with a hose but be very careful, gutters are fairly easy to damage with a high pressure water stream.

The Downsides of DIY Gutter Cleaning

As you can see, cleaning the gutters around your home is not an easy process and even if you don’t mind the idea of working on a ladder it is often not very safe either. A better and safer idea would be to call in the professionals. A professional gutter cleaning will be far more efficient and if there are other problems with them apart from a buildup of debris they can be discovered and in many cases the company can repair them on the spot, or at least make plans to come back and do so before the winter arrives.

Most people who try to clean their own gutters do so to save money. There are some areas of home maintenance where doing it yourself makes great sense but this kind of project is often not one of them. Calling in a professional gutter maintenance service is more affordable than you might imagine and certainly a better alternative to gutters damaged by the over enthusiastic use of a hose or worse still injuries that result from a fall off a ladder!

 

Quick Maintenance Tip – Troubleshooting a Faucet Aerator

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Here’s a quick question; what’s an aerator and where is it located in your home? Those of you who are ‘handy’ almost certainly know but not everyone does. An aerator is rather important though, although it’s very small and easily overlooked. Most commonly one is attached to every faucet in your home and it’s there to catch particulates in the water -n no one likes sand and dust in their water glass – but more importantly it creates a non-splashing stream of water by mixing water and air. And even if you knew what an aerator is the chances are that you don’t think twice about them until the flow starts to slow down to a trickle and begins to drive you nuts …

Cleaning an Aerator

All of this usually this means that this little gizmo is clogged and needs a good cleaning. But just how do you do that?

The first step is to gain access to the aerator. This is done using a pair of channel locks and duct tape. Wrap the jaws with a little tape so you don’t scratch or damage the surface.

As you look down at the faucet, turn the aerator clockwise & it will unscrew

Check for any damage to the washer, and if there is take the washer to have it replaced

Pop the washer & screen part out & rinse off.

Put the aerator back together

Turn on the tap in order to clean out any other gunk out of the faucet

Screw the aerator back in by hand and then give it a 1/4 of a turn with the channel locks to make sure it is securely back in place.

Turn the faucet on to verify you completed everything above properly.

Don’t Forget Your Showerhead

Your shower head has a similar setup. In most cases you would simply unscrew it like above, pop the washer out and rinse the screen portion. Reinsert the washer, apply some Teflon tape (if needed) and screw it back.

Troubleshooting Other Problems

Slime Buildup

The easiest way to deal with a slimy aerator is to disassemble the pieces and place the affected parts in either vinegar or baking soda and water mixture. Rinse everything off a few hours later and if clean, reassemble. This is something that you should do at least twice a year even if the water flow is not impeded, just to make sure that that gunk (which is often a combination of dirt, dust, mould and mildew) is not affecting the quality of your water.

Water Leaks

Leaks from the shower head or faucet can be caused by several things. One of the most common is a problem with the washer around the aerator. Check to make sure that it is in good shape and properly tightened down. Make sure the aerator body isn’t deformed or cracked this is rare with most of them but cheaper versions have been known to have issues. For extra ‘safety’ wrap a few strands of Teflon tape around the body to tighten things up.

If, after all of this, you still have a leak you should consult a pro, especially as even a small leak can waste a great deal of water and cause the kind of slow water damage that can be especially difficult to deal with.

Would Buying New Aerators Save Money?

Some people do suggest replacing older aerators with newer models. It can indeed be a good way to save water as many of the older ones allow for two or more gallons of water to flow through them per minute while you can buy replacement ones that only allow .5 of a gallon.

For bathrooms it can definitely be well worth it, especially if you like to leave the faucet on while brushing your teeth. And for shaving you might actually enjoy the change, as the addition of air to the mix creates a better spray to help clean your razor.

For kitchens however this might not be such a hot idea, especially if you are constantly filling pots, pans, the sink, etc. for cooking. It may take longer AKA the “I hate wasting water and it seems like I have to leave the tap on for a few minutes before I get hot water. It only took a minute before…” The catch is you are still wasting the same amount of water, the issue is you are just now stuck waiting longer for it making you think you are wasting more.

Home Maintenance 101: Preventing Water Damage in the Kitchen – Part 2

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After following the basic steps in part 1 of this article and learning how to prevent water damage in the kitchen’s sink, counter tops, and dishwasher, we’re now moving on to the other high risk areas in your kitchen

The Refrigerator

As it is usually hard and cumbersome to see, let alone reach, the area behind the average fridge is rarely something that any homeowner inspects. However, a periodic inspection will significantly reduce the risk of water-related problems, of which a fridge ‘gone bad’ can cause a number.

