The well-known Chinese General from antiquity, Sun Tzu, said “Know your enemy…” and in the case of housing construction, the primary enemy is water. In our part of the world, there are very few outside factors that can do more damage to your home in both the short term and long term than water, including rainwater, moisture in the air (humidity), groundwater, surface water and condensation. At Brost, we build many different features into every home that serve to specifically safeguard you from the damaging effects of water.
When most people think of water damage, the first thing that comes to mind is rain and/or snow. Our first line of defense against rainwater is using a 30-year warranty shingle as a minimum, and in many cases using concrete roof tiles. We also demand careful installation of these products to ensure that your first line of defense, your roof, stands the test of time. As for the cladding on your home, like a chain, your siding/stucco water barrier is only as strong as its weakest point. The weak points in any home’s cladding tend to be at the wall openings, these are typically the windows, doors, vents, exterior electrical outlets, etc. At Brost, we have specially trained staff supervising the treatment of these areas making sure that not only the building paper under the cladding is installed properly but that also all of the wall openings are treated properly with flashing, spray foam and/or caulking. One commonly overlooked item is that caulking exposed to the sun breaks down quickly and requires routine maintenance to prevent failure which is why we make every effort to limit the amount of caulking used in every home, inside and out.
One of the most difficult water problems to detect before extensive damage is done is excess humidity. “Attic Rain” is one of the more common humidity issues that occurs in cold climates over the winter. In severe cases, a significant leak exists in a ceiling penetration into an attic space (think pot lights, bathroom fan ductwork, etc.) allowing warm, relatively moist air from the house to enter the attic, hit the cold framing members in that space and freeze. Over the course of a few cold months, this ice can build up to levels that will melt and fall to the ceiling as water on the first warm, sunny day. By the time you notice there is a problem it is too late as water is staining your ceilings and dripping through, damaging drywall, ceiling texture and anything else in its path. How do you prevent “attic rain”? Careful consideration must be taken across the whole ceiling plane making sure all penetrations are sealed tight, fan ducts are without gapping and humidity within the home is kept at reasonable levels. At Brost, we create airtight boxes for our pot lights as well as pay special attention to the entire vapour barrier in the home, both in the walls and ceilings. The best way to check how well done the vapour barrier is, is to perform a blower door test. A blower door test is a simple test where a fan is attached to an open exterior doorway and the home is emptied of its air like a vacuum. The fan is hooked up to electronic sensors that gauge just how much negative pressure is created and can judge how airtight the home is. With our homes, we have consistently achieved ratings in the neighbourhood of 2 ACH (air changes per hour at a specified pressure) which is a far superior rating to what is seen in a home built to building code standards (3 – 4 ACH).
Ground Water/Surface Water
While they are different problems, the best way to deal with both issues is to ensure that a home’s foundation is dampproofed/waterproofed properly and that positive drainage is maintained. In the case of surface water, the soil around the home should slope away in ALL cases and downspouts should be directed away from the foundation in the direction of natural drainage. Complicating this is the tendency of the soil around a new foundation to settle over the course of the first year or two which can result in water draining towards the home. Combine this effect with being in the wrong location (i.e. near a downspout or irrigation sprinkler) and you are asking for trouble. While it is technically the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain positive drainage, we help you along by actually compacting the backfill around the home reducing the amount of settlement you will see. This is a very uncommon practice in our industry, however, is something we do to prevent the possibility of serious water problems.
Bottom line, we know what the enemy is and we go to great lengths to defend you from its nasty effects. Come to talk to us any time, we would be more than happy to talk you through these and the many other things we do to prevent water-related issues. Not everybody does these things, so be sure to educate yourself when looking for a new home.