Any sign of moisture behind the refrigerator is a major warning. Never ignore any sign of moisture or leaks, and fix them immediately or call in your assigned appliance maintenance team if the appliance is still under warranty. Don’t wait, as, in addition to the moisture there is a good chance that mould is lurking underneath as well, as the moisture, combined with the heat the fridge gives off, offers mould the ideal living – and growing – conditions.

Icemakers are great, but if your refrigerator has one you need to check the hose connection regularly to ensure that it is sealed and properly and securely attached to its water supply. Even the smallest leak can cause big problems, so never ignore one. And again, just like the dishwasher, if replacing a plastic hose with a steel braided one is at all possible you really should consider doing so.

And finally, if your fridge has a drain pan check it often and make sure to keep it clean
to prevent waterborne bacteria and mould.

The Cooking Range

Since it is not directly related to water, the cooking range area is another overlooked part of the kitchen.

If your stove portable, move it occasionally to check for water or moisture signs. If your stove is fixed to the wall, remove the bottom drawer and search that way. The moisture could come from a damaged dishwasher of fridge nearby or simply from excess condensation in a steamy kitchen that is not ventilated out properly. Locate the source of the problem and make repairs as needed and as quickly as possible, especially in the case of mould.

The Exhaust Fans

Exhaust fans are hugely important in maintaining lower levels of humidity in what is often a very steamy space. To maintain proper ventilation and smooth air circulation, exhaust fan filters must be cleaned regularly to prevent dust and mold accumulation. Make sure that the exhaust fan is operating well and that it is actively switched on every time you cook anything, even in the winter.

Home Maintenance 101: Preventing Water Damage in the Kitchen – Part 1

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Although it is usually one of the busiest – if not the busiest – rooms in the average home apart from general cleaning , all too often certain warning signs and basic maintenance tasks in the kitchen are often neglected or overlooked. And one of the biggest dangers of this homeowner habit is that warning signs of excess moisture and impending water damage go unaddressed until it’s too late.

What should a homeowner be doing to prevent this? Keeping an eye on the following moisture sources will help prevent water damage and its related issues.

Sinks and Counter Tops

Kitchen sink and counter top areas are obviously, some of the most water-exposed areas in any home. And they are often the source of a number of water related issues that could easily lead to damage.

Prevention in these areas should begin with a regular check underneath the sink. Yes, this probably means hauling out everything you store under there but it’s worth the effort. Once the area is cleared check for damp spots, drips and small leaks. Even a small, slow drip from the sink trap can be an indication of much bigger problems to come and it’s something that should be dealt with immediately.

Next have a look around the sink. A sink that drains slowly can be a sign that the drain itself is beginning to clog. A constantly dripping faucet is not only a water damage risk but a real resource waster as well (both in terms of water and money) And cracked seals are an accident waiting to happen. All of these things are relatively minor and inexpensive fixes when caught early, but that is the key.

Turning to counter tops, if there are obvious cracks daily usage, which almost inevitably involves some moisture, will, over time, lead to water seeping inside and damaging the counters themselves, and even, in some cases, to unseen mould. Fixing these ‘little problems’ while they are still just that is a must as well.

The Dishwasher

However expensive it was to purchase, any dishwasher is prone to leaks and as they age even the priciest models will lose efficiency. But again, there are early warning signs that trouble may be ahead. If the dishwasher doesn’t empty completely after each use, the main filter may be clogged and must be replaced promptly. If the sink overflows, it is often due to dishwasher back-ups, a problem that usually occurs when the drain line is clogged. Therefore cleaning this regularly – which is not too hard – is a must take precaution. And if the hoses are plastic or rubber, installing longer lasting steel-braided hoses in their place is a great idea too.

A dishwasher leak can be slow and hard to notice, but also lead to flooring water damage that can be very serious. Even if you can’t spot an active trickle of water stained, warped, or soft flooring materials and cabinets near the dishwasher are an indication that something is wrong and needs to be checked out further.

Stay tuned, Part 2 of this prevention primer is coming soon.

Your Roof and Hail Storm Damage: What You Can’t Afford to Ignore

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Apart from the kind of summer storms that bring bucket fulls of rain, lightning and nasty winds – and can wreck all kinds of havoc on your home – there is another time of fairly common summer phenomena that can do the same, the hail storm.

These rather odd weather events – it’s a lovely sunny day and then suddenly pellets of ice are streaming down from the sky – are usually rather brief, if very intense, but the damage they can leave behind can be tremendous.

Most people worry about their cars/trucks during a hailstorm and indeed any vehicle left out in one can accrue some serious damage, even if the hail only falls for a few minutes. But did you know that during a hail storm more than just your car is potentially vulnerable to damage ? When hail hits, it can damage the roof or covering of your home as well as other personal property. And all too often, roof damage from a hail storm will go unnoticed until it is ‘too late’.

So, What Does Hail Damage to Your Roof Look Like?

Shingles react differently when struck by hail. Hail damage to asphalt and composition shingles may look very different than damage done to wood shingles. Here’s a look at the different effects of the damage to help you properly identify whether or not you have roof damage from hail.

Asphalt and Composition Shingles

Random damage with no noticeable pattern.
Hail ‘hits’ that are black in color (they often look like cigarette burns)
Loss of granules, which may expose the roof felt.
Asphalt and/or mat that appears shiny.
Hail ‘dings’ that are soft to the touch, like a bruise on an apple.

Wood Shingles Hail Damage

Random damage with no noticeable pattern.
A split in the shingle that is brown/orange in color.
A split in the shingle that has sharp corners and edges.
A split in the shingle that has little to no deterioration at the edges.
Impact marks or dents along the splits.

There are many other types of damage to shingles that can be mistaken for hail damage. For example, exposure to cold weather and sunlight makes shingles brittle over time and gives them an aged appearance that may include cracks and dents. This type of damage is normal wear and tear of shingles, which is sometimes misidentified as hail damage. Other types of normal wear and tear may include blistering, cracking, granule loss, flaking and algae.

Why It’s Important to Have Hail Damage to a Roof Accessed

As you may have now realized often hail will not cause obvious holes that need to be patched, or rip off shingles that will then need to be replaced. Instead it leaves the indents, cracks and ‘dings’ we just mentioned. And as the roof was not actually ‘breached’ the temptation can be to ignore the damage or dismiss it as an aesthetic problem to be dealt with at another time. That kind of thinking may be a big mistake though.

Those ‘little dings’ damage the integrity of the roof. So the next time even a ‘regular’ rain shower hits – and especially when the cold weather returns and the snow arrives – those dings can quickly become holes and larger creeks, allowing moisture to seep through the roof and begin causing water damage below.

Therefore, if you suspect your roof was damaged in a hail storm then you should call in a roofing pro asap. After all if the car in your driveway was hit by hail and is now covered in dents, or has shattered glass, you would not hesitate to take it to an auto repair shop, so why wouldn’t you give the same care to your home, a far harder to repair item?

Should You Toss Your Shower Curtain in Favour of Shower Glass Doors?

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The most attractive and functional modern bathrooms are all about great style blending perfectly with functionality. One of most homeowners pet peeves about their bathroom is how wet floors get after anyone has showered, however expensive or heavy the shower curtains are. And it’s not just an aesthetics issue either. A floor that is often (or continually) damp is far more likely to develop mould, mildew and even dangerous floorboard rot.

The Stylish Solution?

One solution to that problem that an increasing number of homeowners are opting for is to have glass shower doors professionally installed. As long as you make sure that the shower head is correctly positioned in relation to the new glass shower doors, wet floors are a thing of the past. Your installer can help you determine where the shower head should be located before the doors are installed.

Wet floors aside, glass shower doors are a beautiful addition to any bathroom. They match well with any décor because they simply disappear and blend in with their surroundings. Installing shower glass doors let you showcase the shower interior itself. That might sound a bit trivial, but given how many ceramic, porcelain and glass tile options are available today that are absolutely stunning it opens up the design possibilities considerably.

Aren’t Shower Glass Doors Very Expensive?

It’s quite true that shower glass doors do indeed call for an initial investment that is considerably higher than the one you might make in a new shower curtain. But many find it’s an investment that pays off. Nicer bathroom, drier bathroom, no more replacing worn shower curtains and a possible increase in the perceived value of their home should they ever decide to move are all benefits that make installing glass doors a more than justifiable expense.

Want another reason why the investment is a worthwhile one? Even if yours is a fabric shower curtain, you have to use a vinyl backer. A report complied by the Environmental Defense League and the Canadian Environmental Law Association in Canada recently alerted consumers to the hidden dangers of using vinyl shower curtains in their bathrooms.

The average vinyl shower curtain, the reports says, emits over 100 different toxic VOCs into the air for up to three months after it is hung new from the packet. You have probably smelt those chemicals yourself, it’s that “new shower curtain smell” that always hits you in the face when you first open the packaging. Its not so nice, but you probably never realized it could hurt you.

That smell the report says is a toxic soup of phthalates, organotins, toluene, xylene, ethylbenzene, methyl isobutyl ketone and a bunch of other rather nasty chemicals. These can cause headaches and nausea and even more worryingly permanent damage to the central nervous system.

But are Shower Glass Doors Safe?

Some people do worry that glass shower doors are not safe, especially if children use the bathroom. That is far from the case. Glass shower doors are crafted from tempered glass that is extremely difficult to break or even crack. In addition, the edges of glass shower doors are filed down to a smooth surface that presents no danger to anyone climbing in or out of your shower.

One final note: Finding a well trained professional to install your new shower glass doors is essential. There must be an adequate amount of ventilation above the doors to allow moisture to escape from the shower enclosure itself or you could end up with a mould and/or mildew problem down the line. And you also need to make sure that everything is properly aligned so that the ‘seal’ you want these doors to create really exists.

How Neglecting Your Attic Can Lead to Serious Water Damage and More

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While you may think of your attic as a storage space only, if you really think about it much at all, it can also be a place where water damage can cause all kinds of problems, problems that often go unseen until it is almost ‘too late’, especially if you, like many homeowners, rarely head up there at all.

Heat, cold, and moisture seeping through your roof can all meet in this single upper space. A simple regular inspection of it can alert you to damaging moisture problems and save you a lot of hassle and heartbreak. And yet still most water damage in an attic that eventually calls for water damage remediation occurs because telltale signs were ignored.

Common Sources of Attic Moisture

Every home generates moisture in the living areas that can find its way up into the attic. There are many sources of moisture in any home that can do just that, including these very common ones:

  • Ground moisture from a crawl space
    Green firewood stored inside
    An poorly vented clothes dryer
    Porrly vented bathrooms
    Poorly vented gas or kerosene heaters
    Humidifiers

And how does this moisture find its way up to the room at the top of the house? In any one of these ways (and more.)

  • Unsealed openings around lights, fans, plumbing vents or chimneys.
    Exhaust fans that vent into the attic, crawlspace or eaves.
    Through inadequate insulation behind the ceiling

How Attic Condensation Damages Your Home
Warm, moist air entering your attic on colder days can lead to three major kinds of problem that, if left unattended, can damage the attic or the home itself.

  • Warm air reaching a snow-covered roof causes snow melt to flow to the colder edge of the roof where it forms icicles or ice dams. Ice dams allow snow melt to enter the home’s interior.
  • Moisture on the attic’s interior leads to the growth of mould and mildew. Besides being unsightly, mold infestations are unhealthy and can spread into the walls, the floors and into all of your living areas.
  • Excess moisture in the attic can lead to wood rot on inside structures, including roof sheathing. Rot leads to premature failure of the roof and expensive repairs, and yes, quite possibly serious water damage.

Signs of Attic Condensation Problems

So you are going to do the right thing and head up to the attic to take a good look at what is really going on up there. That having been said though, just what is it that you should be looking for?

Icicles or ice dams on the roof during the winter are a sure sign of condensation problems. Other signs include dark stains over large areas of the wood surfaces, which indicate mould or mildew formation. If roofing nails that penetrate the sheathing show signs of rust, excess moisture has been present at some point at probably still is. And that warm, stuffy feeling? That is often another tell tale sign that there is too much moisture in the air.

Correcting Attic Moisture Problems
To begin to correct moisture issues in your attic, focus on the following:

  • Seal all openings and cracks from the living area into the attic.
    Ensure that fans vent to the outside of the home.
    Make sure insulation is not blocking airflow to leave soffits.
    Increase the amount of ceiling insulation to retain warmth in the home.
    Increase ventilation of the attic by adding passive vents or installing electric gable or roof fans.

If you are still in doubt and concerned that your attic is too damp call in a pro. It may be an extra expense but the problems that can occur if attic moisture issues are left unadresssed can be far more so.